Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cam Slater: All At Sea For Labour

Peter Dunne writes at Newsroom about the problems facing Labour. They are plentiful but can be summed up into two main categories: nastiness and incompetence. Dunne starts with Chris Hipkins; after all, the buck is supposed to stop at the top.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins looks mostly at sea in his role as Leader of the Opposition. Yet on a good day – and there have been precious few so far from Labour’s perspective – Hipkins is a good performer, and better than most. For example, his recent, apparently unscripted, eulogy at the memorial service for former Speaker Jonathan Hunt was outstanding. It was relaxed, warm, respectful, witty, insightful and, above all, genuine. It was a Hipkins we have rarely seen in his current role or when he was Prime Minister.

The problem Hipkins has is that his heart is no longer in the job. He really wants to exit, he is actively looking for another job but is telling people that he feels obligated to stay there until a successor can be found.

But no one wants the job. Labour MPs know in their gut that they will lose the next election so no one wants to put their hand up to replace Hipkins. So Hipkins staggers on, not really caring, just doing the bare minimum until he finds somewhere to go; then go he will and leave them to it.

But Labour’s current woes do not lie at Hipkins’ door alone. He is being constantly embarrassed and let down by the ineptitude of those around him. His main role these days seems limited to tidying up the mess made by his colleagues.

In the last week alone, he has had to call out Peeni Henare, someone who really should know better, for reposting offensive cartoons about Act leader David Seymour on Instagram. Hipkins has also had to deal with more personally abusive comments about a political opponent, this time Melissa Lee, from Willie Jackson, someone who is clearly incapable of knowing better. Add to that the seemingly ingrained superciliousness and sourness of Ayesha Verrall every time she opens her mouth, and it is little wonder Labour still looks to be struggling to come to terms with why it was voted out so comprehensively at the election.

This is a legacy of Ardern’s effective coup d’etat under Covid rules, where most, if not all, decisions were made by just four people. Her, Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins, and Megan Woods. That meant that ministers were ministers in name only, did almost nothing when they were ministers, and are now adjusting to life without the cushy perks that come with ministerial warrants. Two of them are gone, and Hipkins wants to go too.

Consequently, they are bitter, angry and thoroughly nasty to boot, Ayesha Verrall especially.

This might be an interesting line to pursue for Government and media – Couldn’t Ayesha Verrall be more positive, less of a schoolmarm, or a scold?

Labour should be thinking; ‘‘Is her negativity hurting us when we try to do the right thing on health?’

Hipkins’ major challenge is to rebuild the face of Labour so that it can present its message with integrity and credibility. Hanging on to negative and polarising figures such as Jackson and Verrall, and others who still believe the public had no right to boot them out of government, not only tarnishes Hipkins’ leadership but does little to persuade the public that Labour has indeed learned the lesson of its defeat.

Hipkins needs quickly to divest himself of such albatrosses if Labour is to shake off the failures of its recent past. They need to be moved on, at least to the distant backbenches, if not out the door and sooner rather than later. If he cannot or will not do that, Hipkins risks becoming today’s Bill Rowling – a genuine and well-liked nice guy who led the Labour Party nowhere for nearly nine years.

Except Hipkins really isn’t a nice guy. Just ask his ex-wife.

Labour’s problem is that the nasties in the caucus are also the key power brokers, particularly Willie Jackson. Reining them or Jackson in is nigh on impossible. Therefore Hipkins really is only a figurehead leader of a bunch of nasty and spiteful people who show that to the voters at almost every opportunity.

Axing them isn’t feasible and so they just sit there getting more and more bitter, and more and more unelectable.

The fact that no one wants to roll Hipkins tells me, at least, that Labour are not serious about either being an effective opposition, or about winning back the Treasury benches.

Cam Slater is a New Zealand-based blogger, best known for his role in Dirty Politics and publishing the Whale Oil Beef Hooked blog, which operated from 2005 until it closed in 2019. Cam blogs regularly on the BFD - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Well summarized cam. I want them to remain where they are, in the sewer for a very long time.

Cam, although it's fun to poke a stick at them as you regularly do they must despise you even more...fantastic. unfortunately if they actually read what you are saying it would help them. Let's hope they don't listen to you cam, I couldn't stomach these toxic incompetent racists performing or anywhere near power again. God help them.

Anonymous said...

Peter Dunne, another so called commentator who just let it go now.