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Rob Salmond’s argument – too simplistic and wrong in its assumptions

Written By: - Date published: 12:58 pm, August 23rd, 2015 - 139 comments
Categories: activism, labour, leadership, Left, Politics, uk politics - Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to Swordfish who kindly let me edit and repost his excellent comment from Mike Smith’s post “The Centre of Attention“.

As a prelude I’d like to include an incisive comment made by Sanctuary which to me sums up the situation that Labour strategists like Salmond seem oblivious to:

A couple of additional observations: Labour is a movement, not just a party. There has and always will be a touch of the evangelical about the left’s mission.

You can’t be an evangelist who argues you are going to be just as tough on beneficiaries only in a better way or the road to the revolution is paved with slightly smaller tax cuts for the rich…

In short, a movement cannot survive as a caretaker of someone else’s establishment. Clinging to a doubtful centre is a recipe for the death of of the socialist strand of the left that gives the Labour party it’s existential meaning, and without an existential meaning, Labour will cease to exist.

Precisely. Cartoons_Minions_the_minions_are_hanging_on_each_other_051591_ If Labour is no longer here to fulfill its historical mission, then all these hangers-on are doing is using the historical Labour vehicle for their own current day political careers.

Now on to the main course, by Swordfish who writes:

From Rob’s argument:

How have centre-left parties gone when they’ve tacked away from the centre ?…..it goes badly”
– “…declining centre-left fortunes when its narrative swings left…”
– “the centre-ground really is where elections are won and lost”
– “pulling the centre back towards the left is massively, massively hard. You win those people over by being relevant to them as they are, not by telling them their worldview needs a rethink.

Very simplistic.

And wrong in its assumptions / premise.

In reality, the vast majority of voters don’t think in any sort of coherent Left/Right terms. That’s why it’s notoriously unreliable when post-Election surveys ask respondents to place themselves on the Left/Right spectrum. All the more so when so many people think ‘centre’ means ‘normal’ and left and right = ‘extremes’.

And the fact is: UK polls over recent years suggest many of Corbyn’s key policy proposals actually have majority support. You wouldn’t know it from the outrageous rhetoric of shell-shocked Blairite Grandees, nor from the Establishment’s academic/intellectual enablers.

The whiff of arrogance, condescension and smugness is palpable. 3d76ddc11b8894faa48515c9e7d2aa33

Polling in the UK suggests voters wanted:
(1) Economic competence and credibility
(2) A Party close to them on key issues

(1) Despite Jon Cruddas’s highly misleading report that UK Labour lost the May Election because it was too “anti-austerity”, the polling I’ve seen suggests a majority of Britons oppose a continuation of austerity policies and now believe the cuts in spending (both locally and nationally) have gone too far.

Corbyn needs to take the anti-austerity fight to the Tories, employing the arguments of leading economists to back him up, and making it clear to British voters that their (majority) instincts are, indeed, correct – as Paul Krugman has said: Paul-Krugman-Quotes-5 “The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.”

(2) As I’ve suggested, the big problem with Rob’s argument is that, on so many of his proposed policies, Corbyn is in fact entirely in tune with public opinion. He’s not the one telling them “their worldview needs a rethink” !

On bringing railways and energy companies into public ownership, on rent controls, on higher taxes for the super-wealthy, on a mandatory living wage, on cuts to tuition fees, on nuclear weapons and on his previous opposition to the Iraq War and bombing Syria – on all of these issues, Corbyn has the majority of voters on his side …… and against both the Blairite and Tory Establishment (and their various hangers-on). JS69730433

Immigration is probably an exception and Trident is a partial exception (only a minority want to scrap trident altogether, but a clear majority want to downsize).

All of which, of course, raises fundamental questions about just where the “centre-ground”, where the social consensus, actually lies? Just how far to “the Left”, how fringe-dwelling, is Corbyn in reality? Maybe, just maybe, he’s occupying the centre-ground on many of the key issues and our Blairite chums (and their little cheerleaders in the academy) are well off to the Right.

(Note: Based on a similar comment I made at Public Address – albeit with a few added points here and there)

The other point I’d make:

And this echoes Mike’s argument about Labour’s (and the NZ Electorate’s) ‘Left Turn’ in 1999…

Kinnock (and his ‘modernisers’ – including arch-Blairite, Peter Mandelson, his director of communications) swung the British Labour Party to the ‘centre’ in a major re-branding exercise throughout the mid-80s to early-90s period. That’s the common consensus among academics and commentators. High profile routing of the Militant Tendency activists and its 2 MPs, a major policy review that greatly de-emphasised public ownership, the dumping of the commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, abandoning certain pro-TU policies in an effort to change the image that the Party was “run by the unions”…All in all, a clear symbolic move away from ‘the Left’.

Result: 2 consecutive Election defeats under Kinnock.

The problem with Rob’s argument (and those made by a few other political scientists with New Labour tendencies) is the way they try to force quite disparate election results into the straitjacket of their theories. Look a little closer at these electoral outcomes and their historical context and you’ll find that it’s an extremely uncomfortable fit.


Swordfish also deconstructs in detail the “mythology” around Blair’s formula for electability. Labour was already on a high and the Conservatives in disarray BEFORE Tony Blair stepped up to the podium. blair2_1569183c Blair went on to permanently damage UK Labour by sacrificing millions of core Labour votes by chasing the elusive centre(-right). Jeremy Corbyn appears to be reconnecting with those core Labour voters, to a horrified Blairite Labour establishment.

Bottom line is that Rob Salmond’s analysis is plain wrong, on premise, on history and on conclusion. It suggests that some strategists around NZ Labour have a Tory Labour infatuation with being marginally just to the left of the neoliberal right wing, in their chase for power.

139 comments on “Rob Salmond’s argument – too simplistic and wrong in its assumptions”

  1. Bill 1

    Corbyn merely enunciates what everyone has hitherto been told to treat as ‘old hat’ and unacceptable…by mealy mouthed ‘modernisers’. And he cleans up.

    The SNP dressed itself in the same ‘old hat’ and unacceptable raft of policies. And cleaned up.

    The problem for NZ is that there is no Corbyn within Labour cleaving to basic principles regardless, because the Labour party here has merely bifurcated in the aftermath of any crisis. This wasn’t really an option in a ffp British context.

    So we can explain and denounce and tear our fucking hair out, but nothing’s going to be changing in these here parts any time soon. The NZ parliamentary left (and I include The Greens in this) will eventually bob along in the tow and wash created by the left in other countries. Baton down the hatches for 2017 and beyond 🙁

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      One good point: we still brew bloody good beer around these parts.

    • Olwyn 1.2

      I agree that any leftward movement here is likely to be more nuanced than seems to be the case with Corbyn, but that doesn’t have to add up to cleaving to a politically convenient “centre”. What is interesting about Corbyn is that in opposing austerity and planning to buy back the railways he is putting pressure on neoliberalism’s core demands, which are now out in the open for all to see. And that is the thing – in Blair’s day you could still imagine an inclusive market economy, which has since been ruled out by the hardening of neoliberal demands. To fail to rise to the challenge this poses is to fail as a Labour Party, whether here or elsewhere. The “hard left” term which has suddenly gained new currency has been dragged out to combat challenges to these core demands, and should be met with resistance rather than fear.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        And in NZ we have Labour Party strategists like Rob Salmond just as happily using the “hard left” label as John Key does.

        • Olwyn

          Irritating isn’t it! Since 2008 I have wondered what these people think they are defending – everything they appear to love seems perfectly safe under National.

          • Colonial Viper

            But they can’t get the power and the position and the pay they want while National remains in power.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            They like the centre, and powerful individuals lurched Labour in the various english-speaking countries to the centre-right. They just don’t get that this is incompatible with the branding and principles the Labour Party is supposed to come with, most likely because as far as they can remember being part of Labour, it’s been a party of the centre.

            Frankly at this stage if you believe in a left-of-centre party, it looks like you’re better off leaving Labour, because it’s completely captured by a caucus which looks perfectly happy to park labour in the centre of the political discourse.

        • swordfish

          “Rob Salmond just as happily using the “hard left” label”

          Yeah, I found that particularly jarring. And just a week or so after a former National Cabinet Minister employed the term repeatedly on the local blogosphere in relation to Corbyn.

          It’s the kind of incendiary nonsense I might expect from an aggressive Labour-Right sectarian like Phil Quin, but I hoped for something a little less inflammatory (not to mention, intellectually-lazy) from Rob.

          • Sacha

            It reflects a lack of grasp of how political communication framing works. Too many useful idiots in advisory roles.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2

        And that is the thing – in Blair’s day you could still imagine an inclusive market economy, which has since been ruled out by the hardening of neoliberal demands. The “hard left” term which has suddenly gained new currency has been dragged out to combat challenges to these core demands, and should be met with resistance rather than fear.


        The neoliberal demand is that we return to feudalism with a few people living in extravagance on the backs of the people.

  2. Tautoko Mangō Mata 2

    I agree. Labour as National-lite leaves the voters with little choice .

  3. Karen 3

    Thanks for posting this CV. I saw Rob Salmond’s post on Public Address and hadn’t got around to replying. If I had, I’d have been trying to say something in line with Swordfish’s post. So thanks to Swordfish as well.

    This story could also be of interest: 40 leading economists have signed an open letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the economy.


    I particularly like this quote from Corbyn:
    “Parliament can feel like living in a time warp at the best of times, but this government is not just replaying 2010, but taking us back to 1979: ideologically committed to rolling back the state, attacking workers’ rights and trade union protection, selling off public assets, and extending the sell off to social housing.

    “This agenda militates against everything the Chancellor says he wants to achieve. If you want to revive manufacturing and rebalance the economy, you need a strategic state leading the way.”

  4. Raf 4

    “The accusation is widely made that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have moved to the extreme left on economic policy. But this is not supported by the candidate’s statements or policies. His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF. He aims to boost growth and prosperity.”


  5. Ad 5

    You guys are getting sucked in by polls. We’ve had parties pulled all over the place slavishly following polls. And you’re assenting only to the polls you agree with. The polls that matter are on election day.

    And plenty can claim actually Blair didn’t really have the popularity to win his first election – it was all due to Smith. So let’s be generous and deny the leadership and charisma of Blair for the first one. But not the successive ones. It really was Blair.

    What you’re really arguing is that tacking left towards nationalization and socialism will make it more likely that Labour (etc) will win. Far more likely that Labour (etc) will get in when the public are simply exhausted with National.

    The task of Labour isn’t more policy instability and (of course as a result) more leadership changes. The task is simply to look like a coherent alternative government.

    Same with Clark. We can claim it wasn’t really her leadership that won the election (oh filthy centrist she was!). No, it was, say the collapse of Shipley. Actually, Clark at least won the successive elections on a realistic and deliverable set of policies. For example, she promised to nationalize nothing. She had some pledge card promises, and ticked them off. She banked credibility.

    And in case you people have forgotten the importance of the “Blairiste capitalists inside caucus” disagreeing so strongly with the leader. Exhibit one of the membership electing someone completely out of step with the caucus. Whether we liked it or not, was a major contributor to Labour losing last year. You have to choose a leader broadly in step with the membership and the Members of Parliament, or you will burn in a bewildered train-wreck.

    Now let’s look at the last leftie in a developed country who every tried to nationalise anything. Mitternand. He led a glorious group of Socialists and Communists to victory in 1981, and brought in a huge degree more direct executive and legislative power. But it took him just two years for his ideological momentum to fold like origami. 34 years ago. In the words of Frozen: Let It Go.

    I’ll look back and eat my words if Corbyn, Trump or Sanders actually win beyond their party’s echo chamber.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Why have a Blairite Labour Party which loves the financial sector, honours extreme wealth, supports imperial wars, and has an open door policy to multinational corporations?

      Of what purpose is such a party?

      Who is left in politics representing the interests and perspectives of the bottom 80% of society, those earning less than $50K pa?

      And plenty can claim actually Blair didn’t really have the popularity to win his first election – it was all due to Smith. So let’s be generous and deny the leadership and charisma of Blair for the first one. But not the successive ones. It really was Blair.

      Blair is a charismatic war criminal and crony of the bankster class.

      But even if you are right and Blair was the magic leader for the Labour Party of his time, who in NZ Labour fits that description?

      I’ll look back and eat my words if Corbyn, Trump or Sanders actually win beyond their party’s echo chamber.

      Have you not yet got a sense that the electorate will punish pursuing power ahead of the pursuit of principles?

      • Ad 5.1.1

        Don’t confuse me with supporting Tony Blair. It’s one of three clear examples I used of why it’s far better to interrogate when and how Labour won, rather than whether to tack hard left four years out from an election. Take a couple of steps back.

        And no, “the people” are not going to have an unmediated and romanticized “win”. Principles are the first thing burnt, if they ever emerge at any point.

        Elections will remain mediated through the media, through donated funds buying capacity, through party machines, and through events of the day. That is not going to change.

        • Colonial Viper

          So because the left lacks its own independent institutional power, it has to adapt the agenda of the right?

          But as it does so, it further weakens what power and independence it does have remaining to it, further increasing capture by the agenda of the right.

          It’s one of three clear examples I used of why it’s far better to interrogate when and how Labour won

          Swordfish did interrogate how Blairite Labour won. It was by burning off traditional Labour voters in droves, and convincing Conservative voters that they were more organised, trustworthy and charismatic than the actual Tories of the day.

          • Ad

            yes unless Jesus arrives with independent pr.

            swordfish was flat wrong about blair’s first win.

      • swordfish 5.1.2

        Ad has woven a quite detailed mis-characteristion of my / our arguments. Straw Men abound.

        I’ll try and reply to him in some detail if I have time in the next 24 hours.

    • Clemgeopin 5.2

      Excellent points.

      I too would like to see Corbyn and Sanders being leaders of their country, but being a realist and knowing the human psychology and selfish behaviour in practice, I think it will be a pleasant miracle of they do ultimately get elected as PM and President. For that they will need widespread support from the entire country, not just from the faithful.

      Here, during the last Labour government, the maximum income tax rate was a paltry and reasonable 39% but we continuously heard the people complaining about it and ungratefully, unthinkingly and stupidly making mountains of molehills of even very minor errors from Clark or the Government….and now those same people have been voting for this dodgy centre rightwing government already for three terms as if they are in some sort of a secret zombie state.

      Theories and wishful thinking is very nice, but the reality is quite something else.
      Politics is also a numbers gain.

      In order to succeed as a viable party that can be in power for more than a single term and won’t disintegrate into off shoots, Labour should be a party of the left, the centre left and the centre, working for everyone, including those that are in private business.

      • Ad 5.2.1

        +100 esp last para

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.2

        just rename it the Liberal Party

        • Clemgeopin

          “just rename it the Liberal Party”

          Ah, aren’t you being so cute!

          Why don’t you start your own sentimental extreme leftist party with a likely support of about 5% of the electorate and call it some cute name and see how much support you will get!
          I can actually think of some really apt cute names for such a party!

          • Colonial Viper

            I’m making a difference where I can, mate.

            • Weepus beard

              No you’re not. You’re a saboteur determined to punish the entire left for the sake of your own narrow voice being heard.

              You are not a team player.

              • Colonial Viper

                I don’t need a merit badge from you, mate. And I ain’t supporting a bunch of politically conflicted careerists. Fuck off.

                • Weepus beard

                  There seems to be a policy of attack from supposed socially conscious people. There’s the ABC faction in caucus, there’s Phil Quin and Pagani on one side, and there’s you and other ships without a port on what you call the left of the left.

                  It’s bullshit.

                  There’s no sense at all with you lot of compromise and working together for a common goal, which in case you have forgotten with all your petty sniping, is to change the government to one which upholds social ideals within an ever changing global community.

                  Rather than accept differing views within your own wider socially responsible community, you spend an obscene amount of energy attacking your friends and the result is you end up befriending your enemies.

                  When did the left forget the concept of working as a team?

                  I like Corbyn’s voice, but I like Little’s too. For some unfathomable;e reason, you on one side and the Blairites on the other can’t seem to envisage a way to work as one.

                  And quite what Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair has to do with New Zealand I do not know so why don’t you all concentrate on the task at hand!

                  What a woeful state of affairs

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Working together as a team? You gotta be fucking kidding.

                    My Labour Party branch made a particular effort to arrange a special event for Andrew Little to speak at during the leadership hustings. No one else in Dunedin was going to. Two key members of our branch who stuck our necks out to get that done to help him become leader were Kiwi Chinese.

                    And I doubt we will be doing that again for him, I can tell you.

                    • Weepus beard

                      Again it’s all about you CV, and your Kiwi Chinese friends.

                      Get over it!

                      Even on this thread it’s all about you. 26 of 97 comments are from yourself which says to me you are desperate to corral the discussion into the pre-framed pen you have built around yourself.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      and who are you to tell me to do anything? If Labour wants to piss off political activists good luck to it. This is my post, need I remind you. If you want to write a post which says something differently, write it up and I’ll happily put it up for you.

                    • Weepus beard

                      I’ll contribute my own posts to The Standard when I’m good and ready thanks, CV.

                      I certainly won’t be going through you.

                      [Yet you have the nerve to tell me what to do and not do in my own post. Do that again and you can take a long time off from commenting on my posts. CV]

                    • I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion this is CV making things all about him. He seems perfectly willing to compromise and get along with reasonable candidates if they move in the right direction, but Labour has forgotten how to energise its base and give back to the community that has supported it. If you want a broad tent you have to support everyone’s issues at least a little, and you need to build that broad tent around your principles. Labour’s so busy tacking to the right it hasn’t noticed it has forgetten its principles and its “broad tent” is falling down on the left because nobody believes in them.

                      If Labour wants to get along with the left it needs to make the effort, because right now it looks like the two are pretty solidly broken up.

                  • Clemgeopin

                    One of the best, wisest and most sensible of posts I have read.
                    I entirely agree.

                    • Michael

                      I agree. CV’s analysis is spot on, FWICS. Playing the race card over Auckland property prices did Labour no good at all, even in the provinces.

          • Pat

            Where are the points of difference re National and Labour on the distribution of the benefits of wealth produced in NZ?..without clear policies that are not merely more of the same except slightly modified they really have no claim to being anything other than a Liberal party…that in no way requires what you describe as a ” sentimental extreme left party”..that remark reeks of RW scare tactics and reinforces the point made in Monbiot’s article.
            The Labour Party may believe it can keep its head below the parapet and win the next election due to the economic cycle and third term incumbent arrogance but their future is no more certain for that…you disparage 5% for a radical left party but I would suggest Labour is in very real danger of reaching that level of relevance itself.
            The neo-libs may hold sway in the western democracies at the moment, but that is because the opposition is fractured and/or missing…while polling in front with a reduced participation the policies on an individual basis seldom have majority support. When someone or something provides a viable alternative, Labour had better hope it was part of that arrangement, and on current form they wont be.

            • Clemgeopin

              You are wrong. What you are advocating is making Labour irrelevant to the vast majority of the middle classes. That is hastening Harakiri through well intended folly.

              • Colonial Viper

                Labour is overly concerned with what the top 20% middle classes think, and not what the bottom 80% think.

              • Pat

                the fear is created by your own imagination for i have advocated no specific thing……how can you possibly know whether that will hasten Labours demise? That speaks to the closed mindedness that is the source of voter frustration…imho.

      • Clemgeopin 5.2.3

        Correction : [second last paragraph]

        Politics is also a numbers game.

    • millsy 5.3

      So Ad, you support privatisation?

    • Hi Ad,

      A few points:

      And plenty can claim actually Blair didn’t really have the popularity to win his first election – it was all due to Smith. So let’s be generous and deny the leadership and charisma of Blair for the first one. But not the successive ones. It really was Blair.

      Have a look at this graphic on United Kingdom general elections – Party versus proportion of the vote.

      You’ll see that the 1997 ‘peak’ was itself substantially less than the historic level of support for Labour.

      You’ll also notice that the Labour share of the vote declined precipitously over the next three elections (two under Blair, one under Brown).

      You’ll also notice that there was an increase in vote share for Labour in the last election (with, supposedly, the ‘lurch to the left’ Miliband at the helm). And this was despite the massive inroads in the Labour vote north of the border.

      Second, from the large table in this link, you’ll see that the voter turnout was 77.7% when Major squeaked in in 1992, 71.4% in ‘peak Blair’ 1997, 59.4% in 2001 (when, apparently, the victory must have all been down to Blair), 61.4% in 2005 (another victory for Blair) and 65.1% when Cameron took over. In 2015 turnout was 66.1%.

      To summarise, during the Blair years not only did the share of the vote for Labour decline rapidly but the turnout declined by 10 percentage points. None of this speaks of an electorate enamoured of Tony Blair’s magic for wooing the centre. It speaks far more of people having a taste of Blair and, quite rapidly, rejecting him.

      And who stopped voting in the Blair years? Died in the wool Tories who realised it was pointless to oppose the ‘charismatic’ Blair? Hardly likely since they tend to be the most tenacious ‘turnouts’ in elections.

      What you’re really arguing is that tacking left towards nationalization and socialism will make it more likely that Labour (etc) will win.

      What I would argue is that shifting left in policy terms is perfectly palatable to the supposed ‘centre’.

      The misnamed centre is largely non-ideological and non-analytic. They are not in the centre of an ideological spectrum

      What I suspect they respond to is not policy but, instead, largely to the leader of a party and, in that context, to someone who comes across as direct, straight-talking, with very easy to understand and clearly articulated principles who seems honest about what they believe and would act genuinely (in accord with those principles) in office.

      If those on the left learn anything from John Key’s popularity it should not be about policy (i.e., the need to move to the right to mimic National’s policies).

      It should be that he is perceived – rightly or wrongly – to be someone who pretty much says what he thinks, does what he says he’ll do and is an open book (now, I have a different view of Key but that seems to be what many believe).

      Key knows that this is his strength: As he himself described it – Kiwis have the sense with him that “what you see is what you get”.

      They haven’t had that perception about Labour and its leader for quite some time, is my guess (once again, rightly or wrongly).

      The ‘centre’ who support Key at present, to be blunt, would be hard pressed to list any policies his government has introduced or intends to introduce and, if they can, probably would describe the details of those policies quite inaccurately.

      It’s not about policy.

      Therefore it’s not about Labour needing to move to the right or towards some mythical policy ‘centre’ (which defaults to fundamental policy of the right, given its current structural dominance).

      In fact, the policy platform taken into the 2014 election was probably itself a move to the right from the policy platform in 2011 and that didn’t seem to help much in terms of vote share (or motivating more people to vote).

      • Clemgeopin 5.4.1

        Good post, but i am not sure if you are correct in stating, ‘In fact, the policy platform taken into the 2014 election was probably itself a move to the right from the policy platform in 2011’.

        In what way were the 2014 policies a ‘move to the right’?

        • Puddleglum

          Hi Clemgeopin,

          I suppose I was thinking about the dropping of the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables, dropping the $5,000 tax free threshold, reducing the 2011 policy of 39% tax on incomes above $150,000 to 36% in the 2014 tax policy, and the like.

          The minimum wage policy was $15 per hour in both elections with a further increase slated for 2015 after the 2014 election – but of course that was already three years down the track from 2011 so it’s hard to know why it was still initially only going to move to $15 per hour.

          I realise that this kind of claim is always debatable since many people would argue about non-economic and tax policies as indicating a manifesto was more ‘left’ or ‘right’ than another.

          • Clemgeopin

            Ok, thanks.
            Just shows how hard it is for the left to win in the modern world.

            • Colonial Viper

              Huh? That’s the opposite of Puddleglum’s point. Labour moved rightward in 2014. They lost party votes.

              • Clemgeopin

                I don’t agree that was the reason for losing the election. There were a myriad of reasons and circumstances that contributed to the loss. Your argument is too simplistic and wrong in its assumptions.

              • It’s not entirely that simple, but that’s a big symptom of what’s going on. Sure, if the party swung left they’d have stronger support, but there’s no guarantee that would be enough for them to form a government, as it might simply come at the expense of New Zealand First or the Greens.

                It might be a bit fairer to say that the right-wing of Labour can’t play nice with everyone else. They think it’s their way or the highway, and hence why Cunliffe wasn’t supported in the election, and was ousted afterwards. Labour looked fractured, and they had declined a perfectly reasonable proposition from the Greens to co-ordinate their campaigns and make it clear for voters they were going to form a Government together, under the mistaken impression that having the option to not have the Greens in government would somehow open that door for them. (despite the fact that their own voters overwhelmingly WANT to work with the Greens as a first option, before considering any other parties)

                It made not only Labour but the prospect of them forming a government look in shambles and impossible. Kiwis like a united front, they like feeling like they had a strong leader- that’s why Helen managed so well despite keeping the party pretty strongly in the centre of politics. It always looked like either Helen or Labour as a whole had a plan. People trusted them because they looked organised, united, and confident.

                Right now it looks like if you set any two members of caucus up for a breakfast meeting you’d have three opinions on where to go. If Labour can’t agree on the small things and work together with its voter base, it doesn’t deserve to exist as a party and should give up and get out of the way so that it can be replaced. If it can agree, it better start showing it, with Caucus not backstabbing each other, their leader, and the members’ policies so often, and instead coming up with systems to agree on things amicably while managing their image to the media, and preferably looking like they’ve got a good working relationship with the Greens- and maybe even New Zealand First or the Maori Party, too.

      • Pat 5.4.2

        “What I would argue is that shifting left in policy terms is perfectly palatable to the supposed ‘centre’.

        The misnamed centre is largely non-ideological and non-analytic. They are not in the centre of an ideological spectrum”

        Hallelujah, as your statement infers those discussing policy and self interest groups are the outliers…not the great unwashed , for they are the missing million and the ones whose gut tells them something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

      • The lost sheep 5.4.3

        “The misnamed centre is largely non-ideological and non-analytic. They are not in the centre of an ideological spectrum”

        Your argument kind of hinges on this statement Puddleglum, and it echoes a common meme regarding the supposed general lack of perception of centrist voters.
        But is it actually true?

        While It seems logical that many people with strong ideological views have got there through a reasonably sustained thought process, is there not also an inclination for people with simplistic strong prejudices to be attracted to non centrist politics? (Think The National Front)

        On the other hand, I know many intelligent people who have been passionately involved in political research, thought and debate for many years, and who hold strongly defined and complex Centrist views as a result of this process.

        So Is there any evidence that people who vote Centre/Centre Left/Centre Right are significantly less likely to have done so through a rational and complex thought process than people who vote further Left or Right?

        • Puddleglum

          Hi the lost sheep,

          That’s a good point and question.

          The centre I assumed we were referring to was that group of voters who are likely to swing from, say, National to Labour or vice versa – the ‘middle ground’ voter who sees themselves as somewhere ‘between’ National and Labour (I think someone – Clemgeopin? – posted a link to a graphic that showed 30-40% of people saw themselves in that ‘middle ground’).

          I think that, almost by (self-)definition such people are ‘non-ideological’. The point you are making, then, reduces to whether or not they could be described as ‘non-analytic’?

          To clear up one assumption you are making about my views – I don’t believe that those who vote consistently for, say, Labour or National are somehow more analytic than someone who swings between Labour and National. In fact, the notion of ‘brand’ (or ‘tribal’) loyalties determining voting behaviour is quite an old one (in the study of voting behaviour).

          As this very useful history of American research on voting behaviour indicates, the Lazarsfeld and colleagues work – post-WWII – concluded that:

          the usual analogy between the voting “decision” and the more or less carefully calculated decisions of consumers or businessmen or courts … may be quite incorrect. For many voters political preferences may better be considered analogous to cultural tastes—in music, literature, recreational activities, dress, ethics, speech, social behavior. … Both have their origin in ethnic, sectional, class, and family traditions. Both exhibit stability and resistance to change for individuals but flexibility and adjustment over generations for the society as a whole. Both seem to be matters of sentiment and disposition rather than “reasoned preferences.” While both are responsive to changed conditions and unusual stimuli, they are relatively invulnerable to direct argumentation and vulnerable to indirect social influences. Both are characterized more by faith than by conviction and by wishful expectation rather than careful prediction of consequences.

          So, no, I’m not saying that people who consistently vote for a particular party are more ‘analytic’ than those who don’t. In fact, I’ve always assumed that being thoroughly ‘analytical’ (about politics or anything else) is a fairly rare cognitive attribute.

          (By ‘analytic’ I’m thinking of the tendency to ‘dissect’ an issue into its component arguments, underpinning assumptions and the like – the sort of thinking needed to be truly ideological in one’s political commitments as opposed to, say, simply having a ‘brand’ or ‘tribal’ loyalty to a political party.)

          Voting ‘swings’ themselves have been the subject of quite a bit of research and for quite some time. From the same link above, the work of the ‘Michigan election studies’ in the 1950s came up with some conclusions about these more short-term shifts in voting behaviours, specifically in relation to the Eisenhower landslide:

          Thus, while acknowledging the important sense in which the political landscape of the 1950s reflected the impact of partisan loyalties traceable to the New Deal or even the Civil War era, they also focused close attention on the short-term variations in perceptions and concerns that differentiated the electorates of 1952 and 1956. For example, they noted the relative paucity and partisan balance of references to prosperity and depression in 1956 by comparison with 1952, and the significant increase in unfavorable personal references to the Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson (Campbell et al. 1960, 46, 55). Their systematic weighing of six distinct “attitudinal forces” on the outcome of each election (attitudes toward Stevenson, Eisenhower, relevant social groups, the parties as managers of government, domestic issues, and foreign policy) emphasized the “paramount importance” of Eisenhower’s popular appeal in accounting for his landslide victory in 1956 (Campbell et al. 1960, 524-528).

          And, again, the finding of the Michigan studies was that there’s precious little ideological thinking going on in the electorate and, importantly, the major shifts in electoral support tend not to result from careful ideological analysis:

          The other major contribution of The American Voter was to reiterate and elaborate the finding of the Columbia studies that political information, engagement, and ideological reasoning were far less widespread in the public than most elite political commentators seemed to imagine. The Michigan data suggested that “many people know the existence of few if any of the major issues of policy,” and that “major shifts of electoral strength reflect the changing association of parties and candidates with general societal goals rather than the detail of legislative or administrative action” (Campbell et al. 1960, 170, 546).

          So, vote-swinging from election to election doesn’t seem to arise from careful ideological analysis (e.g., of how ‘centrist’ a set of policies are).

          What about research since the Michigan studies?

          Larry Bartels, the author of that (linked to above) 2008 entry in the Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior put his own conclusion of subsequent research in this way:

          Thus, The American Voter portrayed an electorate whose orientations toward politics were strongly influenced by partisan loyalties developed early in life, whose votes in specific elections reflected the overlaying of short-term forces such as Eisenhower’s personal popularity upon these long-term influences, and whose familiarity with and attachment to abstract ideologies and policy agendas was remarkably limited. In the subsequent half-century, every major element of this portrait has been subjected to energetic criticism and painstaking reevaluation using new data, theories, and research methods. In my view, at least, none of the scores and hundreds of resulting scholarly books and articles has succeeded in making a significant dent in the central precepts and findings of what has come to be called the “Michigan model” of electoral studies.

          There’s a lot of other research that bears on this interesting question – concepts such as ‘involvement’, for example, help predict the degree of cognitive complexity (all) people perform when faced with a decision (more involvement = more cognitive complexity) – which might be quite pertinent in an age of increasing apathy over voting decisions (i.e., perhaps indicating decreasing levels of ‘involvement’ – and therefore of cognitive complexity over voting decisions – in the electorate as a whole).

          Then there are studies of so-called ‘priming’ effects. From Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow‘ (p. 55):

          A study of voting patterns in precincts of Arizona in 2000 showed that the support for propositions to increase the funding of schools was significantly greater when the polling station was in a school than when it was in a nearby location. A separate experiment showed that exposing people to images of classrooms and school lockers also increased the tendency of participants to support a school initiative. The effect of the images was larger than the difference between parents and other voters!

          As Kahneman pointed out (p. 55), “most of us think of voting as a deliberate act that reflects our values and our assessments of policies and is not influenced by irrelevancies” yet “[s]tudies of priming effects have yielded discoveries that threaten our self-image as conscious and autonomous authors of our judgments and our choices.

          Happy to continue but this is already a very long comment.

          • The lost sheep

            Thanks for the clarification Puddleglum.
            Very interesting stuff and I accept the general proposition that the voting decisions of many or even most voters are not made on a strictly analytical/ideological basis, as opposed to just those of the Centrist variety.
            And as the research you quote suggests, it is a vital consideration that voters in the ‘non analytic/ideological’ category are likely to represent a large enough percentage of the electorate to determine the outcome of any election.

            With that in mind, and returning to your earlier comments, does it then follow that ”it’s not about policy”, and a Party can therefore veer any degree left or right with impunity, as long as The Leader is presenting an honest persona and clearly articulated principles?

            No doubt a Leader with those qualities is a massive asset, but I would argue that there is a limit to the degree that such qualities can over ride the cultural/brand/tribal/societal inclinations of voters.
            Those voters may well be ‘non analytic/ideological’, but they are not floating in a completely impartial moral vacuum, and so there is a point at which Policy will start to trigger a reaction within their cultural/brand/tribal/societal influences, and this will start to offset the positive perception of a Leader.

            For instance, no matter how upright and firm The Leader stood radiating Honesty and Sincerity, if the policy being delivered was that all Non-European immigration was to be abolished , it is going to cue some very blunt perceptions that will offend fundamental ‘cultural/brand/tribal/societal’ values within many otherwise ‘non analytic/ideological’ voters.
            Likewise for a Policy such as abolishing private ownership of property…
            I can’t imagine any modern day Leader having sufficient personal quality to drag modern ‘non analytic/ideological’ voters past those kind of inbuilt fundamental influence barriers.

            So while I agree that Policy is not everything, I disagree that it is nothing.
            I believe the equation is – ‘How strongly your Leader resonates with how wide a spectrum of voters?’, and ‘How far Left or Right can that Leaders charisma carry voters before it is offset by barriers of cultural/brand/tribal/societal’ values?

            Jeremy Corbyn is going to give us a few answers on that at least.

            And next question – where the fuck are all the charismatic leaders?
            I don’t see any in NZ at present that have the qualities that would prompt this sleepy nation into significant change.

  6. ropata 6

    Chris Trotter is right, any movement away from US corporate/military interests will face the most severe reprisals, making “Dirty Politics” look tame. http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2015/08/when-nations-permanent-interests.html

    • Ad 6.1

      Lefties get unnecessarily obsessed with the military in New Zealand like it means anything.
      Our military and intelligence industry is tiny and has so little effect on public discourse it’s laughable. Trotter just had a bad case of Left Melancholy this week that he struggled to clear out of his chest this week.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        Its not the Defence Forces which is the issue, it is the greatly expanded intelligence (and security) services which for all intents and purposes are branches of the US organisations. These have been shown time and again to be less than politically neutral.

        And why do we need an American NSA operations centre in NZ?

        • Ad

          why not? with such a tiny military I feel safer with the US here.

          we aint Switzerland.

          • The Chairman

            Considering their atrocities and inkling to meddle in the political affairs of other nations, not to mention their potential to make us a target through association, we’d be better off being a Switzerland.

            • Ad

              We have neither NATO nor the EU.
              Or would you like more of China here?

              • The Chairman

                No. I’d prefer us to be a neutral nation.

                • Ad

                  I prefer what we have:
                  weak military and tiny intelligence capacity with no place in civic life, in exchange for which we rely on others.
                  Bought, sold, and paid for.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Britain was just as week at one point and yet the sun didn’t set upon her empire.

                    We’re only weak because we have idiots like you telling us that we are and that we need to hide behind the skirts of the US.

                    The reality is that we’re quite capable of building up a defence force that’s capable of defending us from all comers.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Also as a “second party” intelligence ally the NZ intelligence services have access to all (most of?) the tools and databases of the NSA.

                      That makes our intelligence services extremely powerful – not “tiny.”

              • Colonial Viper

                taking sides in the 21st century Pacific power struggle will really fuck us.

          • Blue Horseshoe

            ” I feel safer”

            Sad , scared little person

            • Ad

              Enjoyed being a New Zealander in the last century?
              Same arrangement.

              It’s cold outside. Just ask Greenpeace in 1985.
              Not Worth It.

      • ropata 6.1.2

        Well, the OP is about Corbyn and British politics, and Trotter’s examples are about Chile and Australia. NZ seems to have been lucky thus far, but Greenwald and Snowden showed that we are now an integral part of the FVEYS machine

        • Colonial Viper

          we have been for decades

          its just that since 9/11 the FVEY machine has taken on a vastly more active, imperial and anti-democratic role.

  7. The Chairman 7

    Salmond overlooks the fact that left wing policies can easily win over the middle ground (center).

    Labour’s hands on housing policy (that was widely liked) is merely one example.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      It makes you wonder what the politics and values of some of these Labour establishment players actually are.

    • Clemgeopin 7.2

      I think many here are probably misrepresenting Salmond, just as many are misrepresenting Labour’s position.

      I don’t believe he would be advocating Labour to be a right wing or a far right wing party.

      Labour should be a ‘left, centre-left and centre’ party in social, economic and environmental issues.

      That is what I understand and personally that is the ideal position to be in for Labour.

      • Colonial Viper 7.2.1

        He thinks Corbyn and Sanders are “hard left” when in fact they are merely espousing standard centrist social democratic rhetoric from 25 years ago.

        • Karen

          Exactly right . It was the calling of Corbyn and Sanders “hard left” that got me most worried about Salmond’s piece. Americans in the mid west and southern states may believe their ideas are “hard left” but I doubt anybody in Europe would, and certainly nobody anywhere that has any knowledge of economic and social history.

        • Nessalt

          so you’d like to revert the whole worlds social progression to 25 years ago, just so your dogma can be the standard? the earth revolves around the sun you know, not you

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            “the whole world” – are you really that ignorant? Previous comments say yes, you are.

            “progression” – regression in fact, if you’re talking about faith-based neo-liberal gobshite.

            • Nessalt

              oh OAB, your relentless keyboard warrior outrage is touching. It shows i’ve pulled your attention from MLP long enough that you have to engage with a real human being. Going back through all your comments shows that it isn’t a positive experience for anyone, yourself included. the main thing is, you’ve tried.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                On every subject from Climatology to Economics, reality eludes your grasp. Did you really think no-one would notice?

                • Nessalt

                  your reality eludes my grasp. don’t assume we share it. AR5 was a crock of shit put forward by a discredited panel. How many post publication amendments were there OAB?

                  As for economists, got an economics degree? with Hons? I do. so me thinks i may know more than you about 1) leading economists, and 2) how relevant their support is to aspiring national leaders

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    a crock of shit put forward by a discredited panel

                    Oh 😆 the denier drivel is flowing thick and fast now.

                    What shithouse college gave a degree to a fool who thinks recent economic trends (in the English speaking world, not globally, btw) have been progressive?

                    What’s the matter, didn’t you get the memos from the IMF and WB?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    You have an economics degree?

                    Poor deluded soul.

                    Tell me, how many papers did your course include on the study of the history of economic thought?

      • The Chairman 7.2.2

        That ideal position is largely the problem highlighted, Clemgeopin.

        Labour can win over the center by being left and not National lite.

        • Clemgeopin

          Labour is NOT National lite. It is stupid to say that!
          The REALITY is that it is National that PRETENDS to be Labour lite by copy/keeping some social policies of the last Labour government for their own political/electoral expediency while actually performing lots of centre-right and far-right programmes/policies in their actual governance. Have a think about that.

          • adam

            You understand that in politics, perceptions are realities?

            If Labour had opposed the rigid ideological purity of national you might have a point Clemgeopin.

            But, getting back to perceptions, labour are perceived to be copying national, not the other way around.

            • Colonial Viper

              That’s because National have positioned themselves as the pragmatic, commonsense centre, which Labour is chasing like a dog with a bone.

              • Clemgeopin

                “Labour is chasing like a dog with a bone”

                Wrong & Nonsense.

                Your constant anti Labour bile and crusade is getting curiouser and curiouser. Who are you indirectly pitching for? The Greens?

                • Colonial Viper

                  Let’s be practical, Clemgeopin: any leftward move by Labour will scare the electorate and guarantee another loss to National, etc.

                  • Clemgeopin

                    I didn’t exactly say that. May be you did not see or bother to read what I actually wrote this early morning:

                    “No, National is a CENTRE RIGHT party pretending to be centre and centre-left by copying/keeping some of the last Labour Government’s social policies to get votes while spinning away lies through their well oiled PR machine but actually undertaking heaps of centre right/far right economic programmes such as reducing taxes to primarily help the wealthiest, increasing GST that hugely disadvantages the poor and the less wealthy, introducing draconian anti worker/anti union legislation, diminishing work and safety at work, selling off of public assets for private coffers, siphoning off public money for private schools and Charter schools, Killing Adult Community Education night classes, advocating potentially our-sovereignty-threatening TPPA, giving away or bribing millions of dollars to some sheep lover somewhere in Saudi to receive shit back, lying to Northland voters about building ten bridges as bribes in exchange for votes, plunging the country into hundreds of billions of overseas debt and thus burdening our future generations etc, etc!

                    Labour should refuse to move right, but steadfastly remain left, centre left and centre, advocating for the poor, for the homeless, for the students, for the workers, for the small businesses, for the exporters, for the elderly, for the mothers, for the children, for the middle class, for reducing the income gap, for the minorities, for the people’s happiness, for the environment and for world peace…at the same time, advocating personal and collective responsibility from everyone, including the government, the corporates and the wealthy”

              • Sabine

                The same can be said about the Greens.

                So the Greens are chasing the National vote, going centre right then?

              • Clemgeopin

                The two often repeated lies/misrepresentations about Labour:

                (1) “Labour is chasing National like a dog with a bone”
                (2) “Labour is National lite”


            • Clemgeopin

              Wrong & Nonsense.
              Labour HAVE continually opposed the ‘rigid ideological purity of national’ as you put it.

              • Colonial Viper

                Apart from voting for various National welfare, spying and anti-terror bills.

                • The Chairman

                  Weakening their outcry, reaffirming Nationals position while leaving a number on the left in dismay and questioning their future support.

          • The Chairman

            A number of voters consider Labour to be National lite.

            And one could alternatively argue that Labour being National lite allows National to adopt and keep some of Labour’s policy.

            The more to the right/center Labour moves, the more National can adopt their policy.

            National utilize ACT to take advantage of MMP and being a right wing party are largely expected to slip in some right wing policy, thus no surprises there.

            However, when Labour move right, it hurts there core support on the left while further dividing them from their potential (and much needed) coalition partners.

            • Colonial Viper

              A number of voters consider Labour to be National lite.

              I’ll reframe this sentiment further – many non-voters don’t bother participating in elections any more because they see National and Labour as substantively similar i.e. same shit different party. There might be differences at the margins – but nothing sufficient to motivate these people to get out and vote Labour again.

              • Detrie

                Agree. If labour was seen as working for workers and their concerns today, then more would come out and vote for them. As it stands they’re just another centre party with a distant history in the working class.

              • The Chairman


                I’ve spoken to a number of non-voters and a common theme amongst them is there is little difference between the two main parties, hence they no longer bother to partake.

                Moreover, they also see voting for smaller parties as a waste of time due to the dominance of the main two, robbing smaller parties of their effectiveness and ability to get enough through.

  8. greywarshark 8

    Great post Colonial Viper. The analysis hangs together. I start to feel hopeful after reading it.

  9. Grantoc 9

    Assuming Corbyn wins the British Labour leadership contest next month, we’ll have to wait 5 years until the next British election to see whose right and wrong about whether he represents the views of most British voters (necessarily including those in the centre) or not on major issues.

    This also assumes that he’ll survive as leader of the British Labour party for that long.

    • Clemgeopin 9.1

      But I do hope he will succeed especially by getting elected as PM in 5 years time.

    • Anne 9.2

      This also assumes that he’ll survive as leader of the British Labour party for that long.

      Indeed. If his popularity continues to rise and Labour soars ahead in the polls, don’t be surprised if something eventually happens to him. You can’t put anything past the ultra right-wing corporate world.

      • Colonial Viper 9.2.1

        It’ll be something as simple as a caucus coup I suspect.

        • Anne

          If his general popularity soars too high it won’t be a coup. Trumped-up charges of a sexual or criminal nature at one end of the scale and…

          • Colonial Viper

            Although according to the Tory Labour types, there is NO WAY a hard lefty like Corbyn has any serious popular appeal with the wider electorate…

            • Anne

              OMG, would it make my year to see them proved wrong!

              Having just read the inimitable Bryan Gould, he’s not a particularly hardy lefty anyway – just talking common sense which is apparently a shockingly sinister thing to do nowadays.

              • Detrie

                It is common sense. And what’s wrong with standing up for the plight of the working class and asking for greater rights, equality and fairness in society? Sanders (US) and Corbyn (UK) do it well and are proud of it. Sadly there’s no one downunder who comes close, aside from dear Helen Kelly – But she’s really way too nice to be tainted by our selfish, ego-driven political system.

                • Phil

                  just talking common sense which is apparently a shockingly sinister thing to do nowadays.

                  In my experience, “common sense” is neither commonly held, nor particularly sensible – it relies far too heavily on doing the same thing that you’ve done in the past, regardless of all ‘environmental’ change that has occurred since.

                  Relying on ‘common sense’ to defend your position is just like using “freedom of speech” – it’s the last weak refuge of a losing argument.

  10. weston 10

    i woulnt put anything past cosby and txtor either and that lot have prob been on nationals payroll fulltime not just prior to any election . without an effective strategy to deal with this crowd all this talk of left right and centre is just that useless talk because they,re gonna screw you anyway

  11. b waghorn 11

    From what I see the left love to beat them selves up to much.
    To a point labour is a victim of its own success as their policies are the ones that have got nz to a position where most workers only do 40 odd hours and most people live a comparatively comfortable lifestyle .
    Add to that there are no longer the huge employers of the past that supplied a easily reachable constituency.
    And as Weston above says the main reason labour is struggling is its inability to counter the dirty politic s of national.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      To a point labour is a victim of its own success as their policies are the ones that have got nz to a position where most workers only do 40 odd hours and most people live a comparatively comfortable lifestyle .

      325,000 children living in poverty.

      One of the worst ranking OECD nations in terms of very long work hours.

      • Clemgeopin 11.1.1

        “325,000 children living in poverty. One of the worst ranking OECD nations in terms of very long work hours”

        So that is Labour’s fault? Have you gone mad?

        For the last 7 years the country is ruled by Key’s National, if you are getting confused with your anti-Labour anger.

      • b waghorn 11.1.2

        Unfortunately the perants of those kids either don’t vote or got let down by in/mana.
        But in saying that even if the people that think labour is nat lite are right they will still do more for them.

  12. Michael 12

    Left-wing policies aren’t the issue. Left-wing rhetoric is. Voters, like you said, aren’t strong ideologues and don’t think in left/right terms. Keep the rhetoric moderate and people will vote for strongly left wing policies, since polls show they like those policies. But as you said people see left/right as ‘extremes’. It’s the same reason John Key does so well. He uses very moderate rhetoric despite his government instituting numerous strong right-wing policies like privatisation, tax cuts for the rich compensated by a GST rise, charter schools, etc

  13. Jan Rivers 13

    Offered without comment but a great satirical piece broadly in sympathy with Colonial Viper.
    by Mark Fiddaman

  14. Peter 14

    When the NZ Labour party gets someone like Jeremy Corbyn as leader I will vote Labour again, until then NO CHANCE.

  15. Stuart Munro 15

    I think Salmond missed the point, much as he did last election. Instead of forming a broad left alliance embracing the Greens, Salmond had some math about centrist voters – only 90 000 or so – to be chased in lieu of the missing million pursued more vigorously by Mana. This is what Labour did. There were multiple factors but I think that whatever else that calculation has been shown to be wrong.

    So too is his analysis of Corbyn. Corbyn is not generating support from nostalgic old red survivors but from an aggrieved and disenchanted electorate who don’t have enough to live on. Don’t have enough to afford a house, don’t have income security, puzzled to see how they could ever raise a family. These folk won’t be going away – they’ve nowhere to go. They can’t be bought by Cameron (or Key) – they’ll want to see the money in their hands first.

    But NZ Labour is still smarting from their experience with the dishonest media. They maybe need to look at the early Winston – who never missed a chance to slag off a journalist – until they were frightened enough of him not to take him on.

    I hope NZ Labour learns from Corbyn – the only bloodless lesson they might conceivably take before ’17. Russell Brand has come out for him – and this was the guy who advised not voting not so long back. Democracy shouldn’t be hard really – it consists of doing what people want. If that’s not what you’re doing, don’t expect to win.

  16. fisiani 16

    Labour needs to move to the far Left to attract the disenchanted. Who will Corbynise the Labour Party or will they still be a pale imitation of National. Why choose the imitation if you can have the real deal?

  17. Tiger Mountain 17

    this post correctly points out Salmond’s and some of NZ Labours sins, and I would say that much of Mana and Internet Mana’s policy and online policy development method is eminently co-optable by a social democratic party, and should be adopted by Labour if it wants to become one again

    • tracey 19.1

      ah the middle, where nothing much ever changes, other than governments. Nice list down the comments by Frank M

    • The Chairman 19.2

      Thanks, Sacha.

      Seems Salmond now concedes there’s a legitimate debate about how best to approach winning over the political centre.

      And that’s the debate Labour needs to have. The clock is ticking.

  18. The Chairman 20

    I concur with a number of other commentators, Labour need to improve their ability to control the narrative.

  19. The Chairman 21

    Something for Labour to ponder when having this debate:

    Doing well in the centre doesn’t mean Labour can afford to lose the support of the left.

    Moreover, if they haven’t already noticed, attempting to pull the wool (as they so often do) is fast losing its appeal with a number on the left.

    • Colonial Viper 21.1

      I expect to see the numbers of non-voters and voters for third parties to increase, because of this.

      • The Chairman 21.1.1

        Not necessarily.

        If Labour can put together some hands on left wing policy (similar to their widely welcomed housing policy) which will help diversify the economy (by Government filling market voids) and boost the productive sector (exports) creating employment, new markets and flow-on business opportunities (especially in the smaller regions) they will muster support from many corners. As long as they can take control on the narrative and convince voters they’ve got the competence to do it.

        However, if they move right or continue to stay in the centre, I deem you may be right.

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