Tuesday 6 October 2015

Deliberate Political Sabotage: The “Darling Of The Left” Comes Out In Favour Of The TPP.

Who Loves Ya Baby? Last Thursday’s (1/10/15) statement from the so-called "Darling of the Left", Helen Clark, in which she signalled her strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (as it now should be called) was no mistake. It was an act of deliberate political sabotage.
THE MOMENT THE WORDS were out of her mouth the political wreckage began to pile up. On Radio Live, Sean Plunket positively whooped with delight. It took only a nanosecond for the right-wing shock-jock to register the implications of Helen Clark’s public endorsement of John Key’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Now that the “Darling of the Left” had come out in its favour, Plunket reassured his talk-back audience, the TPP Debate is surely over. Someone, he said, should tell the “tin-foil hat wearers”.
Those who cherish Clark’s memory as Labour’s most successful leader since Peter Fraser, have offered numerous excuses for her actions. She was misquoted, they insist. She didn’t understand how her words would be distorted, others say. Living in New York, she must have been unaware of the way the TPP debate had evolved in New Zealand. Helen Clark would never have knowingly delivered such a brutal blow to her own party.
Seven years after her defeat by John Key’s National Party, Clark’s interest in Labour remains undiminished. Kept informed of its every move by a coterie of loyal supporters, she cannot credibly claim to have been ignorant of the impact her little encomium on the importance of international trade would have.
“What always haunts a Prime Minister”, said Clark, “is: ‘Will there be a series of trade blocs develop that you are not part of?’ Because that is unthinkable for New Zealand as an export-oriented, small trading nation. So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.”
John Key and his Trade Minister, Tim Groser, have yet to set out the argument for signing the TPP as succinctly as Clark did in New York – or with more force. There is absolutely no way that such a well-considered statement could’ve just slipped out – by mistake.
Ever since taking up her position as the Head of the United Nations Development Programme, the No. 3 position in the United Nations, Clark has been scrupulously careful to avoid making any kind of statement that could, in the slightest degree, impinge on the domestic politics of her homeland – or those of any other UN member, for that matter. And yet, there she was, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her erstwhile political nemesis, offering eloquent support to one of his government’s most controversial policies.
No, last Thursday’s (1/10/15) statement from Helen Clark was no mistake. It was an act of deliberate political sabotage.
But what could be so important to Labour’s former leader that she was willing to drive a dagger into the back of Andrew Little, its present incumbent? Was it spite? Had Clark taken umbrage at Labour’s decision to move away from the rock-solid bi-partisanship on free-trade that she and Phil Goff had made a cornerstone of their government’s foreign policy? Was she hoping to spook Little into some sort of last minute revision of Labour’s highly conditional support for the TPP? After all, the spectacle of the two people who have governed New Zealand since 1999, speaking with one voice on the TPP, was bound to pack a hefty punch. Or, maybe, it was simply a case of: ‘I’ll agree to scratch your back on TPP, if you’ll agree to scratch mine when the time comes to elect the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.’
No matter how reluctantly arrived at, the only conclusion to be drawn from this episode is that Clark’s transition, from principled social-democrat, to morally desiccated member of the international administrative elite, is now complete. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that, throughout her career, Clark was never comfortable about stepping too far away from the well-trodden path. She may never have liked neoliberalism, but if it was the only game in town, then she would learn to play.
Sean Plunket is quite right about the undermining effect Clark’s words are bound to have on the Anti-TPP Movement – especially among its middle-aged and middle-class supporters. He is, however, quite wrong in his assessment of Clark’s status among genuinely progressive New Zealanders.
“Darling of the Left” she may have been on Thursday morning, but by Thursday evening Helen Clark was anything but.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 5 October 2015.


Galeandra said...

I never rated her as a 'left' leader anyway. Mostly I detested her lack of commitment over carbon emissions and her failure to ensure that we have a legacy of real public-service broadcasting to leave to future generations. The current lack of traction left-thinkers have in the media-framed marketplace of ideas is an ironic outcome of the latter failure, perhaps an intended outcome, who knows?

Anonymous said...

Your article is correct it was a calculated and a deliberate act of political sabotage. I also believe she has disdain for a Labour leader who got elected into his position by a block union vote and has not won an electorate seat, she also would detest some of the elements of the party who purged her friends in the past. Disdain and revenge. A powerful and strategic play and because of it Annette King will go and Jacinda Ardern will be the next deputy. Andrew will be told who his front bench shall be.

bob said...

LOL must sting when you find out that all your friends have grown up but you're still wearing short trousers.

Simon Cohen said...

"No matter how reluctantly arrived at, the only conclusion to be drawn from this episode is that Clark’s transition, from principled social-democrat, to morally desiccated member of the international administrative elite, is now complete"
The only conclusion Chris ???
Is it possible that Clark is just stating what she truly believes.Indeed her remarks seem entirely consistent with the actions of her government during the nine years she was in power.
Is it not possible to rationally discuss this issue without descending into vituperative language such as morally desiccated and neo liberal.
I have always thought your arguments [even if I disagreed with them] to be rational and considered but on this topic you appear to be totally irrational and consumed by almost a chicken licken syndrome.....the sky is falling the sky is falling.

Charles E said...

Clark has always been a conservative, like her parents. She believes in a rules based evolutionary society which is completely at home with deals like TPPA. She signed one with China and set up Fontera.
She is still left of centre though, and a darling to some still due to her success. Nine years ..... then the UN.....
And to be fair, Little has not come out against TPPA, he just hedged his bet which is fine. And I bet he supports her next job app....

Anonymous said...

Chris you say: "And yet, there she was, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her erstwhile political nemesis, offering eloquent support to one of his government’s most controversial policies."

Lets remember it was in fact kicked off by Phil Goff in early 2008 and it has expanded from five countries (the original P4 and USA) to 12 countries, with another six saying they may join also. So of course Helen Clark and secretly most of labour support it.

Helen Clark was simply doing her bit to ease the passage of a deal which could rival the FTA with china in its benefits for this small trade based nation.

Of course the idea that the TPP could actually benefit us has completely escaped the tin-hat wearers in the Jane kelsey circus.

Lets not forget the same circus of luddites blew out the same bull droppings with respect to the china FTA - and as usual they could not have been more wrong.

Yes the TPP is not ideal, canada and japan have proven miserable with respect to dairy and beef and there are a few peas under the IP mattress but overall another big deal for NZ trade.

Well done John Key, great work Helen Clark, back to the dustbin of political irrelevance for the luddites and tinhatters on the left (and NZF right).

A O said...

I agree Chris. Disappointing but I should no longer be surprised.

Unknown said...

This was an orchestrated play from Clark and Key to achieve two aims. 1. for Key to demonstrate that TPP has the support of the most successful Labour PM since Fraser, thereby preparing the local electorate for the sales job that Key will start on TPP, and 2. it was the price Clark had to pay to secure the full court press from the NZ govt that she will need after throwing her had in the ring to secure the UN Sec Gen role as there will surely be very strong head winds against her.

Pasquino said...

Getting into bed with a nation that has; allowed big business to swamp its democracy; that bombs and tortures, Mafia-style, whom it pleases wherever it pleases in its endlessly profiteering war-economy; that thinks becoming the super-spy of the planet is going to enable it to deal with the flak that its aggression generates - but has forgotten that writing down everything did not save the Nazis; and that virtually ignores all of its own scientific community's warnings about the need to limit CO2 output and, more importantly, to address the methane outpouring that is happening right now in the Arctic, as the sea ice vanishes; is probably the most unintelligent and gormless act of political short-term thinking New Zealand has even seen. Mind you, from Holyoake's premeditated rush into Vietnam onwards, we have a pretty good record in this area - including that of Madam Clark's own premature leap into bed with the Chinese.

Should we care? In one sense, no. The TPPA is completely irrelevant when seen against the disastrous exponential extremes of climate change that will extinguish one and all if we all go on ignoring the fact that we have about 10 years to address BOTH the CO2 and, more significantly now, the methane problem. As the latter is taking over from CO2 as the main driver of global warming in a positive feedback loop, we are getting dangerously close to the point that whatever we do about our CO2 output alone, will soon be irrelevant.

Ironically the Americans have the advanced knowledge and the might, to deal with these problems, but their leadership is even more intellectually and morally bankrupt than our own: a truth that is hard to imagine, but nevertheless true!

Never before in the history of human enterprise has so much money made so many men so stupid!

The operative question then becomes: when our present crop of blind men have gone, can a new, more intelligent New Zealand leadership do more, or less, within the TPPA to wake the Americans up?

It seems a shame,' Uncle Sam said,
To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!'
The Keycutter said nothing but
The butter's spread too thick!'

I weep for you,' Uncle Sam said:
I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,' said the Keycutter,
You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one."

Loz said...

In the 1840's, Carlyle said " We coldly see the all-conquering valiant Sons of Toil sit enchanted by the million in their Poor Law Bastille, as if this were Nature's Law; - mumbling to ourselves some vague janglement of Laissez-faire, Cash-payment, the one nexus of man to man: Free Trade, Competition, and Devil takes the hindmost, is our latest Gospel yet to be preached"

The Whigs, for 180 years were celebrated as the champions of the people, only to become irrelevant as the once great movement of reform became wedded to the failed idea of “no government” leading to prosperity. By the 1860s the world was in complete rejection of the ethos while Liberalism, of which labour was a component rose as a positive affirmation of rights for all people in opposition to Laissez-faire of the past.

The once-great Liberal party met its end after embracing the resurgence of free-market, free-trade policies from the turn of the 1900's that ultimately culminated in the Great Depression. The generation of the 1930's, like their grandparents, again rejected the simplicity of free-market ideas due to the evidenced failure of the creed to provide even the basic necessities for the masses.

Ever since this ugly, vanquished creed was necromanced from the grave the world has suffered ongoing economic crisis, falling wage, unemployment and environmental disasters. The 2008 financial crisis is testimony to the failure of this simpleton ideology, yet, the powers-that-be refuse to even acknowledge the failure as they prepare to ram another does down the throat of the nation. All of the signatory nations have failing economies that remain crushed from the GFC and somehow have faith that by collectively shackling government regulation free trade & free markets will this time produce prosperity rather than the poverty and financial catastrophes it has continually ushered in the past.
History has not reflected kindly on those who decide to side with free-markets & free-trade, regardless of any achievements they may once have claimed.

As the last extended free market period was being stewarded, Keir Hardie railed that “those who made such loud professions of affection for the workers seemed to leave them behind when they came upon the floor of the House”.

Helen Clark’s deserves to be remembered with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and all of the other apologists of our era.

Anonymous said...

Some time in 2004 or 2005 - I can't remember the exact date - a CEO of a major NZ Chamber of Commerce told me freely in casual conversation that Helen Clarke had been offered a major role at the UN.

A poorly kept secret that turned out to be true...

Bushbaptist said...

At the risk of repeating myself, Helen was never, ever, ever, ever "Left". She was right of centre but not as far as the Gnats. Her friendship with Johnny shows that clearly.

Loz put it right, she is a Blairite of the first order.

Victor said...

I'm not a fan of the TPPA or of the current crop of international trade regulation treaties in general. But Auntie Helen has a point,viz: that if most of our trading partners in the Asia Pacific region are going to be inside the tent,then that's where we need to be as well. The alternative might be gradual exclusion from many current and potential markets of significance.

Another point that she probably graps but, for obvious reasons, cannot enunciate is that, politically, it might be safer and more judicious for NZ to have treaty-based economic links with both the TPPA and China rather than just with the latter.

She hasn't said that the TPPA is a good thing per se, merely that, once it exists, we would be unwise to stay out of it. This is obviously a convenient view for her to hold, given her apparent yearning for the UN's top slot. But that does not, ipso facto, make her view erroneous.

Charles E said...

How shallow was your former love of your own heroine you left lot. Clark was the last class act from the left and you people have shown you didn't deserve her.

Only Victor makes sense. Perfect sense, like being in the TPPA when the alternative is being blocked from trading our wares under the same rules as our competition. It's called the real world and any PM would have the same view. Even Corbyn would sign up once he actually had to make a real decision.

Loz: So was the proportion of abject poor in the world more or less in the glorious trade unfree past?

Bushbaptist said...

Oh Jeez Charles here we go again! Helen was never 'left' can you not read? Name one single thing that she did that could be construed as 'Left'? There is none at all.

As for the TPPA sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. As it stands it will hit the average Kiwi hard. We didn't get access for our major export Dairy, and we must compete with countries who have large subsidies for their dairy industries. As a small trader we must diversify but not at any cost.

It will remain to be seen how our Govt. will handle a suit in a Kangaroo Court because some multinational has a snitch. Who is going to pay for the defence of our sovreignty? Hint; we will. If the company wins it will be the death knell of us having the right to decide for ourselves what is best for us.

Victor said...

It's a moot point whether the enhanced ability of corporations to sue governments under the TPPA represents a bigger threat to our sovereignty than us being holus bolus within China's economic sphere of influence (as would otherwise be our fate). I'm not aware of a third option.

Loz said...

Charles, you are of course referring to the often quoted statistic that "the percentage of those living in poverty has halved over the past 30 years". Many claim the statistic as evidence of the success of free-market capitalism. It sounds great as long as you don't take the time to see what the statistics mean.

Twenty two percent of this planet's population are now said to live in extreme poverty... ($1.25 a day) whereas in 1990 it was 43%. That 43% of the population now collectively have an expenditure of less than $2.50 a day! The statistic obscures the fact that the actual number of people in extreme poverty has increased by 50% since 1987. If you were to look slighly closer at the statistics it becomes even more curious as the claims of poverty reduction can be heavily attributed to rising standards of living in the People's Republic of China. So in the developed world the free market has been driving down wages and inc reasing unemployment while the worlds largest planned economy has reaped the benefits.

Victor: After reading the drafts of the TPP that were leaked I feel that the greatest deception is that the treaty (or pact) is actually about trade. This agreement to be far more about disempowering democracy and enforcing corporate ownership concepts than relaxing tarrifs. If most of our trading partners are inside the tent it really just means that they're all in big trouble.

Victor said...


I don't disagree with you. But if everyone else of any significance in the region has signed up and we haven't then we're in even bigger trouble.

I think this was the point HC was making, although her language was characteristically gnomic.

Be that as it may, it seems to me mistaken to assume we could retain the status quo ante in terms of markets once this new (if noxiously intended) club comes into being and we're outside it.

Norway can get away with being outside the EU because it has oil. Switzerland ditto because of its banking sector, high quality light engineering, geographically central position etc. We're not Norway and we're not Switzerland.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Yes, when you take out China and possibly India the figures don't look so brilliant. And arguably, this was done not by the free market, but by heavily regulated capitalism. All those Asian tigers, including Japan, protected their industries fiercely for years. With huge tariffs on foreign imports. Similar to the way the United States became an industrial power in the 19th century.