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Will Grant Robertson get the chop?


The relationship between Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker and its economic development spokesman David Cunliffe is warming.

This matters because Labour leader David Shearer and Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei may well form a government in two years.

The rapprochement between Mr Shearer’s two economic spokesmen, both former leadership contenders, is good news for him but may be bad news for his deputy, Grant Robertson.

Bad blood
The bad blood from Labour’s public leadership contest in 2011 rivalled that from National’s Bill English/Don Brash struggle in 2003.

Shearer loyalists even advised the new leader to try to drum the New Lynn MP out of parliament the way John Key did to Dr Brash in 2006.

Behind the scenes, Mr Cunliffe was described as arrogant, lazy and hen-pecked.

Nor was Mr Cunliffe blameless.

He never accepted his colleagues’ judgment and spent most of 2012 undermining his leader, with list MP Moana Mackey trying to do his numbers.

A series of speeches, purportedly about economic policy, were obvious leadership bids.  It was put about that a coup would be launched just ahead of next month’s party conference, which will consider rule changes to make future Labour leaders more secure.

Sneaky Robertson
Mr Robertson sat out the 2011 leadership race, calculating it was too soon for him.

Instead, he opted to become deputy and his appointment was positioned as unifying the party’s left and right.

Mr Robertson, though, has conspicuously failed to express unqualified public support for Mr Shearer.  Instead, he has slotted his loyalists into all important roles through the party, including the top jobs in the leader’s office.

Mr Shearer naively accepted these impositions and has tried to work constructively with Mr Robertson, accepting his advice and that of his acolytes on all matters of political strategy and day-to-day media tactics.Mr Robertson has not reciprocated, keeping an eye out for a moment to seek the leadership himself.

Through the year, it has become obvious to Mr Cunliffe that neither Ms Mackey nor anyone else can deliver him the numbers.  The so-called ABC faction – Anyone But Cunliffe – remains a majority in the caucus, especially as the polls continue to move in the right direction for Mr Shearer, indicating Labour has won over 135,000 new voters since he took over.

Mr Cunliffe’s realisation his leadership ambitions were going nowhere coincided with Mr Parker making a new effort to include him in policy development.

Mr Cunliffe responded positively, being enthused by Mr Parker’s interest in a new economic model.

No longer sacrosanct are things like price stability and the Reserve Bank Act or the general principle that New Zealand should be an open and lightly regulated economy.

Instead, Mr Parker and Mr Cunliffe are heavily influenced by the likes of Joseph Stiglitz, the former lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who was briefly Chairman of President Clinton’s Council for Economic Advisors, before being manoeuvred by his administration critics into the World Bank, from which he was fired.

  Nevertheless, Mr Parker and Mr Cunliffe are taken by Professor Stiglitz’s latest arguments that governments must impose greater equality to achieve a more dynamic economy.  Working together has gone a long way to restore their personal relationship and Mr Shearer is prepared to forgive Mr Cunliffe’s earlier disloyalty.

Video set up?
The situation is not so positive for Mr Robertson.

His advice, and that of those he has placed around Mr Shearer, is seen to have been so poor that there was speculation after the latest fiasco – Mr Shearer’s false allegation about a GSCB video – that perhaps Mr Robertson had deliberately set Mr Shearer up.

The conspiracy theory is unlikely. More probable is that, in seeking too much control, Mr Robertson has bitten off more than he can chew.

Mr Shearer cannot of course fire Mr Robertson as part of his forthcoming reshuffle but the role of the deputy will surely be considered.

Were Mr Parker to replace Mr Robertson, while retaining finance, he would become for Mr Shearer what Michael Cullen was for Helen Clark and Mr English is for Mr Key – the deputy of unquestionable loyalty, whose own leadership ambitions have been extinguished by bitter experience, and trusted with a wide brief.

Mr Cunliffe would then move into number three, and play the role of Bill Birch in Jim Bolger’s government, Steve Maharey in Ms Clark’s and Steven Joyce in Mr Key’s.

Along with Dr Norman, the three Davids – Shearer, Parker and Cunliffe – would form the big four in the new Labour/Green government, as Mr Key, Mr English, Mr Joyce and Gerry Brownlee do in the current government.

That prospect is surely more attractive for Mr Cunliffe than that of saboteur.

Such new arrangements would also free Mr Robertson to concentrate fully on his passions of tertiary education and advocating for the Wellington public service.

Don’t bank on it just yet.  But don’t rule it out either.


More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

When I hear the names Cunliffe or Parker, I shudder, When I hear them mentioned together, I tremble. Add in Russell Norman, and I shake uncontrollably for NZ's economic future.

When I hear the name 'Henry Horse' I can only say..."Neigh"

One more immigrant here to Australia if that occurs


Rather than criticising the National Party in government, the Labour party would do well to undertake some self criticism.
They certainly don't present a credible government option at present, regardless of who they get into bed with; and their potential partners are horrifying.

Article means 'a week is a long time in politics'! Conjecture, assumptions and extrapolations based on a very fluid murky yet to be factoids, if they exist? What happens when the Mormon Mafia Godfather takes over? Or not?

Supplement: IF Mittens wins?...PM Key is gone by lunch! A little bird told me

Labour would send us back to the dark ages with these current politicians.

NZ is already entering the dark ages Hamiltonian - just check out our inbound immigration demographics.

Ah well Mathew, at least it's clear from the above comments that you know your target audience and that your scuttlebutt will never have to suffer undue scrutiny.

Well offer some "scrutiny" then. Instead you do lefty 101 and simply play the man instead of the ball. Is it because you have no real response to what Hooten has written? What is it with you guys?

The whole thing is an opinion piece. There are no facts to dispute, that's what wrong with it. But I see it doesn't stop you from making emotional accusations - obviously you are committed yourself to a highly rational approach to things!!!

Robertson's making some careless political moves. Understandable, though; as much disharmony in his home, with his better-half complaining that he's not doing his fair share of the housework.

Labour Greens Mana co-allition? Like some kind of oozing stinking liquifaction formed from Marxism, Socialism and Apartheid. Can you any investors willing to risk their hard eaned money in such an environment?

Let's hope the voters realise that such a government will mean all our educated grandchildren will live in Australia or elsewhere, and the tipping point will have been breached in perpetuity, good bye New Zealand. Let's make sure it never happens.

Open your eyes. The grandkids are leaving in their droves now. The ones back here cant get jobs, apprenticeships and sure as hell dont want student loans round there necks with no job 2 pay it off with. Your beloved national govt to blame. More for their rich mates at the cost of our young. Shame!

Hopefully our grandchildren will at least be better educated so as to avoid using silly ideological classifications.

And by the way, as an investor, I have always got better returns with the levels of economic growth that have historically been achieved under Labour Governents - a statement of fact, not one of polltical bias.

The trouble with Labour MPs -- not one of them has ever held a decent job or been self-employed. All teachers and lecturers, social workers etc; always talking and never listening. They all have this haughty, stifling " I know what's best" instructive-type attitude.

Stick to counting your money mate. Thought obviously eludes you.

Such an easy fact to check, but of course you don't, preferring to perpetuate a falsehood that satisfies your emotions.

Haughty? Stifling? "I know whats best"? Instructive style?
Sounds like the Key (non) government to me.

And while all this is happening, marching along to the sound of their very slick PR/Social Media drum are the Greens. True Labour does it its fair share of family black sheep, but I would rather them as the lead opposition party.

Here we go again - the usual 'spin-doctor' campaign try to pick and snipe and undermine Labour Party leadership?

Saw it all before with Phil Goff in 2011.


The question I want answered is:

What role did John Key play in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in November 1999, when he was a foreign exchange advisor to the New York Federal Reserve, and Head of Derivatives for Merrill Lynch?

Given that the effect of the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act was to leave the derivatives market unregulated?

Given that the global financial meltdown has been largely caused by the collapse of the derivatives market?

Who is going to ask THAT question?

Penny Bright

'Anti-corruption campaigner'

Seruioulsy ? Thats the question you want asked ? Do you really believe that John Key had a significnat role in the GSA ? You are looking for fire where there is no smoke ! Maybe you shoudl ask Mike Williams to go and snoff this out.....Im sure teh labour party will pick up the bill.

To think that a New Zealand merchant banker with no role in the US legislative process whatsoever had a role in repealing an act like the GSA is beyond brainless. Clearly, this is another example of the left attempting to connect a man who did well for himself in financial services with something undesirable, when the link simply does not exist. There's no evidence, and it sounds desperate - much like the Labour Party of late. Besides, this article has literally nothing to do with the GSA, please take your credential-less 'anti-corruption' campaigning to a more relevant medium.

"Will Grant Robertson get the chop?"

The question is redundant, as his partner is barren.

What incredibly bad taste. I am appalled to think that such emotional ideological thinking encourages you to make such a comment. There are plenty of personal comments here but this is undoubtedly the worst.

You shouild be ashamed of yourself.

Cunliffe has to be brought back otherwise Labour hasn't a show in hell in the next election. So what if he's clever and smartly dressed? As for Norman - ye gods where/ how did he get his doctorate and was it in soil science or what not to know what money printing leads to is unforgiveable. We have long complained that kiwis don't save enough - what happens when printing money comes in and the people in the middle are wiped out - it leads to fascism.

I don't like to say it because it seems unkind but I don't think the country is ready for a senior gay politician....

Politicians are bad enough..those that got their start in nerdy student politics are worse...Robertson classic example