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Written By: - Date published: 9:47 pm, January 25th, 2013 - 58 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

David Clark (who I otherwise have a lot of time for) comments in a Herald interview today:

Herald: What MP outside your party impresses you?

David Clark: Kevin Hague [Green]. Kevin is impressive in that he has been able to walk a line where he is seen as very reasonable, but also is able to challenge injustices where he sees them.

That’s Labour’s strategic problem right there. In the idea that being “very reasonable” and “able to challenge injustices” are mutually exclusive.

You see this all the time in Labour’s approach – they seem to think that basic social democratic values are somehow at the edge of the bell curve and are thus not “respectable” issues for a centrist party to take up.

I’ve a couple of comments about this:

1) “Mainstream” Kiwis quite like injustices being challenged.

2) You’re the fu*king Labour party, you’re supposed to be doing that challenging and to represent the values of social justice in the mainstream. When you don’t there’s no reason to vote for you instead of National or the Greens. Which is why your support is static.

There are 800,000 enrolled non-voters just waiting for you to realise this.

58 comments on “This”

  1. geoff 1

    Let them burn.

    Ib, maybe you can answer this; Why should any leftie vote for Labour over Green in 2014?

    • IrishBill 1.1

      Because the Greens are still a lottery. In the short-term they have their shit together much more than labour but they don’t have the breadth and depth of membership labour does and they haven’t shown they can cope with pressure.

      I think the Greens are doing good work at the moment but I am also aware that they lack a depth of experience in their caucus and if they suddenly jumped to thirty percent of the vote it would be chaos – they’ve already grown beyond their credible list.

      Which is not to say this is always how it will be (indeed they’re growing their party well now) but right now the Greens don’t have the capacity to scale up enough to cover Labour’s share of the vote. And certainly not in terms of providing representation for Maori, Asian, and Pacific Island New Zealanders.

      Which is why it’s so important to have a functioning and left Labour party.

      • geoff 1.1.1

        Fair enough.

        For me personally I’d rather a lottery than something that resembles a polished turd.

        Can you expand on your point regarding the lack of depth in the Greens. In what form do you think that might manifest itself, if they were to receive a much larger share of the left vote?

        I’d be very suprised if the Greens got anywhere close to 30% of the vote in 2014 so I dont think there is any danger of them becoming too big too fast. A nice 5-10% increase in their party vote would be a good message for Labour to sort their shit out and it would help to legitimise leftwing policy ideas in the mainstream.

        • IrishBill 1.1.1.1

          I’d direct you to their 2011 list: http://www.greens.org.nz/people/candidates

          Take a note of how narrow their demographic representation is.

          As far as a surge in their vote goes, they grew quite a bit in 2011 and while it would be good in theory for them to grown even more in 2014 I’m not sure they’ve got the systems and structure to cope with it and remain effective (although they’re doing some good work laying the foundations for growth).

          • geoff 1.1.1.1.1

            So the argument is that, given enough increase in Green vote, some loonie bins inexperienced politicians get ministerial positions where they could cause havoc?

          • geoff 1.1.1.1.2

            That was meant to be loonie bins .
            I think I’ve lost some of the effect now.

      • blue leopard 1.1.2

        IrishBill
        It is interesting to read your response to Geoff here, “the Greens are still a lottery” and “if they suddenly jumped to thirty percent of the vote it would be chaos”

        Its funny ‘cos I feel I’ve been watching a very chaotic government-a government in chaos-and increasingly the largest opposition party in chaos, so really this doesn’t strike me as the best reason, given the circumstances, to shy away from voting Green. Labour and National are proving to guarantee chaos, at least with the Greens it is still a case of a “lottery” i.e. not definately chaos…..

        • IrishBill 1.1.2.1

          The greens don’t have electorate councils, they don’t have affiliates, they don’t have particularly vocal sector groups, they don’t hold an electorate. These are all the kinds of things you need to have a large scale functioning representative party. The greens will get there in time but Labour is already there and I think fixing the creaky Labour machine is a better short-term prospect for the Left than trying to get the Greens to be something they can’t be just yet.

          • blue leopard 1.1.2.1.1

            Yes, I guess I am being somewhat facetious, however I am somewhat not.
            For all the strategists, advisors, support people, cleaners, dressers, connections and pay these people get in both National and Labour, I’m sorry, but if it was up to me they all would be seriously fired. Put them on the dole. Get someone else.

            The things that have gone on this year are not funny, very serious and this government and the main opposition are entirely useless. Entirely useless. Could we put them on their cleaners pay rate until they sort themselves out? That would probably clear up the National debt while we were waiting. Kill two birds with one stone type thing…..

          • geoff 1.1.2.1.2

            I would argue that voting Green just for 2014 (I’m not advocating joining the Green party) is probably going to be a more effective way of spending your leftwing vote than voting Labour.
            Unless there is a Labour leadership change in Feb (I think it is unlikely) then the Greens are a better short term prospect than Labour.

          • AmaKiwi 1.1.2.1.3

            “The greens don’t have electorate councils, they don’t have affiliates, they don’t have particularly vocal sector groups, they don’t hold an electorate. These are all the kinds of things you need to have a large scale functioning representative party.”

            These are the reasons Labour is NOT a democratic party.

            The Greens elect their leaders. No caucus cabal can politically assassinate an MP the membership selected in open debates around the country.

            • IrishBill 1.1.2.1.3.1

              You’re mistaking democracy for representation. The Greens are admirably democratic but they’re not (yet) representative of wider New Zealand. If you look at their list (and their membership) you see a slice of New Zealand that is generally gen x, liberal, middle-class and white (and often not born in NZ).

              I also think that you’ve a very individualistic notion of democracy if you believe that having groups within a party representing particular sectors is anti-democratic. In reality it’s the best way to mitigate the tyranny of the majority. I wonder if you believe that having the Maori seats is similarly anti-democratic.

              I would also add that the Greens straight-forward democracy is a luxury they can afford because of their size – it will become more complex and need to change as they grow.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3

        I am also aware that they lack a depth of experience in their caucus and if they suddenly jumped to thirty percent of the vote it would be chaos

        And the 1st Labour government had how much experience?

        Such an argument comes only from those terrified of change as an experienced caucus will keep things the same. We need change and thus we really don’t want to be keeping the experienced politicians in place.

        • IrishBill 1.1.3.1

          Sorry – I meant real world experience. Mostly because of the lack of diversity. Should have been more clear.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3.1.1

            /shrug

            Not really an issue as that diversity can be made up by having other parties as part of the government.

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.3.2

          And the 1st Labour government had how much experience?

          Well…the people in the 1st Labour Govt didn’t come out of nowhere…many were highly politically experienced players from the previous Liberal Govt, trade unions, etc were involved.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3.2.1

            Yes, but they didn’t have experience of governing the country. IMO, that lack of experience is what allowed them to think outside of the box and change so much rather than being stuck into the how things are done mindset that we see today from the major parties.

            • MrSmith 1.1.3.2.1.1

              The thing that always gets me is if the elected politicians didn’t turn up monday, do people really believe the country would come to a stand still? I doubt it. In fact we might even get a few things done. Who really runs the country? The public servants, of course!

              • QoT

                Well, there’s also the fact that Monday isn’t a sitting day, so frequently they actually don’t “show up”.

  2. Anne 2

    2) You’re the fu*king Labour party, you’re supposed to doing that challenging…

    Is that meant to be “you’re supposed to be doing that challenging…?

    It’s an important message so thought it worth mentioning.

  3. Saarbo 3

    Yes, that is why I have gone Green. Unfortunately Labour is gormless, lacks courage and is focussed on……..well who knows.

    If Labour had a decent leader I’m sure that David Clark wouldn’t make such a gutless comment.

    Spot on, Sums them up IB!!!

  4. QoT 4

    I’ll wean you off that gentlemanly asterisk yet, IB. Kickass post.

    • Jenny 4.1

      Still politely awaiting your response.

      ….you quite clearly have bizarro-conspiracy views about the Green caucus which you’ve consistently failed to substantiate, so why anyone would be swayed by your comment is beyond me, Jenny.

      QOT

      Maybe you could explain this to me then?

      http://thestandard.org.nz/greens-offer-pathway-to-home-ownership-better-renters-rights/#comment-577785

      Jenny

      • QoT 4.1.1

        I would, but my political masters have advised a deliberate strategy of ignoring vague bullshit which doesn’t substantiate what you pretend it does, Jenny.

        And every time you have used language like the italicised portions above, you have been asked to provide evidence of that, and immediately backed down into sad little “their last 5 press releases weren’t on climate change!!!” lines.

        I’m terribly sorry that climate change is merely one of a large number of political issues the Greens are concerned about.

        • Jenny 4.1.1.1

          I’m terribly sorry that climate change is merely one of a large number of political issues the Greens are concerned about.

          QoT

          ….Climate change has the ability to undo your historic victories and crush your present struggles. So it’s time to come together, for real, and fight to preserve and extend what you care most about — which means engaging in the climate fight, really engaging, as if your life and your life’s work, even life itself, depended on it. Because they do.

          Naomi Kleine “I’d Rather Fight Like Hell”

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    Yeah, I like David Clark, he is certainly one of the fast rising talents of the Labour Party.

    But your observations are also spot on IB. Instead of taking up the cudgel of Democratic Socialism in the context of surging resource depletion and climate change, Labour sees its modern mission as delivering on a tight rope of pleasing the MSM, various focus groups, free market leaning financiers and those earning $60K and over.

    • Benghazi 5.1

      Nah, David Clark’s a stoolie for the ABCs, beholden to Robertson etc. and he has a huge ego that he just can’t keep hidden. I don’t trust him and watch him promoted in the next reshuffle.

      Oh yes the reshuffle that Shearer has delayed till after the Feb vote. No doubt so the likes of Maryan Street and Clayton Cosgrove can’t retaliate when they get demoted.

  6. Blue 6

    Yeah, this point was brought home to me by comparing the differences between Labour’s housing policy and the Greens’ housing policy.

    Many years ago, Labour would have proposed what the Greens came up with, and the Greens would have been dancing around the fringes demanding free houses for oppressed Tibetans or something.

    Shows you how far Labour has fallen that the Greens are now the centre-left and Labour is fighting National for the centre-right (and losing badly).

  7. Pete 7

    A few days ago, Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, riding on the support of women, LGBT, immigrants and minorities. When the US went to the polls the economy was still fragile, unemployment still very high. On paper (Nate Silver excepted) he would have had a hard time getting elected. But he won by a 3.9% margin. It wasn’t even a squeaker. How did he motivate the public at large? By appealing to their idealism. Not sullying himself with the idea that politics is the art of the possible.

    David Clark used to be warden of Selwyn College, one of the residential halls of Otago University. The university motto is Sapare Aude, or “Dare to be wise”. I’d caution against convention and encourage a little more daring on Dr Clark’s part. He could be a great parliamentarian.

  8. Te Reo Putake 8

    Clark was talking about how a Green MP might be perceived, not a Labour MP. Being seen as ‘reasonable’ is an issue for the Greens. It’s why Norman wears a suit. There is no connection between Clark’s proposition and the rest of the post.

    • IrishBill 8.1

      If it makes you feel better you could consider my example as a metaphor. I maintain that it is a metonym, however.

      • Te Reo Putake 8.1.1

        Me too. Metonym’s can be fictional, as well ;)

        • IrishBill 8.1.1.1

          Only insofar as they use a symbolic or abstract ground rather than a material one.

          • Te Reo Putake 8.1.1.1.1

            Indeed, but that almost certainly requires that they start from a factual basis. The conclusions you make are based on a false premise (That Clark was talking about Labour) and therefore are well argued, but unrelated to reality. I can see Gotham in my mind, but it ain’t New York.

            • IrishBill 8.1.1.1.1.1

              No, my premise was that Clark was unconsciously positing a worldview that matched with an view I’ve heard on many occasions from Labour MPs and staffers that, in my opinion, is counter-productive.

              The fact Clark was talking about a Green MP is neither here nor there, it’s the analytic frame he used to discuss that MP that is important as it offers an insight into his determination of what is politically pragmatic.

              • Te Reo Putake

                “No, my premise was that Clark was unconsciously positing a worldview that matched with an view I’ve heard on many occasions from Labour MPs and staffers that, in my opinion, is counter-productive.”

                Well, your premise was wrong then. He wasn’t unconciously talking about Labour, he was consiously talking about the Greens. You’re reaching, IB. Or maybe its some of that Freudian transference you were talking about elsewhere.

                The giveaway is the line: “(who I otherwise have a lot of time for)”.

                • IrishBill

                  I wasn’t saying he was talking about Labour unconsciously or otherwise. I was saying he was expressing an analytic framework that posits “reasonable” against “challenging injustices” and that I think that’s a flawed framework but one that a lot of Labour MPs and staffers tend to use when they make political decisions.

                  He could’ve said: “Kevin is impressive in that he is reasonable and challenges injustices where he sees them.”

                  But he didn’t. Instead he described it as “walking a line” between being “reasonable” and challenging injustice” which implies that he sees these two propositions as separate and he enforces this implied binary by using the words “but also”.

                  The effect of this is to reinforce the idea that to be left, to challenge injustice, is not reasonable. Which is buying into right-wing framing.

                  Watch what happens when I swap the second half of David’s statement out:

                  “Kevin is impressive in that he has been able to walk a line where he is seen as very reasonable, but is also gay.”

                  or

                  “Kevin is impressive in that he has been able to walk a line where he is seen as very reasonable, but also is a union member.”

                  or

                  “Kevin is impressive in that he has been able to walk a line where he is seen as very reasonable, but is also not a racist.”

                  • Te Reo Putake

                    Not at all, he was quite literally saying that ‘walking that line’ is an issue for the Greens. Which it is. You may well be right about Labour, but you owe Clark an apology for reading something into his words that were not there.

                    That line “(who I otherwise have a lot of time for)” makes it plain you’ve got it wrong.

                    Edit: to put it another way; if he’d named a LP MP instead of Hague, you’d be right. But he didn’t. It’s a fear a tui, as they say in the Emerald Isle

                    • IrishBill

                      No TRP. You’ve got it wrong. And I think you owe me an apology.

                      Edit: I thought I’d have a go at being as bull headed as you but it doesn’t sit well with me. I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      Fine by me, Irish. Being bullheaded has taken me a long way in life, but there’s no point dragging this one out. Cheers.

    • lprent 8.2

      And probably Norman had to be stuffed into it…. I remember the days when Helen started to use makeup.

      Politicians, good ones at least, always seem to have to kick at the traces.

  9. felixviper 9

    Spot on Irish.

  10. karol 10

    I agree with irishBill on “This”, and this:

    You see this all the time in Labour’s approach – they seem to think that basic social democratic values are somehow at the edge of the bell curve and are thus not “respectable” issues for a centrist party to take up.

    It’s pretty much in agreement with my argument on my Media Bias & Democracy II post. There II said that the “neoliberal” dominated media aims to be “impartial” by most usually presenting 2 sides of any issue. These 2 sides roughly align with the two main political parties, constructed around a centre that can shift over time. And the two main parties aim more to address this center, without seeming to be too far away from it, rather than to directly talk to potential voters.

    This seems to me to be what the current parliamentary wing of Labour aim to do in order to appease the “neoliberal” powers-that-be. The MSM tends to characterise anything to far from the “centre” as “extremist” or unacceptably “radical”, or not “reasonable” (the term used by David Clark as quoted in the post above). And in so doing, parliamentary Labour are gradually pulled further to the right, and away from their core values and constituents.

  11. BIGDOG 11

    This post sets out Labours problem exactly.To get back into power they seem to think that the only path is to be as non-threatening as possible[and the scary thing is they could be right].The MSM makes even the most mild pink idea seem like a return to bolshevism so I suppose the Greens are a godsend as they can put different ideas out there without scaring the horses as it were.I have tried to ignore politics for a while but I had a major WTF moment when I read Fran O’Sullivan singing the praises of Shearer which led me to The Standard to see whats up.Having voted Green the last few elections as a more left option (luckily my grandfather is long dead,as I’d be running a big risk of being beaten with his stick) I think that with MMP this way may be the only path to a modern progressive govt but I would be more than happy to be wrong.Dave.

    • Saarbo 11.1

      You are right BD, this is why Labour need a leader that can articulate and powerfully debate a new way forward, new ideas and help persuade the media that a new model with “equality” as the centre piece is not only better for the vulnerable but also better for the country as a whole. Most people are aware that Shearer is not capable of doing this. Shearer is good at “non threatening”, no doubt about that. But for want of a better word, he lacks “ambition” for me.

  12. xtasy 12

    “That’s Labour’s strategic problem right there. In the idea that being “very reasonable” and “able to challenge injustices” are mutually exclusive.”

    Oooooh, so bloody true, this is!!!

    The problem Labour MPs may rightly see is, they created some injustices themselves, when last in government for three terms. They also failed here and there, and could have done a bit better.

    I just think of how they started bringing in a system to slowly put the pressure on sickness and invalid’s beneficiaries, albeit “softly” to look at doing more to return to work, when doing some “welfare reforms”. Not much was done to assist sick and disabled, i. e. offer better medical treatment and care for mental health and also for overcoming other disabilities.

    They also failed to take measures to contain the housing bubble, they did go too softly on big business, were too slow to look at developing more alternative energy generation, to create a better framework for manufacturing, and they signed a FTA with Mainland China, which admittedly has increased primary product exports, but otherwise has left NZ with just focusing on that, but little else for exports to that and many other countries.

    NZ enterprises are in part being taken over by Mainland Chinese investors, and know how and so forth is in danger of being moved out of NZ.

    So all hinges on a bit of an internal “revolution” within Labour, to really find a convincing new direction, which can and will perhaps convince voters to return to Labour.

    At present, it can only be seen as the lesser evil.

  13. PlanetOrphan 13

    In the idea that being “very reasonable” and “able to challenge injustices” are mutually exclusive.

    Absolutely agree IrishBill, you can’t pander to people otherwise you’ll end up with ….

    “At the end of the day [Insert Preconcieved Assumption]” PR schpeel
    The above style of statement, Is only going to piss people off, you’ve just put words in their mouths/lives.

    It appears to be a standard academic Nzer type of response at the moment, probably because of the void the the Gnats’ call PR releases, everyone tries to fill in the gaps for them.

    There is only one answer to this , Think it through and lead by example ….

    Which is why I keep saying the Labour party should BURN JOHN KEY IN EFFIGY once a week.
    Set the example Irish, Us Kiwis need something to live and drink for !

    All ya have to do is come up with the “EFFIGY” to burn M8!
    :-)

    • PlanetOrphan 13.1

      Talk to Mattel get a “Burning Dunnokey” doll happening….
      Press the button and it Lights up , runs around in circles and says “It all you fault or somthin M8!”
      Always smiling of course !
      Zippo and lighter fluid for accessories M8!
      Little zip up bag for the remains etc.

  14. Avery good post Irishbill.

    I’m finding it hard to understand what point David Clark was trying to make when he used the term “very reasonable” in relation to “walking a line”.

    Does “very reasonable” mean (a) able (and willing) to reason? (hence, ‘walking a line’ of correct reasoning) or, (b) ‘very respectable’ and accommodating in a polite, middle class kind of way? (You know, pointing out that Hague says the kinds of things John Key says when he’s about to disagree with someone, “Yeah, you’ve got a point but …”)?

    If (a), then isn’t that exactly what is needed to identify an injustice, since an injustice is not only unjust but is also an unreasonable outcome (i.e., cannot be reasonably justified)? That is, challenging injustices would require you to be “very reasonable” – it’s not a balancing act.

    If (b), then why does he respond to another question in the following manner?

    Name one of your heroes outside politics.

    I guess this sounds a bit cheesy but ultimately the Biblical Jesus is something of a hero to me, unsurprising given that I’ve got a background as a minister of religion. He was someone who stood up for the poor and vulnerable and was concerned about social justice issues and not afraid to take on the authorities of the day to ensure fairer outcomes for those who were struggling”

    The ‘Biblical Jesus’ was certainly not considered ‘respectable’ or accommodating by the opinion-leaders of the day (though quite popular with the populace) – i.e., was “not afraid to take on the authorities of the day”.

    Not what you’d call ‘respectable’ at all. So, why would Hague’s ‘respectability’ impress Clark, if that’s what Clark meant in saying that Hague is (or ‘seems’) “very reasonable”?

    That fact is that it is perfectly possible to be “very reasonable” while not being considered very respectable/accommodating or polite by “the authorities of the day”.

    Which matters most for Clark – and for Labour?

    • geoff 14.1

      I don’t think Clark thought that much about what he was saying. I think that is Irish’s point, it wasn’t consciously chosen phrasing, it was just what popped out. Labour MPs have sublimated this point of view and don’t consciously realise this.

      • Puddleglum 14.1.1

        Yes, I understand that.

        I’m not much interested in what people say they mean or think they mean. What we mean can be seen directly in what ‘pops out’ of our mouths (that’s why we can get revelations about our own motives, attitudes, etc. that surprise even us).

        That’s also why I tried to dissect the different possible meanings of what Clark said – to see what he meant, irrespective of what he might claim to have meant or understood himself to have meant.

        What we mean is always something publicly given in our speech and actions. It’s not what we supposedly privately know about our own intentions/meanings.

        The answer to my last question is therefore not something David Clark can tell me. It comes out over time in what he will continue to say and how he will act.

        The same goes for Labour as a whole.

        So, I agree with you (and Irishbill) – the question of whether Clark thought much about what he said is not really that central.

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