Shearer warned against punishing Cunliffe at today's emergency caucus

David Cunliffe

David Cunliiffe is expected to be demoted at an emergency Labour caucus meeting this afternoon.

The meeting is ostensibly to confirm David Shearer's leadership. But with the vote a foregone conclusion (Mr Cunliffe has already said he will back the leader, for now), the gathering has become all about retribution.

But a political scientist is warning that if Mr Shearer does banish Mr Cunliffe from the frontbench the move could backfire.

"A disaffected politician can lob verbal grenades from the backbenches so any punishment should be mild," Auckland University associate professor Raymond Miller says.

In Mr Miller's view, Mr Cunliffe damaged his changes by mis-timing his challenge. "Political leadership is all about timing," the Auckland academic says, and the annual conference was the wrong place and the wrong time.

And Parliament will soon go on its summer hiatus, leaving the challenger with few opportunities to undermine Mr Shearer before the scheduled leadership vote in the New Year.

"In February there's every possibility Shearer will survive," Mr Miller told TV One's Breakfast programme.

With victory all but in the bag, it would be counterproductive to push Mr Cunliffe to the margins, where he would likely cause trouble.

Commentator Brian Edwards has also warned about yielding to the temptation to demote Mr Cunliffe, whom he sees as Labour's most effective debater.

Dr Edwards noted that Helen Clark – who had her own leadership troubles in opposition – kept her enemies close. Or as LBJ put it, "Better to have them inside the tent p*ssing out, than outside the tent p*ssing in."

Punish Hipkins instead - Trotter
Meanwhile, keeping things stirred, high-profile left-wing commentator and Truth columnist Chris Trotter says Labour senior whip Chris Hipkins is the one who should be dealt to at today's caucus meeting.

Yesterday, Mr Hipkins crticised Mr Cunliffe as "dishonest", "disingenuous" for hinting at a February challenge without openly playing his hand. "Weasel words about supporting the leader for now simply don't cut it," Mr Hipkins said.

"I have never seen an opposition unleash a torrent of abuse to equal to Chris Hipkins yesterday," Mr Trotter said on Firstline.

"Mr Hipkins really deserves to be reprimanded by his party for an absolutely unprecedented attack on a fellow MP."

But Mr Trotter concedes a majority of Labour MPs are not on Mr Cunliffe's side. "They clearly had him." 

Rule change favours challenger
Mr Cunliffe has not formally challenged Mr Shearer, but refused to endorse him as Labour's conference began over the weekend, and was among supporters of a rule change that will make it easier to challenge the leader.

A challenger now needs the support of just 40% of caucus to trigger a leadership vote.

In a second change, if a leadership vote is triggered, it will now include not just caucus. A new "electoral college" system will see Labour MPs' votes count for 40%, Labour Party members' votes 40% and affiliates such as unions 20%.

The new setup means Cunliffe must gain the backing of 14 of Labour's 34 MPs to force a leadership vote. He currently has 10 in his camp by most counts.

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16 Comments & Questions

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Put David cunliffe in as deputy instead of Grant Robertson and you would have a better team than present to demote David Cunliffe would be silly as he is only one of the few with real intelligence maybe a little arrogant but look at the other side Key and his cronies are awfully arrogant.

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Good call. Robertson is the one really playing him. Cunliffe did Shearer a favour with a front-on attack, 'cos the Robertson one, when it came later next year would have slit his throat from behind.....a favourite Robertson position to make a move from.

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Demote cunliffe, and with any sort of luck, he'll resign from Labour. It's a risk worth taking..

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It's about respect. Can't have DC in that space, and have DS looking over his shoulder every time. DC has stitched himself.

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If Cunliffe is demoted too far Labour is finished.

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Disloyalty must be treated firmly and swiftly without fear of the traitors or their supporters future acts of treason against the organization or of its legitimate leaders. If a person cannot be trusted they must be got rid of. Build up the strength of the organization as a whole, not the profile of a misfit and his followers.

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In New Zealand 'organisation' is spelt with a 's' not with a 'z'.

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In most English speaking countries, if a word sounds like it starts with a vowel it is treated as such and so '...spelt with a 's'', would be '...spelt with an 's''.

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In New Zealand organisation can be spelt with either an s or a z.

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Is this a written law in NZ?

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Cunliffe is a most loyal and successful Labour MP.
Cunliffe took a National seat (Titirangi) and has grown his majority ever since.
Cunliffe has had an excellent record as Minister in Telco/IT, Immigration and Health.
Cunliffe created the policies that Parker and Sherarer are now pushing.
Cunliffe is the best performer in Parliament and at seminars.
To oust him out of pique would be a very rash act by Shearer.

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Cunliffe has the numbers to lead
Labour Conference members gave the caucus a 40% tipping point for a leadership challenge. It was approved 53% to 47%.Assuming the new leader party voting rules apply as demonstrated at the conference – Cunliffe has a 13% margin over Shearer.
The Unions and Affiliates have 40% of the Leadership vote and got 53% to vote in favour of the 40% threshold. They gained a 13% swing from the rank and file. (53% - 40% = 13%) or 24% swing overall. (13% divided by 53%)
So if Cunliffe gets his 14 members for a tip at the top job, the party has already shown they are 53% in favour of hard left –Unions, Affiliates and rank and file lefties.
The margin win to Cunliffe on a party vote will increase because Andrew Little will puff his chest out and more importantly Shearer does not have the $100M whispering campaign the Unions can launch.
Andrew Little will be Deputy.
The Unions own Labour now. I have said once and I will say it a hundred times again
Two wins for them in 12 months: 20% Union vote on Labour Leadership and reduced tipping point for a Leadership Challenge.

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If I were Cunners, and if I was humiliated today I would:

resign from Parliament;
seek re-confirmation of the Labour Party nomination;
win the bye-election with a thumping majority;
enjoy all the publicity that was generated;
challenge for the leadership in February;
win;
enjoy the demotion of fatty an chippy and the departure of Shearer, Goff and King.

My other option would be to do an Anderton.

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Shearer has been manipulated by Robertson . Cunliffe is at the heart and sole of the Party. This nonsense, and Trevir's leaking, must be purged. Cunliffe wants a unified party to win 2014. Cunliffe has the policies and communication skills to help Shearer to win. Shearer's plan to demote Cunliffe is purely political and not in the party's interests or the country's interests.

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David Cunliffe is the real deal and is the only threat to John Key - seriously. God forbid Winston may rise again with no substance or depth and become king maker between the Greens and Labour!

David Shearer will need to purge the old gang if he's serious about being an effective leader. Talent will rise but not from Helen's old cronies

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Labour needs Cunliffe far more than Cunliffe needs Labour - Cunliffe could get a million dollar salaried job any day of the week!! Shearer better wake up - he always looks as if he's just got out of bed! Cunliffe doesn't need all this crap! If they push him too far he will leave - Robertson's plan will have worked - But, does Robertson actually believe that he has electoral appeal? Really? Even more deluded than Shearer!!

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