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On Navel Gazing and Looking Out.

Written By: - Date published: 2:38 pm, October 6th, 2014 - 63 comments
Categories: labour, Left - Tags: , ,

The British Labour Party isn’t so dissimilar to the NZ Labour Party.

Both have embraced or accommodated neo-classical economic orthodoxy to various degrees at various junctures, these past 30 years . Both have had fairly extended periods in government pursuing ‘third way’ policies associated with neo-classicism. Consequently, both have uprooted their traditional socialist leanings, and both are in the electoral doldrums right now, in spite of being in opposition to governments that peddle unpopular policies.

Within both parties, a struggle between those who would seek to win over the so-called middle ground (that has drifted rightwards in recent decades), and those who would reconnect with traditional socialist tinted, social democratic values, is taking place.

And this is where the situation of the British Labour Party, in both Britain and Scotland, could prove instructive for the NZ Labour Party.

In Britain, it’s the same Labour Party that operates in two quite distinct political environments. In England and Wales (first past the post electoral system), it struggles to compete with a governing right wing Tory party (Con 36% Lab 34% as at 4th Oct 2014). And in Scotland (electoral system predicated on proportional representation) , it struggles to compete with a governing left wing SNP. (SNP 42% Lab 27% – Oct 2014).

I could waffle a bit, but in short, the British Labour Party, that has similar characteristics to those of the NZ Labour Party, struggles far more where governments enact more left wing and popular social democratic policies than it does where governments enact so-called centrist and unpopular policies.

Before drawing your conclusions on which direction the NZ Labour Party should take, it’s maybe worthwhile noting that the Tory presence in Scotland has been more or less obliterated, and that Scotland has hitherto been the traditional heartland of Labour Party support.

63 comments on “On Navel Gazing and Looking Out.”

  1. Tom Gould 1

    They could return the promise to nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange to the party constitution? That might work?

    • Bill 1.1

      Or they could simply promise and deliver some solid social democratic policy that resonates with people.

      Policies like free education, aged care provided by the state…policies the SNP have enacted, that have seen it elected with an absolute majority in a proportional system, and that the Scottish Labour Party has struggled with, given its ‘neither here nor there nor this nor that’ stance, as informed, or maybe dictated, by a British Labour Party being pragmatic and chasing the mythical ‘middle England’ vote.

    • That’s not going to work in the foreseeable future, either politically or economically. If either Labour party wants to do anything worthwhile ever again, they need to change the discussion about taxation. The population tend to believe the right’s simple but erroneous claims about the morality and role of taxation. The sooner that money is directed away from pointless competitive consumption towards things that actually improve people’s welfare, the better.

    • Michael 1.3

      No it wouldn’t. All that would do is condemn the two parties to political oblivion. The era of globalised capitalism seems here to stay, even though it will remain volatile. It is the response of governments to that volatility that is the big question of our time. FWIW, I think the NZ Labour Party should prioritise fairness as its key value: ensuring, as far as possible, that the machinery of government treats people fairly in ways that respects their dignity as human beings, while providing the necessary resources to achieve that aim. I’ll support anyone who adopts that principle and I don’t care what label they stick on it.

      • Bill 1.3.1

        So, could I be correct in reading that as a suggestion that the NZ Labour Party have a look at the successful policies of the likes of the SNP? The ones that the British Labour Party finds itself in opposition to? The type that the British Labour Party and the NZ Labour Party dumped and ran from some years ago in the interests of pragmatism?

      • Colonial Viper 1.3.2

        The era of globalised capitalism seems here to stay, even though it will remain volatile.

        No its not. The system is on its last editions of ‘pretend and extend.’ The strength and importance of the US dollar is steadily diminishing, and with it, US global and corporate power.

        And you shouldn’t argue in favour of the global capitalists, because they have zero loyalty to NZ or to the wellbeing of NZers.

      • RedBaronCV 1.3.3

        I too think globalised capital is drifting off. As the centre of power draws further and further away from people they feel some freedom to ignore or campaign against it. Frankly Cameron & co didn’t seem to see the “yes” vote coming stuck in their own little world. Cameron looked like a bloke who had looked out his window to discover that the peasants building the fence where doing it to keep him in not them out.

  2. The Lone Haranguer 2

    So why doesnt the British Labour party do an alliance type deal with SNP and between them they can win?

    Its all about winning after all.

    • Bill 2.1

      The British Labour Party did do an alliance type deal… with the Tories and LibDems over the independence referendum. They won that one.

      Meanwhile, the SNP, Greens and Scottish Socialist Party doubled and tripled their respective membership numbers off the back of their referendum loss.

      I’ll put it this way. Where once the SNP were branded ‘the tartan tories’, Labour in Scotland is now referred to as the ‘red tories’. That’s how far they’ve drifted in the public eye. And for what?

      For all -or I’d argue – because of their supposed pragmatism, they’re struggling to be relevant in England and Wales. NZ Labour is looking down that same barrel.

      It has to choose between adopting a managerial approach and hoping to be liked more than the other lot, and being relevant in the eyes of the voting public. The SNP have demonstrated that left wing social democratic policies can be pursued successfully in an environment awash with media driven neo-classical ‘TINA’ tosh.

      • adam 2.1.1

        What looking down the barrel Bill – they walked in front of that bus 30 years ago. This, there is ‘hope for labour’ is a pipe dream, one concocted by people on to many pharmaceuticals. I know you know some history of this place – look at the history of the liberal party, before it dissolved. So from about 1916-1939 – we are seeing a similar replay of history. A strong, well organised and subtally authoritarian right wing and a so called left party in disarray.

        After it’s passing, some of the members joined the labour party and the bulk formed the nationalist.

        The nationalist must be laughing their collective heads off – in both cases the left is fighting a small well funded faction of liberals, who they don’t know how to attack without giving up what they believe to be left wing values.

        It’s simple really, and you allude to it above – it’s economics, it’s economics, it’s economics. Social democrats need to wake up to the reality that liberalism, is antithetical to any form of socialism.

        It is the main reason why I have said since the election labour are dead. Or a dead weight take your pick. They will limp on for a while, they may even morph into a true liberal party. But a party which represents working people and their economic desires, it is not.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          You might be right Adam, Labour may well be dead as a political vehicle.

          Just for the record btw, I’m only using the SNP as a comparison – of what’s possible vis a vis social democratic policy in a neo-classical framework.

          My question, very limited in scope then, is why aren’t Labour pursuing similar social democratic policies to those so favoured by the Scottish electorate and that have proved so successful for the SNP?

          There’s no long term ‘answer’ to the mess the working class have been placed in any of that. Social democracy was never, ever going to lead to any type of socialism.

          But you know, half decent policies informed by social democratic ideas do at least have the potential to make the lives of many, many people far more tolerable.

  3. Ad 3

    There is no evidence Labour’s collective ego has been able to learn lessons from the last 3 elections. It will take a further weakening of Labour in 2017 to 20-22% for Labour’s remaining caucus to give up their collective ego as the default government in waiting. Labour has a whole term to go before they reach bottom.

    Therefore New Zealand will have no effective alternative government until a true coalition is tested in 2020. The New Zealand government will not have forgiven Labour’s disunity by 2017, nor will a government-in-waiting appear.

    As each election loss and leadership contest burn off more post-40 activists, Labour will begin the handover to a newer generation that National started 2 terms ago. Good souls who can hibernate six years, stock up your caves. Those under 35, Labour’s future is yours.

    With no alternative government or opposition, the NZ horizon will be run by National, without political check or balance as far as the eye can see.

    • NeutObserver 3.1

      Amen!

    • Oh no. The last thing we need is a bunch of kids who won’t pay attention in parliament because they’re too busy checking Facebook on their phones or posting cat pictures to Twitter.

      • That kind of kneejerk stereotyping of the next generation is just sooooooooo helpful. I wonder why voter turnout among younger adults is so abysmal? 🙄

        • greywarbler 3.2.1.1

          @ Stephanie R and
          ad
          Don’t let your supply of humour run too low. It’s a sort of oil that keeps buoyancy.
          Edited

          • Stephanie Rodgers 3.2.1.1.1

            Accusing people who call out sneering stereotypes for not having a sense of humour, we’re plumbing the depths of originality today. 🙄

          • Ad 3.2.1.1.2

            Buoyancy is decreasing – Labour are in a fully Lifeboat Ethics period.

            Humour as a response to political cannibalism, purging, and desperate careerist violence is not appropriate, unless you’re from Whaleoil and like to watch caged dogs fighting.

        • Tom Jackson 3.2.1.2

          wonder why voter turnout among younger adults is so abysmal?

          Um.. because they’re too busy using their phones to watch videos of stupid pet tricks?

      • Ad 3.2.2

        What you sneer at is the only communication alternative to contest the MSM. And that is no longer in your control.
        It is with those under 35 who have grown up with it and master it.

        When it forms, that will be the new opposition.

        • Tom Jackson 3.2.2.1

          Do you have any more warmed over 60s counterculturalism to contribute?

          You are Rick from The Young Ones and I claim my five pounds.

          • Colonial Viper 3.2.2.1.1

            I think Ad is essentially right and for the right reasons; the chances of Labour forming a strong 2 or 3 term govt in 2017 is minimal. It may, through the quirks of MMP be able to form a cobbled together left wing government with a small majority. Which I would not expect to last more than 1 term.

            More likely though is a 4th Key/English term. At least, that is how it will start out.

      • Murray Olsen 3.2.3

        I thought that was quite funny. I am probably a terrible person, but I laugh a lot. The people around me do too.

  4. just saying 4

    Telling the truth. Maybe a crazy, impossible dream in our political system.
    I still think it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand and is worth a try. Who knows what would or wouldn’t work, but playing the tories at their own game plays out according to the tories plan and always will.

    If truth leads to divorce, that’s a good thing isn’t it? Staying together under the same roof, despite irreconcilable differences doesn’t work. I suspect a few of us here have personal experience of that particular scenario…

    • Bill 4.1

      Ah….I finally think I ‘get’ your comment. A major party simply standing up and telling it like it is? I guess stranger things have happened 😉

      I also reckon they could more or less clean up if they did.

      • just saying 4.1.1

        If you read the speeches from the “glory” days of the party, they were extremely specific and clear about what they believed and what they intended to do.
        We’ve had nothing but weasel words from Labour for 30 years and everyone knows they are too scared to say what they really think. Their apirational mission statement thingy is about as sincere as those you see framed on corporate walls

        • David Cunliffe had the greatest popularity when he was making clear, defiant speeches about what was wrong with our society/economy and what needed to happen to change it.

          • Ad 4.1.1.1.1

            agreed.
            he also did best when he was in a packed hall with no speech notes, and just let rip.
            the speech-polishing of 2014 added little, and took much away.

            ah well. sic transit gloria mundi

        • just saying 4.1.1.2

          Just to add that I think they should tell the truth about everything, The shit we are already in and the mega-shit we are facing. It was sickening watching the Labour Party during the campaign pretending that the recession is over and we’ve done soooo well, and now we’re in recovery. Even repeatedly thanking Key for what a great job he’d done steering us through.

          Just Tell the Fucking Truth

          • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.2.1

            They’re deathly afraid of the immediate firestorm of opprobrium which would immediately be launched from every institution of the Right, and the very muted and inadequate responses from the weakened/non existent institutions of the Left.

          • weka 4.1.1.2.2

            “Just Tell the Fucking Truth”

            This.

  5. Chooky 5

    putting working class gal, ex- beneficiary, Paula Bennett into a top economics portfolio makes the Nactional Party look more authentically Labour than the Labour Party (with Jacinda as the top female Labour cat at the helm in opposition)

    ….sigh…lets face it….the uncoordinated, factional infighting, careerist Left Parties and coalition were outsmarted and outmanouevered by the Right ..dirty PR tricks and all …and the msm have been bought

    …it is going to be an uphill battle to win the next Election

    • Bill 5.1

      Well, yes. So Labour could (should) enact a radical departure and stop trying to compete with the Nats on their own terms. (I think js was saying similar at #4).

      Shearer and whoever else within Labour can wank on about the need to win the center in modern politics all they want. The SNP and Labour experiences in Scotland gives the lie to that particular line though.

      • Chooky 5.1.1

        yes I was very sorry the Scots did not win that vote for independence …

        • The Al1en 5.1.1.1

          The scots did win that vote for independence.

          • Chooky 5.1.1.1.1

            ? ….”The independence referendum question, which voters answered with “Yes” or “No”, was “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The “No” side won, with 55.3% voting against independence. The turnout of 84.6% was unusually high for a ballot in the United Kingdom”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_independence_referendum,_2014.

            • The Al1en 5.1.1.1.1.1

              55.3% of scots voted to remain in the UK and thus won the vote for independence.

              • Chooky

                either splitting semantic hairs or you are on a d….y something…”The “No” side won, with 55.3% voting against independence”.

                • The Al1en

                  I don’t know what an “a d….y something…” is, but it’s not really being semantic to point out that it was scots who voted to stay in the UK, winning the independence referendum, so “very sorry the Scots did not win that vote for independence” is a bit at odds with reality of the matter.

                  If you mean I’m sorry the yes vote didn’t win, after the fact and against the will of the people, then that would make more sense.

        • Bill 5.1.1.2

          k – this post isn’t about the Scottish referendum. People living in Scotland voted to remain in the UK. End of.

          This post is about the (obviously failed) approach of a Labour Party when confrnted with a right wing government and the fact that the exact same party is failing even more spectacularly when opposing a left wing government.

          Now, given that the NZ Labour party is so close to the British Labour Party in its make up, ‘character’, policy prescriptions etc, I’d suggest there are lessons for it to learn if it’d look at UK Labour’s ongoing failures given the unique dual environments UK Labour is operating in.

          • Chooky 5.1.1.2.1

            @ Bill (agreed it inadvertently got hijacked) …and agreed

            ..”Labour could (should) enact a radical departure and stop trying to compete with the Nats on their own terms.”

          • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.2.2

            Worthwhile noting that the Scottish Labour Party is now more fucked than ever, due to #IndyRef and particularly, the aftermath of it.

    • putting working class gal, ex- beneficiary, Paula Bennett into a top economics portfolio makes the Nactional Party look more authentically Labour than the Labour Party (with Jacinda as the top female Labour cat at the helm in opposition)

      If Paula Bennett is ever made actual minister of finance, I will start to believe that this is all a bad acid trip.

      • Wensleydale 5.2.1

        Finance is far too dry for a harpy like Bennett. There just aren’t enough opportunities to really put the boot into anyone who isn’t as smug and obnoxious as she is. The hair, the clothes… it’s like the second coming of Jenny Shipley. If she starts tag-teaming with Maggie Barry and Anne Tolley, it’ll be like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

    • miravox 5.3

      Working for two years in low paid jobs doesn’t make Bennett a working class ‘gal. That’s a cloak she wore for purposes of winning an election.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Bennett#Early_life

  6. Chooky 6

    lol…me too

  7. NeutObserver 7

    Rejuvenation is what Labour needs. Unfortunately, it is not going to happen with the likes of Mallard, King, and Goff in Parliament, who show no intention of retiring whatsoever.

    New faces associated with the Labour Party are needed now, now in three years.

    • lurgee 7.1

      I think people need to move on from the continual plaint that “X, Y and Z need to retire.”

      It is hardly advancing the ‘unity’ message. guess what! Party unity is achieved when you accept differences, not when you purge it. Because another purge is always necessary as more ‘ideologically incorrect running dogs’ are discovered.

      The MPs listed above are also hard working, capable, popular MPs with a degree of recognition. Get rid of them, and it is likely the party will be hurt.

      (If it is conceivable for it to be more hurt than it is.)

      The alternative is: increase the party vote = more mps.

      • Ad 7.1.1

        The purges are invited precisely by Labour’s constitutional reforms for leadership changes, which explicitly sets out the power blocs. We are in for blood, purging, bullying and further fractionalisation for many months at Labour – and the process has been going for weeks if you hadn’t noticed.

      • Bill 7.1.2

        If the alternative (the solution?) was simply more mps off the back of a larger vote, then maybe you’d care to explain how a Labour Party, not a million miles distant to the NZ Labour Party, is able to simultaneously hemorrhage votes in both scenarios outlined – ie when in opposition to a right wing government and when in opposition to a left wing government?

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.3

        “Unity” is fucking overrated, especially when everyone has known for years that it’s little more than kabuki theatre.

        As JS says. Just Tell the Fucking Truth.

  8. I said some years ago Little was the best leader for Labour. The workers have to take the party back from the academics, queers and progressives whose mental home is the Wellington beltway.

    • Bill 8.1

      There are no queer workers, progressive workers or academics who come from and identify as working class?

      • Redbaiter 8.1.1

        Identifying is one thing. Actually being one is another.

        I don’t see many of that kind in any of the working locations I’m at. Too much dirt, dust, grease, wind and weather.

        • Bill 8.1.1.1

          I get, given your description of your workplace, that none of your workmates are academics. But none of your workmates are queer? And none of them harbour progressive political thoughts? Really?!

          Anyway. Since the post was about NZ Labour having the ability to view a set of (unique?) circumstances that could point to the consequences of any future direction, and not about short, fat, thin, tall or whatever people…

          • Redbaiter 8.1.1.1.1

            “that none of your workmates are academics.”

            That’s right Bill, they are not. I work in a productive area of the economy. There’s no room for ivory tower dreamers more fitted to curtained staff rooms than wind rain and sun.

            I don’t know if any are queer or not. Given there’s only about 2 chances in a hundred its not likely, and they’re too busy working to focus on identifying themselves by their sexuality anyway.

            If they’re progressive they keep it to themselves. They frequently complain about tax rates though. I say that’s to pay for the government they want. Then they say they don’t want it.

            They don’t like Greenies much either.

  9. NeutObserver 9

    Beltway? You have been watching too much American television, Redbaiter.

  10. SeanExile 10

    There is a few things thats factually debatable in this article. While SNP is deemed to be leftwing and further to the left than Labour this is troubling.
    SNP is a centre/left party. Shaped in the socialdemocratic form that we see in Scandinavia etc. That is a socialist state with a liberal economy. Scandinavia has charter schools for example, something Labour NZ fights against for reasons unbeknowned to most socialdemocrats like me.

    Assuming that Labour in the UK and Labour in Scotland is the same on policy is also questionable. With that said, in Scottish elections I havent come across anyone who think SNP is way more left wing than Labour. I disagree with that.
    I say that in Scotland SNP is the centre/left and with the political spectrum there differing substantially from that of England, the right is infact liberal and Labour is the old socialist party. But with so much of Scotland being about nationalism the left/right scale isnt as applicable there as it is in many other territories.

    However what I think is important to read from this is that if you want success, run a traditional centrist socialdemocratic policy. Liberal economy, with a large public sector that takes an active role in shaping society. Dont move way off to the left so that you scare the centrist voters away.
    Labour in the UK did this during the 1980ies and that gave the Tories 15 years of rule. Neil Kinnock and his men cost us a nation. They will never be forgiven for what they did. It wasnt until Blair came and moved the party to centre/right that Labour could take power again. But by then the Thatcher economy was already engraved and nothing could be done to change the new Britain. Not that Blair ever would have tried…
    We dont need a centre/right man like Blair but we could sure do with a centre/left popular and genuine bloke like Salmond. Labour NZ went to the election with a left/left man in Cunliffe and that led us to the worst election since 1922.

    Salmond is a wise man. He put his party ahead of his ego and stepped aside after the loss. he knew his party didnt need a loosing face come next election and come governing. I think someone, no names but he led us to the worst election result since 1922 could learn alot from Alex Salmond when it comes to dignity and putting the party ahead of your ego.

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