All that glitters...
With David Shearer's departure Labour's game of thrones is in full swing as David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson go head to head for the top job in New Zealand social democracy.
Very quickly Cunliffe has emerged as the great new hope of the New Zealand left with everyone from John Minto and Martyn Bradbury to Chris Trotter and Gordon Campbell rushing to offer their endorsements. Both of the core centre-left blogs, The Standard and The Daily Blog have turned into permanent propaganda outlets for Cunliffes' campaign squad as he attempts to win over the party's rank and file and union affiliates over the next three weeks of the leadership selection.
One particularly babbling piece published on The Daily Blog endorsed Cunliffe on the grounds that he had bought the author a glass of wine at some inner-city wine den. Well it's lovely to see that the sweat covered fast-food workers, milk stained dairy workers and greased-up rail workers who finance The Daily Blog are getting their money's worth of astute political commentary.
No doubt that Grant Robertson is every bit the Wellington-beltway, opportunistic hack that he appears on television to be. Under his stewardship Labour can be expected to sink even lower in the polls as its MPs fumble around in the dark looking for whatever secret ingredient Helen Clark added to the party pack. But does Cunliffe really deserve the left's warm embrace?
Despite the radical rhetoric he has since adopted, Cunliffe was never a friend of working people while a minister in Clark's cabinet.
Way back in 2006 and 2007 while happily ensconced in his Herne Bay abode, Cunliffe left a half dozen Iranian Christian asylum seekers to rot away in the bowels of Auckland Central Remand Prison. The great Anglican socialist David Cunliffe even let one of this band -Ali Panah get to the 54th day of his hunger strike before setting him free. The repeated hospitalisations, the weekly protests outside Mt. Eden prison and the advocacy of Keith Locke couldn't warm Cunliffe's heart of stone then. It wasn't Cunliffe's sympathy but the arrival of the media circus outside Mt Eden prison in the wake of five protesters chaining themselves to the prison roof that finally set Panah free. Now he has the gall to lecture us about the dying light of hope in people's eyes.
When Cunliffe made an anti-National speech at Avondale markets in 2011 he made a staunch speech in which his accent slurred from time to time with some sort of faux-Pasifika tone. It's a reminder of what Cunliffe's radical rhetoric really is - an accent.
The fact that Cunliffe is better than Robertson or that he'll commit to raising taxes on the rich or workplace awards should not be enough to have the left commentariat gushing with rivers of praise. Labour under Shearer and Goff had similar policies. It no doubt will under Robertson as well.
Those serious about a radical transformation of Aotearoa must build new vehicles of struggle. The majority of Labour's layabout MPs, under whichever Labour leader, will remain missing in action when the going gets tough on the picket lines, during the state house evictions or when push comes to shove on condemning the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In these struggles the real leaders of the labour movement emerge.
To paraphrase Karl Marx, the task of defeating John Key is the task of the working-class itself.
If the election of Barack Obama has taught us anything, it is, all that glitters is not gold.