Why the February vote could be very bad for Labour

[Warning: post may contain "political pessimism" from "the outside left".]

In February, if my understanding is correct, and gods know I hate this kind of complex constitutional fluff, there will be a vote in the Labour caucus on Shearer’s leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party.  If 40% or so don’t support him, it triggers a leadership vote among the party, with various weights of votes assigned to caucus, affiliates and members.

The obvious comparison is the Green Party, which has a – yes, probably pretty ceremonial – vote every year to re-endorse their parliamentary leaders.  If you’re not a hardcore Green supporter, you probably don’t know it even happens, because it is a non-event and because the Greens just aren’t a rich target for Patrick Gower to badger a non-story out of.

Oh, fine, and also because there don’t appear to be horrific infighting factions within the Greens who are quite happy to use the media to screw each other over at a moment’s notice.

What you also don’t see, therefore, is a lot of Green Party members running around prior to their vote, insisting that if Metiria and Russel are re-endorsed, everyone who doesn’t like them has to go away and shut up and never say a bad thing about the party ever ever again.

David Shearer in a BBQ apron, captioned "After February, only I may host barbeques"

Which is what’s happening a lot at the moment, most noticeable to me through comments (and the odd post) at The Standard. Sometimes it’s worded a little more gently – “oh, hopefully after the February vote we can act like a unified party and get behind the leader” aka “shut the fuck up”, or “focus on the real issues” aka “shut the fuck up unless you’re bagging John Key.”

Sometimes it’s as blatant as

Unity is strength. Undermining the leadership is fatal.

Now where did I leave my V for Vendetta DVD?

Unfortunately for David Shearer and his fans, I just don’t see it happening, for two simple reasons:

1.  If endorsed by caucus, Shearer still won’t magically evolve, Pokemon-like, from Captain Mumblefuck into the reincarnation of Winston Churchill

David Shearer in a BBQ apron, captioned "This isn't even my final form"

2.  The membership may have very good reason to be fucked off about how some members of caucus have voted.

James Henderson summed it up nicely:

The problem with Labour’s reforms isn’t that they are too democratic, it’s that they’re not democratic enough. They’ve gone with a model where caucus is a gatekeeper and then over-powered in the actual vote. This will be used by the old guard to shield Shearer and themselves from the views of their own party. The Green co-leaders have no such protection, and it means they can never turn their backs on their members.

So no, actually, there is no moral imperative on Labour people (much less on us scary non-Labour-members with OPINIONS!!!!) to sit down and shut the fuck up between caucus leadership votes.  If caucus [some might say, "if caucus once again"] goes against the will of the membership, the membership have every fucking right to “destabilise” the party, to “white-ant” the leader, because they’re the fucking membership.

If caucus [once again] makes a decision which is blatantly not in the best interests of the New Zealand leftwing, [once again] makes a decision which serves the interests of a self-centred faction within the Party, [once again] chooses a leader based on their own career security instead of providing a clear, strong left voice in NZ politics and forming the basis for a strong leftwing government which knows what it’s there to do, and if Shearer’s faction in caucus [once again] bully dissenters into silence with the threat of instant demotion …

Well, you can fuck right off if you think I’m going to shut up about that For The Sake Of The Party.

Labour does not deserve our respectful withdrawal of criticism if it’s going to shit on beneficiaries, if it’s going to refuse again and again to pose a clear alternative opposition to NACT, if it’s going to sacrifice its own heritage principles in order to keep safe-electorate seat-warmers occupied.

David Shearer does not deserve unity-at-gunpoint if he continues to mumblefuck around, continues to let National get away with murder, continues to act like 30% in the polls is something to celebrate, continues to squander one of his most talented MPs while letting Chris fucking Hipkins buy straight into National’s asset sales narrative.

So the February vote?  Roll out your numbers again, David, but do not think that a token gesture of support, after you’ve clearly demonstrated how brutally you will treat even imaginary challengers, is going to keep you safe from nasty blog posts.  The only fix for that – Clare Curran’s alleged lady-boner for outing critics notwithstanding – is to do your fucking job.  With, like, at least a semblance of competence.

Related reading:  Chris Trotter’s The Lazarus Option.  I’m as surprised as you are, Comrade.

3 comments

  1. Moz in Oz

    Tor a moment there I got Trotter and Shearer mixed up. Then I thought “former left-wingers now trying to destroy the Labour party”… has anyone ever seen those two in the same room? Take away the wig and silly moustache from Trotter…