It is hard not to watch the leadership struggle in the New Zealand Labour Party.  All the media wanted to cover from the recent party conference was the difference between the party leader David Shearer and his biggest rival David Cunliffe.  The media wanted to know if Cunliffe was going to support Shearer on the leadership vote in February, and if he would press for his own initiative in the vote.  He refused to be drawn either may.  It appears battle lines were drawn and after the conference the caucus had its own showdown.  Cunliffe didn’t have the numbers to threaten Shearer’s leadership.  It was reported that the vote was unanimous.  Cunliffe was demoted to the time-out corner and lost all his portfolios.

He has some choices to make for a comeback.  Mike Moore was pushed out of leadership by Helen Clark after an unsuccessful election campaign.  He hung around for a while and Clark was able to use his skills.  Eventually he wandered off to an overseas position.  He continues to lobby potshots at his former colleagues but nobody ever listened to him again.  He was a lone man.

Jim Anderton wasn’t a lone man when he was pushed out of the Labour Party for criticizing its swing into right-wing economics after the Muldoon years.  He was popular enough to form his own party to be the left-wing critics of Rogernomics and briefly brought them into the House before it all fell apart.  Cunliffe has his own fan-base outside of parliament.  Virtually every blog on the left-wing in the country is cheering for him.  His power-base is in Auckland, as represented by these blogs.  This could be the elephant in the room for future elections as Auckland comes out of scale with the rest of the country.  I am doubtful if Cunliffe has the support of the left in the rest of the country.  It hasn’t been tested.  He is seen as a vain man and his politics hasn’t been tested for the whole country.

I think his future is to be left-wing version in New Zealand politics of Maurice Williamson, a politician on the edge of the party, but still useful to keep around.  I suppose every political party needs a member like him.

I’m still waiting to see minutes of the conference.  The media hasn’t reported on other events at the conference and I am an independent voter for Labour, a wider group than party members.  A report of conference hasn’t been made available for us yet, as far as I know.

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