Reports of Labour's Kelvin Davis 'going rogue' have been exaggerated

Leaked revelations of a dispute between Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis and the party’s Head Office over a proposed negative campaign against Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom have been used as evidence of Davis going rogue.  In truth, the documents show a candidate engaged in nothing more sinister than garden variety electioneering; of trying to win a tough political fight. The tone of the news coverage appears to align with the political objectives of whoever furnished the leaks to begin with: to shut Davis up, and and his campaign operation down. 

A more intriguing, as well as troubling, aspect of the leaked emails from Labour's General Secretary Tim Barnett suggests someone is telling porkies about the party's Maori seat strategy, not to mention understating its eagerness to figuratively wade in Kim Dotcom's pool.  

In sharp contrast to comments David Cunliffe made as recently as last Tuesday, Barnett prohibits the Labour campaign in Te Tai Tokerau from campaigning against the Internet Mana Party which he casts as a "progressive" ally.  Cunliffe, meanwhile, repeatedly told Radio Live's Duncan Garner that Labour was “absolutely not” doing a deal with the Internet Mana Party, and that “we are backing Kelvin Davis to win in the North.”  And yet we now know, just a few weeks earlier, Secretary Barnett was telling the Davis campaign team to refrain from “picking fights” with Harawira and Dotcom.  There shouldn't be any doubt about what Barnett is advocating here: since ‘picking fights’ with opponents is the very stuff of elections, Barnett is effectively instructing Davis to ‘run dead’ rather than actually campaign to win in Te Tai Tokerau.  

At best, this suggests Mr Barnett does not stand by his leader's oft-repeated mantra that Labour intends to contest all seven Maori seats, including Te Tai Tokerau.  At worst, it calls into question whether any such strategy ever existed.  

We are witnessing yet more attempts at three dimensional chess by people far better suited to checkers.  

This leaves Mr. Davis spectacularly in the lurch, especially in light of his early, consistent and principled stand against the cynical formation of the Internet Mana Party and its use of Hone Harawira as their Trojan candidate.  It has also enraged several of Davis’s supporters who had been placated by earlier assurances from Cunliffe that Te Tai Tokerau was not being offered as koha to Kim Dotcom.  

The revelation of Barnett’s double dealing came as little surprise to some, myself included, who suspected that the Internet Mana Party coattail was the beating strategic heart, the pièce de résistance, of Labour’s unlikely bid for power all along, and that key advisors to Cunliffe therefore saw Kelvin Davis’ winning the seat as a catastrophic outcome to be avoided at all costs. 

The effect of these leaks, if nothing else, will be to make it near impossible for Kelvin Davis to prosecute the kind of campaign necessary to topple a high-profile and well funded incumbent. It has greatly curtailed his ability to make a case to potential campaign donors which was powerfully compelling on two grounds: Davis is a strong, credentialed and capable candidate in his own right; and helping him win Te Tai Tokerau would bring the significant additional benefit of keeping Parliament free from Kim Dotcom's agenda which couldn't be further at odds from the health, wealth and wellbeing of Maori in the North. 

Putting Labour’s official position aside, the left’s commitment to Kelvin Davis has always been shaky. Commentator Chris Trotter recently assailed him as an "aggressive hard-man bereft of all strategic and tactical understanding”, “an assimilationist on Maori development” and an “authoritarian". And Labour, let's face it, has a serious, much broader problem with Maori men; the departure from its ranks for various reasons of John Tamihere, Shane Jones and Dover Samuels points to a fundamental, unresolved problem.  

Labour's current brains trust is far from nimble enough to carry off a complicated strategy built around doing one thing and saying another when it comes to Kelvin Davis and Kim Dotcom.  It is simply not possible to simultaneously support both men. It's time for David Cunliffe to state once and for all where he stands, and make it clear to the voters of Te Tai Tokerau that Kelvin Davis must win, not in spite of its deleterious effect on the Internet Mana Party but, in part, because of them. 

A recent poll showed the majority of Labour voters don't want a bar of Internet Mana.  It goes to show installing an entourage of Dotcom allies on the strength of Maori voters in the North represents a depth of cynicism to which they are unwilling to sink. Labour should never have put the option on the table, let alone allow it to linger there this long. 

Comments (19)

by Kat on August 07, 2014

This from David Cunliffe as reported just yesterday:

"Look, we don't hold a candle for Kim Dotcom," Cunliffe said.

"Kim Dotcom has been a donor to ACT candidates in the past, he's not associated with the Labour Party, and I've made clear that there won't be Internet-Mana in a government that I lead."

David Cunliffe has stated where he stands, and the voters of Te Tai Tokerau shall decide who wins the seat.

How many statements do you want Mr Quin?

by Lynn Prentice on August 07, 2014
Lynn Prentice

How many statements do you want Mr Quin?

I was thinking much the same myself. Mr Quin appears to live as much in a personal fantasy land when it comes to Labour as (ummm) Martyn Bradbury or Chris Trotter often do.

Fossils from past times are often pretty boring as they refight battles long past.

I should know, I'm steadily heading that way myself as I disengage from being active and engaged in any political party.

As for JT, Shane Jones, and even occassionally even Dover. Their behaviour didn't exactly endear themselves to most Labour activists over the years. While they may have gotten on well with their drinking buddies, I usually noticed them because whenever Labour would start making some headway, either them or some other dickhead MP would screw up with some trivia and pull the media and public attention away.

Eventually I just classed them as being amongst the "dickhead" group of fools with limited self-control along with Trevor Mallard (who seems to be growing out of it?) and a number of other MPs who have mostly departed (thank god).

by Nick Gibbs on August 07, 2014
Nick Gibbs

DC doesn't need to be in coalition with IMP, he just needs confidence and supply, which they'll grant from the cross-benches without need of a formal coalition. 

Of course he'll have to offer Laila something, she'll demand a ministerial post, but she sit outside cabinet. And if people complain that a deal has been done, they'll have the pleasure of knowing their correct even while DC does his best Winnie impersonation and asserts that white is black, up is down and that "No deal has been done to reach this situation". 


by Brad Gibbons on August 07, 2014
Brad Gibbons

"How many statements do you want Mr Quin?"

It is hard to take Cunliffe seriously when he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. One day he's seemingly ruling out the Stop KDC Getting Extradited Party from a government he leads and the next saying they are free to offer confidence and supply if they like. That is without even considering the fact that the party secretary told them to stop campaigning against them.

by Kiwi in Aussie on August 07, 2014
Kiwi in Aussie

Once again, Quin nails it with with a cogent, beautiully wrought argument.  And once again, the peoplel who don't like it bend over backwards to avoid engaging on the substance, preferring to go for the man instead of the ball everytime.  Kat-- what point are you tying to make.  The while point Quin was making was DC makes heaps of statements saying one things while the actions of the party head office suggest the exact opposite.  What are you disproving by pointing out yet anoter DC quote reinforcing what Quin has already pointed out.  Quin's argument is not that DC is equivoval publicly on Dotcom. It's that his motives are made to look suspect when the party organisation does something completely the strategic opposite to the allegedly firm commitments DC is making.  The whole thing stinks, and Quin is just pointing out the whiff.  

by John Egan on August 07, 2014
John Egan

Yes, this is an excellent contribution to efforts to avoid splitting the progressive vote in New Zealand.

No isn't.   Just what are you trying to achieve here with this posting? Besides 3 more years of National in government?

by Kat on August 07, 2014

@Kiwi in Aussie

And you have unequivocal evidence that ...."party organisation does something completely the strategic opposite to the allegedly firm commitments DC is making"

Or are you just reading the MSM and taking Mr Quins word for it? I suspect that is just the case. Put up or shut up.

No doubt Mr Quin and other MSM commentators who want to keep dribbling disinformation and discontent about Labour and Davis Cunliffe will continue up to election day. It will just make the win for Labour more satisfying.


by Kiwi in Aussie on August 07, 2014
Kiwi in Aussie

Kat, so you deny Barnett told TTT Labour to avoid campaiging against IMP?  Those emails are fabrications like Obama's birth certicificate? The moon landing videos?  Why don't you encourage your party to do better, instead of defending their incompetence?  As for John Egan, how is Kelvin Davis campaigning for Labour "splitting" the progressive vote -- unless your calculatation depends on the coat-tailing provisions which Labour has promised to outlaw in government anyway.  Kelvin wants progressives to concentrate their vote with Labour not split  it on this dodgy fly by night political party invensted out of thin air as part of a extradition avoidance strategy. 

by Phil Quin on August 07, 2014
Phil Quin

DISCLOSURE:  I should have included in the original post the disclosure that I made a $500 donation to the Te Tai Tokerau Labour campaign approximately three weeks ago.  I did so after making contact via Labour Head Office and before it came to light that the General Secretary was opposed to an aggressive grassroots campaign by Kelvin Davis.  With that out the way, people who haven't read my column can please feel free to get back to attacking it, or my motives for writing it.  

by Kat on August 07, 2014

@Kiwi in Aussie

Do you 'really' believe the voters of Te Tai Tokerau haven't worked it all out? As I said earlier, unless you are intent on assisting in the destabilising of David Cunliffe's leadership, as the general MSM and Mr Quin is, it would be appreciated that if you can't produce hard evidence to the contary please desist with the sabotage.


by Kiwi in Aussie on August 07, 2014
Kiwi in Aussie

Kat, I find it impossible to have a rational conversation with someone who seems to sincerely believe that Cunliffe's flailing, hopeless leadership is a mirage, and that we are actaully witnessing is an elaborate conspiracy between the 'MSM' (and, please, spare me the US political acronyms!) and Phil Quin.  Since you like American political cliches, the Rumself line about the "reality based community" comes to mind.  Wake up. 

by Rich on August 07, 2014

Labour, let's face it, has a serious, much broader problem with Maori men

No, there is a vocal minority of Maori man who are right-wing sexist dicks, and the problem is that for many years National was sufficiently racist that these people wound up in Labour by default. Shane Jones said us much - "I am not a left winger". 

It's not that Labour has a problem, these men (and there are no women, you'll note) have a problem. Labour has moved on really, as shown by Jones' miniscule vote in the leadership election, dispite the hype from his mates in the press gallery / National party.



by Kat on August 07, 2014

@Kiwi in Aussie

"Kat, I find it impossible to have a rational conversation with someone who seems to sincerely believe that Cunliffe's flailing, hopeless leadership is a mirage.."

As I thought, just another wee right leaning troll and deserving of the full contempt of true Labour supporters.

by Andrew Osborn on August 08, 2014
Andrew Osborn

The key point in all of this: Cunliffe has no principles.

He will saying anything to anyone to grab a vote and he will dine with the devil if it get him the PM's job.


by MJ on August 08, 2014

Quin and Hooten up a tree- w-h-i-n-ing. 

What should the left be Godwinning KDM or should we leave that to wankers?

by Kyle Matthews on August 08, 2014
Kyle Matthews

Is there any evidence that Kelvin Davis is a decent shot at winning the seat even if Labour went in guns blazing?

He's trying to oust a sitting MP whose only way back into parliament is winning his seat, and who heads a party that likewise needs to win the seat in order to bring any other MPs in, and who has just been given 3 million dollars which it can spend on that purpose. If Hone needs to start throwing money around his electorate like confetti, he can and will.

You'd have to be pretty confident on polling that you could compete before you'd even bother trying.

by Alistair Connor on August 08, 2014
Alistair Connor

Phil, I have seen you claim (on the Dailyblog I think) impeccable labour-left credentials (from the Victorian Labour Party) and I have no reason to doubt them. I have been having trouble making sense of your strident blogging on the Mana/Internet party, but I've finally figured it out.

My own dealings with the ALP are several decades old, but they were a real education, and I'm going to share a few elements which may help others understand your attack-dog routine.

As you mentioned on the Daily, the ALP is heavily and explicitly factionalised (in NZ it's informal, poorly-organised and unstable). But there is another, huge difference between the NZ and Aus political scenes : in NZ we have MMP.  Australia, by contrast, has preferential voting. The aim of Labour in any given election is to ruthlessly eliminate all competition on the left, by providing voting lists which rank rival left-wing parties below their right-wing opponents. Yeah, the ALP would rather sacrifice any given constituency to the Liberals than to see it fall to the Greens or any other party of the Left. And they are very good at it : currently there is only one Green MP, and no other left-wing MPs at all.

This is what you're aiming for in NZ, isn't it Phil? Reducing any rivals on the left to smoking rubble. However morally defensible such a policy might be in Aus (I won't go into that), it's absolute lunacy in NZ. Look, Hone will be re-elected. Annette will probably be elected too. Mana is a viable party in its own right. And the Internet/Mana hookup will quite likely break the 5% bar anyway, they are on a roll. A strategy which seeks to lock them out, if it were successful, would greatly increase the odds of a third Key government. Do the sums, Phil.

Laila will be a valuable voice to have back in Parliament, and anyone on the left who has an ounce of intellectual honesty will acknowledge that. John Minto too, he will take over the role that Keith Locke used to fill for the Greens. Pull your horns in Phil, or join National if you really want to see Key re-elected.

by Ross on August 11, 2014

And Labour, let's face it, has a serious, much broader problem with Maori men; the departure from its ranks for various reasons of John Tamihere, Shane Jones and Dover Samuels points to a fundamental, unresolved problem.

Does it? It's not apparent to me. As Lynn says, JT has had a history of putting his foot in his mouth - and that's a polite way of putting it. Samuels had a long career in politics and didn't retire until he was 69. Jones left on his own terms, not before making his share of faux pas.

I agree with Alistair. You should really just come out and say you want another 3 years of Key and National.

by Alistair Connor on August 12, 2014
Alistair Connor

Well actually Ross, I don't think Phil really wants another three years of Key That was just a cheap shot to goad him into responding. Wisely, he chose not to -- because I've seen through his tactics. And his tactics are badly wrong. That's what spending too much time with the ALP will do to you.

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