Monday 20 May 2024

Leading Labour Off The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

He’s Got The Moxie: Only Willie Jackson possesses the credentials to meld together a new Labour message that is, at one and the same moment, staunchly working-class, union-friendly, and which speaks to the hundreds-of-thousands of urban Māori untethered to the neo-tribal capitalist elites of the Iwi Leaders Forum.

IT’S ONE OF THE LEFT’S favourite games. (And, quite possibly, one of the Right’s as well.) Imagining Aotearoa-New Zealand in “x” number of years.

Over the weekend (18-19/5/24) Labour’s leader, Chris Hipkins, opted for Aotearoa-New Zealand 2040 – the bi-centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. In a lengthy speech, he described for the delegates to Labour’s Auckland Regional Conference a world in which all of their party’s policies have been brought to fruition. It’s an Aotearoa-New Zealand in which Labour’s political opponents have seen the error of their ways, and nobody is indelicate enough to offer the slightest objection to Labour’s plans.

Nearly a century ago this sort of utopian speculation was the stuff of popular songs. One of the most memorable was Harry McClintock’s 1928 hit, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”. McClintock was a shrewd enough entertainer to deliver his utopianism satirically:

In The Big Rock Candy Mountains
There’s a land that’s fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In The Big Rock Candy Mountains

Hipkins, by contrast, takes himself, and his vision of the future, very seriously. On education, he had this to say:

In 2040 Labour has sparked a love of learning. Kids are in a hurry to get to school, because schools have been transformed. Teaching and learning has been re-focused to bring out the best in every child, rather than stuffing things into them. Schools and teachers have been empowered to reject the 20th century factory model of schooling for one that focusses on 21st century skills like problem solving, creativity, teamwork, adaptability and resilience alongside core basics like reading, writing and maths. Practical life skills like home budgeting, how to prepare a healthy meal, and how to look after your own health have also been taught in schools, leaving kids better prepared for life beyond the school gate.

In other words, Labour’s intention, the moment it is returned to power (with Hipkins at the helm) is to force New Zealand educationalists to once again embrace the discredited pedagogical regime that sent New Zealand’s students tumbling down the international league-tables of effective education.

No longer will New Zealand parents have to worry about their precious offspring being subjected to “the 20th century factory model of schooling”. (That would be the model that guaranteed literacy and numeracy, and “stuffed” kids full of useful general knowledge about the way the world works.) Ahead of the Three Rs, on Hipkins’ twenty-first century Big Rock Candy Mountain, children will learn “problem solving, creativity, teamwork, adaptability and resilience”. Meanwhile, their international competitors in Asia and Africa will be emerging from their school gates with the skills needed to acquire nation-building degrees in science, technology and mathematics.

Confronted with this sort of social-liberal dogma, the criticism that Labour has, like the Bourbon rulers of France, “learned nothing and forgotten nothing”, seems particularly apt. At the upper levels of the Labour Party hierarchy there would appear to be an unshakeable belief that the way forward for New Zealand is both well-understood and well-tested. Election defeats notwithstanding, the party’s policy agenda must remain unchanged.

According to this faction, those who suggest a fundamental re-think of the options Labour has placed repeatedly before the electorate should be ignored. Hipkins and his caucus allies are adamant that the party must not succumb to the pressures of populism. The embittered and ambitious individuals who now control Labour’s Policy Council may propose all manner of radical solutions, but they are all well aware that, as the date of the next election draws near, the power to dispose (as in ‘fix’, ‘decide’ and ‘determine’) will always be reclaimed by the parliamentary party.

In other words, dramatic shifts in Labour Party policy can only be effected by a change of leader, and that, in turn, is only possible following the formation of a party faction large enough to guarantee an easy caucus victory (two-thirds or more) for the challenger. The question, therefore, becomes: Is there anyone in Labour’s present caucus capable of assembling the numbers required to topple Hipkins and turn Labour in a new direction?

A number of commentators have pointed to Kieran McAnulty as a possible contender for the No. 1 spot. Superficially attractive as a leadership candidate, McAnulty has steadfastly refused to deliver even the slightest hint that he is, or might become, a serious candidate for the leadership of his party.

Signalling interest in the top job doesn’t always have to be blunt and obvious, it can be delivered subtly in the form of a joke; by forcefully endorsing developments in “sister” parties offshore; or – most commonly – by denying interest in such a pro-forma fashion that the contrary message is conveyed. McAnulty has done none of these things. When he disclaims all interest in replacing Hipkins, he should probably be believed.

Carmel Sepuloni’s name has also been mentioned as a possible contender. It is, however, most unlikely that such a loyal lieutenant would seek to replace her leader in any circumstances other than his stepping-down from the party leadership voluntarily. Sepuloni has been Hipkins’ fierce and reliable ally for so long that it is stretching credulity to suggest that she might become his challenger – rather than his successor.

Which leaves only Willie Jackson. Alone in Labour’s caucus, Jackson has what the Americans would call the “moxie” to mount a serious challenge. The fact that Jackson straddles three of Labour’s key voting blocs: working-class Kiwis, Māori, trade unionists; equips him admirably, as a left-wing politician, to challenge directly the soft, middle-class centres of Labour’s box of chocolates.

Only Jackson possesses the credentials to meld together a new Labour message that is, at one and the same moment, staunchly working-class, union-friendly, and which speaks to the hundreds-of-thousands of urban Māori untethered to the neo-tribal capitalist elites of the Iwi Leaders Forum. In much the same way as Richard Nixon was the only president who could have successfully sold the USA’s rapprochement with China, Jackson is the only New Zealand politician capable of “selling” a Tiriti-based Aotearoa as the best means of uplifting both working-class Māori and working-class Pakeha.

Labour’s ad campaign for the Māori seats in 2017, in which the urban, working-class lives of most Māori were lovingly depicted, and which secured all seven seats for Labour, points the way. With a minimum of tweaking, the messaging and imagery of that 2017 campaign could reposition Labour in a way which would allow it to shrug-off its “woke” middle-class voters to the Greens. Certainly, if Jackson opted to lead the charge for significant and progressive tax reform within the party, he would have scant difficulty in organising a populist left-wing faction behind him.

At the very least, a Jackson tilt at the Labour leadership would be of huge assistance in bringing the party down off its Big Rock Candy Mountain.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 20 May 2024.


Jonzie said...

Does anyone have a clue why Hipkins is still there? I mean, when education (or any other portfolio he's touched) and Hipkins are mentioned in the same sentence, doesn't that make your blood boil? Or does it bring on painful laughter? As for Loudmouth Jackson, sure he's an option. But then anyone is after Hipkins.

The Barron said...

McClintock wrote The Big Rock Candy Mountain from the perspective of a 'hobo' looking at an ideal as someone who had nothing. This added to the 'happy hobo' myth of the American freedom of the road for those that 'choose' to be homeless. In actual fact, the hobos of the '30s had high death rates, major health issues, alcohol and drug dependency, violence, exploitation and significant instance of male rape, especially for the young homeless.

I am not sure where you get the "the discredited pedagogical regime". The previous government was more likely to take advice from education professionals and professional associations than their predecessor or successor. I believe they could have gone far further, and those that have studied the Finnish model would agree. Education is underfunded, Teacher's underpaid on an international standard. There was challenge to Tomorrow Schools, but not the level dismantle of the siloed school governance needed.

I am always concerned that the direction of education is something that people are wanting to substitute their opinions over the education professionals. Populism over expertise This is not something that happens in health or other professions. This government has not produced evidence for their changes, but appealed to people to look backwards at their own education.

There is a trend to discard expertise. It is getting amplified in this blog. This is something to be weary of. The government trend is to identify where they see a problem. Remove the status quo. Then push an alternative that avoids scrutiny from both professionals and the public. Usually one that loosens the public control or ownership. Then claim a mandate for something no detail has been released.

A return to 1984 (the Labour Government and Orwell).

David George said...

Not too sure Labour are that desperate (yet) to make such a poor choice, Chris.
Willy J comes across as disagreeable, divisive and devious. He clearly thinks he's pretty special but does anyone else actually like him?

Little Keith said...

It depends on what you want to achieve with Jackson at the helm. He may bring it off Rock Candy Mountain and into the racial black hole instead.

To his credit Willie stayed well away from the lime light preferring to toil away in the shadows. He led his caucus within a caucus skillfully and owned the non race based main caucus. He knew all too well to never go to the people with his revolution, rather he used his weak Prime Minister to ensure he got what he wanted.

Labours hidden agenda stank, it screamed distrust and a realisation what they were doing was undemocratic and would have been unacceptable if they consulted with the people, so they didn't. He was neck deep in that agenda.

But on the other side of the ledger, Jackson single-mindedly cared about one race only and race obsessed politicians no matter what race are divisive and dangerous. Anyone who views the world through the lens of racial identity is no friend of the people.

His efforts were no small contributor to Labours demise playing into their increasingly ugly identity politics narrative, abusing Labours woke clueless caucus faux guilt. He set back race relations substantially.

It's hard to conceive of a worse leadership candidate. And it's a pity, because if Willie cared at all about this country as a whole, he would have been an excellent candidate!

Shane McDowall said...

Well Chris, I can assure you that I am one of the "hundreds-of-thousands of urban Maori untethered to the neo-tribal capitalist elites...".

I would not vote for Willie Jackson if he was the only candidate running in every electorate in New Zealand.

His only good point is that he is not a member of the Maori Party.

New Zealand has never had an elected Maori prime minister, and I do not believe that Willie Jackson will be the first.

National will probably win the next election, so whoever is silly enough to succeed Chippy before then must be blind to the big chalice with the word "POISONED" engraved on it.

Anonymous said...

Labour have "learned nothing and forgotten nothing". Ain't that the god given truth!

These narcissists are so arrogant they cannot even begin to self reflect. They, like their woke brethren, are never wrong. No matter the evidence is, punching them in the face, they are right. What's the latest, Labour did not get enough time for their policies to bed in? Are they crazy?

Crime has bedded in though. Labour Green woke law and order dogma combined with housing the homeless and full time criminals compactly in the CBD has been a one two punch combo on the oublics safety. Hot on the heels of One NZ closing it's downtown store, and still paying the rent, such was the lack of hope and the necessity to escape Gotham City and Michael Hill Jewelers declaring NZ to be the most problematic in terms of crime in their world wide chain, Statitics NZ are abandoning their central city office block because staff find it unsafe to leave the building... at any time! But thank God we've banned cars, the only safe means of getting around the shit hole!

Hipkins is not to blame, he's just a clone of all the rest of the rotten Labour caucus. The same ones selected on critcal theory identity grounds. Labour were always going to be shit and no one should be surprised.

Anyway, Willie "The tyranny of democracy" Jackson is not going to save the day. He too, is part of the problem.

EP said...

Oh come on! We're talking about running the country - wisely, intelligently, knowledgably. How desperate are you?

The Barron said...

We should not overlook the obvious, Willie Jackson has experience as the leader of a political party with Mana Motuhake from 2001 - 2003.

greywarbler said...

The Barron on education gives some helpful ideas that cheer me as a possible possibility. I wish. And on deciding what should be done when calling on professsionals - if it was possible to put down at the top of the page/screen a summary of what was hoped for. What is needed, and the question how do we get that? Separately noted would be the major problems that had to be confronted, and look at those quickly and note ideas. Then go back to the mainstream and get a working plan and get professional opinion on it. Then at what is proposed as extra applications for the problems.

This would be better than letting professionals recommend their ideas and their reckons as to what would work in a general way.

Larry Mitchell said...

Jackson ... No way Jose'. Not that is, if there is ever to be another Labour cluster ... Oops Gummint.

David George said...

I see Bryce Edwards is banging the Jackson drum as well, quite a good essay with some pretty pertinent caveats.

The idea that Jackson is, or can re-invent himself as, a populist does seem very much at odds with his blatant dismissal of democracy and his promotion of racial separatism. I don't know how he could untangle himself from the perception that he's part of an arrogant, we know best, elite and gain the confidence of "The Normies".

"A fierce political conflict is raging over much of the democratic world. On one side we find the normies: ordinary people who defend, naively, the historic principles of democracy such as freedom of speech and assembly, the separation of powers, etc. On the other side stand the elites, masters of the great institutions of wealth, knowledge, and power, who insist that extraordinary measures must be taken to save a depraved and self-destructive society from its own history and its own people—that is to say, from the normies.

The elites are driven entirely by the impulse to control. They detest democracy, which keeps getting in their way, and much prefer a golden ideal they possessively call “Our Democracy”—their own rule in perpetuity. Individual rights are unfortunate legacies from a simpler era. The First Amendment, for example, they see as “hamstringing the government in significant ways.” By the way, that was Ketanji Brown Jackson talking, a Supreme Court justice [Biden appointee] whose job it is to defend the Constitution. Freedom of speech does hamstring government, that’s perfectly true—but only to the elites (who hate the sound of normie voices) is it a bad thing.

What is the conflict about?"

David George said...

The Barron: "The previous government was more likely to take advice from education professionals"

"Professionals" that are blinded by their ideology to the obvious flaws in their advice and the consequent, and demonstrable, failing of our children? "Decolonising" the curriculum and the promotion of sexual deviancy, it might surprise you, is not what we send our kids to school for; particularly when core literacy, numeracy and thinking skills are almost regarded as secondary. You may not be aware that the new government have set up a panel of experts to review the curriculum, and education more broadly, so it's not as if they're just making it up as they go along.

new view said...

Not a lot of positive comments for Willie Chris. Yes he's qualified, yes he is Maori but to take a nation with him he would have to represent the views of the majority and he doesn't. He's more of an activist than a leader. His comments on anything can be outrageous, not what is required for party leader or Prime minister. I don't like McAnulty and I'm not sure why, but I believe out of the current bunch he is the only one capable of impressing the people. He's articulate knows his subjects and has a quiet dignified confidence about him. I don't believe for one minute he's not interested in becoming the Labour party leader. Labour are in a vacuum at present so why would he stick his head up to be picked over by the media and fuel speculation that might go nowhere. No, he will wait for the next year and observe the wind direction. If chippie holds some popularity and labour is doing ok in the polls he will stay quiet. If not he may put out the feelers to see what support he has. Labour won't win the next election with chippie but if National's popularity drops and doesn't recover in two years McAnulty might just have a chance.

The Barron said...

Ah David, bellicose as a substitute for knowledge and sustenance. I am not a teacher, but I have a great deal of respect for the profession and the professionals involved. At secondary level all have two degrees and are trained in pedagogy. That training should be on-going, both in the subject area and the pedagogy. Personally, I do not think the Ministry give enough funding and time allowance for on-going training, but it is still a factor of education.

That both yourself and Chris believe there is a "pedagogical regime" or "blinded by their ideology" is nonsensical. Senior teachers have forty years of varying knowledge and training. School delivery is diverse, as are the school models under the state. Many have taught in a variety of schools and bring all that experience with them.

The main "ideology" in NZ education in comparison with some other nation's systems is that we have an expectation that all students achievement must be supported, whereas some countries discard those with needs and concentrate at the top level. Most that follow the latter model are in the developing world.

Promotion of sexual deviancy??? I can only surmise what you refer to and that, once again David, you conflate gender identity with sexual practice. Everything comes down sex and genitals to you if identity is raised. I'm glad you are not an educator.

As for the 'panel of experts', obviously you hope these 'experts' won't be 'professionals' from the education sector.

Alw said...

McAnulty on TV tried to justify co-governance by saying New Zealand could have its own system of democracy, as if genuine democracy didn't matter. He then found out in short order that his own electorate had its own view on what democracy means. Chris, you're in dreamworld if you think the electorate would accept Jackson as a potential PM.

The Barron said...

Actually David, perhaps I should explain the difference in categorization (although categorization itself is problematic).

Sexual identity: this is how someone self-identifies themselves in regard to their own view of sexual orientation. This does not mean the person follows the same sexual practice as their identity, or, any sexual practice at all. In the west, the church or armed forces absorbed many who felt same sex attraction, this does not mean they acted on their self-identity. There are many traditionally married people in which one partner has same sex attraction on some spectrum but has never been involved in same-sex activity. There are those that openly express an identity as gay, but are celibate. And, of course, identities anywhere along a spectrum for self-identity. [NB: it is often those with struggling or suppressed sexual identity that are the most verbose condemning others].

Gendered identity: As above. It is a self identification that is sometimes externally expressed, often as culture dictates, sometimes it is suppressed. Once again, it is a spectrum. In many non-western societies, gendered identity does not equate to sexual practice or partnership.

There is no evidence to suggest that there is a societal change in personal identity, but that there is a growing naturalization of the expression of identities in the west. Those insecure with this expression, minimalize the people concerned from identity to sexual practice.

The other thing is to realign the prejudice. In this, there are those that spent decades denying women spatial safety and autonomy. This then is a debate taken away from women and those with liminal gender identities, but becomes a salacious reasoning for obsession as to genitalia as an identity expression.

It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.

Anonymous said...

A Machievellian column...🤣 has significant merit!

David George said...

Thanks for the explanation.
Personality differences are not different genders, Barron, no wonder they're having to make up new genders. What's it up to now? Dozens? Hundreds? Where will it end?
Most of us can just laugh it off but they're laying this BS on vulnerable children and adolescents with predictable consequences. Confused, depressed and suicidal youngsters.

The Barron said...

Gender is a self identity along a spectrum. Sex is used regarding primary sexual characteristics, most noticeably, genitalia. Even this may not be binary with an estimated 117,000 intersex in NZ (source: Intersex Aotearoa).

I am glad you acknowledge confusion, depression and suicidal and self harm tendencies amongst those dealing with societal acceptance of self identity. Hopefully this is the beginning of empathy for individuals and parents seeking the most supportive and safest way to express the identity. This is why the Cass report is important and cultural practices are important. Surgery is undoubted the best and safest approach for some, but it is not for all. Like all people should have, all supportive options need to be discussed for an informed descion.

I would hope your expressed empathy is extended to the individual and family in whatever informed and safe decision is made.

Anonymous said...

Are plummeting test scores not sufficient to discredit the pedagogical regime? In any event the current government does seem to have taken advice on literacy teaching, though perhaps not the advice you prefer.

Anonymous said...

Given mana motuhake was only a constituent party of the confused rabble that was the Alliance, I don't see how this enhances his suitability to lead the Labour Party.

The Barron said...

Any indicator like the national and international test scores must be analysised. Particularly after the pandemic we have to factor many things. Any changes to the current systems must be subject to professional scrutiny.

As a very obvious example, if A is not getting the required results, that in itself is not evidence that B will get the results. Both A and B need comparative analysis.

The Barron said...

You don't understand how political party leadership and organizational party management could be relevant to political party leadership and organizational party management ?

No wonder you are anonymous.

MCA said...

Anyone seriously wanting real change needs to change the way money works or you change nothing.
In the case of Aotearoa, the repeal of foundation legislation that enables the economic agenda of neo liberalism. Then we build from there. That platform would regain Labour my vote.