Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, April 19th, 2014 - 230 comments
Categories: blogs, clayton cosgrove, david cunliffe, dpf, greens, labour, national - Tags: david lange, fourth labour government, michael bassett, roger douglas
One of the most annoying things I read on the internet is when right wingers offer apparently sincere advice to the left on how the left’s electoral predicament can be improved. The advice drips of passive aggressiveness and when you boil it down basically they are saying that if Labour jettison the Greens and becomes more like National then all will be good.
There are two things that can be said of the quality of the advice, firstly it is essentially destructive and secondly it displays no understanding of left wing politics.
The latest attempt at persuading us we are all wrong has been provided by Kiwi In America in a guest post at Kiwiblog. The writer appears to be a former Labour Party activist from Christchurch. When you think that Roger Douglas used to be a member of the Labour Party you can see that some views held be ex members can be somewhat extreme.
The article has attracted some attention and a number of comments and National Supporters and
United Future supporters someone who has stood in the past as United Future Candidate all think that he is talking a lot of sense. But …
I agree with KIA that Labour had a very difficult time in the 1980s. I was at the time a very energetic young member but let my membership lapse in 1988 in part because of the actions of Douglas and Bassett and co and at the time it was clear that there was an intense civil war occurring for the party’s soul. David Lange’s pronouncement that the Government should have a cup of tea and a rethink before proceeding any further with Rogernomics was probably the one thing that saved the party from disintegration.
The fourth Labour Government did have considerable talent and was faced with the utterly appalling state the country’s economy was in because of the ineptitude of Rob Muldoon and National. But the decisions made and the sense of TINA that was used to drive through radical right wing change almost destroyed the party. The warfare that KIA was over the soul and future of the party. If Douglas and Bassett and co had won then the modern Labour Party if it survived would be enjoying ACT like levels of support.
Mike Moore was replaced because as much as anything he was somewhat unusual and the party was drifting under him. It was a whisker away from being overtaken by the Alliance.
Helen Clark saved the party. She returned it to its historical roots while at the same time she professionalised the party. Under her control the expectations of Ministers and MPs were high and she had a grasp of what was happening in the country that no other Prime Minister has ever shown.
I cannot understand how KIA can claim that the party is no longer a broad based party. He talks about the lack of lawyers and small business owners. Well I occupy both classes and I can assure him that there is considerable support amongst both groups, particularly amongst the ranks of lawyers who have seen recent Family Court reforms pushed through by Judith Collins trash what was a world class system. And interestingly of the inner group of supporters he said were promoted by Helen Clark in the 1990s two were lawyers.
Meetings that I attend currently include people from diverse ages, circumstances and ethnicities. Labour is still the party of ethnic communities despite all the window dressing that National has engaged in over the past decade.
KIA’s grasp of some details are pretty shaky. The Cullen “coup” happened in 1996 not 2006. And National lost 6 seats in 1996, 5 in 1999 and 12 in 2002. It was not dominating the suburbs and the countryside at the time.
KIA seems to base his view on losing a vote in a meeting in 1994. Maybe he should get over it.
As for his claim that Clark applied a “scorched earth” approach to candidate selections the only thing I can say is bollocks. The sense of loyalty that she built up and the way that she was able to unite what had been bitterly divided factions is a testimony to this. Not selecting right wing candidates is not a “scorched earth” policy for a left wing party. And Clayton Cosgrove’s continued survival and high list ranking belies what KIA is claiming.
National does not have deeper and broader roots in the middle ground. It is a party masquerading as a middle of the road party intent only on enriching the top 1%. And I am confused. Was Helen Clark an extreme left winger who applied a scorched earth selection policy for the Labour Caucus or was she someone who dominated the middle of NZ politics and won three elections?
And as for the “green extremism” I can recall clearly Helen and Jeanette Fitzsimonds campaigning together during 2005. It was just the numbers and the insistence of Peters and Dunne that meant a Labour Green government was not formed.
Clark’s defeat in 2008 did leave a big hole. It always does. New Zealand has in the past given National Governments at least three terms and to change this will be a very good election. Was it a shock for the party? Not in the slightest.
There are a lot of other comments that cannot be sustained. National’s increased borrowing was to pay for tax cuts, not maintain Working for Families. With the benefit of historical analysis it is clear that the 2009 tax cuts were not “fiscally neutral” as Bill English described them in what can only be called a lie.
As for David Cunliffe? He has been under the most sustained and brutal attack this year. It is clear that every sentence he utters that is recorded is parsed to see if it can be spun into something. Colin James is right that at his best Cunliffe can beat Key and this is why a sustained attack is occurring now.
To really cap things off and to show what his political leanings are KIA says this:
Labour was once a great party. It attracted people of energy, passion and ability from many walks of life. It had reforming zeal usually tempered by the realism of its once broader membership base and if it went too far, the voters returned the Treasury benches to the safer hands of National. Labour’s 1984 to 87 Cabinet, despite their leftist roots, embarked on a series of dramatic reforms that have transformed NZ into the more vibrant and dynamic economy it is today.
He obviously thinks that if only the Party continued to be solid supporters of Rogernomics then all would be fine.
Dear Right Wingers. Before you tell the Labour Party what it is doing wrong can you firstly get your facts straight. And can you avoid telling Labour that it needs to be more like National or ACT because that is not going to happen.
Update: Pete George has asked it to be noted that he has nothing to do with United Future and is not a supporter. My apologies for suggesting that this is so.