The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few surprises in the Labour caucus

Both Jordan Carter and DPF have posted on the Fran O'Sullivan column about Labour renewal on their list, and what kind of people O'Sullivan wants to see Labour select and/or promote.

This has provoked some contest in comments about the current make-up of the Labour list, and the National list for that matter, and whether either meet O'Sullivan's call for:

... Business people, successful entrepreneurs, military men, scientists, accountants, farmers, diplomats and even a few lawyers, a Tim Finn or a Sam Neill to revitalise my [Helen Clark's] Government.
O'Sullivan herself notes a few people who actually do fit her list who are already in the Labour caucus or likely to enter it, including Shane Jones and Stuart Nash, and says that the party currently has amongst its MPs:

More than half of the caucus have been either trade union secretaries or union
activists at some stage of their careers. Or they were teachers, lecturers, community workers and nurses.

The caucus boasts a couple of lawyers, a farmer and some with business experience but they are in a clear minority.

First up, what is actually wrong with being a teacher, lecturer, community worker or nurse? Or a union activist*? Many NZers are, and in public votes on the most respected professions teachers and nurses are generally right up there. Certainly they would have more contact with a broader range of us everyday Kiwis than your average merchant banker.

Then there's the second bit I've quoted, the current makeup of the Labour caucus. Now I've had a quick gander at the Labour bios on the Parliamentary website and actually the MPs can tick more of O'Sullivan boxes than I thought, from a perusal of their former careers. A lot of the bios are clearly incomplete, but still I came up with the below:

Poultry farmer - Chris Carter
Partner in one of the big law firms - Charles Chauvel
Business management experience - Clayton Cosgrove
Diplomat, management consultant (latter is according to Stef, in comments, added 25th Jan) - David Cunliffe
Another lawyer - Lianne Dalziel
Soldier AND lawyer - Russell Fairbrother
Possible accountant ("Computer accounts, Treasury") - Phillip Field (oh the irony)
Company director - Martin Gallagher
Retailer ("Fruit and vegetable shop") - Pete Hodgson
Shearer and farm overseer - Parekura Horomia
CEO of a local Enterprise Board - Annette King
Business person AND dairy farmer - Damien O'Connor
Lawyer, manager and director, "worked in agri-biotechnology field" - David Parker
Finance Officer in the banking sector - Jill Pettis
Business management experience, including being a Fellow of the NZIM - Ross Robertson
Air Force service, tourism operator - Dover Samuels
Restaurant owner and manager - Judith Tizard
Another lawyer and legal academic (clarified in response to comments, 25th Jan) - Margaret Wilson

So I make that**:
  • 10 business people (hard to define what counts and what doesn't, of course)
  • 2 "military men"
  • 1 possible scientist (Parker)
  • 2 possible accountants (Field and Pettis)
  • 2 farmers and 1 farm overseer (O'Sullivan said Labour's caucus had "a farmer")
  • 1 diplomat
  • 5 lawyers (O'Sullivan said there are "a couple" now and that the party needed "a few")
It seems to me that O'Sullivan's point is that Labour doesn't have enough owners. It doesn't have enough people who represent capital, rather than labour (note small l). I believe Labour does need serious renewal, but imho Labour is too favourable to the owners already.

I challenge O'Sullivan to have a butcher's at the diversity in National's caucus with a similarly critical eye, and see just how representative John Key's party is.

* Many who were union activists did it concurrently with work in other areas, which is the reality for most uniony people.
** Clearly some of the Labour caucus have done more than one of the things on O'Sullivan's list, so the bullet points would add up funny. Successful entrepreneurs I have no idea about, as I can't get that kind of information from the bios. Oh, and Jim Anderton, leader of the Progressives, but secretly a Labour MP in disguise, was a business person (managing director of 2 businesses according to his bio) - I'm sure someone told me once that he used to own a factory that made shopping trolleys, amongst other things.


Graeme said...

Margaret Wilson is not a lawyer.

A legal academic. A university administrator.

High-level understanding of the law, sure, but 'lawyer', no.

Heine said...

Yes, she only taught law. You beat me to it. Thats a far cry from actually practising law.

stef said...

David Cunliffe was also a Management Consultant before entering parliament.

Span said...

Actually Wilson was a lawyer at the beginning of her legal career (unless you are arguing that a solicitor is not a lawyer?) and is also a life member of the Auckland Women Lawyers' Assn.

But you know I'm sure that someone who has studied and taught law for as long as Wilson, and been involved in so many different facets of our legal system (like being a Law Commissioner) could definitely be trumped by someone who has done legal conveyancing for a few years.


Gman said...

Isn't it a bit dodgy classifying Jill Pettis as an accountant because in her resume it claims that she was a 'financial officer' ? Couldn't that also mean she was teller? (like tony ryall)

The burdon of proof is pretty low there mate, i can't help but wonder if you're quite desparate to make a poltical statement about how the Labour caucus isn't in fact full of teachers and unionists at the expense of substantial, material evidence.



Span said...

Gman you may note that I said "possible accountant" for Pettis. You are right that there are a few non-accountant jobs that could be covered by "finance officer" and that is exactly why I put possible.

The point is that O'Sullivan's assertion that Labour has only one farmer, Shane Jones, "some" with business experience, and two lawyers is clearly wrong. If you want to obfuscate that by nitpicking about something I had already identified was only a possible then go for it.

In general I'm no friend to Labour. But I don't particularly like it when journos attack LOC parties inaccurately.

Anonymous said...

Margaret Wilson didnt have a great reputation as an academic, which is best illustrated by the fact she didnt write any of teh major text/authorities.

In fact i remember discussing her with a couple of professors at Canterbury (who are under any definition are the leading authorities on their subjects) and they were quite disdainful of academic background

Psycho Milt said...

The whole concept is bullshit. Or is it? Perhaps the next time National is in power, Fran O'Sullivan will write an article lamenting the chronic shortage of union activists, teachers, lecturers, community workers and nurses in its ranks. Any takers for this laughable delusion?

Gerrit said...

Listing previous occupations is passe as each of us would have learned at least 2, possibly up to 5 different careers in a lifetime.

Open mindedness and thinking outside the conventional are much bigger attributes required in our representatives. A dollop of common sense would not go astray either.

Span said...

Sadly Gerrit one of NZ's major political commentators does not agree with you.

Personally I think that it's good to have a breadth of experiences in a caucus (which includes experiences outside of paid work), and agree with you about openmindedness and common sense.

sagenz said...

span - Andertons brother runs the family business which is metal working in penrose I believe.

The criticism is valid in that there seems to be a fundamental lack of experience of creating business. Entrepreneurship.

There is an awfully big difference between being able to rely on an income and not being quite sure where the next deposit to your account is coming from.

There is wide political agreement that New Zealand needs to "ride the knowledge wave". Yet what skills have the labour caucus brought in to drive that thought process from inside.

Dave said...

The point really is that there are more Labour MPs that have had tax-payer funded jobs for longer periods of their lives than National

Starting from Helen Clark, down. Still doing it, and in Helen Clark's case, will still do it to a greater extent than the others when she leaves in 2008 as she will be a former PM.

Span said...

So Dave are the National and Act MPs in taxpayer funded jobs now too?

Assumedly you aren't that happy either with the Nat MPs who have had teaching etc jobs in the past (as outlined in a more recent post of mine), eg Brownlee.

But then a past career contributing to NZers wellbeing and/or education, rather than simply seeking to line your own pockets, is of course not desirable in an MP.

(Yep, sweeping generalisation dismissing the importance of business. Just as other contributors have been consistently implying, or baldly stating, that teachers, nurses, university lecturers and the like are worthless).

Insolent Prick said...


I don't know whether you are being deliberately deceptive, or if you're simply ignorant of the backgrounds of your beloved pinkos. Let's go through your list:

Christ Carter was not a poultry farmer. He was a teacher who along with his gay partner, owned some chickens.

Charles Chauvel represented unions in his work at Rudd Watts. He has a long history of union involvement.

Clayton Cosgrove hardly has "business management experience". He was the PR guy for Churchill and Clear, following a stint as Mike Moore's personal assistant. He didn't manage people, budgets, or accounts.

David Cunliffe was a diplomat, yes. He spent a few years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a very junior officer. He didn't rise above the rank of second secretary. His time at Boston was also brief. Having said that, he is no darling in the Labour Party, primarily because he doesn't have a union background.

Lianne Dalziel was legal officer to the Hotel and Hospitality Workers Union. She spent her entire career there. She was a union lawyer.

Ross Robertson spent nine years immediately before entering Parliament as an official with the Freezing Workers Union. You're stretching it very thin to describe him as a business manager.

Russell Fairbrother was not a soldier. He was an army cadet during compulsory military training, along with almost every other male New Zealander of his age.

Phillip Field was not an accountant. He was an office clerk.

Martin Gallagher was a schoolteacher and councillor throughout his career. He was appointed to the boards of several local authority trading enterprise directorships in his capacity as deputy mayor of Hamilton, but never in his own right. He hasn't even served on the board of his family company, the Gallagher Group.

Frankly, Span, your descriptions of Labour's caucus members are blatantly dishonest. If you were writing their CVs and submitting them to a prospective employer, you would be charged with fraud.

Span said...

IP, I've been totally upfront about the source material - the parliamentary bios. I've even added links to their bio for each MP in the list above.

I am not intimiately acquainted with the past careers of any MPs, from any party, and so I have taken their parliamentary bios at their word. I have done the same with the National ones in my other post. I've been quite clear about this in my post, and about the obvious incompleteness of some bios (eg Steve Maharey and Bill English).

If your issue is with the past jobs listed in my post then really you ought to take it up with the people who put up the parliamentary bios, not me.

I would also note that for the two possible accountants (including Field) I put that they were only possibles in my original post. So you can hardly get up on your high horse about that.

Being a union lawyer doesn't make you somehow magically not a lawyer. Depending on the union, union lawyers probably get more court time than many others in the profession.

Further, Tim Groser today included Cunliffe as one of the people he respected in Parliament, because of his previous work with him at MFAT. A compliment from an unlikely source, which rather differs from your view (formed assumedly not by working with Cunliffe at all).

(A note to other readers. Yes I can't believe it, I am now in the position of somehow defending David Cunliffe. It is surely a sign of the end times. Either that or the sign of rabid right wingers determined to discredit a Government for silly and inaccurate reasons rather than have a decent policy debate.)

Jordan Carter said...

Span - same message as last time. I guess in many ways the same views are reflected on my blog.

The interesting thing about a parliamentary caucus is the extent to which it represents all of New Zealand, not the extent to which it represents the white upper class that are moaning about it on your blog.

If you look at the two groups of people, you see a more diverse and interesting group on the Labour side of the aisle.

If you look at the parties outside Parliament, you see a Labour Party organisation that draws from all segments of the community, opposed by a National Party that is made up of a very select group: The white elite.

Quibbling about occupations, or whose bio is better, or whether people were in a union, is just not terribly interesting. at the end of the day the people decide who are suitable to represent them en bloc.

The argument that people like IP need to have is not with you or me. It is with those voters, who keep electing what the right see as a party that fundamentally has no moral right to govern, because it is not their party.

That attitude speaks for itself and is instantly recognisable. It is one of the important reasons why National keeps losing elections. One day they will get past it.