Labour’s principles redux

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, July 11th, 2015 - 40 comments
Categories: labour - Tags: ,

Sometimes you’re wrong in a way which completely proves the point you were making! So it was with yesterday’s post, lamenting the lack of a clear set of principles for the Labour Party to build its policy and campaigning around.

Well, as commenter Scintilla pointed out, the Labour Party does have a clear set of principles, right there on its website (somewhat unhelpfully under the heading “Our Vision”. Vision is future, principles are the starting point, people.)

And they’re pretty good. I could handle them being a bit stronger, but we are meant to be a broad tent, so I won’t demand ideological purity. And maybe a little shorter, but sometimes you really need to spell things out.

But they raise more questions. Why couldn’t I – or pretty much anyone else besides the eagle-eyed Scintilla – bring these principles to mind when talking about what direction the party should take? Why don’t I always see these principles reflected in the policies of our party, or the behaviour of some of its members?

Once again, I don’t have all the answers prepped. But I think everyone in the Labour Party could get value (sorry for the pun) from taking a long, hard look at these principles, and considering what kind of party these principles should support – and even if that’s the right party for you.

The Labour Party accepts the following democratic socialist principles:

All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot.

The natural resources of New Zealand belong to all the people and these resources, and in particular non-renewable resources, should be managed for the benefit of all, including future generations.

All people should have equal access to all social, economic, cultural, political and legal spheres, regardless of wealth or social position, and continuing participation in the democratic process.

Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a greater amount and a just distribution of wealth can be ensured.

All people are entitled to dignity, self-respect and the opportunity to work.

All people, either individually or in groups, may own wealth or property for their own use, but in any conflict of interest people are always more important than property and the state must ensure a just distribution of wealth.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and that the Treaty should be honoured in government, society and the family.

Peace and social justice should be promoted throughout the world by international co-operation and mutual respect.

The same basic human rights, protected by the State, apply to all people, regardless of race, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious faith, political belief or disability.

40 comments on “Labour’s principles redux ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    The hard part about values is having the integrity to stick to them even when it is not in your interests to do so.

    And the higher you set the bar the more you have set yourself up for failure. So most people content themselves with one set of values they talk about in public, and another more wobbly set they actually live by. This way they find it easier to live with themselves.

    But there is a crucial counterpoint to this. People also find it much easier to do hard things when in a group. For instance – I enjoy tramping on my own, but I actually tackle tougher trips more often with some mates.

    The democratic socialist principles outlined above are a perfectly decent summary of a much wider human conversation spanning religions, philosophy and politics for thousands of years. But as individuals we’re very prone to cynically shove them off into the ‘too hard basket’.

    But as a community we can inspire each other by the example we set to each other. And that is where actions always speak louder than words. Basic stuff really – but absolutely needed Steph.

  2. Bill 2

    Huge gulf between ‘accepting (the following) democratic socialist’ principles and ‘adhering to’ or practicing them.

    See all those ‘shoulds’ in the text that would be ‘will’ if the principles were being reified?

    The first thing that sprung to my mind by way of parallel was some homophobic joker announcing how they ‘accepted’ that some people are gay.

  3. just saying 3

    Interesting that our human rights law lists several grounds on which it is unlawful to discriminate against persons.
    The ones that aren’t covered in Labours “vision” are: employment status, including being unemployed or in receipt of a benefit, ethical belief, and family status.

    Considering employment status is one of the bigggest, and growing forms of discrimination in NZ, I would have thought it would get a mention. I wonder why it was overlooked?

    • Chris 3.1

      Because Labour hates beneficiaries, as they showed voting with keys and the government on their last legislative attack on the poor. Two more government social security Bills sitting there in the house now. Let’s see if Labour votes with keys and co on those ones. Probably won’t but only because they don’t need to. If Labour ever becomes the government again, before it implodes that is, just watch more and more of this shitty behaviour come pouring right out of Labour’s arse. You ask “Why don’t I always see these principles reflected in the policies of our party, or the behaviour of some of its members?” What a fucking joke. Because Labour is essentially a bunch of uncaring right-wingers, that’s why.

      • b waghorn 3.1.1

        What would you have labour do for beneficiaries ?

        • Chris

          1. Stop voting with the government for Bills that attack the poor.
          2. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
          3. Remove conjugal status from our benefit system.
          4. Set basic benefit rates to the cost of living.
          5. Relax abatement rules around how income affects the rate of benefit.
          6. Factor the cost of child care into the cost of employment.
          7. Replace current statutory focus of social security on pushing people into employment with meeting of basic need.
          8. Remove all punitive provisions from the Social Security Act.
          9. Restore the discretionary special benefit to ensure adequate safety net.
          10. Start talking seriously about the need for a universal basic income.
          11. Remove all people with stupid or nasty attitudes towards beneficiaries who work at the front line of Work and Income’s benefit delivery unit.

          How’s that for starters? Only 11 easy steps! What’s really sad, though, is that these simple things are completely anathema to what current Labour stands for. Very, very sad indeed.

          • Jenny Kirk

            To Chris at – Labour IS working on providing just the sorts of policies you are looking for. The following is from our Policy Platform – which will form the basis of those policies (and btw, Labour has previously announced support for a living wage, along with other welfare matters).

            Labour wants to see all New Zealanders able to reach their potential knowing that if real hardship and tragedy happens, there will be real social security and a pathway to opportunities for them. Labour wants New Zealand to be a country where disadvantage is not produced and reproduced across generations. To break this cycle, Labour wants:

            · healthy, affordable housing

            · access to healthcare

            · support for disability

            · access to childcare and adequate time to spend with children

            · equal educational opportunities moving from education into work

            · a living income

            · security of income in old age.

            • Charles

              Yeah you see, the difference between the phrases you’ve posted and the ideas Chris has posted is his are specific, whereas Labour are ambiguous. Which is the argument: Labour say something ambiguous, and in practice it becomes the right wing/destructive definition of the phrase instead of the constructive left wing definition – or nothing at all. e.g.

              “healthy affordable housing”.

              Pretty vague. Healthy, as measured by what? Affordable, to who? Where exactly? Places there are no jobs or transport? Three ambiguous words don’t inspire hope or present vision.

              “a living income”.

              Everyone is alive, till they die, then they don’t need income. So is “living” meant to say poverty is ok? Labour can do better than that. But they don’t. Why?

              “support for disability”

              To what level? Who qualifies as disabled? What do they have to do in return?

              “access to healthcare”

              Well shit, if the hospital has a door then people have access to healthcare. But can they afford it? Will they be victims of prejudice?

      • leftie 3.1.2

        That stinks of trollism.

        Your account of Labour is more indicative of the National Government.

        • Chris

          “…Labour is more indicative of the National Government.”

          That’s the problem we have with Labour at the moment, together with die-hard Labour supporters who haven’t got a clue what Labour’s done or what Labour now stands for.

  4. red-blooded 4

    I would have thought that, “All people are entitled to dignity, self-respect and the opportunity to work” and “All people, either individually or in groups, may own wealth or property for their own use, but in any conflict of interest people are always more important than property and the state must ensure a just distribution of wealth” should cover your concerns about employment status as an issue, including the provision of reasonable benefits. Plus, the statement, “The same basic human rights, protected by the State, apply to all people, regardless of race, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious faith, political belief or disability” does specifically mention what you are calling “ethical beliefs” and they are calling religious or political beliefs. Besides “all people” means ALL PEOPLE; the list that follows isn’t exclusive, it’s illustrative.

    I think it’s a pretty good overview of the values that define the Labour Party. Do I think everyone in the party lives up to these values all of the time? No, I don’t. People are people and that means imperfection. It’s still a good defining list of principals, though, and something that people in the party can use to inform their decisions, actions and statements and that others can refer to when considering these.

    • just saying 4.1

      Why list any specific grounds when referring to human rights, in the vision statement, then?

      I wasn’t specifically commenting on the ethical belief ground. Like you, many would see it as encompassed by political or religious belief. Of course it isn’t, but I was prepared to give them that one. It’s the employment status non-mention that seems significant to me.

      • I suspect there’s a few factors in play in the specific grounds listed. One is that the principles were likely designed-by-committee, which always involves adding additional bits and pieces that various people feel need extra emphasis. The other is that the first factor is often motivated by a very real concern that those specific bits-and-pieces have a history of being erased or ignored from the discussion.

        • Jenny Kirk

          We all had the opportunity to input into the Party Principles, and then – yes, Stephanie, a committee of some sort put it all together. And then these were approved at a recent annual conference. So they had a good airing within the Party – but obviously not outside it. The Party just has to somehow summarise them down to a few 10-second speech slots and get them out into the public arena – not easy to do.

          • Chris

            Any discussion on ways to make sure the principles are adhered to? Ways to monitor whether its policies are consistent with the fruits of its big picture talk-fests? Apologies for the cynicism but to me the hypocrisy within Labour at the moment, and that’s of course been with us for a long time now, is simply unforgivable. Just keep dusting that picture of Michael Joseph Savage and everything will be okay.

          • Chris

            Yes, I’d imagine it’d be quite difficult for a bunch of right-wingers to come up with, let alone agree on, a set of left-wing principles they’re personally sickened by and who’d prefer every poor person to be lined up at dawn and shot. Quite difficult indeed.

  5. Sable 5

    Labout did have principles but they lost them in the 1980’s and have been looking for them ever since.

  6. les 6

    ‘if you dont’t like my principles…I have others’!(The Nats must have borrowed this from Groucho Marx.)

  7. maui 7

    The natural resources of New Zealand belong to all the people and these resources, and in particular non-renewable resources, should be managed for the benefit of all, including future generations.

    Applying current policy to these principles is interesting. I wonder how Labour’s tacit support for deep sea oil drilling fits in with the ^above.

  8. adam 8

    Liberalism as a ideology spills out in many directions. The fact is, we live in a society dominated by liberalism. Pākehā always had liberalism as the dominate ideology, Maori not so much, till Pākehā came to supremacy. Even the first labour government, was just a variation on the fundamentals of liberalism.

    I’m arguing – until we break away from liberalism, we are doomed to follow it down the path of destruction. So any talk of values, principles, or ethics is moot – till we decide to look at the underlying economics, and power differentials which govern society.

    Another way of saying this:

    The ideas which rule our society, are killing us, and the world we live in. The economics which govern, are destructive: on a social and real world level. This, along side a set ideals about power, and our relationships within society – have to be addressed. We understand power, It’s our economics which is holding us back. We understand our relationships, its’ our economics which are holding us back. We understand the destruction, its’ our economics which are holding us back.

    Economics, or political economy has been the tool of choice to strangle any, and all voices of opposition to liberalism. What ever guise liberalism takes.

    You know the attack, consciously, or unconsciously – if your not espousing liberalism, your nuts, and/or incomprehensible.

    And just in case you missed it. There is a lot of “should’s”in that “Vision” statement from labour. Reminds me of one of my favourite sayings. ” Shoulda coulda woulda “

  9. rhinocrates 9

    To paraphrase Harry S. Plinkett, “I don’t want to read it on the fucking webzone, I want to see it on the screen!”

    So they’re on the website. Some jobsworth has typed them and checked off a list and whenever someone asks about them, another passive-aggressive drone sneers and says “look at the website!”

    Those principles aren’t meant to be on the website to be given lip service. They’re meant to be in the house and out on the street every day.

  10. Save NZ 10

    The natural resources of New Zealand belong to all the people and these resources, and in particular non-renewable resources, should be managed for the benefit of all, including future generations.

    This seems different to their stance on TPP?

    Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a greater amount and a just distribution of wealth can be ensured.

    Different to Neoliberalism?

    All people, either individually or in groups, may own wealth or property for their own use, but in any conflict of interest people are always more important than property and the state must ensure a just distribution of wealth.


    Peace and social justice should be promoted throughout the world by international co-operation and mutual respect.

    Occupation on Iraq, Spying on our neighbours and our own people, in the Pacific?

    In short, some of their decisions on policy seem different to their stance on this issues!

  11. Charles 11

    I don’t see how you were “wrong” Stephanie. You lamented a lack of clear values, and now you and others prove that Labour’s values are written down, but not embodied. What could be less clear? Are not values lived? Were you wrong to think that you were wrong? Clearly there is what we say we believe and what we do.

    Rhinocrates nails it:

    “…principles aren’t meant to be on the website to be given lip service. They’re meant to be in the house and out on the street every day.”

    I think people know what Labour stand for, the good, the bad, plus a bit of wiggle room. The vision, yeah, that’s the rub. Principles, values, vision, actions, words, it should all be “self-evident”, interconnected, an extension of the other, obvious. Sux to not have a party that presents a ready-made ideal image of “the people”, but at least socially conscious people can sense where the ideal might be.

    • Chris 11.1

      “but at least socially conscious people can sense where the ideal might be”… Just ain’t with Labour.

      • leftie 11.1.1

        People haven’t been socially conscious in their support of National.

        Do National have values and principles?

        • Chris

          Yes. A belief that they don’t makes saying anything else about them pretty much impossible.

  12. Ad 12

    Hilarious to hear Jenny Kirk stating that it’s not easy to summarise Labour’s principles to the public. And we wonder why we lose elections.

    The taxpayer pays each one of the Labour caucus over $150,000 a year to do that in Paliament.
    Since so few of them can do that, it’s well time they refunded us.

    Stephanie’s obvious point is that the content is all there, but the Labour caucus have been incapable of communicating them to voters. For 7 years.

  13. fisiani 13

    Given that Labour had the same principles in 2008 and 2011 and 2014 there seems a long history of not communicating the principles or that most people do not share such principles. Such principles do not fit for people who have personal aspirations. No wonder most Chinese have abandoned Labour and after today it will be close to 100%. Are such principles popular with more than 25% of the population. I doubt it.

    • leftie 13.1

      It appears people do not care about values and principles, dirty politics from the PM’s office kept National in power.
      It is not as if National haven’t shown over the past 7 years, that it doesn’t have any values or principles.

      • Chris 13.1.1

        National has values and principles and you’re going to have to know all about them if you think you’ve got anything to say about National.

  14. SHG 14

    “All the people” – unless their surnames sound Asian.

    Labour, racists since ages ago

  15. rhinocrates 15

    Memo to Little: Socialism isn’t racism.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Sexist inferences appealing to Waitakere Man are verboten – but it appears that anti-Chinese ones are all good.

  16. Graham White 16

    Can someone please explain how Phil Twyford’s xenophobia (as displayed on “The Nation” this weekend) is consistent with the the party’s values and principles?

    • ian 16.1

      [You are banned. Later – MS]

      • McFlock 16.1.1

        How do you tell people you’re racist?

        Easy. You tell people you vote national and support the senseless sentencing crowd.

        protip: worrying about selling the country to international capital isn’t xenophobia or racism. It’s a genuine concern that ten or twenty years later the IMF will be trying to overrule your country’s democratic elections and referenda. Or even that council zoning changes to save significant trees will end up going through TPPA legal action.

        edit: oh dear, he’s gone.

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    2 weeks ago

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