David Shearer has officially resurfaced from his holiday break today only to face a blistering critique from leftwing commentator Chris Trotter in the form of An Open Letter to David Shearer. Trotter excoriates the new Labour leader for his attempt to stay neutral in the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute, suggesting that Shearer and his party are just as 'guilty' as the employers in the bitter class struggle on the waterfront front. But more than this, Trotter questions whether the Labour Party has simply become 'an alternative set of political managers' to National, without any real principles, but rather positions 'dictated by opinion polls and focus-groups'.
Trotter is not alone - leftwing commentator, Denis Welch, has launched another strong attack, accusing the party of being cowardly in Lying low. Not all politicians are so reluctant to take sides in the dispute however, and Jenny Keown has a very interesting report on the twenty-eight Auckland Council local board members who are throwing their support behind the striking workers - see: Auckland board members weigh in on port dispute.
Meanwhile, the port workers have announced further industrial action, the CTU is escalating its involvement, and the Maritime Union's ties to the International Transport Workers Federation are now being referred to, which raises the prospect of other ports around the world refusing to unload cargo from the Ports of Auckland - see: Port says strike strengthens resolve.
Although David Shearer has been assumed to be on holiday until now, Audrey Young's report, Time on the board has Shearer raring to go reveals that the leader returned to work at Parliament last week and is organising quietly to re-orientate and rebuild the party. John Hartevelt also reports on the 'in-depth thinking' that has been going on in Labour over the break and gives his opinion on the future of Red Alert, pondering the peculiar 'staccato style' that Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard employ in their posts - see: A new year's resolution for Labour?
Colin James' ODT column today is superb - see: Why inequalities have come back into politics. It outlines how issues of unequal wealth and income are becoming politicised on a significant scale, and that this is reflected in not only the global Occupy movement, but also amongst the Establishment and the political right. He forecasts that the politics of inequality 'will be this year's most serious political show'.
Further signs that issues around mining and drilling will play an important part in domestic politics can be seen in a number of items today. Most interestingly, Phil O'Reilly (of BusinessNZ) makes a good case for an open debate on the issues in his Herald opinion piece, Let's talk about using our resources. A further sign that the energy and extractive industry is preparing itself for the political struggle can be seen in TVNZ's report, Oil industry to fight harder with new CEO, new budget. More details of the reality of oil prospects on the East Coast are to be found in Matthew Backhouse's East Coast not 'the Texas of the south' - NZ oil expert. And the Labour Party signals its opposition to such developments in TV3's NZ future not as 'Texas of the South' - Labour.
The politics of the earthquake rebuild continue to be battled out in Christchurch, especially with the Eastside of Christchurch continuing to be neglected. Related to this, there is a protest planned outside the City Council office for 1 February - which is explained in Steven Cowan's blog post, Somewhere over the rainbow. A Press editorial picks up on the problems too, but suggests a more moderate solution - see: Reach out to the East.
Finally, Matthew Grocott of the Manawatu Standard provides a critical update on what's happening on university campuses this year following on from voluntary student membership legislation (Students the losers in new legislation) and Radio NZ covers the operations of iPredict (listen here).