Wednesday, 18 May 2016

An Opposition Worthy Of The Name?

A Government In Waiting? Labour's embrace of neoliberalism in the mid-1980s left the party with the political equivalent of syphilis. Sadly, every one of the many attempts to administer the Penicillin of genuine progressivism was rejected. Consequently, Labour’s bones have crumbled and its brain has rotted.
 
IT IS ONLY NOW, thirty years after the event, that the full effects of Labour’s 1984-1990 betrayals have become visible. The party’s inability to respond coherently to John Key’s National-led government has allowed the latter to escape, Scot-free, from economic and social policy failures that daily grow more intractable. All over New Zealand, voters shake their heads in frank disbelief at National’s extraordinary run of political good luck. Everywhere their cry is the same: “If only we had an Opposition worthy of the name!” How right they are.
 
The signal achievement of National’s nine years in opposition was the unification of the Right. With ruthless efficiency, Don Brash and John Key rolled up National’s electoral competitors, leaving only the vestiges of parties that had once attracted, between them, more than 10 percent of the popular vote. By the time National assumed the Treasury Benches in 2008, United Future and Act had become mere grace-and-favour parties, entirely dependent on Key’s goodwill for their survival.
 
It is a feat which Labour has singularly failed to replicate. A point which the latest Roy Morgan poll drives home with particular force. In the pollster’s latest survey, the party accounts for less than half of the combined Opposition Vote (Labour 26%, Greens 14.5%, NZ First 12.5%). Sadly, the electorate’s imagination simply isn’t equal to the task of transforming these three distinct political entities into a governing coalition it would feel comfortable supporting. In spite of the fact that Labour, the Greens and NZ First jointly command 53 percent of the popular vote, their chances of unseating National are slim.
 
Were Labour able to move as easily along its half of the political spectrum as National, then things might be different. Its four post-Helen Clark leaders notwithstanding, Labour's been unable to replicate Brash’s ruthless consolidation of National’s ideological base. No one was prepared to believe in Phil Goff as a champion of the Hard Left. Indeed, since the departure of Jim Anderton in 1989 there’s been no one in Labour’s caucus capable of assuming that role. David Cunliffe tried – and failed.
 
It was Helen Clark’s great good fortune to have Anderton and his Alliance available for coalescence. Their eventual partnership brought together the Hard Left and the Soft Centre in a fashion which Key, nine years later, was only too happy to imitate – drawing away tens-of-thousands of former Labour supporters in the process. That the parliamentary numbers never allowed Prime Minister Clark to replace the Alliance with the Green Party – thereby acquainting the electorate with the Greens as responsible and creative Cabinet Ministers – has proved extremely costly for the New Zealand Left.
 
The bitter truth is that if a beneficent angel were to uplift the best politicians from Labour, the Alliance (before it disappeared) the Greens and the Mana Party, and drop them into a divinely crafted political entity that might – or might not – continue to exploit the still potent Labour brand, then the Government of John Key would be in real trouble. The current Labour Party bleats on (and on, and on) about being a “Broad Church”, but the sad truth remains that its reservoir for recruitment has never been shallower.
 
A genuinely “broad church” party of the Left would balance off  Andrew Little with Hone Harawira, Jacinda Ardern with Laila HarrĂ©, Stuart Nash with John Minto, Kelvin Davis with Annette Sykes, Grant Robertson with Julie Anne Genter and Annette King with Metira Turei. The whole spectrum of alternative power: from Soft Centrists to Hard Leftists; would be covered.
 
That Labour’s fatal apostasy [the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle] has made such a caucus impossible is the besetting tragedy of progressive New Zealand politics. Its embrace of neoliberalism in the mid-1980s left Labour with the political equivalent of syphilis. Sadly, every one of the many attempts to administer the Penicillin of genuine progressivism (God bless you Jim, Rod, Laila!) was rejected. Consequently, Labour’s bones have crumbled and its brain has rotted. Small wonder that the other opposition parties are reluctant to get too close!
 
It might almost be funny, if the only people laughing, all the way to the ballot-box, weren’t John Key and Winston Peters.
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of 27 April 2016.

26 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually I'm amazed that Jim Anderton let himself be in a coalition. As I remember him he was a dictatorial micromanager. I'm pretty sure he was responsible for splitting what remained of the left. Although admittedly I haven't heard his side of it so much.

Anonymous said...

Chris a very good post, Labour are hoping for victory through a coalition of NZ First the Greens and themselves. In the event that that became possible, the price that Labour and the people of NZ would have pay to Winnie the Pooh would finish them forever.
They are lost at sea, they have a compass but no one is capable of using it, but what use a compass if they have lost power and sail. Some one mentioned socialism mixed with a sensible well thought, costed economic policy, they were thrown overboard.
I am afraid that bobbing about, hoping and drifting is the course Labour have chosen.
They pray every day please Greens and NZ First save us, the reply from both is yes we will but we want*************************************************************.

Keith Johnson said...

No need to give Labour a clap - they already have it. I'm not so sure it's an ideological issue even though rallying calls can be unifying under a powerful voice. It is much more that Labour recruits poor quality people. When you let blowhards of the lamentable quality of people like Paul Tolich in Rongotai play local king-maker, the outcome can only be disaster.

Anonymous said...

“If only we had an Opposition worthy of the name!” How right they are.
.....
Don't forget that we (Pakeha) are starring down the barrel of becoming a minority in "Aotearoa".
Multiculturalism (many foreigners) was a Labour policy. It sent a message that the land mass known as New Zealand was not a closed club but open to anyone and only one half have received any benefit. Asian supermarkets are not sufficient recompense for the loss of national identity (unless you're weely weely into cooking). There has been no territorial swap (they play in our yard but they have nothing for us).

Pdogge said...

I am surprised and saddened that you can consider this post as helpful. I will send you a bucket of humility. Kindly sip from it every morning...

Anonymous said...

It's a shame they cannot get their act together as there are some pretty hard working ministers in the labour party

Anonymous said...

You're overlooking the elephant in the room.

National was able to hoover up the rest of the Right, simply because the rest of the Right were only mildly grumpy at the Nats. There has never been any great historical grudge between the right-wing tribes, because all they really care about is stopping Labour - which means that Muldoon today isn't persona non grata among the Right the way Douglas is to the Left.

With the Left, you really are dealing with the wounds of civil war - and those people (more common on the Left than the Right) who prefer the purity of Opposition minor parties to a Labour compromise. This makes it much, much harder to unite.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
No Left to Turn to asyermightesay
Cheers D J S

Nick J said...

Anon @16:00 you are so right. Labour as a broad church has got nothing on the broad church of money...sorry I mean National as a unitary cause.

Anonymous said...

It reads like a plea to roll back MMP to return a two party system.

peter petterson said...

Labour has to come up with a vision and a reason for people to trust and support Labour, and for labour to lead a unified opposition block. All the attacks on Labour by so-called Leftists just totally annoys me. Actually I have told a few of them to piss off! The demise of the union movement hasn't helped. The compulsory enforced voluntary provisions in the Employment Contracts Act (the oxymoron of the century) cut the movement off at the knees resulting in lower wages and worsening conditions.

peter petterson said...

But Muldoonism didn't have the same effects that Douglas had on NZ. We got over Muldoon but were economically and socially savaged by the long term effects of Rogernomics.

Anonymous said...

Twyford is pushing through density and sprawl because "you have to balance the rights of existing home owners against those New Zealanders wanting to buy". That is a lie since it is government mandated population growth that is the problem. I hope Labour is punished and people vote for NZ First. You can't trust Labour.

Anonymous said...

The Left has always been more factionalized and less disciplined than the Right, at least in most of recent NZ history.

The idiot identify politics beloved by much of the left (I'm special!) exacerbates this. Transgender rights is CLEARY the most important issue facing the country - and I know all the jargon (unlike you)! Add another letter to LGBTIAQP!
Much easier and more fun than say coming up with a decent policy to tackle the Auckland housing crisis.


Also, MMP is pretty much designed to prevent Goff and Minto from being in the same party, if not working together.

Also also, the current Labour party are utterly disorganised and incompetent, as per Little's 'Crowded House' debacle. Related, they are broke and demoralised.

What DO they stand for anyway?

Personally, I think Labour should hold a big party to celebrate their centenary and many PAST achievements - then disband.


peter petterson said...

Will be a long time before Caucasians are a minority in NZ because of multiculturalism.

peter petterson said...

Jim Anderton stuck up for real Labour policies. The parliamentary party left labour then.

Anonymous said...

Blogger peter petterson said...

Will be a long time before Caucasians are a minority in NZ because of multiculturalism.
....
But not Auckland The LA of the South Pacific:


The future of Auckland is the focus of a panel discussion chaired by Bill Ralston at the Auckland Museum. It features Marina Matthews from the law firm Chen Palmer; and Waikare Komene, a young architect from Otara, along with Professor Damon Salesa from the University of Auckland, and business commentator Rod Oram, well-known to RNZ listeners.

Bill Ralston: I mean Marina picking up on the Herald thing and based on your massive study. Going back (I think it was 2001) 67%of our island city was pakeha. Now it is down to 54% and falling rapidlyIt wont be long before Pakeha Aucklanders are a minority. Is that necessarliy a good thing or could it be a bad thing?

Marina Mathews: I think it could be a good thing. I'll just draw on my experiences working 10 years in the public sector in Wellington. I mean when you look at Wellington it has it's own ethnoburbs as well. Um the population and ethnicity of folk in Eastbourne (across the water) is a bit different to that of Cannons Creek by Porirua . So it is slightly systematic. It 's starting to grow across NZ. Asia NZ did a survey (a 2015 report)on the population of house buyers in Auckland. It was just a little more scientific than Phil Twyford may have ventured about people who had surnames that might have sounded like some foreign word who were house owners. What they did say is that 25% of the population of Pine Hill in NZ are Chinese. Um 10% of the population of house owners in Glenn Innes are Indian and so what is happening as a result is that businesses are having to alter what they are doing, how they are delivering and how they are coping. The number one seller at Pac nSave in Albany is white rice (not white potatoes). Another big seller is chicken feet. And so you are seeng the market (I love the French market in Parrnell) It's a lot different to if I went down to Otara on a saturday.

Ralston: It's a lot different to if you went down Sandringham Road where there's a whole pile of medium spice shopsand Restuarants, um and down the back of Dominion Road there is the biggest Chinese Supermarket I've ever seen (bout 2 or 3 football fields in size) and you can buy whatever you want. That's the gift, I suppose, that diversity brings.

Rod Oram: Absolutely! That makes Auckland a fabulously interesting city. And obviously the key thing we need to care a lot about about are that people are moving around and are appreciating and taking more interest year round rather ratjher than just turning up at Albert Park for a lantern show or Diwhali festival. And of course there are people who just hunker downin their neighbourhood or their community. But I'd like to thinkthere are people particularily amongst the younger generation who are strong in their own identity but are keen to appreciate other identities too.
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/smarttalk/audio/201778519/smart-talk-at-the-auckland-museum-auckland-as-an-island

Anonymous said...

What would John A Lee be thinking?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But not Auckland The LA of the South Pacific:"

Then move to Dunedin, or Christchurch, or even Nelson where it's almost totally white. Just stop moaning about it here.

Bushbaptist said...

He who pays the piper calls the tune. Labour has to get it's finance from the same sources as the Nats so their policies are the same.

Not unique to NZ, the Yanx has a similar problem. Their pressie election is a run off between Hillary the Replicrat and Donny the Orangeman. At least the Britz have a real choice but Corbyn needs to purge the rightwing socialists out of the party there, people like Hilary Benn et al. Andy Little needs to do the same here.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that Little is not a PM in waiting and the Labour front bench is not a cabinet in waiting.

Fact.

Anonymous said...

Certainly Little has to clean out his office - it's full of deadwood union morons that have no real life experience etc

Standing on a picket line isn't enough to plot and win a general election.

It's good that Little sacked Sarah Stuart - she was useless. The housing stand-up in Otara with Little left standing around wondering what on earth was going on was a key example of Stuart's gross incompetance.

Time for Little to keep going and clean out his office. Martin Taylor hasn't achieved anything. Time for him to be sent away.

McCarten has been there long enough to also be shown the door. He's achieved nothing.

When Little has talented people around him that can offer skilled advice that will lead to winning an election, he will be credible.

The sad thing is: Little likes to be surrounded by the comforting sounds of the union movement.

These sounds won't win an election.

Anonymous said...

I heard Little on RNZ's 'Morning Report' this morning.

He seriously needs some media 'coaching'. Perhaps Brian Edwards can sort him out?

He comes across as unconvincing & uncompelling. He almost mumbles into the microphone. Little can't make points in a clear & succinct fashion.

Jim Knox may have got away with that style of communication but it won't cut anything in 2016.

Last night (I can't remember the TV channel) he was making an announcement (the story was lost in the bulletin as the 4th or 5th story just before an ad break) and he had two microphones obscuring his face with his head down reading a speech word-for-word.

Again uncompelling & unconvincing stuff.

I wonder who does Little's 'media/public presentation' advice in his office and wonder more so if Little has a sense of being short-changed from this incompetant 'advice'.

General elections on one level are a contest of personalities; Little's personality of a muddled mumbler won't win an election.

Anonymous said...

David Cunliff's 'debate coach' Rob Salmond is more dead wood in Little's office.

Salmond is a laughing stock to right wing operators who see him as a try-hard and nothing much else.

Clint Smith - another leftie who thinks he has a job for life 'advising' Little should also be chopped.

The sooner Little axes them the better.

Little's budget response speech in the House yesterday was dull & lacked any punch. A combination of Little as a poor orator and an underperforming speech writer.

It was a chance for Little to outline an alternative budget but blew it - again.

Anonymous said...

Jodi Ihaka is another from Little's office that should be discarded.

Another TV3 failure who hasn't done a thing for a very long time.

Her twitter feed says she is a 'spin doctor for the red team'.

Hard to know how she justifies a salary.

More dead wood that surrounds Little that will lead to a substantial electoral failure in 2017.

Mark my words.

Anonymous said...

Another stammering effort by Little on RNZ this morning.

Someone (maybe one of his highly paid 'media advisors') should tell him that in an interview:

1 - Slow down and talk at a slow methodical pace

2 - Have your points down-pat so it doesn't look like you're making it up as you go

3 - Attempt to advance some points in line with the question but keep it succinct and straight forward as the interview will likely be 5 minutes max

4 - Don't speak quickly; it conveys the impression that you're flustered and don't know your stuff. PM's don't get flustered in interviews.

Who's telling Little all this?

Who's providing Little with expert media/comms/policy advice?

No-one it seems.