The Centre of Attention

Written By: - Date published: 9:43 pm, August 22nd, 2015 - 91 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

In a post on Public Address titled “In defence of the centre” Rob Salmond uses a Guardian article by George Monbiot to pose the question “whether the old political orthodoxy of ‘move to the middle’ is, long term, a death-knell for left-leaning parties.” It’s good that Salmond’s raised the question; it’s certainly a matter for debate.

Monbiot’s thesis in summary is “The harder you try to win by adopting your opponents’ values, the more you legitimise and promote them, making your task – and that of your successors – more difficult.”

Salmond has three problems with this: First the alternative – “how have centre-left parties gone when they have tacked away from the centre?” Based on Foot and Kinnock in the UK Salmond says “when it happens it goes badly.” He goes on:

And if you think that lesson, of declining centre-left fortunes when its narrative swings left, doesn’t apply for in modern New Zealand, here are two phrases you may find familiar: “Man ban.” “Sorry for being a man.”

I don’t know where Rob Salmond was in 1999, the last time Labour won government in New Zealand. Labour went into that election with a declared coalition partner on its left in the Alliance, with declared policies to raise the top rate of income tax, to bring ACC back into public ownership and to restore income-related rents for state house tenants.  Labour’s narrative swung left and Labour won; the Victoria University book on the election was titled “Left Turn.”

And many of the achievements of the 5th Labour government have remained – Kiwibank is still there, ACC is still in public ownership, Working for Families survives. I don’t think centre-left fortunes declined when Helen Clark became Prime Minister.

Salmond’s second objection is fundamentally about centrism as strategy and I’ll do a separate post on it as it needs more teasing out.

Salmond’s third objection, about clarity of political communication is paradoxically unclear. Monbiot says Corbyn is doing well because he is a clear communicator. While Salmond implies Corbyn is ‘hard left” the question left unaddressed is whether he is also doing well because what he is communicating so clearly in comparison with his middle-ground opponents is striking a chord.

Public ownership for infrastructure, fairer taxes, investment for people, hope for young people – all still resonate, it would seem.

 

91 comments on “The Centre of Attention”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Kia ora Mike.

    “Man ban” – the proposal that there should be as many female MPs as male MPs. It actually is not a ban. It is a desire for equality.

    The right had the perfect phrase “man ban”. Some supposed representatives of the left reinforced the phrase.

    “Sorry for being a man” was said after a harrowing meeting when our leader was confronted with the reality of domestic violence. Ill chosen? Possibly but it was a heart felt expression. We should not rule out passion.

    I don’t think they actually hurt Labour. The line that hurt was National’s the left is a mess and will rely on Kim Dotcom but the economy is fine and why change things. This line no longer has legitimacy. It had nothing to do with the narrative and all to do with the feeling of confidence at the time.

    • Sacha 1.1

      Apologising for who you are does not foster confidence in voters about your own confidence. We broadly seem to find that important in who we vote for.

      • Detrie 1.1.1

        Agree. People like their politicians be them left or right, to have strongly held opinions. This middle ground approach makes them seem weak and insecure.

    • Atiawa 1.2

      Of course both phrases/statements hurt Labour and at the core of their constituency, workers in factories. in engineering workshops and anywhere else Labour could rely on traditional support.
      Heartfelt, progressive and passionate they may have been. Resonating or vote catching they were not.

      • Colonial Rawshark 1.2.1

        Labour maintains a significant cultural disconnect with the people it is supposedly representing, the bottom 80% of society.

        Note the Labour caucus is utterly devoid of anyone who has spent serious years (eg not just Summer holiday jobs inbetween uni, or up in the front office) working in a factory, engineering workshop, mine or any of the trades.

        • Weepus beard 1.2.1.1

          How can you now say you are for the workers when you don’t hesitate to bag Andrew Little who has spent his lifetime working for the workers of New Zealand?

          • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1.1

            address the points i raised please.

            • Weepus beard 1.2.1.1.1.1

              I shall not because they were worthless points.

              • Colonial Viper

                not a single tradesperson, miner or process worker in the labour caucus. That says something.

                • Weepus beard

                  Rubbish. By that logic you’ll next say it’s only right that NZ is now being run by a currency speculator.

                  • weka

                    Not really. The logic would be that x number of Nat MPs are farm owners, members of the business round table and CEOs. It makes sense to me that some of the members of the Labour party should be working class and labourers. Why is it not obvious that people who are distanced from those professions don’t know how to represent them?

                    • BM

                      Probably because the decision makers in labour consider the working class to be simple children who cannot function without their wisdom and guidance.

                      Labour is the home of the messiah complex.

                    • red-blooded

                      I’m sorry, but that’s a fatuous question. People who become MPs tend to be chosen for their values and competencies rather than their backgrounds. Experience with policy work and communications skills can come through union involvement, Party organisation or involvement in some other kind of social issues group, but it’s likely that a work background that’s helped to hone those skills will be helpful.

                      How are you suggesting candidates should be chosen? A weighting for a labouring background? It’s perfectly possible to have empathy and insight into the issues faced by people in low-paid or poorly valued positions without having spent one’s life in such a position. Many people’s immediate or extended families include people living in a different social class than themselves; a potential candidate’s parents may have been carers or labourers, with their young lives being impacted by the issues faced by people in these jobs… Having been to university doesn’t disqualify one from understanding the lives of others.

                      I’m a teacher (a profession from which a number of Labour MPs are drawn). I see the effects of low wages, casual work, the struggle to survive with dignity on a benefit, lack of options for people trapped in the poverty cycle and children born into that situation. I also see the different quality of life enjoyed by children of the affluent and educated. I do my best to try to open up options for kids who are born into disadvantage and to open up the eyes of those born into advantage. I’m proud of the work that I do and don’t see any reason why it should be seen as a barrier if I was to choose to stand as a candidate for election (which I have no intention of doing).

                    • weka

                      People who become MPs tend to be chosen for their values and competencies rather than their backgrounds. Experience with policy work and communications skills can come through union involvement, Party organisation or involvement in some other kind of social issues group, but it’s likely that a work background that’s helped to hone those skills will be helpful.

                      I’m going to assume that you are not implying that working class people can’t be competent MPs. So the question then becomes what is it about Labour, the selection process, and society in general that leaves a political party that is supposed to be representing working people with so few actual working class people as MPs? I can pick some societal changes over the past few decades, but that’s not enough to explain the way that Labour is.

                      How are you suggesting candidates should be chosen? A weighting for a labouring background?

                      It looks the same issue to me as gender and ethnic representation. Weighting in the way you imply is the last resort of an organisaiton that doesn’t know how to support and encourage.

                      It’s perfectly possible to have empathy and insight into the issues faced by people in low-paid or poorly valued positions without having spent one’s life in such a position. Many people’s immediate or extended families include people living in a different social class than themselves; a potential candidate’s parents may have been carers or labourers, with their young lives being impacted by the issues faced by people in these jobs…

                      True, but it’s also true that many people don’t have those kinds of empathies or insights.

                      Having been to university doesn’t disqualify one from understanding the lives of others.

                      Who said anything about university? (working class people go to university too).

                      I’m a teacher (a profession from which a number of Labour MPs are drawn). I see the effects of low wages, casual work, the struggle to survive with dignity on a benefit, lack of options for people trapped in the poverty cycle and children born into that situation. I also see the different quality of life enjoyed by children of the affluent and educated. I do my best to try to open up options for kids who are born into disadvantage and to open up the eyes of those born into advantage. I’m proud of the work that I do and don’t see any reason why it should be seen as a barrier if I was to choose to stand as a candidate for election (which I have no intention of doing).

                      I think you are really missing what is being said here. No-one has said that the Labour Party shouldn’t have MPs that were teachers. I think you are extrapolating a whole bunch of stuff that’s not real.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      redblooded

                      I’m proud of the work that I do and don’t see any reason why it should be seen as a barrier if I was to choose to stand as a candidate for election (which I have no intention of doing).

                      Do you know of any experienced teachers in the Labour caucus?

                      How are you suggesting candidates should be chosen? A weighting for a labouring background? It’s perfectly possible to have empathy and insight into the issues faced by people in low-paid or poorly valued positions without having spent one’s life in such a position.

                      We don’t accept this same argument that an outsider can come along and have empathy and represent your perspective the best when it comes to gender or ethnic background, or disability. Tony Abbott as Minister of Womens Affairs?

          • adam 1.2.1.1.2

            I don’t live in the past. Good on Andrew for his past work – don’t mean bugger all when you look like, sound like, and dress like a Tory.

            It’s his lack of action or inspiration now which is the problem.

            The reality is – labour have no traction because they are just another Tory party. OK Tory light, which may be better as they will only cut us off at the knees, rather than the hip.

            Labour only speaks some socialist phrases now and then to keep all the activists/life blood of the party living in a perpetual hope that change is coming. You activist/life blood of the party are being treated poorly by your party. But Oh well, keep on keeping on. I know I won’t change any of your minds. You seem to be a willing participate of a Tory(light) organisation, happy to let establishment rip the guts out of this country.

            No chance of a social democratic win any time soon. God forbid a socialist victory. Because it’s revolutionary now days to be a social democrat – what a bloody sick joke that is.

            • Clemgeopin 1.2.1.1.2.1

              What % vote did the left parties, The Alliance or Mana get? That should tell you something.
              He tangata. He tangata. He tangata …who do the actual voting, not the parties. There lies the mystery.

              • weka

                the non-vote. Governing a country, or being a representative to parliament, has to be about more than getting votes. It has to also be about the well being of all people. If it’s not, then it’s not left wing.

              • The Chairman

                “What % vote did the left parties, The Alliance or Mana get? That should tell you something.”

                It tells us what we all know. The majority like to back a party they know has an actual chance of winning.

                • Clemgeopin

                  Only if the majority are stupid, dishonest without the courage of their conviction and do not know what a democratic vote actually means.

                  I do not agree with you.

                  • The Chairman

                    Labour and National are seen as the two winning contenders and secure the majority.

                    A number of voters believe a vote for a smaller party is a wasted vote as they have no chance of actually winning, hence you’ll here a good number of voters saying it comes down to the best of two evils.

                    Which is largely why all smaller parties struggle to attain a large number of votes and why a large number no longer bother to vote.

            • The Chairman 1.2.1.1.2.2

              Dead right, Adam.

            • Atiawa 1.2.1.1.2.3

              Have just watched the Nation and Q&A interviews with Andrew Little this morning and thought that working people have no stronger political advocate for their needs and aspirations than he – suit, tie and shiny shoes included -.

            • red-blooded 1.2.1.1.2.4

              This comment is intended as a reply to Weka. For some reason, there was no “reply” function above; so sorry, adam, for attaching it here.

              Weka, your original comment was “It makes sense to me that some of the members of the Labour party should be working class and labourers. Why is it not obvious that people who are distanced from those professions don’t know how to represent them?” Given the context (discussion of representation in parliament), I took it that when you were talking about “members of the Labour party” you were referring to MPs. You gave no reason for why it should not be “obvious” that people from a labouring background should be MPs and that “people who are distanced from those professions don’t know how to represent them”, so I tried to posit some possible reasons for you. Maybe if you don’t want people to do that you should actually present an argument rather than simply ask a hypothetical question, next time.

              As for my comment about people with a university degree, it arose from partly from your reference to “people who are distanced” and partly from Colonial Rawshark’s earlier comment about needing people who have spent their working lives in such positions, as opposed to working as labourers in the university holidays. Not an unreasonable connection, given the flow of discussion.

              No-one has said that someone who is working class can’t make an effective MP. I think it’s simplistic to argue that it’s “obvious that people who are distanced from those professions don’t know how to represent them”, though. I don’t see that central point being addressed in your reply. Maybe it’s not so obvious…

              • red-blooded

                …And this reply is actually for Colonial Viper:
                “We don’t accept this same argument that an outsider can come along and have empathy and represent your perspective the best when it comes to gender or ethnic background, or disability. Tony Abbott as Minister of Womens Affairs?”

                Has Tony Abbott ever BEEN a woman? Was he raised as a woman (girl)? I think you’ll find that plenty of people being dismissed in this discussion line by some as “distant” from labourers have lived in working class families and/or worked as labourers or carers.

                Have a look at my whole comment rather than cherry-picking a sentence or two that you think you can rebut.

    • Lanthanide 1.3

      “Man ban” – the proposal that there should be as many female MPs as male MPs. It actually is not a ban. It is a desire for equality.

      The right had the perfect phrase “man ban”. Some supposed representatives of the left reinforced the phrase.

      Well you’re being disingenuous, there, because one of the actual mooted mechanisms was potentially, in some electorates, to ban men from standing and only allow female candidates.

      So that was a man ban, plain and simple.

      • Clemgeopin 1.3.1

        +1
        Yes, that WAS stupid by agenda driven myopic idiot thinkers. Glad that better sense prevailed.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    waiting for Tory Labour Rob Salmonds next master stroke of Chinese name analysis.

    One of the political strategy geniuses behind Labours last few elections.

    These people have turned the Labour Party into backers of the wealth adoring capitalist establishment which sees its primary job as managing markets better and keeping the top 20% in society comfortable with the status quo and on side.

    Bernie Sanders who is a supporter of increased taxes on multi millionaires, ideas no one on the left would have blinked at in 1980, Salmond describes as “hard left”.

    FFS

    • adam 2.1

      Like I said earlier in the day Colonial Viper. The hard right inside labour stop it from being a social democratic party. Let alone a socialist one.

      Rob’s piece was straight up dribble. I wish the jerk and his ilk would just go join the national party, why are they so dishonest with themselves?

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        in its constitution, Labour refers to its values in democratic socialism. Funny, eh.

        • adam 2.1.1.1

          I know. Now if with that line it promised to remove the reserve bank act, and give up on the failed experiment into economic liberalism.

  3. Pat 3

    it would appear at this early stage of the discussion that perhaps for purposes of clarity the Labour Party should change its name to the Liberal Party.

  4. maui 4

    It sounds like Rob is happy with keeping things centrist which means theres’ a good chance Labour will stay that way. The thing is I think National is better at appealing to centre voters, so it’s a big gamble to be playing their game.

    • Clemgeopin 4.1

      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.

  5. NZJester 5

    One thing that seams to happen as well if Left leaning parties try and take the center is ground is that the Right tends to move a little more to the right moving the center ground position just a little more over away from the old center. Keep chasing that center ground and before you know it your a right wing party and the old right wing party will move back to swallow you up.

  6. Ad 6

    I think it would be a whole lot more productive for Labour to examine how they won elections, rather than copying liberal hyper-purists like Sanders and Corbyn.

    The trick, after 9 damn years, is not to complain about your purity, but to win.

    Labour also needs to figure out how to appeal to people who actually have done great out of the real estate boom. Because otherwise they will lose even more seats in Auckland than they lost last time, both in local and central politics.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      power via compromising principle. Lets see if that attracts the electorate. btw the positions of the “hyper purists” would have been considered mainstream during the start of the Thatcher, Reagan or Lange years. That they are considered extreme by you is evidence of how far we have allowed thongs to degrade.

    • adam 6.2

      What the hell Ad, purity?

      Hyper-purists, who are you Torquemada?

      As I have said before, to the likes of you – social democracy is a revolutionary idea.

      Sad, just sad. It’s people like you, who cut off the debate.

      • red-blooded 6.2.1

        Adam, have a look at your own comment. How does it contribute to debate? Ad had a point to make; it was relevant, it moved discussion along and it was focused on the topic rather than personal attack. I think it’s a bit hypocritical for you to try to shut him/her down by saying “it’s people like you who cut off debate”.

        If you disagree with his description of Corbyn as a “hyper-purist” or you want to argue against the ideas that Labour needs to put more emphasis on examining how they’ve won past elections and how to appeal to people who are doing well out of the current regime, then let’s hear your reasoning. The “hyper-purist” label seems a bit dismissive; Corbyn appears to be tapping a well-spring of discontent and giving an alternative narrative that fits what a lot of Britons believe and feel, but I do get Ad’s point about winning a broader spectrum of support and it is one worth debating.

        Some commentators have made a comparison with Donald Trump; hugely popular with committed Party members, bringing in new members who sign-up so that they can endorse him as candidate, speaking his values loud and clear, but feared within his own party (who know they can’t win with him in the hot-seat) and mocked by the media. Would he be chosen by the wider electorate as President? Even given the distortions of the ridiculous State-by-state “electoral college”, I just don’t see it happening.

  7. swordfish 7

    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’. The corollary is that so often this self-placement bears little relationship to voters’ views on key issues and policies.

    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.

    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 believe the cuts in spending (both locally and nationally) have gone too far. There is conflicting evidence about whether or not British voters felt austerity was the appropriate response during the first 3 or 4 years of the GFC, but it’s clear that a majority now oppose it.

    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: “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 ublic 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).

    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 cenre-ground on many of the key issues and our Blairite chums (and their little cheerleaders in the academy) are off to the Right.

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

    • swordfish 7.1

      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.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Hey mate I’d like to reformat part (most) of your comment as a published post in of itself if you were ok with that.

        • swordfish 7.1.1.1

          Yep, CV, go for it.

          This is my Big Break ! Stardom has finally arrived ! Today, The Standard, tomorrow Broadway ! New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town !

  8. Jenny Kirk 8

    I’m with you on this one, Mike Smith. I don’t know why people at the top in Labour take any notice of Rob Salmond – he’s way to the ideological right, and theoretical.

    Monbiot’s thesis resonates – its time Labour sounded far more as a Party for the People than spouting an ideological theory. And this is what Andrew Little is trying to do – but doesn’t get much headway in the media. Has anyone seen much of his recent climate change speech anywhere ?

    If not, here’s a link to it –
    http://campaign.labour.org.nz/andrew_little_environment_speech

    • Tautoko Mangō Mata 8.1

      The problem I have with much of Labour policy is where the policy lines are drawn and this is where the messages becomes either unclear or at worst unacceptable to the voter.
      Examples:

      1. The fact that Labour will not come out against deep sea oil drilling which is a major issue for Climate Change diminishes the rest of their environmental policy.
      How the hell can you defend this???

      2. The TPPA should by now have been a definite NO. The leaked texts and in particular, the impact on SOE’s plus inability to legislate against foreign ownership of land should indicate the intent of those who are pushing for it to be signed.
      (The govt haven’t come up with a cost benefit analysis and the process has been undemocratic and secretive beyond belief.)

      These are major issues. Labour has done some good work on some other issues but trying to please everyone is a turnoff and makes Labour look unsure of itself.

  9. Adrian 9

    You would know a lot more about it than me Mike, but I thought that in 1999 the fact that lot of farmers and rural voters didn’t turn out for National was why Labour did so well. Here in a SI rural seat they felt abandoned and pissed of.
    In the run-up to the election a senior local Cab Minister had to escape out the back of a country hall after telling farmers that their best response to the big drought was to be more ” efficient “.
    Arrogance loses elections.

  10. barry 10

    I still think it is not the message, but the messaging. Labour sometimes says leftist things but they are not convincing.

    Labour was criticised for having 55% of its list (mostly not in electable positions) female, whereas National’s was nearly 80% male (from memory). If they had really believed in equality there was an opportunity to own the narrative. Why are womens’ rights “leftist” anyway? How can there be a more “centrist” issue than equality?

    If the centre is beneficiary bashing (e.g. complaining about ACC recipients working on a roof), and giving away worker’s rights then what is the point.

    National may be pricks, but they are at least mostly (publicly) consistent pricks. When the infighting becomes an issue as Labour’s has been (whether real or media created) then National will lose support whatever their policies. The alternative is true for Labour. Make people believe them by telling a consistent story. If that is not lefter than currently then there will always be infighting as people want to gravitate to Labour for leftist principles.

    To Labour supporters: If you do not support fairness for the underprivileged and workers rights then leave and join ACT. If you do support Labour core principles then tell the world!

    • Clemgeopin 10.1

      +1

    • Pat 10.2

      core principles or core contradictions?

    • Colonial Viper 10.3

      Exactly, too often Labour is neither convincing nor authentic.

      • Atiawa 10.3.1

        Which is Littles & Labours Achilles heel.

        And isn’t the right taking full advantage i.e. “they did it too”?

        • Colonial Viper 10.3.1.1

          In terms of selling off shit, letting the private sector in the door to provide government services and prioritising higher profits from state assets yes Labour definitely did it too.

          • Atiawa 10.3.1.1.1

            It also becomes problematic, as it is for AL, when previous administrations move to the right in an attempt to capture the centre.
            $25/week beneficiary increases spring to mind, albeit the reverse applies.
            ” They didn’t do it “.

  11. The lost sheep 11

    Corbyn’s policies are far further Left than NZ Labour circa 1999…..so I don’t know if there are any linkages to be drawn there.

    It’s stating the obvious to say that the further Left a Party moves, the more strongly they will resonate with further Left voters. Thus the Corbyn effect.
    But it’s invalid to suggest that a strengthening of the existing Further Left implies anything at all about a corresponding shift in the existing Center.

    The fact remains that throughout the Western World electorates are crucially weighted towards a slightly Rightish Centrist majority.
    And so you can’t escape the reality that in order for a Further Left Party to become Government, they must convince a significant percentage of Centrist voters to shift their preferences Left

    Does an old school Socialist approach like Corbyn’s have any chance of producing that shift?
    I’ve seen no evidence that this has been the case in the U.K., or that it would work here in NZ, and until such evidence emerges I’m going to continue thinking it won’t.

    And then there is the risk of actually alienating the center even further……
    Interesting times no doubt.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-would-reduce-labours-chances-of-winning-the-next-election-poll-reveals-10457458.html

    • Pat 11.1

      there was a very good interview on RNZ with John Pilger this morning where he observed that Corban’s popularity (he didnt qualify it) was a reflection of the electorates recognition that their input to democracy has been effectively removed by the major political parties and their masters…it is not the policy per se, it is (often felt rather than understood) the dismissal of their worth

      • Pat 11.1.1

        (edit) Corbyn’s

      • The lost sheep 11.1.2

        “Corban’s popularity (he didnt qualify it) was a reflection of the electorates recognition…..”

        Actually, unless you have quantified the popularity, and established that it represents something well above a majority of voters, there are no grounds for making any sweeping generalisations about ‘The electorate’.

        Corban’s popularity reflects a recognition of a need for a change in direction and tactics among a specific segment of the electorate, namely the Further Left.

        It no more reflects a popular revolution in thought than Occupy did, if you remember the hyperbole that the Far Left attached to the importance of that at the time.
        It should sound a note caution that for a while the Far Left Occupiers honestly believed they were representing 99% of the population – but as it turned out, they couldn’t even gain the support of 1%…..

        • Pat 11.1.2.1

          qualify not quantify…and the electorate he is indisputably popular with is the one that has currently made him front runner in the leadership contest,no other claim was made….the subsequent observations are valid as a result….interesting you should relate an opinion re Occupy as i suggest that the motivations may be of the same origin….the system is rotten and many are casting about for an alternative to the failed current offerings

          • The lost sheep 11.1.2.1.1

            “an opinion re Occupy as i suggest that the motivations may be of the same origin…”

            I would think that is highly likely to be true Pat. The leadership ‘entry-ism’ move looks to be a very ‘Occupy’ kind of coordinated tactic.
            But as was the case with Occupy, I think you will find that not a large % of the general public share their worldview.

            • Pat 11.1.2.1.1.1

              unlike those other groupings seeking an end to the corruption that support Syriza and Podemos?…time will tell.

  12. Sanctuary 12

    A couple of additional observations: Labour is a movement, not just a party. There has ans 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. The other side has all the money and can buy it’s campaigns. The left needs believers, who can trade their time and manpower to offset the right’s money.

    Secondly, Rob himself will tell you that politics is more about emotion than common sense. The left has been beaten up a lot since the fall of the USSR. It needs to validated and for its political wings to come up with adaptions for the 21st century for it’s morale. Corbynism offers a validation and he offers hope that someone in charge is still a socialist. And political parties can’t operate without emotion, belief, hope and idealism.

    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.

    • adam 12.1

      I like the Corbynism. from Oxford debate on socialism.

      Paraphrased

      “In no way am I defending that crazy experiment, a Stalinist state”

  13. Ad 13

    So why did Blair and Clark win 3 successive elections, and deliver balanced books and massive prosperity for so many?

    Focus on how winning works.

    I’m over people saying “polls indicate a public preference for x”. It was supposed to be so close, and so poll driven, in UK this year and NZ last year. Epic fail.

    Why did Clark And Blair win and hold, successively.

    • adam 13.1

      But look where we are now, Ad.

      Stop living in the past.

      But if you want to, – Pike river – Yes, I blame that on labour, and it’s wreaking of the labour department.

      Plus, the foundations of economic brutality of the current government – were embedded under the Clark government.

      • red-blooded 13.1.1

        The (pathetic) Health and Safety in Employment Act was passed in 1992, by the Bolger government.

        Besides, you have a circular argument; even if the Clark government DID “embed” what you describe as “the foundations of economic brutality”, those foundations obviously must have already existed (that’s what “embed” means). Who INSTITUTED them? It wasn’t Clark. While some (not all) of these “foundations of economic brutality” might be traced back to the ’80’s Labour government, the worst extremes – the gutting of unions through the awful Employment Contracts Act, the savage cuts to support to beneficiaries through Ruthansia, the cuts to taxes on the wealthy and increases to things like funding of “independent” schools, the abolition of requirements for teachers to be trained and qualified…etc were also implemented under Bolger/Shipley. Clark’s government mightn’t have gone as far as some of us wanted, but it did curb the worst of the ECA, increase the tax take from the wealthy, bring in Working for Families, make student loans tax-free, bring in the right to paid parental leave… It certainly had us on a better path than Key and his mates; who have moved to further attack unions and workers’ rights through the 90 Days Act, enabled employers to walk away from collective bargaining and to ban union reps from worksites, cut taxes on the rich, brought in Charter Schools – diverting public money to private institutions yet again and yet again doing away with the requirement for teachers in such organisations to be trained and qualified, privatised the running of prisons, sold state assets, started the process of selling state houses…

        Choosing between Bolger, Shipley, Key and Clark, I know who I’d choose (again) and why.

        • adam 13.1.1.1

          I call bullshit.

          The Clark government was just another liberal government.

          My argument was that the attacks on social democrat’s is just bullshit.

          We have not had a social democratic government in a very long time.

          And the reality is Labour, via you own examples, is not a social democratic party – no matter how hard the old alliance or others have tried to drag it there.

          Choice, we have had no bloody choice.

    • Colonial Viper 13.2

      So why did Blair and Clark win 3 successive elections, and deliver balanced books and massive prosperity for so many?

      Clark did not deliver “balanced books.”

      Clark and Cullen balanced the Government’s books by allowing the private sector to run up massive debt levels. Net result: NZ’s foreign debt position continued to deteriorate but not via the Government’s balance sheet.

      • Lanthanide 13.2.1

        And National have run up government debt and private debt.

        So pick your poison. Clearly Labour is better.

        • Colonial Viper 13.2.1.1

          Oh, no doubt. I was just disputing the contention that Labour had balanced the country’s books.

          As long as we rely on the creation of debt for our money supply, we’re always going to need more debt if we want a supply of money

          (This is in the context of a country which is chronically in current account deficit i.e. always losing net money overseas).

        • The Chairman 13.2.1.2

          “So pick your poison. Clearly Labour is better.”

          The best of two evils, Lanthanide.

          • Lanthanide 13.2.1.2.1

            If anyone truly finds a political party that represents them 100%, then I’d be quite worried about them.

            • The Chairman 13.2.1.2.1.1

              Ditto.

              However, lets not pretend Labour can’t do a lot better.

              Going by the polls, they are failing to resonate with a large number.

    • swordfish 13.3

      You’re “over” the polls, I’m over the mythology that Blair made UK Labour electable in 97.

      Labour enjoyed a commanding poll lead over the Tories throughout John Smith’s (92-94) leadership, so Blair did not suddenly turn the Party’s fortunes around. As one British political scientist has put it: “There were many reasons for Labour’s landslide victory in 1997. The greatest of these was arguably the extraordinary extent of the problems experienced by the Conservatives.” Black Wednesday, a series of major scandals, endemic Tory disunity over the EU, … as well as a widespread feeling that, after almost 2 decades of Tory rule, it was simply “Time for a Change’.

      Blair/Brown went on to lose millions of core Labour voters over the next 3 elections (many into non-voting and by no means only in seats that were party strongholds), by 2005 Labour were down to 35%, the lowest vote share of any majority government in British history, by 2010 a still very ‘centrist’ Labour Party won a grand total of 29%.

      During his last couple of years as PM, Blair enjoyed some of the highest Disapproval ratings in British political history.

      On the UK 2015 pre-Election polls, let’s leave aside the fact that the final Survation and Ipsos-Mori polls were, in fact, very close to the Election result as far as the Tories were concerned (and that these are among the pollsters I’ve relied on for my point about the popularity of many of Corbyn’s key policies)

      Let’s instead look at how far out the various UK pollsters actually were in the run-up to the 2015 vote:

      Labour: Polls ranged from 3 points too low to 3 points too high (average about 1.5 points too high)
      Tory: Ranged from 6 points too low to absolutely spot on (average about 3 points too low)
      Lib Dem: 1 point too low to 2 points too high (average 1 point too high)
      Ukip: 2 points too low to 3 points too high (average 1 point too low)

      So, apart from the Tory vote, the pollsters were pretty much bang-on (and, as I say, 2 pollsters were pretty much on the money even with the Cons %).

      Given that on, for example, one of Corbyn’s key policies, the re-nationalisation of Railways, the public splits 60/20 and 66/23 in favour of returning to public ownership (the figures are for the 2 most recent polls carried out on the issue), I really don’t think the 3 percentage point understating of Tory support in the pre-Election polls makes too much diff at all. Do you ?

    • les 13.4

      because the alternative was not compelling…same climate as today.

  14. johnm 14

    Is Jeremy Corbyn the most dangerous man in Britain!? But dangerous for whom?

    • johnm 14.1

      With Corbyn at Helm, Labour Party Would Apologize for Iraq War

      ” Polls continue to show Corbyn, whose surging candidacy is seen as a backlash against what Guardian columnist Seumas Milne described as “a disastrous austerity regime,” in the lead.

      “Corbyn represents a break with City-backed austerity and a powerful commitment to public investment,” Milne wrote on Thursday. “Add to that his opposition to Trident renewal and endless British warmaking, and the challenge he represents to the establishment consensus is obvious enough.”

      Earlier this month, Corbyn suggested former Prime Minister Tony Blair should stand trial on charges of war crimes if the evidence suggests he broke international law by sending British troops into Iraq. “It was an illegal war,” Corbyn said. “I am confident about that.” ”

      “Panic on the streets of London
      Panic on the streets of Birmingham”—The Smiths

      There’s nothing I don’t love about watching Britain’s neoliberals shit themselves at the prospect of an honest, decent man leading the Labour Party.

      If Jeremy Corbyn wins the contest it will be against great odds. Virtuallly all the party big wigs have come out against him and ranked voting handed down from Ed Milliband though inadvertent further stacks the deck against as his strength is mainly with first preference votes not other preference votes. It has always been that way with ranked voting but some “leftists” don’t have street or common sense to see it. Just a plain damn fact! It’s the reason the left so often loses.

      Bliar and his toadies destroyed what might have remained of the British Labour Party. Same thing happened in New Zealand in the 1980s and in Australia beginning again in the 1980s. They were all pandering to the Murdoch media and were totally lacking the moral courage of their forebears.

      I recommend the discussion on RT’s Crosstalk on Mr. Corbyn and the Labour Party. As an interested observer, it seems to me, the people of the UK are in as deep a funk as are the American people. Maybe Thatcherism holds an even tighter grip on power.

      http://www.rt.com/shows/crosstalk/312997-political-joke-fighting-corbyn/

      http://commons.commondreams.org/t/with-corbyn-at-helm-labour-party-would-apologize-for-iraq-war/12349/4

  15. Smilin 15

    The trouble with defining political leaning now is different from the 30’s there was no carrot and stick then no social welfare it had to be established
    Now the centre rules because extremes for the masses are out of reach in what they can effect .Union direct action diffused everyone can get a benefit and become slaves because of it to the data machine which the ruling parties can manipulate to suit their policies and split into billions of pieces and scatter your nano particles to anywhere they choose so that the process of holding anyone to account takes so long you’re probably on the way out
    Labour should be organising a national strike and bank robberies to bring down this sham that runs this country but it can’t life has become sophisticated a euphemism for useless and controlled by the back room of law and order to the tune of 30% of GDP I suspect
    So in order to win the next election Labour needs to bomb National but they I fear the Nats are the Too Big To Fail as they will shore up the middle ground with BS like the H&S Bill creating brainless anarchy
    in OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM
    The Nats should be in prison for TREASON right now the lot of them

  16. Reddelusion 16

    Listening to little on the nation yesterday hard to determine if national has gone left or labour right. They seem to agree on everything barring labour careerist are pissrd they are not in power

    H & S. Little only real issue that every work place should have a safty officer, if workers don’t want it, no big deal ( his words) hardly any real conviction there

    TPP we won’t support it if no benefit for Nz I suggest this is also national stance Bottom lines are not really bottoms lines, simply deal must deliver net value

    90 days, all good we will just tweak it to make it fairer

    sustainable economy, all for it as long as we can drill and use coal

    thus labour really national lite, little waffles, Dour and very uninspiring Also shows his frustration to easily when things not going his way. suggest he is not your man to lead you to the promised land He not an inspiring leader, nor is his party offering anything to justify a change in government

    • red-blooded 16.1

      Try not to tell porkies, Reddelusion. (Or maybe I should say, “Try to listen and understand”.)

      Little was absolutely clear on the 90 Days Act – he said it would be gone. What he also said was that there had always been and would continue to be provision for trial periods of employment; the difference being that without the 90 Days Act fair employment practices would still need to apply (ie, you wouldn’t be able to fire someone without good reason and without a fair process, open to challenge and review).

      On the drilling issue, he said that we should look to be in transition away from oil, and should promote stronger policies around emissions etc. He did say that in the short term we would still need oil (and I don’t think anyone’s arguing that we can turn off the taps and go cold turkey). Personally, I don’t want more drilling around NZ, but I see his argument.

      I agree that he gave himself wriggle-room around the TPPA (hard not to, when the detail is unknown, so the benefits vs costs are unclear). The “bottom lines” are good ones, but the “overall benefit” argument could still be used to justify it. Again, it’s fine to talk principles now, before it’s signed; afterwards, it becomes much more difficult to opt out without significant damage to our trading relationships Even if there is an opt-out clause, it won’t be without penalties. He’s caught in a difficult situation here, and it’s not one of his making.

  17. Those who walk in he centre get knocked down.Nye Bevan.1945.

  18. Michael 18

    I don’t think having true, centre-left policies scares voters. Voters like centre-left, solidly social democratic policies.

    The issue is with rhetoric, imo. When you begin quoting Marx, using strong anti-business rhetoric, and generally left-wing rhetoric, voters don’t like that. Most people are not very ideological. Most people like left-wing policies: strong public services, fairer distribution of wealth, stopping privatisation, etc. But most people don’t identify as a “socialist” or “Marxist” etc. They are pragmatic and concerned with things in their everyday life, not political philosophy.

    I think that is why Helen Clark did well. The Fifth Labour government had some strongly social democratic policies: renationalisation of ACC and Kiwirail, the creation of Kiwibank, raising the top tax rate, WFF, income-related rent, etc. Voters liked those policies a lot. But Clark also was a strong pragmatist and spoke about the issues – whilst getting things *done* – she didn’t go on and on about socialism, the evils of business, etc.

    It’s also why Key is so popular. He uses very moderate, pragmatic rhetoric. He’s no Don Brash who was a strong ideologue rhetorically. He just seems like he’s doing “what works”. etc. But we know that despite his rhetoric, he’s implemented right-wing policies like charter schools, private prisons, privatisation, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc. Yet voters still return him to office.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Membership: Australia and New Zealand Electronic Invoicing Board
    The Governments of Australia and New Zealand have announced the membership of the Australia and New Zealand Electronic Invoicing Board (ANZEIB) today. This is an important step towards implementing e-Invoicing across both countries to help businesses save time and money ...
    1 week ago
  • An end to unnecessary secondary tax
    Workers who are paying too much tax because of incorrect secondary tax codes are in line for relief with the passage of legislation through Parliament late last night. The Taxation (Annual Rates for 2018-19, Modernising Tax Administration, and Remedial Matters) ...
    1 week ago
  • Chatham Islands pāua plan approved
    Efforts to reverse the decline in the Chatham Islands pāua fishery are the focus of a new plan jointly agreed between government, the local community and industry. Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash says the plan was developed by the PauaMAC4 Industry ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bill introduced for synthetics crackdown
    The Police will get stronger powers of search and seizure to crackdown on synthetic drugs under new legislation, which makes the two main synthetics (5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA) Class A drugs. The Government has today introduced the Misuse of Drugs Amendment ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Blasphemous libel law repealed
    The archaic blasphemous libel offence will be repealed following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill today, says Justice Minister Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Coalition Government lassos livestock rustling
    New rules to crack down on livestock rustling will come into force following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill says Justice Minister Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Medieval law axed
    The ‘year and a day rule’ rule will be repealed following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill, says Justice Minister Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Further steps to combat tax evasion
    Further steps to combat tax evasion Revenue Minister Stuart Nash has announced New Zealand is expanding its global ability to combat tax evasion by joining forces with authorities in 30 countries and jurisdictions. Cabinet has agreed to add another ...
    2 weeks ago