Labor’s Factional War Continues

Shortly before the 2016 federal election, I suggested that Labor’s left was sabotaging Shorten’s election campaign:

As for Andrews, he and Labor’s socialist left (more relevantly) hardly came down in the last shower. They’ve had Shorten lined up for a while and the CFA matter hasn’t been foolishly timed. It’s been perfectly timed…

…This is where Andrews has been ordered to come in. Although it’s a state issue, the CFA/UFU issue is an obvious federal election vote changer given its timing. In this respect, it has deliberately been unleashed to:

  • enable Shorten to lose by a greater margin; and
  • allow a socialist left faction leader to take the reigns after that.

On the second point, would you like to take a guess which Labor faction Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese belong to?

The problem for Labor’s socialist left faction is it that, while it sort of got the first point right, it failed miserably on the second:

There’s just one problem. Instead of making a small defeat a larger one for Shorten (and laying the groundwork for a post-election leadership challenge), the CFA issue inspired by Labor’s socialist left made a small defeat out of what would have been a small victory. Whoops!

Suffice to say, this one isn’t over. Shorten and Labor’s right will not take this lying down and things are about to get very nasty within Labor.

Anyone who thinks that Labor doesn’t have its own serious internal turmoil to deal with hasn’t been paying attention.

Today, Andrew Bolt’s post on Shorten nobbling Albo appears to gives further credence to what TMR has been thinking all along:

Troy Bramston says Bill Shorten’s reshuffle shows Labor is fractured but Bill Shorten is stronger:

This was dramatically exposed by Anthony Albanese’s calculated and concerted push to dump his long-time factional enemy, Kim Carr, from [the] frontbench. But Albanese spectacularly failed.

Albanese corralled most of the national Left to deny Carr one of the faction’s 14 allocated spots… Albanese has not forgiven Carr for failing to support his leadership bid in 2013…

Shorten is furious with Albanese’s factional games that detracted from the story of frontbench “renewal”. Shorten had to expand the frontbench to minimise the fallout…. But the wily Carr survived and now leads a breakaway faction in caucus…

Meanwhile, anybody reading The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald this week was told that Carr’s goose was cooked. They missed the bigger story: the factional realignment has reinforced Shorten’s leadership, saved Carr and made Albanese weaker.

Shorten, a master deal-maker, will thrive in a bifurcated party. 

Let’s keep that very last part in mind as we move on: Shorten. Master deal maker. Thrive. Bifurcated party.

Now some of you might be thinking: what about Plibersek? Didn’t Shorten just give her the ‘super’ shadow education portfolio? And isn’t Plibersek supposed to be of of Labor’s socialist left just like Albanese? Why would Shorten seemingly promote Plibersek like this?

Firstly, going from shadow foreign affairs (i.e. the second cushiest job going around after Julie Bishop’s) to education is not a promotion: it’s a demotion. There is simply no benefit to Plibersek’s leadership ambitions by moving from foreign affairs to education. Some might argue that the move will help raise her domestic and leadership profile. This is nonsense: Plibersek is already the deputy leader and can step in on domestic policy wherever she likes. The only difference now is that Plibersek has a major portfolio in her way and will be slowed down considerably.

The idea that Plibersek has been ‘promoted’ to Education would also necessarily suggest that Shorten and Plibersek have done some sort of deal. That is, to keep Kim Carr on the front bench, move Plibersek to Education and, supposedly, weaken Albanese. However, Plibersek would probably rather deputise Donald Trump than see Carr retained on Labor’s front bench – and there is simply no benefit to Plibersek in such a deal except for the vague feeling that she may have overtaken Albanese in the leadership stakes.

No, Plibersek was demoted all right and the only deal that was done was between Shorten and Carr:

On Friday, Mr Shorten stepped in to save the frontbench career of Kim Carr.

After a week of upheaval in the Left that included the creation of a breakaway Left faction around Senator Carr, the veteran Victorian was protected from the chop by Mr Shorten and the Right.

Carr stays on the front bench and Shorten gets Carr’s vital numbers from Labor’s socialist left to solidify his leadership. Now that makes a lot of sense.

To ascertain why Carr would go against his own faction in this manner, you need not look far:

As expected, the Left did not include Senator Carr in its 14 nominees for the shadow ministry but the Right will ensure he is retained.

Senator Carr had been instrumental in Mr Shorten taking the ALP leadership in 2013 and also preventing the Left from blocking his hardline stance on asylum boats at last year’s national conference.

Carr calling Plibersek ‘two faced’ on Labor’s boat turnbacks policy probably didn’t help things either.

For the last three years, Shorten has been able to take full advantage of Labor’s internal dysfunction and retain the party’s leadership, almost to the point of becoming Prime Minister. In the end, the only thing standing in his way was his own party tripping him up right before the finishing line.

Irony at its finest.


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