Tuesday 16 August 2016

Dangerous Company: Andrew Little Quarantines The Labour Right.

Dark Horse: The ambitious Napier MP, Stuart Nash, has his own impressive connections to the power elite. This is, after all, the man who financed practically the whole of his campaign for the Napier seat with a Matthew Hooton-organised fund-raising dinner at Auckland’s exclusive Northern Club. The contrast between Nash’s fund-raising skills and those of the impoverished, Little-led Labour Party is not a flattering one.
ANDREW LITTLE’S DECISION to ban Stuart Nash from sharing a platform with Wellington Mayoral hopeful, Nick Leggett, is instructive. First of all, it tells us that Little and his supporters are still very frightened of the Labour Right. Though by no means a majority of either the parliamentary caucus, or the party, Labour’s right wing constitutes a large enough minority to fatally injure Labour’s re-election chances if it feels so inclined. Secondly, it tells us that Little and his supporters lack the confidence to engage the likes of Leggett (or Phil Quin, or Josie Pagani) in free and open political debate.
Little, with a great deal of help from his chief-of-staff, Matt McCarten, has spent the last 18 months convincing caucus members of every ideological stripe that disunity is death. They point to the way the left of the party undermined the leadership of David Shearer, and how the right of the caucus repaid them by undermining the leadership of David Cunliffe. Their contention, that such behaviour simply had to stop, was supported by all those MPs who longed to escape the impotence of Opposition – i.e. every single one of them.
So why, given his undoubted success in dampening-down the fractious factions of both the Labour caucus and the wider party, did Little feel obliged to lower the boom so publicly on the head of Stuart Nash?
Clearly the campaign team behind the Labour-endorsed candidate for the Wellington Mayoralty, Justin Lester, had a hand in his decision. They are only too aware of the political clout of the people backing Leggett’s campaign, and of the sheer volume of the money that keeps rolling in for the former Porirua Mayor. They are also rattled by Leggett’s winning ways. There is more than a little of Mike Moore’s populist style in Leggett’s political demeanour (not something you can say about Justin Lester’s). Little was goaded to action by a combination of fear and spite. Not a good look.
Leggett’s ready access to the networks of power, influence and money, coupled with his backers’ plan to have him share a platform with Nash, would also have reminded Little and his team of the ambitious Napier MP’s own impressive connections to the power elite. This is, after all, the man who financed practically the whole of his campaign for the Napier seat with a Matthew Hooton-organised fund-raising dinner at Auckland’s exclusive Northern Club. The contrast between Nash’s fund-raising skills and those of the impoverished Labour Party is not a flattering one.
In such circumstances, it is easy to see how Little and his supporters might fall prey to the notion that Nash and his kind constitute a right-wing “Labour Party-in-waiting” with all manner of helpful friends in the business community, PR circles and the news media. Friends who, given the “right” line-up on Labour’s front bench will be quick to offer all kinds of helping hands.
The dangerously accurate sniper-fire kept up against the Little-led Labour Party by the likes of Josie Pagani and Phil Quin (key movers, along with Leggett, in a plan to form a New Zealand-based political think tank modelled on those advising the Blairite wing of the British Labour Party) can only have contributed to the siege mentality so obviously gripping the Leader of the Opposition’s office. Particularly galling for the Labour leadership is the fact that their critics, having allowed their membership of the Labour Party to lapse, are in no way subject to its discipline. As regular guests on The Nation and Q+A, they can articulate their critique of Little’s electoral strategy with impunity.
The only effective way to combat the undoubted influence of Leggett, Quin, Pagani (and Nash?) within the Labour Party is to confront them head-on. If it is not possible for them to counter their opponents’ “Third Way” ideology in open debate, then Little and his team must either plead guilty to being woefully ineffectual democratic socialists, or, to secretly subscribing to exactly the same strategic objectives as the Labour Right.
Leggett openly proclaims his conviction that: “You have to occupy the centre, and you have to appeal to a broad base of New Zealanders, and for Labour to win they’ve got to be as big as National … They’ve got to be a 40% plus party.”
Frankly, it’s difficult to believe that becoming “as big as National” is not also Little’s prime electoral objective. And, if that’s correct, then the real reason for his refusal to allow Nash to share a platform with Leggett is that Little does not want the left of the party to realise that the true extent of Labour’s ambition is no greater than the goal of its unreconstructed right-wing: “to occupy the centre”.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 13 August 2016.


Dennis Frank said...

I presume this has become news because friendly informal advice from Little to Nash isn't an option. Could one draw a general principle from this; that collegial relations between Labour centrists & Labour leftists are impossible?

If so, two separate parties would be in the best interests of both groups - but I suppose they would rather fight over the Labour brand first, in the mistaken belief that it represents something.

Sad to see that freedom of speech & association is no longer possible on the political left. Stalin's long shadow, eh?

I'd be interested to see your take on whether this schism replicates the one you participated in, with Anderton et al, that resulted in the formation of the New Labour Party...

jh said...

left v's right still doesn't tell us what's in it (the New Zealand Labour Party that is). I've shaken the contents but I still can't see anything on the label?

people like me will be assuming the leopard doesn't change it's spots.

It stinks the way TV and radio stack their guests. Josie Pagani is an open border advocate (as is Bryce Edwards).

Nick J said...

I would have thought that engaging the Right (of Labour, National or whoever) in debate is simple. The Labour Party has a statement of principles that declares what it stands for; these principles are the basis of membership, alignment and policy. If the Right of Labour go outside of these demand they adhere or go. Its as simple as asking, "Do you accept the principles of the Labour Party?"

Polly said...

Your last paragraph sums it all up for me, Little and Co pretend to be 'left' but the reality is that they are National Lite.
Labours (Littles) policy on the TPPA is proof, " we are against the TPPA but if elected to government we will stay in the TPPA" another way of expressing that policy is to say "we are Labour now but if we become government we will revert to being National".
McCarten is the shill.

Littles Labour is playing games and the support money that they would normally get at this stage of the election process (according to MSM reports) is not forthcoming, they should ask themselves why!.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

God help us, I thought it was just the extreme left that tore itself apart on a regular basis. Much though I dislike Helen Clark, now that she's not going to be Secretary-General of the UN, perhaps it's time to ask her back.

Kevin said...

Lets be fair here Chris. David Shearer undermined his own leadership everytime he opened his mouth and mumblefucked his way through interviews.

greywarbler said...

Dennis Frank
You seem to model yourself on the little boy in Brussels with your derisive attitude to NZ Left. Trying to change the hegemony of the Labour Party is a serious matter. When New Labour started, it was because it rejected Douglas et al at the start of their 'acid rain'. Now with a disillusioned, bemused electorate the style and content of Labour's discourse must be carefully considered and television exposure must be managed as is National's.

It would be great to have a government with Anderton's vision:
Economically, the party was left of centre, and placed particular attention on economic development. It had particular focus on the creation of jobs, and said it was committed to achieving full employment.

Among its other policy objectives were free education and free healthcare, four weeks of annual leave from work, an "anti-drugs" policy, and cutting the corporate tax rate to 30%. It also advocated an abolition of the Goods and Services Tax in favour of a broad based financial transactions tax, and monetary policy reform. Its campaign slogan was "Get things done"


To achieve most of that requires work and careful planning. So idle criticisms and snubs from you will slide off the backs of the stalwart
Left that still remain true to such principles and plans.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Who is the left of the labour party? Is there anyone in the labour party who clearly opposes the neoliberal settlement as you do? I wish they would clearly say so.
My impression without going on what is in the regular media is that no-one in there has a clear understanding of any rebuttal of TINA. I would love to know who it is that disproves this view.
Cheers David J S

manfred said...

Andrew Little's Labour Party does occupy the centre. The centre of Labour movement, which is exactly where it needs to be.

Andrew Little has brought the party as far to the left as the mainstream of politics can take.

-We have the mainstream media putting out stories about inequality, increasing public transport spending, austerity and the necessity of state expenditure in housing.

-We have national party supporters on 80k salaries whose children will not be able to afford to buy a house... and are mulling over whether to vote Labour.

Only a fucking idiot would destabilise that equilibrium.

Labour needs to do what traditionally works in New Zealand politics - sell radically interventionist social democracy as blokey common sense. That is what Andy has been doing.

And fuck, if I could vote for him twice, I damn well would. (You can actually haha)

Nick J said...

Yes for blokey common sense.

Dennis Frank said...

Dunno what "the little boy in Brussels" is meant to refer to. I did approve Anderton's stand at the time & thought the NLP a timely initiative. Unfortunately he misread both the zeitgeist & the electorate. His `back to the future' stance revealed his tacit belief that old Labour could be recycled as new.

Such self-deception - and it was compounded by making genuine progressive folk feel that he was insulting their intelligence. So I admired his integrity while being astonished at his lack of political nous.

I don't have any objection to that policy mix you cited, greywarbler (except for the anti-drugs bit) and as an activist in the Green Party at the time I encouraged the consensus process that produced the Alliance, and endorsed a financial transactions tax as an essential ccomponent of any credible government.

My critique of leftists in general and Labour in particular is intended to alert everyone to the factors causing the left to sabotage and handicap itself. I've been on this path 45 years, yet they keep making the same mistakes ad nauseum - closed minds are a terrible affliction. Aotearoa needs the left to make a constructive political contribution.

Galeandra said...

You suggest that Little's party needs to confront its critics 'head on' but have already pointed out that as they are largely operating from outside the party "(they) having allowed their membership of the Labour Party to lapse, are in no way subject to its discipline."

Surely what happened in the case of Leggett & Nash was a case of such a confrontation? Or am I missing something?

What else should be done to handle the incessant & calculated public assault from the b.a.u proponents of the right?

Frank's invocation of Stalinism though Godwin-like in its certainty is plainly fatuous.

Jens Meder said...

Yes, it is reasonable to believe that Labour has a better chance of winning if competing for votes from the uncommitted centrist majority rather than the ideological Left.
In view of that, it might be useful to be reminded, that beside the shifting "one bob each way", or "sitting on the fence" center between 2 competing parties, on the traditional political spectrum between royalty based plutocratic monopoly capitalism on the extreme Right and Socialist (govt.) monopoly based capitalism on the extreme Left -

is not the natural middle point on this property ownership patterns based political spectrum clearly defined by at least a minimally meaningful level of individual capital (wealth) ownership by all ?

With this centrist goal as the leading election issue, there would be no need to waste time and energy to "fight" or denigrate anyone, and plenty of opportunity to inform, explain and debate on the advantages and benefits of participation in constructive centrist capitalism by all.