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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Labour Party Conference update

Actual image of the Labour Party Conference Breakfast this morning.

Before I get into the inevitable leadership challenge issues, let's evaluate what is happening here this weekend and hand out some praise where it is due.

Moira Coatsworth, Jordan Carter, Tim Barnett and all the other tireless Labour Party faithful should all be saluted by the wider left for a vast new range of progressive policy that if adopted would herald real change in NZ.

A great acid test of how far ranging their new progressive ideas is that Farrar is screaming so loudly about them.


Farrar is a cultural fascist who was calling for Home Brew to be cut from NZ on Air funded music award shows because they abused John Key. When Farrar is upset by Labour's ideas, then every other NZer who values a progressive society should be glad.

What we are watching is the modernization of social democratic political party for the 21st Century. The energy and the buzz from delegates is overwhelming.

I've been to a few of these over the years, and when they weren't being tightly controlled like an alcoholic in a pub during the Helen years, they seemed to resemble wakes complete with wailing walls.

This conference is different. The genuine outrage at what the Key Government has done to our country from the vast erosion of civil liberties, to the privatization agenda in education, welfare and housing to the attacks on Unions, the poor and the middle classes.

It's a poignant cocktail fueled on the promise and hope of more direct interaction with where the Party is going. Labour faithful had to endure a lot under the dark hours of Rodger Douglas when the Party destroyed any pretense of being progressive. The Clarke years stopped that, but didn't reverse the direction, the 2012 Labour Party wants to push back on issues it has always cared about. As one connected person told me 'these are the things we never dared to say before. Well we are daring to say them now'.

This is a Labour Party not frightened to wear it's heart on its sleeve about the issues they care about. Sure it's taken the near annihilation of the Party in last years election to finally remember where their left wing soul was, but the glaring reality is that 800 000 enrolled NZers, the vast majority of whom were Labour voters didn't vote.

The Pagani Doctrine claims it's because labour isn't centrist enough, but if that were really try, those 'centrist' Labour Party voters would have voted for National - they didn't. they just didn't vote at all.

Grant Robertson was impressive as he always is, Moira Coatsworth was warm, Claire Curran was very funny and Darien Fenton wanted to impress upon me that she selected the band.

I was impressed Darien.

Clayton Cosgrove barley gave me a flicker, nor did Andrew Little and I didn't speak with Shearer, but seeing as I'm a blogger no surprises there. I ended up on the media table with Lyn from The Standard, we both laughed at Claire Trevett's text ‏

Jacinda Ardern, MC, just greeted the diplomats. Wonder if she means @CitizenBomber

Jacinda was Master of Ceremonies and seemed to channel all the fizz from the energy in the air. Len Brown was far better then he usually is, Professor Nigel Harworth made it very clear a more interventionist Government was required in the economy while the legendary Judy McGregor made it very clear that Labour must foster more female candidates for the good of the entire country.

In short there is a huge energy to become the Government and that energy has been generated on the hope and promise of members being involved with the direction of the Party in a truly left wing fashion.

Which brings us to that promises first real hurdle - the leadership.

The most telling thing for me was when Shearer entered the room. Quarter of the delegates stood and clapped, 3/4s did not.


When Phil and Annette were thanked during Shearers speech THEY received a standing a ovation.

On the floor of the conference, Cunliffe was mugged by excited members.

Here is what I understand as the current state of play for the February vote. The 40% Caucus threshold trigger has been decided on by delegates and the Unions despite protests and strong counter arguments against that decision by Mallard and Tolich. The debate ran long and hard but Tolich and Mallard didn't win it.

The 40% Caucus trigger will be voted on today, but late last night I understood a counter move against that was being explored so that the 40% threshold does come into effect, but not for February 2013, but for February 2014. Of course this would stop anyone seriously challenging for the leadership as you need a 2 year run up for that.

My feeling is that many wanted the option of a change if they felt they needed it over the Summer, but that's dependent on Shearer lifting his game. The real danger for Labour is that if there is a manipulation by the ABC's to screw the scrum and allow the 40% threshold but put it off till 2014, then the promise of more involvement by members will be broken before it even began.

We will know how serious Labour are at fulfilling that promise by Sunday.



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