Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Labour's bitter divisions

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Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / NZ Herald
Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / NZ Herald

Chris Trotter continues to be a thorn in the side of the Labour Party leadership. MPs will hate his column today, which calls into question the integrity of this week's caucus reshuffle and paints a picture of a bitterly divided party - see: Dishing out rewards to hungry enforcers. Trotter says the reshuffle has been used to reward the David Shearer and Grant Robertson factions of the party and to punish those aligned to David Cunliffe. And even more interestingly, Trotter recounts how some Labour MPs operated during November's annual conference, by 'hunting as a pack' to suppress party dissidents who wanted greater democratisation. He singles out Clare Curran and Darien Fenton for particular criticism. They have responded this morning on Twitter: Curran (@clarecurranmp) says: 'I reckon it's time Chris Trotter is given the true recognition and accolades he (seeks) & deserves as a fiction writer', and Fenton (@DarienFenton): 'chris trotter knows everything'.

Trotter's picture of bitter division was reinforced this week by departing MP Charles Chauvel's extraordinary valedictory speech - the highlights of which can be viewed here: Charles Chauvel Bids Parliament Adieu. David Farrar explains why Chauvel's comments were so extraordinary and why they illustrate just how divided the party is - see: The Chauvel valedictory. A senior Labour activist, Greg Presland, has also blogged about Chauvel's speech, particularly to criticise Trevor Mallard's own provocative response to it - see: The Labour Party must have both of its wings to fly. And Patrick Gower (@patrickgowernz) has tweeted, 'Just heard about Charles Chauvel's nickname from his caucus enemies... Macchi-Chauvellian!'

In his speech Chauvel also raised a perennial criticism about the state of the media, possibly again reflecting Labour's dissatisfaction with its own coverage. In fact, most of the media have been particularly positive about David Shearer's reshuffle this week. See for example, the following very complimentary articles: John Armstrong's Clever reshuffle adds punching power and King won't disappoint, Claire Trevett's Labour hoping for a health King-hit, and the Herald's Shearer has come up with more credible Opposition. These analyses collectively declare Labour's reshuffle a winner. Trevett, for example, says 'The reshuffle marks a watershed moment in Labour's time in Opposition.... perhaps the first time since it lost government in 2008, the Labour team has started looking and talking like an Opposition party'.

There has been other interesting analysis and criticism of the reshuffle, including David Farrar's Portfolios not in the shadow cabinet and Pete George's New Labour ranking compared to list. But two of the most important analyses focused on how the reshuffle might relate to a future Labour-Greens Cabinet - see Matthew Hooton's Shape of new government emerges and The Standard's Room left for Greens in Labour reshuffle.

The latest opinion poll offers more bad news for Labour - with a drop of 4 per cent for Labour, and a 4 per cent rise for National. The results are best presented at The Standard, with some despair: 'it's not the greatest feeling in world watching National coasting to a third term' - see: Latest Roy Morgan... a bit sh*t. But coming to the rescue is Scott Yorke with his mocking blogpost, Ten reasons for Labour people not to worry about the polls. Meanwhile, Brian Rudman explains why Labour is doing so poorly at the moment - evidence suggests that people are fairly happy with their lot - see: Labour should be making inroads.

Chris Trotter might be tough on Labour, but he's hardly become soft on the Government. Earlier this week, he wrote a stinging attack on the Government's SkyCity manoverings, and suggested that New Zealand's low corruption status is an illusion - see: Corruption exists by the shovel load. Also, on the topic of Chris Trotter, to get more of an idea of how he thinks, his influences and why he thinks the New Zealand left is at its lowest point in his lifetime, you can watch an interview with him that I've just uploaded to YouTube. The 52-minute video is a filmed conversation with Trotter in front of a small studio audience at the University of Otago last year - see: NZ Politics Chat - Chris Trotter.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

* Is it racist to campaign against foreigners - often Asian - buying houses in New Zealand? Last night Patrick Gower's TV3 item focused on Asians buying New Zealand property, and included Green Party comments in support of tightening up the laws - see: Calls for controls on foreign home buyers. This led to some robust Twitter discussion between journalists and Greens about 'dog whistle' tactics and xenophobia. For example, Russel Norman (@RusselNorman) responded to a TV3 journalist: 'Our policy discriminates on basis of residency, citizenship not race. To accuse me of racism is unethical, defamatory'.

* The Greens also suffer at the hands of blogger Cameron Slater who has penned a parody press release that is so true to life it fooled his own readers - see: Russel Norman overjoyed at Solid Energy failure.

* Tim Watkin has some interesting analysis of the Supreme Court's decision, where he says the Government has 'acted impeccably in doing the wrong thing' - see: The Partial State Asset Sale poem.

* With a revived debate about asset sales possibly about to occur, Colin Espiner declares his bemusement that so many people want to retain the status quo, especially when 'Were being royally shafted by the current SOE model' - see: Some Solid questions on energy.

* One of the interesting elements of the Supreme Court's announcement was the media and those on Twitter getting the announcement wrong. Toby Manhire has captured some of the embarrassing tweets - see: Broken news: the Supreme Court Mighty Power ruling a Twitter mess. Possibly the most embarrassed was RadioLive's Duncan Garner - you can read the transcript of his radioshow on Pete George's RadioLive jumping the Supreme Court gun or listen to the amusing audio on Cameron Slater's post, The Biggest media whoopsy in a long time.

* Further emails have been released today about the negotiations over the 'Hobbit deal' - this time from the CTU. Tim Watkin suggests that the available evidence now suggests that 'New Zealanders have every reason to feel angry and betrayed by their leaders and indeed movie-makers' and raises eight questions about the drama - see: The Hobbit: Time for Answers John, Peter & Richard.

* The most political obituary of artist Ralph Hotere is by Victoria University of Wellington lecturer, Dougal McNeill - see: Euchred; eclipsed: Ralph Hotere (1931 - 2013). McNeill stressed Hotere's militant anti-capitalist ideology.

* The Constitutional Review is not just a topic for 'pointyheads' says Colin James in A "conversation" about the constitution. He makes the case for why constitutional issues aren't as boring as they sound. But a Human Rights Commissioner is criticising the official Constitutional Review panel for not giving enough prominence to the Treaty of Waitangi, and complaining that 'the wider public does not have the maturity to honestly discuss the Treaty' - see Radio NZ's Treaty needs more prominence.

* First it was free public transport. Now New Zealand First want SuperGold cardholders to receive subsidised private health insurance - see Rob Stock's NZ First pushes health insurance rebate. Unsurprisingly, the health insurance industry is championing this new private members' bill.

* Martyn Bradbury's The Daily Blog launched today. The most interesting post is Bradbury's own, How left wing are our left wing politicians?, followed by Chris Trotter's Plan B, in which it is argued that this week's Supreme Court decision has saved the country from a snap election that would have been extremely divisive.

* Wellington's Backbencher pub has finally re-opened. The best coverage of this is Janika ter Ellen's New puppets unveiled at Backbencher, but the best images of the new puppets are in Toby Manhire's In pictures: seven new puppets as The Backbencher reopens.

* Finally, what do MPs read? Toby Manhire has been investigating and has found that the most popular book is one that could be subtitled 'How Not to Be an MP' - see: The 10 most borrowed books at the NZ parliamentary library.

- 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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