Friday, 6 November 2015

Poking Out The Eyes Of The Public.

Managing The Message: Labour supporters are invited to receive a copy of Andrew Little's conference address by e-mail. The people surrounding the party’s leader have a “message” they wish to present to the public, and they are determined that every single party member should remain resolutely and coherently “on message”. Hence the near total ban on media access to conference proceedings.
 
THE LABOUR PARTY’s annual conference kicks-off today in Palmerston North and the news media might as well stay at home. Apart from a handful of carefully controlled events: speeches of welcome; tributes to fallen comrades; three spectacularly misnamed “Challenge Sessions” and, of course, the Leader’s Address; the weekend’s proceedings will take place under a comprehensive media ban.
 
The Sector Sessions: where the party’s component groups – trade unionists, women, Maori, youth – meet to discuss issues of special interest to their members, are “closed to the media”. The Policy Workshops; where conference delegates debate policy remits on health and society, jobs and growth, skills and wages, human rights, and a host of other matters, are similarly “closed to the media”. Likewise, all discussion of the Party’s all-important ‘Policy Platform’ (to which all Labour MPs are bound) has been deemed too sensitive for the ears and eyes of the public’s proxies.
 
Also “closed to the media” is the session headed ‘Whakarongo me korero’ – which features “discussions and presentations on a variety of current topics”. Even the announcement of the results of the Party’s internal elections are “closed to the media”, along with a session intriguingly titled “Re-written Constitution and Rules”. The Party big-wigs have also decided that no journalists should be present at the special workshop entitled “How to be a Treasurer”.
 
Most worrying of all, the critical plenary session at which the members’ policy proposals, developed at all those earlier workshops, are debated, amended and voted up or down is – that’s right, you guessed it – “closed to the media”.
 
The extent of this year’s media ban speaks eloquently of a political party at odds with, and mortally afraid of, itself.
 
It is almost a reflex among those who like to think of themselves as political “professionals” to deny the public even the slightest glimpse of events they haven’t already emptied of anything remotely resembling controversy, spontaneity or authenticity. The people surrounding the party’s leader have a “message” they wish to present to the public, and they are determined that every single party member should remain resolutely and coherently “on message”.
 
After the tumult and turmoil of the past four years, the message Andrew Little’s staffers are determined to communicate to the voting public is that Labour is united. And by ‘Labour’ they mean the whole party. The Labour caucus, the New Zealand Council, the trade union affiliates, and even the rank-and-file, are all 100 percent united and raring to go. Nobody’s heard of Jeremy Corbyn. Nobody’s the slightest bit worried about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. From top to bottom, Andy’s electoral vessel has been caulked and sealed and plugged. Nobody’s getting in and, sure as Stalin, nothing is getting out!
 
Except that a political party – especially a left-wing political party – has no right to shut away its deliberations from public scrutiny. After all, the body we’re discussing is not a society of philatelists, but a quasi-constitutional institution within which the future leaders of our nation are raised and readied, and out of which its future economic and social policy directions are expected to emerge.
 
This quasi-constitutional quality is only enhanced when a political party’s membership arrogates to itself the right to choose the leader of its parliamentary caucus. When the choice of who should be Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition is restricted to the candidates’ caucus colleagues, the voters can at least reassure themselves that these key political figures are being chosen by people who have, themselves, been put to the democratic test. But, they can have no such reassurance when their political leaders are being decided by people whose only qualification is the payment of a membership fee.
 
When Labour’s members took upon themselves the duty of deciding who the next Prime Minister will be, they simultaneously forfeited the right to behave as if they were a society of stamp-collectors. The latter has every right to determine who can participate in and observe its AGM. The Labour Party, however, like all political parties, lays claim to the right to design and deliver the nation’s future. And that must mean that the nation possesses a reciprocal right to watch them do it.
 
By banning the news media from a huge chunk of its conference proceedings, Labour is poking out the eyes and blocking the ears of the voters. Shame on them!
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 6 November 2015.

32 comments:

JanM said...

As if the MSM was going to reliably report it anyway! I imagine they have withdrawn from the media because they are sick to pussy's bow of the almost constant negative spin, and this post appears to be no exception, Chris

jh said...

Dame Susan Devoy says New Zealanders are very racist (as Helen Clark wispered to Sir John (Gandolf) at Government House). HC was going to do "everything in her power as prime minister to change that ", apparently she failed. Now the anti-racists in Labour have to find a way to connect ;Labour typically covers the bottom half, National the top half.
The issue is how to market the diversity dividend Moving Forward . This is the task at hand for Labour Leadership.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable, shame on them indeed, this has become a political party that is afraid of itself. Why?. What is going on?. What are they afraid of?. What are they hiding?. We need the press and bloggers to get answers to the questions that will arise. A good piece Chris.

Galeandra said...

After the infamous door-stepping of Cunliffe at a Conference not so long ago one can understand the desire of the party to appear to be uniformly on message. However the party's wobbliness over TPPA is a recent example of the contortions this brings in train if the electorate aren't educated as to the value of robust debate and occasional disagreement.
Perhaps the anodyne 'we are all together in everything' approach has been forced on us by the wacky behaviour of media over the last few electoral cycles? My impression is that our broad community is increasingly shallow and ill-educated in relation to matters societal, economic and environmental.
As a recently rejoined Labour supporter I can feel myself backsliding again, perhaps the 'missing million' need to sort this one out for themselves. From what I see in Telegraph and Guardian Corbyn seems to be struggling in caucus and in the media so a mass revolt at the ballot box will be the ultimate requirement if the entrenched elite are to be defeated.

Anonymous said...

Yup. But aren't they really just putting makeup on the corpse of the Labour party?

Anonymous said...

Your article is a gem , it should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

Anonymous said...

If they open the doors and let the media in the great lie of Unity will be exposed. Andrew Little and his tight cabal of shadow cabinet ministers have certainly agreed on the non existence of Corbyn and the harmlessness of the TPP, but we all know full well the radicalized membership eagerly await the Corbynisation of the party and seek withdrawal from the TPP as a major platform to hit the election on, this is political suicide in Andrew Little and his cabals view, so we get the extreme measures to contain an existential struggle, Im not sure how long they can contain it for though.

Anonymous said...

The party is at a crossroad. This conference may well be be the final showdown between the "Blairites" and the "Corbynites", and is probably best conducted behind closed doors.

Unknown said...

Posh Progressives versus real workers. The progressives won't want to give up power any time soon with all that academic, journalistic and beaurocratc fire power. Stuff the workers.

Unknown said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The party is at a crossroad. This conference may well be be the final showdown between the "Blairites" and the "Corbynites",
......
"
In his column, Mr Neather said that as well as bringing in hundreds of thousands more migrants to plug labour market gaps, there was also a "driving political purpose" behind immigration policy.

He defended the policy, saying mass immigration has "enriched" Britain, and made London a more attractive and cosmopolitan place.

But he acknowledged that "nervous" ministers made no mention of the policy at the time for fear of alienating Labour voters."
.......
That's the Blairites and the Corbynites want more refugees.

greywarbler said...

Perhaps Chris feels that the strength of the Blairites is such that they will outweigh the others. Will there be untimely death of aspiring idealists and policies if there is no-one there to see and hear?
To paraphrase Sir Barnett Cocks :
A [conference] is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.

Andrew Nichols said...

A dying ideologically compromised irrelevant party that cant even get all its potential supporters to vote for it anymore.

Kevin Welsh said...

Patrick Gower will be gutted.

How will he breathlessly report on any made-up leadership coup's?

How will he, with any credibility, blame David Cunliffe for everything?

peter petterson said...

Do you blame them for keeping things under wrap? Some of the critics, including the author of this blog, have been right over the top with their criticism in recent years. If you want to know what is happening,as it is happening, you could have become a member and delegate as I was from the mid-seventies to early eighties. I left because I smelt change - a change of attidude which led to neo-liberalism.

Clemgeopin said...

I agree with having the media excluded from the private discussions/deliberations/debates of various issues by party members. This will (1) prevent the media misreporting or spinning differences of opinion as disunity (2) causing mischief and playing dirty politics against Labour and its leaders as has been happening in the past (3) when the media is not around, the party members will feel more comfortable to robustly discuss/debate controversial or difficult issues more openly.

What is necessary for the media and the public is to know the final consensus/majority decisions arrived at regarding policies and principles. The fact is that the public are not barred from being members and attend the conference to be spectators or participants at the internal party discussions.

I wonder if the other political parties such as National and NZF, at their annual conferences, allow the media to be in attendance during all of their preliminary debates and discussions? It is, after all, an annual conference for the party members.

Anonymous said...

"When Labour’s members took upon themselves the duty of deciding who the next Prime Minister will be, they simultaneously forfeited the right to behave as if they were a society of stamp-collectors. The latter has every right to determine who can participate in and observe its AGM. The Labour Party, however, like all political parties, lays claim to the right to design and deliver the nation’s future. And that must mean that the nation possesses a reciprocal right to watch them do it."

Unfortunately, it's a duty I doubt the current Labour members will have to perform after the next election either.

While the Unions decide Labour's future which can only, currently, exist with the lunatic fringe here in NZ (the Greens), Winston will never, despite his ego, put NZ First support into that union. He would do a deal with Labour but not Labour/Green.

Just a thought but it might not be that Labour has moved away from the Waitakere Man but that Waitakere Man has moved away from Labour. Can Labour survive and get it's core base back?

peterlepaysan said...

Well at least we will not have shrill headlines attracting advertsers about "lood on the floor" and knives being out, which is the usual media angle at Labour Conferences.

The media will no doubt keep feasting on assorted All Black "stories".

The media can also default to your position and issue "stories" about media exclusion and threats to democracy.

These are straw dummies.

D M said...

Thank you Peter yours is the most sensible reason yet.
The media does not clearly report on what is said so why talk to them better of putting it out their direct

D M said...

I agree with you peter

D M said...

He has not he is just involved and yes they will.

D M said...

Thank you Peter yours is the most sensible reason yet.
The media does not clearly report on what is said so why talk to them better of putting it out their direct

Chris Trotter said...

Oh yes, that's right, Peter and DM, dismiss the news media. Demonstrate your allegiance to the reflexive, anti-intellectual know-nothingism that is destroying this country's democratic culture.

I would merely inquire, however, as to the source of your knowledge about NZ politics. Do you attend every conference? Sit every day in Parliament's public gallery? Corner ministers and Opposition leaders on their way to the dairy and demand answers about their contributions to public policy?

Like Hell you do! You rely on hundreds of journalists to do those things for you. Then, using the knowledge they have provided to the NZ public, you turn on them and sneer about "shrill headlines".

Hypocrites!

JanM said...


That's very reactive, Chris, when you know well that the main-stream media are often very biased and as conduits to the truth of what happens in such places, unreliable and even dishonest. All but a few are at least no more than mediocre - time we had a massive rethink of the status of journalists, who have, in the educated world, anyway, not been regarded highly. This has led to a lack of good people entering the profession - the problem goes back at least to the 60s when I left school, and may well be older than that.
And to describe criticising journalists as 'anti-intellectualism' is what I would describe as a contradiction in terms.
Having said that, there are a few really good exceptions - just not nearly enough!

greywarbler said...

Peter Petterson

Your comment raises points but ends up nowhere.
Do you blame them for keeping things under wrap?
We all know the unsatisfactory reporting of left wing matters - so that is a rhetorical question.

Some of the critics, including the author of this blog, have been right over the top with their criticism in recent years.
The Labour Party has not aroused election votes or enthusiasm from its forward-moving policies for the people, it's in need of severe criticism as to why it can't achieve at least one of those goals.

If you want to know what is happening,as it is happening, you could have become a member and delegate as I was from the mid-seventies to early eighties. I left because I smelt change - a change of attidude which led to neo-liberalism.
Why would it would be better to be a member and delegate to know what is happening? Aren't such people likely to be overwhelmed by the afficionados and aparatchiks? whom Chris has referred to? And the Labour Party is not a secret society, or shouldn't be. It is supposed to represent the broad mass of people who are gradually sinking into poor living conditions under Labour-advanced policies. The mass of people should get to know what 'their' Party proposes to do, or not do, to improve and rectify this disgraceful result to their 'advanced' policies.

You smelt a rat and left in the 1980s, being wise you think. What have you done since then with that wisdom? You criticise people who criticise, and who suggest new approaches. Where is your energy then, your ideas? All you have done here is chew the heads of people who call out urgently for change yet find themselves ignored and broadsided at every point.

And DiM
Don't offer little one line thought-bites without any thought in them. They use up the page and interfere with discussion amongst the people who are actually interested in doing so.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I sometimes wonder now, how many people still actually read stories from news sites that don't reflect their political opinion. I still read the Dom post, but I'd do tend to go to slightly more left-wing websites. Largely because my bullshit filter kicks in when I read something by people like that arse Hosking.So it may indeed be a hiding to nothing.

Bushbaptist said...

Agreed JanM. Journalism in NZ has devolved into nothing more that "copy and Paste". On rare occasions I have seen Lisa Owens ask the hard questions then slide back into acquiescence again. When are we going to get 'Journalists' with some guts and backbone? Gower and Garner are just little mouthpieces for the status quo.

More importantly, when are we going to get a Labour Party that is not Gnatlite?

pat said...

@ Bushbaptist...read Gordon Campbell on Scoop....one of the few remaining

Bushbaptist said...

Yes Pat, I do read Gordon's blog regularly and you're right he is one of the only. It is linked here.

The problem is that he is not on TVNZ or TV3 or any of the mainstream channels and so his voice is not heard therein lays the problem. Not everyone has a computer and not everyone reads this blog either (it should be compulsory reading in my opinion - not because of Chris' views but to give a fair balance) and that is the tragedy.

I repeat (ad nauseum) that Labour needs to come up with policies that are diametrically opposite to the Gnats and give people a genuine, real choice. As it stands they are too much alike and so why would people bother to vote Labour in only to get more of the same with some cosmetic covering?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"
The problem is that he is not on TVNZ or TV3 or any of the mainstream channels and so his voice is not heard therein"

One of the problems is that the scoop website looks like a bomb hit it. You'd think somebody could do a bit of pro bono work for them there and tsuj it up a bit.

pat said...

substance trumps style GS

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Substance should trump style, but for the average punter it doesn't. I'm not saying it needs all the bells and whistles, though that might be an advantage for getting the attention of youngsters, but it looks like shit. The first time I went there, I almost left straightaway, couldn't be bothered trying to sort my way through all the trash. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't take a great deal to replace it. Because I think fixing it is out of the question :-). There are plenty of examples out there of nice, clean sites they could copy.

pat said...

you have a point GS...it would be nice to think that people would not be sidetracked by glitz and glamour, reality would prove the opposite however...i concede an easier on the eye(or clicking finger) site would assist.