IS IT A THINK TANK --- OR A FACTION? LABOUR'S NEW GROUPING.

: Josie Pagani
 

Controversy within the Labour Party over moves by some right wing members and MPs to set up a think tank aligned with the party.

Some sources say that things got heated at last week's Labour caucus over the proposal and  expulsion of some of those involved was threatened.

But a spokesperson for Labour Leader Andrew Little says that while he does not discuss what happens at caucus, those reports are "inaccurate".

Indeed the spokesperson said Mr Little said he welcomed the idea.

“Labour is a broad church and we welcome all sorts of ideas,” she said.

“If people want to have things like think tanks with ideas that’s good.”

One source said the proposal was initially for the new body to be called “True Labour”.

But when it was discussed at the Caucus last week it apparently came under fire.

It was then renamed “Progress”.

Names mentioned in connection with the proposal include two Labour members usually identified as being on its right wing; Porirua Mayor, Nick Legget and the blogger and commentator, Phil Quinn.

Former candidate, Josie Pagani and Napier MP, Stuart Nash are also said to be involved.

Mr Nash could not be reached yesterday.  

Josie Pagani confirmed to POLITIK that she was involved and said that the aim was to model the new body on the British Labour-aligned think tank “Progress.”

That organisation generally favours so-called “Third Way” policies and has been endorsed by Tony Blair.

Mr Quin in particular has been an advocate of Mr Blair’s politics and a critic from Labour’s right of New Zealand Labour’s recent performance.

Reacting a to a proposal in Bryan Gould’s review of the last election campaign to have a party committee vet candidates before they stood fort selection he described the idea as a  “glistening turd.”

In his blog he said: “Because of its first past the post voting rules, Labour's governing body is already a mono-factional behemoth incapable of promoting anyone but their own.  

“Adding an additional committee made up of handpicked members, unelected and unaccountable to party members, to vet potential candidates is not only needlessly bureaucratic; it is flagrantly undemocratic. “

And in a recent blog post on the Budget Josie Pagani said: “What has now happened is that the National Party has been able to achieve a benefit increase by cutting a policy priority the left would not have chosen.

“Winning is important not because we get to not make tough decisions, but because we get to make the ones we want.

“But in order to win, we first have to make some tough calls, and we need to do it now in opposition to earn back the trust of the public.”

And it is to debate those “tough calls” --- which will be anathema to many on Labour’s left --- that Ms Pagani says is why she is involved with Progress.

“Labour says it is a broad church, well, we will be the broad bit,” she told POLITIK.

Ultimately what this shows is that the ongoing rumours around Parliament that the election of Andrew Little as Leader have not brought an end to factional infighting within Labour may well be true.

There is one existing think tank – the Fabian Society --- which is generally thought of as being Labour aligned though anybody can join.

It hosts a wide variety of speakers (including this author) at seminars and conferences as well as producing publications based on those events.

But it does not act as a faction within the party endorsing candidates for office or selection as MPs.  

The British Progress does do that and it is highly likely its New Zealand counterpart would end up doing the same which would explain the hostility it has apparently been greeted with from within the caucus.

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