So Shane Jones is going.
He was a real enigma. He was entertaining, a great orator and someone who when he got his teeth into an issue, such as the Supermarket corruption issue, wrecked havoc and caused all sorts of consternation to those in his aim. He always said what he thought and often I agreed with him although his skirmishes with the Greens were frustrating and counterproductive. And he had the occasional well publicised difficulty. He was one of the real characters in New Zealand politics and he will be missed.
In what feels like a finely choreographed dance the MSM has adopted the right’s framing of the issue and pronounced the decision as some sort of crisis for the Labour Party. The loss of 15 MPs including its sixth ranked MP Tony Ryall for National is evidence of renewal. The loss of fifth ranked Shane Jones is a sign of a crisis for Labour. Go figure.
The right’s framing of issues is so powerful because supposed left wing commentators buy into them. When they go for comment on the Labour Party they use washed up right wingers such as Michael Bassett to pour poorly described bile on the party. Or they use people supposedly of the left who also accept the right’s framing.
Josie Pagani’s latest post at Pundit is a classic example of someone of the left buying into right wing spin.
She says somewhat breathlessly:
… Labour cannot keep Shane Jones and the people who support him unless it looks like a party capable of winning, and that means a party that is inclusive, focused on jobs, better pay, and on celebrating opportunities for all of us to do better in life.
I bristled at this passage because Labour is focussing on the very things that she says it should be. Labour’s policies on the minimum wage, protection for contractors, best start and industrial law reform to mention a few are all targeted at achieving the goals that Josie says the party should aim for. And the swelling of Labour’s membership would decry the suggestion that the party is not inclusive.
Pagani then says this:
There’s no problem finding other Labour party staffers and candidates who share the view that Labour needs fewer not more people on its side, and that it can define itself by throwing people out rather than bringing them in. These are the militants who make every issue, from man bans to building roads a litmus test, and if you fail – good riddance.
The viciousness of these heretic hunters is driving people out of the Labour party at a time when Labour needs all the votes it can get.
If you disagree with these policy police or attempt to debate an issue, you are not just an opponent – you’re an enemy within.
This is a warning call for Labour; very few extra votes will be attracted to Labour because people like Shane are being driven out. And the more people who are driven out of the party, the more the party is dominated by people who don’t even realise there is a problem, let alone what the problem is. The risk then, is not just that Labour ends up in opposition next year, but that it is in no better position to heal itself for future elections.
All that I can say to this is that it is utter bunkum.
The problem with Pagani’s analysis is that the facts all point against her hypothesis. Shane was not driven out of the party. Following the leadership campaign he was promoted to the front bench and given important portfolios. David Cunliffe has made a priority of uniting the caucus and making appointments on merit not faction and Shane’s departure was clearly for personal reasons, not political ones.
The analysis presupposes that the Labour Party has lurched to the left. If you have a look at the party’s policy platform you will find no such change, rather a collection of policies and principles all intent on improving the country’s economy, its environment and the quality of life for all Kiwis. You will see a platform designed to achieve the very things that Pagani says the party should be doing. Things such as being inclusive, focussing on jobs, achieving better pay, and celebrating opportunities for all of us to do better in life.
The talk about a left lurch is frustrating because there is no evidence that this has occurred. It is a slogan that National is pushing hard. But it is a claim that has not been properly analysed by the media who instead seem happy to push National’s created line.
If only we had a media that did not unquestionably accept National’s framing of issues. And if only we had commentators for the left who comment on what is actually happening in the Labour party.