A recent article by Phil Quin in the Herald made me wonder. I understand that he was a Parliamentary staffer for the party in the 1990s but I have never met him. I have never seen him at a meeting, never heard of him being involved in a campaign, never come across him at a party conference despite being a religious attendee since 1999, and never seen him campaigning. Yet he is apparently a Labour insider.
I can say that members find him frustrating. His constant sniping at the party and his constant negativity during the last election campaign neatly reinforced an impression that the party was not fit to govern. Crosby Textor could not dream of more damaging “friendly” fire.
I mention my failure to have ever met him because I am a staunch believer that politics is essentially retail, and that the on the ground face to face contact is absolutely vital. And Labour’s activists are really important. I have had the privilege of meeting many of them but I have never met Phil. You need helpful media but left parties will not win unless they have the on the ground work being done by dedicated lefties.
Phil’s Herald article starts off by panning the effort of the Labour Party in the last election. We all know that Labour did not do well. Amongst other things the caucus was far too divided to function effectively and everyone knew it. Thankfully things are much improved now. I am still trying to locate the text in Phil’s latest post where he acknowledges this.
He makes some fact free assertions. A single comment to one of his posts by a semi retired person called Kat is evidence that Labour members had branded him as a heretic. Kat’s comment was actually prescient. All the membership wanted was some unity amongst the MPs and some positive press and anything was possible. It is a strange thing when the leader of the opposition can best Key in the debates yet the party still do poorly. And the toxic mix of Dotcom support for a support party and the failure to deliver the damning piece of evidence against Key hurt. This was always beyond Labour’s control.
Quin then says this:
The Labour Party does not tolerate dissent, not just in a cultural or attitudinal sense, but in its rules. Its governing bodies are elected en masse via first past the post. Sector Councils ensure minority groups have a place at the table, but there is no space whatsoever for minority opinions.
Get that? Having a democratic system and having representatives of Women, Youth, Iwi and Pacifica is evidence of not tolerating dissent. And I can safely say that the Labour Party does not tolerate intolerance to dissent. Phil Quin you have to be joking.
He raises as an example Labour’s response to ISIS. He obviously thinks we should be in Iraq boots and all. Without saying what Labour’s position is he says they are wrong and an alternative view should be advocated. The party’s position is actually very mild. All that Andrew Little has said is that it is wrong to prop up a corrupt and inept Iraqi regime and that the situation is complex. If it was up to me every single cent spent by New Zealand would be to support the millions of refugees in the area and I would leave it to the UN to sort out the military response.
Quin claims that holding an opinion such as his renders you a sell-out, a secret Tory, an apostate. Well that is true but only because sell outs, tories and apostates hold such views as his. If this is what he thinks then he should join National. It is helpful if you belong to a left wing party, even one as centrist as the Labour Party, that you actually hold at least mildly left wing views. Wanting to persuade the party to support a right wing failing state involved in the genocide of others will end in tears.
Quin then gets upset that Labour is standing a candidate in the Northland by election and uses a tongue in cheek tweet that I sent as evidence of organisational disorder.
— Greg Presland (@GregPresland) March 5, 2015
You see what was really f*&^*#g annoying about Quin’s tweet was that some young political activists up north were expressing an opinion during a campaign, and expressing an opinion I totally agreed with yet Quin chose to frame this as head office incompetence. Peters did not care at the engagement. He probably enjoyed the interaction. Locals expect this sort of exchange during an election campaign. For Quin to make a big deal about this shows how out of touch with retail politics he is.
Phil’s views are unusual. He thinks that Tony Blair was a good bloke even though he is that toxic that UK Labour candidates are returning his donations. And he thinks that all Labour needs to do is triangulate, that is have a solid left wing policy platform but toss in some rabid right wing policies to confuse the punters.
Adding the reintroduction of capital punishment to a bunch of solid left wing policies ought to do it as far as Phil is concerned.
The basic problem is that the media choose to go to the right wing rump of the Labour Party to seek comment on what is happening in the party and the comment is inevitably negative. These guys would be comfortable if Roger Douglas was still finance spokesperson. If the media wants to present a real insight into what is happening within the Labour Party they should go to this person or this person.
Update: Phil and I have had a twitter conversation about this post. He has taken exception to the suggestion I made that he supports capital punishment. Rereading the post I intended the reference to be ironic rather than factual and I am happy to accept this comment is not accurate and I have amended the post.