David Miliband has joined forces with his party leader brother Ed behind Labour plans to deliver a “living wage” of well over £7.20 an hour – rising to more than £8.30 in London – for millions of workers in both the public and the private sectors.
The Miliband brothers, whose relationship has been tense since Ed narrowly defeated David in the 2010 leadership contest, are working closely together on how to make the living wage – as opposed to the lower minimum wage – the new norm and a core economic policy for Labour at the next election.
Miliband the elder, who is still outside the Shadow Cabinet, seems to be returning to the fold. This sort of “re-unification” of the British Labour Party can only be seen as a good thing, and puts the party in a stronger more united position to take the fight to the coalition.
Here in New Zealand, Labour Leader David Shearer pledged his support for the idea six months ago. With wages static and costs rising, it is easy to see the Living Wage being a big part of the conversation come 2014.
David Shearer gave his first major speech as leader of the opposition this morning. I may be a little biased on these matters, but even the most seasoned political journalists were impressed. John Armstrong’s column was particularly illuminating…
David Shearer’s first big speech as Labour leader does the trick. It does what was expected of it. It contains enough hints of the direction he will be taking the party – and that direction is firmly towards the centre.
Today’s speech will be fleshed out in more detail in ones to follow in coming weeks, however.
A new leader has to start somewhere. Shearer delayed doing so until he felt that he had got things right. The wait was worth it. Today’s speech is the perfect antidote to last year’s electoral disaster. It marks a new beginning for Labour. It’s game-on from here on.
You can read the full speech or watch the entire video on the Labour website. Here is a shortened version…
David Shearer had his first appearance on Q+A since becoming leader. Good stuff.
Update: Seems the media are impressed too. This Tweet from TVNZ’s Jessica Mutch…
David Shearer gave a speech to Grey Power yesterday, hitting out at the shambles that is the government’s sale of state owned assets. The government is very quickly losing control of this issue…
Shearer attacked the Government’s estimates of the revenue asset sales would generate, saying when first touted, the partial sales were estimated to raise $10 billion.
”Then it was $6.6 billion, then about $6 billion. Then last week [Finance Minister)] Bill English admitted they were just ‘guessing’ at what the sale price would be.
”It’s the sort of shambles you’d expect to see at a backyard garage sale not when you’re selling off our nation’s valuable assets.”
The Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of state-owned energy companies Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian and Solid Energy and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.
He’s also hit out at critics of his leadership style.
I’m not the kind of leader who believes in rival tribes playing ‘gotcha’, where bickering and partisanship are prized. Of course that’s what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that’s not what most New Zealanders want.
I’ve sat down a number of times to write about what I saw, felt and thought on 22 February 2011.
I was in town having lunch…I crossed it to get back to work and check on staff … then trekked out again on foot to get home and deal with flooding and liquefaction.
I saw things I’ll never forget.
I can’t or won’t watch a great deal of footage – it’s still way too raw. But really I think I’m just sick of the damn day, and I’m especially sick of the media treatment of it, as though that’s the bit that matters. So I’m not going to inflict another overwrought account of that day on you. It’s not 22 February that truly matters – as a progressive, it’s what comes after that matters.
Following the quake “munted” quickly became the word of the moment; hell it became the word of the last year. But as a friend reminded me when he visited from Melbourne, “munted” just doesn’t cut it.
There is no other way to say it: Christchurch is fucked.
We need Christchurch to work. Calls to abandon it, move it, or supplant it are idiotic and ill informed. The nation needs an effective alternative to Auckland and for all sorts of reasons that place is and will remain Christchurch.
But I’ve spent much of the last year angry, upset, and generally frustrated with what I see as the failure of many, and especially our leaders (local and national), to engage with what’s actually happened in Christchurch. That goes double for those who ought to know better – those on the left.
Plenty of people have been working hard – I don’t accuse anyone of laziness. But way too many continue to confuse heat with light, energy with results – just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re doing any good.
What I’ve found particularly frustrating is that Christchurch is a city full of need and opportunity. It’s a city full of fear and anger – crying out for those of us on the left to turn that into hope and action.
Certainly, I have my own views about a large number of policy issues including Transport, Environment, Housing, Health, Small Business, Arts, and Local Government to name but a few. I’m sure I’ll write about them over the next year.
But, on this the anniversary of the quake that broke my city, I want to issue a challenge:
To the Labour Caucus – every one of you.
You have a year – a year to understand how rebuilding Christchurch presents a challenge to our nation and an opportunity, in your portfolio, for our party and our country to advance our progressive agenda.
In a year’s time I expect all of you to be able to articulate and advance policy that will help rebuild Christchurch, and build a stronger more progressive nation.
You will need to come to Christchurch regularly. It is quite clear to me that one cannot understand what is happening here without seeing it in person.
You must not accept the government’s notion that this can and should be managed through one Ministerial portfolio. Lianne is doing an excellent job of holding the Minister to account, but she alone cannot fix the problems or seize the opportunities before us. You must come to see your portfolio through the lens of Christchurch.
Ours is a city of new horizons, it could be the most progressive city in the most progressive country in the world. We can build it back green, and progressive. We can throw away old models and ways of doing things. It’s simply up to you to grasp this opportunity – every one of you.
I look forward to hearing from you in a year.
A guest post from Jacob Quinn, first posted on his blog, Life and Politics.
What is the point of having a media unit if they cannot filter and influence what messaging makes its way into the public from your organisation? This is a question that political parties need to ask themselves when deciding on how to manage their MP’s media releases, blog posts and media interviews.
It is common practice for media staff, most of whom are ex-journalists or at least have developed understandings of how media works and how issues will likely play out, to coordinate interviews and press releases. So why would you leave them out of having input to (and more importantly, oversight of) a party political blog, that you’ve set up to communicate political messages and to engage with interested voters and journalists.
Today’s blog post by Labour MP Raymond Huo, and a couple of other noteworthy examples from 2011, are examples of well-meaning but ultimately counterproductive pieces of political communication, that, had they been put under the nose of a press secretary, would have stayed in the drafts column, never to see the light of day.
This is why you pay press secretaries. Even if you are an award-winning writer or a former journalist yourself, you cannot keep your political antennae on 24/7 – especially in the wake of a personal attack or when reacting to something that you feel particularly emotionally charged about.
In the heat of the moment you lose your cool and write something that turns out sounding silly. It hits the press, you are embarrassed, your colleagues are embarrassed, and then your leader has to have a quite stern word with you. Now you wish you’d run it past someone in the media unit.
I am of the view that to minimize the risk of embarrassing or counter-productive communications working their way into the public domain political parties must include their communications staffers in all external political communications, including blog posts. Press officers tend to be available (almost) 24 hours a day, they have smart phones, and the sign-off processes needn’t be overly cumbersome or bureaucratic.
Political party blogs like what Labour and the Greens have are incredible useful communications tools. Conversely, blogs which consists of newsletter links and rehashed press releases are not worth the $25 a year it costs to register the domain name. Labour and the Greens should be commended for running real blogs, with real opinions on current issues, but they are foolish if they don’t bring these tools within their broader communications strategies and oversight mechanisms.
Green MP Gareth Hughes has just published a blog post congratulating Labour for restating their pre-election policy of a demand for an immediate inquiry into the mineral extraction technique known as fracking.There has been fracking in New Zealand since 1993, and given current international concerns, there are calls to ban or limit its use.
The main point of Gareth’s blog post is to call on Labour to change its position to push for an outright ban on fracking…
Considering Labour’s concerns, they should commit to backing the call for an immediate moratorium, the only way we can safeguard our rights to clean water and air and a safe environment.
Which is a logically reasonable position, but not one I’m going to get into today.
My issue with Gareth’s post is that he is essentially calling on Labour to adopt a Green Party policy. The problem for Labour is if we do this, we will inevitably be slammed by the Greens for ‘stealing’ their policy, as has happened all too often recently.
David Shearer has been quite explicate in his desire to see Labour focus on building a greener, more sustainable economy. His appointment of his number two, Grant Robertson, to the environment portfolio shows that Labour are taking the environment just as seriously as the Greens. This is undoubtably going to cause further tensions in the future.
I’m look forward to the day when New Zealand politics can move past petty partisan bickering so that we can really start addressing some of the massive issues that our country faces.
While John Key has made a strong pitch for the support of the Ratana movement, it is clear that history does count for something. Not only is it history that is helping, but Shearer really does seem to have got his speech pitch perfect. From 3News:
“We would like to talk about how we go forward together, it can’t be achieved in one day once a year,” Mr Shearer told the gathering after being welcomed on the marae at the head of a delegation of his MPs.
His gesture was welcomed by members of the church’s executive committee.
Shearer isn’t just asking for the votes of the people, he wants to rebuild a strong and deep relationship. He has invited the church leaders to come and visit him in Wellington – a signal that he is genuine in making this a two-way relationship – and the offer seems to have gone down very well with the church leadership.
Contrast that with Key’s tone. Via TVNZ…
“Despite the long standing relationship between Ratana and Labour, I would argue with you that it’s in Government that the National Party has made many gains,” Key said.
Another interesting point to note is that the second largest population of Ratana faithful are in the far north. Given the northern Ratana people largely supported Hone Harawira, who managed to beat Labour’s Kelvin Davis by only just over a thousand votes, I’d say that their influence is not unsubstantial.
Finally, aside from the political success of the day for Labour, it must be noted that this is yet another performance that David Shearer did not stuff up. His delivery was good and the speech natural and well crafted. Those who doubted his ability to be a credible front person for Labour should be re-evaluating that position right about now.
Tomorrow marks the traditional beginning of the political year with the celebrations at Rātana.
Labour’s connection with the Rātana church is long and deep – going back to the 1930s, with Sir Eruera Tirikatene signing an allegiance with Michael Joseph Savage, and merging the Rātana political wing and it’s two MPs into the Labour Party.
The relationship between Rātana and Labour has been strained in recent years however, and probably reached it’s nadir in 2010.
That said, we have entered a new parliamentary term with a new leadership team, and most importantly, a new Rātana MP in Rino Tirikatene, the new MP for Te Tai Tonga. Rino is of course a descendent of Sir Eruera, and the late Dame Whetu, who held the seat of Southern Maori for Labour for a combined total of 64 years. His connections within Rātana are strong (I’ve even heard rumours that there are photos of him dressed up for the Rātana band when he was a youngster, I’ll try and see what I can find…)
Labour has turned a new page, and Rino is hopefully the start of new representation and connection within the Rātana and wider Māori communities. We have worked so well together in the past, now is the time to make sure we ensure both organisations are stronger together.
Labour’s energetic new MP for Wigram, Dr Megan Woods, made a fascinating presentation to Labour Summer School on rebuilding Christchurch, and the relevance of hope to the people of Christchurch.
It really amazed me how much new information she had. So many stories, both positive and negative, seem to be slipping under the radar. She talked about the work of various third sector organisations which have sprung up or morphed from earlier entities. Things like Rebuild Christchurch, Greening The Rubble and Gap Filler, which are all doing interesting and inspiring work. There are also many things that the state can and should be doing, or doing better. I’m not even going to attempt to cover them here. Despite Megan’s excellent hour-long seminar, I now feel that I know even less about the Christchurch situation.
The relevance of hope was something that was easier to grasp. I’m sure we all know people who have left Christchurch, simply given up. It’s not hard to see how that could happen. Strong, inspiring community leaders are going to have a very important role to play. Though she was too modest to say so herself, I know that the work of the MPs of Christchurch is going to be such an important help to their constituents.
I’m glad that David Shearer’s first visit as leader was to Christchurch, that we’ve appointed a fierce community advocate in Lianne Dalziel as our Canterbury Earthquake spokesperson, and that we have a great team of local MPs and activists in place in Christchurch. These people need to know that we’re doing all we can for them. And I genuinely think we are.
As an aside, Ruth Dyson mentioned on Twitter this afternoon that city councillor Tim Carter has called for the government to replace the council CE, Tony Marriott, with a statutory manager. I think local government politics in Christchurch are going to be just as interesting as central government. If anyone who is following these issues wants to write about it for The Progress Report, I’d be very keen to hear from you.