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Shame on Labour for backing Goff

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, December 9th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: labour, phil goff - Tags:

By Andrew Campbell

Shame on the Labour caucus. If it’s true that they back Phil Goff’s Nationhood speech without reservations and therefore his strategy to use dog whistling racist tactics to win back the white male vote then they deserve the long period in opposition such an approach will bring.

The closing of the ranks to the obvious internal dissent to the speech is unhealthy given the desperate need for Labour to have exactly this kind of debate in order to fully define the kind of opposition and future government it wants to be.

Some of the left, like Chris Trotter, are salivating at the thought that Goff’s Nationhood speech represents some kind of return to pure working class left politics. It doesn’t. Trotter should know that Goff has never been the people’s hero and is unlikely to ever be. Bear in mind this is the same Phil Goff who introduced user pays in tertiary education whilst a Cabinet Minister in the infamous 4th Labour Government.

And while Trotter represents one view, others of us on the left have been dismayed for some time at the way in which Labour’s relationship with Maori has deteriorated over recent years. How can we achieve a more equal and just society when Labour takes such a negative position towards a group of people often most adversely affected by social inequality?

If Goff wanted to focus on policy he could have done so. He could have framed his speech in such a way as to avoid the inevitable controversy. No question there are major policy issues with the Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme, not least of which is that it will increase pollution and reward the polluters. But Goff’s relentless attack on one aspect of it, the deal with major iwi, ignores the other major corporations who will be paid money to continue to pollute. Maybe being honest about the benefits of the ETS to Pakeha big business wouldn’t swing so many votes back to the party.

If Goff so genuinely wanted to focus on policy and initiate a reasoned debate why has he permitted his speech to be titled Nationhood, the same title of the speech Don Brash gave in Orewa a few years ago? Why would he allow it to be on the Labour Party website next to an idyllic picture of a beach? Why else would Goff staffer John Pagani be placing orchestrated comments on blog sites attacking liberal left thought?

It is my view that Goff is looking increasingly desperate as his era of politics draws to a close. This sorry episode highlights the need for genuine rejuvenation within the Labour Party and the promotion of people not damaged by recent race politics. Central to that rejuvenation should be a much more progressive and inclusive approach to Maori. Such an approach will require genuine and original leadership something Phil Goff has demonstrated he is totally devoid of.

39 comments on “Shame on Labour for backing Goff”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    This post is fascinating on so many levels. Good on you Mr Campbell for speaking out.

    • snoozer 1.1

      Tim lives for this kind of post. He thinks that people within the left having sincere disagreement and adult debate over issues are signs of some fatal split.

      He thinks he can wedge us from each other.

      Get over yourself, Tim. On the Left, we disagree with each other sometimes, but we never forget the greater objectives and that we are stronger together.

      • Tim Ellis 1.1.1

        Oh don’t be so defensive snoozer. If the Left are so mature, then go and debate the issues.

        • snoozer 1.1.1.1

          um. we have been. on this blog and on others, and elsewhere. Labour has clearly been having its debates as well. there is a wealth of debate of this issue – it doesn’t mean that the debate isn’t civilised and constructive, we’re not fighting each other.

          You’re pretty pathetic really Tim. You can’t defend your own ideology, all you do is try to wedge the Left and it doesn’t work because we see through you.

  2. Peter Wilson 2

    Hi Andrew

    That is an interesting take on what happened at Caucus. My concerns are less about the content of the speech and more about the long-term strategy that led to the speech, including what should have been obvious – the way such a speech would be interpreted by the media. In my view the strategy was badly advised and executed. I suspect people in Labour feel the same.

    The rules of major party politics are such that outward unity is critical. But that does not mean that there is any internal agreement about this. Probably the deal at Caucus was to stop this strategy dead in its tracks and start afresh next year. Goff himself probably reflected on it and realised that it may not have been the best approach either.

    I will wait and see what happens after the holiday period.

    • Tim Ellis 2.1

      It doesn’t say a lot about the confidence of Labour’s caucus had in Mr Goff if they were able to stop such a major strategic move dead in its tracks, just a week after Mr Goff played it.

    • gobsmacked 2.2

      Peter Wilson’s analysis is on the money, I reckon.

      I’m guessing Andrew Campbell isn’t a big football fan. When the club chairman publicly expresses full and total confidence in the manager, we know the manager’s been given a blunt message in the privacy of the boardroom. Goff won’t be delivering another Palmy speech any time soon.

  3. roger nome 3

    hmmmm – i don’t think that all is so clear. Remember how Key and English “stood by there man” (Brash) in public, although they disagreed with much of his far-right agenda? But then the knives came out.

    Goff should therefore be very careful with his approach – it won’t take many more hiccups like this before the plotting and scheming starts behind his back, if it hasn’t already.

  4. lprent 4

    Labour tends to be interested in assisting all Maori (and everyone else), especially the more disadvantaged ones. This is the historic role that the progressive parties have done over time. It is how to structure society so that everyone gets as close as possible to having an equal opportunity.

    This is something that the conservative parties pay lip-service to, but fail to do anything about in implementing.

    It is becoming more apparent that the Maori Party is only interested in helping a small section of Maori – largely the more affluent ones. They are displaying all of the traits of being a conservative party, not particularly interested in giving all of those they claim to represent the opportunities that they need. The types of deals that they have been making with National make this quite clear.

    I’m pretty sure that those amongst Maori who watch politics are aware of this as well.

    As Peter Wilson says, the real issue for Labour is how the speech and direction was picked up and spun by the media. But that is an issue that Labour will be fighting for a while.

    • Bill 4.1

      “Labour tends to be interested in assisting all Maori (and everyone else)….”

      Hmm. Part of labour’s problem is that they haven’t done that. Their attraction to identity politics over class politics has meant white working class men and to a slightly lesser extent, white working class women have been abandoned by labour.

      • lprent 4.1.1

        Part of labour’s problem is that they haven’t done that.

        I disagree. However I suspect it depends what you mean by ‘assisting’. The critical word is ‘opportunities’, which I noticed that you didn’t quote from my comment.

        The point is that while I’m perfectly happy helping out people who actually need it, I’m completely uninterested in giving free lunches to people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities provided. I’d prefer to spend money on their kids and other people so they are able to escape poverty traps.

        Similarly I’m uninterested in helping failing industries that are failing to adapt to a changing world. It is less painful for everyone if they fail early.

        Perhaps you’d better explain why you think that Labour has failed to to assist people with opportunities, and I’ll explain why I think that they have.

        • Ag 4.1.1.1

          The point is that while I’m perfectly happy helping out people who actually need it, I’m completely uninterested in giving free lunches to people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities provided.

          So you’re a conservative then.

          That’s somewhat of a surprise.

          • lprent 4.1.1.1.1

            It shouldn’t be a surprise. That is what I’ve stated since I helped start this blog.

            I’m generally center-right in attitude about economic matters. However I detest the type of short-term stupidity that seems to be the main characteristic of the ‘conservative’ parties. But that seems to reflect their supporters. I’m not a social conservative and not stupid – which is probably what fools them into thinking that I’m a left radical sometimes.

            I support anything that allows people and society progress in the long-term. Part of that is putting the required constraints on the piracy that is unfettered free markets in the interests of longer-term goals (because the market is incapable of doing it).

            But in short-term areas, a reasonably free-market is great at allocating resources. Just don’t get it to control longer term things because it always screws it up over the longer term.

            I’ve always worked in private industry and usually in exporting. I have a MBA as well as several undergrad degrees. I’m a programmer because that is what I wanted to do after I discovered computers. But my previous work history (and that of much of my family) is in management.

            What did you expect? A Socialist Utopian? You have to make resources before you can allocate them for the future.

            I have little toleration for people talking about ‘rights’. I’m far more interested when people talk about ‘responsibilities’. Which is one of the reasons I despise trolls.

            Incidentally I’ve been supporting the current approach towards the Treaty of Waitangi settlements since the late 70’s. But it has nothing to do with ‘rights’ and everything to do with giving the disadvantaged opportunities for their kids. Every previous approach had failed. So far this one has been making moderate but useful progress.

            The ‘left’ is a very broad church. Labour is very much a center-left party which makes it electable.

            That is why this blog site has such a range of contributors, as explained in the about. The left needs a place to speak that isn’t in the usual small cliques.

            • Ag 4.1.1.1.1.1

              I would suggest, and I don’t think I’m wrong, that being in any way, shape or form right wing on economics disqualifies someone from being on the political left. In fact the infiltration of Labour by such people is emblematic of the mess that left wing parties are in.

              But whatever floats your boat.

              • lprent

                *grin*

                It has been a long infiltration.

                I’ve been a party member off and on (ie when I remember to pay the sub) since the late 70’s and doing sporadic assistance during campaigns.

                I’ve been pretty active since 1990 in Mt Albert.

                But I do remember the exodus of more pure believers to New Labour. They didn’t last as a elected political party even after they coalesced and split a few times. Probably says something about how popular the policies were.

                I noted the other day that I’m utterly pragmatic about politics. In the end it is less about what the policies are than if they are something you can convince the voting public about. They’re even more pragmatic and skeptical than I am.

                In my long history in the party, I’ve never put up a remit. I have helped vote a few down that I thought simply wouldn’t work.

                It is my nature to concentrate on things that do work. Like this site for instance.

              • Quoth the Raven

                I would suggest, and I don’t think I’m wrong, that being in any way, shape or form right wing on economics disqualifies someone from being on the political left.

                What’s right wing in economics now? This is why I think right and left have become increasingly meaningless concepts. In fact Trevor Mallard said as much on Red Alert a while back. The radical free marketeers sat on the left side of the french legislative assembly (where we get the terms from). There was thick strand of free marketeers within the socialist movement throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries (an incredibly small number today). There are still plenty of free marketeers that self-identify as left wing. The Republicans were protectionist and the Democrats fairly classically liberal in times past.
                Lprent comes out with a very mildly pro-market view that he feels is sensible and pragmatic and it’s quelle horreur – conservative – neoliberal bugaboos in my walls! 😮 Purge the individualist infiltraterz in the labourz.
                This is why I’m becoming increseingly interested in post-left ideas now.

              • Ag

                Well, I would point out the complete failure of the Anglo left wing parties to do very much about inequality and the complete domination of free market discourse as evidence that the left is not in good shape.

                One reason that there is no “left” and “right” is that economic differences have all but been eliminated. That would be fine if New Zealand was adopting the optimal economic strategy of the Nordics, which, without sacrificing egalitarian principles, continue to provide the world’s highest standard of living to their citizens, but it is not. Instead it has a record of extremely poor economic policy that has done little to make NZ a better place to live, and has definitely made it a stupider place than it used to be (which I never thought possible).

                “But I do remember the exodus of more pure believers to New Labour. They didn’t last as a elected political party even after they coalesced and split a few times. Probably says something about how popular the policies were.”

                Sure, but no-one ever said that the electorate were rational. How long have people been living on borrowed money now? Quite some time isn’t it. I wouldn’t have supported New Labour either. I tend to think that all NZ political parties are delusional, but that’s just me. But in the end it is the voters’ fault, so we can’t blame the parties.

              • lprent

                QtR: I tend to look at it as more of a conservative / progressive split these days at the centre these days.

                The conservatives tend to want to move boldly forward into the mythical past.

                The progressives tend to deal (often reluctantly) with the future.

                Just at present the clearest case for that is in the way that national and labour were/are dealing with climate change issues. Neither were doing what was required bearing in mind what the science says is required to reduce the risks (regardless what the daft CCDs say)..

                However national have essentially done nothing. Everything you see with their policies is negative. Push the costs to the future while removing virtually all of the R&D that would have helped us deal with it (and spawn new industries). Make sure that market signals do not penetrate to the biggest polluters.

                Labour was doing the mix of policies that were likely to work, albeit less than I would have liked.

                Personally I think that a straight carbon tax at the root stocks would have been far more effective, less susceptible to lobbying, and a whole lot simpler than the Labours ETS. It would have also given some pretty direct price signals to trigger the required innovation. Now that national has throughly screwed up the cap’n’trade approach, hopefully that is what we will do next time Labour gets the treasury benches.

                It is a classic conservative / progressive dichotomy

              • lprent

                Ag: Have a close look at the way that the Nordics operate their private sector some time. It isn’t dissimilar to the way that Labour was heading. It is a pretty free-market with a lot of innovation going on.

                Apart from the obvious location and industry type differences. The big difference is that there has/is more capital available over a long time to put into businesses rather than property. The tax structures ensures that happens.

                Consequently they have a higher locally owned business setup than we do. In my entire time working in export businesses here, the constraining factor has always been getting any capital when the relatively ‘risk-free’ property market has sucked it all up.

                The second big area of difference is that they plan long-term at the governmental level, without the type of stupid profit-taking that Keys government would like to indulge in.

                Most of what the Nordic countries have done has been because they simply keep pushing ahead with planning for the long-term infrastructures that allow their businesses to grow, prosper, and generate resources and wealth.

                With inequalities you have to have sufficient resources / wealth available to deal with them. But you can’t put the chicken before the egg. The government has to balance how to grow the economy with the inequalities that inevitably generates compared to the returns further down the time-line.

              • Quoth the Raven

                Lprent: I agree re: carbon tax. I find it bizarre that many on the left are blaming trading schemes on the free market like there’s something free market in governments creating a market out of nothing with tax payers money.

                Progressive is another one of those words used by disparate political movements throughout its history.

                I want gradual progress towards a free society and support any reform or action that gets us closer. As such I can’t much to support in the dirigiste policies of most of those who call themselves progressive. Although I find I agree more often with them than conservatives.

                BTW I’m having trouble with captcha it keeps coming up invalid.

                Ag – Right – If only the ignorant rabble (they’re more lie animals really) would see the light. Can’t they see how intelligent you are how right you are. Don’t fear you’ll win this epic battle betwen the forces of good and evil. :rol:

                [lprent: I just kicked the server and cleaned out its temp directories. The only problem I’ve seen with this captcha is a tendency to leave generated graphics behind that accumulate over time. Hopefully that will fix it. If you login to the site (ie have a valid e-mail address to get the password), you don’t have catcha at all. This is because the generate login does. ]

              • Adam Jarvis

                I find that Ag’s paragraph neatly sums up my views regarding the current political spectrum.

                One reason that there is no “left’ and “right’ is that economic differences have all but been eliminated. That would be fine if New Zealand was adopting the optimal economic strategy of the Nordics, which, without sacrificing egalitarian principles, continue to provide the world’s highest standard of living to their citizens, but it is not. Instead it has a record of extremely poor economic policy that has done little to make NZ a better place to live, and has definitely made it a stupider place than it used to be (which I never thought possible).

                I’m on board with iprent when he says the true difference between the center parties is what he calls “conservative/progressive”. However, I can’t say i’m particularly happy with this being the case.

  5. Hugh 5

    But Goff’s relentless attack on one aspect of it, the deal with major iwi, ignores the other major corporations who will be paid money to continue to pollute.

    Except his aim was to attack the Maori Party, and the insertion of Iwi corporations was wholly their responsibility, while the pakeha corporations weren’t.

    • lprent 5.1

      Ummm He has attacked the other aspects of the ETS that National mangled together. I’ve heard him.

      Perhaps they weren’t reported ?

      Perhaps that is a problem with the media rather than Goff?

      Think Orcams (?sp) Razor rather than simple paranoia.

  6. Armchair Critic 6

    “they deserve the long period in opposition”
    Steady on there Andrew. That would mean a long period in government for National, and probably ACT. I find it difficult to believe that any of the authors here would really want that, in their hearts.
    I didn’t think much of PG’s speech, but suggesting the country should be sentenced to a couple more terms of NACT is overkill.
    Alarm bells should ring whenever TE says things like “Good on you Mr Campbell for speaking out”, too. Public dissent over this issue is just fodder for the media and for National. Expressing your displeasure in private would be much better, at this stage.

    • gobsmacked 6.1

      Agreed, AC.

      I couldn’t care less what Goff or anybody else in Parliament “deserves” (a kick up the backside, most of them).

      It’s not about them. It’s about us. To think about elections in terms of how they affect the prospects of politicians is to buy into the media myth of politics as entertainment, a piece of theatre in which we are only spectators. Well, we aren’t.

      God help us if we need a National/ACT second term to learn that.

      • ropata 6.1.1

        gobsmacked,
        It’s the news media that needs a kick in the rear — especially TV news which is just infotainment and salacious gossip. If only NZ had a national TV network that served the public good…

        Also why the fcuk do we always get the TWI, stock market, and dollar updates in every news bulletin? Are we all dreaming of being money traders like the PM? Are we supposed to identify with international financiers? Are we all brainwashed by transnational corporations? Are we supposed to feel wealthier when the NZ$ goes up 1 point??! (hat-tip Michael Moore). There’s plenty of news fodder at the other end of the social scale but I suppose reporters prefer to hobnob with the rich and famous… kiwi battlers are too “real” I guess

  7. It is becoming more apparent that the Maori Party is only interested in helping a small section of Maori largely the more affluent ones. They are displaying all of the traits of being a conservative party, not particularly interested in giving all of those they claim to represent the opportunities that they need. The types of deals that they have been making with National make this quite clear.

    That would have been a really good point for Goff to make, if he’d done so to a Maori audience, without connecting it to the Foreshore and Seabed, and without deliberately evoking Brash’s Orewa speech.

  8. randal 8

    gobsmacked; when has it ever been about us? haven’t you read animal farm? at the moment it is about focus groups and policy wonks and making sure that nobody is offended. we are just the patsy’s that watch teevee and delude ourselves that our opinions count.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    How can we achieve a more equal and just society when Labour takes such a negative position towards a group of people often most adversely affected by social inequality?

    Why should Maori be treated any differently than anyone else?

    Sure, target poverty and inequality – just don’t do it according to race.

  10. “And while Trotter represents one view, others of us on the left have been dismayed for some time at the way in which Labour’s relationship with Maori has deteriorated over recent years. How can we achieve a more equal and just society when Labour takes such a negative position towards a group of people often most adversely affected by social inequality?”

    Firstly the Maori Party do not represent all of Maori, nor do they speak on behalf of all of Maori. Take a look at Labours Party vote from Maori it seems quite strong, Turia’s little hissy fit with Helen is hardly indicative of Maori support for Labour .

    Secondly Goff didn’t attack Maori, he attacked the Maori Party for further lining the pockets of certain Iwi that are being given tax payers money as a payoff for the support of the Maori Party vote to get a shoddy ETS through.
    Wake up Andrew Campbell stop being PC and see it for what it is, the Conservative Maori Party getting paid off. If this was some corporates getting this money you would be all up in arms, but because its the Maori Party you wont call it for what it is.

    Lets drop the whole”we on the real left” holier than though crap aye.

    • Alex 10.1

      Except he did attack Maori – “concessions to Maoridom” isn’t language you use when you want to attack a few corporations. It’s language you use when you want to stir up anti-Maori sentiment amongst rednecks.

      And I know everyone’s been through it, but just to reiterate it’s the whole narrative: Goff rolled Hone Harawira, the Maori party/National party ETS deal and the Foreshore and Seabed into one speech. He deliberately created a narrative of “the government is giving things away to those bloody Maoris again.”

      For those reasons as long as Goff’s leader of the Labour party I’m going to vote for the Greens, being the only party with even a shred of integrity left.

  11. Bored 11

    Fascinating post and comments so far, for the benefit of the likes of Tim I would point out the divisions a similar speech from Brash a few years ago created within National. Personally whilst I don’t agree with Goff’s position or timing I think that it is a healthy thing to be able to have this debate.

    To dismiss Goff’s viewpoint (or Trotter’s) is to marginalize that very large chunk of the electorate that is socially conservative (as opposed to progressive aka PC). When one analyses the defeat of the left at the last election the dominance of the progressive viewpoint within Labour clearly alienated the socially conservative voters. On the issue of the Sea Bed & Foreshore, on the issue of class in Maori society it might behove Labour to understand it must represent and if possible reconcile the concerns of both of these constituencies. It is not as if National does not have (albeit to a lesser degree) the same thorny issue.

  12. RT 12

    Phil certainly had a lot of support at the Maungakiekie LEC meeting the other night. Much of what Craig GE said. Phils speech was an attack on the deal the Maori party and the Nats made to get the ETS through. No more than that.

  13. torydog 13

    the single worst post I have read on this site with no substance at all.

  14. Darel 14

    ” . . others of us on the left have been dismayed for some time at the way in which Labour’s relationship with Maori has deteriorated over recent years’.

    One way of looking at this is Party Vote in Maori seats.

    Labour % Maori Seat Party Votes
    1996 31.92
    1999 55.11
    2002 53.73
    2005 54.62
    2008 50.11

    In 1996 Maori Seat PVs flocked to NZ First, in 2008 there was a swing to National (Maori Party PV in Maori seats increased just over a point from 27.7% in 2005 to 28.89% in 2008).

    I’m not convinced that, by this measure, Andrew is right.

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