Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Killing Them Softly: Labour’s Caution Is Proving Fatal To NZ First.

Happier Times: Seven months into the Ardern-led government's first term, it is clear that Winston Peters' assumption that Jacinda and the Labour Party were one and the same was profoundly mistaken. Peters was right in thinking that without her even the possibility of change would be non-existent. Where he erred was in thinking that Labour’s willingness to be guided by the person who had brought power within its grasp was anything like as great as NZ First’s.

WINSTON PETERS had better have something up his sleeve – preferably an ace – or things are going to get messy. Reviewing the latest poll from Newshub/Reid Research, the thought must surely have crossed the NZ First leader’s mind: “Did Jacinda play me?” Because, it is almost impossible to imagine a politician as experienced as Peters agreeing to install such a potentially unstable combination as the Labour-NZF-Green government without first being convinced that Jacinda was genuinely committed to New Zealand’s economic and social transformation.

Seven months into the Ardern-led government, however, it must be clear that his assumption that Jacinda and the Labour Party were one and the same was profoundly mistaken. Peters was right in thinking that without her even the possibility of change would be non-existent. Where he erred was in thinking that Labour’s willingness to be guided by the person who had brought power within its grasp was anything like as great as NZ First’s. Jacinda may have rescued Labour from a crushing (perhaps fatal) defeat but that didn’t mean she was the boss – not by a long chalk.

Since Helen Clark’s departure in 2008 the Labour Party has come to resemble the Scotland of the 1500s. Nominally an absolute monarchy, England’s northern neighbour had singularly failed to produce a dynasty to match the all-powerful Tudors. Scotland had thus become a rancorous and fractious realm in which the monarch wasn’t even primus inter pares (first among equals) but the plaything of its most powerful noble families.

Over the past nine-and-a-half years Labour’s parliamentary caucus has steadily fallen under the sway of a handful of ambitious MPs, without whose backing none of its leaders have been able to operate effectively. The most powerful of these MPs, Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford, have become (not coincidentally) the crucial arbiters of what is – and is not – going to happen in the Labour-NZF-Green government. If Peters had anticipated calling the shots alongside Ardern, then he must be feeling tremendously frustrated.

Certainly, Peters was able to secure a considerable sum for his own foreign ministry and a billion-dollar regional investment fund with which his most likely successor, Shane Jones, can top-dress the provinces. But, the Deputy Prime Minister is not blind, he must see that it is these two men, Robertson and Twyford, who will make or break the government he and Ardern caused to be formed.

What Peters needed, and what Ardern showed every sign of wanting to form, was a government dedicated to making big changes. Nothing less could hope to deliver the “transformation” promised by the Prime Minister. Her “politics of kindness” would require a revolution – of sorts.

The 2.4 percent level of electoral support to which NZ First has fallen is a reflection of just how far the government put in place by Peters has fallen short of its followers’ expectations. Only now, on the eve of becoming NZ’s acting prime minister, is it becoming clear to Peters that “Jacinda” is a politician with two faces. The first is the face New Zealanders thrill to: hopeful, open, empathic. The second is the face she wears in Labour’s caucus: shrewd, cautious, realistic. Peters is realising, too late, that it is this all-important second face that Ardern will, on no account, set against her two overmighty subjects: Robertson and Twyford.

What Peters needed from Labour were revolutionaries. What he got, in the seats of power that truly mattered, were two uninspiring tinkerers with the status quo. Last October, Peters and NZ First were confident that what they were hearing from Jacinda and her colleagues were the uplifting harmonies of kindness and transformational change. Seven months on, it’s clear that whatever kind of music is killing them softly – it isn’t the Hallelujah Song.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 29 May 2018.

30 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Over the past nine-and-a-half years Labour’s parliamentary caucus has steadily fallen under the sway of a handful of ambitious MPs, without whose backing none of its leaders have been able to operate effectively. "

Sounds like the 1980s – all over again. Except this time they are conservatives rather than right-wing radicals. But then right-wing radicalism has become the new conservative.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful and provocative but methinks its even more complicated by the Green relationship and within the Greens their own internal dynamics of progressive change or moderate. I'm in awe of Jacinda because she's got the most complicated set of partners one could imagine,let alone the tinkering conservative elements within her own caucus but that's life under MMP which I support.

The next election will be the pivotal "determinator" and if as is quite likely, Judith Collins triggers a hard right revolution in her caucus, she may appeal to the hard right wing Trump of NZ but it's inconsequential compared to Trump's USA. Moreover will polarise the electorate away from National and into Labour's camp and the remnants of NZ First may well find Collins as their natural political home.If and when this happens then Jacinda and Labour in a core Green's partnership with Marama Davidson ascendancy can be truly transformational. Arden however remains the shot caller and Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford know this and are loyal to her

BlisteringAttack said...

Probably the problem of the career politician who sees politics as a mere job rather than a calling.

Robertson and Twyford (and Ardern for that matter) are career politicians. They don't intend to do anything.

Anonymous said...

Peters seems to be at his best in opposition. Throughput history (1990's on) NZ First has been the one party that stood outside the consensus. Last election, WP softened his stance on immigration. Some say it was because the provinces are pro-immigration, others that he was up in the polls and got greedy by trying to appeal to everyone. Either way, NZ First is a party of the inarticulate. It looks as though Peter's political career has flopped?

peter petterson said...

Traction will come for Labour as long as the transformation policies continue.

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Sounds like the 1980s – all over again. Except this time they are conservatives rather than right-wing radicals. But then right-wing radicalism has become the new conservative.
.....
In economic policy yes, however in social policy the radical left have been mainstreamed.

Steve Maharey
https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/why-does-don-brash-think-it-is-so-important-that-we-are-one-people

That there is knee deep.

Anonymous said...

And rumour has it that Winston is ill. Perhaps we're finally seeing the end of the personality cult that is NZ First.

Polly. said...

Peters is a charlatan.
Always has been, always will be.
The NZ public do not like, nor trust him.
Labour is running and whooping rings around him.
Labours:(Grant Robertson) is surreptitiously dumping on him.
Shane Jones needs to join the dumping.(he may well have already)
NZ First will then start to climb.

God save New Zealand.

Wayne Mapp said...

Should a 7% party be able to usher in a "revolution"? I think not. A revolution must surely have more legitimacy than that, at least within a democracy.

The Labour Party campaigned on being responsible (Budget Responsibility Rules, etc). They got 37% support. National campaigned on something quite similar. They got 44% support. So some form of stats quo (albeit with some change under Labour) had 81% support.

So I think we are, broadly speaking, being governed in line with the will of the people (81% of them). They did not vote for revolution and neither are they getting it.

Patricia said...

Lazarus rose again.

Anonymous said...

Chris is it possible to change my comments from "Anonymous" to my name which is what I thought I'd done but clearly didn't.TNX

Nick J said...

Wayne, depends what you mean by revolution. Langes Labour got about 40 %, yet I'd wager that less than 10% of those Labour voters would have supported the neo liberal revolution of Douglas and crew.

As a historian you would be familiar with the French and Russian revolutions, Leninist revolutionary theory and practice; it would appear small focused groups of revolutionaries drive regardless of numbers.

jh said...

Giovani Tiso (on Jesse Muligan), said how one of those Italian parties, put up no hoardings, candidates forbidden to speak to reporters but got 25%?

Shirley Knuckey said...

As usual you are many steps ahead of things, Chris. But you are not actually IN politics, therein lies all of the reality. News tonight about the sheer nonsense of 'meth contamination' causing 1000s of homes to be kicked for touch, let alone hundreds of opportunists calling themselves 'de-contamination experts' pocketing the easiest money they've ever earnt. Sooooo - yet another nail in Nat's stewardship of housing - but sadly, the Government has to stop right now using the 'they did/they shouldn't have' line. That's over. Maybe we're over the endless retrogressive argument about right-left in Labour culture. I am tired of regurgitated Rogernomics references and the compulsion to lock Jacinda Ardern into one camp of the other. Times change Chris; life changes; people change; expectations change. The commentariate doesn't change enough. Read life here 2018 Aotearoa NZ - and ponder today's realities, let alone the totally different future we have from the 1987 state of the nation.

greywarbler said...

I hope Winston is fine and the rest of the NZF pollies. I would much rather be led up the garden path by him than Jonkey and the Wailers, that noisy band of head-bangers.

As Pam Ayres said in one of her verses, 'Don't be so quick, to heave half a brick, It's only meself and the boys' (and girls). The more Winston gets the thumbs down, the more I'll be inclined to quote Pam. You are warned.

Kat said...

Thats a delightfully mischievous piece Chris and it no doubt keeps Wayne Mapp and the anonymous feeling warm these chilly months.

Anonymous said...

Winston could always defect to National, as the bulk of the voters actually wanted. Oh, there is a bright idea, honour democracy Winston! Maybe then, he would climb in the polls. But he won't, revenge and utu and being the PM is al he actually he cares about. This stuff about bringing in a kinder NZ is absolute tosh. It's all about Winston, always has been, always will be. Bring on the next election, National have been forgiven. 'Selection' does not work, the voters never forget.

Ron

greywarbler said...

Shirley K
Read life here 2018 Aotearoa NZ - and ponder today's realities, let alone the totally different future we have from the 1987 state of the nation.
Gosh I don't evolve as fast as you Shirley. I'm still basically the same person I was in 1987, only older and a bit wiser. My children still look the same species they were when they were born and seem to want similar things to the old norm. Maybe you threw your baby out with the bathwater, but I didn't. I want to preserve the good from the past, gather strength and wisdom in the present, and be ready to combat what climate change sends and the ultra wealthy decide will satisfy them from moment to moment.

speiro said...

Wayne thinks that NZ is being governed in line with the will of the people as 81% of voters voted for Labour or National, and by doing so this 'majority' provided consensus for those parties platforms. This represents a narrow view of voter behavior. People vote for a particular party for a variety of reasons (loyalty, family history, symbolism,(intense)dislike of the other, lesser of two evils, more confidence in one over the other etc) It is a major assumption that a vote for a party represents agreement with that party's platform.
As Labour and National are so similar (esp on economic policy, where the greens became subservient to Labour), where was the actual 'revolutionary' alternative for voters? It didn't exist. As for NZ being governed in line with the will of the people, voter turnout was still reasonably low, 19% of those that did vote didn't vote Labour or National, and as such, the two main parties are each pulling in approx 25% at best of all eligible voters. Labour was dead and buried until Jacinda arrived. As she symbolized significant change Labour surged, and that surge died in the final week when it became clear that significant change wouldn't happen (no changes to tax system during first term etc). Add to the mix the extremely low ratings of trust in politicians at the moment and I'd argue that NZ is definitely NOT being governed in line with the will of the majority of the people. And the sooner Labour realize that and act accordingly, the more likely they'll be to get a second term.
At the moment however we seem to be moving closer to resembling the American system of two increasingly irrelevant major political parties that are oblivious to the will of the population they claim to represent

Anonymous said...

Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy, by Paul Edward Gottfried
"Here we arrive at Gottfried's central point. The managerial state wishes to weaken, if not cripple altogether, any social group not under its control. The favored minorities who benefit from multiculturalism depend entirely on the state for their enhanced position: strengthening them weakens those who might prove recalcitrant to the state's domination. A majority culture not created by the state is in a position effectively to resist its absolute mastery; hence the state claims that the historically dominant culture is but one of many competing groups, enjoying no privileged status. As a result, civil society loses its independent status and becomes totally subject to the state's power.


https://mises.org/library/multiculturalism-and-politics-guil
t-toward-secular-theocracy-paul-edward-gottfried

The managerial state is having problems with it's Tommy Robinson and the other party. it is resisting that that NZ First was about (or supposed to be).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Many people have written off Winston before. I will not do so before they prize the baubles of office from his cold dead hands. :)

Polly. said...

Guerilla Surgeon;
Well said.
It will happen.
Don't hold your breathe.
That could be dangerous.
He's got seven lives.
Unfortunately.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The managerial state is having problems with it's Tommy Robinson".
Oh – you mean –Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, who has been in jail multiple times for things ranging from football violence to mortgage fraud? Who lost his job for punching a policeman? Who has been jailed for contempt of court, after being warned he would be jailed for contempt of court if he did it again because of a previous offence of contempt of court?Who jeopardised a criminal case against paedophiles and rapists by his grandstanding? That Tommy Robinson – yes the managerial state is certainly having trouble with him.... right. Now if the Brits had a three strikes and you're out law as all these conservatives seem to want.........

greywarbler said...

This questioning about public debt to NZ GDP which has apparently been decided to keep about 20% seems more to the austerity side than just being prudent.
(... 19.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022.)
https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/357606/budget-2018-the-fiscal-nitty-gritty

Laced in by such a metal corset we will be constrained from making much headway in our restoration of services, our mouldy creaky infrastructure, our initiatives to shake off lethargy in utilising the sad capacity of young manpower wanting work etc.

Yet look at the spread of countries in this list of major economies in the world. Hardly any small countries that matter are down at 20%.


Compare - net debt to GDP for 2017 (CIA) - USA Central Intelligence Agency.
Japan 223.8%
Singapore 114.6%
Belgium 104.3%
Canada 98.2%
UK 90.4%
Austria 81.7%
United States 77.4%
Ireland 69.5%
Germany 65.7%
Finland 63.8%
World (average?) 59.9%
Netherlands 59%
South Africa 50.1%
Australia 47.1%
South Korea 43.3%
Sweden 39%
Denmark 35.1%
New Zealand 32%
Turkey 29.6%
Nepal 27.3%

China 18.6%
Russia 11.8%

(United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Canada - there is information about their public debt.)

At less than 25% we seem to be amongst some strange bedfellows!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt#/media/File:Government_debt_gdp.png

peter petterson said...

Is there a major overseas post coming up with the likelyhood of an early knighthood?

Anonymous said...

Hey Guerilla, nice hatchet job on Robinson. Yeah he has some convictions, some not pretty, others according to Wiki and other sources contentious. So on that basis is he different in terms of having an opinion, or being an activist different from Tama Iti who says good stuff?

Did you stop to ask why there is no live coverage in the media of multiple child rape cases? Or asked why they always give name suppression or why we dont get a courts page in the paper? Why does that prejudice fair trial now when years back it didn't? I feel very let down when a Tommy Robinson is the only noise between us and no reporting

So feel great about being better to the messenger when the state comes and takes your rights cos you weren't listening.

jh said...

Tommy Robinson. Peter Hitchen's gets it: I have felt deeply, hopelessly sorry that I did and said nothing in defence of those whose lives were turned upside down, without their ever being asked, and who were warned very clearly that, if they complained, they would be despised outcasts.
http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/04/how-i-am-partly-to-blame-for-mass-immigration.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tL5exJg4ms

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Did you stop to ask why there is no live coverage in the media of multiple child rape cases?"
Because the courts decided they did not want to prejudice the case. This is common in Britain and to some extent in New Zealand. It's part of the law. And he ran the risk of closing down the trial by posting shit on Facebook some of which I understand was untrue. All in the cause of protesting something. Well there's a couple of things arise from this, firstly if you are protesting and you get hammered for it, then you take it on the chin and don't whine about it.
And secondly, if you have already been warned, you do it again at your own risk.
If he wanted to protest, he should wait until the verdicts are in. Because he's not only jeopardising justice for the victims, but also costing the country a lot of money.

A hatchet job? Well, even the Daily Mail – that bastion of communist thought says he is a racist prick. I would agree with that and add that he's an eejit. Personally, I wouldn't need to know anything about him, all you need to do is judge by the people who are supporting him. Starting with that awful harridan Katie Hopkins, and of course the rest of the neo-Nazi trash on both sides of the Atlantic.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Did you stop to ask why there is no live coverage in the media of multiple child rape cases? Or asked why they always give name suppression or why we dont get a courts page in the paper?'

One of the reasons must be that there are eejits like Tommy Robinson around. Or did you not hear of the case where a paediatrician was assaulted because people like you can't tell the difference between that and a paedophile? I doubt somehow if British judges are anxious to let paedophiles off. Name suppression – similar. Because even if you're found not guilty, your name will be associated with the charge, and there you go – eejits.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention. "Tommy" has pleaded guilty and apologised. If he had the courage of his convictions he would have done neither.