Thursday, 12 September 2019

Labour's Fatal Flaw.

 Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a social-democratic storm – promising them everything from 100,000 affordable houses to the end of child poverty. But, among themselves – among the ones who "get it" – the objectives, and the rules of the game, are very different.

WILL ANYBODY IN the Labour Party learn anything from this latest debacle? It seems doubtful, especially coming so soon after the last debacle! (The 2018 Summer School Scandal.) Nigel Haworth, who didn’t so much fall on his sword this morning (11/9/19) as get thrust very roughly into it, has gone, but the malady lingers on.

What Labour is suffering from is a disease that is easy to diagnose but hard to explain. The Ancient Greeks called it hubris – roughly defined as: “excessive pride and/or over-confidence”. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but a better sense of the word’s meaning is gleaned by listing its synonyms: arrogance, conceitedness, haughtiness, pride, vanity, self-importance, pomposity, superciliousness, hauteur. Those afflicted by the fatal flaw of hubris harbour unfaltering feelings of superiority over all those lesser breeds with whom they are forced to have dealings. It is usually fatal.

The time-line of this latest scandal, helpfully pulled together by the journalists at The Spinoff, reveals just how seriously infected Labour has become by the hubris disease. Throughout the crooked course of this tawdry saga every one of the synonyms listed above has been in evidence; and each character failing appears to have occasioned a corresponding failure in performance. That’s the awful thing about hubris: its way of leading the sufferer into terrible misjudgements and mistakes. Wonderful for driving forward the action in Ancient Greek theatre. Not so helpful in politics.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Labour had a lot to feel excessively prideful and over-confident about. But they don’t. The party’s record since 2008 has been one of ever-worsening failure – calibrated by the steady decline in Labour’s Party Vote up until 2017. And who was the person who rescued the party’s fortunes that fateful year? It most certainly wasn’t Nigel Haworth; or the Labour Caucus; or the clowns in the Leader’s Office. No, it was Jacinda Ardern wot won it. Except, of course, not even that is true. The person wot won it for Labour in 2017 was Winston Peters.

And yet the hauteur of Labour MPs and their party-dwelling apparatchiks remains undiminished. They still evince utter disdain for all those “lesser breeds without the law”.

Rudyard Kipling’s line is especially apt in this context, because it is the Labour Party’s movers-and-shakers understanding of what constitutes “the law” that lies at the very heart of their hubris.

Jacinda, herself, must have come into contact with it during her brief stint as one of Tony Blair’s bright young things in the early-2000s. The key question for any Blairite was whether or not so-and-so “gets it”. Gets what? Simple: the whole “New Labour”, “Third Way”, “New Times” – call it what you will – “project”. You were either smart enough (and ambitious enough) to get that the days of old-fashioned social-democracy (don’t even mention the word ‘socialism’!) were over, and that capitalism had won the battle of ideas hands-down, or you weren’t. If you didn’t “get” this – if you still don’t “get it” – then you are no bloody use to anybody who takes politics seriously.

Putting all this back into a New Zealand context, the “getting-it” test goes all the way back to Rogernomics. It’s not so much a matter of having to sign-up to everything Roger Douglas and his fellow free-marketeers did. It was more a case of, to make your way upward in the post-1984 Labour Party, you had to make it absolutely clear to all the people who mattered that you had no intention of un-doing it.

That this commitment to the neoliberal status quo must instantly set the movers-and-shakers at odds with a pretty big chunk of their party’s membership; an even larger chunk of its trade union affiliates; and what is still, almost certainly, a majority of Labour’s most loyal voters, only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a social-democratic storm – promising them everything from 100,000 affordable houses to the end of child poverty. But, among themselves – among the ones who get it – the objectives, and the rules of the game, are very different.

And yet, these are the rules the young complainants in this latest scandal have had to negotiate their way through: a task made all the more difficult and distressing by the fact that nobody told them what they were. They did not understand that the invitation to come forward with their personal experiences of sexual misconduct was never meant to be taken seriously. They did not grasp that the prime objective of the Labour Party is not to build a better, fairer world, but to win the next election. Or, that the people to be protected within the party are not its youngest and most idealistic members, but its most skilled electoral technicians; the paid staffers who know their way around the ever-more-complex circuitry of political power.

These complainants, however, have proved to be fast learners of the elite’s unwritten rules. (Telling their stories to Paula Bennett and The Spinoff proved a masterstroke!) What was supposed to have been “managed” out-of-sight and off-camera, has been hurled bodily into the media’s unforgiving glare. Suddenly, the vast abyss that separates the idealistic from the hubristic Labour Party (the Labour Party that “gets it”) has been revealed in all its Nietzschean darkness and danger.

So, talk fast Jacinda. You’re talking for your political life.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 11 September 2019.

14 comments:

The Veteran said...

Chris ... thank you. It will be apparent to anyone who reads my No Minister blog where my political loyalties are. Having said that my old Dad tramped the streets for Labour, election after election, and he will be turning in his grave over this clusterf**k with more to come. Jacinda Ardern rescued the Party from near oblivion ... will she be remembered for returning Labour to the same state?

Kat said...

The character assassination of Jacinda Ardern is in full swing. Like a well organised procession marching to the "blue beat" the usual National party media sycophants, Hosking, Hawkesby, Soper, Young, all out in force using the Labour party sex scandal to push the memes: "The Empress has no clothes" "She lacks commercial and interpersonal acumen" "She is not a natural leader, she's indecisive......"

Even comment on the possibility that the PM must resign and how Simon Bridges has grown in stature as a leader of substance, honesty and integrity splatter through the countries biggest daily rag.

I see flying stones, shattered glasshouses and dazed confusion from an enormous backfire.



Alan said...

Wasn't it Roger Douglas no less who in a recent TV appearance, after lamenting the country's failure to travel further down the brutal path he launched it onto, finished up with a smile noting that no government since has reversed the 'reforms' he authored? Well might he smile.

Our Prime Minister might well be the gracile glamour-puss of 'social democracy' in this country, but the unapologetic socialist visions of a Pat or Helen Kelly would be the far-reaching real change we and the inhabitants of doorways and park benches, and hospital corridors need.

Alan Rhodes

Don Franks said...

Jacinda Ardern's take on when she first had information of sexual assult is just not credible. Further head office wordspinning just makes it worse.

Jens Meder said...

Since the "third way" (profitable capitalism based) Social Democratic Welfare State and even "anti-capitalist" extreme Left govt monopoly capitalism based Socialism and Communism cannot get anything constructive done without raising (saving or extracting) and employing capital (or "surpluses" or profits) - there is no promising economic future other than disaster under "Socialism" which believes it is not subject to the rules of sustainable capitalism.
Therefore - as long as Jacinda and Robertson keep Labour's economics "fiscally responsible"
(we need to raise and employ more capital to build more houses, don't we ?) -

hopefully the lesson from the current gossips and publicity mountain made out of a misbehavior molehill will be learnt, and life will go on in a "fiscally prudent" way towards what the majority of rational (or foolish or selfish?) people would prefer to be achieved.
With this - unless National comes out with something more effective than mere tax reductions - Labour will retain its good chances for a win in 2020.

greywarbler said...

Well that seems very true Chris. Byt how much more revelation can we lefties take? If Labour don't get back in we are back to arid years
under National.

In UK Jeremy Corbyn has aroused enthusiasm amongst the young but not enough to prevent Boorish from outdoing Blackadder in strange and cunning pursuits. Corbyn has no fire to warm the voters though he conserves the spark. Here Ardern is warmer, but the contempt of the political class for their supporters is likely to kill off the idealistic and dedicated young. She has to keep going so we can get something done.

I see in Christchurch a chap called Park who wants to cut back on initiatives in Christchurch, that rather lacklustre city, so he can save money. Perhaps he will decide parks are not practical! We feel the Scrooges creeping up on us with their chilling zeitgeist. Please don't tell us any more truths about NZ Labour, if we believe and clap our hands perhaps Labour as well as Jacinda, will be able to expel the poison inherent in Labour and shine again.

peteswriteplace said...

We expected it and it came - the attempted character assassinatination of Jacinda. As long as we do the same to Paula Benefit and Soiman, we'll keep things under control. National is not going anywhere. The leadership they will need to win a future election isn't evident. It will show its ugly face after their election loss in 2020.

Trotsky said...

The issue is that Prime Minister Adern decided to stand in front of the Country and lie and lie in such an infantile and obvious way - its embarrassing.

Her claim to have known nothing about the scandal till the day before is outrageous in its falsehood, but more importantly in revealing the shallow and buffoonish clown that she must be to take such a ridiculous course of action.

I understand Chris - you are a man of the left and this lie is so devastating to Adern and her prospect, you need to bury the lie under a sea of slogans and waffle about neoliberalism, hubris etc.

Lets bring a little honesty to Bowalley road - Adern lied like a child caught shoplifting - shes a clown and her days in the top job are numbered - the dream is over.

Simon Cohen said...

Kat says:

"The character assassination of Jacinda Ardern is in full swing. Like a well organised procession marching to the "blue beat" the usual National party media sycophants, Hosking, Hawkesby, Soper, Young, all out in force using the Labour party sex scandal to push the memes: "The Empress has no clothes" "She lacks commercial and interpersonal acumen" "She is not a natural leader, she's indecisive......"

Unfortunately for Kat it is not only the National Party media sycophants who are saying this but a number of left wing commentators and journalists who I tend to trust implicitly.
Chris Trotter,Gordon Campbell,Alex Casey,Simon Wilson,Bryce Edwards and Danyl McLauchlan.
As I have said previously there are times when one must criticise one's party and its leaders if they are making grievous errors.
Kat seems unable to do this.
I have always presumed Kat is a woman.If she is does she not support metoo !!!!!

Kandice said...


Beautifully written Kat.

Hopefully the press will keep up the photo shoots of Jacinda at the the Americas Cup launch and other events that are popular. These are the things that really matter to most NZERS.

Let the naysayers wallow together in their pathetic right wing cesspit blogs.

Robert said...

Ttotsky of course did nothing but lie. Fudging the truth and occasional outright dishonesty is essential for any serious politician. Helen Clark was a master at it. Judith Collins maintains that the 'Chinese are our friends' and Simon Bridges that tthe Cabinet Member of the Chimese portibulo he met, was not a fanatical member of the Chinese communist secret police. Any study of the film of recent police response to the HK demonstators would display the fact that agent provocaturs are far more common in police than demonstator rates and the whole clumsy effort to force HK into total allignment as just another Chinese city shows a dictatorship without principles or morality at work
Alan refers to Roger Douglas saying tha his reforms had never been reversed. Clark and English id not need to. MOst serious business development is in urban areas were council regulations and zoning regulating types of commerical development, entertainmnet and hours are allowed. Lincensing and clubs are controlled and adminsitered by various bodies, but the black letter of the lway and the general and legislated principle for large and liberal interpretation by convention and Briish common law no longer is really applied in Aotearoa by the authoirties.
Who is on the ocuncil, who dominates the council buraurcracy, regulating authorities and police determines all. Heeln Clark was a master at rearranging boards, making subtle changes to settings, appointments, scope of mandate and entintlement. Collectively small changes and incremental adjustment to the Douglas, Palmer, Richardson legislation and its interpretation have resulted in NZ becoming a rather restricted and controlled society again,
And as Roger Dougals said, post 1991, progress has stalled and the producivity of the NZ work force has declined to be the worst in the OECD. As the princess said, NZ has never been a capitalist society, surely it was pre 1935, pre 1938, pre 1957 and in the 1984- 2006 period before the influence of Bradford and Margaret Wilson became overwhelming. However all the signs are that National is far furthur to the left and even more for a stazi totally regulated society. No sign Judith, Simon and Ms Bennett are for much else. My memory from reading the newspapers is that Chrsi Trotter was a storng supporter of Brash and probably more on Bill English side than Goff or Cunliffe's.

kiwidave said...

"these are the things that really matter to most NZERS".
Haha, Very good Kandice. Not to mention lots of photo shots of the baby, the up coming wedding, school visits and lots of smiley/sad/happy/concerned facial expressions where deemed appropriate.
Amazing the desperate straw clutching going on to defend this circus.
It's not a left/right issue, this is quite simply the most incompetent failure of a government in our history.

Nick J said...

Grey and GS point it out, like the Veteran, Kat and Allan that there is no "Left" in a parliamentary representative style. We have some quality individuals who I suspect in any other age would be socialist MPs, heart in the right place but not allowed to follow it.

Neoliberalists may think that they have won. Think Fukiyawa's idea of the "end of history". That proved nonsense. There's a tide in the affairs of man which cannot be dammed at the apex. Neoliberalism is a log jam that will burst. When I don't know but it will.

sumsuch said...

So deeply unserious. At least about anyone below the socio-economic level of who votes. So ... serious on their terms.