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Colin James looking forward

Written By: - Date published: 5:00 pm, December 4th, 2020 - 38 comments
Categories: jacinda ardern, Politics - Tags:

There is a public meeting in Wellington on Monday evening from the Fabians – which is also conveniently being streamed via Youtube and accessible by Zoom. It features Colin James on his recent “Beyond Jacinda” following up on his prescient pre-election piece “After Jacinda“.

Personally I’m in love with remote as that way I don’t have to find the location, find a park, or fight with the phone in my lap while pretending to listening to the meat being sluggish as they speak. I can play music when the inevitable ‘question’ becomes a doctrinaire speech laden with badly thought through presumptions. It also makes work stand ups on projects a whole lot less intrusive. Plus those end-of year meetings that are so rife at this time of the year. But I digress…

Anyway, Colin James is one of my favourite political commentators because he tends towards unblinking accuracy over time when talking about a future unseen. I’ve been reading his political analysis since the early 1980s. I frequently disagree. But it is always worth digging through.

Beyond Jacinda – Colin James and Tamatha Paul

“Beyond Jacinda” is the title of an address Colin James gave recently to the Wellington Club. Colin’s paper ranges over the last fifty years of our political history, identifies several generational cohorts and looks forward, asking: “Is Jacinda Ardern from Generation X-Y a pivot like Norman Kirk was to the post-war ‘upstarts’? Is she in effect holding too much of the 2000s ‘third way’ while pointing toward a 2030s wellbeing-focused, climate-change-active Aotearoa/New Zealand? What comes ‘beyond Jacinda’?” You can read the paper here.

He went on to say “…a serious shock is near certain sometime in the next 15 years, probable in the next 10 and possible in the next five. That will grow the basis for radicalism. So at some point ‘after Jacinda’, serious policy change is more likely than not. Some will be by design and some a response to shocks from abroad.’

Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul will discuss Colin’s paper with him. In Colin’s taxonomy, she would be classified as “post-X-Y”.

Fabians: ‘Zoom – Beyond Jacinda – Colin James and Tamatha Paul’

5:30pm at Central Baptist Church, 46-48 Boulcott Street, Wellington on Monday 7th December. Register here for the full meat experience. You can look at the livestream on youtube here. Zoom – register here for an ability to have remote questions via chat (or voice?) and they will send a link.

And here is some music to watch during the inevitable ‘question’…

38 comments on “Colin James looking forward ”

  1. Anne 1

    He interviewed me once – as a rank and filer. He won't remember because it was an eon ago. I can only say… thank God for that.

    Hope the youtube link works on the day because I'm looking forward to his presentation.

  2. Ad 2

    He is saying very similar things to Matthew Hooten in the NZHerald yesterday. They are both convinced on the evidence of Ardern and Robertson so far that this is an incrementalist government with no long term plan delivering progress in barely measurable increments.

    Hooten went further though and asked: since there's no identifiable ideological core to Ardern or Robertson or anyone else in this government, what other groups in society could come up with useful ideas that could generate policy frameworks with believeable coherence?

    And he went through a few of them at the end of his column, including the inability of civic society within local government, unions, or business to launch consistent and clear thinking. He also listed a few that do.

    Hooten and James have tapped the shell of this government and marveled at its sonorous hollow tone.

    Charisma, as we saw with Key and now Ardern, may look a fine white horse, but actually isn't capable of more than a trot.

    • Anne 2.1

      Except we both know there's far more substance to this government than many are prepared to acknowledge.

      We both know the stumbling block was NZ First who stymied progress throughout the last term.

      This new government is technically only two weeks old so there's plenty of time for them to show their true mettle.

      I don't put much faith in the ramblings of Matthew Hooton. He's been proven wrong on many counts. Colin James is known for his critical analysis and I don't always agree with him, but I place him on a higher plane than Matthew H.

      • Chris T 2.1.1

        We both know the stumbling block was NZ First who stymied progress throughout the last term.

        Labour chose to get into bed with Winston, so blaming him for failing to achieve things is down to their own making.

        Winston is gone now, and so are the excuses.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          Ummm. Chose to?

          As I remember the results of 2017 election the choice was to either form a government with NZ First (and support from the Greens) or to let National form a government with NZ First.

          Not that much of a choice. At least not for anyone with a sense of social responsibility.

          I'll leave you with this picture. Imagine a National government with Bill English leading it supported by NZ First. They would have arse-licked the idiotic policies of Trump like Scott Morrison, totally bumbled the challenges of the Christchurch massacre as they did in earthquakes, and completely screwed up the response to Covid-19.

          We'd have had hospitals overflowing from the usual National incompetent responses – and I'm only looking at the timing of their ideas in opposition.

          • Ad 2.1.1.1.1

            Agree. It's well detailed what Ardern and team felt like and looked like when Winston made his decision.

          • Chris T 2.1.1.1.2

            This doesn't change the fact Labour chose to hook up with him. And then presumably didn't put their failures to get things through into agreements in their coalition agreement.

            It is perfectly reasonable to say they may have had to, to form a government, but this doesn't change the fact it is failure of their own making.

            It doesn't take a political historian to work out hooking up with Winston is a pain in the arse, as he is a opportunistic twat who cares only about himself.

            • solkta 2.1.1.1.2.1

              Yes that's right, Winston is known to be a walkover. They could have gotten anything past him if they had only tried.

              • Chris T

                I think you are missing the point.

                They chose to work with him.

                Yes, they wouldn't be in govt if they didn't, but this doesn't change it being a choice of a way to get into govt.

                Being in government or not was entirely their choice and the options to do it they chose.

                They chose be in govt, which meant having to work with a self centered arsehole.

                And getting piss all actual decent policy through. Tough luck. Own it. It was their choice.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.2.2

              It doesn't take a political historian to work out hooking up with Winston is a pain in the arse, as he is a opportunistic twat who cares only about himself.

              That I totally disagree with. I realise that is the doctrine of the current National party – the one that he left decades ago.

              But they are always characterising others to be just like their crass and self-interested hypocrisy, who often appear to have the political empathy of blood-crazed hyenas about anyone who isn't like them. You only have to look at their punitive attitudes about benefits, or the young without affluent parents to see that.

              Winston Peters is far more like the post-war National party. Self-interested but aware of others in their society. Short-term thinkers, inept past the political tactical level and paternalistic to the point of irritation. But capable of working across the political spectrum for the good of all.

              But quite unlike the current group of useless pack of the mostly self-interested National MPs and their ardent supporters.

              • Chris T

                That is great, but you appear to be diverting from the topic of Labours failures in their first term and switching the topic away to the Nats who weren't in govt.

                In fact I am struggling to see how one paragraph of your post actually relates to Labour's first term.

                • Muttonbird

                  You don't get to critique "Labour's failures in their first term" because you disagreed with their policy in the first place.

                  Michael Cullen is right. Kiwis like you love to hand-wring about material poverty and intergenerational inequality but you rail hard against any discussion about how to fix it.

                  Your opinion on these matters is irrelevant. Always has been.

                • lprent

                  I suspect that you have completely missed the topic of the post. Perhaps you should actually read the papers rather than inventing (or more likely parroting) some idiotic myth that fits your foolish preconceptions.

                  What Colin James was talking about was a political approaches of gradualism dominating the current climate inside Labour (and for that matter in my opinion in the Greens). He was contrasting that gradualism with some of the previous decades, especially the 80s and 90s and looking at the generational changes that triggered it. He was also suggesting that the XY generation current political environment may lead to a more radical shifts as the the millennial generations come through.

                  Personally I can't actually see anything much that relates to 'failures'. After all Labour and the coalition handled well the three crises of the term – and really did well on the last one. Their coalition did not fall apart despite disagreements – which got handled and then everyone moved on to the next item on the agenda. There was a lot of good preparatory work in place for the next term – after all infrastructure takes a damn sight more than a term to get up and running.

                  About the only thing that didn't really work was that they were unable to kick the building industry into gear to build affordable housing privately. Something that I through was unlikely from the start. But the housing corp side of the state housing is well and truly underway – and in my view that is the only one that counts anyway. Private industry are useless as building to need – and always have been. They mostly build to make an excess profit and they ignore social utility or even paying for the infrastructure to support their buildings.

                  If you want to make up your own topic – then go to Open Mike and play with yourself there.

      • Ad 2.1.2

        NZFirst certainly stopped light rail – and according to the Auditor's report it was an extremely good thing that they did.

        But otherwise, NZFirst generated more economic activity in the regions than any government in 40 years.

        The new government is near-identical to the last one so we can make pretty good judgements on their performance form the last3 years.

        Weirdly, Colin James and Matthew Hooten are only saying things that many on this site and on Kiwiblog are saying as well. So it's probably worth taking note of.

        • lprent 2.1.2.1

          The problem is that it has always been really hard to change anything from the opposition benches. The trick is to bring the public along with you on social and economic changes.

          When you get decades of stasis followed by revolution as happened in the 1960s to mid-1990s then what you also get immense levels of damage following in its wake. As you point out, in NZ this largely happened in our regional economies.

          After revolutions you get periods of sustained stasis because voters have given up on rapid change. Which is also a problem.

          What really needs to happen is to have continuous change. Which we appear to be getting a little better at doing since the 1990s.

          Of course this doesn't exactly sit well with people who'd prefer revolution rather than evolution. But mostly that is because they'd prefer to drag voters behind them rather than convincing them that there is a reason to change.

          • Ad 2.1.2.1.1

            Why Labour didn't have a coherent policy framework after 9 years on the Opposition benches is one of the greatest lost opportunities of this generation.

            For example, to come into government with a decade-long housing boom and still be flailing around for policy instruments with the Reserve Bank in your second term is just crap politics. That rests both with Robertson and with Ardern.

            Compare that to the structural reforms across multiple fields of government in terms 1 and 2 of the Clark-Cullen government.

            I'm not too worried by the terms used.

            What we all need is a framework that enables structural change. It doesn't exist, and they seriously need to start work on one. Maybe they get their shit together in term 3.

            • Chris T 2.1.2.1.1.1

              Agree, but would argue it is a lot longer than a "decade-long housing boom".

              It has been going down with multiple govts

            • lprent 2.1.2.1.1.2

              The problem is that National have proved pretty conclusively in previous elections that having an expressed "coherent policy framework" is a guaranteed way for Labour (and themselves) to lose elections.

              Whenever National put up any kind of policy framework recently, they lose elections (1999 (resume Rogernomics), 2002 (better economic managers than Labour and why), and arguably 2005 (giving freedom to bigots plus resume Rogernomics)).

              When they don't do anything except some simple slogans attacking Labour 2008 (tax cuts), 2011 (protect your tax cuts), 2014 (david cullen is dangerous), and 2017 (Bill is just like John and Little is boring and Jacinda is a featherhead) – they have a pretty good shot at winning.

              But essentially National has marketed themselves as being not Labour for a very long time and seldom needed a policy platform – since the 1930s. 1975 (trim the power of unions), 1978 (think big) and 1990 (like Rodger's labour but better) were probably the only ones that I can recollect in my time in politics.

              By contrast Labour has put up some kind of policy platform up in damn near every election before 2017 and most of the National election effort has been expressed in trying to make those policies look terrible and dangerous. Phil Goff and tax in 2011 particularly lives in my memory.

              It was a pleasant change when the XY'ers in Labour finally got political and didn't really put up coherent policies. Instead they started talking about objectives.

              It has been hilarious watching National trying to reframe such nebulous objectives as a building more homes over the next decade than National achieved in the previous one (hardly a hard target) as promises and relating it back to actual policy like kiwibuild that date from 2012.

              Personally I hope that Labour looks at the 2017 and 2020 elections, the outcomes and the interfering real world and draws the right conclusions.

              • It is pointless to try to build anything more than general objectives directions in a world that is change this fast. Lets call that the agile principle.
              • Because of their lack of any coherence internally, national and the conservatives fail aimlessly when they have to sell themselves. They win by attacking Labour / Greens / NZ First and any one else and portraying themselves as the safer alternative without being too specific about what they intend (even if they knew it themselves). Call that the Peter Dunne soft bunny principle.
              • Concentrate on winning the decade – not this next bloody election. Call that the why you have to have coalition partners for the next decade principle. There is no point in being in for just one election – you don't have time to hit long term objectives.
    • Tiger Mountain 2.2

      Heh, Mr “Todd Muller is the answer” Hooton.

      https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/422543/political-lobbyist-matthew-hooton-resigns-as-national-party-staffer

      Will watch Colin James stream out of respect for his long, and genuine contribution to NZ politics, he has signalled where this new majority Govt. is heading already in his view. Things have moved on however since the passivity of the left and downtrodden during the Clark years.

      The ‘Blair Lite’ nature of this Govt., continuing the Parliamentary neo liberal consensus, locking in the Reserve Bank Act etc., as desired by Jacinda and Robbo has been identified early on. This enables three years of action and organisation to turn things around. I predict even the ever NZ Labour faithful NZCTU, will not be impressed when the largesse extended to COVID employer bailouts does not extend to Fair Pay Agreements and more union rights.

      • lprent 2.2.1

        Pretty much – make a case for changes that are needed and why political capital should be expended to make them happen. Just expecting them to happen without effort is a fools game.

        Which is what James is pointing out as being something that this Labour caucus isn't. Basically they're perfectly willing to do change. But not to the point of wanting to lose elections over it.

        The problem is that when you look at something like a capital gains tax, the case for having it is pretty weak in that it is unlikely to make any significiant difference to the property market. It was certainly unconvincing to both to economists and the many voters that it will have the effect that proponents would want (reducing increases in house prices and the profits to be made from it).

        A combination of cheap money and shortage of relevant supply in growth areas means that there will be price spiral as first time buyers become willing to risk more to get housing, and there are profits to be made by holding property and selling it for investors.

        The best way of dealing with it is to resume the role of the state in getting a supply of appropriately sized housing on the market in the right places. Housing corp building apartments and townhouse in the urban centres close to places of work for rent and eventual purchase. That effectively produces a base for both rents and property prices, while also producing supply.

        That isn't a market that private industry has even attempted to do over the last 40 years. Instead we mostly get MacMansions requiring expensive private transport and apartments with ridiculously high body corporate costs for lifts and swimming pools.

        • Anne 2.2.1.1

          The best way of dealing with it is to resume the role of the state in getting a supply of appropriately sized housing on the market in the right places. Housing corp building apartments and townhouse in the urban centres close to places of work for rent and eventual purchase. That effectively produces a base for both rents and property prices, while also producing supply.

          Labour has done it before. It was called the State Advances loan scheme. That is how almost everybody got to own a home in the 50s, 60s, 70s and part of the 80s. Then along came the neo-liberal hysteria and the scheme was scrapped.

          And that is why we are where we are today!

          If ever there was a reason why neo-liberalism – and its companion, market forces as practiced by successive NZ governments – has been an abject failure then the scrapping of the State Advances scheme is it.

          • lprent 2.2.1.1.1

            I'd forgotten about that. I should have a look at it.

            In effect that is what kiwibuild was trying to do. But in that case leaving it up to the builders about what they wanted to build to fit the criteria. That sunk like a lead balloon because many of the houses produced weren't useful (wrong location, wrong sizes, or just too damn expensive), and buyers weren’t taking them up.

            https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/finance-public/page-9
            https://teara.govt.nz/en/housing-and-government/page-3

            State advances got folded into Housing corp aka Kāinga Ora. I should have a look and see what happened to the state advances legislation (originally from 1894) and if it got repealed or adapted. It wouldn't surprise me if it was still in place.

            But I'd better get back to working…

    • Incognito 2.3

      Colin James is not convinced; you’re misinterpreting his careful and considered words, IMO.

      Ardern and Robertson are products of their time/generation and their environment.

      • Ad 2.3.1

        What lazy crap you talk.

        Ardern and Robertson have been elected to lead. Simply nudging the population is about as effective as a marketing campaign for a new brand of baked beans. Which what they appear destined to become.

        We have nothing less than a duty to critique the hell out of this government – particularly those who are Labour members and activists.

        • lprent 2.3.1.1

          We have nothing less than a duty to critique the hell out of this government – particularly those who are Labour members and activists.

          That I'd agree with. However I'd also say that many of those activists need to learn how to argue more effectively.

          All too frequently they sound like they have never bothered to look at the obvious downside implications of what they are advocating and developed the counter-arguments for those. In fact they usually squall like spoilt children when anyone tries to point out the flaws. It often makes it very hard to want to expend time, effort, or political capital on their pet causes.

          A lot of the time they can’t even manage to articulate the upsides. Because they are so ‘obvious’. A level of arrogance is that really off-putting to voters.

          It also makes it all to easy to run campaigns against their ideas.

          The cannabis referendum is the obvious example. That was something that there is an overwhelming sense of generalised support for in the voting population. But where the proponents didn't manage to focus on the argument that eventually damned their initiative. Was there are reason to go beyond the current laws as they currently are on the ground?

          All the well coordinated opposition to the referendum had to do was slightly increase the level of uncertainty about any medical issues like mental health, and get people to plump for the low rates of prosecution status quo. FFS: just having a bill that was readable would have helped a lot.

          The contrast with the support for the act already passed in parliament for end of life was pretty obvious. And it was well argued on all sides.

        • Incognito 2.3.1.2

          Thanks, Ad. Was going to reply here but wrote a Post instead in which I could also include something in relation to what Lprent said about CGT @ 2.2.1.

    • Adrian Thornton 2.4

      @ Ad, " Hooten and James have tapped the shell of this government and marveled at its sonorous hollow tone."…that my friend is one of the great lines of late. I might have to steal the gist of it for one of the political protest posters that I put around town on occasion …if you don't mind.

  3. Maurice 3

    Running on empty for three years – and blaming 'NZFirst' – can now morph into walking on even emptier and having no one else to blame …. except the Boomers?

  4. sumsuch 4

    You've liked Colin James for 40 years? To me he was an apologist for '84. I liked him for addressing the affronts to '35. Unlike for too many for those too many decades. Those scathes across our throats. I think you didn't feel those years.

    • lprent 4.1

      He was explaining the politics of that era and others. But even then it was damn near impossible to see what his views really were. Unlike (for instance) Fran O'Sullivan from the same era who is much more overt about what she agrees with.

      But I don't read things to agree with their viewpoints. I read them to find out the arguments being used and the facts that they're using to support them. I read material to get different ideas. For me it doesn't matter if it is the Socialist Worker or the National Business Review both of which I read in the 1980s.

      I think you didn't feel those years.

      It depends what you mean. I certainly felt and understood them. Almost certainly with a much clearer perspective that you seem to be looking at them with. That wasn't a problem with the 1980s, It was a problem with 1960s and 1970s that came to a head in the 1980s.

      I spent the later 1970s and early 1980s figuring out how to escape the stifling environment of NZ because it was so obviously going down the economic toilet. Businesses were moribund. There was no room to do anything. Interest rates were through the roof.

      There was a reason that large chunks of my family had moved to Aussie. Didn't matter if you were a butcher or worked in factories – there simply wasn't anything that you could do in NZ. Voters were voting with their feet. Something that some of the nostalgic revisionist fools seem to have forgotten.

      Which is essence was exactly what was found by the Lange government when they won in 1984. They wound up having to do a revolution because there were bugger all other choices. They wound up went too far with what they did, but they didn't have any real choice about doing it.

      I wound up staying in NZ because, while it was a unfolding disaster, there was actual overdue change going on. Even when I disagreed with a lot of it, it was better that something was happening rather than the risky stasis disaster before it.

      For instance the rapid hollowing out of our manufacturing and engineering base was just stupid. It needed to happen slowly so that it didn't have the fire sale quality as tariff barriers got abruptly dropped. The attacks on unions in the 1990s was mis-informed, damaging and clearly would have dire consequences down the line. They led directly to the wealth imbalances that are more evident now and the poverty traps that National complains about now.

      Thinking that the free market was capable of doing the kinds of housing developments that were required for the coming decades was clearly false then, and obvious now.

      • sumsuch 4.1.1

        I appreciate your explanation. But you lot have been an oppression for 36 years on the Left. Strange, that you and Incognito are the only people who explain themselves. I started fighting 'trusting the rich' in the first 3 years of Douglas (in my mind).

        I want to put the people back in charge. And Grant and Jacinda should continue to be pressured out of whatever 84ist hole they view things.

        It's not a surprise you came at Labour from this free-market angle.

        • Incognito 4.1.1.1

          I can guarantee that nearly all of your assumptions about me are wrong. Even if you were to know my real identity, you would still know very little about me, where I came from, what drives and motivates me, and what I hope to achieve in the years left. You’re playing a mug’s game.

          • sumsuch 4.1.1.1.1

            I was talking to Lprent. I appreciate your recent comments and articles.

            I havne voted for Labour in 36 years. That says it all. The Standard is in my view about voting for them.

            • Incognito 4.1.1.1.1.1

              In that case, my apologies and thank you.

              The Standard is not a forum for the New Zealand Labour Party per se but rather to support the broader Labour movement as explained here: https://thestandard.org.nz/about/#political_angle.

              Voting for NZLP obviously does not make them immune from inside criticism and there are a few commenters here who have quite strong ideas as to whether NZLP can still be called a Labour party as such.

              You’ll have noticed that are also a number of supporters and members even of the Green Party on TS.

              In other words, TS is a broad church, broader than NZLP. This forum is for robust political debate, not an echo chamber for parrots of any colour.

        • lprent 4.1.1.2

          But you lot have been an oppression for 36 years on the Left.

          I'm pretty much a very distinct singleton. I don't have a 'lot'. I just find things that I'm willing to work on or for. I'm perfectly capable of making up my own mind and don't require some badly thought out ideological basis to prop up my intellectual framework.

          The problem generally with your 'oppression' concept is that generally the world divides into those who will cooperate with others on the journey to achieve some of their goals and those who try to insist that they have the one true path and like living in little silos. The dimwitted label makers. Evidently your in-group.This is a rather large group of simpleton sheep who specialise in collective baa'ing without any brain activity.

          The 'oppression' you're looking at is simply that a lot of people on the 'left' prefer to cooperate widely. They are willing to tolerate those they disagree with on many things to work on the bits that they do agree on. You see it around here all of the time. There are a lot of people here who are mostly noticeable for the level at which they disagree – whilst also finding areas of agreement.

          However those like you who can't explain where they're coming from and why are always 'oppressed' because you never say anything interesting. You just parrot labels.

          Personally the nearest thing that I have to a fellow group is the crazed programmers. Of course like you, as a group, we do have labels for others. Illiterates are people who can't program. You can't explain coding issues to. But at least that is a practical limit rather than arbitrary one like yours.

          • sumsuch 4.1.1.2.1

            The free-market delivered power to the top 20 % at best, and unease to the rest of us, down to the lowest 20 %, or the brown, where it delivered misery. And in America it delivered Trump and fascism.

            None of this is 'labour'. And I'm talking to a free-marketeer on a labour site! The prick Biden talks 'equality of opportunity', weasel words for plutocracy, the people who pay him, rather than looking after the people.

            I appreciate your explanation, even your exceptions speak loud, but '35 trumps '84. And I knew that was the fight a year into it. You do know '84 was wrong don't you? That the people should decide rather than 'the rich doing what the rich do benefitting everyone'?

            And, again, what the fuck are you doing on a Left site?

            [lprent: Well for a starter it isn’t a ‘Left site’ it is a politics site that leans left. Perhaps you should read the About.

            What’s your political ‘angle’?
            We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.

            Plus it runs on my server and I’m the super-admin. You should already be aware of this based on previous comments to me. A role that happened almost by accident because of my technical and social media skills rather than my political or economic inclinations.

            While my technical skills keep the cost of running the site that I host down to a minimum I still carry much of the ‘cost’ of keeping this site alive. I suspect that it simply wouldn’t be running without my efforts. Or for that matter those of our array of disagreeing authors. Rather than pinning idiotic denigration and inaccurate labels on each other we cooperate on what we agree with and lend our skills to broadening dialogue.

            As much as I hesitate to point out these minor issues with your core judgemental and rather stupid precepts. It is always worth pointing them out to fools such as yourself who are too ignorant to appreciate that they represent the arse-end of the intelligence because of their basic personality defects.

            That you don’t bother to examine what people say and reply to their points before shoving labels on them puts you squarely in the particular group. Idiots who label – apparently for the sole purpose of increasing their dick size. ]

  5. lprent 5

    Fixed the link to the livestream

    also

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