The enemies of the New Zealand Labour party

by Toby Manhire / 07 September, 2012
They're everywhere - and the official list is getting longer and longer.





David Shearer at Tolaga Bay. Photograph: Toby Manhire

It’s getting to the stage where someone – not sure who would get to decide whom – is going to have to issue an official list of Enemies of the New Zealand Labour Party. Just so we’re all clear.

As far as I can gather, reading the online effusions of those who profess to care deeply about the future of the left in our politics, including politically declared journalists, party activists and anonymous Green supporters, the official list of enemies so far includes:

the leader of the Labour party David Shearer for, among other things, opposing benefit fraud, but mostly for not being David Cunliffe;

at least half of the Labour caucus, including most senior spokespeople, for the crime of voting Shearer into the job;

deputy leader Grant Robertson, for his perfidy in supporting the leader and for the fact that he is often touted as a future leader, when Everyone Knows the only acceptable future leader is David Cunliffe;

former party advisor John Pagani and unsuccessful Porirua selection contestant Josie Pagani, for the atrocity of endorsing and defending the party leader in their roles as pro-Labour media commentators;

former MP Stuart Nash for his temerity in questioning whether too much Labour focus was going on issues like gay marriage and adoption, and not enough on core policy;

Su’a William Sio, Damien O’Connor and Ross Robertson for their treachery in treating the conscience vote on gay marriage according to their consciences;

David Parker, for not being David Cunliffe either, and for being in the vicinity of all of the above without even bothering to dogwhistle any ideological discomfort ...

And still the list is growing.

Time was, you had to be a non-Labour member, and preferably a non-Labour supporter to be a bona fide threat. Ideally you would be a member of the National or Act party, or at least a vote-stealing Green or Alliance person to be considered a viable enemy of Labour. But now the real enemy is apparently the Labour establishment itself.

This is understandably confusing to many non-political junkies, and even those of us who follow the dark arts closely could wish that Labour would make these distinctions the way they are made in many other countries, like Australia, where various quarrelling groups are formally recognised as factions. Factions can seesaw in terms of the power they wield, but the general idea is that they are all on the same side – ie, not bloody Tories.

Here, however, this civilised approach of agreeing to disagree, and tolerating shades of opinion, is coming to be regarded as a cop-out.

All of which made Hone Harawira’s attack on – he says – National MPs as John Key’s “house niggers” a curiously retro experience this week. How old-fashioned and uncomplicated to find an MP on the left unabashedly attacking those on the right.

A dubious bonus: watching the agonising of various media outlets, most of whom had been able to bring themselves to report the phrase “Pussy Riot” rather than “a Russian punk band”, wheeling out the asterisks for this most loathsome of terms.

A further, even more dubious bonus: Hone again positioned himself smack-bang where he needs to be electorally: unapologetically in the eye of a yet another media storm in which the establishment coughs and splutters, and he exudes more vengeful menace. Re-sult.

And the most dubious spin-off bonus of all: a Hone publicity coup like this always guarantees, for reasons of pride, envy and rage, that there will be a Winston Peters one to follow very soon.

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