Oi! Jacinda! No! If Jacinda Ardern follows the advice of her advisers to scale back voter expectations and re-commit to the Labour/Green "Budget Responsibility Rules", then she will endanger everything she has achieved to date.
“DON’T YOU DARE, Jacinda Ardern. Don’t you dare!” That’s what I shouted at the television screen as she started hosing-down the political prairie fire she’d so spectacularly ignited barely a fortnight before. Someone, somewhere, had impressed upon her the importance of walking-back the expectations that “Jacindamania” is raising – especially among the young.
Someone, somewhere, has drawn her attention to Labour’s longstanding commitment to fiscal rectitude. Rapidly rising voter expectations of increased government spending on education, health and welfare are threatening to make a bonfire of the party’s much-vaunted “Budget Responsibility Rules” and, clearly, her advisers are insisting that she dampen them down.
But, if she heeds this advice, Ardern will endanger everything she has achieved to date. Instead of being hailed as Labour’s political saviour: the woman whose sunny ways have thrown her four dismal predecessors into shadow; she will begin to look like a front-person. A phoney. A fake.
All that promise; all that thrilling sense of now, at last, Labour has a leader equal to the challenges New Zealand faces; will dissipate. The radiance of “The Jacinda Affect” will fade. And, in the ensuing gloom, we will see only a smiley-face puppet whose strings are being pulled by the same grey men who gave us Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little. Those “leaders” who failed us by making promises, and then, almost immediately, taking them back again.
According to her Wikipedia entry, Ardern has a BA in communications. So, I’m betting there’s a little voice telling her not to listen to her over-cautious advisers. A little voice demanding to know why she is putting her dream-run to the Ninth Floor of the Beehive at risk.
She should listen to that little voice, and ignore the voices of all those telling her that the sky will fall if an Ardern-led Labour Government deviates even a smidgen from the numbers set down in the Labour/Green Budget Responsibility Rules. Because it won’t.
No need to take my word for it, however. This is what Aussie economist, Professor Bill Mitchell, from the University of Newcastle, NSW, said when asked to comment on the rigid fiscal parameters set down in Labour’s and the Greens’ budget rules. He described them as “the height of economic irresponsibility”.
Responding to RNZ’s Wallace Chapman on the Sunday Morning programme of 30 July, Mitchell went on to argue that, since roughly 1 in 8 New Zealanders are either underemployed or unemployed; a third of our children live in poverty; and we have record levels of household debt – “so you’ve got consumption expenditure being driven by debt which is an unsustainable process” – and since we have an external sector that’s draining spending through current account deficits; the very idea of running a fiscal surplus is, in Mitchell’s own words, “irresponsible in the extreme.”
Of course all those grey men whispering in her ear will tell Ardern that Bill Mitchell is a crank whose views should, on no account, be heeded. But that is what the advisers to the British Labour Party’s tragic Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Snowden, said about John Maynard Keynes in 1929. And it is also, I’m guessing, what all the people she got to know in Tony Blair’s office said about Jeremy Corbyn’s “For the Many, Not the Few” manifesto. Grey, cautious men will always tender grey, cautious advice.
But if she really means to be New Zealand’s Justin Trudeau, then Ardern should follow his campaign strategy. Trudeau saw the New Democratic Party (Canada’s Labour Party) doing everything it could to be “responsible” – to the point where Canadians found it difficult to distinguish Thomas Mulcair’s NDP from Steven Harper’s Conservatives. Seeing the political opening before him Trudeau said something along the lines of “Let’s do this!” – and won.
Don’t hose down the expectations you have raised, Jacinda. Be guided, instead, by Bill Mitchell:
“[W]hat you’ve got in New Zealand is similar to many other countries in the advanced world. You’ve got the so-called “progressive parties” – the Greens and the Labour Party, who have abandoned [their traditional roles]. The Greens are sort of neoliberals on bikes. And the Labour Party are Neoliberal-Lite. They say, we’ll do austerity – but we’ll do it fairer.”
Except: “There’s no such thing as fair austerity when a third of your children are living in poverty.”
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, 18 August 2017.
National lite is National lite despite the weak and getting weaker froth.
Chris, you could be accused of infantalizing Jacinda Ardern with that sort of rant. Jacinda has the mettle to make her own decisions. But she has to win the election. How she does that is doing what she is doing.
Chris your challenge to Jarcinda is timely & essential but not just on economics. If she cowes to the establishment and their elitist self serving mindset, that is destroying our environment and equally our views/status in foreign affairs, with the like of war criminals Tony Blair, Hilary Clinton and our "own" USA patsy Mike Moore, she will doom herself to the political wheelie bin in very short order.
She just needs to show the punch of her mentor Helen Clark on these issue as she did when challenging AM's puppet sexist and redneck Mike Richardson. The voice inside her head is vital, but other status quo voices are competing for space there and they're as reactionary and uninspiring as her immediate predecessors.
I know domestic issues rule the day and agree as to why in this election campaign, but to discount New Zealand's leadership role in social justice in a wider world and not let USA generals(see Andrew Little) determine our foreign policy, is just as important. Otherwise we will end up just like the pathetic deputy sheriff Aussies do with plaintiff endorsements of even the most lunatic of Theresa May's and Trump's foreign affairs utterances.
Jarcinda has the chance to be brave and imaginative. Let the greats of NZ Labour's history like Michael Joseph Savage, Norman Kirk and David Lange inspire her. Not the crass self serving neo liberals under the guise of Labour's Third Wave here and overseas.
Right Chris. Just let the fire run wild until Sept 23. It will burn a lot of crap in its journey. On Sept 24 Labour can start worrying about govt because they will be govt.
All Ardern has to do is say this - preferably at a Leaders debate:
'The 6th Labour government will renounce the failed experiment with neo-liberalism in New Zealand. Under a Labour government neo-liberalism in any form will not exist.'
Boom. An avalanche of votes won.
For neo-liberalism to be expunged, first you need to define what it is and how badly it is effecting the voting populace. Secondly, Labour will need to paint a picture of what they are going to change to (old-libralism, communism, social democrat?).
This catch phrase of "neo-liberatism must go" is all fine and dandy. But what is the alternative and why should the voter engage with that alternative notion.
Now I think Labour will get enough votes to govern with NZ First (as will National) but will that change much? The deck chairs on the Titanic will be rearranged but the end of neo-liberalism,? Nah not so much.
Surely Jacinda, like any other political party leader in a democracy, is a front person. That doesn't mean she is a phoney or a fake, it just means she is not in the position of an autocrat. She would expect her position to afford her respect and influence within her caucus , (unless they have been entirely cynical in her selection) but she is never going to be able to enact policy that does not have the approval of the decision making body of the labour party is she!
So to allow hopes and expectations to run out of control now, only to come down to the earthly constraints of the old grey men after September will cause her to crash and burn even more profoundly .
Be comforted by the fact that her appearance and bright personality will influence infinitely more voters than stuffy old policies anyway, so she will probably get there.
Cheers David J S
Please explain the greatness of David Lange to me.
I more or less agree with you.
The problem only arises if a would-be government backs itself too firmly into a corner with perceived iron laws.
On my reading, Jacinda hasn't yet done that. So maybe we need to acknowledge the challenges she's facing and the pressures she's under and cut her a bit of slack.
I have been told that the reason the young are not registering to vote is because they are not inspired by words but by video clips. So perhaps Labour needs to invest in a number of short animated video clips to attract the young.
Putting your last few posts together, I get the impr4ession that you would prefer a National-led government but don't like Labour because it's too much like National.
Perhaps I've misunderstood you. If so, I apologise. If not, could you please explain yourself?
Keynesian credit creation demands the austerity of a higher debt repayment savings rate eventually, or become unsustainable and more wealth consumptive than creative.
Fiscal rectitude? Is that like anal retention?
Not my question but David Lange was a great entertainer. Good at delivering pre prepared one liners on cue as " I can smell the uranium on your breath". Entertainment is what counts in politics.
If a sovereign government issues fiat money into the economy it isn't a debt. It's just a different approach to introducing new money into an economy. At the moment as the reserve bank sees a need for more liquidity in the economy it creates new money ,fiat money, just the same stuff, but it uses it to buy already existing bonds. Using newly created money for civil works feeds it into circulation just the same, but at a different point.
Cheers David J S
There's a chance we're about to get a government that's slightly better than we have currently.
I'm not expecting too much from it, though.
What I would add, however, is that, globally, we're now probably past the high water mark of neo-liberalism and governments of all complexions might start edging leftwards, as a new paradigm emerges.
If so, I would prefer it to be living under a government based on the humane traditions of social democracy.
denouncing neoliberalism will not serve Jacinda nor its victims any service (the overwhelming majority of voters don't recognise or acknowledge it)....describing a non neoliberal future however is another thing altogether....and fiscal elasticity is fine, magic money trees are not....unless all your trading partners are also supernatural horticulturists.
Both a 13 point rise in the polls, and a stark condemnation.
To take a tangent, logical expectation/hope suggests if the UK has a Corbin and the US a Sanders shouldn't we have a '35ist social democratic politician out there? Surely?
Keep pulling on the wisp of hope, Chris. Ardern has the whole Clarke organization's operators behind her but the Left is always about ideas, thus there is no way she can avoid you. I, personally, would rather you thundered reality rather than trying to pull her, as per her many predecessors, onto the side of the people.
I don't believe the ' Don't you dare..' bit. That'd suggest an implausible political innoccency, let alone ignorance, in the author.
The people are always fundamentally about PUSH not pull. Persuading the elite...good luck to that( not to refer to the 33 years).
'...and fiscal elasticity is fine, magic money trees are not....unless all your trading partners are also supernatural horticulturists.'
When it comes to how the finance system, elastic as it is and based on human concepts - not natural forces - can operate in a better way, this can be dealt with using New Ideas, with an eye to them providing practical outcomes that we need. Now that is a Good Idea. Sumsuch seems to think so. Yet still wanting to thunder on about how things are and have been, but not able to express any thoughts on how we can practically bridge the gap between the unsatisfactory now, and the more satisfactory future that should be attainable with the combined efforts of millions of brains choosing relevant, intelligent, experienced humans who are supposed to be wanting to do what we want.
(I suggest you listen to the Kim Hill interview with the St John CEO Peter Bradley I think, from this morning Saturday 19/8.) A man with ability, good skills, ambition, able to remain balanced under the stress of management and who found the way to success for the ambulance service in London, England which had been in a difficult situation.
If we carried out a mind exercise, regarding NZ as a parallel to the London ambulance dysfunction, it could give some heads up to methods we also should adopt. Certainly what we are getting from the Beehive, Treasury and self-interested elites is unsatisfactory and we need to choose better methods, better human resources and stop accepting second and third best.
Now that's a New Idea. Perhaps we should demand a better governmental outcome perhaps under some Fair Trading legislation relating to 'Fit for purpose.'
'Keep pulling on the wisp of hope, Chris. Ardern has the whole Clarke organization's operators behind her but the Left is always about ideas, thus there is no way she can avoid you. I, personally, would rather you thundered reality rather than trying to pull her, as per her many predecessors, onto the side of the people.
I don't believe the ' Don't you dare..' bit. That'd suggest an implausible political innoccency, let alone ignorance, in the author.'
If you keep on doing what you always did, then you will keep on getting what you always got. That's why Chris has to keep thinking, throwing up different ideas which have to be thought about, adopted or discarded. We won't get anywhere if we just 'thunder reality' and keep chewing it as if we are cows chewing cuds. That is important for them to be able to digest their food. One we have digested the reality, it is important for us to go on to the next step and turn to bettering that reality. That's what human brains, used efficiently, do.
If Labour is , and at the moment believe they are, a National lite party who wear red but are really blue.
Then yes I shall go for the real cheese, which is blue vein.
Sorry if I offend your palate.
I shall watch the cheese's over the next 5-6 weeks.
All the best in your endeavours.
Just to make it clear, my "absolute agreement" was with your penultimate comment not the subsequent one, which I have yet to ponder.
I agree with you about the inadvisability of Labour addressing "neo-liberalism" by name this close to the election.
I also largely agree with you over a preference for fiscal flexibility over magic money trees. But I'm not sure that there's a hard and fast border between them.
And, certainly, an incoming Labour-led government will need to be considerably more flexible fiscally than any of its recent predecessors, if the mushrooming of homelessness is to be curtailed and infrastructure brought up to, at the very least, twentieth century international standards.
.....and having read your comments about Lange, the mystery remains.
The "uranium on your breath line" was hardly joke of the decade. And, as you point out, it was probably pre-scripted.
I'm sure the Oxford Union crowd get more hilarious fare placed before them every week.
You are an unreconstructed New Labour devotee, but Jacinda has not become the Leader of the Labour Party to implement Alliance policy.
Her obvious mentor is Helen Clark. The symbolism on that could not have been stronger than at the launch. Helen Clark won three elections because she was not reckless. New Zealanders do not want a revolution, they want change. It is a big difference. So yes in your view Jacinda will never be radical enough, but she may well suit the majority of New Zealanders precisely because she is not a radical.
@Victor and GW
Inclined to agree there is no hard and fast border however a Rubicon runs somewhere between the two...while proponents of MMT seem to believe there is no restriction on our ability to finance all of societies needs (or desires) through this method my reading of the theory has even the architects advising limitations, particularly in regard to cross currency trading....and new ideas GW?...perhaps or even a leaf from the past, we have successfully implemented a public housing programme in the past using "financial elasticity" and there is no reason to believe we cannot do so again....and having heard your recommended interview already would welcome someone of Peter Bradley's apparent abilities and character to oversee such a programme
If truth be told, I'm quite partial to blue-vein from time to time.
But too much of it gives me indigestion. There's a political moral here.
To be fair to Bill English, though, he's a sort of mature and more than usually mouldy Stilton, whilst David Seymour is a totally indigestible, raw Gorgonzola.
The challenge facing Labour is to decide whether it's Red Leicester (that prince of cheeses!) or an excessively airy Gruyere.
The Greens, of course, are home-made fetta, made from organically produced goats' milk. There isn't much of it around anymore, due to a sudden shortage of both goats and Greens.
As for Winston, he's a rather aged, imitation Camembert, which might just have truth in labelling issues.
A revolution means going round 360 degrees. How many degrees can you cope with Wayne? If a revolving door keeps going round all the time, is it a revolution, or a radical change to slow it down to say half-speed? Which gives time to consolidate gains, or change methods slightly.
Perhaps Muldoon had something when he talked about 'tweaking the economy'. He had ideas of doing something for NZ, not just waiting around for the emergency to happen. Being NZs we hooted when it wasn't entirely a success, because we love appearing smart after the event (I always knew that was a waste of time and money etc). But he was not acting mainly for himself and friends, and it seems to some now that his heart might have been near the right place.
National has got us so far down the hole any change that is opposite to the Key legacy of a "blighted" future will appear as revolutionary. Lifting children out of poverty and Free education are indicators. Can Jacinda Ardern do this, yes she can. But then those two items alone are just taking us back to where we once were.
Well, the ledy said the right things, so I resile a while from my own 'don't you dare..'bit, and suggest instead possibility of close knowledge on the part of the author. Ardern's comments on even rivers suggest cynicism, however. Talk, especially from the Labour Party, and given her backers, is cheap.
A vote for Labour from me will not in any way be bought 'cheap'.
All this fuss about Adern. And we don't really know how she'll perform as a prime minister or even as a party leader. Not very often I'd agree with Gareth Morgan, but policy is what counts. Lets face it, David Lange was great at one-liners, but an absolute piss poor prime minister who couldn't manage idiots in his own party. On the other hand, we do know that the present Prime Minister is a boring old fart. :) So it might be worth taking a punt. At least in the next few weeks with policy coming out, people who judge parties by their policies will have a chance to figure out what's going on.
Victor, 21 Aug 17.20.
Well put, we might be of the same mind?, both insane? or is the populace insane and we are sane?.
Five weeks to go.
I've stocked up on Vodka, Bourbon, Gin and Beer to keep the blood pressure intact.
Serious question, are the Martians amongst us?.
Policies are certainly more important than surface appeal.
But they're not the only thing that's important.
Issues of character, intelligence and integrity also matter, as do energy levels, persuasive abilities and the capacity for both collaboration and leadership.
A country isn't just a single project or even an identifiable set of projects, which can be run on the basis of a predetermined blueprint.
It's an ever changing community in an ever changing world and you never know what's going to come up next.
Except I'm still hoping for Red Leicester.
And of course their are Martians amongst us.
Did you ever doubt it?
Victor. David Lange had the persuasive abilities, and the ability to combat Muldoon in the house. But was an actual disaster as a Prime Minister. My worry is that Labour has seized on a David Lange figure in the hopes of becoming the government without much in the way of policy – at least when I wrote that. Just remember that David Lange got us Roger Douglas. And Adern as far as I know is just as untried as him, except perhaps she's been in politics longer. But time will tell I guess.
I have a perception problem in that Lange always failed to impress me.
Mind you, I didn't arrive in the country till about a year after he took office. So I never experienced Muldoonism.
A more considered reply is that, superficially at least, it looks as if Jacinda has the makings of a good leader and that the always fractious Labour Party is responding well to her leadership.
She seems to have a lot in common with her mentor, Helen Clark, whom I recall as a competent, energetic, disciplined and highly responsible PM and, in these respects, very different to David Lange, if not his polar opposite.
Unfortunately, the superficialities are all we have to go on. We're into what MLK called "the fierce urgency of now". So it means taking a punt.
And, yes, I agree there are lots of "i"'s to be dotted and "t"'s to be crossed with respect to policy. And the now dominant Gracinda Tendency's underlying philosophy is something of a grey area and probably too market-orientated for the likes of you and(even)me.
But the alternative is to wait another three years. Could you stand that? Could our economy stand that? Could the least advantaged stand that? Could our infrastructure stand it?
I don't think so.
So let's do this or whatever.
I agree with GS for once. Policy and sound sober governance is the true winner and Lange was a wind bag poser. A buffoon.
Kiwis have grown up a bit since and want stability and responsibility so she has to look like giving that.
This third of children in poverty is bullshit. And some Labour fan Strine talking on Labour Sunday Radio to Labour's Chapman is no evidence of anything except political bias.
Our government spends well north of 70 billion of our money and the idea that we have austerity in NZ is laughable. Its a spendathon.
If someone said to me that they didn't like Auntie Helen and therefore don't like Jacinda, I would probably assume that, whether they were right or wrong (or left or right), they were reasoning on the basis of facts.
But I just can't buy the Jacinda as the new Lange riff. This was a Labour prime minister who introduced a neo-liberal Blitzkrieg to New Zealand.
Can it honestly be suggested that today's Labour Party in today's global climate, would again embark on such a course?
Victor: 'inadvisability of addressing neoliberalism this close to an election.' Apparently the timing has never been right these 33 years.
Charisma in a leader must have the taste of their party's principles -- I almost remember when that was the last the case: Norman Kirk--ish? Otherwise, from experience, I'm not bothered by fanzine phantasms of folk-leaders.
By the train of this letters' column Lange has gone into deep eclipse among the Left. I called him 'whatshisname' recently, in venom. But his fallibility was also the last dam-wall before the sea. I recognize him politically as family in a way I'm only obliged to do personally, as NZers, for his cabinet.
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