The politics of the warm inner glow is a phrase of Australian origin which applies to left activists. It describes a state where lefties prefer feeling good about their activism rather than actually achieving anything.
One use of the phrase is attributed to former Labor leader Bill Hayden who said:
We are, as too often happens with the Labor Party, in danger of confusing the politics of the warm inner glow with the inspiration of the light on the hill. If we do that, we will get badly scorched by the electorate—and not just once but repeatedly.”
The phrase contrasts what is the ideal left wing position with what is actually achievable. The ideal left wing position may be political suicide but some think that it should be pursued, no matter what.
And it is an unfair battle. The forces of the right are completely indifferent to most areas of right wing principle. The one aspect they struggle with, tax cuts particularly for the wealthy, is the one policy that makes politics a more even battle. And they lack the activists although their monetary resources and friendly media mean that it is more than an even battle.
What really helps the right are self nominated left wing commentators who take every opportunity to attack Labour.
People like Chris Trotter whose prose in a recent blog post is extraordinary.
In a fit of literal verbosity he took exception to this passage in Jacinda Ardern’s speech:
On the 9th floor of the Beehive building in Wellington, sitting directly behind my desk, is a picture of Michael Joseph Savage. You could say he’s on my shoulder but also ever so slightly in my ear.
“Of course it was Savage and the first Labour Government that lifted New Zealand out of the depths of the Great Depression. Not by cutting taxes and services, but by investing in jobs, and building a social welfare safety net. They built the country’s first state home. And not long after these social reforms – New Zealand’s living standards were among some of the highest in the world. Not for the few, but for the many.
“The Finance Minister who supported Savage, Walter Nash, then led Labour’s second government as it continued to build our nation’s social welfare system, while advocating on the world stage for peace over war after World War 2.
“It was Norman Kirk and a Labour government who tilted the country towards a modern future with reforms of trade, health, the arts, and education. They worked hard to foster a renewed national identity and partnership with Maōri – all the while challenging global evil such as apartheid and nuclear testing.
“It was a fight David Lange continued, making New Zealand nuclear free, while also righting the wrongs of the past by legalising homosexuality, and fully abolishing the death penalty.”
Trotter confused historical accuracy with the glorious left wing revolution and said this:
Virtually every claim made by the Prime Minister in the passage quoted above is either historically contestable, or just plain, flat-out, wrong. For that very reason, it is a powerful illustration of the deeply flawed thinking that has led the Ardern Government to the brink of electoral ruin.
Which part of the speech is historically contestable? None as far as I can see.
So I can see no statement that is flat out wrong, and few if any could be contestable unless you were to apply extreme interpretations of what was said.
Top of Chris’s list of dislikes is hate speech reform. Before the details are even settled he says that reform of the sort of speech that influenced the Christchurch shooter is a very bad thing.
The other two, Three Waters and Co Governance suggest strongly that Chris has been sipping National’s kool aide for too long.
And he says that the Christchurch massacre and Covid “helpfully distracted the country from its government’s moral vacuity”. One was an abject terror event and the other was a one in one hundred global pandemic that New Zealand handled remarkably well but not according to Chris.
Has Labour been moving the country in the right direction? I believe so and you can consult this list of a hundred things the Government has delivered this year if you need verification. There is also this list of things Labour has achieved while in Government.
Has it moved quickly enough? No but three years of New Zealand First in Government followed by a one in one hundred year global pandemic have not helped.
A few examples will help.
Labour has delivered 14,000 public and transitional homes while in Government and if current trends continue the housing shortage should be eradicated within a year. And housing prices are falling as Labour’s policies around ownership kick in and new stock comes onto the market.
In relation to child poverty Labour has lifted 66,500 children out of poverty so far, and the latest figures show all nine child poverty measures continue to trend downwards.
And in relation to climate change the Climate Commission has been created, the Zero Carbon Act passed and importation of electric vehicles is surging.
And the Government is moving to tax greenhouse gas emissions in the Farming Sector. The political push back shows how resistant the right will be to this policy.
Could it have done more? You bet. Could this have happened quicker? Given the limitations imposed by the Wellington bureaucracy I am not sure.
But here is the thing. If National is elected the results will be very clear. They will unwind a lot of these policies and hack into budgets as they try and find money for tax cuts for the wealthy.
Which is why Comrade Chris’s attacks on the Government are so unhelpful. You would think that someone wanting a socialist nirvana would be patient as progress is made albeit somewhat gradually rather than want us to lurch back into the sort of New Zealand National gave us in the 1990s.
Chris is part of that circle of wanna be media personalities like Sean Plunkett, Ani O’Brien, Jordan Williams et al and clearly the media enjoy giving him space as a left wing contrarian. But I question the logic of what he says. Not reaching the socialist nirvana overnight may not be ideal. But to present a completely inaccurate dystopian description of this Government when it is clearly achieving good does nothing but provide support for the left’s opponents.
Chris may feel that warm inner glow as he types his words of condemnation. I prefer my political activism to actually achieve and improve things.