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Labour’s diminishing vision

Written By: - Date published: 1:04 pm, March 9th, 2012 - 89 comments
Categories: david shearer, labour, len brown, phil goff - Tags: , ,

Labour leaders face a problem across the world. Ed Miliband, David Shearer (and Phil Goff previously) and Julia Gillard all seem to be unable to create a lasting and inspiring approach to engages volunteers, activists and voters in a vision. Len Brown had it- his vision for the city in the campaign was interesting, engaging and genuinely inspiring. He has lost it now.

The leaders mentioned have no obvious sense of vision or values to take their respective countries (or cities) in to the future. They are marked by poor polling and an electorate that is not warming to them.

Or at the root no communications strategy or narrative.

I’ll focus on NZ Labour’s communications “strategy” (or rather lack thereof). I think David Shearer is being let down by an inept communications team and by useless advisors. We really have to stop assuming that because someone is a journalist they get campaign and political communications. There is more to it than boozy lunches with Duncan Garner.

This post argues that Labour must better define itself, what it stands for and where it wants to take New Zealand: its narrative. The lack of a coherent and consistent narrative, the inadequate management of the parties communications, the need to comment on all in sundry and the fact if you were to compare two press releases you wouldn’t know they were from the same party all contribute to my exasperation, as a party activist, at Labour and the “direction” it is heading.

Importantly, a narrative need not be new. But the lack of a narrative or a coherent and systematic message and communications plan that is encompassed by a vision is a leading factor in Ed Miliband is going nowhere and Gillard looks set to lose. The same problems are starting to follow Shearer and sank Goff.

In his book Looking for the Light on the Hill: Modern Labor’s challenges, Troy Bramston uses polling to analyse what he calls the identity crisis of the ALP.

I think this is equally applicable to NZ Labour.

The polling showed many of its core values were not even identified with the ALP brand: Labour in fact tied with the Coalition in the values of social justice, fairness and compassion and fell behind them on opportunity and bold, dynamic and innovative leadership.

The readers of this blog will no doubt know that Labour in NZ stands for these things: but how well do we communicate it?

In his Leadership stump speech Grant Robertson said that he feared politics was increasingly becoming something that people have done to them rather than something they are part of.

Politics is this way because we don’t have a narrative.

Many readers will be familiar with American politics. Think what you will about America, but it does narrative and communications exceptionally well.

Take Obama’s 2008 campaign: America believes it is the blessed nation that its history and politics are part of a journey that plays out within a higher purpose. Any West Wing addicts reading this will know what I’m talking about. It is though this self-conception that the US has defined itself within a narrative of journey, and the elusive ‘tomorrow’.

Obama’s campaign wasn’t about the 24 hour new cycle, beltway point scoring or needing to comment on everything. It was about journey- his journey as the American journey (he lost it once elected and Ron Suskind in “Confidence Men” has a great exposition on why this was).

New Zealand Labour is failing to communicate effectively with New Zealanders because it is doing exactly what Obama didn’t and lacking what he did. Labour has not articulated a vision as to the New Zealand it wants for a very, very long time, shows no sense of whom New Zealanders are and no narrative about how to get New Zealanders there.

Whilst we are not expecting Obamaesque rhetoric. As an activist I expect to be inspired, to know what we stand for and what we are working towards.

Our voters don’t really mind what percentage of capital gains tax is applied or who much we will be borrowing in 2015. These things are important: but they don’t win elections in and of themselves.

Our voters want to know that we get them. We understand their struggles and successes; that we are part of their personal journeys; that we understand their lives. People don’t want silver bullets or lists of policies. Our voters just want to know we’ve got their back: that our future is their future, that our guiding values are theirs.

Only a strong narrative can do that. Everything else is important: but only insofar as it contributes to the sense people have of you. Policies are important. But you can’t replace a narrative with lists of policies.

What makes Len Brown’s stance on the port so unpalatable is that he showed that he didn’t get people lives and the trials we face. Modern New Zealand society is marked by casual Labour force working more and more hours for less hourly pay. It’s marked by increasing division and increasing strain on families.

For New Zealanders, I doubt their sense of Labour is in these terms or positive for that matter. It’s a challenge requiring strictest message discipline, lofty statements and intentions and most importantly a vision.

David, Julia and Ed what’s yours?

Jimmy Reid

89 comments on “Labour’s diminishing vision”

  1. just saying 1

    We’re due to be disappointed by Shearer’s “vision” sometime next week.
    I fear the lack of vision you speak of is due to a lack of committment to the values you speak of. These people just want to be elected, and then keep things going in the same direction National is taking us. Which isn’t exactly “inspiring”

    Problem is, ‘not as bad as the other lot’ is never going to light a fire in anyone’s belly.

  2. higherstandard 2

    Good post, although I’d suggest that you couldn’t really call Obama ‘left’ from an NZ perspective.

    • lprent 2.1

      I think that jimmy was more on to the narrative issues than the political alignment.

      But it is all relative. Compared to those crazies in the increasingly chaotic republican primaries (or Ruth Limbaugh), then a Act supporter here would look like a crazy left liberal to many of the republicians.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        Ronald Reagan looks like a crazy left liberal to many Republicans and Tea partiers.

        • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1

          Yip, I’ve seen it said that Reagan would be labelled a RICO if he were around today: Republican In Name Only. It’s what the crazies like to brand the ‘centrist’ republicans.

    • You can’t even call Obama’s administration “left” from a US perspective, sadly.

  3. shorts 3

    they shouldn’t have to focus group nor get outside experts in to define what the party stands for – thats an instant fail imo

    I want to believe (and vote for) people that can say it without notes, without some media trainer defining the message for them without some focus group explaining what “it” is

    give us something to believe in… and believe in it yourselves – its pretty f___king simple

    or refer to the greens

    • toad 3.1

      But the Greens do articulate a vision, have strong values of social justice and ecological responsibility that most New Zealanders share, and rely on democratic decision-making rather than focus groups to develop their policies – yet Labour still polls about 2.5 times what the Greens do.

      I think the Greens are doing the right thing in that regard, but it certainly isn’t the whole answer to getting voters to actually tick the box.

      • lprent 3.1.1

        One of the other sides of the campaigning throughout the term is actually connecting to possible voters with humans, preferably enthusiastic volunteers doing voice or door knocking.

        It requires a good database, a strategy and considerable organisation to make it effective over the years. But it is about the most effective technique to build up good voter support. Labour has generations of technique – which is often a problem – their techniques have a hallowed ring of ancient tradition that appears to have missed entire generations of marketing techniques.

        Quite simply most people take bugger all notice of politics outside of the weeks before the election unless you contact them in person. Contacting them in person is very effective at getting them to lean towards your party.

        Lyn gets snail-mail from the greens, some e-mail, and no contact. I get e-mail from the greens (bloody rocky), and email + snail mail from Labour. But snail-mail and e-mail are definitely 4th rate at being effective for voters. Most of it gets binned.

        Labour hunts Lyn before the election and on election day. Once by phone and last time by door. If they tried to get me, then I’d be disappointed – waste of time. But I’ve never seen a Green volunteer chasing voters by door or phone.

        You need a better way of contacting voters… Talk to greenpeace. They’re persistent.

        • Jackal 3.1.1.1

          Getting the message out always needs more than disassociated and easy campaigning. I think the main thing the Green’s have over many other parties is that they really believe in their policies. But as we all know, belief isn’t enough.

        • I’ve done phone calls for the Greens before, it definitely happens, but mostly during the election campaign or close to voting day. It should probably be stepped up a bit. :)

          • lprent 3.1.1.2.1

            Yeah. The most important campaigning is what happens in the years before election year. That is when you identify the factors of your target voters are, who to avoid, pick up volunteers, and ultimately who you want to roust to vote on election day.

    • CnrJoe 3.2

      Correct! Shearer & co have fine ‘NZ journeys’ of their own. Bloody Key does as well – the mutt. 

      • Herodotus 3.2.1

        I have never had a visit from any party and was once promised a visit from mallard never happened ( and when he was found out ) all postings heavily moderated on RL at least for all her wrongs p Wong held street corner meetings it was like listening to a 30 seconnd national adverts to a lamp, but at least she made an effort. People need to feel that their concerns are being listened to note their vote is taken for grantage

  4. Duncan Garner is the important link in Labour’s strategy.
    You should allow him more support in what he is trying to do.
    He is valuable to our cause.

  5. Jimmy – spot on. You get it.

  6. Olwyn 6

    I think that the Labour Party will only be in the position to stand by a vision when a large enough section of the population has cried enough! And we want to hope that it is not too late by then.

    The neoliberal status quo has reached the stage where accommodation leaves little room for meaningful conceptions of social justice, fairness and compassion. They can only arise now in meaningful form if someone is willing to risk their career on such principles, and it is hard to find someone to do that in an environment where careers are easy to lose and hard to gain. We will never find anyone willing to take such a risk unless there are already plenty of outraged people in need of a spokesperson.

    I am convinced that the battle must be a moral one, rather than one based on lay science, which righties ignore anyway, except when it seems to favour them. It is morally bankrupt, for example, to treat an immoderate return to shareholders as a necessity, and people’s livelihoods as a contingency. It is morally bankrupt to pay a man a fortune for contributing nothing to society apart from bringing about the above conditions. To throw people out of work and then persecute them as bludgers. One could also add private prisons and a host of other such things to the list.

    Labour seems to be pursuing the same strategy with Shearer as it did with Phil Goff, believing that it will work this time because of Shearer’s lack of baggage. That is, put someone vaguely centrist at the helm, so as to raise money to fight the next election, and let other MPs to shore up the spirits of the remaining activists. However, as the ante keeps getting upped, this strategy places the party in danger of irrelevance, of representing no one who does not already have representation enough, or even no one whatsoever.

  7. Bill 7

    Labour are finished. Not this year and not next year. But Labour are finished.

    It doesn’t matter what narrative they compose. They abandoned (or failed to develop) the basic principles or core values of the Labour Party years ago.

    Imagine 30 years from now a Green Party using its position as government to manage the framework for a capitalist economy and paying lip service to environmental issues.

    That’s the current position of Labour. They managed the framework for the very economy they were formed to oppose and (as a consequence?) paid mere lip service to the party’s former principles.

    Looking overseas at the broader picture, in country after country it has been supposed ‘socialist’ parties that have introduced austerity measures…Greece, Spain etc. Seems to me that parties of the parliamentary left never quite got over the collapse of Eastern Europe and were spectacularily unsuccessful in any attempts they might have made to modify their vision in the face of discredited statism.

    As a consequence of failing to move beyond statism, they became ‘hemmed in’ and manufactured themselves as slightly softer versions of the right wing parties they used to offer a reasonable point of difference to.

    • Clashman 7.1

      +1

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      Imagine 30 years from now a Green Party using its position as government to manage the framework for a neoliberal economy and paying lip service to environmental issues.

      Oh, I’m actually pining for the “good old days” of true capitalism and market discipline as some sort of improvement, as opposed to this charade of crony cartel neoliberalism which we seem to run today.

    • Matt 7.3

      +1 also, Labour’s problem isn’t so much a failure to articulate their beliefs as much as it is a lack of beliefs to articulate. And so you find yourselves in a position where someone who says they have a plan that happens to be terrible and unpopular still manages to trounce a party that stands for nothing.

  8. Good comment Jimmy.  Many is the time I have read a Labour Party presser and pounded my head on the keyboard at the banal nature of it.  Apologies to all those hacks out there but professional press statements do something weird with the English language.  They suck all of the emotion out of it and fill it full of platitudes.  It is as if they paste prozac all over it.
     
    By far the most effective public statements are those written from the heart without any spin.

    • That’s the best comment I’ve seen you post. I agree, but off course it’s not just Labour with this problem. Made worse by the media who are part cut and paste prozac, and part P crazy overprose.

      • mickysavage 8.1.1

        Ow Gawd Petey now I am agreeing with you.  What is wrong?

        PR is the worst form of the English Language imaginable.  I agree they all suffer from it.  Even the coiffured one.  Some would say especially the coiffured one … 

    • ianmac 8.2

      Somehow Winston gets his point across. How does he do it?
      Graphic.
      Concise.
      Not meally-mouthed.
      Colourful.
      Connected/resonant.
      Might not agree with him but we are left in no doubt about his message. So what can Labour do about their weak messaging? Perhaps employ Winston as a consultant?

      • Pete George 8.2.1

        You’re not joking, are you.

        Peters resonates with those who think he’s their political messiah but it has little to do with what he says. He has a few devout percent but many more who have no respect for him. And he waffles all over the place. A couple of examples…

        The Monday after the cup of tea meeting he said it was a huge fuss about nothing and should be ignored. The following Thursday he was making a huge fuss about what turned out to be nothing.

        The morning after Labour’s Mondayising bill was drawn from the ballot he said on Nat Rad that he was against it. The following week he was supporting it.

        Why doesn’t he get called more often for floating in the wind of geriatrics?

        • McFlock 8.2.1.1

          Nope. I don’t think you can fairly claim a devout Peters following any more than any other party leader (besides the obvious exception). Maybe once, but it seems to me that he’s picked up a few “cautious” voters – they voted him back in in 2011, but he’s being watched with suspicion. They’ll give him credit where it’s due, but if it looks like he’s going all baubly again they’ll ditch him.
               
           

        • marty mars 8.2.1.2

          “floating in the wind of geriatrics”

          not sure about that turn of phrase pete – a bit ify.

      • Good point, Ianmac.

      • mickysavage 8.2.3

        Aye ianmac and even if you do not understand what he is talking about Peters has the bearing to suggest that he is onto something.  Perception is so much more important than substance sometimes.

      • newsense 8.2.4

        Say this from Cunliffe:

        And there is Peter Dunne, always the swing vote, but this time he matters. This is the Peter Dunne epitaph bill. He will go down in history at the perpetual 150 pound straw in the wind who this time blew the wrong way. This time who sold out a generation by selling billions of dollars of their birthright. He can hang his head in shame.

        or Cunliffe describing Shearer:

        “a cross between Mother Theresa and Indiana Jones”

        Some fairly resonant narratives there.

    • Herodotus 8.3

      I am sure for those within (Such as u) understand what is being coveyed with the rhetoric used. For those struggling with everyday life politics does not resinate with them, they cannot understand the issues from 20 sec of TV, as it is competing with what is fronting the news of late??? Chris Cairns !!!
      All many are concerned about is paying the morgage, having a job/income,feeding the family etc basic needs. Inflation @ 2% has little meaning when morgages are 10% and the ability to own a home is becomming the dream of a few with $200+k debt on top of student loans. I am sure most here would be postivie in putting forward their views on what is missing (& I am sure most would be correct) but no oneis at home within Labour listening, there still is the same issue as in 08 – Disconnect with the support base, this disconnect is so bad that the current govt can do whatever it wants and STILL get away with it.
      As a poor example of Lab just go to http://www.redalert.org.nz, that about sums it up, especially as that should be IMO be a front door into Labour.

      • Anne 8.3.1

        As a poor example of Lab just go to http://www.redalert.org.nz, that about sums it up, especially as that should be IMO be a front door into Labour.

        You are right Herodotus. Red Alert is turning into a disappointment. Some very good posts, but look at three of the commenters on the linked site alone. They are trolls who appear regularly and try to undermine the authors and supportive commenters. What do the moderators do about it? Nothing. It has now got to the stage that, apart from some dogged supporters (and good on them for sticking with it) most Labour commenters no longer bother with the site. They should have long since dumped the trolls and let them scream blue murder on Kiwiblog and Whale oil. Who cares! Instead, they are starting to take over Red Alert and that is sad.

        • Anne 8.3.1.1

          My 8:15pm comment is currently in moderation. Why?

          Btw, edit and delete functions don’t seem to be working for me.

          [lprent: Probably an outage to akismet. It does a temporary moderation when that happens while it retries. There isn’t anything in the comment that should have triggered moderation.

          Recent updates of the plugin have been breaking re-edit. I have to replace it this weekend. ]

    • Drakula 8.4

      Yes Micky I am with you all the way It has to come from the heart. Instead of all this clever rhetoric the Labour Party should ask what it really stands for. The name should give them a wee bit of a hint. Failing that Labour politicians should go back and read documents of the first British Labour Parties, that being the 1st, 2nd, and the 3rd International,

      Those who really embrace those values are sadly not in the Labour Party, people like Sue Bradford.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    From my perspective, it seems that Labour comprises too many vested interests and agendas to be able to give a clear, resonant message. As a result, what ever they come up with seems to be somewhat compromised, insipid and uninspiring.

    • Now say it again with a straight face. ;)

      The biggest vested interest Labour has is in the growth economy and focusing it on jobs- the second part is a good instinct, but the first part will be its terrible long-term policy failure. I remember Trevor Mallard saying to himself, in reply to Sue Bradford’s pointing out the fact that the planet already can’t support the growth we’ve made: “But that will cost jobs!” back when Drinking Liberally was a new thing in Wellington.

      Labour’s heart is in the right place in general, and they also mostly make very good policy, (especially when they decide to adopt Green policies) but they do need to have a sit down and think properly about how they’re going to tell New Zealanders a story about what they want to do with the country as leader of the next Labour government. We got a glimpse of what that could do when Labour gave us a history of their party as a movement, and that was a good start. It’s great to talk about where the Labour party came from.

      What we need to know now, and not in soundbite form, or in a bullet list, is what kind of country they see us being in their most idealistic dreams.

  10. Some interesting points made in this post about the lack of a cohesive vision, both here and elsewhere. It seems that Labour parties the world over understood what they used to stand for, but are now struggling to find an effective space between the centre and the left that makes sense to both voters and membership.

    On the points raised about poor advice and advisers, I think that you (and others on the left-blogs) probably overstate this. Don’t get me wrong, crappy staff can create massive headaches, and good ones are worth their weight in gold, but leadership and vision mostly comes from the leader and their deputy, they are the ones that are ultimately responsible for how the public perceives their vision.

    When Goff was in charge there were calls from left-blogs to sack some of his staff. Do you think a new press secretary would have suddenly made Goff more loved by the public? I doubt it. While it would be nice to think a savvy staffer could have that kind of impact (and I guess this is a meme encouraged on shows like West Wing and elsewhere), I think its unrealistic.

    Shearer (and his counter parts in Aus and the UK) are receiving no shortage of advice, from all sorts of quarters, plenty of of it good, plenty of it not. They need to have the smarts to pick who to listen to. Ultimately though, the buck stops with them. Blaming staffers, while not entirely a waste of time, is probably a bit of a red herring.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      They need to have the smarts to pick who to listen to. Ultimately though, the buck stops with them. Blaming staffers, while not entirely a waste of time, is probably a bit of a red herring.

      But how can you blame a guy who has not even completed one term as an MP?

      In contrast, if Cunliffe was sucking at the top job, I’d be laying into him (even though I supported him in the leadership race) because I know he has the political and Ministerial experience and should definitely know better.

      • the sprout 10.1.1

        But how can you blame a guy who has not even completed one term as an MP?

        i suppose you can’t – but i can totally blame the self-serving fucktards in caucus who put him in the job in the first place. 

        • Bill 10.1.1.1

          Why can’t you blame a guy who hasn’t completed a term as an MP? fs! (God forbid ;-)) but if I was elected to parliament, at least I’d have a vision to articulate. Granted, it would have to be modified to suit the realities of parliament and peoples’ general level of acceptance. But whatever I said would be coherent and have a definate direction that would be informed by a pre-existing vision of what might be.

          Shearer has nothing to modify. The Labour Party has nothing to modify. They have been dishonestly riding a dying wave of historical expectation and are in the process of being left (deservedly) high and dry.

          And making up stories from the vantage of a sunbaked beach about how you’d sail the high seas is like reading unconvincing kids stories to adults. Not satisfactory.

      • ad 10.1.2

        Shall we wait for that great new speech from Shearer, or do we simply go early and re-state that Cunliffe is the only counterfactual we have to anything that can take the current bunch out.

  11. randal 11

    well if you let right wing journalists complain and get posters get kicked off here then what hope is there for the party at large?

  12. nice work jimmy, i agree Labour needs to start clearly and proudly elucidating what it stands for. instead the NZLP seems to have a specific strategy of not saying fuck all about what it stands for in case people think they aren’t just like national, or in case the media might criticise them.
    how long have we been calling for a coherent comms strategy now? 3 years? 4 years? what have we seen in response? an ever devolving, increasingly incoherent picture of what the parliamentary wing actually stands for. i really don’t think they even remotely stand for what i believe in any more.

  13. ad 13

    Well who can argue with that.

    Except grand narratives are grand because what they narrate is the social imaginary itself.

    Without a stable economic or social theory to respond to the Global Economic Crisis and its sustained aftermath, it’s hard for political aprties to retail that into something popular. There is no social imaginary to stabilise.

    Also it’s hard to forget how much the civic and statist realm has shrunk (just as the digital realm has expanded).
    – We have far fewer people who vote or who engage with civic life.
    – We have far fewer people who are unionised and hence are able to think in a common interest.
    – We have very few people who are political party members.
    – We have a much more decentralised media that can funnel a core narrative into
    – We have far fewer people who can see that their lives can improve, rather than stay the same or gradually get worse.

    And finally the state itself is much, much weaker and smaller. The public sector is shrinking, as it has for the last 25 years. There is a much smaller set of state instruments to do anything public with – and those remaining are increasingly either sold off or contracted out.

    So the idea of a nation to attach a narrative to, is harder to imagine. Becausewe are weaker.

    Agency – the capacity to change stuff – is shrivelling.

    So the core of the problem is that politics itself is shrinking.

    Whereas the expectation of the post is that the collective digital voice will foce coherence. Too much Habermas, not enough Zizek.

    Marx is dead, but his locus has survived him, and into that space is a blueprint of freedom.

    Narrative is what you have when you have pieces to put together. We don’t have pieces yet.

    • Jimmy Reid 13.1

      I accept your point. There is an ideological dirth among centre-left and left movements worldwide.

      However, like policy, I think that contributes to but does not replace a narrative. To use the last election campaign: the opening video and some of the talk about “Labour being the party of tough decisions” could have formed the basis of a narrative. Labour Governemnts are reforming Governments and we need another great reform.

      My point is more narratives are not so much ideologies but stories that draw upon the common social identity and position yourself as the next big step within that journey (ie. Obama).

      So Labour stopped at the messages. They stopped at the basic beginning of a narrative. They didn’t link it to the social identity of New Zealand, they didnt position themselves as the next big and brave step and they didnt articulate exactly what a kind of New Zealand the “great reforming party” would create.

      Obama had it all. He had the common social identity: “that America is an idea. an idea that has lit the world for 200 years. The unfinished pinnacle of human achievement.” He had the next big step- whether it be electing an African-American or his “hope” messages. But he also had an imagery of what it would be like once he go there: working together, co mmon ground, ending divisiveness (now we know he didnt achieve that- but it was part of his narrative). There is no real ideology there- but thats a narrative.

      Labour just had some nice (often contradictory) messages. It was quite obvious they didnt do the basics like have a message calender. They got drawn into stuff they should have just ignored and couldn’t decide whther they were trying to be John Key, or trying to be a serious policy orientated leader, or a mixture, or a party expecting new Zealanders to realise how wrongthey had been in not electing Helen Clark to a fourth term.

      Anyway that’s some thoughts.

      • Jimmy Reid 13.1.1

        Hmm i seem to have inadvertently deleted my first paragraph. My point in using the examples I did was that the factors you identified are equally true in the US (if not more so). Yet Obama managed it. A narrative will never appeal to everyone.

        He latched onto an idea- not necessarily a “nation”- that was uniting. We didn’t really have that. We could have had “its about leaving the country better than our kids and its a time for reform” (not necessarily saying that should be it) or New Zealand is an unfinished product. I don’t know what that idea it should be. But there could be something.

        • ad 13.1.1.1

          Well just to argue against myself for a moment, we know what hope feels like, what powerful leadership looks like, what a truly electrifying campaign looks like. We just haven’t felt it.

          We have seen glimpses of it. My parents knew where they were when they heard President Kennedy died. It was nearly the same for Prime Minister Kirk. I am very clear about the shape and definition of the hope I want. Many on this site are.

          If we look back for example to Michael Joseph Savage taking the chair into the State House, or the huge crowds that accompanied Seddon when a new railway was formed. Those were seminal moments in the birth of the modern state. Neither the charismatic individual, nor the narrative, nor the policy framework, were enough.

          But only (rarely) when they come together do we see the whole country taken by storm.

          There really are new ways into economic nationalism that sound similar to old ways. A couple of years ago there was a great book celebrating 75 years of the New Deal – how it remains the byword for uniting a national together, driven by a bully-pulpit President. There are stories packed inside it of how its public works, its arts and cultural institutions, have simply continued.

          We have also seen glimpses of political narrative in the anti-nuclear stances Labour took in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s.

          There’s definitely a space between The West Wing, Deadwood, and The Boss to form great story about building up and making good change stick and hold. Although looking around or civic and ntaional leaders at the moment, few appear to have the capacity to string sentences together.

          There is something to the Left preparing the Build, the Right preparing to Dismantle.

          Perhaps this is the site to form a new narrative in this country. I would challenge the site to form the narrative, now it claims to have identified the hollow space where the ideological engine should be.

          James?

          • Colonial Viper 13.1.1.1.1

            There is something to the Left preparing the Build, the Right preparing to Dismantle.

            And here is the thing: it pisses off the old fashioned conservatives in this country no end that the neoliberal right wing has taken control. The very essence of conservatism is to conserve, and breaking shit down and selling it off is an anathema to that.

            Perhaps this is the site to form a new narrative in this country. I would challenge the site to form the narrative, now it claims to have identified the hollow space where the ideological engine should be.

            Yep. The old left vs right paradigm is approaching total failure. The tide is going out on this civilisation (in terms of energy and resources) and a new way of thinking is required.

    • handle 13.2

      “Being able to think in the common interest” is brought by more than unionism. There are more groups of people than just workers and capitalists. Ownership of mass media is actually more centralised now, alongside decentralised ways of reaching people.

      To interest anyone in a future vision we need to start with the world as it is, not some 19th century marxist fantasy. We have the fuel for change but we are missing the spark.

      Grand narratives tap into what it is to be human. Into what we care about the most. Into our deepest dreams for ourselves, our family, our friends and our descendants. Into what we are prepared to sacrifice. That takes more skill and courage than we have seen lately from any political party.

  14. Blue 14

    The problem with the left these days is that they let the right set the agenda, and they just react.

    You can’t win when you’re playing the game entirely on their half of the field. Everything is couched in terms of not upsetting the neoliberal apple cart too much.

    Labour needs to say to hell with neoliberalism once and for all. Articulate a vision where ordinary Kiwis have productive work, time to spend with their families, a house of their own to live in, savings for their retirement, and are members of a caring, cohesive society.

    As opposed to the current narrative where people are a waste of space and a drain on their employer’s precious dollars.

    • Jackal 14.1

      Have you noticed how the right have not been setting the agenda lately Blue?

      • Blue 14.1.1

        But they have been, Jackal. The comments I have been reading lately on a variety of issues suggest that the public has bought into neoliberalism hook line and sinker. They don’t even need to be prodded to come out with the spin lines.

        They think unions are old-fashioned. They regard workers who want pay rises much as the workhouse master regarded Oliver Twist when he asked for more. They accept that low wages, greater ‘flexibility’ and renting all their lives is all they can ever aspire to, and anyone who suggests otherwise is bonkers.

        This is deeper than the latest headlines, Jackal. It’s about the narrative that has been sinking in for decades.

        What Labour advocates seems old-fashioned and strange to people now. Changing that perception and showing that left ideas are the future, not just some quaint notion from the past, is what is needed now.

        • Adele 14.1.1.1

          Tēnā koe, Blue

          You are being too pessimistic or are reading from an already biased perspective.

          There are huge numbers smart enough to realise that the have nots will not go away under any type of austerity.

          They are also smart enough to realise that any investment in the have nots will reap benefits far beyond mere money. The majority of New Zealanders are beginning to wake up to the deception that is pure capitalism – the holy grail of the neo-liberalist.

          Asset sales was the awakening.

        • M 14.1.1.2

          Fine words Blue, the neolibs certainly have sold the right koolaid. It makes me shake my head when I hear from younger people that unions are old hat and to even consider joining one is for those not of sound mind. They have no idea of the blood that has been spilt or the lives lost to ensure that they have basic rights of redress and health and safety enshrined in law. If you’re unemployed it’s your fault for being a bottom feeder/older/useless eater and or heaven’s sake you’d better not have your marriage break down/have a disabled child/have a terrible accident that hampers you significantly or totally get sick or any number of terrible things that happen to people.

          The same can be said for women who claim they’re post feminist because all that protest and hard work is well, y’know terribly unfeminine, again forgetting that the vote, reproductive freedom and some form of equality in the marital area re property rights and the right not to be raped within marriage would not exist without the efforts of women who would have been branded as unfeminine or those set to upset the right and proper natural order of things.

  15. sweetd 15

    Blue

    “You can’t win when you’re playing the game entirely on their half of the field”

    Actually, if you were playing the game entirely in the half of the opposition, they would be on the defensive and you would be on the attack.

  16. james 111 16

    [deleted]

    [lprent: still banned ]

    • Why do you want to know James 111?  Rabid RWNJs who lie when they say they used to support labour shouldn’t be in the slightest bit interested.

      • james 111 16.1.1

        [deleted]

        [lprent: you are still banned until the 22nd. Stop writing comments. Every one I see in moderation or let through from this morning gets an added ban of twice the last. Your last one was two weeks because of your smartarse response to RL after getting banned for a week. ]

    • fender 16.2

      James 111 weeks went fast (sigh)
      You got split enz on the outside and rotten fish on the inside, you’re a dagg little fella

    • Colonial Viper 16.3

      In fact can some one please tell me what the Labour Party now stand for?

      The National Party stands for the transfer and theft of the peoples’ wealth to the already rich top 1%.

      • Pete George 16.3.1

        Even Cunliffe is pushing the 1% line now. He mustn’t have noticed how quickly the general population turned off that one. This claiming 99% speaking rights grossly overestimated their appeal, which diminished quickly.

        • mickysavage 16.3.1.1

          Pete Cunliffe has “pushed the line” about the obscene amount of wealth the top 1% control for a long time.  Catch up please …

        • Kevin Welsh 16.3.1.2

          He mustn’t have noticed how quickly the general population turned off that one.

          Maybe in the circles you move in Squirrel, but not mine or a shit load of the people I work with or associate with. The anger a lot of business people have with the banking industry and the way they are being treated at this point in time is real and not going away.

          • Colonial Viper 16.3.1.2.1

            PG is seriously out of touch with both ordinary people and with the owners of SMEs. The 99% and the 1% is not a marketing slogan PG. Its represents a real division in the structure of our society.

            I’d go so far to say that its the 99.9% and the 0.1%.

    • james 111 16.4

      Iprent this really is pathetic I was banned for one week not two. I asked perfectly good questions on topic about what Mickey thought the Labour Party Vision was? It must be a really hard question to answer if it get this immature sort of reaction from the Mods. I would have actually expected a bit more from you. Normally you are rational

      [lprent: Your response to RL’s ban was

      Dam I feel I just have been bitch slapped

      http://thestandard.org.nz/righties-cutting-themselves-on-occams-razor/#comment-442466

      I don’t allow personal backchat or abuse to moderators for exactly the same reason that I don’t allow it for authors. It escalates and eventually winds up with the site losing someone who works on it.

      The only reason I’m being so tolerant (normally I’d have started doubling if I thought it was deliberate) is because I realise that you haven’t seen the two weeks I added for that dumb arse line.

      But I’m starting to get irritated at how much effort I have to put in to get you to look at the warning. ]

  17. Reagan Cline 17

    I do not want a country where the power of the state is exercised by a party that sees its future and mine as the same and reinforces this with a “strong narrative” voiced by a clique-appointed Leader.
    The government should ensure that state agencies are run efficiently, an independant judiciary is guaranteed, a parliament of the people is properly conducted and laws passed and acted upon to enable citizens to lead good lives.
    Get a globe, go somewhere quiet and uninterrupted and look at New Zealand. Think of yourself, your near ones, friends, workmates and how we should best live here, today and for all the tomorrows.
    “A brighter future” does not cut the mustard with me, neither does an eternal them and us mentality or putting nature and our children first. We are not nature or our childrens masters any more than their servants.
    There are aspects that are most highly expressed in us, compassion, cleverness and skill. I have not included cruelty because I don’t think we are the cruellest.
    If we decide to encourage these qualities in ourselves and others, the right laws will be passed in our parliament. We might also have more fun and be less afraid.

    • james 111 17.1

      [deleted]

      [lprent: still banned until the 22nd ]

      • Colonial Viper 17.1.1

        National punishes people for working hard by keeping wages low.

        Other wise all our bright young talent leave the country.

        What do you mean “otherwise”? Loss of experience and expertise to Australia is the worst ever, thanks to National.

        Basically, the NZ private sector is too risk averse, too run by offshore owners, too unskilled, and too stingy to keep top performers here.

        The joke is, we keep offering our top jobs to foreigners instead of to Kiwis, while overseas firms simply love the work that New Zealanders do.

  18. Reagan Cline 18

    James 111, by “punish somebody for working hard and earning good money” I assume you mean GST, income and capital gains taxes reducing the take home pay of the more enterprising and productive. An answer might be to have an economy where enterprise and productivity are rewarded by incentives, like higher wages and salaries and greater business pofits where there is a social benefit. The prizes now go to those who cater to the greater demand (often created by advertising rather than reflecting true human need).
    The “bright youg talent” are not so much “leaving the country” as going to the land of their dreams. Their education and the messages their parents and contemporaries give them encourages that. I am more in favour of getting to grips with what it means to be living in NZ now and inspiring our young with hope for a future beside us.
    It can be helpfull to browse nineteenth and twentieth century papers in “papers past” and read the earlier books – before the age of electronic communication and the idea of “Globalisation”. I suspect you will agree with me that to see clearly ahead it is helpfull to have a view of the past

  19. Reagan Cline 19

    CV I’m not sure your comments about NZ private sector apply across the board. I do think we all need to be much more aware of and sympathetic to business aims, invest in local firms, take an interest in how businesses ar run, be vigilant for illegalities. Show admiration for and reward firms producing socially and environmentally beneficial outputs with low energy, high skills input.

    • Matt 19.1

      My overall impression of NZ business, and this is from a consumer’s perspective as well as a small business owner both here and in the US, is pretty unflattering. In general I would characterize it as poor imitations of services and products from elsewhere, poor value in a traditional ‘exploit a small market’ sense, almost no emphasis on quality, and a tendency for big (relatively) companies to behave in a monopolistic or cartel-like fashion. So if it’s admiration they’re looking for, well good luck with that.

      • Colonial Viper 19.1.1

        Reagan. I know plenty of innovative entrepreneurs who are developing, creating, innovating something different and valuable from scratch. They are a great crowd to hang out with.

        But they do not drive the NZ economy. This economy is driven by a race to the bottom of the barrel, of trying to make an extra dollar by taking an extra dollar off workers, by trying to squeeze a couple more cows on to every hectare of over grazed pasture, by corporate toll booths and corporate ticket clipping.

        The highly wealthy in this country lack true innovation, risk taking and ideas, as evidenced by the absolute lack of new listings in our capital markets.

        • locus 19.1.1.1

          On the plus side: NZ service and hospitality outshines what I’ve experienced elsewhere. NZ still doesn’t put a price on every ‘extra’ like North America. We have lots of high quality restaurants, great tourism businesses, we excel at marine and land farming and we’ve plenty of skilled trades people.

        • locus 19.1.1.2

          Edit didn’t work for me… I wanted to add that I completely agree with you about the lack of big business innovation and risk taking

  20. Reagan Cline 20

    Matt, I was told much the same by a marketing manager from UK, who said in NZ the consumer is more interested in the price of goods and services than the quality. This is where the sort of “fortress NZ” economy I think about can fall down. If we want the highest standards of quality we are not always going to find them at home. Parents and teachers need to stress the value of quality, show children that a little extra care and attention to detail is rewarded with self esteem. We need to do as our great grandparents did, buy the best you can afford and only do so when you have the cash to pay for it.

    • Colonial Viper 20.1

      NZ consumers put up with all kinds of low quality shit. Even the NZ branches of Aussie chain stores stock cheaper lower quality shit than their Australian counterparts.

      • locus 20.1.1

        Maybe people put up with crappier goods because they get paid less than similar jobs in Oz?

        Big companies, not just in NZ, use their market position to ‘exploit’ i.e. crank up prices, spend as little as possible on long-term projects and temporarily cut prices to shut out competitors. Big businesses would see no point in spending lots of extra $ to capture another 5% of a tiny market, or to improve local services & products substantially if they can’t generate a worthwhile return on their investment.

        They have a better opportunity to increase their profits by paying low wages, understaffing or overworking staff, avoiding tax and minimising expenditure on things that don’t deliver revenue, e.g. health, safety & environmental improvements.

  21. I’ll focus on NZ Labour’s communications “strategy” (or rather lack thereof). I think David Shearer is being let down by an inept communications team and by useless advisors.

    This isn’t the fourteenth century. Do we really still need to cling to this myth that “we have no quarrel with the King, just his advisors” – or the myth that leaders bear no responsibility for the advice they choose to listen to?

    David Shearer is not a helpless puppet. He has made choices about who he listens to and who he does not. He has made choices (even if only by refusing to make choices) about Labour’s position on things. Allowing him to avoid responsibility for those choices simply invites the same problem in the future.

  22. Hami Shearlie 22

    IMHO the problem with David Shearer is, he doesn’t have the fire in his belly. He’s new to politics, but still, I can think of other new MP’s, Stuart Nash and Carmel Sepuloni for example, gone now, but when they spoke in the House, you got the feeling they really believed in what they were saying. Shearer dithers, and really doesn’t look or sound like he really wants to be there!! David Cunliffe, on the other hand, is very forceful and passionate and you actually believe that HE believes in what he says!

    Hope Shearer improves. If not, Labour have another card to play in Cunliffe. Key would definitely be scared of that scenario. But how long will David Cunliffe stay around? That has me concerned!

  23. Brian 23

    Just go back to the beginning and start again.

  24. All my political life I haved read or been told by Righties in the UK and Aotearoa that “The Labour Party is finished ,” Well its still here and will be back when the public has suffered enough.Things are bad for working people but not bad enough yet to defeat the well ,organized political Right.
    There are plenty good people in the Labout Party with excellent ideas that just need the right situation for them to be accepted by the general public.

    For instance there are some industries and services that need to be nationalized but suggest that today and the Tories will have a field day.
    Ports , banks, water and power need to be Nationalized and are likely to be
    in the future .I would suggest that today’s Labour parties are mainy Social Democrats with a few faithfull Socialists.However I predict that as the work force gets bashed by the Tories socialism will be needed and the Labour Party will be the party that will provide them.

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