Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Who's the real loser in the 'two Davids' debacle?

History has taught us many lessons but the sad fact is that they don’t stick. Last night I got caught up in a debate that was raging on Facebook. It was initiated by supporters of David Cunnliffe who were more than miffed at his demotion to the back benches of Parliament. I made the mistake of commenting on some of the highly emotional claims and counterclaims of the participants. I must say that the majority of the contributors were supporters of DC so I think that the debate was a bit one-sided.
Having said that, I also think that if one was to look for clich├ęs and particular mind-sets that go along with ‘died on the wool’ supporters of a particular stance or candidate, then anyone doing research on such matters, would have gathered a great deal of empirical data. At times the debate was tragic and at others it was so funny that I had to hold back in my comments for fear of attracting violence towards myself.
I remember the days when I was an ardent supporter of the Labour Party. I like to think that now, I am an armchair supporter of many of their policies, but buggered if I am going to be lumbered with some blind ‘mind-set’ that demands loyalty and ‘swallowing of the whole bundle.’ I remember the debates that seemed to centre on how ‘left’ your views were and the divisions were apparent then, just as they are now. Those divisions were ideological and personality based. If one was in a particular camp, then you could expect to be shunned by the others.
This very human phenomenon is not centred on the Labour Party alone; it is a theme that pervades any group, be it political, religious or economic in nature. As one gets ‘older’ such debates wear a little thin and one seeks some sort of understanding within oneself about how to handle such dilemmas.
Watching and reading the debate last night on Facebook just strengthened my resolve to stay away from the more strident viewpoints proposed, but I couldn’t resist making a few jibes.
OK, what then can I say about the ‘two Davids’ leadership debate? Firstly, there is no doubt in my mind that both are intelligent and experienced men; one more so when it comes to politics and the other in different areas of life. David Shearer (DS) came to politics quite late in life and possibly a little too late. His experience in the world of negotiation and working with disparate groups is impossible to miss. On the other hand, DC is very familiar with the halls of political power and manoeuvring within those circles. To get as far as he has, means that he has picked up the skills needed to garner support for his own ambitions.
In some ways, DS has not got that ‘kill factor’ when it comes to pushing his own leadership agenda and that is clearly showing now, by his clumsy attempts to either silence DC or place him where he is perceived to be less troublesome. He made a terrible mistake this morning by not fronting to the Media to discuss the events of the last few days. Oh yes, the media was trumpeting his handling of DC last night, but he didn’t follow through just when he should have. If he wants to appear strong, refusing to front is a pretty stupid way of progressing with his ‘new and harder’ image.
What DS has done today is to lose the momentum he may have been gathering. I do not know why he didn’t front, and we may hear a very valid reason and that will make my comments mean nothing. DC on the other hand must have noticed this omission on his leader’s part and be starting his comeback. However, he needs to take note of the fact that he does not have the support in the caucus that he needs and those that did support him melted away when he did not challenge DS yesterday. When he ‘lined up’ behind DS, he threw away any chance he had for the leadership in February when a formal process is due to take place. His supporters would not have won the day, but they could have claimed a base from which to work. Now, nothing short of a complete upheaval in the Labour Party will bring him back. DC is simply not liked by enough people.
The debate on FB last night was driven by disenchanted supporters from DC’s electorate. Those who disagreed with the direction of the debate were not speaking out. There was even a National Party guy, who incidentally clicked on the ‘Likes’ for his own comment. That says a lot about his contribution, but I won’t hold that against him. At least he had the guts to make a comments and then stand behind them.
DS has created further doubt about his capacity to lead by not fronting this morning and it may come back to haunt him. I hope not because he has much to give. He also missed the chance to bring DC back aboard. He would not have to look to far back in history to realize that it is better to have ones enemies inside the tent than outside. I could have used a more crude way of putting it and I am sure there will be those of you out there who know what I wanted to say.
 Look to a continuation of this drama!