Monday, 27 June 2011

Same Old, Same Old (Kelvin Davis on Hone Harawira's Victory)

Sore Loser: Labour's Kelvin Davis won 41 percent to Hone Harawira's 48 percent in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election - and that was after Labour had thrown everything they had into the contest. No matter which way Davis and his colleagues attempt to spin it, they tried to strangle Mana in its cradle - and they failed.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN? Listening to Labour’s Kelvin Davis putting the boot into Hone Harawira and Mana on Radio New Zealand this morning, I was reminded of the petty viciousness that also attended the birth of the NewLabour Party in 1989.

It was all there: the same overweening arrogance; the same blithe assumption that only the Labour Party has anything to contribute to the development of progressive politics in New Zealand. And, worst of all, the same sneering, belittling, mocking and disparaging tone.

It was the tone Labour adopted 22 years ago to deride and undermine Jim Anderton. Now it was being deployed against Hone Harawira.

As I listened to this political popinjay parroting the lines prepared for him, I found myself wondering how anybody could possibly have described Davis as “a good guy”.

Good Guys surely aren’t so reckless with the truth. Good guys surely don’t indulge in such small-minded character assassination. If Kelvin Davis is a “good guy”, all I can is: I’d hate to meet a bad one!

The most infuriating aspect of Davis’s spin is his proud boast that the by-election result has opened up the possibility of Labour reclaiming the Maori seats of Te Tai Tonga, Waiariki and Tamaki Makaurau.

There is, of course, some truth to this statement, but what Davis overlooks, in his indefatigable arrogance, is that the possibility of Labour taking these seats has only arisen because of Hone Harawira and the Mana Party.

It is Hone Harawira and Mana, the same man and the same party Davis so enjoys disparaging, that have redrawn the political landscape. Without Mana’s intervention there is every chance the Maori Party would have been able to hold those now at-risk seats. In doing so they would have provided John Key with at least four reliable votes – and in all likelihood the numbers to keep the National Party in power.

The success of the Mana Party, in almost certainly depriving National of those four votes, has improved dramatically the likelihood of Labour being able to form a government.

So why did Labour go all-out to strangle the infant Mana Party in its cradle? Why seek the political death of a man who could, potentially, do it so much good?

The answer to this question, sadly, is the same as the answer to the question: “Why didn’t Helen Clark intervene to rescue the Alliance?”

Because Labour remains absolutely determined to have “no enemies to the left”.

Labour simply cannot afford to loosen its grip on the working-class vote – even at the cost of remaining in Opposition – because it knows the moment any other political party succeeds in winning over the electors of seats like Mangere, Manukau East, Manurewa and Mana, Labour’s days as the leader of progressive politics in New Zealand are numbered.

Labour fears that it will end up fading from the electoral scene in precisely the same way that an increasingly right-wing Liberal Party faded in the years following the organised working-class’s 1916 decision to extricate itself from the Liberals’ paternalistic, middle-class grip.

In the words used by an old comrade to describe the political instincts of the Moscow-aligned Socialist Unity Party (which had a similar horror of a politically independent working class):

“[Labour] would rather keep control of the losing side, than lose control of the winning side.”

This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.

16 comments:

Potaua said...

Shot Chris!

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether there is an element of guilt in Labour's attitude to Mana. After all they have failed the Mana supporters over and over again.
Most of the time Labour can do what the Tories do - pretend the poor don't exist, or are hopeless cases with only themselves to blame because they lack education or some other worthy attribute.
Meanwhile they delude themselves into thinking they are the party of the poor, rather than the neoliberals they actually are.
Every now and again the peasants revolt, as happened with the formation of the Alliance and Mana.
This brings great shame on labour, and they respond to this rude intrusion of reality by attacking it.
Essentially Labour has established a culture that is unable to critically analyse either the political economy or other social forces, because in doing so it would be forced to confront some unwelcome truths about its own role in the growth of a huge gap between rich and poor in this country over the last thirty years.
The pity of it all is there are some wonderful people in Labour - if only they could understand that meekly following the 'centre' further and further to the right is a zero sum game.

Madison said...

excellent

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that you have climbed onto Hone's (rickety) bandwagon, Chris?

If so, then I would have thought better of you. Make no mistake, Hone is Maori first, and left second. A distant second, might I add.

Millsy

Robert Winter said...

I would be the first to argue (and have done quite a lot) that Labour needs to do better. Let's take that as a given. And, whilst I'm no electoral pundit, there is no question that it is the Maori Party that emerges from the Te Tai Tokerau outcome severely weakened. November will be interesting in the Maori seats. And I see the role of Mr Harawira in that.

But,big but,you are conflating two quite different circumstances to provide a bigger stick with which to thump Labour, and I don't think that that is fair (or correct). The Alliance was an authentic, widely-grounded rejection of the 1980s. It had breadth and depth and, for a time, a high degree of credibility. It might well have had a more illustrious career, had it been better led. My own dalliance therein was short and sweet, closed down by the arrogance (and closed mindedness) of Jim Anderton , an effect even the qualities of Bruce Jesson could not overcome.

Mana is quite different. Its roots rest in contradictory-race versus class politics. Its grounding is extremely narrow. With one or two honourable exceptions, its intellectual firepower is weak. It surrounds a controversial, sometimes charismatic, ill-disciplined, occasionally highly offensive leader. It looks, feels and is an adventure amongst a fraction of the Left.

The Right of Labour feared the Alliance, which explains much of the interpersonal stuff that went on at the time. I don't think that Mana has the same effect at all.

I really do think that you do the Alliance a disservice when you imply that it and Mana have much in common. Of course Labour doesn't want to be outflanked on the Left. The point is that the Alliance nearly did it; Mana won't.

Lew said...

Deathly silence from the expensive seats today, Chris. I'm pleased to agree with you on this one.

L

Chris Trotter said...

To: Millsy.

No, Millsy, I have not climbed on board Hone's bandwagon (juggernaut?). But I do know a sea-change when I see one.

Something very important happened on Saturday night: to pretend otherwise (as Labour appears to be doing) is simply to set oneself up for more shocks and surprises.

To: Robert.

You make some cogent points, Robert, but I must respectfully disagree.

Mana will, in my opinion, quite quickly attract a large following among the conscience-driven members of educated middle-class (who were always the core of the Alliance's support).

Where I believe Mana will differ from the Alliance is in its ability to make serious inroads on Labour's support in seats like Mangere, Manurewa, Manukau East and Mana.

NewLabour and the Alliance were never able to break Labour's grip on these brown, working-class seats because it was, when all is said and done, a white man's party.

And, whatever else Hone Harawira may be - he ain't a white man.

To: Lew.

The same song-sheet at last - who knew?

Anonymous said...

An important Saturday sea-change Chris? Yes. Absolutely.

The Te Tai Tokerau byelection massively damaged the Maori Party's chances of retaining even their existing 4 seats. Annette Sykes is the only Mana party candidate likely to seriously challenge a sitting Maori MP, but the 3-way split gives Labour the chance to regain Te Tai Tonga and just possibly Tamaki Makaurau.

Depressingly, it will validate in the minds of Labour strategists their view that by viciously attacking any putative left-wing coalition partner, they can wipe them out and regain dominance on the 'left'. Play the long game, give nothing to the Maori party, push it into the arms of National, until despairing Maori party left supporters split and form Mana, then wipe both weakened opponents out. Tragic - for the left, not for free-market capitalist Labour.

But this risk has already been noted by both Mana and Maori leaders - Hone immediately put out an olive branch to the Maori party (then tried to beat them with it), which Turia hinted they could talk over. Both leaders know the danger to them of Labour taking back the Maori electorates - personal failure, and stagnation for Maori. Look to see an accommodation on which party, Mana or Maori, stands in which seat for the election.

As for south Auckland going to Mana - forget it. Like the mythical brown vote of the Mana byelection, the Polynesian vote is valid but far overstated. Mana is a Maori focussed party, and Mangere, Manukau East and Mana have more Pacifica than Maori voters, while the greater Maori vote in Manurewa is still outweighed strongly by pakeha.

Recall the most 'visibly' Maori candidate (ie could not be confused for a tanned pakeha, had full moko) to be elected to council boards in Manurewa was Rangi McLean, who always polled lower than any other candidate elected, despite being one of the hardest working, nice and educated people standing. That is, Hone's Mana party doesn't (yet) attract pakeha Labour voters, who are a sizeable enough bloc to reelect pakeha Hawkins, Robertson and Collins (in Papakura) every time.

Don't forget too the shit-fight that occurred in Mangere between Labour, Taito Phillip Field and Destiny. Only Destiny appealed to Maori voters, and none of these captured the pakeha voters of Mangere Bridge.

And that is without thinking of the Asian vote in Manukau East, which has drifted from Labour to National. Mana will NOT be taking any south Auckland seats.

My view? Shame Hone didn't lose, so McCarten could focus on keeping Unite union alive, and a real socialist party could form to replace Labour.

Mad Marxist.

Anonymous said...

"Mana will, in my opinion, quite quickly attract a large following among the conscience-driven members of educated middle-class (who were always the core of the Alliance's support)"

There will be some guilt driven sympathy from that quarter, but on election day, self interest will ensure that those people vote Labour or Green.

Anonymous said...

juggernaut my arse. you are buying into Matt McCarten's rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

I mean this in a non-racist and in a phrasal way but "N-word please."

I don't mean this as an insult, but when was the last time you actually spent time with any working class people Chris? The (brown) working class of New Zealand have an almost tribal affiliation with the Labour Party. We may not go out to vote as much as our pakeha cousins, but when we do vote, we certainly vote for Labour.

I'll give you an anecdotal example. When I was campaigning in the Mana by-election for Kris Faafoi, an elderly gentleman walked up to me, kissed me on both cheeks and said "Thank you Labour."

There's no way in hell that any other political party - let alone Mana is going to reach that. Instead, within a few years/decades - Mana will implode on itself - the way the Alliance did.

I also think that Labour "Pride" is sometimes misread as "arrogance."

I'm proud of being in the Labour Party.

I'm proud of being in the political party that has done the most for the working class.

I'm proud of being in the party which is about the working class.

The Labour Party endured Rogernomics, we endured the split of our party into four different ones (Act, United Future, New Labour, Alliance) and we sure as hell will survive this one.

- Mr. F

Nick said...

A sea change eh Chris? Might this indicate that those of us who have long and hard called for the head of Goff and a move to the left have been too long frustrated and are voting with our feet?

My fear is for the noveau middle class of tradesmen and technical specialists etc. They will see their new won economic position that separated them out from the "old" blue collar working class eroded by the economic depression we are in. Wherw will they go to then politically? If the experience of the last century is any indicator they will support which ever right wing bully boy promises them retention of their privelege. The left is going to have a bugger of a job getting these people back on board.

ani nil carborundum said...

I think you might find you have attributed words to Kelvin Davis were spoken by another, rather prominent Labour m.p.

ani nil carborundum said...

I think the baby boomer far left are being sentimental about Hone, much as the old Prussian leadership fell in with Hitler.
He has recently adopted some fine left wing rhetoric, and delivered it with a developing charisma. But it is only a matter of time before this product of a savage and intolerant family background, where racial hostility and domestic displays of anger are part of every power display, he will alienate every voter wanting a peaceful and stable community.
We are no longer looking for a middle aged guevara figure, this the winter following Christchurch's earthquake and we have more pressing matters to take our energies.

Anonymous said...

Most people are missing the point here. If the young and Maori intelligencia have largely thrown their support behind Hone, this goes way beyond parliamentary prospects. We're talking about the next generation of Treaty thinkers and negotiators: a generational shift in Maori political thinking and expression will affect NZ society as well as Maori society for decades. Those Maori iwi corporate elites might well be feeling a bit nervous.

David said...

I note that in Mr F’s anecdote the man who kissed him on both cheeks and said “Thank you Labour”, was an “elderly gentleman”.

Here’s my own anecdote. While collecting signatures for the Tax Justice campaign to remove GST off Food and Tax Financial Speculation in Otara shopping centre, a group of young, brown people came past. After signing the petition one of them asked “Are you for National?” No, I said. “Are you for Labour?” No. “Oh,” said another, “you’re for the people!”

Now I have to acknowledge that the Tax Justice petition will be presented to Parliament next month by none other than Mangere MP Su’a William Sio, who even managed to convince Phil Goff to sign it (or at least pose holding up the petition form). But the party’s whose policies most closely reflect those of the campaign is Mana.

Now I’m not suggesting that Mana is going to win any general seats in South Auckland this election. If Hone holds on to his an brings one or two other list MPs and / or another Maori seat then I think Mana will have done very well.

But it doesn’t bode well for Labour’s long term hold in places like South Auckland that these young people conclude that those who are neither National nor Labour, but who campaign for progressive policies are “for the people”. And “Movement of the people” is of course how Mana describes itself.