Back five years ago*, when The Standard was founded by people like Ralph, Irish, Lynn, Tillerman, and Tane, it stood for a few basic Leftwing principles. Pro-worker, pro-environment, pro-equity, and anti-elitist. And it saw a Labour-led Left government as the best vehicle to achieve those goals. Much of the crew has changed but the values and the goals haven’t. The Standard is still The Standard; we’re still fighting for a Labour-led government. If a couple of senior Labour MPs now view it as a threat, it’s not because we have changed.
You may recall, as I do, when Clare Curran launched Labour’s Open Government policy as a crowd-sourced, Internet-based policy. A New Zealand first, that was welcomed as a democratisation of the party and New Zealand politics. Members thought this new approach, along with Red Alert, was the beginning of a new age. And the members are still striving for the ideals underlying that open, non-hierarchical approach as witnessed by the newly democratic leadership rules and the coming changes to electorate and list selection.
But the mood has changed in Labour’s own elite. Now, a senior Labour MP has written a letter to the New Zealand Council trying to stamp on debate by party members online. The MP has singled one individual commentator in particular for attack in the letter (don’t worry, you know already if it’s you) after using back-end data from Red Alert to identify them.
To be clear, a senior MP is attempting to change the membership rules of the party to punish a member for writing somethings that the MP doesn’t agree with in the comments section of blogs (which everyone knows Labour MPs don’t read anyway). Talk about breaking a butterfly upon a wheel. Talk about abusing your institutional power in an attempt to insulate yourself from criticism, no matter the cost to the party itself.
Apparently, the letter also included reference to bringing The Standard ‘back into line’. Which is funny, because I remember those conversations when we set up this site – and none of us talked about toeing any party’s line. We talked about countering the Right’s dominance of the blogosphere, providing a Left voice on issues the msm doesn’t cover, acting as a loose collective, and kicking Tory arse whenever possible.
When The Standard began, Labour was a 40% party. Now, it is a 30% party. And this shit is why. It is this siege mentality, this constant threat of purging if you don’t toe the line that has driven good people from Labour and seen shocking results like Dunedin South going blue for the first time ever on the party vote, and Labour becoming a third party in Wellington Central. In those five years, The Standard hasn’t changed, Labour’s base hasn’t changed, and the New Zealand population hasn’t really changed. But something has changed, for the worse.
Ironically, senior Labour MPs, who are now trying to suppress members and non-members’ personal opinions, have resisted all attempts by their own media staff to exercise message discipline over their online activities. Or, perhaps, that isn’t ironic at all. Don’t both the attempts to shut down dissenting membership voices and the refusal to accept messaging advice both reflect an elitist outlook that puts personal power ahead of responsibility to the party?
So, how about we stop the siege mentality shit, stop trying to stomp on anyone who doesn’t agree with you 100% of the time, and get on with winning the next bloody election? Sounds like a winning plan to me.
*(we forgot to celebrate our 5th birthday! oops)