Tuesday 27 October 2015

One Picture's Worth.

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Canadian Press photographer Andrew Vaughan's 2013 photograph captures that magical political moment when anyone with a beating heart knows – just knows – that this is the one to watch?
IT’S ONE OF THOSE PICTURES that freeze-frames a political leader in the making. Half-turned from the enthusiastic crowd of Prince Edward Islanders he is addressing, Justin Trudeau’s upraised arm acknowledges something beyond the image’s point of reference. A pale sunlight lightly gilds the palm of his outstretched hand and highlights the features of his face. Taken in 2013, Canadian Press photographer Andrew Vaughan’s photograph captures to perfection the same political magic that swept the 43-year-old Trudeau to victory in last Monday’s Canadian general election.
Inevitably, those New Zealanders favouring a change of government in 2017 are scouring the ranks of opposition parties for a Kiwi politician capable of bringing some Trudeau magic to our own political arena.
Labour supporters, in particular, are looking at the rather dour figure of Andrew Little and wondering whether he has what it takes to unseat a Prime Minister as popular as John Key.
New Zealand leftists who have studied the Canadian campaign are worried that Labour has already committed itself to the sort of moderate and fiscally unadventurous course that saw Canada’s left-wing New Democrat Party (NDP) relegated to third place behind Trudeau’s Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
So concerned was the dour and rather tetchy NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, to fend-off criticism that his party wasn’t ready to manage the Canadian economy, that he promised voters to keep the federal Budget in permanent surplus. Given that this was also Stephen Harper’s policy, Mulcair’s decision allowed Trudeau to outflank the NDP on the left. Little’s critics look at his inept handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership issue and wonder whether something similar hasn’t already happened here.
The Greens male co-leader, James Shaw, certainly shares much with Trudeau in terms of projecting youthful energy and good looks. Less certain, however, is his willingness to adopt the Liberal leader’s strategy of inviting voters from across the political spectrum to join his nationwide crusade for “real change”. And, even if he was up to persuading his colleagues to leave the the safety of their eco-socialist strongholds, and embrace the political centre, would he be able to persuade the electorate that the Greens, in office, would remain politically centred? It is the curse of the Greens to be perceived as enthusiastic promoters of a rather narrow ideological agenda. Historically, the Canadian Liberal Party has attracted solid voter support across the whole electorate. It’s a trick New Zealand’s Greens have yet to master.
NZ First, by contrast, has never ceased presenting itself as a party with the broadest possible voter appeal. Indeed, in its early days, back in the early 1990s, its support rivalled that of the National Party’s. Unashamedly populist in his political instincts, NZ First’s long-time leader, Winston Peters, would dearly love to replicate Trudeau’s utter trouncing of John Key’s good “mate”, Stephen Harper. Unfortunately, youthfulness is not a quality many people associate with NZ First. A sunny disposition is, however, well within Peters’ political repertoire. One flash of his 1,000 watt smile generally absolves him of most political sins. Which is why, presumably, NZ First’s highly successful by-election campaign in Northland was so jaunty and up-beat. If Peters is able to demonstrate such sunny ways on a national scale in 2017, who knows what might happen.
In the end, however, most of the speculation about whether a Justin Trudeau is lurking, unrecognised, in the Opposition’s ranks circles back to the Labour Party. If Little is too dour and grumpy to beat the man Bill English once described as “bouncing from cloud to cloud”, who is left to bounce Labour’s banner up there alongside him?
Grant Robertson would probably say Grant Robertson. (And, to be fair, there are many in the Labour Party who would agree!) But, to the rest of New Zealand, Robertson can come across as just a bit too complacent; a bit too absolutely, arrogantly, Wellington. For the best part of a year, he’s had plenty of chances to shine as Labour’s finance spokesperson. That his light has barely flickered in that role must count heavily against him.
Which leaves just two names for Trudeau-seekers to play with: Stuart Nash and Jacinda Ardern. Both are well endowed with the skin-deep trappings of the Trudeauesque politican: youth and good looks. Nash even boasts a famous Labour name – although, the number of people who know that New Zealand once had a Prime Minister called Walter Nash cannot be very large. Ardern, herself, is already registering in the preferred Prime Minister stakes – always a sign of better things to come. The positives are definitely there for both MPs.
But can either of them boast a photograph like Andrew Vaughan’s? Has a photographer ever frozen Nash or Ardern in that magical political moment when anyone with a beating heart knows – just knows – that this is the one to watch?
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 27 October 2015.


CP said...

It astonishes me that the Labour party and its leaders, including Mr Little now get continuous belittling unfair criticism and meaningless imagined scrutiny while the National party and Mr Key are barely taken to task for their innumerable real bad policies and behaviour. It is as if there is some kind of collective secret strategy to put down Labour and its leaders for some reason. I am surprised that you don't seem to realise (or perhaps you do) the immensely unfair damage to Labour and Little that you do by your articles such as this. With friends of the 'left' like you, who needs enemies?

JanM said...

Diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of 2009 – Andrew Little underwent brachytherapy –

– where radioactive seeds are injected directly into the prostate.

A week later – giving the president’s speech at the Labour Party –

– Little said he did not tell many people about his radioactive innards –

– as he thought he would ‘be in breach of the party’s anti-nuclear policy’..”

No sense of humour, eh? Though where he gets the courage to keep smiling in the face of almost universal antipathy (including some who should really be out batting for him) is beyond me. We don't really want what Canada's got, do we - we have our own decent man if we would just lay off and give him a chance.
What is it about the Left in this country that they perpetually want to eat their young?

Anonymous said...

PLEASE, can you stop harping on about Nash, for a commentator who prides himself on being left-wing, why on earth would you support a right-wing ego-maniac as leader of the Labour Party. The guy would be the worst leader in history - of any party - it's like promoting Aaron Gilmore to be the next National Party leader - it's just that Nash hasn't been caught yet!
He can't even organise his office staff, never mind a caucus or the wider party. This is a gay who will support any policy or idea that will make him look good or get him votes, the very opposite of Corbyn or Trudeau.
The Labour party of the mid 1980's will seem like a happy memory of better times if Nash ever becomes leader. It's time you started letting the wider membership know the truth rather than feeding the delusion.

Nick J said...

Nash and Adern may look the part but are they the part politically? They are both to my mind so solidly welded to the "Centrist" don't rock the boat economically that they would both be left to run on looks alone.

Labour here should heed the rejection of the "centre" by Corbyns Labour who were inspired by their recent electoral loss to the Scottish National Party who ran a traditional Labour agenda. Further proof of the diminution of the "centre" are the electoral victories of not only Trudeau but also of the socialist block in Portugal. This one is interesting as it, like the Podemas in Spain challenges austerity and the neoliberal status quo.

Getting the message and agenda right is for Labour only half the job: the Greek electorate challenged the power of the neolib agenda as represented by the EU bureaucrats and bankers. The response was severe. The Portuguese socialists have won a majority in parliament but the President has denied them power preferring to favour an EU backed minority who will carry on austerity. There is a real possibility that the "deep state" that Chris refers to will try to force the issue, with real force. It seems possible that the neolib status quo will deny the people their democratic rights, which in turn is likely to lead to actual conflict.

To sum up, if Labour wish to "manage" more and the same endless neolib nonsense they stay as is and become electorally irrelevant. If Labour or another party moves against the neolib consensus they had better have a good plan in place to force the issue locally and wear the repercussions from international finance. You have to question whether democracy is strong enough to resist?

Anonymous said...

Stuart Nash has been buried by the Labour party Mafia, so he needs to break-out of their stranglehold, only then could he shine. Jacinda Ardern is a over-rated bimbo and is not as liked as your article suggests, she is less than hopeless on the front bench and the 4% PM rating is because Andrew Little is not liked so she gets a false lift, she will never win Auckland central, support she gets is basically Green electoral support There is a good chance that the future National party leader will be David Seymour,(ACT) who is starting to show up in internal National party polls as a leader of the future. Despite being from Act he is liked and highly respected by every one in Parliament. This includes Labour and the Greens. The Parliamentary press also rate him highly. Apart from Nash there is not a remote chance on earth of anyone from Labour being NZs "Trudeau"

Chris Trotter said...

To: All of Andrew Little's Defenders:

Just once I'd like to be able to support a Labour leader who was willing to stand by his or her party's policies - rather than casually ditching them in favour of policies dictated by the powers-that-be.

Andrew's handling of the TPPA was both inept and treacherous - and yet you all insist that he should be supported uncritically. Why?

I'll back any Labour leader willing to back me - a Labour voter.

But if he or she can't promote the party's policies - then I don't see why they deserve my continued support.

JanM said...

"Little refused to say whether whether Labour supported or opposed the TPPA, saying it was impossible to say whether the TPPA was beneficial to NZ without seeing the full text.

But the TPPA was "here and is a reality".

"The question now for us is what happens when we are in government.""

He's not being treacherous, IMO, he's being honest. It's all very well for the minor parties to wax lyrical about their opposition to the TPPA - they're not likely to have to eat their words when they become the Prime Minister.By the time he attains that position (and at this level of internal combat on the part of the left, we could well face another 3 years of JK et al - and then we really will be sorry) the TPPA will be in place and he and his party are going to have to deal in some way with the reality of it. That is all he is saying. If he tries the 'hellfire and brimstone' approach he will be crucified by the MSM and his difficult job will be made almost untenable.
He's a politician, not Santa Claus!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"This is a gay who will support any policy or idea that will make him look good or get him votes, "

Wha'? I confess I don't know much about the man at all, but I wouldn't have thought that being gay somehow made him less qualified to be leader of the later party? I suggest that you have a severe case of the "moderns". :-)

Anonymous said...

Chris, I appreciate the direct and honesty of your 'reply'. The TPPA was a real and proper "point of difference" between 'the man in the street and a Labour party opposition' to the present Government. Andrew Little and the Labour party tried for a 'bob each way' but in reality wanted anything but a real political fight. They are weak, treacherous, inept and a frightened group, who cling to a ideology they have corrupted to suit their personal well being.

peteswriteplace said...

Andrew Little is and still will be Labour leader come 2017. Michael Joseph Savage was a pretty dour figure himself. It will be substance not political spin and BS that Kiwis will looking for. We know key is a neo-fascist and a paid performer from across the sea. My only concern is that some nutter may want to short-cut our electoral circuit. That becomes a future precedent.

peteswriteplace said...

What was treacherous Mr Trotter? You have been attacking Labour leaders from Helen Clark down. Andrew just has to get himself organised and clear on what we the Labour supporters and potential voters WANT.

peteswriteplace said...

You know where the door is Chris. Stop undermining the leadership.

Chris Trotter said...

I said I was a Labour voter, Peter, not a Labour member. That door closed behind me 26 years ago.

As for all this duck-shoving about the TPPA: the NZLP's position was very clear. If the deal failed to satisfy all of the five pre-conditions set by the Party, then Labour would not support it. Until the text of the TPPA is released it is not possible to know whether all the preconditions have been satisfied. That being the case, Andrew had only to re-state Labour's position pending the release of the text. He did not do that, however, preferring to talk about the TPPA as a done deal and adding that he might "flout" its provisions. Treachery (in that he unilaterally altered the party's position on the TPPA) and ineptitude (in that he proposed to make New Zealand an international laughing-stock).

And you still support this guy!

CP said...

@JanM : Well said. I agree.

@C Trotter : Everything that Mr Little has so far said about the TPPA is responsible, wise and correct. The agreement does not need Labour's endorsement to go through. It is already in! All that Little said was how the party would probably deal with the fait accompli when in power. He also said that he would wait for the full text to see all the finer points.

Besides, there will be probably be some mitigating options/provisions such as (a) making mutual adjustments bilaterally with other countries in relation to specific sovereignty issues such as taxes, control of land/house sales to foreigners etc or (b) being able to withdraw from the deal by giving reasonable notice etc.

If Labour were to say at this early stage, before consulting party members or before seeing the full text, then that would be premature, immature, irresponsible, stupid and wrong...like throwing the baby with the bath water and feeling smug about it. Let us make sure the baby is really bad and completely incorrigible first!

Bushbaptist said...

Yep Chris my worst fears have come home to roost. Andy hasn't the balls to stand up to the TPPA now and he won't later either.

If he wants to get anywhere he needs to clean out the Roggiegnomes from the Caucus and bring in some fresh people. Frankly I can't see him doing that or he hasn't the backbone to do so.

Another thing is that he needs to find another source of income for the party (which is why I have suggested compulsory Unions) and break free of the sources that are the same as the Gnats.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate political photo was of a lady kissing the hand of Gough Whitlam in a hall meeting on the '72 campaign trail. Hard to beat.

But certainly Trudeau is the man of the moment in Canada.

Kevin Welsh said...


The TPPA IS a done deal and will be ratified by this government with or without Labour support.

Richard McGrath said...

Chris, hate to rain on your parade, but the photo appears to show Trudeau Minor doing the Vulcan 'Live long and prosper' salute...

Seriously though, how on earth does youthfulness and photogenicity qualify a person for high political office?

Anon @ 11:18 - I'm pretty sure Stuart Nash isn't gay, though I'm happy to be corrected - did you mean to write 'guy' not 'gay'?

JanM said...

I'm really concerned about the way this word 'flout' keeps turning up. Did Andrew Little ever actually use that word in his explanations of how Labour would approach the TPPA, or is this part of the overheated use of language designed to derail him?

Unknown said...

CP and other supporters of Labour; would you care to elucidate your vision / opinion of what Left means to you. I have struggled to comprehend what socialism means to current centrist Labour supporters. Please illuminate me.

CP said...

@ JanM : No, I don't believe that Little actually used that word, 'flout' in the interview. It was the journalist (churnalist) that did that.

@ Nick J : To me, socialism is a system of government that has justice, fairness and care for 'EVERYONE IN SOCIETY' as its primary core values. Personally I like Labour because it tries to achieve that goal without being extremist or without working primarily for the wealthy. I want to see Labour's social, economic and environmental policies being 'left, left of centre and centre'....and not extreme left like communism nor extreme right. I consider National/ACT are primarily rightist parties with a few copied Labour social policies thrown in for political expediency and votes, cleverly fooling a good chunk of the people! I hope you are not one of them!

manfred said...

No, Andrew Little did use the word 'flout'. Which is not very inspired. But all he's doing is reserving the right to legislate in the interests of this country a position which wouldn't out of place among northern Europe's social democratic leaders.

If we could be at least as social democratic as, say, Germany, we would have repositioned our political centre about a football field to the left.

A centrist political economy like Germany should be the natural example for a centrist, reforming party like NZ Labour.

Chris, I think you get disappointed in Labour because you want them to be a party of the radical left. They never have been such a party when it comes to the crunch, notwithstanding some of their radical associations (and radical wings).

What Little has done with the TPPA is clumsy, but hardly traitorous. These sorts of trade agreements do not simply get thrown out by the opposition when they win the next election.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Guy. I should have known. There is a brand of anonymous that has trouble with spelling and coherence, mind you often also with modernity.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
My partner says the TPPA should be thrown out because it's secrete, and that's reason aplenty, and I agree.
There are a at least 6 or 8 Labour MPs much more able, qualified, and charismatic than Mr Little who could lead that party. His selection reflects the fact that the membership has shrunk back to a hard core of old fashioned trade unionists. To address the distortions that the neoliberal settlement has created requires someone in Politics to examine the control and issue of the country's and the world's means of exchange. The only New Zealander to take this on in recent times was Russell Norman and he has inexplicably withdrawn from the scene. Until someone in labour pics up this baton and runs with it there won't be a Varoufakis or a Corbyn or Trudeau here.
Cheers David J S

David Stone said...

A small correction
The Norman replacement doesn't need to come from Labour.And probably won't.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Manfred.

No, I'm not expecting Labour to be a party of the radical left, merely a party that refrains from making-up and changing policy on the hoof.

Without the check of the party organisation and its democratic processes, there is nothing to prevent the parliamentary wing of the party embarking on another exercise like the Rogernomics disaster.

Nor is it possible for an ordinary Labour supporter, like myself, to have any idea of the party's overall direction if the leader of the party is at liberty to ditch agreed policy positions at will.

The word "flout" was not used by Andrew, but he accepted it when it was suggested to him that "flouting" was exactly what he was proposing to do.

This is the real treachery: that what the party says, and what it does, are no longer reconcilable either before or after general elections. The idea of presenting a manifesto to the electorate and receiving a mandate to govern no longer appears to have much purchase upon the consciences of Labour politicians.

Some may say that this situation is unavoidable and without remedy. But, the moment the voters accept that their decisions can no longer find any reflection in the policies of the party they voted for, then democracy itself has become a sham.

You may be comfortable with that, Manfred, but I am not - and never will be.

Oh, and BTW, you're wrong about Labour never being a radical left-wing party. Between 1935 and 1940, Labour was very radical indeed. There was also much that was radical about Labour's industrial development programme 1957-1960. The same can be said of Labour's foreign policy and social reforms 1972-1975.

What steered Labour away from its left-wing heritage was Roger Douglas's economic programme 1984-1990. As noted above, these were policies that were forced on Labour from above. The very thing I take Andrew to task for in my postings.

And rightly so.

CP said...

@manfred : Can you point to a link, video or article which shows that Mr Little actually used the word 'flout' as you claim? He didn't, as far as I know.

From googling a news item from stuff written by (VERNON SMALL, SAM SACHDEVA AND JO MOIR on October 13 2015), this is what it says: 'Labour would stick to ban on foreign house buyers despite TPPA': A Labour-led government would "scrap out" issues, like its plan to ban foreign house buyers, with other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) free trade deal, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

Labour remained committed to introducing laws to restrict the sale of houses to non-resident foreign buyers, Little said after Prime Minister John Key confirmed that would not be possible under the 12-country deal.

"If it means we end up breaching the TPP, we will scrap that out with the other TPP partners," Little said on Tuesday. Labour would present its case to a committee set up under the TPPA rules and argue it out, Little said.

"It might be confrontational but it'll be the only way we can fight it out."
Some countries in the TPPA already had restrictions on house sales and he would "point that right back" at them.

He said the suggestion Labour could instead impose a 100 per cent stamp duty on foreign buyers under the TPP was a "sidewind - a fudge". Little and Trade Minister Tim Groser met on Monday evening to discuss the provisions of the TPPA in further detail, after the 12-nation free trade agreement was signed last week.

Little refused to say whether Labour supported or opposed the TPPA, saying it was impossible to say whether the TPPA was beneficial to NZ without seeing the full text.

But the TPPA was "here and is a reality". "The question now for us is what happens when we are in government."

Little earlier told Radio New Zealand the party still had a number of unanswered questions about the deal, but was unlikely to pull out of the agreement if it gained power at the next election.

"Although any party has the ability on six months' notice to walk away from the agreement, from New Zealand's point of view, that'd be a pretty serious call to make. "I think it is unlikely: we've got what we've got, we're now committed to it because the National Government has made us committed to it, [and] we will deal with that when we are in government."

It's not the gold standard the Government claimed of it. It is equally not the fearsome monster I think was claimed of it by others as well."

Asked about Labour's reaction to other countries breaching TPPA deals that favoured New Zealand, Little drew a distinction between issues involving free trade and market access and those things that limited a Government's ability to act in the best interest of citizens.

Loz said...

Little did say "The TPP is here now. There's no backing out of it." "If it means we end up breaching the TPP, we will scrap that out with the other TPP partners," ... "It might be confrontational but it will be the only way we can fight it out."

Thankfully, even though the text of the agreement is still secret, the Office of the United States Trade Representative states clearly stated what everyone already knows. that:

"The Final Provisions chapter defines the way the TPP will enter into force, the way in which it can be amended, the rules that establish the process for other States or separate customs territories to join the TPP in the future, the means by which Parties can withdraw"

Clearly the deal can be backed out of... but Labour obviously doesn't want to do so. Will Labour also say "The Health and Safety Reform Bill is here now. There's no backing out of it."?

Its difficult to understand what Labour is actually prepared to back-out of when the last "non-negotiable" "bottom lines" clearly don't mean anything at all.

Anonymous said...

What's the point having bottom lines if it's all going to be passed with or without them? I thought a bottom line was a principled stand? If the tpp is passed regardless, that doesn't mean you change your principles does it? What are labors principles now? I'm so confused ;)

Bushbaptist said...

Quite right Chris. The criticisms levelled at Labour by the Right show that they must have missed those years or were asleep throughout it. As I have pointed out before, Labour must go to the same sources for finance as the Gnats do and, as the old saying goes: He who pays the piper, calls the tune. Until they get an alternative source, nothing will change.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

And let's face it, the concept of radical has changed so much in the last 20 or 30 years that policies which would have seemed quite centrist in the 1950s are now seen as extreme left by many. Ridiculous of course but what can you do, the centre has shifted in many people's minds.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


interesting :)

Eric said...

What an enjoyable read this post is, Chris - a real pearl.

I admire your ability to stand above the seething masses and seek the silver lining.

Whilst I do not share your vision of Trudeau the Messiah (I see his hand as a two fingered salute), I find your descriptive narrative compelling, and particularly beyond Trudeau.

Unfortunately pearls are not universally appreciated, and sometimes not at all. (Not the pearl's fault.)