Monday 18 April 2011

Selfish Bastards!

All Smiles: The failure of Labour's caucus to address the fatal disconnection between themselves and their traditional supporters threatens to drag the entire centre-left to an historic electoral defeat. Reid Research has Labour support at just 27.1 percent - a level not seen since 1996. And still they smile.

LABOUR IS DRAGGING the whole of the centre-left to an historic defeat and the selfish bastards don’t give a damn.

The latest Reid Research Poll, commissioned by TV3, puts Labour at 27.1 percent – its worst performance since 1996.

Fifteen years ago, however, Labour’s parlous polling didn’t matter so much because, overall, the centre-left was on a roll. With Jim Anderton’s Alliance and Winston Peters’ NZ First regularly polling between 15 and 20 percent apiece, the combined vote of the Opposition parties hovered around 60 percent of the electorate. In 1996, with the first MMP election looming, Jim Bolger’s National Government was staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat.

That is most emphatically not the case now. Seven months out from the 2011 General Election it is the parties of the Right that can count on 60 percent-plus of the electorate’s support. And, as Kiwiblog’s David Farrar points out, the combined Labour-Green vote has fallen to a derisory 35 percent. Even if you throw in the 2.8 percent of centrist voters who support NZ First, the result falls well short of 40 percent.

What this means is that the centre-left is heading for an electoral catastrophe even worse than the disaster which befell it in 1990. (And before you all remind me that the 4th Labour Government wasn’t a centre-left government, for the purposes of this argument it’s enough that upwards of a third of the electorate still considered Labour to be a centre-left party.)

If you look at the popular vote figures for 1990, you’ll find that when the votes of the Labour Party, the NewLabour Party and the Greens are combined, the result – 47.15 percent – is just 0.67 percentage points behind National’s winning tally of 47.82 percent. This is almost exactly the same difference which separated the combined Labour-Values vote from Rob Muldoon’s winning tally of 47.6 percent in 1975.

I’m presenting these figures merely to reinforce the severity of the crisis which looms ahead of the entire centre-left. Labour’s pathetic performance as the largest opposition party has not, so far, sent the voters flocking to its electoral competitors – the Greens and NZ First. On the contrary, Labour’s failure to articulate a clear and persuasive alternative to the National-led Government’s policies seems to have been interpreted by voters as proof that there isn’t one.

The conclusion of nearly two-thirds of the electorate that “there is no alternative” (or, at least, no acceptable and/or believable alternative) to John Key’s policies constitutes a potentially devastating political judgement – not only upon the leadership of the Labour Party, but also upon the leadership of the Greens and (to a lesser extent) NZ First. If nothing changes between now and November 26, the centre-left will sustain its worst electoral defeat in New Zealand political history.

WHAT HAS BROUGHT US to this parlous state? Surely, in the midst of a recession, with high unemployment, falling real wages and constantly rising prices the messages of the centre-left should be falling upon ears that are more than usually receptive? As the old Stalinists used to say: New Zealanders are “objectively” ready for a change of government.

But what the Stalinists never quite grasped (until Hitler’s armies were battering at the gates of Moscow) is that human-beings are almost never motivated by what is objectively in their best interests. Politics is driven by how people respond subjectively to the options placed in front of them.

And the brutal truth about New Zealand politics at the moment is that, subjectively, the voting public is drawn – overwhelmingly – to John Key and his National Party colleagues. Whether the centre-left commentariat likes it or not, these guys strike a chord with roughly two out of every three voters – to such an extent that they are willing to overlook the real-world consequences of National Party rule for themselves and their families.

Now, John Key, Stephen Joyce and Gerry Brownlee are all pretty likeable guys – but they’re not that likeable. For roughly 15 percentage points of electoral support to have vacated the centre-left camp something else has to be going on. Much as we hate to admit it, what seems to be happening here is not so much a case of people running to something, as it is of people running from something.

And what they are running from, comrades, is us – the centre-left.

They don’t like us and they don’t trust us. Why? Because long, long ago they got the very strong impression that we don’t like them.

We don’t like their values. We don’t approve of their culture. And we’re so infuriatingly certain that we know – so much better than they do themselves – what’s good for them.

We call them racists if they resist our bicultural programmes. We call them homophobes if they’re less than 100 percent supportive of queer culture. We call them sexist if they energetically celebrate all the delightful differences between men and women. We want their votes – you bet. But we would really rather do without the voters themselves.

Then, amazingly, we’re surprised and hurt when they turn away from us. In truth, what we should really be surprised about is how many ordinary Kiwis, in spite of our insufferable arrogance and condescension, still decide to stick with us!

And if you want to know why Phil Goff has become electoral poison it’s because he let these people down. For a moment there they thought he was going to turn Labour away from its effete social liberalism and back towards the robust proletarianism of yesteryear. But he didn’t. At the first sign of resistance from the social liberals in his caucus, he retreated. When push came to shove, Phil just didn’t have the balls.

In working-class New Zealand, if you step up for a fight, then you bloody-well-better throw a punch.

Of course, it’s not just Phil. In the whole damned caucus there doesn’t seem to be one person willing to address the problems I’ve outlined here. The selfish bastards are more concerned with clambering all over each other as they ascend the greasy pole, than they are with looking after the ordinary working-class Kiwis who’re going to be hammered flat if (as now seems certain) National wins a second term.

Bitter? Too bloody right I am!

Let me leave you, then, with this link to a wickedly clever little country song by Alan Jackson called “It’s Alright To Be A Redneck”.

As you watch and listen, think about the demographic the music video is aimed at, and ask yourself: “Aren’t these the sort of people who used to vote for our political parties?”

Then ask: “Why the fuck would they vote for us now?”

This essay is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Jon said...

Exactly, The days of voting the way your union rep tells you have gone.

My perception is that Labour is for who you are, National is who you want to be.

Anonymous said...

Emphasis being on what the individual wants for himself, forget about what we've let our society become.

Anonymous said...


Your article displays a refreshing level of 'self awareness' seldom found amongst proponents of any political ideology. I congratulate you for this level of frankness and honesty.

Personally I could not understand how the previous Labour Government became so disconnected from the values and aspirations of New Zealanders and their families.

When I look at their new list candidates, which reflects Labour's love of victim and gender politics, I wonder how this selection process can generate the intellectual capacity and raw talent needed to take the party and this nation forward?

Frankly, they are by and large, unelectable.

Meanwhile John and his team borrow $300M per week to keep us all smiling, and themselves in office.

I wonder, is it time we re-visited the concept of the career politician?

Instead of large salaries, and padded retirement schemes, why not reduce their remuneration to expenses only. This way they would either have to fund their own time in Parliament, or raise funds from their ideological 'electoral base'.

This would transform the type of person who put themselves forward to serve our country in office, and do a great deal to remove the perception of self interest and public cynicism that presently surrounds our politicians.

God knows something as to change.

Kind regards

Olwyn said...

I agree with your analysis insofar as you say that "Labour’s failure to articulate a clear and persuasive alternative to the National-led Government’s policies seems to have been interpreted by voters as proof that there isn’t one," but do not agree that the problem lies with privileging urban liberals over the working class. It goes deeper than that.

While Helen Clark's government remained popular for the greater part of nine years, in 2008 the goal posts shifted, and if there is any room left now for a workable accommodation between neo-liberal economics and genuinely humane politics I'm afraid I can't see where it lies. It may well be there, but someone will have to show me where if I am to be convinced.

This goes way beyond pesto versus pie debates.

Many people are struggling with no end in sight, while all around them their democracy is being systematically dismantled. What they want is hope and the only politician that seems willing to respond to this and articulate something resembling an answer is Winston Peters, on a shoestring budget in a series of town halls. Meanwhile, people place their hope in lotto tickets or airline tickets to Australia, rather than a Labour Party that seems unwilling or unable to grasp the nettle.

Matthew Hooton said...

Labour now has the support of less than 20% of men. It still has the support of over a third of women.

Steelykc said...

Goodness me Chris! You wrote all this after responding to a TV3 opinion Poll?

I don’t agree with your statement that the "..selfish bastards are more concerned with clambering all over each other as they ascend the greasy pole, than they are with looking after the ordinary working-class Kiwis who’re going to be hammered flat if (as now seems certain) National wins a second term". There are some really hard working and well intentioned MPs in Labour.

This post may make you feel better, but it also works to again complicate the messages for voters as just another split amongst the left - those for the workers,those for the minorities, those liberal views, those for - well whatever. While this continues to be fought through the media, TV3 will continue to make hay with it.

It seems that nothing but mutiny will suffice! Is this what you want?

Anonymous said...

Agree that there's a serious gravitas gap (for gossakes Phil, not a single nother smile till Nov - and keep your firkkin head still and look into the camera!) and a good kick in the trou wouldn't hurt, but it's far too late for a redneck makeover.

And far too early to panic. Morgan had the Left/Right divide at only around 6% from memory only a couple of weeks ago, despite the Darien debacle. And ACT is almost certainly gone compltely according to Hooten this am, Winnie likely to rise, and the MP highly unlikely to enable a NAT govt.

This latest nadir, I fear, is mainly down to Damien. And those who encouraged him. Infighting. The perennial cancer and ultimate turn-off.

Those good ole gals and guys aint half as simple as you think: a west-coast Labour MP mouthing an oxymoron like "self-serving unionists" is like a gob of shite in a pav. And you'd be surprised how many don't mind a gaggle one bit.

Keep the frustrated outbursts at bay - all of us - and then, only then, the left might have a chance of looking something like a government.


Liz said...

"But what the Stalinists never quite grasped (until Hitler’s armies were battering at the gates of Moscow) is that human-beings are almost never motivated by what is objectively in their best interests. Politics is driven by how people respond subjectively to the options placed in front of them."

Absolutely right! Well said!

Anonymous said...

If Labour does not have the courage of its convictions to contest an election, which is effectively what they're doing, why do they think people will want to vote for such a party? I think the analysis of the majority of Labour MPs is that enough people will vote for them anyway for them to personally keep their own seats. If they go down in the election camapaign like National did in 2002 then they may be wrong.

What grates most is Labour keeps carrying on about National's "not having a plan" for the economy while not presenting one themselves beyond borrowing and spending more debt we can't afford. New Zealand could really do with a real opposition that comes up with viable policies instead of one beset by petty sniping and no substance.

Anonymous said...

"We call them racists if they resist our bicultural programmes. We call them homophobes if they’re less than 100 percent supportive of queer culture. We call them sexist if they energetically celebrate all the delightful differences between men and women. We want their votes – you bet. But we would really rather do without the voters themselves."

Why do you persistently imply that "voters" means "straight white men"? Or that the only voters worth considering are straight white men? Perhaps the problem is the left not appealing to the other 70% of the population *enough*, not failing to appeal to 30% of the population at all (clearly not true, since there are still plenty of straight white dudes out there voting on the left).

Anonymous said...

Give this man a medal! Labour mays strike you off their guest list, Chris, but a brilliant and astute piece of wriitng. The front-bench in Labour are totally selfish, self-serving and their contempt for the voters is oh so visible. No wonder the public are responding in kind.

Labour, out of power for at least a decade? Winston is at least a loather of PC muck. Sadly Goff has the mettle of a butterfly. Scared of his caucus, even. Key just puts the man totally into the shade.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis Mr Trotter. I never thought I'd live to see the end of Centre-Left politics in this country but it really is about to happen.

Chris Trotter said...

To: "Tuitalk".

Simply don't understand how you draw that conclusion from this posting, Tuitalk.

I am quite convinced that the dissatisfaction with Labour extends well beyond "straight white males". Because, let's face it, if this was the only group in society Labour had offended it would still command roughly half the Party Vote.

With its level of support at 27.1 percent, however, it is, perhaps, more difficult to isolate who Labour HASN'T offended.

Apart from an unshakeably loyal core of mostly elderly stalwarts, and the well-educated metropoles, there's not a lot left of the centre-left's once unbeatable electoral coalition.

Mark Wilson said...

Thank God you are in a tiny minority section of the left Chris otherwise us natural rulers would have to occasionally listen to the whinging proleteriat.

Long may you wander in the wilderness!

Anonymous said...

Surely the 47% 0f women who support Labour much more represent the real working class, than the 17% of men who do and the 83% who don't. The women will be in most cases be efficient, productive useful and care about their appearance and health.
The male proletariat hardly seems useful to the economy and society these days. In the l930s and 40s it was the bread and butter of the economy, needed for hard physical work on the farms, freezing works and wharfs and roads. Few are needed for these tasks now. Work in cleaning, cafes, bars, offices can probably better be done by students and Asians.
A useful military would be one that contributed technological and fighting powess to the western forces. Even in the early 20C ordinary men were probably of little military value. Gallipoli represents the failure of leadership by ordinary men and mateship. The Italian and desert campaigns were more successful in WW2 because leadership by this nations best and brightest had reaserted itself and there was a maori presence as a spearhead. The failure of the west war in Afghanistan is partly that the western effort is based on fighting units based on working class solidarity rather than more efficient elite units of the intelligent operating on a more individualistic basis and committed to the anti Taliban effort by ideology and class.
Obviously some muscle is required to clear and rebuilt Christhchurch, but are much of those in smashed Eastern Christchurch real contributors to society and the economy. I would argue that working class solidarity and support as believed in by the police and ordinary people actually makes the construction of a marketable society attractive to bright and sexually free people, impossible.

McFlock said...

At around this time in 2008 the polls were similar to what they are now (53N:34L sccording to Colmar Brunton. Labour stayed at about that level, but National dropped to 45% at election time.

If history were to repeat (i.e. assuming Labour phone it in for the next 7 months and nobody notices that National is cocking up while key keeps making up lies on the spot), who would National ally itself with? It'll be close run even if they sell out to the jetsetting "perkbuster" yet again. It's Winston or bust, and I'm not sure that could happen even if key was so inclined.

It's simply too early to tell, and Labour hasn't pulled finger yet (they've only just sorted their list). I do get the impression, however, that National have stepped on the gas. Whther they overheat is another possibility.

Anonymous said...

In a sense the brat pack government now represents the traditional Labour rural and urban working class. This is very much by intent. The Government of Bennett, English, Key, Smith and Finalyson is in many respects so far to the left that there little immediate point in Labour campaigning hard to get it out. More that might result in a move of National to the right under Collins or a Cunliffe, Parker or Jones leadership of Labour which the Clarkites and Anderton supported don't trust or rely on. In reality Labour and National are now both left wing parties engaged in appealing to the same working class constituency. The real middle class has largely left the country for good and NZ is property owning democracy of employees not a share and company owner middle class.

Anonymous said...

Superb! Captures brilliantly the malaise of the liberal left.

"And we’re so infuriatingly certain that we know – so much better than they do themselves – what’s good for them."

"...they thought [Goff] was going to turn Labour away from its effete social liberalism and back towards the robust proletarianism of yesteryear."

"The selfish bastards [Labour MPs] are more concerned with clambering all over each other as they ascend the greasy pole, than they are with looking after the ordinary working-class Kiwis..."

I do agree with Olwyn though, that there is a deeper fault with Labour (and lately, the Greens) - they have embraced liberal capitalism. Convinced that liberal values should apply to both the social and economic sphere of life, they have grasped an economic system that makes it impossible to provide a viable society for workers.

Which leaves them trying to 'get closer' to National (John Pagani, Goff advisor). And further from working class Kiwis.

Mad Marxist.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about all that stuff, someone just take on the government, hold them to account....please

Anonymous said...

What this means is that the centre-left is heading for an electoral catastrophe

Labour and the Greens are not centre-Left, they're extremist far-Left Parties.

to such an extent that they are willing to overlook the real-world consequences of National Party rule for themselves and their families.

A typical example of the "we know better than you, the electorate, what's good for you" arrogance of the far-Left.

You don't.

Difficult to accept Chris but the "real world consequences" are that decent Kiwis are better off under National.

And what they are running from, comrades, is us – the centre-left.

The far-Left. The Party, comrade, is inherently anti-Kiwi and hell bent on dismantling our society and imposing a communist police state.

In working-class New Zealand

Labour doesn't represent working-class Kiwis, Labour represents the criminals and the welfare beneficiaries.

Take for example a single Mount Albert woman with no income who has six children to six different men who calls our PM an "arsehole."

Kiwis say: "This parasite is breeding the next generation of miscreants, beneficiaries and criminals that are such a drain on our society. No wonder my taxes are so high."

Labour says: "The solution is higher taxes so that we can provide more welfare so that this hero of the revolution can have six more. We can bring about a crisis of capitalism with people like her."

Loz said...

With risk of being flamed, I'll openly admit that I like John Key. He is a sincere politician who has been straight-up with the electorate. I don’t like any of the policies he represents but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the integrity of those with different views to my own. I can’t help but wonder how many New Zealanders support John Key because he appears to have been honest after decades of kiwis consistently rating their politicians on par with the trustworthiness of used car salesmen.

The hollow and snide nature attacks that have come to represent the spearhead of New Zealand's supposed parliamentary left are quite frankly embarrassing. I've cringed every time I read a blog referring to the Prime Minister as "Mr Smile and Wave" or attacks on the Mayor of Christchurch as "Sideshow Bob". The meaningless, unprincipled name-calling casts greater doubt over the credibility of dissent then those being character attacked. This seems to be the extent of criticism that Labour seems to be able to fire against the government.

Amazingly, instead of increased attacks with such appalling poll results, today’s news items shows Labour supporting the government for chasing student loan repayments, increasing digital copyright provisions under urgency & even suggesting that Legal aid should be transformed to be a new form of loan scheme. The bewildering failure of Labour as an inept and collaborative opposition makes little sense until linked with Labour's strategist John Pagani. On his blog site, Mr Pagani attributes voter desire as:
"not desperate for a leap to the left. They’re waiting for Labour to demonstrate it genuinely understands needs - and that means endorsing more of what National is doing - the things the voting public approves of."1
The true horror is that senior figures within Labour can seriously interpret their current predicament to not being more supportive of the government. This only reinforces that what’s left of Labour is not a left wing party at all.


Dave Kennedy said...

A fairly convincing synopsis, Chris, but there is one vital element that constantly cripples any effective opposition and that is the media. Mainstream media are constantly supporting the Government like a referee on the take.

Where are the media commentaries of parliamentary debates? I have heard some powerful speeches from both Labour and the Greens as shoddy bills are forced through under urgency...and nothing. I have some some highly inept performances from cabinet ministers and some appalling government back benches (some doing the rounds via Youtube)....nothing! Tolley has done an appalling job of managing education and has admitted in the house that she doesn't even understand the Standards she is forcing into schools...nothing!
Phil Goff does anything and there is Guyon Espiner or Paul Holmes leaping down his throat like rabid pitbulls before he can even complete a sentence.

I thought it was Governments who had to be held under microscopes and have to justify themselves and yet we find Key, Brownlee, Tolley and others constantly falling short and I only see Chris Slane valiantly pushing out cartoons that we should see presented in text.

This government has financial influence over most TV commercial radio stations. They appear to pay more for spin doctors then useful advisors and have found that they can sideline any crisis or inept decision with a cheesy grin and a light brush off.

And I don't buy the statement: "We don’t like their values. We don’t approve of their culture. And we’re so infuriatingly certain that we know – so much better than they do themselves – what’s good for them."

Trevor Mallard and others in Labour easily relate to average blokes who like sport and don't like poofs. The description that you lump on the Labour and the Greens is largely the media's blind acceptance of National's spin.

We have the situation where we have a Government that only has a handful of truly competent Ministers being supported and protected by big business and advised by an endless stream of faceless lobbyists. Any opposition, however, is either deliberately ignored if they are effective or shouted down before they can be.

Berend de Boer said...

Anonymous: In reality Labour and National are now both left wing parties engaged in appealing to the same working class constituency. The real middle class has largely left the country for good and NZ is property owning democracy of employees not a share and company owner middle class.

And that is the analysis that is missing in Chris's column. Labour is ineffective, because National is doing what it is doing + some.

Flash the Squirrel said...

A week is a long time in politics, Chris, as you know well, and nearly eight months is forever. Helen Clark was once at 2% in the preffered PM stakes, then went on to hold the top job for nine years.

When the reality of an austere budget and the prospect of asset sales hit home, the playing field will alter dramatically.

Whilst you're right about the poofters, pinkos, and precious PC-ers in the Labour Party, the gap between Left and Right is not as great as the media are trying to convince people that recent polls show it to be.

Anonymous said...

Comical, Chris.

My favourite saying is that when any problem seems intractable, the ultimate cause of the problem will be the thing that people are least willing to give up.

Here you just can't bring yourself to blame the people who are at fault: the voting public. Labour are not a very good political party, but the reason they aren't is that they have had to pander to the voters, who are, for want of a better word, dumb.

Our hyper individualist culture has magnified this to the point that significant numbers of people believe wild conspiracy theories, such as the one about vaccines causing autism and refuse to defer to experts because "What do they know?" This culture has sentenced us to silly politics for the foreseeable future, but you just can't give it up. I guess you are at the "anger" stage of grief right now.

There's much more to life than politics. Perhaps you should take up gardening or bowls. Politics is no longer what you thought it was. Now it is just another form of vapid consumerism and there is no reason to believe that it will change soon. After all, we have had a ridiculous economic crisis caused by neoliberal policies, yet the attitude here is "please sir, may I have another".

Just accept that the average kiwi voter is a moronic, mildly racist authoritarian and there is nothing you can do to change that short of abandoning democracy. If you aren't prepared to do that, then please give it a rest.

Victor said...

Chris, I think I tend to line up with bsprout. You've produced a good analysis but you've not given the full picture.

Although, on economic issues, Labour veered from doctrinaire neo-liberalism under Lange/Douglas to a very mild form of Social Democracy under Clark, it was, throughout the last quarter century, easily identifiable as a party of 'social liberals' and PC to the core.

And, throughout that quarter century, it was a natural party of government, in office for 15 of the 24 years up to 2008. Moreover, even during Labour's previous nadir in the mid nineties, the centre-left as a whole was, as you rightly point out, electorally strong.

So, PC cultural liberalism didn't condemn Labour or the left in general to the verges of political irrelevancy before 2008. Why does it seem to do so now?

Perhaps part of the answer is that we are indeed less culturally liberal. There's
certainly been a rise in membership of evangelical and fundamentalist churches. And we've provided a home for many thousands of New Kiwis whose cultures are often considerably less individualist than our previous norm.

Meanwhile, our most educated young people have emigrated in droves, in search of better salaries, more opportunities and different lifestyles. By and large, the mobile, educated young are the most consciously liberal section of the population. So our population is getting ideologically skewed by their comparative absence.

But could it not be that we're not really becoming all that much less liberal. Maybe, as the sprout suggests, it's more a case of the media becoming more openly biased against the centre left and more focussed on and adept at manipulating the division that was always there between metropolitan sophistication and rural and suburban cultural conservatism.

And maybe there's something else at work, both here and in other economically-strapped Anglophone countries; namely a restriction on the breadth of public economic discourse following thirty years of full-on, neo-liberalism and the seeping of the accountancy mindset into just about every aspect of life.

Most people's daily experience is that there are no easy choices. If you want to enjoy a reasonably comfortable life-style, provide for your kids and have security in your old age, you know you have to work for it. You either kow-tow to workplace bullies or you take the huge risks of self employment. You work harder, longer and more flexibly than most New Zealanders would have thought reasonable thirty years ago. And you have to borrow hugely to put a roof over your family's heads.

And so, otherwise intelligent people are easily conned into thinking that the solution to our economic ills lies in more hard choices: fiscal belt-tightening, fewer handouts to the improvident poor who have failed to engage in the battle of life and less taxation of those who genuinely feel that their comparatively high incomes are nothing less than their due.

Given this mood, less punitive policies can easily be cast as bleeding-heart irresponsibility and wishful thinking. Even those who do not wish to punish the poor, will still be attracted to the Thatcherite TINA argument.

And so, the first priority of the Labour Party in opposition should have been to challenge the prevailing economic discourse.

....more to come later today

Digby said...

Chris I really like your quote below. Very inciteful.

We don’t like their values. We don’t approve of their culture. And we’re so infuriatingly certain that we know – so much better than they do themselves – what’s good for them.

We call them racists if they resist our bicultural programmes. We call them homophobes if they’re less than 100 percent supportive of queer culture. We call them sexist if they energetically celebrate all the delightful differences between men and women. We want their votes – you bet. But we would really rather do without the voters themselves.

It was the nanny state and the social engineering that many kiwi's finally got sic of.

Also when one party loses and election by a large majority it takes a few elections to come back and for the new government to make lots of mistakes.

So I don't think any leader would have done much better.

Enzo said...

You have a funny definition of selfish bastard, Chris. In my view, there are two types of people who call themselves left and are criticising Labour in public at the moment. 1. Those who don’t want us to win. 2. Selfish bastards. Which one are you? Or do you think this is helping?

Alex said...

Chris I have to say I totally disagree with most of your sentiments.
1) Let us not forget the days of "2-percent Clark" who then went on to become one of the most like prime ministers of all time(she lead Key in some preferred prime minister polls days before the 2008 election).
2) A common mistake I see on the left(particularly with your posts, Chris) is the notion that people are not attracted to a political party because of its internal hierarchy, I totally disagree. Many working-class voters will often vote for centre-right governing parties against their own class interest because they believe tax cuts are brilliant ideas with not that much thought behind it.
3) Only a few weeks after talking about the potential for success for the Greens you have failed to identify a key point. I would argue that the Greens are doing far more to dismantle the centre-left then Labour is. Look at their polling results, a poor showing centre-left political party should be a perfect time for the Greens to gain support yet none is apparent in polling. Few even educated individuals know of the Greens plan to make the first $10k tax-free and the party does very little to advertise the fact.
4) As many others have mentioned the current media bias is very prevalent and is a big part of National's current success.

As for Victor above:
". There's
certainly been a rise in membership of evangelical and fundamentalist churches"
You are making a very common mistake in interpreting American fundamentalist churches to New Zealand situation. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians like myself are almost no different to the electorate politically, if anything we are further to the left. My previous pastor was an uncle to a high ranking Labour MP and definitely retains close ties with the party. I am also a Labour Party member and a member of a evangelical Baptist church. A recent study showed that approximately 87% of 'value voters' voted for Bush in 2004, while New Zealand Christians in contrast voted for Labour in about the same values as the rest of the electorate.

Anonymous said...


"By and large, the mobile, educated young are the most consciously liberal section of the population."

Having taught many New Zealand university students, I would beg to differ. They are much more conservative than they were 20 years ago, except on matters such as homosexuality and pornography.

I would say that the young are the most neoliberal section of the population. Liberalism proper requires one to adopt a fairly substantive set of rights and obligations that form the universal contract that is the basis of societal organisation. That usually means agreeing about minority rights and welfare obligations.

The neoliberals have seen fit to pare this back and hold that the sphere of universal agreement is simply one of non-interference rights, mediated through the market mechanism.

So where liberals agonise about whether pornography is free speech or hate speech, neoliberals are more likely to say that this is a decision for each person to make, and that we should let people decide for themselves about values.

The right often complain of the cultural relativism promoted by the left. I have no idea why they do, because they've been its main beneficiaries.

aberfoyle said...

Lets see how the polls reflect on the budget,how middle and lower income earners respond to the pork scratchings that they shall receive.And if the Nats, have the balls to also implement the recommendations from the Rebstock welfare reforms in the budget that will give those on welfare, pullet feed.

Goff should stay and ride the defeat,for that was always going to be the outcome.Let the Nats win the election on a self government,and let Labour rebuild, focused on a united party with a clear fiscal and social agenda outside the failed present and future of neo liberal let the market decide,a platform however dressed and fronted will always be the mantra of the National Party.

Anonymous said...

Chris, Thanks for an excellent article.
I think there is another aspect to the decline of Labour's vote which they ignore.
Quite frankly Phil just looks and sounds like a goober. Not scientific or tangible I know, but many long time labour people I know think the same. There is simply no way I can imagine Phil as PM. This morning on TV1 breakfast Phil had a great point about the complete lack of training in Christchurch, however his delivery was weak, he ended up smiling or nervously smirking inappropriately and the content suffered as a consequence. Time and time again this is how his TV appearances seem to be. In my opinion there is a comparison with National's loss under Brash. People just didnt warm to the guy.

Anonymous said...

Politics is a team game. If there's no decent forward pack, the backs are not going to be fed and do their twinkle toes numbers.

Labour's pack sucks and their backs can't tackle.
National's pack sucks too, but they have possession, the ref, and the crowd on their side for the moment
The crowd is drinking to excess as they've paid to get in. It could get ugly when the rain sets in and they find they're up for the fixture costs as well

It's like watching Namibia B play Romania C.


Victor said...


I think you may need to re-read my post.

My central argument was that New Zealanders might not actually be substantially less culturally liberal than they were in the period 1984-2008 when Labour was a (perhaps 'the') natural party of government.

Whilst I didn't rule Chris's argument out of consideration, I suggested that explanations for Labour's demise needed to include the power and bias of our overwhelmingly right wing media and Labour's failure to punch home an alternative economic narrative to that of the neo-liberals.

I certainly haven't suggested that fundamentalist Christians are more right wing than the rest of the population. My own experience is that many (perhaps most) of them are somewhat to the left of the current New Zealand consensus on socio-economic matters, albeit that they tend to be cultural conservatives.

Anonymous @4.02pm

Throughout my perhaps excessively long post, I tried to qualify my use of that slippery term 'liberal', with adjectives such as 'cultural', 'social' or 'neo'.

To prevent endless alliteration, I took a short cut in the paragraph you object to and used the unadorned term 'liberal' without a qualifying adjective.

Had I chosen an adjective, it would probably have been 'cultural'.

I apologise for any misunderstanding.

I think we are basically on the same page on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Liberal social policies are not enough on their own to cause Labour's problems. Although some of the traditional working class get annoyed with some liberal social (PC?) ideas what really loses them is when they are combined with neo liberal economic policies.

Labour has been a serial betrayer of its core constituency first by adopting rogernomics which has led to a reduction in the real wages of workers and their ability to support their families, then by pretending to drop them but not actually ever really doing so.

Instead of giving workers the ability to win decent pay rises they are made into beneficiaries through employer subsidies like working for families. Instead of developing and protecting decent jobs workers have had to do without or take crap service sector jobs while Labour signs up to free trade agreements.

Bullying employers, multi-national colonists and financial sector crooks are treated like heros by Labour while workers have found that not only are they marginalised in the workplace, they are also rubbished for their attitudes by the same middle class wankers who seem to benefit from all these changes.

Workers party has been stolen, their livlihood threatened and they are treated with comtempt by those they have funded through their union affilliation fees, educated through their taxes and forgiven over and over again for their transgressions.

Its not about being homophobic, racist or sexist.
Its about having your dignity stolen, its about lack of respect.

Maybe workers have just run out of forgiveness for jumped up, right wing, little Labour shits who think having a few liberal ideas makes them left, but refuse to deliver on the bread and butter class issues that are fundamental to a fair society and all social progress.

Victor said...

Continuing my post of 1.21 pm

Here are some thoughts as to the economic narrative, Labour should be pushing.

Firstly, the Clark/Cullen government was, for most of its 9 years in office, fiscally highly prudent, whereas National wanted to borrow big overseas to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

Imagine the state we'd be in if Brash, Key and co.had won the 2005 election and proceeded down that path of abject folly. On second thoughts, don't imagine it. It will give you nightmares!

Thanks to Labour, New Zealand entered the recession with one of the best sets of government books in the OECD.

Even now, despite the recession, with more people on benefits, with falling revenue and the disaster in Christchurch, our government books are still in pretty good shape compared to those of most of the rest of the developed world. We owe that to Labour.

The whole point of fiscal prudence in the good times is to enable the government to spend up when the economy turns sour, both to protect the vulnerable and to stimulate recovery. That's what Michael Cullen was going on about, all though the years when the right-wing press was pillorying him as a skinflint.

Because of our comparatively healthy government accounts, it makes no sense to target beneficiaries or to reign in public services. Moreover, an international credit rating agency has said, quite clearly, that there isn't much fat left to trim in our state sector.

Even so, National persists in its assault on the poor. It's as if they're meant to suffer although no good to the economy can spring from their suffering.

Meanwhile, the same credit rating agency has pointed to our high level of international debt, resulting from private borrowing and spending.

Tax cuts for the rich typically either lead to them hoarding their increased wealth or to using it to borrow more, in order to make non-productive property investments. These raise the cost of housing beyond the means of the less wealthy and involve borrowing dangerously increased sums from overseas.

Meanwhile, moving the burden of taxation onto poorer New Zealanders, through GST rises, discourages spending on food and other day-to-day items and chokes off the stimulus this could give to the economy.

Again, it's a case of the poor being made to suffer, even though this is of no conceivable economic advantage.

Of course, not all of our problems can be reduced to the current global economic climate.
Even in good times, we are held back by poor infrastructure, lack of investment and inadequate training. Moreover, Christchurch's trauma has added a horrendous, new dimension of need.

But we're never going to put our economy onto a sound and sustainable footing without government involvement in funding infrastructure etc. Now's the time to do it, whilst the threat of inflation is at its most manageable!

I could go on ad infinitum. But the point is that Labour shouldn't be selling itself as a party of bleeding hearts, which wishes to succor the deprived without reference to the broader economic good. Nor, conversely, should it be selling itself as National-lite.

Least of all, should it be selling itself as a vehicle for identity politics, be it those of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or class.

Instead, it should be selling itself as the party which knows how to run the economy and which knows the economy needs to be run in a different manner to that favoured by National.

From the moment it left office, Labour shied away from this argument, behaving apologetically and failing to scotch the canard that it had left the books in bad shape.

As the late and unlamented Dr Goebbels pithily remarked:"Always tell a big lie!" The lie about our economy has been allowed to fructify and, now, most people see it as an axiomatic truth.

Anonymous said...

Phil Goff closely resembles the evil wizard Gargamel from the old "Smurfs" cartoon.

Sufficient numbers of New Zealanders are subconsciously making this connection to ensure he can never win an election.

Anonymous said...

"[Savage, Fraser and Nash] were only muddle headed. They talked socialism and did not know what it meant, or knew but lacked the courage of their convictions... ...

"... ... Muddle-headedness has become a Labour hall-mark. MacDonald and Snowdon moved resolutions which struck fear into Conservative hearts and did not know what their resolutions meant. Labour men who proclaim a new order are only capable of running society on the taxable balances of capitalist profit."

John A Lee, (Simple on a Soapbox, chap 24)

Olwyn said...

@Victor: I was at the 2008 Labour Party campaign launch in Auckland, and the plan they put forward then for getting through the recession followed a similar pattern to your prescription: serious investment in infrastructure and training were among its core features. Joseph Stiglitz was also saying at the time that this was the way to go. And in accordance with your previous post, the plan and its consistency with Stiglizt's advice was given very little media attention, and even less media analysis.

Anonymous said...

In brief, don't watch TV3 or accept their version of polling. Remember that they are part of MediaWorks and are being propped up by the government.

Labour should just wipe the slate clean: for instance, despite creating the deposit guarantee scheme they should now accept that it was a disaster, based on the amount going into South Canterbury Finance. There is a 'black' budget coming, I know it's not original, but they should just keep repeating the term; and reminding everyone that the tax cuts for the rich are not being reversed.

On to effete social liberalism vs robust proletarianism. Two examples. I was once in Christchurch with spare time and went into a pub in the late afternoon. One proletarian joker was going on about someone he knew whose kid deserved a good kicking, but because of Sue Bradford it was now illegal. First lesson, we don't have to have proletarian prejudices. Second example: remember how the commentators, especially Mike Moore, thought it was great for thousands of people to line up in Auckland for a few supermarket jobs. Surely this was inefficient, wasn't there a better way of filtering applicants than having them line up for hours. Second lesson, avoid accepting right wing views of what the proletarians should be doing to get into the labour market. The labour market does not function, and most of it is not unionised, so they can't be to blame. Blame economic situation on the crooked financiers, like Hotchin, even poor old Hubbard.

Mark said...

Could you give some examples of the "effete social liberalism" you claim Labour espouses?

Would these include protection of children from violence, a civil union act which now seems uncontroversial & human rights for gays?

Victor said...

Hi Olwyn

The problem with the media is not just its monstrous and blatant right wing bias.

It's also incapable of presenting serious ideas in a comprehensible form.

Part of the fault for this lies in the prettied up, sound-bite culture of the electronic news media.

Part of it also lies in a lack of economic understanding on the part of journalists and the confusion between economic and "business news".

And part of it lies in the lap of the ubiquitous
business gurus, many of whom are in the pay of special interests (mainly from the finance sector) and all of whom seem to deliberately use business-speak rather than plain English as their argot of choice.

The point is, however, that, once out office, Labour should have anticipated the campaign of lies and misunderstandings over the economy and gone all out to get its narrative across.

Instead, it temporised, apologised and waffled, with Phil Goff being the greatest apologist of the lot.

I've never been one of those who believed in getting rid of Phil at all costs. But that's only because I've thought he was the best of a pretty undistinguished lot.

But I'm staring to think that (excessively academic manner apart) David Cunnliffe is the person best qualified to articulate a new economic narrative.

BTW. If you haven't done so already, might I recommend you read 'Keynes - The Return of the Master' by Robert Skidelsky.

There's an intelligent and potentially fruitful debate to be had between the disciples (such as myself) of the late, great JMK and those of the equally late and great Dr Marx.

Unfortunately, it's not the debate we're having at the moment.

Dave Kennedy said...

Gordon Campbell provides a slightly different angle on this topic and also alludes to my theory that mainstream media is protecting the ineptitude that exists in this government and not promoting the strong voices that do exist in the opposition parties:’s-lead-in-the-polls/

Loz said...

"One proletarian joker was going on about someone he knew whose kid deserved a good kicking, but because of Sue Bradford it was now illegal. First lesson, we don't have to have proletarian prejudices".

A belief in the corrective power of a "clip around the ears" a "kick up the backside" or a smack is not prejudice, it’s a valid belief. On the other hand, Sue Bradford's bill was a glaring example of an un-mandated social-engineering attempt that was universally rejected by the electorate. The legislation helped reinforce a view of the left wing as anti-democratic, “holier-than-thou”, politically correct group that reserves the right to pass judgement on all while representing an extremely narrow orthodoxy.

The lesson I would have taken is that any party wanting the support of working New Zealanders needs to faithfully represent those people instead of dismissing their views as being unenlightened or prejudiced.

Bored said...

Well said Chris, I mentioned it today over at The Standard. Our names are now mud, bigots we are I believe. Seems to me that to the Right money trumps liberal issues, to the Left liberal issues trump money. If you are poor and have no money I dont think you give a stuff about liberal issues, you just want the job, the rent paid and a job. How long till the dimwits get the picture?

Olwyn said...

Hi Victor,

Thanks for the book recommendation. I have not read 'Keynes - The Return of the Master' but will follow up on it.

That "monstrous and blatant right wing bias" in the media has continued unabated since early in 2008. If anything it has escalated since then. And when they do offer "analysis," it is usually PR analysis. I am always amused by Duncan Garner's "Of course the perception is..." when the only perception that he can have possibly consulted within the relevant time frame is his own.

Dave Kennedy said...

Loz, another good example of how spin creates its own myths. Sues bill on section 59 was about giving children the same rights and protections as adults and animals and to give some legal leadership to address New Zealand's appalling child health and safety record (2nd worst in the OECD). The unfortunate "Anti Smacking" title distorted the intent and created a whole movement against it that had no understanding of how it would work. All parties supported the passing of the legislation and a previous critic, Nigel Latta, gave the legislation the thumbs up when he was asked to review it and has since apologized to Bradford for his past remarks.

If protecting children from harm is social engineering, then i support it!

Victor said...


"another good example of how spin creates its own myths"


Anonymous said...

Sadly though, the anti smacking law hasn't made a bean of difference when it comes to child abuse, if anything, it seems worse than ever. There is a world of difference between a light corrective smack and a black and blue beating. Labour and the Greens painted everyone with the same tar brush, and decent parents/caregivers very much resent that.

Loz said...

Bsprout: Everyone (on every issue) supports "protecting children from harm"... that's not the point.

The point is that New Zealanders have been repeatedly treated as children by their representatives. At very best, the beliefs and voices of working kiwis have been inconsequential to the actions adopted by decision makers. A great many New Zealanders have been isolated from the political process by having policies they have never supported foist upon them by a group of “representatives” who believe they know-what’s-best for everyone else. This is what the modern left has become associated with.

When a minority force un-mandated legislation through parliament because they believe their personal morality trumps the notion of democratic representation an inevitable erosion of support is guaranteed. Anti-democratic contempt for "the will of the people" is in sharp contrast to democratic traditions that were (once) instrumental in developing a united labour movement.

Working New Zealanders will never find affinity with parties or individuals that are more interested in self-aggrandizing then representing their voices in the first place.

Anonymous said...

And the prize for arrogant condescending liberal of the post goes to.... bsprout, for sprouting forth such lines as "....created a whole movement against it that had no understanding of how it would work."

Tell us again what we don't understand bsprout? At least we peasants understand that the Greens and Labour are in the polling doldrums, because we are pulling our support for those liberal fascists; the people who claim democracy is the implementation of their liberal values over the wishes of the majority of working class Kiwis.

That apalling attitude is exactly what Chris posted about. As long as Labour and Greens folks think they were right all along, against the views of the S59 opponents, those worried about street hookers leaving faeces and used condoms outside shops, etc, then those parties will keep slumping.

Mad Marxist.

SPC said...

The PC social liberals won an election in 2005.

What's changed since then is nothing more than the normal swing in a two party system as one government comes to the end of its time and is replaced by another. It's not unusual for a new government to do well in its first term. Sure there has been nothing like it since the 72-84 period. But that is only becausxe the 84-2008 period was not a normal one because of the NZ Party in 1984 and New Labour/Alliance and NZ First since.

Do not forget that National won well in 2008 by limiting its ambitions for the first term, now it has to risk its popularity when declaring second term ambition.

PC social liberalism that includes all becomes a lot more attractive as the victims of the right's agenda grow in number - perhaps to the 1999 level in 2011.

If that is so, then smart commentators like yourself will compare Clark's lows of 95-96
with Goff's now.

WAKE UP said...

"Labour is dragging the whole of the centre-left to an historic defeat and the selfish bastards don’t give a damn."

Chris, if you'd only written that statement during the Clark period (especially the last trimester) it might have some credibilty now.

The writing was on the wall for at least the last three years of the Clark regime; yet you don't seem to recall your astonishment and anger at the election result. But you'd said nothing then like you've just said above, even though it was equally true back then.

The "historic defeat" was the Clark loss, not the one Goff's facing.

SPC said...

Historic defeats occur to most governments at the end of two terms, not three.

With the popularity gone, all National will have to show in 2014 is a record of failure and an electorate turning on them.

The evidence is there already, the rest is just waiting the public to appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Often recently in ignored polls , the results ahve been the reverse with Labour/Greens running at 47%. The latest polls are just the budget bounce for a budget, that will soon be seen to offer nothing.
At the core my politics is modern society is a pleasure leisure society and men and women over 15 or 16 have the right to fuck around sexually with who ever they desire and its mutual , even if the women are solo mothers.
The problem with labour is the hypocritical opposition to this kind of thing by Goff . The hypocrisy of Collins, English and Mary English kitchen cabinet destroys everything they stand for and is why Nats will lose.
People say there for Key and Collins in bars and polls but I cannot be convinced they are given average wages in NZ are very low and the amount the average customer has to spend on nightlife even less.
It essence if a government has gone as far left as the Chilean centrist govt in the late 1960's. The better option is then to elect Allende/Labour as they are at least intelligent and if they turn out to be Marxist, the world will smash this country anyway. Collins/ English offer nothing the market and neo liberals is about. Auckland is not a Fri/Sat workers beer pub city and the Douglas reforms nowt now anyway