|Speaking Out: Advertisement for the Knigi publishing house, from the portrait of Lili Brik, by Alexandre Rodtchenko, 1924|
THERE’S A STORY I HEARD about Nikita Khrushchev and his famous speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956. This was the speech in which he denounced Stalin’s crimes against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its long-suffering peoples. At the conclusion of the speech, and after the obligatory standing ovation, one of the delegates shouted out: “Why didn’t you say all that when Stalin was alive!” “Who said that?” Khrushchev shouted back. A deathly silence fell over the congress. Khrushchev waited a full minute before smiling grimly and saying: “That’s why.”
I recalled that story when I read the Editorial in today’s (18/8/22) NZ Herald. Alluding to the Labour Caucus’ decision to suspend Dr Gaurav Sharma, the leader-writer opined:
“The unanimity of the decision to suspend Sharma is significant too, as the Labour Caucus is a broad church of 65 MPs. None it seems, felt he merited another chance.”
It is difficult to conceive of a statement more revealing of the political ignorance in which so many of those who presume to pass judgement on our nation’s politics are steeped. What Labour MP in their right mind would have dared to vote against the Leader’s clear preference to eject Sharma from Caucus?
Had a Cabinet Minister done so, it would have been interpreted as a direct thrust against the Prime Minister. Backbenchers, having witnessed the emotional violence visited upon Sharma over the preceding days, would have raised a hand only if, like the Member for Hamilton West, they were desperate to escape the parliamentary snake-pit.
It might not be political ignorance, however, which prompts such fatuous commentary. It might be the news media’s shameful complicity in the Labour Party’s nasty habit of disciplining and punishing anyone who dares draw voters’ attention to the naked realities of power. It is nothing short of astonishing that the newspaper which published Sharma’s original op-ed critique was prepared, just a few days later, to assert that the very same dissident-crushing strategies he had complained of, and which had been on full display from the moment it appeared, were no more than could reasonably have been expected.
None of us should be surprised at this “suck-up, punch-down” New Zealand character trait, it has been with us for most of our history. But, even though we know how New Zealanders in authority are going to react to even the slightest challenge, it still comes as a bitter disappointment to discover just how few friends dissidents have in this country.
The sneer and the put-down are everywhere. The same day as the NZ Herald opted to suggest that Sharma more-or-less had it coming, RNZ’s afternoon host, Jesse Mulligan, spent 10 minutes talking to Dr Grant Morris of Victoria University of Wellington about the history of “rogue” MPs in New Zealand. Though both participants in this discussion agreed that the expression “rogue” wasn’t very accurate, that did not prevent them from using the pejorative term throughout the broadcast segment.
Both men agreed that the common thread running through the stories of MPs who had spoken out against the leadership and/or the policies of their party was less about principle than it was about ego. In justification of this thesis, Morris advanced the example of Herbert (Bert) Kyle, the National Party Member for Riccarton. In 1942, Kyle had a falling out with the National leader, Sid Holland, resigned from the party (before he was expelled) and left Parliament altogether in 1943.
Because it has so much in common with Sharma’s complaints about Labour in 2022, Kyle’s reason for leaving bears repeating: “The National Party organization has built up a watertight compartment that makes one become a ‘yes man’ with expulsion as an alternative.”
What Morris neglected to say in his remarks about this little-known rebel, is that his charges against Holland were, almost certainly, true. The National Party’s second leader brought New Zealand as close as it has yet come to having a fascist in charge of a major party. Holland had been a prominent member of the New Zealand Legion – a proto-fascist organisation that grew to an impressive size in the aftermath of the unemployment riots of 1932. It was Holland who drafted the viciously authoritarian “Emergency Regulations” which effectively extinguished democracy in New Zealand for the duration of the 1951 Waterfront Dispute.
Far from being a egoist, the mild-mannered veterinarian-turned-politician, Bert Kyle, was a man of principle who recognised a dangerous bully when he saw one, and was unwilling to become a “yes-man” to a politician whose personal political ideology bore a disturbing resemblance to that of the Nazi warlord New Zealanders were then fighting and dying to defeat.
Close study of these so-called “rogue” MPs reveals that in a clear majority of cases it is a clutch of very similar concerns about the leadership, policies and administration of their respective parties that lies at the heart of their rebellions. As Jim Anderton (whose example of “roguishness” Morris omitted entirely) liked to say: “I didn’t leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me.”
Jacinda Ardern is fortunate that her own rebel MP is more aggrieved about his party’s handling of employment issues than he is about its policies. A left-wing politician worthy of the name, with a mind to rebel against the ideological positioning of Labour under its present leadership, could inflict enormous damage upon the Ardern Government.
Not that expressing concern at the behaviour Sharma calls “bullying” is in any way trivial. In a caucus where there is a disturbingly large number of MPs who subscribe to the political tactic of “NO Debate!”; and are eager to see “Hate Speech” legislation (which could see citizens sent to jail for three years for expressing unpopular opinions) passed at the earliest opportunity; and will brook no dissenting from Labour’s radical interpretation of te Tiriti o Waitangi; the ability to bully and intimidate doubters would seem to be a necessary part of the modern Labour politician’s skill-set.
Not that the organs of “official” opinion are at all interested in lending their support to those foolish enough, or brave enough, to speak out on such matters. Dissidents will be paid just enough attention to validate the claims of the Powers-That-Be that we live in a free society. What these “out-speakers” will never be given, however, are the resources needed to explain why we don’t.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 19 August 2022.
I recall a union meeting back back when Kiwi Keith's Nation Party was in power. I was a student working in the Waitara Thos Borthwick freezing works at the time. The meeting was called over the matter of a law suit that involved Tom Shand, the then Minister of Labour (so it must have been 1967 or '68).
What the workers were being asked for was that a contribution be made to fund whoever it was that was opposing Mr Shand. Now, I don't know what the union management (I call it that advisedly) thought the mood of the meeting was, but I could sense that the workers didn't want to know. That sense of - not hostility exactly, more a wooden 'we don't want a bar of this' - the room was thick with it. I don't recall much discussion, or any really; but here is where I learned something about silence. I'll come to that.
At any rate, the thing was put to the vote: three for (that I could see), none against, carried unanimously. This in a shed of 100+ workers.
Now the thing didn't come to anything, in the event. Possibly that was due to Mr Shand's illness that led to his untimely death. But that incident stayed with me ever since. You could FEEL the dissent in the room. I'm am certain in my mind, the union management could as well. They could not have been so otherwise obtuse.
Why didn't I speak up? I was 17 or 18 - I think I might still have been in high school. And what did I know of the issues? But that was when I first began to realise that 'silence means consent' is a crock - a fraud. Silence means dissent, has never meant anything else, and ought always to be taken as such. But of course, vested interest won't get what it wants that way, will it?
I have always been in favour of trades union in principle - after all, doctors, lawyers and accountants did very well out of theirs - but, as a certain T. Jefferson once observed: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Guess where, and at whom, Mr Jefferson intended his audience to direct their vigilance? Already in this country a lot of trades union were in the process of ossifying into organisations as much 'management v workers' as existed in the companies they worked in. The upshot was to be the craven betrayal of the workers come the socio-economic vandalism that was visited upon this country by Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.
Plus ça change...
Ion A. Dowman
Great article. The rein of control runs deep. Its surprising to me it has taken this long for someone to air discontent within Jacindas palace
An excellent column. Whistleblower Dr Sharma has given us a valuable and deeply concerning insight into Labour's internal culture. The compulsory coaching for new MPs led by Ardern's office on how to evade the Official Information Act does not sit well with her pledge to run the most open, transparent government ever. Ardern should resign.
Naivete fails to trump political reality.
Politics, it should be plain, to even the most innocent of tyros such as Sharma, does not brook dissent.
Outlaws are verboten and if you don't like it then take up basket weaving.
As Maggie Thacher put it; given a choice between earnestly and honestly held personal beliefs, at odds with a Cabinet position, face it and swallow the big fat rodent.
Letter to the Editor
I am always amused by the anodyne monthly contributions to Talking Point by the local MP. A lesson in the art of Poli speak. Much about Covid, but little else. In January last I wrote to my Parliamentary representative posing a couple of questions, apart from an acknowledgement I have yet to have a reply.
Significantly, no mention of the policies emerging from the He Puapua report that is being surreptitiously pushed through the legislature. Policies calculated to divide the country and impose an undemocratic system of co-governance. All without the knowledge or consent of the populace.
The legislation in question, ostensibly designed to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, gets not to mention yet the consequences are so fundamental to the future of New Zealand that one would have thought it imperative that the proposals be publicised and debated.
The fulcrum seems to be a mysterious reinterpretation of a simple unambiguous document that served its purpose should have been consigned to the archive – the Treaty of Waitangi.
One must wonder at the audacity of a government whose leader (the most transparent ever) feels free to subvert the tried and trusted Westminster system of government without let or hindrance. Of course, she serves a higher cause and has a better understanding of affairs than the deplorables. Covid is used to hide or mask the Marxist ploy of divide and rule to gain the desired ends.
Reply from Joe Luxton MP for Rangitata.
“The previous national government signed UNDRIP in 2010 and committed to developing a Declaration plan. New Zealand is one of 148 countries that support UNDRIP. We’ve now completed the first stage of a two-step engagement process to develop a Declaration Plan this has provided us with valuable feedback to help with drafting a Declaration Plan that we will then take out to wider consultation. All New Zealanders will get the chance to comment on the range of actions proposed in the draft declaration plan.”
“He PuaPua is not the Declaration Plan, nor is it government policy. Reports like He Puapua and Matike Wai are part of a long history of reports on addressing indigenous rights in Aotearoa and should be seen in that context."
Why is this reply in quotation marks, did some one else write it? Another manifestation of Doctor Sharma's trenchant comments on the internal culture of the Labour Party ?
"Whistleblower Dr Sharma has given us a valuable and deeply concerning insight into L̶a̶b̶o̶u̶r̶'̶s̶
parliament's with the possible exception of the Greens, and of course of ACT who only has one MP. :) Internal culture. FTFY.
So what do you all suggest we put in its place? The US system where two members of Congress can hold up the President's hold program because they receive money from forces that are opposed to it, and are engaged in enriching themselves?
Bill Wright. An excellent letter, to which you have received a thoroughly disingenuous reply. The Maori Health Authority and the Three Waters legislation are pretty much straight out of the pages of He Pua Pua. But beyond that, New Zealand has no need of an UNDRIP "Declaration Plan". The Declaration is not a UN treaty so it is not binding on New Zealand nor any other country, which is one of the reasons why so many were content to go along with its adoption. New Zealand has no need to take any steps in response to it. Furthermore New Zealand made clear its substantial reservations about the relevance of the document to our own situation when it announced (secretly and without any public consultation, via Peter Sharples) its support back in 2010.
The Ardern regime's attempt to impose "co governance" on this country without a democratically obtained mandate is illegitimate and must be opposed.
I knew that there would be a logical explanation and predictably they did it, the last national government. They committed the country to develop a Declaration Plan on signing up to UNDRIP. Meanwhile, the Labour Party were innocent bystanders. Likewise, I was relieved to learn from my parliamentary representative at the contents of the He Puapua report are not Labour Party policy.
So, I took another look at the He Puapua report, all 106 pages, written in pidgin English. Commissioned by the Labour Government in 2019. The document was kept under wraps during the 2020 election campaign. It is difficult to read, presumptive, racist, and arrogant. It reads as if implementation is a foregone conclusion, leading to a two-tier system of government by 2040 with a casting vote to the Maori. If the content is not government policy, then it must certainly be a precursor as witness recent events in Rotorua.
Again, it is curious how certain bills now before Parliament bear a striking resemblance to ideas expressed in the He Puapua report. Three Waters and the divisive Maori health system for instance. Courts, in delivering judgement, must now take account of something unwritten and intangible described as Tikanga Maori.
Even the history of this country has been re-written in a new national history curriculum to give emphasis to matters Maori. The proposed curriculum suggests a deliberate attempt to acculturate the schoolchildren of New Zealand into Matauranga and Tikanga Maori, and to promote beliefs and values according to Te Ao Maori. The complete draft curriculum appears to be written in this context, to the exclusion of other traditional norms and values of the majority of New Zealanders, which emanate, for example, from European and Christian foundation.
One has to question the sanity and integrity of those seeking to impose a racially divisive system of co-governance on this nation. Quite apart from other considerations, the democratic imperative, consequent disruption, and the sheer unnecessary cost, should all kill any such ideas.
I made a mistake, I voted for Jo Luxton and her party. She, a democratically elected local parliamentary representative cannot, or will not, answers question put by constituents. Now Labour feels more like the political foe with their destructive intentions.
ACT currently have 10 MPs, not one. The smallest party in our parliament at present is Te Pati Maori, with 2 members.
Thanks for taking this up Bill. There are many of us who made a terrible voting error in 2020. I was on the electoral committee for my MP but resigned in 2021 when the traitorous agenda became apparent. When challenged at meetings our MP had only spin.
I have a burning desire for this government to be kneecapped as soon as possible and hopefully replaced by a messiah yet to be revealed.
In the meantime we have to do what we can, supporting transparency to reveal the secrets of the traitors.
10 MPs? My God do they really? I must confess I don't take much interest in ACT – but what are they doing? I haven't heard of any of them apart from the dear leader. So obviously not a great deal.
One reason we needed to shift to MMP is that it was unworkable for the Labour Party to represent the entire spectrum of opinion from Richard Prebble to Sonya Davies and Jim Anderton (not to forget Tariana Turia, Peter Dunne and Rod Donald).
It was better for all af us that Labour soon split into 6 Parties inder MMP (ACT, New Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, United Future and Labour itself. National's contribution was NZ First and a few other parties, mostly short-lived.
If there really is, today, a political culture enforcing team loyalty and silent acquiescence, it must have arisen quite recently. There was certainly plenty of open political debate when I was involved in the Labour Party 1980 to 1995 and went to all the conferences.
Come to think of it, I think I saw you, yourself, at some of theses events, when Labour openly engaged in a virtual Civil War?
Times have changed, and for the better, I'd say.
Please publish the comment just posted, under my name, not as "Anonymous".
Apologies for the delay in noting my omission
Totally agree. This is looking
More and more like an autocratic regime,opening the way to dictatorship. I know very well the signs of the storm asi come from an ex communist country.
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