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The Far Right’s Winning Narrative Superiority

Written By: - Date published: 10:43 am, September 7th, 2019 - 132 comments
Categories: australian politics, boris johnson, Donald Trump, Politics, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

Why do they win?

Why is it that the far-right populists have done so much better than the left out of the rolling GFC and government spending austerity-induced rolling crises across European and U.S. society? The French Rassamblement National (formerly Front National), the Dutch FreedomParty, the German AfD, the Italian Lega, and other in Hungary, Poland, Austria etc, have all mobilized voters across the political spectrum and have all made actual government very unstable. They even took a big chunk of the European Parliament this year.

There are few left equivalents, with exceptions.

After the rise of Trump, Cameron and now Johnson, milder conservative parties have successfully adopted hard-right nationalist narrative techniques.


Is it really a great backlash against inchoate social grievances?

Did the near-death of European Christianity and death of Communism form a resonant void of value that liberative movements since the 1970s have not replaced, a need so great that only nostalgia for unconfused power and ethnic purity can successfully respond? (In Italy they even revolt against the Pope for being too liberal).

Surely the left was better positioned to rise in response to sustained economic and social crisis and loss of centres of social value and coherence?

Why, instead, has the strong left shrunken to near-nothing most everywhere?

Time and again, the rise of far-right populism is a generation-altering lesson in which messages are shaped to make them more appealing to broader and broader sectors of the population. Trump’s team learnt their winning lessons from Europe’s own hard-right successes, and now lead a Republic Party more extreme than UKIP.

The implications for the last remaining movements of the global left are of paramount importance: instead of co-opting or imitating far-right populists under the false assumption that their success simply mirrors the will of the people, we need to get underneath the car to figure how parties themselves shape popular demand.

(I’m certainly not making any points about their success forming governments or implementing policies. Generally so far they fail.)

Far-right populism is not simply demand-driven. Multiple insecurities – including cultural as well as economic and personal – indeed drive voter preferences. While these insecurities offer opportunities for political parties, however, they are not enough in themselves to warrant a party’s success. This is where supply comes in: how parties seize these opportunities is crucial in understanding the electoral appeal of far-right populists across a broad range of social and attitudinal groups.

It’s the messaging that is key to understanding the breadth of their electoral appeal. Certain far-right populist parties in western and northern Europe have proved able to tailor their message to extend support beyond their secure voting base of ‘angry white men’ in precarious employment with low levels of education, through a normalisation strategy. This distances them from fascism and association with right-wing extremism, so that they appear legitimate to a spectrum of voters, including those who would be uncomfortable opting for an explicitly racist party.

While diverse, these parties share an important commonality: they all justify a variety of policy positions on socio-economic issues on the basis of an ideology which draws on purported faultlines between the ingroup and outgroups. They advance a vision of democracy which prioritises the in-group, in terms of policy and provision of common goods. And at the core of this argument is civic nationalism.

What makes far-right populist parties successful is precisely their nationalist message – more specifically, the ways in which they justify the exclusion of the outgroup. This is no longer in terms of ascriptive or genetic criteria (as deployed by fascist or conventional extreme-right parties) but rather is done through civic distinctions – seeking to exclude those who supposedly do not espouse ‘our’ values of democracy and tolerance. Through this civic-nationalist narrative, far-right populists normalise exclusion: they offer solutions to voters’ multiple insecurities by using a rhetoric that excludes a variety of population groups on the basis that they are a purported threat to society’s value consensus, and hence to stability and prosperity.

The adoption of this form of civic nationalism, which excludes on the basis of ideological rather than biological criteria of national belonging, is the far-right populist party’s new ‘winning formula’, permitting it to appeal to a wide spread of social groups with different backgrounds and preferences. From Marine Le Pen’s embrace of French republicanism and laïcité to the AfD’s anti-Muslim campaign, what these parties have in common in the way in which they present culture as about adherence to
purportedly national values.

This makes them harder to beat, and helps explain the surging support for some of these parties across multiple countries in the last three years in particular. (This does feel pretty weird from New Zealand, which uses hyper-tolerance to mask some of the deepest social problems in the developed world. Our own repressed national narrative of virtuous tolerance makes for a somewhat of a lonely archipelago. We launched the Team New Zealand boat yesterday and we’re two weeks from a Rugby World Cup, without a flicker yet in the national pulse).

The European and U.S. far-right populists are certainly unstable, and
as in the U.K., their extremism can be successfully co-opted by the
larger conservative parties. Check this out from 2015: David Cameron
whipping up a particular kind of divisive nationalism, not caring if
it splits the country. And so it goes.

They learn, and they win or get close, again and again.

Not all far-right populists have adopted the civic narrative. They differ significantly in agenda and policy – especially economic and welfare policies – as well as on their stance towards democracy and the extent to which they employ violent practices. More extreme instances, drawing on ethnic-nationalist discourses, still compete in a number of European countries, mainly in Eastern Europe. Hence far-right populist parties are significantly ideologically divided.

But this isn’t about why they are so shit. This is only about why they rise and win.

While not a new phenomenon, (some) far-right populist parties present a new social challenge through their adoption of civic-nationalist narratives. As opposed to fascist parties or extreme-right variants, which tend to be ostracised and isolated, they are able to permeate the mainstream and in many ways drive party competition. Scapegoat the out group, justify its exclusion on (seemingly) non-racist grounds, legitimize positions, appear to mirror popular demand. Wrinse and repeat.

The problem is not only these parties’ electoral gains – which vary across country and time – but also the increasing consensus that to defeat them we must imitate them. This is deeply problematic. Those opposed to far-right populists need to understand this new winning formula and recognise their own ability, as well as responsibility, to frame an effective alternative political narrative, rather than sanitise the populists.

The search for a winning formula for the remaining left parties found one glimpse this year when the Social Democrats won in Denmark this year. “Dear young people, you made this election the first climate election in Denmark’s history,” 41-year-old leader Mette Frederiksen said in her victory speech in front of a cheering crowd on Wednesday night. It was also however the acceptance of a very anti-immigration stance by the left and by a great majority of voters.

They got the youth with climate, but they won by stealing votes from the Danish People’s Party.

The right now wins by redefining the nations’ exclusionary borders within the civic imagination.

That’s the formula.

132 comments on “The Far Right’s Winning Narrative Superiority ”

  1. UncookedSelachimorpha 1

    Very interesting post, and an excellent question.

    Resources probably play a significant role, especially living in an age when public opinion is quite easily bought, via influence of social and other media. The right (you can arguably include the current establishment democrats, and even NZ Labour to a large extent) usually operates in the interest of entrenched wealth and so tend to have a lot more money available to achieve their political goals and desired societal opinions.

    Also the right have been brilliant at making simple (even if wrong) arguments that appeal to instinct rather than intellect. For example "low taxes put more money in your pocket" sounds instinctively right. Never mind that the actual result might be to put far less resources in the pockets of most – that is true but takes a lot more explaining!

    • Anne 1.1

      The right (you can arguably include the current establishment democrats, and even NZ Labour to a large extent) usually operates in the interest of entrenched wealth and so tend to have a lot more money available to achieve their political goals and desired social opinion.

      Oh come on. Labour might not be far enough left for some people, but to claim they operate in the interest of entrenched wealth and so have a lot more money available is plain nonsense. Labour has always struggled to have enough money to run successful election campaigns – one of the major causes of the demise of left-of-centre, social democratic parties around the world.

      They can't compete with billionaires' funding right-wing campaigns of lies, false premises and praying on the fears/prejudices of a fickle and gullible public.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.1.1

        Labour do attract donations from business and the super-wealthy (e.g. Owen Glenn), although much less than National, and I suspect Labour get more from those sources than 'lefter' parties such as the greens. I know a few wealthy CEO / executive types, most adore National, dislike Labour and all absolutely detest the Greens.

        While Labour continue to do little to seriously address poverty and inequality – then yes, they are acting in the interests of entrenched wealth, in my opinion. The RNZ article today on the coalition's performance in relation to poverty and welfare describes how little they are actually doing.


        I completely agree Labour is a significant improvement on the previous National crowd – but that is a very, very low bar.

        • Anne

          So, what is holding up this Labour-led government? Two words – NZ First.

          Now we had better shut up because we're veering off track. 🙂

        • Ed1

          It may be a low bar, but the current government has significant restraints on moving quickly across a wide range of areas that were neglected during the Key/English governments. In particular the self-imposed (but arguably critical to election) promises regarding tax rates and borrowing restrict action in this term, but there have also been surprises such as the mouldy hospitals and now the $1 billion for Southern Response. Add in that National's asset sales represented a transfer of wealth from government to wealthy individuals, many of them overseas – that reduced government capacity to deal with the unexpected, and the worsening international position.

          So it is easy to say that the relatively large transfers of spending to areas of high need are not good enough, but if you want more spending on say solo mums benefits, then where would you reduce government spending to enable that to happen?

          • Ad

            Labour will still lead a second term here no problem.

          • UncookedSelachimorpha

            “but if you want more spending on say solo mums benefits, then where would you reduce government spending to enable that to happen?”

            Actually I would increase government spending overall, not reduce somewhere else. Only need to cut if you have imposed some arbitrary rules on yourself that are based solely on myths and ideology (fiscal responsibility rules ring a bell?).

            It is true some of the resources of society may need redirecting – and to the extent the government does not have access to those resources, targeted revenue raising may be necessary. Bank profits in NZ are about $14m per day and the richest 10% of kiwis own 50% of the wealth. So there is plenty of scope to raise revenue while having only modest impacts on only those who can readily afford it.

            • Pat

              Thats true enough (with caveats),,,,but there is no sign any (major) party is willing to offer that as an option

    • Adrian Thornton 1.2

      "The right (you can arguably include the current establishment democrats, and even NZ Labour to a large extent) usually operates in the interest of entrenched wealth and so tend to have a lot more money available to achieve their political goals and desired societal opinions.""

      You are exactly right , except there is no argument about it.

      Just look at Milt/Andre etc begging on bended knees for Labour in NZ to really get in and lick the arse of 'middle NZ' to stay in power, it is people like them who are the problem on the Left, the youth, the poor and working classes don’t trust NZ Labour for good reason.
      It is very simple, the institutions of the western Left were taken over during the late seventies and early eighties by a hostile foreign entity in the form of the Liberal ideology, that political ideology that is nothing much more than a political ponzi scheme has run it's course. It gave a lot working class and middle class of people wealth that they would never have achieved otherwise, but that is over..now we are only left with destructive fallout out from such a short sighted and selfish ideology…that is why the Right resonate..except of course were there is a viable real Left alternitive, ie Corbyn/Sanders who have both proved to be able to get plenty of cut through to the under 50's, but of course all the third way Lefties can't or won't admit this obvious fact.

      • Andre 1.2.1

        So if there's this vast unmet need for a political party with policies lefter than Labour, and that Labour isn't adopting those policies is depressing Labour's vote share, how about starting up a party to meet that need?

        It's not hard in New Zealand, all you need to get is 5% of the vote (that's going to be just a bit over 130,000 votes), or win an electorate. If those lefty ideas are so popular, then winning a lefty stronghold with an uninspiring incumbent shouldn't be that hard. Say Dunedin South or Wigram.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          Left-wing ideas tend to be popular among voters, but supposedly left-wing parties not so much.

          The Sanders / Corbyn voting phenomenon (unsuccessful to date, but more popular than expected) may demonstrate there is a demand for left-wing policies – but no 'mainstream' parties have had them on offer previously.

          • Andre

            Five years ago Labour went into the election with the leftest leader and leftest policy platform they've had for a long time. How'd that work out for them?

            Two years ago Labour had quite a lefty leader that looked committed to old-skool lefty ideas and policies. Then they changed to a committed liberal incrementalist. Do you recall why they made that change and what happened to their popularity before and after?

          • KJT

            Exactly why we should be able to vote for policies.

            Being able to change the label on the Dictatorship is not, Democracy.

        • Adrian Thornton

          There is a vast unmet need for a Left Labour alternative in NZ.

          I, like many were hoping to see Helen Kelly wrest back control of the party, as Corbyn has done in the UK, and hopefully we will see Sanders do in the US, I have no idea how or who will lead that inevitable shift Left for Labour, but it will come.

          BTW..It is not a matter that Labour isn't " adopting those policies is depressing Labour's vote share " they can't adopt the polices of a real progressive traditional Left party because they are not one themselves..they are Liberal Third Way, that is the overarching ideology that directs and governs every policy that they have and will create, end of story.

          • The Al1en

            Unmet by who? Given labour and the nats poll in and around the 40% mark and the greens and nz1st pick up 10 to 15 percent, where's the constituency for your "Left Labour alternative" coming from?

          • Andre

            So if Labour aren't a "left" party and won't ever be because, well, they aren't left, then why try to "Turn Labour Left"? Trying to get them to be something they aren't just isn't going to work, phonyism is hardly ever a successful strategy.

            When it comes to the idea of a vast unmet need on the left side of politics, the best way to prove your point is to, well, prove your point. Stop whining and start doing. By your reckons, there's hordes out there just waiting for someone to raise the banner they will rally to. Go and be the banner-raiser.

            • Adrian Thornton

              Man that's a pretty infantile response…don't like it, go and start your own party, really?

              You are right about one thing though, " phonyism is hardly ever a successful strategy." yep, just look at your third way liberal Labour now, struggling against a National Party with the most unpopular leader in probably their entire history.. which is actually unsurprising as who the fuck knows what they stand for?…a phony Labour that becomes more and more irrelevant and discredited with NZ citizens with each passing week…a party that offers little vision no answers and inspires no one… "relentlessly positive" what a joke.


  2. Stuart Munro. 2

    Hmm – civic nationalism, if it has escaped your attention, is the job of a democratic government. You are NOT appointed to advocate on behalf of other polities or populations, but to govern responsibly on behalf of your extant citizens.

    When kiwis see Wellington bus drivers lose their jobs and replaced by Filipinos by a fith council, who somehow corruptly obtain work permits for them in spite of the manifest fact that kiwis were and are available to drive those vehicles if you pay them, without a comeuppance, well, you lose votes by the truckload. And by golly you deserve to.

    This is what drives popular support for the likes of Brexit – irresponsible, feckless government, without a plan and without apology.

    There's nothing right wing about that – you've been stuffing a policy down public throats without the ghost of a mandate or a thought to the consequences.

    • Ad 2.1

      That paragraph on Wellington's Filipino bus drivers is one of the most textbook pieces of civic othering I've seen in recent years.

      But top work for the lack of irony or a mote of self-analysis.

      • Stuart Munro. 2.1.1

        And your reply is classic irresponsible governance – othering the kiwi drivers who you've thrown out of work, for no fault.

        It doesn't matter whether the replacements are Filipino or Pakistani or Tajikh – it matters that the people you are paid and sworn to represent have lost their jobs to a corrupt employer's preference for cheap foreign labour.

        On your watch, and you not only don't give a fuck, but actually have the colossal arrogance to blame anyone who criticizes you for your manifest irresponsibility.

        Who do you suppose those kiwi bus drivers and their families are going to vote for? Do you expect them to thank you for screwing them over so that you can pretend to some form of internationalism? Reckon they won't.

        • Ad

          OMG you have taken a post which went to some pains to show that New Zealand was an outlier from the entire European and U.S. political theatre and so far the argument about the far right doesn't apply to, and turn it into something about Wellington bus drivers.

          That is impressively dumb.

          If you want to try applying the argument I went through above about Europe and the U.S. to New Zealand, you would have to start by answering some of the rhetorical questions that you raised yourself.

          Go right ahead.

          • Stuart Munro.

            Actually the boot is on your foot – to show us how we differ from the errors the Left is making abroad. Polish plumbers/Wellington bus drivers/US steelworkers the issues are the same, and the governments ostensibly of the Left making the same mistakes, then blaming the victims that complain.

            • Dukeofurl

              Wellington Busdrivers – US steel workers?

              I think you dont know the difference between service workers and those that make basic commodities.

              What is important is the ' work visa' bus drivers are just following an old tradition of imported indentured labour for the Company.

              The Pacific has a long history of that ( without looking to Poland or US for a dubious comparison)

              • Stuart Munro.

                The Pacific traditions are neither here nor there, and we're probably going to need to prepare to accommodate a large cohort of Pacific climate refugees in any case.

                The issue is the fraudulent abuse of Immigration rules, which require that no suitable local workers are available before permits are granted, and the impact of this on the inoffensive local drivers who lost out.

                • Ad

                  Our system of immigration is another excellent reason there's so little political discord in New Zealand politics.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    Not really – the reason is collusion in the systematic defrauding of it by the major parties. The Gnats are enamoured of cheap foreign labour for dairy and horticulture (and fishing), sufficiently so to arrange that large scale systematic breaches were never addressed while they were in power.

                    Labour is silent on the subject, trying to get industry onside by causing as little disruption to existing practices as possible (even when they're illegal), and strong arming NZF to toe that line.

                    The only losers are NZ workers, and anyone foolish enough to imagine that the law as written will be followed in any way shape or form.

                    NZ has four times the per capita immigration rate that causes massive problems in the UK and US, and the only reason that hasn't caused equivalent problems is that, contrary to Taika Waititi's assertion, NZ is not "as racist as fuck", but remarkably tolerant by international standards. That tolerance is being exploited by our feckless corporates and their political toadies.

                    • Ad

                      New Zealand social tolerance is important to immigration, but it's not some innate local character. It certainly doesn't bother us enough to show up in any political policy or populist uprising.

                      Last time we had a politician do a reasonable tilt at ethnicity in general was Don Brash's Orewa speech in October 2004 15 years ago.

            • Ad

              We're doing fine, our government is doing fine, and there is no complaints anywhere: the government is popular, and delivering, and prepared for the next recession.

              There you go.

              The Clark government set most of the recovery from structural adjustment up, and New Zealand recovered from the GFC with a boom that lasted a decade and is only now going back to a simmer.

              So our politics reflect all of that.

              If you can show me some grand rise in the hard right here as you are claiming, you need to provide that evidence.

              • Stuart Munro.

                Hey – you posed the question.

                No, we are not doing fine. The structural economic injustices that are dehousing New Zealanders haven't stopped. I'm not even sure they've slowed down.

                You asked why the hard Right prosper – it's because the traditional representatives of the Left are not offering economic and social justice. Not all those affected will swing Right – plenty simply won't vote. Or kill themselves.

                You might consider how many of the breaches of Immigration rules discovered on the change in government resulted in serious punishment to the wrongdoing employers. A few fines were doled out, but many got off with a temporary suspension of access to foreign workers – hard to imagine a wetter bus ticket to slap them with.

                • Ad

                  We're doing fine enough to have our only political shift across any one year being 3-4% between the two centrist parties, and .5-2% among the minor parties.

                  No one is bothered by immigration to make any note in political support, and absolutely nothing near the kind of extremism that has arisen in Europe, UK, and the U.S.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    There's your problem right there – you need to follow the dissatisfaction at the human rather than the numerical level.

                    The immigration rate is wildly excessive and brings with it a number of related problems – housing shortages and unaffordability. Declining working conditions like split shifts for bus drivers and stagnant median wage growth. Falling productivity and underinvestment in technology because cheap labour is readily available.

                    The political class aren't losing jobs to migrants, only everyone else.

                    And Australia is no longer serving as a safety valve for those appalled by the lack of local opportunity.

                    • marty mars

                      (sorry I don't normally reply to you but I feel this point must be made)

                      No. Immigration and the effects of it are the RESULT of the policies enacted not the CAUSE of the issues related to the policies.

                      The immigration rate is not excessive. The policies that allow the issues to happen (low pay rates, exploitation etc) are the problem and that is where it should be addressed imo not attacking those being exploited – citizen or otherwise.

                    • Incognito []

                      Sorry to intrude here, but instead of thinking of it as replying to a commenter one could see it as engaging with a comment rather, which might be a subtle but non-trivial difference nonetheless. I’d view this comment as a nice example of engagement, which is why I took the liberty of commenting.

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      I think Marty, that immigration is only supportable if it is conducted responsibly, for example, in this instance without supplanting locals with low-wage unskilled migrants. Since that responsibility is not being met, immigration is not tenable.

                      It's a bit like if your neighbor collects old tyres for recycling – none of your business, unless he starts burning them and causing harm and nuisance to his neighbours. As long as he doesn't burn them, who cares, but if he has before you might oppose his collection of more.

                • New view

                  Stuart you say the left doesn’t offer enough social justice. I believe they offer too much. So much that it’s not believable. The conservatives offer little social justice but underline the economic sense in what they preach. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying they’re right, although I’m from the right. I’m saying they come across as more economically believable. Labour is desperately trying to do its best to be socially responsible but to me it promised too much and so therefore is unbelievable. National promise fuck all but make sure they come across as economically responsible. It seems a formula that works a lot of the time.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    National just lie there arses off – they don't have the economic sense to come in out of the rain, much less run a country. The coalition have been in a while now and barely scratched the surface of Gnat screw ups. They are useless – contemptible charlatans who couldn't get a job in economics anywhere else, which is why their former poster boy little Billy English is working for Nathans in Oz – no transferable skills whatsoever.

                    • New view

                      It could be said that Labour lied it’s arse off in the most cynical way by promising to build thousands of houses on a yearly basis. Half of NZ was gullible enough to believe them and half of NZ wasn’t. The list of broken promises is long Stuart. Coming back two years later and saying “but we tried “ doesn’t cut it with me. Any body can promise anything to get elected. It’s called a lie. You can bang on about National until there’s no cows but they’re not the Government. The only reason you and others keep on about National is to deflect the bullshit your coalition has served up for two years.

                    • It could be said that Labour lied it’s arse off in the most cynical way by promising to build thousands of houses on a yearly basis.

                      Given that this government (ie not just Labour) is building thousands of houses on a yearly basis (state houses), that could indeed be said but would itself be a lie. The failure of Kiwibuild reflects incompetence rather than lies, and incompetence is a feature of all governments at some point – eg, National's achievement in creating this horrendous housing crisis certainly wasn't a reflection of competence.

                    • New view []

                      No it was incompetence. But not a lie

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      @ New View

                      The list of broken promises is mostly invented by far right trolls scraping to find traction against a government that is manifestly better in every respect to National.

                      Incompetence? No. Ideological failure – trusting in the market mechanisms that have ruined New Zealand for most of us to correct those problems is merely repeating tragedy as farce.

            • Ad

              Mashing Polish plumbers and Wellington bus drivers together as evidence that there is a growth in the hard right that means that the hard right is rising and the left is declining both here and in Europe was not something I argued.

              It seems to be something you want to claim.

              But no hard right party has emerged here. Act doesn't even get close. No evidence of any political impact about Wellington bus drivers whatsoever.

              Anywhere in the country in fact.

              How the left differs from European and US versions would need a completely different post.

              • roblogic

                Maybe because NZ started from a place of one of the most equitable societies in the world a few decades ago, but that social capital is quickly being destroyed.

                Per the comments on this article at interest.co.nz,

                "Labour said they would get numbers down to 20,000. I voted labour. I was lied to."

                "If reasonable politicians won't listen to the people, they will vote for unreasonable politicians."

                "And then, one day as if for no reason at all Trump became president."

                "Rents across the country are still rising much faster than both wages and CPI."

                "Agree. I voted National because JK said he would do something about the housing crisis, didn't realise he meant he would pour petrol on it."

              • Pat

                unemployment 3.7%

              • Stuart Munro.

                You don't see the emergence of a hard Right here? Perhaps you explain the Gnat adoption of NRA attack lines, or the suborning of the MSM until morons like Garner or Hoskings monopolize vast expanses of it differently.

                They are the local Fox news, the only conditions required for as rough a beast as Yeats predicted to slouch into power here, just as they have in the US & UK.

          • Adrian Thornton

            @Ad, That you can't see the relationship between workers losing their jobs to foreign workers especially brought in to the country to under mine local workers wages and conditions speaks volumes to your position on this subject…it is exactly the type of political and ideological blindness that lead directly to Trump..not the Russians.

      • Dukeofurl 2.1.2

        Dont forget the Bus tender was awarded by the previous Regional council to this one under Nationals 'lowest price ' not best value tender rules.

      • Psycho Milt 2.1.3

        That paragraph on Wellington's Filipino bus drivers is one of the most textbook pieces of civic othering I've seen in recent years.

        And there we have it in a nutshell: the answer to your question of why far-right parties are doing so much better with voters than the left in a lot of places. When people are angry that wages and conditions have been driven so low that the employers have to import third-worlders to do those jobs, the right-winger expresses sympathy with them and purports to share their anger, while the left-winger tells them they're a bad person and should be ashamed of themselves. Which of the two are they more likely to vote for?

        • Ad

          Who is angry?

          No political party in New Zealand is.

          False binary, and no relevance to New Zealand.

          • Psycho Milt

            The binary is from your post – relative popularity of far-right parties vs left ones. Of course people have more voting options than those two, but those two were the subject at hand.

            It's also quite relevant to NZ as it was a NZ example Stuart Munro gave. It may not (yet) be that relevant to us in terms of electoral outcomes, but it's very relevant in the places where right-wing populism is making gains at the expense of the left. If we keep down this path of replacing low-paid workers with migrant labour, expect to see it become relevant here too.

        • greywarshark

          Just looking at PMs binary thinking of voters, it sounds exactly what would be going through many people's minds, despite what theories might posit.

          We need deliberate and definite lines from government, not left to the Immigration Service which is probably hated in every country, and our Department has overseen one that has been running empty on principle and practicability for years. Let's stop these empty marriages for a start, five years of marriage together as a basic say, outside of NZ!

          Immigration offering slightly better conditions than at home, dragging in hopefuls in a similar way to that of our gold rushes in colonial NZ. It's not good, and not fair to NZs pushed out of jobs because the government doesn't want to spend the money on training them. That's the basis of it all. The people with dollars for eyeballs don't care a hoot about young NZs; they want to import them from somewhere using some agency, open the parcel, and have them ready for use when required. No batteries required.

          When NZ citizens want immigrants to stay, when they have proved worthy and been accepted and even treasured, the Immigration authorities may still send them away. We have all heard of cases like that. These people have too many powers, and are too little controlled, and their decisions should be able to be over-ridden by some Ombudsman for immigration who can intervene when there are reasonable grounds such as when a group of good citizens consider they are needed and are good citizens.

          Here is a link giving details of latest problems here in the immigration field. https://www.nzami.org.nz/news.php It would provide background to the real problems that hapless immigrants have; like moths to a flame they will keep coming trying to better themselves. And we just swat them on a random schedule. It's no way to treat people.

  3. Dukeofurl 3

    The Social democrats only made slight gains in Demarks general election, getting an extra seat ( to 48) depsite a small drop in its vote ( 25.9%). Social Democrats increased its seats in the 2015 election too.

    Overall number of seats is 179.

    Compare to the right, Venstre ( plus 9 seats) and Conservative Peoples Party (+6)which doubled its vote. The far right Danish Peoples Party dropped 21 seats

    Previous minority government coalition was Venstre, the Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People's Party.

    The real result was new Majority Coalition consisting of :

    Social Democrats, the Social Liberals, Socialist People's Party, the Red–Green Alliance, the Faroese Social Democratic Party and the Greenlandic Siumut


  4. Pat 4

    thats the 64000 dollar question….I suspect that the reason a strong left has not appeared is its dearth of an alternative economic paradigm….it is after all the basis of everything else.

    The right won when the social democrats accepted neoliberalism and now any state that attempts to buck it will suffer the consequences…damned if you do, damned if you dont.

  5. Bill 5

    I'm confused that this apparently taxes the minds of so many liberals.

    Liberalism is dying a death. After decades of treading water and going backwards before the onslaught of liberal economic ideology, 'no-one' wants a bar of it any more.

    Trump only got elected because people were desperate enough to opt for "anything that's not this again".

    And the social democratic left (UK Labour, Sanders' "democratic socialism" etc) get ghosted and hammered in mainstream or corporate media on a regular basis while liberalism, that has no answers to peoples' disenchantment, constantly builds right wing bogey men hoping that'll be enough to keep people milling around the liberal status quo.

    I wouldn't have thought any of it's rocket science. Just open your eyes wide enough to look and you'll be able to see it for yourself.

    • Ad 5.1

      Plenty of places that's simply not true.

      • adam 5.1.1

        Where Ad, where.

        If you're in the west the media is in the hands of very few, and that media is pushing tight well constructed propaganda. Most of it to discredit anyone who is social democratic or even more radical.

        Just a example off my head, the whole BS about Corbin being anti semitic – proving Gobbles right about bigger the lie. You lived under Key, that man was a master of lying BIG.

        Mind you, seeing as this is the second post where you push an anti-immigrant narrative, begs the question – how did your family get to Aotearoa? Migration by any stretch of the imagination? Just wondering, or was it by magically fairy dust?

        • Ad

          I usually think of "liberalism" the way Bill invokes it as meaning a pretty small state that only regulates at the extremes and enables inequality to grow, with centre-left and centre-right parties regularly changing hands across that (I'll leave the degree of democratic reflexiveness implied in the definition up to you).

          Plenty of countries fit that bill and are doing fine politically.

          In that bunch you can put Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Vietnam, etc.

          Try and play the ball if you can.

          • Bill

            I usually think of "liberalism" the way Bill invokes it as … I've been explicit on a number of occasions that I simply mean the managerial framework applied to capitalism following the demise of social democratic modes of governance across the Anglosphere from around the late '70s.

            Of course, the liberalism that was imposed on 'us' was just the same crap that the Global South had had pushed on them by 'our' social democratic governments' foreign policies that embodied such wonderful little nuggets such as SAPs.

      • Bill 5.1.2

        Well…it's true in the UK and the US and NZ. The same dynamic also applies to Canada and France. But sure. I dare say you can name places it doesn't wash – like Russia for example.

  6. The Right have a clear narrative, as stupid and as mean spirited as it may seem to us.

    The Left also have a narrative, one that could resonate with voters, and does to an amazing degree given the duplicitous and 'selective' of reporting offered by the so called Liberal media.

    More importantly, and most unfortunately The Left is tied to its centrist 'friends' of the broad church, who offer

    a) no distinctly new let alone honest narrative, just some vague niceties

    b) would rather spend their energy destroying/undermining and vilifying their Leftish 'friends' rather than achieve power.

  7. seeing as nobody else has stated the bleeding obvious..

    the left has failed since it embraced neoliberal-incrementalism (in nz post-douglas.)

    the left/labour in nz abandoned those who got them there in the first place – the workers..

    (and of course rt the same time labour and the tories drove sole-parents etc into dire poverty – and since then have done s.f.a. for them..(aedern govt gave them a little more..just a little..)

    labour/the left has helped the tories cement in a low-wage/high cost of living society..

    which is what we have now..

    (and of course labour with their third-way bullshit/lurch to the right has echoed other left parties in britain/europe..)

    and in a nutshell labour/the left in nz has failed to deliver on the promises that founded it..

    and now they wonder why those people who they have done sweet f.a. for – for so long – no longer vote for them..(that is some serious denial going on there..)

    and are able to be seduced by someone offering something/anything..as long as it is different from the (non-delivery) shit they have been getting from labour/left parties..

    for a brief moment i thought this latest iteration was different – has learnt that lesson..and i believed their promises to be transformational..

    more fool me…eh..?

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 7.2

      Pretty much!!

    • roblogic 7.3

      More fool you, and a lot of other left-Labour voters. No capital gains tax. Tiny incremental changes to renter's rights. MAF failing to enforce the law on fishing, going for self regulation instead. No change to the numbers of homeless. Kiwibuild failure. No slowdown of our world beating immigration rate. Auckland ruined and among the least affordable places in the world.

      But hey Wellington politicians are all doing OK

      • phillip ure 7.3.1

        and the promised welfare-reform..turned out to mean some pot plants in winz offices..

        bugger all else has changed..

        (and yes – before anyone veers over there – they aren’t as bad/venal as that other bunch if useless bastards..

        and they will probably scrape back in again…

        and then spend their second term trying not to offend anyone…

        so just more incrementalist bullshit to look forward to..

        how fucken de-pressing..

        the times/urgencies call for so much more..

        don’t they..?

        • Psycho Milt

          …and yes – before anyone veers over there – they aren’t as bad/venal as that other bunch if useless bastards.

          In other words, you're bitter that the government recognises that voters didn't give it a mandate to implement a radical left-wing policy agenda, and are berating them for not implementing that agenda despite it being irrational to do so, and despite the fact that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" is a well-known recipe for failure. Congrats, that's a lot of wrong to fit into one simple blog comment.

          • phillip ure

            no – just expecting them to keep the promises they made..

            not my 'radical left-wing agenda'..

            just what they said they would do..when they were campaigning for our votes


            not a 'radical left wing agenda'..not mine – nor nobody elses..

            (congrats – that's a lot of wrong to fit into one simple blog comment..eh..?)

            • Psycho Milt

              Which promises? The ones made by Labour, which were supported by only 30-something percent of voters? Or the ones made by the Greens, which were supported by only around 6% of voters? If you think about it, you might be able to figure out why it's difficult to implement a policy agenda that has only minority support.

              • KJT

                Polling shows that "left" policies, including CGT, before the massive right wing campaign, have majority support.

                Which is confirmed by both the main parties promising all sorts of "left" policies in election year. Because that gets votes. We see National promising more money for health, right now, for just one example. Listen to both parties on housing, and mental health.

                Labor will be out of office some time in the next 6 years, because they have failed, in making peoples lives better, yet again, due to their adherence to Neo-liberal failure.

                Labor is not exactly following "left" policies. Current Labour would fit nicely with post WW2 National.

                It is not lost on people that National did raise benefits and the minimum wage.

          • adam

            So by psycho milts logic the 4th labour government was what exactly – becasue it definitely not what the voting public voted for. Nor did it have a mandate, nor was working for the good of the people.

            Too soon…

            • Psycho Milt

              By my logic the 4th Labour government was a fine example of what's wrong with implementing a radical agenda that you didn't get a mandate for. That one managed to get a second term by hoovering up right-wing votes from National, but the party suffered a lot of damage from it.

              • can we just boil down this 'radical agenda' bullshit you keep trotting out/accusing me of..

                dunno about anyone else – but my 'radical agenda' is to feed the hungry and house the homeless..(as being the first/prime priority of any govt..

                didn't they used to be (pre-neoliberal-incrementalism) labour party ideals/policices..?

                i repeat – at this moment what i am talking about are the promises labour made pre-election..

                (what they had a clear ‘mandate’ to do..)

                and what they have since ignored/broken..

                this is my 'radical-agenda'..

                (hope that clarifies that for you – and obviates the need for you to just repeat that lie again and again..eh..?..)

                • dunno about anyone else – but my 'radical agenda' is to feed the hungry and house the homeless..(as being the first/prime priority of any govt..

                  Labour is dependent on centre voters, and to a lot of them yes that's a radical policy agenda. Reality has many depressing features, this among them.

                  (what they had a clear ‘mandate’ to do..)

                  36.3% of the vote isn't a "mandate," let alone a "clear mandate." It's also not a parliamentary majority. If you want Labour to take a bolder approach to this, it would make more sense to encourage people to vote Labour or Green so the left parties get the voter mandate and the numbers in Parliament to implement their agenda. All you achieve by discouraging people from voting Labour or Green is another National-led government.

                  • re 'mandate'..

                    kinda disturbing how you use that 'only 36%' = no mandate' rightwing meme..

                    the fact is the combination of the three party votes is their mandate..

                    (it's called mmp – there – p.m…)

                    and if i could just pull you up on another lie of yrs..

                    in no way am i trying to 'discourage people from voting lab/grn'..


                    my current gripes are with their broken election promises..

                    and i understand you saying that about me as some sort of smear tactic to undermine what i am saying..

                    but it just ain't true..

                    so if you cd park that one also..?…ta..

                    • I referenced Labour's vote share because you specifically referred to Labour in your comment.

                      The fact that this government has a mandate to govern isn't in dispute. However, it only just managed to scrape together a majority across three parties with sometimes-conflicting policy agendas. In relation to your comments on this thread, that means three things:

                      1. The Ardern government doesn't have a mandate for any policy that isn't endorsed by all three parties.

                      2. It only just has a majority in Parliament, so it has to be careful about exceeding its mandate because it can't afford to alienate voters.

                      3. If we want a bolder policy agenda, we need to increase the vote share of the two parties least unlikely to implement that agenda: the Labour Party and the Green Party. You might find achieving "least unlikely" to be a not-very-inspiring goal, but reality isn't going to present you with happier options.

                      in no way am i trying to 'discourage people from voting lab/grn'..

                      I assume that's not your intent, sure. But it's the effect of the things we say on our listeners that count – have a read back through your comments and consider their likely effect on people who might be tossing up whether to vote for one of the parties you're berating.

                    • @ pm..

                      i don't resile from anything i have said on this thread..

                      and i don't think it is my mutterings that will lose votes..

                      but continued over-promising/under-delivering sure as hell will..

                  • KJT

                    Funny that National's most successful attack line, at present, is that Labour has "failed to house the homeless"0

  8. Gabby 8

    The Murderoch machine just lies its arse off and gets away with it. That doesn't help.

  9. McFlock 9

    When the elite do so much oppression that they are in danger of losing power, the danger comes from the left and the right. So they cut a deal with the far right, usually in the belief they can maintain control over those guys.

    And the left can't appeal to nationalism, whereas the right can always push that button.

    • witness h.clark choosing that oppurtunistc toe-rag dunne over the greens…

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        I was thinking more about the King of Italy inviting Mussolini to take charge, or the junkers financing the Nazi party, or the Repugs leveraging the teabaggers for twenty years and getting drumpf all over their face,

        • phillip ure

          so in our case it isn't so much an individual in that pact with the elite..

          (that has so fucked us over..)

          but that poxy bastard of an ideology..neoliberal-incrementalism..

          doesn't matter whose in power – neoliberal-incrementalism still serves our elites well..

          coddles the banksters…

          keeps the boot on the workers' throat..

          scare the others into submission with the threat of ending up in that (scapegoat for all) underclass..

          that gets you a nicely cowed population..

          take a bow..!..neoliberal-incrementalism..!

          • McFlock

            Oh, piss off.

            The post is about the far right. The anti-immigrant, line-people-up-against-the-wall fuckers.

            Neoliberalism is the power elite winning. The far right is who they turn to after they begin to lose again.

            Clark went with Dunne not as an elite turning far right to preserve power, but as an incrementalist who was burned by the Greens and Dunne was the least-right option that remained.

            • adam

              Wow revisionist history 101.

              • McFlock

                Hey, I could be wrong about Clark. We'd never know that from your contribution, though.

                I seem to recall the Greens making a big deal about GM, and fair call being pissed about backing the yanks, which basically ruled them out as coalition partners from boths sides of the equation.

                Do you have an actual contribution to make?

                • adam

                  The greens played politics (badly) – however, labour, like always – went right.

                  Do you have anything but revisionist bs?

                  • McFlock

                    Without the greens, what governing or coalition options did Labour have?

                    • adam

                      They could have worked with the greens, but they chose not to. And instead went to the right and stay with status quo. Which in turn is why we have the mess we have – labour do this all the time.

                      You saying the greens was not an option, is the revisionist clap trap I calling out.

                    • Dukeofurl

                      Heres a bucket of cold water to your own revisionism Adam

                      In the own words of Fitzsimons – who was there


                      "And I thought, no, Rod and I have to put our time into the caucus and build a strong Green Party in Parliament and not be the sole dissenting voices in a Cabinet that would override us anyway.

                      And again at the next election

                      'We will not support a government on confidence or in coalition that lifts that moratorium and allows GE crops to be grown around the country,

                      The real issue back in the 2000s

                      "Policy-wise we were far closer than either Winston or Peter Dunne. But we had a few core principles we weren’t prepared to back down on."

                      Dont you just love it when the Revisionists havent checked their primary sources

                    • McFlock

                      ooo, a revisionism slap-back with sources! 🙂

                    • adam

                      Thanks Dukeofurl proves my point, so rather than work out a deal with the greens (the only party to the left of labour) they went right with NZ1st and a member of parliament whose claim to fame is he gave the country synthetic weed epidemic.

                      Labour does not know how to go left, the alliance proved that. And in case you forgot the last 9 years of national was built on the back of labour and it's commitment to a hard right economic ideology.

                      Edit: Stop blaming the greens for having principles and bottom lines. Without those we are stuck with the status quo – which quite frankly is not working.

                    • McFlock

                      So to be clear: the Greens ruled themselves out over GE, so you blame Labour for forming a govt with the next closest party?

                      Because the Greens are allowed to have bottom lines, but Labour aren't?

                    • adam

                      The greens ruled out any compromise on GE crops. They also said they didn't want to be in a cabinet full of ideologies who would just use cabinet rules to overrule them. At that point labour chose the status quo and went right rather than work out some sort of deal.

                      As for Labour's bottom line – it seems to be the support a fubar economic ideology at all cost.

                    • McFlock

                      Well, we come back to the core problem: when the greens ruled themselves out, what were Labour supposed to do? Run back to the Greens and say "oh it's okay, we'll give you whatever you want because that's how compromise is supposed to work"?

                  • Rae

                    Adam, we need to distance ourselves as far as possible as we can from GE crops etc. There is very pragmatic reason for doing so, more than one, even.

                    It will not be long before lab grown food will be widely available and its consumption will be taken up, and it will be taken up by the masses, but there will still be plenty of people who will seek out the real thing, and they will be very discerning, and will be seeking organic food.

                    Our distance from markets puts us at a disadvantage, just about the only advantage we can play to is being unique, and non GE food will become more and more so.

                    Staying away from it is likely to become our saviour.

  10. SPC 10

    Baby boomers.

  11. vto 11

    People are worried. When people are worried they head for the conservatives. The right does a better conservative.


    • SPC 11.1

      Those who have and those who are old are natural conservatives – there are a lot of old people because of the baby boomers.

      • vto 11.1.1

        SPC, "those who are old are natural conservatives"… nup

        Don't agree with that at all.

        People may become more 'careful' as they age, but that is because they understand more consequences, having generally experienced more consequences. This does not make for a conservative. It is a different thing.

        I will tell you this though – imo the young of today are conservative. Well, more conservative than recent generations at the same age. Which will likely lead to more Victorian times as they fill through.

        • SPC

          Care to explain the old people who voted Brexit and Trump? The old white people retreating into gated community nationalism?

          And here the old people who mostly prefer National, despite the way its MP's vote on social policy issues?

          Totally disagree about young people being more conservative – not so on environment and carbon use and totally adjusted to a multi-cultural diverse community compared to baby boomers (and in the USA less religious than the olds).

          • Rae

            You are right, but there seems to be a rise in conservatism among the younger, is this perhaps the result of them being raised minus much of the physical risk of previous generations?

            These are funny old times, alright, though.

      • Rae 11.1.2

        Well, I am pretty old and to this day cannot stomach conservatism, I find it the worst kind of politics. Give me new ideas and thinking any day. I like my politics as I like my music, interesting.

  12. Climaction 12

    could it be the right have used our foibles on the left against us? The carbon emissions involved in having climate conferences? Criticising anyone who was sceptical of all the accusers in the #metoo movement as enablers, yet not being able to keep our own house clean?

    Has the public turned against the left narrative because of high profile inconsistencies as opposed to being supportive of the rights aggressive anti-liberal stance on first principles?

  13. xanthe 13

    At root the problem is not the ascent of the right but rather the descent of the left.

    I believed and still believe that the adoption of "positive discrimination" by the left was ethically and organizationally wrong.

    So here we are.

  14. Gabby 14

    It's the Arsehole Effect. The arsehole have worked out that there are a lot of other arseholes out there.

  15. Ad 15

    The Guardian's view today on challenging the nationalist ethnic purity line of the hard nationalists – noting Victor Orban or Hungary, but quotes Australian ex-PM Tony Abbott:

    “It will require some force; it will require massive logistics and expense; it will gnaw at our consciences – yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it for ever.”

    The prediction relies in part on undeniable demographic reality: the population of parts of the developed world is shrinking, while that of the poor world is growing. This is happening just as the climate emergency makes the most populous parts of the world less habitable. With the best will in the world, these changes will lead to strains and tensions. And the best will – even goodwill – is in short supply in the world at the moment.

    In the past, the left has responded to the anti-migration rhetoric of the right with economic answers. These are important but not sufficient, as the rise of anti-immigrant populists has shown.


    • SPC 15.1

      The nostalgia of the baby boomers for the era of their family security 1950's/1960's – and a world centred around that cultural regime. One threatened from outside by more diversity/immigration and relative economic decline (in both the national sense and for the next generation).

      This insecurity results in a less confident milieu (note Germany’s fiscal prudence is harmful to itself as well as the EU).

  16. NZJester 16

    The reason they are winning is the right have the money to hijack the Main Stream Media and pay for the political bribes, as well as no conscience to do what is un-ethical to advance their views. It is difficult to be ethical and poor and try and combat the extream greed-driven policies those on the right are pushing for.

    • Gosman 16.1

      Where is the evidence the media in the UK is dominated by the right wing? There are a huge numbers of diverse media outlets in the UK.

  17. gsays 17

    My two cents worth: the right are prevailing because of othering.

    As we are all aware, most of policy is polled to the nth degree before being released.

    The parties are reacting to what they think we want.

    The series, Century of the self, outlines how billions of dollars have been spent telling us how important we are and how our wants are needs.

    Couple that with the demise of institutions like churches and community organisations that would remind us of things bigger than ourselves.

    So if there are others who threaten what we perceive to be our entitlement, we vote accordingly.

    This is not to deny media ownership or the neo-liberal sell-out of NZ play their part.

  18. JohnP 18

    The right's incorporation of wedge politics has been one of their most successful tactics, because it drives a log laden sixteen wheeler directly at – often – a minority community. The right wouldn't have counted on any votes from this minority community in the first place, and recognise that by forcing their opponents to defend them they are creating a tension between the majority community (ok, it's white people usually) over 'whose side are they really on?' which plays into the centrist narrative about having to reach out to those on the right in order to be the sensible ones.

    Instead of making a full throated defence of these communities, centrist politicians try to do what they've always done and 'find the middle ground' – which invariably means ceding political ground to the right in order to satisfy them, except of course, the right cannot be satisfied by ceding ground to them because their entire aim is power, and so slowly getting the centre-left to drift right merely means eventually the right becomes more palatable as a 'decisive' version of the drifting and incoherent centre left.

  19. KJT 19

    Many people vote for the far right in so many countries, for the same reason so many working people voted National in 1984 and 87.

    When the parties which are supposed to represent you, turn rogue, and work for a few wealthy people instead.

    Under Western voting systems, what the fuck else can you do?

  20. Wayne 20

    Cameron and Morrison are not far right. Johnson and Trump are populists (which Cameron and Morrison are not) though that does not necessarily make Johnson and Trump far right.

    • Ad 20.1

      Cameron acceded to extreme nationalist sentiment and so initiated the separatist referendum in the first place.

      So he co-opted the support of the right.

      Morrison did the same by building on the more extreme Abbott and successfully co-opting the One Nation vote of Queensland.

      Same as Cameron.

      They are really clear about what they are doing, and both won elections that the left could have won.

  21. Michael 21

    I think the problem with the political left in Aotearoa-NZ is that its officer-holders no longer represent that position. For whatever reason, these people have no empathy with the proletariat (whether working or lumpen) because they are far too bourgeois and unwilling to develop solidarity. Until the Labour Party genuinely repents and atones for its neoliberal sins, both historic and ongoing, it cannot be a credible expression of centre-left politics. As a result, the proletariat (which actually includes many people who imagine themselves to be middle-class, or even rich, but are not) find the populist alt-right, with its narrative of hatred for the "other", more attractive than the pallid variety of neoliberalism Labour offers them.

    • In Vino 21.1

      I agree with your phrase 'pallid variety of neo-liberalism' but I believe that anyone naïve enough to vote far right as a result of that is a shallow, thoughtless individual lacking a great deal of historical knowledge. Are the vast numbers of voters so ignorant as you suggest?

      Well, maybe they are..

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