Poto Williams

The Labour numbers game

With a caucus of 32 MPs, David Cunliffe needs the support of at least thirteen MPs in order survive a confidence vote. His opponents need twenty votes to force a full leadership ballot. Yesterday, I listed nine MPs who have either publicly refused to express support for him or have – like David Shearer, Stuart Nash and Damien O’Connor – been overtly hostile.

This morning in the NZ Herald, Claire Trevett lists the pro- and anti-Cunliffe factions:

• Camp Cunliffe: David Cunliffe, Iain Lees-Galloway, Nanaia Mahuta, Sue Moroney, Carmel Sepuloni, Su’a William Sio, Louisa Wall.
• Another candidate: Jacinda Ardern, David Clark, Clayton Cosgrove, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis, Ruth Dyson, Kris Faafoi, Phil Goff, Chris Hipkins, Annette King, Andrew Little, Trevor Mallard, Stuart Nash, Damien O’Connor, David Parker, Grant Robertson, David Shearer, Rino Tirikatene, Phil Twyford, Megan Woods.
• Unknown: Peeni Henare, Adrian Rurawhe, Jenny Salesa, Meka Whaitiri, Poto Williams.

That’s twenty anti-Cunliffe names right there already, without even the need to put pressure on any of the five ‘unknowns’. Cunliffe has just six supporters (not counting himself), five of whom flanked him at his pre-caucus meeting press conference.

Cunliffe’s opponents presumably therefore have the numbers to force a party-wide leadership ballot any time they like. And as predicted, before they make their move, they’re waiting for the full horror of a campaign review to erode Cunliffe’s support among the members and unions.

The only hope that Cunliffe has of hanging on to his leadership is to resign immediately and force a quick leadership contest. He’d have to hope that the party membership will be sufficiently hacked off about the caucus declaration of war against him that they’ll keep the faith with him. In my view, that’s a slim hope…

Cunliffe supporters are desperately trying to compare the situation to 1996, where Helen Clark lost in New Zealand’s first MMP election, before going on to win power in 1999. There’s no comparison there. Labour may have dropped 6.5% in that election to just 28.2%, but National was just 5.7% ahead, on 33.9% (having dropped 1.2% since 1993). Helen Clark could have formed a government, had Winston Peters jumped in that direction (the direction many had assumed he would go). Labour was well set up to oust National in three years time.

In 2014, however, National is able to govern alone, having received almost 50% of the vote. Labour finds itself 23.4% adrift, and in almost complete internal turmoil.

David Cunliffe is no Helen Clark.

EDIT:

Hmm, I appear to have been led astray by both the One News and 3News political editors, both of whom have been reporting that the anti-Cunliffe campaign requires 60% plus one MP.

However, David Farrar in his post entitled ‘Caucus in Charge‘ says Dann and Gower are wrong, and the ABCs need just 40% to spark a contested ballot. Peter Green confirms this to me on Twitter. That means that Cunliffe needs 21 MPs to survive a confidence vote, which means the ABCs already have the numbers by a huge margin.

Advertisements

Cunliffe gives retirement hint to Beaumont, Fenton and Huo?

With Shane Jones soon to be a political memory, David Cunliffe has done a “mini shuffle” today.

Of the winners, Andrew Little rockets up six places to 11th because of his work “doing the heavy lifting in Justice and Labour”, Phil Twyford picks up transport from Darien Fenton and moves up to 6th with a spot on the front bench, Grant Robertson picks up Shane Jones’ old economic development portfolio, and Trevor Mallard moves from being unranked to 15th.

Maryan Street both wins and loses, dropping four places to 16th, but picking up the tertiary education portfolio.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the “mini shuffle” is Kelvin Davis. He’s still waiting for Mr Jones to actually leave so he can enter Parliament, but he’s been given the number 22 ranking, plus associate roles in regional development, education, police and corrections. That means he leapfrogs Carol Beaumont, Megan Woods, Kris Faafoi, Darien Fenton, Clare Curran, Ruth Dyson, Raymond Huo, Rino Tirikatene, Meka Whaitiri and Poto Williams.

Labour obviously has no intention of accidentally losing Mr Davis for a second time, should the party crash and burn again in September.

So what about those ranked below him? It’s not such an issue for Woods, Tirikatene, Whaitiri and Williams – they’re relatively new MPs with safe seats. Likewise, Faafoi has only been around since 2010 and holds a safe seat.

Claire Curran and Ruth Dyson will certainly be spending a lot of time shoring up support in their electorates, given the relatively marginal nature of their seats, but – for the moment at least – they’ve got electorate seats.

It’s a different story though for Carol Beaumont, Darien Fenton and Raymond Huo. They’re all list MPs, totally reliant on the party vote to get them back in. And they’ve just been told that they aren’t worth as much as Mr Davis, who isn’t yet an MP and who ranked below them last election.

Labour has been copping a fair amount of stick regarding their lack of regeneration. It certainly looks as if Cunliffe is sending a signal to these three list MPs that they might like to re-examine their career plans for the good of the party.