Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Labour languishing

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Duncan Garner. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Duncan Garner. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Tell us what you really think, Duncan. The outgoing TV3 political editor leaves no room for doubt about his verdict on David Shearer's leadership: 'Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister. Sadly for Labour - they're still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour's lucky it's not getting done under the law for false advertising' - see: David Shearer has failed. Garner outlines why the Labour leader has failed and he puts forward the theory that Shearer is merely being kept in the position to keep the seat warm for Grant Robertson - a situation that Garner labels 'disingenuous' and 'dishonest'.

Garner is particularly critical of the way David Cunliffe has been kept under wraps by the 'Anyone But Cunliffe' faction. Similarly, over at The Standard blog, there is anger that the anti-Cunliffe faction is still so influential: 'when the Nats are incredibly exposed on the economy, the rump ABC crowd would rather attack the Left's most articulate economic communicator then join him in getting on with the job' - see: Is anyone ABC any more?.

Shearer will, literally, be under the spotlight at the Labour Party's crucial annual conference in two weeks time. Colin James evaluates Labour's preparation for re-taking government - see: Testing David Shearer -- and his party. He says that they have done well in modernising the party's organisation, but he thinks they have failed to modernise education and health policies, while making better headway with economic and social policy. Shearer's first leadership anniversary is just over a month away and Scott Yorke is watching his calendar - see: And On The Forty-Fourth Day. Many journalists and commentators now speak with a sense of inevitability about Shearer's eventual demise. For example, yesterday the Southland Times' Alex Fensome (@AlexSTLT) tweeted: 'I really liked David Shearer when I met him. They've destroyed a good and decent man'.

Jane Clifton asks in this week's Listener, Could a Labour-Green-NZ First Government work? She thinks stranger things have happened but that the main tension will be between Labour and the Greens rather than with Winston Peters whom she describes as 'secretly a bit of a pussycat'. Clifton's column follows on from Colin James' ODT column, Wheeler stance uneasy with opposition, in which he suggested that the anti-free trade stances of the Greens and NZ First could eventually be the undoing of 'the red-green-black dalliance'.

Labour does have a tendency to cause its own problems. Stuart Nash's tweet about his desire for vigilante justice is a good example: 'That guy who killed toddler JJ Lawrence should be shot. Would happily pull the trigger!' - the reaction is covered in a blogpost by Keeping Stock: Action...reaction...overreaction?

Part of Labour's problem at the moment is its lack of identity and any sort of strong ideological anchor - the party shifts around politically as if floating on a sea of constant change. For the latest indication of this, see David Farrar's Two Shearer u-turns. Farrar also makes a similar point when he says 'I think Shearer's problem is more than he hasn't been able to stamp a policy direction on the party' - see: Garner on Shearer. It's unclear however, to what extent Labour's identity problems go further than just the current leader.

Other recent important or interesting political items include:

* There has been considerable reaction to the appointment of Cameron Slater as editor of The Truth, and I've extensively covered the reaction to this in a blog post on liberation - see: 'Whale oil beef hooked!'. The strong interest in the issue reflects just how unique the situation is - after all, it's perhaps the first time a high profile blogger has taken the helm at a newspaper. As the Listener's Toby Manhire says, 'the symbolism is pretty potent. I can't think of another example in which a blogger has been parachuted directly into a newspaper's editor chair' - see: Whale Oil to edit Truth, 100% in your face, but no longer pro-union. For this reason, the new appointment has caught the eye of the UK Guardian newspaper's media commentator, Roy Greenslade, who has blogged about it - see: Blogger hired to edit print newspaper. How is the paper's style and politics likely to change? Slater says he plans to reduce the adult sexual content - especially the dominance of sex work ads, and perhaps even get rid of the 'page 3 girl' - see Amy Maas' Editor: Less sex, more news for Truth.

* Nicky Hager gave the 2012 Bruce Jesson lecture on Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan. In a wide-ranging speech, Hager challenges the left-right characterisation of our political parties by the media as well as the vital role critical journalism has to play to avoid 'a world where the PR people had won' - recommended.

* New Zealand's SAS troops are now back in Afghanistan, and according to RNZ's correspondent, Jon Stephenson, the soldiers are known to be there in a combat role on a revenge mission. But John Key is denying this - see Matthew Theunissen and Abby Gillies's PM denies accountability for SAS actions. Security specialist Paul Buchanan suggests that Stephenson is the person more likely to have the story right - see: Who to Believe? Meanwhile, the Wall St Journal has reported that New Zealand troops have pulled out of the Bamiyan province in Afghanistan - the dangerous province where troops have been killed. Vernon Small reports on this in NZ troops pull back from danger zone.

* The new Reserve Bank Governor, Graeme Wheeler, may have a difficult job ahead of him according to Vernon Small, writing about economic policy in Wheeler speech close to politically fraught. Since the global financial crisis the political world has been moving on to some extent from the orthodox neoliberal economic settings of the past 30 years, but the bureaucracy apparently has not. Meanwhile, Treasury is doing its best to modernise its image - see Vernon Small's Treasury boss takes aim at prejudice.

* Commentators are still evaluating the Government's housing affordability proposals. Brian Fallow criticises the lack of attention paid to social housing in Govt housing plan misses mark, while Brian Rudman explains how the market has failed, and local and central government aren't willing to remedy this - see: Council land banking way to get cheaper homes.

* One of the reasons that the National Government chose to axe regional elections in Canterbury was to protect economic growth - see Rachel Young's Money talks in tight rein on ECan. 'Suppressing democracy and suspending the rule of law because you don't like the outcome is the action of a tyrant' says the No Right Turn blogger - see: National's tyranny.

* There are competing visions for a Wellington 'Supercity', but also a huge amount of jockeying for advantage writes Nick Venter in Divided councils spurn simple fix. The current Wellington City Mayor has been quick to put her hand up for the top job - see Michael Forbes' Wade-Brown interested in lord mayor role.

* With argument raging about just how good our education system is, teacher Peter Lyons reminds us that our schooling system was set up to be 'a giant sorting and conditioning machine geared to producing compliant workers for the labour force' - see: Hail the critical thinkers nose studs and all.

* It's time to call Rio Tinto's bluff says Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa 'Stop crying wolf, stop using your New Zealand workers as disposable pawns in your cynical game, stop holding Southland and the country to ransom' - see: Smelter NZ's biggest bludger.

* Race relations continue to be a hot topic - see three interesting items today: Bernard Orsman's Cries of racism, sexism in fiery debate, Kirsty McMurray's School removes offensive site, and Rod Vaughan's Why Treaty-based constitution 'a disaster for New Zealand'.

* Finally, Danyl Mclauchlan helps those having difficulty figuring out what Hekia Parata is actually saying in Education Minister translated and Scott Yorke breaks his promise to end his online feud with Martyn Bradbury with My Resignation From The Truth.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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