All Washed Up? Perhaps Labour could be saved if, like the ancient Romans, they were willing to install a dictator to “save the Republic” from its enemies (in the case of Labour’s membership that would be themselves!) someone capable of turning the party into a lean, mean electoral machine. Except, of course, Labour, as presently constituted, is never going to do that.
IF IT HAD ONLY HAPPENED ONCE, I could have written it off as a simple overstatement. Politics lends itself to exaggeration, and there was a lot of that associated with the Labour Party’s Review of the 2014 General Election. But, what I’m describing wasn’t the usual bluff and bluster of the instant commentariat. What I was hearing was coming from “civilians” – people without a platform – ordinary folks. And, what they’ve been saying to me, over and over again, in the week or so since the Review was leaked to TV3’s Paddy Gower, is the same statement-cum-question: “I think Labour’s finished as a major party – what do you think?”
Now, this is a not the sort of statement/question that political parties ever want to hear. Because it isn’t just another complaint about this leader, or that policy. No, this is an existential query: and existential queries only get made when the subject has already got at least one foot (and a good portion of leg) in the political grave.
I recall people saying very similar things about the Alliance after it split apart over Afghanistan. And they’ve been writing off Act as a zombie party for at least the past six years (quite correctly, in my opinion). Some people were even moved to question National’s future after its Party Vote plummeted to 20.9 percent in the general election of 2002.
The difference between National’s response to its electoral nadir and Labour’s reaction to its worst result since 1922, is that the former took its thrashing seriously and Labour isn’t. Long before the Review was complete, Labour insiders were already speculating on whether or not it would be big enough to make a passable door-stop.
National looked upon its defeat as a catastrophic market failure. National Incorporated’s share price had crashed, the Bank was ready to call in its overdraft, and the receivers were hovering. Time was of the essence. The Board of Directors had to do something.
What did they do? Well, they did what every big business in trouble does. They called in the political equivalent of McKinsey & Co. – consultants in extremis – and ruthlessly refashioned the National Party into a lean, mean electoral machine. National’s review panel didn’t just lop-off the dead wood, they fed it into the wood chipper, mixed it with the blood and bones of several sacred cows, and spread it over their flower beds!
This sort of ruthlessness isn’t an option for Labour. National’s whole purpose, from the moment it was founded in May 1936 (less than 12 months after the election of the First Labour Government) is to remove Labour from office whenever voters have been incautious enough to put it into government; and to remain in government for as long as humanly possible whenever Labour’s in opposition. Labour’s purpose is – or should be – very different. It’s supposed to be about ideas, and change, and nationhood. They’re supposed to be socialists, social-democrats, the workers’ party.
Except it isn’t. Hasn’t been since the mid-1980s. A workers’ party, that is. Labour’s still a party of ideas – even if they’re not the sort of ideas ordinary working people cotton-on to (that doesn’t seem to matter anymore). And the changes Labour’s promoting? Well they don’t find many takers either. Not that a distinct lack of voter support is likely to persuade the party to do things differently. Because, whatever Labour has lost in the trust and confidence of its electoral base, it’s rank-and-file members have more than made up for in democratic constitutional practice.
Democracy is one of those things (like fairness) that National tends to honour more in the breach than the execution. Indeed, it’s the Tories’ iron chain of command that allows them to campaign so effectively. Labour, on the other hand, is just one big tangle of chains: pull on one and, instantly, a dozen others jerk violently in the opposite direction.
Perhaps Labour could be saved if, like the ancient Romans, they were willing to install a dictator to “save the Republic” from its enemies (in the case of Labour’s membership that would be themselves!) someone capable of turning the party into a lean, mean electoral machine.
Except, of course, Labour’s never going to do that. Which is why so many people are telling me “Labour’s finished” – and why, regretfully, I’m agreeing with them.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 12 June 2015.
Not just Labour in NZ, it seems. My reading, slight as it is, tells me that left politics institutionally is in trouble throughout the west as the rupture between the left political machinery and the increasingly diffused multi-identity multi-needs grassroots grows.
If the Tweedledums who hold the levers of the institutional left parties can't or won't embrace and protect the interests of the people who live in their communities then their demise will be no great loss. Being light-right/Blairite/don't scare-the-horses trite may protect the comfortable incomes of the Nash-Quinn-Pagani brigade but it won't put an extra waterproof roof over anybody's head or prevent another forestry death.
Witness the seeming invisibility of most of the current caucus in the face of NZ's myriad problems where the National government provides a huge target. From my point of view most of them seem to be MIA, or is their apparent absence from meaningful discourse all to do with the manipulation of nasty corporate media?
Really helpful Chris, really helpful...not
Chris you have become a grumpy old pessimist.
Oh dear, how sad, never mind! There are a lot of good people there. Now that the ship has broken from the moorings it may be time for these people to slip quietly into the life boats and let the craft sail onto the rocks. It can sit there as a reminder to people of hope in better times. Meanwhile National will be tied to the wheel of the good economy of NZ as it is hit by the dive bombers of international market failure and plunges deep into the dark blue waters of oblivion. Unfortunately it will take with it all that we know and hold dear. My suggestion is like Labours better people take to the boats and leave that ship to its fate. The old world is sinking, a new one must be launched.
What does Labour actually stand for today Chris? That is the question so many have asked me too. Until they stand for something tangible they will be committed to the electorial wilderness.
I thought Helen Clark did a pretty reasonable job of keeping the troops in line. I guess it just depends on what you're prepared to sacrifice for political power. I suppose it doesn't pay to be to purist. Well – no one could ever accuse National of that :-).
Thanks Chris. One thing I'm dwelling on increasingly is less the internal problems of Labour as an institution, i.e. as if it could sort itself out (e.g. your dictator comment), and more, how Labour's problems reflect changes in the electorate (and not only, the strength of National, dirty politics etc). There's no doubt in my mind that they have not been served by the smartest leadership since Clark left, and equally, that National has mastery of political management and the funds to do so, but even absent all that, I think that NZ has changed under Labour's feet and this is the ultimate issue. Forget the 1%, take a look at sales of new cars, note, that as well as the number of landlords you mentioned the other day, we reputedly have the highest proportion of holiday homes per capita in the world; note household income distribution and separate out low earners like retirees because it is not a good reflector of underlying wealth/comfort etc. Note the number of NZers who travel overseas. Note the cafes. And so forth. Note the number of wealthy immigrants who comprise the electorate now, particularly in Auckland. When you do that, I can't help feeling the proportion of the electorate that could be described as reasonably secure, comfortable, and upwardly mobile (or safe in retirement), is out of sight compared to the 1970s I grew up in. When you minus off the very large share of non voters who I think are predominantly poorer in profile than the electorate as a whole, you move the bell curve distinctly rightward. So much so that I believe this is the ultimate challenge: Labour and indeed the Greens correctly perceive and calibrate to an overall electorate that even John Key thinks is centre left, but the voting electorate is solidly centre right. This is the existential crisis - does Labour become National lite? Surely National are better at being National lite than Labour, and people will vote for the real thing. So what do you do? - just wait for National to get worse as it goes along so people want a change of brand if not a change of flavour? Well how's that working out? Most organisations get better with experience in time and National appears to be. Relying on an accumulation of political stuff ups is taking time. Who knows. Certainly people don't care about the cronyism, corruption, privatisation etc or not enough to vote Labour yet. I dunno, that's the problem I'm thinking increasingly about anyway - the voting rich outnumbering the voting poor. Interested in everyone's thoughts.
"professional middle class, or farmers, or small business owners, or upwardly mobile tradespeople – because that’s exactly what they are".
No they are not.
National are mostly corporate drones and sycophants promoted way beyound their competence level, which doesn't matter because they are merely mouthpieces for corporate takeover.
It is a long time since National represented anything other than subservience to their corporate masters, but they do a good job of hiding that fact.
Labour used to represent us too. Now, like National, they just represent the wealthy and corporates who supply the election funding.
To me the trouble is not that Labour failed to attempt radical surgery. The problem is that when they attempted the surgery they misdiagnosed the disease and chopped off essential body parts. To become lean and mean you need to carve off the fat and not the kidneys. The people who seized the scalpel diagnosed the problem as Labour having strayed from its roots and proceeded to cut out recent changes in the party. It is a fundamentalist approach which has led to a witch hunt against anyone seen as straying from Labours founding principles.
As a result Labour is ripping itself apart in a vain attempt to go back beyond the 80s and remake itself as the pure Labour party of old. Of course people have very different memories of what the Labour party of old was all about, hence there has been a bit of destructive bickering even amongst the surgeons. But the real issue is that seeking salvation in the past is just a BAD IDEA. The past is a different country and the Labour party of yesteryear would be poorly adapted to the world of today. It is like trying to crawl back into the womb. Nothing fits.
Efforts to return Labour to its Union roots run into the immediate problem that the Union movement ain't what it used to be. Remember the days when Unions controlled our main industries; when they negotiated general wage rounds with the government to increase the wages of every unionised worker in the country (which was most of them); when the TUC could call a general strike and the country would grind to a halt as a consequence? Those days have gone and we are better for it, because even through rose tinted glasses they were not good times. Unions today have big problems of their own. Labour looking for salvation by returning to the Unions is like trying to save your boat by tying it to a sinking ship. You just end up with bigger problems.
In my view Labour can only save itself if someone is willing to seize the knife from those crazy surgeons over at the Standard and stop all the bloodletting. Trying to return Labour to its roots is NOT the solution. Labour NEEDS to change; because the world has changed. And change needs debate and discussion which requires a tolerance of different points of view sadly lacking in Labour today. That is how I see the issues. Of course I'm not a Labour insider. I'm one of those floating voters who votes for Labour only some of the time. Perhaps things look different from inside the tent.
I read this column this morning and noted that in the scheme of the future none of the political parties in our (or for that matter anybody elses) parliament are prepared to mention the elephant in the room. To mention "peak resources / climate /finance" with any hint of reality would be to become unelectable. To cry out, "The party is over, and here is the bill", would elicit rejection first, ejection second.
Maybe Labour reflect our trajectory into the post industrial future, that Labour was the party of the unionised industrial workers and that workers in a post industrial world do non industrial work and dont belong to unions. In this weeks Archdruidreport (linked by Bowalleyroad) Greer alludes to this. By contrast the pedigree and values of National still represent something that exists, capital aggregation and advantaged classes allied to others who "aspire" to be part of that group who live on the rent garnered from others.
Without being alarmist / negative / catastrophist those of us who see the elephant are quietly rearranging things. I cannot say for fact what exactly will happen but there are enough events and facts to inform me of the trends.Hard physical realities such as quantity of oil in the ground cannot be changed by wishing it otherwise. And really interesting events will become more numerous. In the context of that Labour might as well become the party of who reshape our world in accordance with hard facts. They are not electable now, so rather than play the game and share the blame why not let National alone be the ship that sinks taking with it the popular world view?
Anonymous my thoughts are you are peddling BS. I ask you why do words like generation rent, landed gentry, rentiers, the 1%, FIRE industry reverberate across modern discourse.
Ahh, no, not really, because there just aren't enough "corporate drones and sycophants promoted way beyond their competence level" to account for the 47 percent of registered voters that National was able to persuade to tick the Party Vote box in the nation's polling booths last September.
You need to begin with reality, KjT, because if you're unable to correctly describe political reality, then you're wasting your time critiquing the people who can.
It is interesting sitting on the sideline while this plays out. I at one time was engaged at an official level. It is disappointing Labour has squandered its natural vote base not by being a centre party but because they have drifted left to stymie the Greens. On any bell curve there should be more poorer voters than wealthy voters. So have we many more people who consider themselves wealthy and feel they need policies that enhance or conserve that wealth. Some of the rhetoric over the last few years from Labour would plain scare off people willing to get on. This is not the party I new or the tradition of the Labour Party. The incumbents for whatever reason have misjudged the views and values of the majority. They have also been tactically inept. Chasing non voters is an example. Alienating the base to the extent they are no longer members is another. Transforming the party from a mass member proposition to a mass media strategy lost the votes and dinar base they were counting on to launch a challenge. In the end the media strategy reduced itself to tiresome barking dogs at every policy of the government whether it had some merit of not. In other words the message got lost in the irritation.
I think Labour have a few problems:
1) Centre vs Left - I know Chris doesn't think much of the centre voter, but they are there. And thier predominant position is to support the status quo, because it is predictable and non threatening. This isn't to say they are opposed to change, just that change has to come gradually. Extremists frighten them, becuse extremists (of any ilk) promise significant, rapid change. This is why the tactic of aligning Labour to the Greens/Internet-mana, and the linking of UK Labour to the SNP proved to be a disaster for the Labour party in the last elections. The centre, who did not believe that Labour would be able to stop the large tails of the extreme parties from wagging the dog, fled to those who promised "steady as she goes". They don't have that concern re: National/ACT, because ACT, as it stands, wield negligible power, in part due to Key's alliance with the Maori party. When Key first did that, back in 2009, it was a master stroke, as it meant he could not be held hostage by extremists on either wing.
2: Left Vs Left - MMP has allowed the factionalisation of the Left, with the result of the overall reduction in political power. Primarily because the different factions, have different support bases, that have objectives that are in contradiction. A hypothetical example - Take a coal mine that is the largest employer in the region. It is currently marginally profitable, but is now facing closure due to pressure from environmentalist groups. Historically, the workers would have been Union Labour voters to a man, but now who do they vote for? - Labour promises to support thier drive for better working conditions, but Labour's erstwhile political allies the Green party want the mine closed. Maybe holding thier noses and voting for National will mean they at least have a job, even though work conditions are crap and unlikely to change. When the goals and ideals of the parties are in conflict, which party is going to win out? Whose support base is going to get shafted? Again, looking at the UK election, the fact that the Lib-Dems were Coalition partners with the Conservative party, didn't hold the Conservatives back from slaughtering them wholesale when the opportunity was given. I've said it before, National aren't Labour's enemy, they're merely the opposition. Labour's enemy is the Greens.
3: Leadership - has been poor across the board since the departure of Helen Clark. Both in terms of Leaders, and in the way they've handled the job. Poorly executed policy launches and announcements, speaking out of both sides of their mouths, and the failure to even contest a by-election - none of it instills any confidence in the Party. To paraphrase a quote I saw somewhere "40% of the electorate wouldn't vote for you if you were running against Adolf Hitler. 40% will vote for you, even if you were running against Mother Theresa. The remaining 20% don't really care what your politics are, as long as they believe you beleive in them" I haven't had the feeling that the Labour Party have truly beleived in thier policies for some years, partly because, as others have pointed out, the current Labour party doesn't quite know what it is standing for. I think this is another reason why Attack John Key seems to have been the strategy for so long - It's the one strategy that can be used in the absence of a clearly defined direction. But, as the last election showed, its not enough. Its all very well to say "Look how bad that lot are", but Labour don't seem to have a credible answer to "that may be, but what have you got to offer instead?"
How do Labour fix this? I don't know if they can - I agree with Chris that its going to take someone who can take the party by the scruff of the neck and mold it into something that people will vote for. Whether the internal systems of Labour will let that happen....
It's more than a problem of Labour being finished, it's more about being afflicted with a political/economic system that only requires technocrats to maintain it. The vast majority of society has been effectively alienated from decision making processes and elections have become popularity contests. The National Party is just more effective than Labour at promoting itself and its MPs as the ideal package to administer policies and values the Labour Party would necessarily need to adopt if they were ever to ascend to control parliament.
The most instructive example of Labour being kept in line was at the very beginning of the Clark regime when the media started squealing about the Labour coalition being the most left-wing administration in the West followed by the NZDollar dropping to something like 42c US. This in turn led to Labour doing somersaults in an attempt to prove they weren't as far left as the media was pretending they were, following the somersaults the dollar 'recovered'.
It's like the activist's sign, "The system isn't broken, ...it's fixed." Parliament, as an institution, is only capable of tinkering around the edges and promoting solutions to problems which are of no threat to the vast concentrations of foreign capital on which this country has become dependent.
KjT isn't totally wrong though. The links between business and national are obvious and deep. The job of the MPs is to persuade non-business people that they are governing in their interests too. It's not as bad as the US, where the Koch brothers are allowed to put billions into nutty right-wing parties. But even so, if you remember – they did an interview with various corporates a few years ago and I remember one of them saying that his donations to the political party of choice came with a quid pro quo of pretty much instant access to the his minister of choice :-). But as Bruce Jesson said, it's pretty much always been that way. The days when an ordinary worker can get access to a minister at a moments notice have either long gone on ever been here. That's pretty much how much influence we have these days. F.A.
WE simply have to reject neo-liberalism and come up with an alternative. Or do we come up with a Social Democrat Alliance of parties. Or going further, do we create another socialist-based party with Chris Trotter as leader? Or going even further, do we wait for a bloody revolution after National wins the 2017 election.They will bring in American troops to put it down - Sam Neil and Sleeping Dogs -1974.Friends, we have 12 months to make up our minds.
Four mistakes that Social Democratic parties tend to make:
Mistake number one is to become merely a less extreme version of the austeriacs of the Right. Once voters accept the austeriacs’ narrative, there’s no reason for them to choose you rather than the real deal.
Mistake number two is to position yourself as merely more humane and socially responsible than the austeriacs, without challenging their economic nostrums. All you’re then doing is painting yourself as nice, well-meaning people but too naive and profligate to be trusted with the public purse. Social Democracy isn’t just about better ways of dividing up the cake. It’s also about better ways of growing it and better ways of running the cake shop. All three of these imperatives are closely connected with each other.
Mistake number three is to keep apologising for not being austeriac. It’s the austeriacs who should be doing the apologising.
Mistake number four is to fail to distinguish between Social Democracy and Socialism. As the late Tony Judt pointed out, the latter has failed everywhere, whilst the former was successful beyond the wildest dreams of its architects for much of the post World War Two era. So don’t scare the horses with a purely rhetorical leftism (not that there’s much of that in NZ these days). And don't get hung up about proletarian iconography. It might be important to you. But most people just don't relate to it.
So Chris, a few days ago you were analysing why Matthew Hooton was slashing away at the National government, to enable the National Party to be more effective at doing the things he deems important. What, if anything, do you see as a way forward for the left?
Someone down the pub tonight said "Trotter's been sounding the death knell of Labour for years!" So do you write what you write simply to pay the bills, or is there something you'd like to see happen as a result?
Like Labour at the moment, getting a bit past your use by date, I think.
I was describing parliament, not the public, which are being lied to and led by the noise by those who claim to be "political experts".
If you want anything decent out of modern democratic politics, you are wasting your time. It's no longer capable of solving our problems.
This has drawn good discussion .
I agree with what KjT said. It wasn't claimed that all nat voters were corporate drones and sycophants, just the people that get selected to stand for election. the electors have to choose from what is put up.
The vast majority of people in the western world , not obsessed with politics,just wanting to get on with their daily lives, accepted over the last 30 years that the market oriented direction their governments of either hue were taking must be about right.
It took 30 years before the shit really hit the fan on the current run of laissez faire globalised economics which it did in 2007/2008. Since then the world economy is being propped up by massive money creation in the major world economies , to hand to giant banking monopolies and corporations as corporate welfare. No one knows what the next few years will bring but everyone who's interested should be watching whats going on in the euro zone with Greece for a hint.
As in these comments here many people in the western democratic world, since 2007 are wondering if the programme of they governments over this period were really on the right track after all , and when life really starts to get tuff as it has in Greece people start to focus on national and international affairs as they don't bother to do when things are going ok for them.
Greece has been experiencing similar conditions for the last few years to the U S during the depression of the 1920's.and as the world did then the Greek people have looked hard for a political movement that offered a serious alternative to the "neoliberal settlement", and have found it in a new and until recently obscure party Syriza . This party has recruited highly respected 'highly qualified economists from British and U S universities with a Greek connection who are definitely not neoliberals and are mapping a serious and genuine social democratic path . The eurozone hierarchy are determined to exterminate it.
Lots can be said about why and how the Greek economy got to where it is now but for all of that I think that it is just the first European country to succumb to the effects Europe rescuing it's and US's Banks at the expense of the people, in a desperate attempt to preserve the "settlement". It's the first and so far the worst, but I believe its just the beginning. I think sooner or later ( not much ) They will have to re introduce their own currency and go back to managing their own economy in the interests of their own people and one country after another all over the western world will follow as hardship spreads and people everywhere are motivated through their pain to search for some real alternative to support like Syriza.
That time is a long way off from most minds in New Zealand today , most of us are far too contented to bother looking. The section of society that Rogernomics and Ruthanasia has cut out of participation in our society are used to it now, it will be those of us that have been doing OK who will make a fuss but we are a long way shot of that yet.
So any party here taking the part of Syriza in Greece,will be a voice in the wilderness for some time to come but I think that time is coming and to be there when people do start to look they will have had to stick their neck out as I am doing,only no one gives a rat's ass what I think.
I thought after Helen Clark went down and coming up to 3 months before the next election under Phil Goff it seemed labour might be really going back to governing in the interests of New Zealanders rather than the interests of the multinationals but you would"t know now. perhaps they'll wait and see and adopt a stance after it has become clear what has to be done, but someone else may already be saying it.
just my opinion ... there's more of it but that better do for now
Cheers David J S
“WHEN IN DOUBT, stand for something.” - Lynton Crosby.
Labour just doesn't get it.
Labour will remain a major party for the foreseeable future, of course. Neither the Greens nor New Zealand First have the infrastructure (or even the desire) to supplant Labour at the electorate level, and someone has to function as the "not National" party. If Labour were going to die, it would have died in the mid-1990s, amid the Clark-Moore Civil Wars (Helen Clark in 1995 would have killed for Andrew Little's poll-rating), when Rogernomics was still fresh, and where the threat from the Alliance and New Zealand First was still real.
More relevant is the question of how Labour gets back into Government. Being stranded in Opposition for a generation is something familiar to both Australian Labor (1949-1972) and UK Labour (1979-1997) - our lot have traditionally been luckier. I don't think comparing Labour with 2002 National is necessarily useful: the problems for western social democratic parties are universal at this point, and simply aren't the fault of the current Labour leadership.
"If you want anything decent out of modern democratic politics, you are wasting your time. It's no longer capable of solving our problems. "
That's what they were saying in the 1930s. How well did that turn out?
"have found it in a new and until recently obscure party Syriza "
A significant number of them have also turned to extreme right parties. Just sayin'.
As one of those who was close to the people who did the reforms to National following the 2002 election (I am sure you will know who I mean) it was not quite the ruthless operation that you suppose. It was however very results focussed. People knew what had to be done and did it. And the party and caucus wanted this to be done because they were also results focussed.
Labour might like to look at success stories on the Left. Blair ditching clause four, Clark deliberating not scaring the horses.
After all if Labour wants the "middle" to vote for them, scaring them is not a good strategy. For those who hanker after the condemnation of everything that has happened since 1984, well that might appeal to zealots but it will have precious little attraction for anyone else.
What this month's Labour Leader says... http://thegrapevineson.blogspot.co.nz/
So Nationals reforms post 2002 resulted in the likes of Don Brash nearly becoming PM and then John Key actually pulling it off. More a sad reflection of at least 47% of voters than any smart policy by National. As Muldoon used to say the average voter wouldn't know a deficit if they tripped over it. I say the average voter still remains as politically naive.
Your comment of 8.30
labour gave us diversity; political correctness; high house prices; traffic?
As a dyed-in-the-wool wight-winger, I'll offer these comments.
If the Progress group forms a party, Labour really *will* be dead.
Not just Labour but all parties to the left of Progress. They will be permanently in opposition.
Why? Because Progress will siphon off a large number of votes from them and because Progress will almost certainly be pragmatic and would agree to form a coalition with the Nats (or at least support them on confidence and supply).
This is in fact a good thing.
Why (again)? Because those who believe that "big government" is the answer may want to check out this excellent article by the NSW Finance Minister -
Quote - "Over the past 60 years, we were sold the notion that Big Government would be our saviour. We were told that that governments would end poverty — in fact, one of the things I remember most clearly growing up was Bob Hawke’s promise that, by 1990, no Australian child would live in poverty. We were told that governments would provide free healthcare, free education and jobs for all – with long holidays and fully funded retirements to follow, what sociologist Daniel Bell has termed “the revolution of rising entitlements.”
But despite the good intentions behind many of these policies, a very different result has emerged. If you look carefully at what is happening in the Eurozone — not just in Greece, but in France, Italy and Spain — you will start to see some common factors: big governments and large public sector unions leading to a toxic combination of unsustainable welfare programs, low birth rates, heavy labour market regulation and high taxes. This is a poison pill for economic growth, for innovation and, ultimately, for employment. The pattern is always the same and so, too, is the result. Far from being our saviours, Big Government is causing citizens, especially our youth, big problems."
"The other defining hallmark of Big Government is that it crowds out the private sector and, therefore, reduces overall economic opportunity, something I found out firsthand when I become Finance Minister last year. The NSW government runs a fleet of nearly 30,000 cars. So as well as a government, we’re also fleet managers. We build and maintain our own computer systems, so we’re a technology company to boot. And we have our own portfolio of buildings and properties, so we’re also into the real estate game. This is not to mention storing our own paper records, running our own call centres, constructing our own buildings and even employing our own stonemasons. It’s hard enough to run one business, let alone dozens."
The Labour Party started when the Reverend Waddell preached on "the sin of cheapness" at knox church in Dunedin. In our age Mike Moore praises globalisation for lifting people out of poverty, despite the negative effect on wages in developed countries. In a world where the Labour Party elites embrace globalisation the traditional notion of a labour party is just a deception.
In order to promote globalisation the left has had to promote a false narrative. For example the leader of the Australian Green Party talks about migrant refugees who have "contributed enormously" and the Burke Report says; the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future”(Burke 1986:330). Note the use of hyperbole.
Brian Gould (himself) rights
"The [lump of labour]fallacy rears its head in other contexts as well. In the perennial debate in developed countries about immigration, one of the main arguments advanced against allowing an inflow of newcomers is that they will "take our jobs". There is little recognition of the real possibility that a controlled rate of immigration could create jobs and expand the economy.
There are, of course, many considerations in determining what are appropriate levels and kinds of immigration. But we would no doubt reach better decisions on matters such as this if we could free our minds of intuitive fallacies and look at the practical evidence."
Such theories whether they are true or not are loved by business. However, Paul Krugman says:
"My second negative point is that immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand: we’re talking about large increases in the number of low-skill workers relative to other inputs into production, so it’s inevitable that this means a fall in wages. Mr. Borjas and Mr. Katz have to go through a lot of number-crunching to turn that general proposition into specific estimates of the wage impact, but the general point seems impossible to deny."
Then there is the issue of migration and house prices where the globalists are again in denial.
All this stuff about big government being a terrible thing is just simply bullshit. In fact a tranquil you should probably read this: http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2015/jun/10/growth-what-growth-thatcherism-fails-to-produce-the-goods
If you can get the original article, it's even better. But their conclusion:
"In a wide-ranging analysis of Britain’s performance in the decades before and after 1979, economists at the University of Cambridge say the liberal economic policies pioneered by Thatcher have been accompanied by higher unemployment and inequality. At the same time, contrary to widespread belief, GDP and productivity have grown more slowly since 1979 compared with the previous three decades."
From actual economists rather than politicians funnily enough. When you come to think of it, the western world at the very least, was more prosperous in the second half of the 20th century before all this neoliberal bullshit started. That's also shown by actual economists. Though it's taken them long enough.
The best performing economy in the second half of the 20th century was the German. And it's full of unions and all those hidebound regulations. And it's still going strong in spite of the various crashes and crises.
And the result of business friendly neoliberal economics:
Are you sure you are interpreting Gould correctly?
"There is little recognition of the real possibility that a controlled rate of immigration could create jobs and expand the economy."
Rightly or wrongly, he seems to be arguing for a "controlled rate of immigration" and against the argument that immigration necessarily destroys more jobs than it creates?
As to Krugman, he's right on most things in my book. Indeed, I seem to have spent most of this weekend singing his praises to sceptical acquaintances.
But, clearly, any society needs a certain critical mass of people before its economy can function properly. Does New Zealand possess that critical mass? Frankly, I'm sceptical.
Big government's a good thing!-now there's a policy you might get Labour to use that would really finish them off forever! Please get them to adopt it.....
Tony Ricketts said
Someone down the pub tonight said - And what you might hear down the pub is just a bit higher than a fart. If we all started talking about politics when we had dinner (if round a table with the TV off), we might get some good ideas. The pub, no. It might be called the beerhive, a slightly more dissipated version of The Beehive, where if you listen to Question Time the discussion is often at fart level, especially when the government is being simply asked for information. But only simple people expect to hear it.
Guerilla Surgeon at 10.27
National can't be described as purist! I think that is exactly what they are - they stay true to their purpose, they may once have dallied in Muldoon's time with deviations. Now though they stick to looking after the wealthy and ashperashunal, pure and simple.
It is fragments of Labour that weaken the Party by splintering off as they argue as to purity of their sector's ideals.
I am still waiting for the right wingers here to tell us how many jobs the Gnat tax cuts 7 years ago, have produced. Not a single one! Remember Billy saying that he wouldn't raise Taxes then increased GST? The Airport Levy?
@ Wayne Mapp (?), perhaps if Andy Little did go for compulsory Unions again it may cost him the election but at least people would have a real choice and it would galvanise people out to vote. As it stands now we have two political parties that are co-joined Siamese Twins and it certainly would differentiate Labour from the Gnats.
Why is it that Rightie wingnuts are so afraid of Unions? Is it because the Unions make sure that some of the profit generated by the workers, is spread throughout the economy instead of disappearing into private bank accounts overseas?
For a Consumer Economy to function there must be people with discretionary income to spend. When they do that the economy grows. When they stop spending the economy stagnates, that's simple Economics 101!!
Check out "democracy vs banks" this morning in the Greek Reporter.
Cheers David J S
NZ quietly becomes diverse society
As revolutions go, it could hardly have been quieter. I don't recall the Government making a policy announcement to the effect that New Zealand would be opening its doors to the world. There was no great debate, no public meetings. It happened incrementally and largely without fuss.
By and large, however, New Zealanders have absorbed the newcomers without conflict or tension, confirming our reputation as tolerant, easy-going people.
Or maybe they got the message "if you speak up you'll get done" and if they had looked inside their human mind they would have found a little peice of software that says "yes people like me I like and those unlike me make me flinch". And now (perhaps) they look at the world (NZ) with a feeling of cognitive dissonance but they can't really elucidate those feelings. One thing they know (however) is that those Labour party types belong with this phoney new world.
And they might not be wrong:
The Government’s role
Clearly, there are serious questions to be asked about New Zealand’s economic policy and how we got into this mess. Why was it not better designed and managed, and more focussed, coordinated and strategic? Did the electorate simply get what it voted for, without realising what was really happening, or have New Zealanders not been well served over the years?
On other government policy issues, SWG recommendations include:
- A much more strategic and integrated approach to policy generally.
- Serious consideration of the impact of the level and variability of immigration on national saving, and the impact that this might have on the living standards of New Zealanders. There are indications that our high immigration rate has pushed up government spending, house prices and business borrowing.
"That's what they were saying in the 1930s. How well did that turn out?"
You realise that you screwed your own argument, right? The democracies had literally years in which they could have stopped Hitler at a minimal cost. Hitler himself was amazed that they let him go on for so long without doing squat. Democratic sclerosis was one of the prime causes of WW2.
Thanks for the easy point.
The problem with Labour is its complete detachment from the average New Zealander. In the hands of the unions, the party is unable to articulate policies that represent aspiring, middle-call New Zealanders.
Past leaders like David Cunliffe and David Shearer were perceived as elite socialists, preaching to the masses from their high pulpit. On the other hand, the current leader Andrew Little seems to be owned by the unions, the organisations that elected him.
"A report by five IMF economists dismissed “trickle-down” economics, and said that if governments wanted to increase the pace of growth they should concentrate on helping the poorest 20% of citizens."
WHAT a change!
It's your argument that's worth squat.
The Nazis succeeded in Germany because not enough people cared enough about democracy.
And they succeeded in Europe for a not dissimilar reason.
The moral is that you have to care about democracy and be prepared to defend it. You don't do this by NOT voting.
1.Funny - all the evidence stacking up (from economists mind) that unfettered markets do a bad job and still they cling to their mantras of low taxes, free trade, small government. :-)It's like a religion, accepted purely on faith. Evidence be damned eh?
2. Easy point my arse. I was talking about Europe's loss of faith in democracy leading to Fascism, not Hitler's foreign policy - which wasn't stopped by dictatorships either I might add - tho. Mussolini is said to have thought about it.
3.Vague talk about democracy not being the answer without any prescription for what replaces it is bullshit anyway. What DO you want in its place anyway? And how successful have non dictatorships been in meeting the aspirations of their people in the past 100 or so years?
If unions are marvelous for the workers, why do they need compulsion to join? Surely the rewards and benefits derived from belonging to a union would negate the need for compulsion? Problem I see with the current union stucture is that their ideology is anchored in the 1950's.
Demographically the workers (and employers) have moved on from the 1950's. However if compulsory unionism was enacted, I would be one of the first to start and join the Claytons Union Of Uninterested Workers. For a dollar gold coin I will issue anyone with a Claytons Union Ticket. There you are compulsory unionism sorted.
The Labour party welded to a 1950's union based ideology is not going to survive. Nor will the unions backing them unless both parties move into the 21st century. If we look a the US union movement, they are very progressive in the working with employers (and in some cases actually being the employer of labour for hire (especially in the trades - electrical, plumbing,construction, etc.,etc.) The unions carry out the training and certification of apprentices with the backing of employers.
The lesson of history is that if we look to Politicians to create a fair and just society we will always be disappointed. They have feet of clay just like the rest of us. Are they not fallible human beings elected from amongst our ranks regardless of which party platform they support?
The problem with politics today, is that it has become reduced to ‘not frightening the horses’. Under this banner it is impossible to articulate anything of substance, or appear to be motivated by a bedrock belief in anything.
Belief in anything other than ‘individual rights’ or culturally approved causes is deemed to be dangerous.
We have become the blind led by the bland.
Business as usual will continue right up until it doesn’t. At that time we will realize how useless and misplaced out trust in politicians has been, and we will be thrown back upon our own resourcefulness, our family, neighbours and community – which is how life functioned for everyone right up until about 100 years ago, and still does in most countries outside of the Western world.
"One of the few decent politicians remaining in the Labour party, he reminds me of those old drinkers you see haunting a new bar because they used to go to the pub that was there before."
Brilliant line from Frankie Boyle in the Guardian. An excellent left-wing comedian. Although I don't think there are any right wing comedians. (Someone did an article about that, I must look it up.)
@ Gerrit; Workers have been conditioned to believe the "Free Market" bullshit today. So, for Unions to work they will need to be compulsory.
Since the mid 1980's when Unions were destroyed, why is it that wages have not increased? Why is it that people must work 80 hours a week to make their Landlord's rich? Why is it that the CEO's on average get 370 times the lowest pay in a company?
The Unions made sure that at least a part of the profits generated by the workers went to the workers and not into some overseas bank account. Those workers spent their money on the local economy so the shops took on more workers who in turn spent their money locally and so the economy grew. If the "Free Market" is so bloody good why is our economy flatter then the Canterbury Plains?
If you don't want to join a Union that's you're choice but you MUST NEGOTIATE YOUR OWN FACILITIES, not take advantage of all the things that Unions have negotiated for in the past. Those little things you take for granted like; tea breaks, lunch breaks and a lunch room to enjoy it in, toilets and washrooms and so on. No, Unions are still important if not more so today.
For some-one who was in business for most of my adult life and employing many people, I made sure that the workers I employed were paid sufficiently to meet all their living needs and have some surplus. Hells Bells! I was successful and never went broke and neither will your boss. Why should my tax money go in corporate welfare paid via workers allowances and accommodation costs?
Brendan I agree with much of what you said. Weird though that may sound. Today's politicians aren't the best. But you can't get away from politicians. Life is just politics by another name. Just the scale is different. On the other hand, politicians have in the past delivered a more just and fair society. The Labour Party of the 1930s for instance. And family neighbours and community, has been shown not to work. Why do you think the Tudor and Stuart kings introduced the Poor Laws? They realised that private charity simply isn't enough. Essentially, even in those days of conspicuous consumption, rich people were too mean.
You are still talking like an old unionist. The question remains, if unions are so good, why don't people join?
Making it compulsory is not going to make unions any better for their members. What difference will compulsion make to the union organisers? Nothing I propose. All it means is we go back to a monopoly situation in regards who can represent the workers with organisers not having to work very hard.
Having once been a shop steward in the old engineers union, i can tell you sorry tales of lack lustre union organisers hiding their incompetence behind compulsion for workers to join the union.
For the last 20 years (? - since compulsion was done away with) most individuals have been negotiating successfully their own contracts.
I don't have a boss, self employed engineer. Have the best of both world, when the fish are biting I go fishing, when I have orders to get out the door I work all the hours I need to at a single stretch to keep the customer satisfied.
You have my backing as far as the scourge of corporate welfare is concerned. That is a policy that Labour should be addressing.
For the yoke of burden on the workers and self employed is corporate feudalism. The sooner that is abolished and replaced with entrepreneurial capitalism, the better. Even throw socialism in the governance of that.
That is the direction Labour should be creating policies, not the backwards step of compulsory unionism.
But I don't think the calibre of politician in Labour (or National, Greens and NZ First for that matter) can overthrow the corporate feudalism we suffer from today.
And I include in the corporate feudalism, all local and state owned organisations that operate outside of the control of the voters. case in point the Port of Auckland giving the most useless Auckland City Council the middle finger.
Thar sort of crap should be addressed by Labour policies.
If unions are marvelous for the workers, why do they need compulsion to join?
For the same reason taxes are compulsory. The free-rider problem.
Yes GS the Tudor and Stuart Kings did bring in the Poor Laws. Partly because if the poor revolted they tended to lose their heads and I am reliably informed that it is a serious health hazard!
Even in the US the churches are the main supporters of the poor and not surprisingly they in turn are supported by the Middle Class not the rich.
Even in Victorian times they had "Workhouses" for the poor (read Slave labour). Brendan, go and read Charles Dickens, his stories were of contemporary life in the mid 1800's.
Anon @ 18.10.
Since when has taxation been comprehensive (one could even say it is not compulsory)? it all falls on the workers shoulder. Add compulsory union fees as an extra burden?
Do corporate pay their fair share? No. Do religious owned business pay their fair share? No. Do trust owned business pay their fair share? No. The list goes on, including Maori IWI owned businesses, not paying their full wack.
Labour wants to add CGT as another burden on the worker. Jeez, can Labour become just a tiny bit more relevant to the worker (and I included SME owners in this category) to at least try and survive?
Can we please have some policies from Labour that actually helps the worker? We have Len Brown as the Labour representative in Auckland and if he is a model (and god forbid Goff carries on where Brown will leave off) of how Labour will govern in the future, Labour will never get to 30% of the vote.
Tolling of roads to pay for new infrastructure? Who does that hurt the most? The bleeding (literally) worker. Why don't Labour come out with policies to close tax loopholes for corporate and trust owned business to pay for the new infrastructure? Labour is light blue in colour not red.
So Labour, create policies that helps the worker and stop bringing out policies that hits the worker at every and all opportunities. For that is the direction to head towards where survival as a political party lies. Not compulsory unionism. Compulsory unionism is a dead dog. Wont win any votes at all, simply outsources to a third party all the policies that Labour, as the workers representative, should be enacting anyway.
Gerrit. People in your position are fortunate. But if there is a sudden downturn in the need for engineers, you are in the shit. Many people today pretty much work at whim. They don't have your qualifications – and for Christ sake don't say "they should get them" – partly because the law of supply and demand says that if they did you may well be out of a job. Or at least on very low wages. You've obviously never worked at the lower end of the labour market, for a small firmware joining a union is the kiss of death. Large firms don't mind quite so much because they'd rather not negotiate with thousands of people. But even so, the unions have been weakened by legislation so it's more difficult for them to negotiate. Particularly these days when the bosses can refuse to negotiate in good faith. So compulsory unionism necessary to cover those people in particular, who want to join but are intimidated into not doing so.
Davo. The Tudors and Stuarts hated and feared the poor much as the one percent do today. And they realised that private charity was not enough to control them. It was all about control. There was a rabid fear of rebellion.
Even if the churches are the main support of the poor in the US today, which I'm a bit sceptical about, it's partly because they have tax-free charitable status. Which of course means that everyone except the rich you don't seem to pay taxes there, supports them. But I think you'll find that most of the money donated to churches goes to building buildings and other prestige projects rather than to the poor.
Incidentally, I have a vague memory that Charlie Chaplin was once in a workhouse. They weren't abolished until the late 1920s I do believe.
You're right about Charlie Chaplin GS. He did live in a Workhouse at one point in his life according to his biography.
Gerrit: That's fine for you but as GS says, that is where you are at. We all tend to look at life from the position we are in.
When some-one is negotiating a job they are not going to go for good wages and conditions when there is 100 others lining up for the job. They will take whatever is offered. That is where they need a Union to support them. Most employers at that level do not negotiate in good faith.
Gerrit: It was actually the current National government that closed the tax loophole for landlords under the old LAQC scheme. The result was that 'the rich' were paying a larger share of the tax burden than they had under the previous Labour government. ( I suppose Clark and Cullen both being property Barons and landlords in their own right was pure coincidence...) Similarly it was the Clark government that spitefully increased tax rates as soon as they got into power. And exactly who did that impact? Not the wealthy - because they just rearranged their affairs to avoid paying it. It was the middle class salary earner who was hit. So in the eyes of the middle class, National is the party of fairness and Labour is the party of government largess and hypocrisy.
Guerilla Surgeon: I've been a professional engineer for 40 years and I'm still waiting for that downturn, so that I eventually have time to build my boat! The thing that you and many on the Left have failed to notice is that today 'The Workers' are also 'The Businessmen'. Your paradigm is 100 years out of date. Look around New Zealand's roads during working hours. It is crammed full of small business owners: Plumbers, Chippies, Sparkies, Tilers, Roofers, Gib stoppers, Drain layers, Garden maintenance people, and a hundred other trades I couldn't even name. Most are sole props or owners of limited companies and have business cards calling themselves directors. Their fathers were union members but this generation are aspiring entrepreneurs. Moving onward and upward. They are also National Party voters.
The paradigm is not necessarily modern, but has been imposed. I guarantee some of these people quite like working in the way you suggest. But I also guarantee there are many who would like a little bit more security of income. I notice most of those you mention are actually skilled tradespeople as well. They have a damn sight easier than the less skilled, and have traditionally been – plumbers chippies sparkies et cetera small business owners. At least my plumber certainly has been and he looks about 103. So maybe some of their parents were union members but many of them not so much. But much of this is the result of government policy of privatising everything, so that they can take up and lay off people whenever they feel like it, and don't have to give them the benefits traditionally given to government workers.
@ Anon 13.35
Selective memory there. When Helen got in they increased the tax on those earning in excess of $65,000/yr. Bearing in mind that the average income at that time was $30,000/yr and anyone on $50,000 or more were the top earners. Incidentally, Helen's Govt. was not genuine Labour but was Gnatlite.
How many of our current crop in Parliament are Baron Landlords? Property Developers? Go and find out.
You also studiously ignore the people who do the cleaning, the burger-flipping, who toil away in the shops putting up with ignorant pricks all day on the minimum wage. What about the workers on wages who toil away for all those "Tradies" you quote? What happens to them all when the housing market collapses in Auckland? It has to as it is unsustainable as it is now. They are the people who need a Union to protect them.
The most prevalent political theme from industrialisation until now, would have to be the virtue of individualism and free enterprise. The building of the NZ Liberal Party, and later the NZ Labour Party was in response to the inequality and hardship that developed from maintaining laizze fairre principles in earlier eras.
The following points were written in 1896 as demonstrating what united the Liberal movement at the time.
I. That taxation shall be just in its incidence, and fairly placed on the shoulders of those best able to bear it.
II. That the land laws of the country shall assist and encourage the occupation of the lands of New Zealand by an independent body of settlers, free from the curse of private landlordism.
III. That justice shall be done to the workers of the colony by labour legislation which shall minimise, and, if possible, abolish the evils of individualism and unfair competition.
IV. That in the interests of the producers of this country, the rate of interest shall be lowered to a fair amount.
The movement based on Gladstone’s principles of empowering individuals was committed to using the state to protect the empowerment of all against the predatory self-interest of the few.
After the beloved Balance and Seddon Governments, the first decades of the 1900's saw the return of the righteousness of a market determinism. The unwillingness of later generations of Liberals to accept that free enterprise was flawed eroded support for the party and recreated the economic conditions the party had been united in opposition to.
The rise of the Labour party was again, as a response to the reappearance of housing unaffordability, joblessness, predatory finance and employment practices, poverty and extremes of wealth that marked ‘free-market’ eras.
There has always been a niche for a party that has espoused individualism and free enterprise, just as the adherence to this ideology produces a need for something else.
Those engaged in successful business or will always have a tendency to success to their own efforts while dismissing those in poverty for being deservedly so. Neither a Global Financial Crisis, Housing unaffordability, disgraceful levels of child poverty, nor the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of kiwis in search of work has broken the resolve of Labour to cling to the free-market promises that have performed so dismally.
On some it has been imposed on others it has been choice. Regardless, it is reality and it's not going to reverse itself any day now. The point of Chris's article was that Labour policy makers have to wake up and face this reality and address the needs of these people, rather than a tiny minority who are still in unions (mostly teachers these days)
Davo: I remember it well. If you call 60K "top earning" well, poor you. 60K, even at that time was barely middle class. And when you cite income rather than salary you're including beneficiaries, pensioners and part timers. Even then the average salary was about 45K, the point is these people on 60K+ were not 'the rich' by any means. If I recall Helen owned four properties at that time. Nice little earners no doubt, especially if she could slip them in under the LAQC rules...
Ah, the famous reality. As in TINA. The only "reality" is the laws of physics. Other stuff, particularly with regard to society, we can change if we have the will. The appeal to "reality" should be a logical fallacy equivalent to the argument from antiquity :-). Because to some extent as you right wingers always tell us when you're trying to give us hope for a future, reality is what we make it.
Someone posted a graph a few months ago showing Labour's support going back over the decades. While support for Labour has waxed and waned it has followed a long term downward trajectory which if maintained will see Labour leave mainstream politics some time in the 2030s. As things are going now there is no reason to think Labour won't continue to follow a trend it has obeyed for a lifetime.
New Zealand society has fundamentally changed, especially over the last five years, and become more childish and unintellectual and as sociological surveys have shown, lacking a sense of community affiliation to an extent not found in almost any other society. The National party remains a party of guilds, but many fundamental social changes make Labour, down to its name, no longer connect with substantial segments of mainstream society.
There is much talk about Labour and "reform". Procedural reforms could help Labour, such as having the caucus select the leader, but the basic problem is almost unreformable: the membership. Being a member of the Labour party was once a normal thing in the mass membership days. Now it is a fringe thing and the average New Zealander would take someone to be a crank if they spoke of their joining. When becoming a member of a political party becomes an abnormal act, it is not surprising its small membership is very different from the people it wishes to represent and govern.
While there are good people in the Labour party, I have found too many Labour members, more so the younger ones, to too often be fanatical, arrogant, ignorant of economics, spiteful and even hateful people. The quality of Labour councillors and MPs has deteriorated and seeing a Labour spokesman on TV literally smirking every time they criticise the government does nothing to engender support. "Reform" can't make bad people become good, and the incompetent become competent. We can only hope Labour is replaced by something better sooner than later, and its more troublesome members don't jump ship to debase that party too.
The intense reaction to "Progress" was a case of "protesting too much" out of fear of Labour being displaced by new centre-left politics. Splits don't always work out, we know the New Labour party as an example, but how will the party react if it only gets 22% in 2017? 19% in 2020?
Projection of trends – graphically – is a very unsound mathematical practice.
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