There has been consternation at the dissenting voices from the Labour Party caucus over the TPPA. But Phil Goff and David Shearer losing their self control and putting ego and self promotion ahead of caucus responsibility is actually a good thing.
It shows just how irrelevent and dated the conservative minority in in Labour’s ranks have become. Under the leadership of a genuinely left wing social democrat, the faction that we used to call ABCers, neo-libs or Blairites are a spent force. The fact is, the majority of caucus overwhelmingly support Andrew Little’s more aggressive position on the TPPA.
It’s telling that Goff and Shearer chose to go public with their pro TPPA positions. Only a couple of years ago, they would not have had to mouth off to the press to make their point. They could have simply got caucus to back their timidity and it would have been the official Labour position. Nowadays, the bland appear blind sided by Little’s leadership. Labour’s got its mojo back and looks up for the fight.
Phil Goff’s motivation is clear and, to an extent, his position on the TPPA is understandable. He was there at the start of TPP negotiations and its reasonable for him to support the process. However, he could have done that and still damned the outcome. Goff knows better than most how pisspoor National are at bargaining. That’s the point he should have been hammering.
While it would have been better overall if Goff had just kept quiet on the matter, at least he did the decent thing and got caucus permission to dissent. That shows some respect for process and for his colleagues.
Really, I just see this as the first step in the Auckland mayoral campaign. Phil Goff needs a certain distance from Labour if he wants to be Mayor of Auckland. Because of the almost unique way we Kiwis kid ourselves that local body elections are apolitical, Goff needs to be seen to his own man, capable of crossing the political divide. He’s simply signalling to conservative voters and organisations that he is nominally independent in his thinking.
That’s good local body politics, though it might be better now if he simply resigns his seat and starts the mayoral campaign early. Labour could certainly use the good vibes a thumping by-election win would bring.
As for Shearer, well, lets just say Relevance Deficiency Syndrome appears to have scrambled his brains. His leader has treated his self indulgent disloyalty appropriately. Andrew Little could have gone off at him, stripped him off responsibility and banished him to the back benches, but rather he has kept the matter in perspective. David Shearer has been admonished and ordered to apologise to his caucus colleagues. It’s a sign of how weak Shearer’s support in caucus is that he has agreed to comply without complaint.
Perhaps it’s time for David Shearer to move on too. Mayor Phil will need a chief of staff? What could be more agreeable than having the two of them spending their evenings singing Kumbaya together in the quiet of the mayoral office?
This episode has been a shame. It didn’t have to happen, but it’s been dealt with firmly and fairly by a leader who is now comfortable that he has majority support in the wider party, among the affiliates and now, at last, in caucus.
So thanks, Phil. Thanks, David. You didn’t mean to, but you’ve strengthened the NZ Labour Party.
Phil, you still have history to make. If you lift yourself, you could be an average Auckland mayor.
David, you’ve made yourself history. You can probably go now, too.
The rest of the ABCers? Your time is up. Take a hint and jump before you’re pushed.
There’s a new day rising.