Tuesday 19 December 2023

Nothing Left Without Labour.

The Bland Leading The Bland: That Labour’s much reduced caucus voted unanimously to keep “Chippie” on as leader says it all. Because, if there’s no alternative in the caucus, then there is also no alternative that matters in the party. Over 15 years, the Clarkists transformed Labour into a neoliberal monoculture. There’s no point looking for red-hot chilli-peppers in a paddock planted with potatoes.

EDITOR of “The Daily Blog”, Martyn Bradbury, has posted his thoughts on how the Left might best rebuild its strength. As one of the very few media personalities capable of organising a live political exchange between genuine ideological opponents that does not immediately degenerate into a pointless shouting match, Bradbury’s thoughts on this subject merit serious consideration. Having read his post, however, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the sheer scale of the Left’s problems has decisively defeated Bradbury’s analytical powers.

Certainly, to suggest – as Bradbury does – that any serious reconstruction of left-wing prospects is possible while the Labour Party continues to be led by Chris Hipkins strikes this observer as utterly fanciful. Hipkins nurtures a truly visceral dislike of those who see Labour as something more than an a straightforward electoral adjunct to the party’s parliamentary caucus. The idea that Labour should function as a sort of political Petrie-dish, producing all manner of new and interesting ideas, is not one with which Hipkins has ever conspicuously associated himself. In both Opposition and Government, he has ranged himself alongside Helen Clark’s legacy of realism and technocracy.

As Prime Minister, Hipkins’ instincts were those of someone wedded to the status quo. His point-blank refusal to even countenance fiscal reforms that already enjoyed significant voter support is what made a Labour win in 2023 impossible. While he remains at the wheel of its most important electoral vehicle, the Left is going nowhere.

In the immediate aftermath of Labour’s catastrophic electoral drubbing, Bradbury had no difficulty grasping the urgent necessity of Hipkins’ replacement. What has happened since to bring The Daily Blog to the point of backing Hipkins’ retention? The most likely explanation is that, within the Labour caucus, there is no coherent factional pressure for change. Kieran McAnulty may be lean, but he does not appear to be all that hungry. He says he’s not interested in the top job – and, for the time being at least, we must take him at his word.

But, if we would search in vain for a “Marshal’s Baton” in any of the Labour caucus members’ knapsacks, then evidence of any coherent movement for change across the party’s organisation will, almost certainly, also be lacking.

The truth is, the “Clarkist Faction”, led, from the moment they all entered Parliament together in 2008, by Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Jacinda Ardern, was simply too successful. Not only in the sense of producing two prime ministers and one finance minister, but also in wiping out every vestige of countervailing ideological and personal power. That Labour’s much reduced caucus voted unanimously to keep “Chippie” on as leader says it all. Because, if there’s no alternative in the caucus, then there is also no alternative that matters in the party. Over 15 years, the Clarkists transformed Labour into a neoliberal monoculture. There’s no point looking for red-hot chilli-peppers in a paddock planted with potatoes.

Unless they’re all hiding in Labour’s Māori caucus. As Tangata Whenua, Labour’s Māori MPs were not subjected to the same ruthless culling that befell the Clarkists’ Pakeha opponents. Moreover, with the return of Willie Jackson to Parliament (this time as a Labour MP) they acquired a mover-and-shaker of sufficient strength to persuade the Clarkists to keep out of their way. Certainly, it is no accident that the only genuinely radical policies to make tangible gains under the Sixth Labour Government, came out of the Māori caucus.

In the absence of those gains, the level of animus against the Labour Government would have been appreciably less intense. What both Ardern and Hipkins allowed to happen between 2020 and 2023 was something that, historically, successive “settler governments” – of both the Left and the Right – have always understood must never be allowed to happen. Namely, that Pakeha New Zealand becomes convinced that its power and status is under threat from a concerted and transformative assertion of indigenous rights. Left and Right can fight each other over many issues in New Zealand, but never over how far the accommodation of Māori needs and grievances should be allowed to proceed. On that question, the boundaries must be agreed – and enforced – by both sides.

Labour’s crucial blunder in this regard was allowing the He Puapua Report to be brought into the world. When its contents – which Labour did its best to keep secret – finally saw the light of day, and Pakeha New Zealand saw the plan to radically re-constitute their realm incrementally, but irreversibly, and without democratic validation, into a “Te Tiriti Centric” nation, the die was cast. Especially when Hipkins, declining to draw the lesson from Helen Clark’s unequivocal rejection of the Court of Appeal’s findings in relation to ownership of the seabed and foreshore, refused to engage in a similar auto da fé over co-governance.

And so New Zealand is now in the hands of a very similar set of cultural and political forces to those over which Don Brash would have presided had Clark not passed the Seabed & Foreshore Act, and (therefore) lost the 2005 General Election. The editor of The Daily Blog describes the National-Act-NZ First Coalition as “the most right Government ever elected” – an absurd claim, as anyone familiar with the governments of Bill Massey, Sid Holland and Rob Muldoon will attest – but it is a government that believes itself culturally and politically obligated to reaffirm that the winners of the Land Wars; the creators of modern New Zealand; are still the people calling the shots.

Racist? Indisputably. White Supremacist? Arguably. But the only way to make this Government’s response something other than a full-throated defence of colonisation is to encourage Christopher Luxon to take the lead in launching a genuine constitutional debate. Quite understandably, Māori are not that keen to put the Treaty and its core principles up for discussion. But, the time when these issues can be kept safely insulated from “the ravages of extreme opinion” has passed. By all means let us have a war – but let it be a war of words.

As always, when the great issues of the day are to be decided, the political fault line does not run between National and Labour, it runs between the conservative and unimaginative elements of the Labour Party and their more open-minded and adventurous comrades. If the next three years are to see something more than a closing of Pakeha ranks against the challenge of the new Aotearoa, then, somehow, the Left has to acquire the strength and sensitivity to rescue Labour from its conservative shadow. Only then will Labour, ably assisted by the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, be in a position to rescue Pakeha New Zealand from itself.

This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 18 December 2023.


BlisteringAttack said...

Did you hear the story in 2017 that a few 'senior' Labour ministers approached Bob Jones for a significant loan to the Labour party. Bob duly obliged 'in the interests of democracy'. It seems without the loan, Labour couldn't have paid their election campaign costs.

After the election, Jacinda visited Bob Jones' offices in Wellington and offered him 'personal thanks' for dragging Labour out of the financial gutter.

greywarbler said...

Like most human behaviour racism can have two faces or more. What is wrong with racism when it is a strong commitment to your country your clan, your relatives, your history, your look? Why should westerners or others decide that their view is the only one about identity and worth. Gareth Morgan and wife commented on racism after USA tour. She was surprised that black people preferred to marry other black people, and did not encourage merging with white people. How patronising we are. Our views must be right. A little humility would have good results.

Alphonse Mucha painted giant pictures tracing important milestones in the evolution of the Slav people. He and they were proud of their race and background. White people, westerners etc are spending money on DNA tests to find where their mixture of bloods come from. It has even become romantic to have a highwayman in one's background. Knowing who was behind you is fascinating.

Drop all this superiority, we are all different and much the same. Be proud of ourselves, and grateful to have been for a while little gods in the world, with great powers that we hardly even realise and ponder on and refine for good. If we can train ourselves as we train dogs, and end up with noble characters as so many of them have, we wouldn't need all this aggro about racism. Instead try to be fair to each other, and firm with ourselves, keeping a check on our own behaviour and thoughts, strong in defence when needed rather than leaning to attack and criticism.


LittleKeith said...

Labour are a Wellington issues party nowadays. Not broad church anymore, not interested in the majority, just their inward intersectionlist Wellington agendas. And Wellington is a silo par excellence where the real worlds light never shines.

Labour were so dumb they locked down the powerhouse of NZ, Auckland, for 4 months because their Wellington heads were so far up their own arses. Write them off. They couldn't even hang on to most of their seats in Welly, a city that speaks their crazy lingo. For Labour to have a snowballs chance in hell, they need a top down overhaul of personnel and philosophy. And that ain't happening!

I do note Martyn Bradbury's obsession with the new government being racist. Racist like a race party racist? Right wing like a party that is obsessed with race above all else racist? The kind that has race based health systems racist?

TPM have been quite unambiguous, they loathe parliament, what it represents and its "monsters hanging on the walls". They are dense negative energy looking for a black hole to have a fight with. They don't give a flying shit about democracy any more than Tuhoe believes in co-governance with DOC.

Which leads me to the ludicrous proposition that somehow Labour, who could not run a piss up in a brewery, the repulsively woke social warrior Greens looking for a cause, any cause, to get all activist about and TPM are in any way attractive to voters as a government.

As Marc Ellis said departing NZ for good a few months ago, New Zealand has lost its mojo. He was right. Those 3 party's were a very major contributor as to why!

Jason Barrier said...

Until Labour has a working-class leader, like Angela Rayner in UK, they will continue to represent professional managerial public servants. A small majority of working class voters will begrudgingly vote for them - because they come from 'Labour families' - however a significant minority will caste their votes elsewhere. If you haven't already listened to this interview "The Rest is Politics - Leading" with Rayner - I would encourage you to do so. Very impressive. https://open.spotify.com/episode/130vgtH95U2BGYtHCpFtWq?si=Jp6Cmb0nRmKpjH2HwItIzw&nd=1&dlsi=82b532849042479c
How is it, that in the supposedly classist society of the UK, someone like Angela can rise from the very underbelly of society to become Deputy leader of the Labour party, whilst here in NZ we have such a death of working class leaders.

David George said...

"Labour, ably assisted by the Greens and Te Pāti Māori"

Or: Labour's association with, and dependance on, the Greens and Maori party provides the dreaded "kiss of death" to their chances at the ballot box?

Early days yet but despite (or because of?) the collective animosity of the legacy media (to say nothing of the foaming fury of Bradbury & Co) the right wing coalition are increasing their popularity. The latest Roy Morgan poll has them at 55.5% support (up 3.8% from the election). L/G/M on 36% - down 5.6%.

Mark Simpson said...

Where to now for Labour?: "The working man's party" is now dead and buried as it flounders in a morass of a multi-headed, ideological zeitgeist that is tearing not only New Zealand, but the world apart. It seems to me that Labour is primarily now, sociologically speaking, Greens and Te Pati Maori lite and feels obliged to be beholden to its Maori caucus especially now after its caning in the Maori electoral seats.
Chris. Could you please specify why you say this government is racist and maybe white supremacist? "Racist" is now the tiresome, go-to ad hominem levelled at anybody who doesn't embrace Critical Race Theory. I'm surprised that you so readily invoke it especially after you point out the effects of Labour's divisive policies of co-governance and He Puapua. Thanks.
Mark Simpson

Gary Peters said...

I guess like Martyn you're still pining for the blessed return of real socialism eh Chris.

Of course it will work next time won't it ...... won't it?

It's almost laughable that many maori radicals and elites demand we eliminate the vestages of colonisation yet yearn for a name made up by an English author to be bestowed upon our country.

Archduke Piccolo said...

R.I.P. Labour. The Left's worst enemy is the Right, but the Left continues to find itself a much easier target to attack. So does the Right. Outnumbered two to one (Right and Left versus Left), the Left hasn't a prayer. You would think, after a century and more, the Left would have figured it out by now.

Consider: had the recently deceased Labour administration had shown the courage to push through its promised programme, could the result for Labour have been any worse than it is now? Could the outcome for New Zealanders be any worse than it is now - and will soon become?

I don't think so, and go so far as to suggest it would have been rather better. Now the economic Vandals are back in charge.
Cheers, and a Merry Christmas
Ion A. Dowman

new view said...

When Martyn is expressing his wish lists and partial achievements of the last Labour Coalition, there is always three words hardly ever used. Growth, productivity and economy. They are rarely used because IMO I don't believe Martyn cares about them, and I don't believe Labour or their coalition partners care about them either. His wish lists are mainly handouts and like many on the left the main government income stream consists of tax and mainly from the wealthy. Exporters are just expected to be there, doing their job regardless of how difficult the government may make it for them. This Last Labour government didn't give a shit about business. To them business is just expected to carry on regardless of how difficult trading conditions are. Businesses were hit by crime which was largely ignored by the last government, and especially in Auckland suffered because of covid lockdowns.. What Labour haven't learned and I don't believe ever will, is that if they want to promote more socially aware policies and if they want Maori to have more say in decision making, you better had be sailing the good ship lollipop and that is making plenty of money and keeping the people happy. Running a cost of living crisis on one hand, and on the other running a bloated administration more interested in woke dogma and having plush office lunches won't cut it. Like I have alluded to in previous comments the reason we have a new government is partly contentious policies but mainly how well or not well the people are doing. That's not right or left thats how good your economy is working. If Labour need to learn one thing from their tenure it is the need for a good strong growing economy which is done by looking after and including business and the wealthy. When they learn to do that then they may have a chance to introduce some of their other more socially minded projects. If Chippy succeeds it's because Luxon is failing. No other reason, and Luxon won't fail if the economy improves and with it the lives of NZrs.

Trev1 said...

How is this government "racist" when it wants to end race-based division in governance? That is ludicrous. It is no longer 1823, two centuries have passed and the cast of players is unrecognizable from those times. The activist retranslation and reinterpretation of the Waitangi treaty, which was long ago superseded by self-government and universal suffrage, looks back to a golden age that never existed. Perhaps it really is true that our contemporary effeteness makes us more susceptible to our buried atavism? Most New Zealanders however want a country that looks to and embraces the future, that is what the election result demonstrated most clearly.

DS said...

Labour were so dumb they locked down the powerhouse of NZ, Auckland, for 4 months because their Wellington heads were so far up their own arses. Write them off. They couldn't even hang on to most of their seats in Welly, a city that speaks their crazy lingo. For Labour to have a snowballs chance in hell, they need a top down overhaul of personnel and philosophy. And that ain't happening!

Here's a funny thing. Auckland hates Wellington, but the rest of the country (we exist) don't share your Wellington obsession. In fact, the rest of the country associates Auckland with corporate arseholes, property speculators, and various culture war obsessions that we couldn't care less about. We don't love Wellington (no-one does), but we have even less love for Auckland - not helped by the fact that the media seems to think Wellington and Auckland are the only parts of the country that matter.

Your so-called powerhouse is literally propped up by overseas immigration, and by the subsidies you get on South Island-produced electricity. Internal migration (so omitting overseas arrivals and birth rates) has been drifting to the South Island for decades now, specifically into Mid-Canterbury and Tasman.

Cara said...

Chris playing devil's advocate again. Got plenty of bites, I see!

David George said...

Economic vandals, Ion? You've not seen the fiscal mess Robertson & Co have left?

*Seven new significant financial risks not disclosed prior to the election.
*Crown tax revenue $1.6b lower than the same forecast made just 3 months ago.
*Deficits are larger – by 2028, the Government will be spending more on interest on debt than on primary and secondary schools.
*Economic growth is expected to slow and remain low.
*GDP per capita will continue to decline for the next two years. NZers getting poorer.
*Developed world's worst current account deficit
*Inflation higher than forecast prior to the election – higher interest rates for longer.
*Unemployment has increased and is expected to now hit 5.2%
*Wage growth is slowing
*Productivity is also hitting a wall
*Obviously long term projects (e.g. school lunches) dishonestly only short term funded.

Jordan Williams TPU:
“Treasury has confirmed that the last government put New Zealand on a completely unsustainable fiscal path. Grant Robertson should be ashamed, as not since his mentor Mike Moore has a government been so dishonest with the public about what was really going on. He should be issuing an apology. "

Anonymous said...

DS, at worst I can say largely Auckland doesn't care one way or the other about Wellington, there's no inferiority complex there, it was the simple fact Auckland was locked out of the country and the rest of the world for months, on repeat, in the worst example ever of overreaching in to the lives of its citizens by a political elite based in Wellington who were in full power mad mode. That cost NZ financially big time. Honestly mate, you had to live it, it was shit.

When a large chunk of the police were tied up by Labour's artificial borders, crime took off, again not helped by Labour's wishy washy law and order social working. That had lethal consequences which makes Auckland the Detroit of the South Pacific, for violent crime.

And yes the South island has hydro power, we're constantly reminded, we have that coal burning beast called Huntly!

But Auckland with a third of the population contributes majorly to the income of this country. Labour of course have no idea of that fact or cared! That harmed us all. And it sure destroyed Labour!

David George said...

Grey: "What is wrong with racism when it is a strong commitment to your country your clan, your relatives, your history, your look?"

Those things don't generally become a problem in a homogenous country - although Japan certainly got a bit carried away with the country thing 70 or 80 years ago. And even in a racially homogenous country people find a way to "other" - India's caste system or by prioritising tribal, cultural and religious identity, for example.

Dame Anne Salmond: "In te ao Māori, for instance, the world is organised through whakapapa into complementary pairs that endlessly create new forms of life, from the aeons of Pō and Kore to Ranginui and Papatūanuku onwards. Rather than static silos, this orders reality into dynamic relational networks, expressed in a language of kinship."

Quite how that squares with the violent tribal animosities prevalent in pre-European NZ or how it would function in a complex multi-cultural multi racial society she doesn't say. The thing she subsequently decries is the very thing that allows our diverse society to function relatively well - the primacy of individual rights and sovereignty. Prioritising racial, tribal, cultural or religious affiliation is a seriously bad idea.

David George said...

Here are the temporarily funded programs Ion - dishonestly/deceptively excluded from projections of government spending.

Ka Ora, Ka Ako | Healthy School Lunches Programme
Pharmac - Combined Pharmaceutical Budget
Pharmac - COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccinations
International Climate Financing Funding
Tertiary Tuition and Training Funding Baseline Pressure
New Zealand Screen Production Rebate (International)
New Zealand Screen Production Rebate (Domestic)
Cyber Security Programmes
Kāinga Ora Operating Funding
Apprenticeship Boost
Geohazards Science Services, Data and Modelling
Kānoa Operating Funding
Oranga Tamariki Disability Support Services
Teacher Supply Initiatives
North Island Weather Events Road Response and Recovery
Transitional Housing Motels
Civil Aviation Authority Liquidity Funding
Equitable Digital Access
Temporary Accommodation Services
Historic Claims of Abuse in Care
Te Matatini - Funding to Stimulate the Sustainable Growth of Kapa Haka


Gary Peters said...

There is no such thing as "South Island" produced power anymore than there is North Island produced money that funded the construction of those New Zealand power stations. Geographic separatism is no different than racial divides so stop banging the drum and get in behind the current New Zealand government that is there for New Zealanders, regardless of where they live or what colour they are.

We are all bastards racially just as we are all geographical bastards having descended from peoples from around the globe and the country.

And just to help you out with your next "Trivia Quiz" night, there are currently more power producing assets in the north Island than the South! Now the ones in the South may well be bigger but as you Southerners are so fond of pointing out, bigger is not always better.

John Hurley said...

Gary Peters
Auckland produces developments for the Chinese and Indian middle classes who full-fill the requirements of the skills-based migration program. Their spending "keeps GDP ticking over" but at a cost to GDP per capita and quality of life.

sumsuch said...

Less enthusing, Chris. The treaty is worthy of discussion but not referendum.