Is it David, David or David? Or Andrew? The pains of Labour

You've got to laugh, even if you're a dyed-in-the-synthetic cotton socialist.

All political parties sometimes shoot themselves in the foot, but Labour has sprayed itself with an AK47 and it's been wonderful sport.

The chances of this disparate lot of ragamuffins forming an effective government come 2014 took a nosedive with their antics last weekend.

While I don't want to appear uncharitable by rejoicing in the political kamikaze of the country's main (allegedly) opposition party, I have to confess that some of our best friends vote Labour, and a couple of them served for years in significant positions within the party's local hierarchy.

Unlike many others who think it is anathema for continued friendships, we always talk about politics, chuck in religion for a bit of light relief and then have a good laugh about John Key's latest gaffes - even the stunning, bright- pink number he wore on stage with the other Pacific country leaders at this week's Trans Pacific Partnership conference.

Evidently United States President Barack Obama was amused by it and photos of him and Key having a chuckle about it told their own story.

You can guarantee though that neither man would have described it as "gay".

In New Zealand circa 2012 this is one of the words on the verboten list and must not, under any circumstances, be used with even a teensy-weensy negative connotation.

Such offence was taken with Key describing a DJ's bright red jersey as "a bit gay" prompting that famous homosexual Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in the Hobbit films, to give the New Zealand prime minister a serve on his blog, telling him "he'd better watch his words".

Now Sir Ian is not coming to Wellington to be part of the world premiere of The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey, next week.

Sir Ian's expected journey is off and some critics are blaming Key for it.

We all laugh at that too, which shows that some people on the wrong side of the political divide can have a great sense of humour as well.

Recently in this column I have been critical of Key and his government for being too soft on law and order, but really the only topic this week just has to be the story of the two Davids.

As an aside, what a shame it is David Shearer and failed US presidential candidate Mitt Romney seem destined never to meet as heads of their countries.

The prospect of our Mr Shearer meeting their Mr Romney may have made both men feel a little sheepish, but it was a juicy prospect.

Last weekend's conference should have been a grand opportunity for Shearer and the party to strut their stuff before the nation.

Ironically, the new policy of building 100,000 affordable homes, each worth around the $300,000 mark, over the next 10 years , was a platform it could have built on, if you'll excuse the pun. The trouble was no-one wanted to know about that; it was all about the leadership.

The unions have always been a big part of Labour and look set to become an even bigger part.

It block-voted to allow an enticingly low threshold of just 40 per cent of caucus to trigger a leadership challenge.

The law of unintended (or was it?) consequences kicked in and next thing Shearer is under pressure and Cunningliffe was back in the game, come February next year when the new rules mean it will be automatically on the table - again.

To be fair to the bearded Dave, he didn't do much wrong before incurring the wrath of David the Shearer and his pals.

A meaningless caucus meeting was called and on Tuesday the leader was confirmed as the, um, the leader.

To further underline just how democratic the whole process was, Shearer was the only one from caucus allowed to comment.

Freedom of speech is a fine notion - for other people - but not for the political party with a social conscience when the going gets tricky.

It seems Cunliffe's electorate secretary has voiced concerns that his Dave has been harshly dealt with. His support for Super Dave the leader may have been less than fulsome, but since when has that been a crime?

So come on Ross, my likeable Labourite union boss-cum-columnist, who do you support, David, or David, or David? Or could it be Andrew? And do you believe in free speech, even in tricky times?

Taranaki Daily News