The wrong conversation

Written By: - Date published: 9:57 am, August 15th, 2012 - 78 comments
Categories: activism, blogs, community democracy, david shearer, democratic participation, labour, uncategorized - Tags:

There has been a lot of discussion on the direction Labour  is heading and the direction it should go. There have been some very valuable contributions by Mike Smith, Rob Salmond, Jordan Carter and Josie Pagani.

I don’t have much to add to this other than, I think, they are having the wrong conversation. There are few votes in going left and few votes in pitching to the centre in the way we are doing now. People vote for a myriad of reasons that can’t be confined to a linear spectrum.

I hear activists tell me over beer after collecting signatures that we need to shift to the left to pick up the non-voters that stayed home. I am undoubtedly of the view that this is wrong. As Rob Salmond points out no one has produced any evidence to suggest that this would be a vote winning strategy or that those who stay home do so because our policies won’t help them or that their views differ from the “centre”. The act of voting or not is much more complicated than that.

However, similarly, I am adamant that there are no votes in pitching to the centre in the way Shearer is doing now and the way Pagani et al want. It is inauthentic and meaningless.

You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision. The articulation of a narrative about where we are, where we are going and how Labour’s values best realise that. Only once you get buy in on that can you start getting buy in on how you get there. If approached this way- I think you will start seeing the centre and some of those who did not vote come with (note not to) Labour.

Without this, it’s just two products competing for an otherwise meaningless act in three years time. Voters want to know that we get them. We understand their struggles and successes; that we are part of their personal journeys; that we understand their lives. People don’t want silver bullets or lists of policies. Our voters just want to know we’ve got their back: that our future is their future, that our guiding values are theirs. Only a strong narrative can do that. Everything else is important: but only insofar as it contributes to the sense people have of you. Policies are important. But you can’t replace a narrative with lists of policies or dog whistles.

Labour needs buy in to the project. Not inauthentic sound bites to the perceived views of a entirely made up segment of the population. The centre is a very unhelpful construction; it’s really intelligent people with alot more to offer than a nod to the old beneficiary bash. “Centre voters” have very different and contradictory opinions on a range of issues pretending they are this homogeneous group to be placated by a few remarks just highlights how out of touch our leaders are.

78 comments on “The wrong conversation”

  1. King Kong 1

    Excellent. Another thread where I get to read just how crap the Labour party is…from its own supporters.

    • lprent 1.1

      I realize that openness is a hard concept for you to understand.

      But just think of the differences between the two ends of your alimentary canal. At one end you have your face screwed in knot as you spit out your latest inane bullshit at the left.. At the other you have the relaxation as you unpucker your bowels and drop some fertilizer.

      Openness is like that latter sensation – it is smelly, relaxing, but doesn’t cause ulcers, you die if you don’t do it, and ultimately fertilizes honest debate.

      Ah.. Ok honest debate – another concept you will have problems with. The difference between that and doing meaningless sniping is…..

      • King Kong 1.1.1

        I understand openness fine.

        However I also understand that if you had an unusual growth on your cock you might show it to your wife and doctors in the hope of fixing the problem.

        What I wouldn’t do is wap it out and head down to the high street showing it to strangers (which is what you guys are doing here)

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Voters want to know that we get them. We understand their struggles and successes; that we are part of their personal journeys; that we understand their lives. People don’t want silver bullets or lists of policies. Our voters just want to know we’ve got their back: that our future is their future, that our guiding values are theirs. Only a strong narrative can do that.

    A vision for the future eh?

    Well, we should say something about green, sustainable growth, something about making the country better for the next generation, something about how important children are and educating them, something about giving people a hand up not a hand out, something about not spending beyond our means, something else about how its important to be a supporter of global free markets and wealth creation for all, and for the real coup de grace, a national plan for how we win hosting rights for the Rugby World Cup 2029.

    That’s a vision for the future we can all buy into and turn out to vote for. Huzzzah!

    Now a lot of it seems awfully familiar, I accept that, but if we can come up with some new packaging for the messaging, it could work very well. The internal polling we are doing tells us its the message people want. Now deliver it and show them leadership! (/irony)

    PS let me assure you as a future Minister of the Crown on $220K pa (+ package) I will never fell isolated from the plight of those trying to get by on $18K pa, and who have to fight uphill everyday against a political economic slope of financial capitalism that they do not even begin to understand.

    In fact, why don’t I just hang out with the Chamber of Commerce crowd, they hold much better evening functions than the Sallies.

  3. bad12 3

    Sounds like you might be talking about some ‘other’ Labour Party than the one that currently occupies the Parliament,

    Shearer ‘stands by’ His comment made to Grey Power about ‘the sickness beneficiary’, end of story really…

  4. just saying 4

    Aspirational “vision” speeches are meaningless without explaining how you propose to get there.
    Shearer has been producing little other than this kind of waffle.
    Why should anyone trust “values” rhetoric if it’s not backed up with a a clear map. And how can Labour counter National’s argument that Labour’s vision will bankrupt the country without hard facts?

    It’s just another patronising version of “trust us – we know what we’re doing”.
    But most people don’t trust Labour actually, and it will take substance to change the perception, not more waffle.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Why should anyone trust “values” rhetoric if it’s not backed up with a a clear map.

      Why should anyone trust anyone who suddenly starts spouting “values” rhetoric, after the longest time of doing and saying anything but? I would personally find it suspicious, you know like they suddenly want something from me…

      As you say, its little short of patronising.

    • Polish Pride 4.2

      Bang on this is exactly the problem. People have been lied to so often that they want to know the ‘how’. How are you going to do it. Show me the steps that common sense dictates you might be on the right path.

      When National came out with their vison or 12 goals or whatever it was earlier this year expecting the response to be all oohs and aaahs from an adoring public saying these guys are on the right track, they have goals. Thats not what happened. They got slammed all over the place with people saying thats nice but ‘how!’ how are you going to do it!

    • Pete 4.3

      Whenever I hear “aspiration”, I can’t help but think of Charlie Brooker’s thoughts on it (language NSFW)

    • Fisiani 4.4

      Shearer is the best Leader of the Labour Party for New Zealand

      • lprent 4.4.1

        From you as a ardent National brownnoser I guess that it means you think he will allow national another term. Yeah right.

  5. gobsmacked 5

    @Jimmy

    That is what Shearer should have done, when he became leader. He had every opportunity, with his early speeches, to articulate a vision.

    He didn’t, because there’s no vision, and he can’t articulate.

    It’s too late now. There was goodwill then, now it’s gone (and not just from Labour activists – nobody takes him seriously now). Any new “narrative” will be treated with suspicion. As you say, “inauthentic and meaningless.”

    I hope the next leader takes your advice, on day one. I hope that day is soon.

    • bad12 5.1

      I seriously think that Labour will contest the 2014 election with the ‘Leader’ they have now,

      I vote Green so thankfully don’t have to defend Him…

    • Polish Pride 5.2

      No its not too late – you get on with the job of determining it asap and the steps on how to get there. Then you announce it and when people ask why it took so long you say because it needed some serious thought to what it should be and we needed to talk to the people of New Zealand so that we can get back to the primary principle of a representative democracy that has been ignored for such a long time by both this National government and some previous Labour govts. The principle that we are your elected representatives here to represent you. We are here to ensure that NewZealand is a better place in the future for all New Zealanders.

      Here’s where we are today …. problems
      Here’s the vision… where we are going to be 3, 6, 10, 20 years
      Here’s how we are going to achieve it.
      3, 6, 10, 20 years

      You’ll wipe the floor with any other party that won’t have seen it coming and won’t have a clear vision. Then all you have to do is do what you said you would and listen to the people along the way.

      It will also provide a valid answer for those that want to discuss shearer being invisible for this long.

    • Matt 5.3

      “He didn’t, because there’s no vision, and he can’t articulate.”

      Precisely, it’s pointless for Labour to agonize over how to portray themselves when the problem is they don’t stand for anything. I wish they did.

  6. Jimmy canI suggest that the most important characteristics that a party leader must have are vision and passion? 
     
    Academic debates about the middle and working out how to triangulate issues is fine from an academic point of view but if a leader does not instil passion then the activists work a bit less and the swinging voters are more inclined to stay at home.
     
    Just think about the most successful leaders Labour has had, Savage, Kirk, Lange and Clark.  Each of them instilled passion and each had a strong vision.
     
    Lange may be the most telling example.  Despite leading a right wing Labour Government his oration gave his Government a veneer of left wing respectability and carried them through a most unusual election result in 1987.
     
    So however it happens the Labour Party needs to give activists and voters a reason to take note and engage.

    • Kotahi Tāne Huna 6.1

      That’s it exactly. Goff started to show a little vision and passion during the election campaign: had he done so for his entire tenure as leader we would be having an entirely different discussion.

    • Jackal 6.2

      mickysavage

      Jimmy can I suggest that the most important characteristics that a party leader must have are vision and passion?

      I’m not so sure… While people are expecting Shearer to deliver a vision to give people the impetus to support and vote, much of what being an opposition party gets left behind. In my opinion, Labour need to engage with the public by having a clear and precise dialog that points out where National is going wrong, not deliver visions of the future that are met with skepticism from many on the left and right alike.

      One problem is that the current Labour party is being blamed for what Nationals neoliberal agenda is causing… A very clever manipulation that’s been employed by rightwing spin-doctors. Labour need to distance themselves from the current agenda, and the best way to do that is to go on the attack.

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        Labour need to distance themselves from the current agenda, and the best way to do that is to go on the attack.

        Well, why not leave it to the Greens and Winston, they really do seem better at it. It was pointed out by someone that the Greens, Winston AND ACT got their party’s official responses to the MMP recommendations way faster than Labour did.

      • weka 6.2.2

        But only if they disagree with the neoliberal agenda.

        • Jackal 6.2.2.1

          There is that, but it would seem more probable that Shearer’s decision to not engage in so-called gotcha politics is sometimes leaving Labours ammo out of the gun. It’s not as if National isn’t giving them enough targets to shoot at either, it’s a conscious decision to try and appear like the nice guy, which in my opinion is just letting Nact off the hook. Politics isn’t about being nice, and choosing not to engage isn’t an effective strategy against Keys ever thinning Teflon exterior… It’s better for Labour to gain credibility by pointing out National has none.

  7. Polish Pride 7

    You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision. The articulation of a narrative about where we are, where we are going and how Labour’s values best realise that. Only once you get buy in on that can you start getting buy in on how you get there. If approached this way- I think you will start seeing the centre and some of those who did not vote come with (note not to) Labour

    I think you are on the money with this. I spoke to an influential Labour MP and said the reason many don’t vote is that they are disillusioned with the system. It is not working for them. All they see is that we shift a couple of degrees to the Right and then a couple of degrees to the Left every few years but nothing really changes. The real problems facing society never get fixed or even close to being fixed. That there is no vision for people people to buy into.. and I don’t mean vote for us and we’ll make the world a better place. I mean Here’s our 3 year, 6 year, 10 and even 20 year plan. This is our vision and this is how we are going to get there and why it will work.
    Something that people can understand, buy into and believe in.

    To his credit he agreed people were disengaged from the system and were becoming increasingly of the opinion that politics is something that is done to them rather than something they are apart of. He did not think that a long term vision was required as most people were just focussed on the immediate problems.

    Great person but so short sighted.

  8. Mary 8

    “What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values.”

    Sure, but how can Labour articulate these when they don’t even know what they are? Labour’s more than lost on this front. Shearer’s sickness beneficiary blunder epitomises this. Until Labour accepts it must provide a voice for those who cannot participate in our wage-based economy and stop pandering to the unions’ ambivalence towards beneficiaries they will remain the most obvious coalition partner for the National Party which in practical terms means continuing as the Opposition followed by relegation to merely remaining in opposition.

  9. AmaKiwi 9

    Floating down that river in Egypt: Denial

    The Global Credit Crisis is alive and well. It is devouring people’s savings and jobs, laying waste to economies everywhere.

    People in the street KNOW it. Cunliffe knows it. He speaks about it often.

    Key, Shearer, and Parker are in denial.

    IMO this is not about Labour Party Left versus Right. It is about denial versus facing inconvenient truths.

    Yes, Grant Robertson, it is also about getting serious about the environmental crisis (Cunliffe) versus “Let’s not be environmental extremists” (Robertson).

  10. chris73 10

    I quite like the direction Shearers taking, it seems to me that for a very long time the Labour party has been lumping low-paid workers with the unemployed.

    By making a stake in the ground and saying we support low-paid workers and the sacrifices they make and will work hard to weed out the shirkers is a well needed change and will resonate with kiwis around the country

    As long as he sticks to his guns of course

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      So you just implied the unemployed are shirkers. When in fact they are discarded workers.

      Fuck you man.

      • chris73 10.1.1

        Go fuck yourself big brave man behind a keyboard. They’re two separate paragraphs which means two separate statements which means I’m not saying all unemployed are shirkers, I’m saying that (hopefully) Labour will actively work to deal to the shirkers that are out there.

        Go have yourself another coffee and stop trying to frame someone elses viewpoint in a manner that suits you.

        Douchebag.

        • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1

          🙄

          What you wrote is there for everyone to see my friend. Two separate paragraphs, one after the other, talking around the same idea.

          They’re two separate paragraphs which means two separate statements which means I’m not saying all unemployed are shirkers

          But you ARE saying that a good number of them are, right? And that was my point. Don’t get upset at me for highlighting it.

          • QoT 10.1.1.1.1

            CV, it’s like you’re in my head right now, stealing my thoughts. Fucking love how the “left” have started picking up the right’s “but I never said all [group] were [junkies/unfit parents/lazy/evil/bludgers], I just said some were! Over and over and over!”

            • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1.1.1

              CV, it’s like you’re in my head right now

              I honestly can’t tell whether my uncontrollable laughter is due to surprised delight or abject terror.

        • tracey 10.1.1.2

          how come no mention of the need to weed out the dishobest company directors then chris?

      • Polish Pride 10.1.2

        ……And a by product of a system that has reached a level of technological advancement that can easily discard a worker but a system that has not evolved so that the discarded worker does not need to go and find another job.

        This is not the situation for all workers but none the less it is an serious flaw in the system that will only grow as we grow tecnologically.

    • Mary 10.2

      “…it seems to me that for a very long time the Labour party has been lumping low-paid workers with the unemployed.”

      It may have seemed like that to you but from 1999 Labour’s welfare policies have been indistinguishable from National’s, and in some cases more like ACT’s. Shearer’s finally confirmed nothing’s changed.

      • chris73 10.2.1

        Well it seems to me you’re probably right. The parties policies do tend to sound the same but I’m thinking maybe the implementation of the policies might be a point of difference?

        • Colonial Viper 10.2.1.1

          Yes its an improvement of sorts when you shaft beneficiaries with a friendly smile, instead of with a demeaning scowl.

      • tracey 10.2.2

        a recently as 2007 labour completed their intensive fraud investigation into benefits, a point lost on many when nats crow about targetting these so called offenders. The number of shirkers is actually tiny, but that wld make some people have to accept there is some societal respobsibility instead of blaming non existing bludgers.

        Need i remibd you all of my earlier story of wealthy family encouraging son to borrow full amount on student loan to fund a home for himself in three years. None so smug and self righteoys as the anti bene brigade.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.3

      By making a stake in the ground and saying we support low-paid workers and the sacrifices they make and will work hard to weed out the shirkers is a well needed change and will resonate with kiwis around the country

      They’re not shirkers but people who have been thrown on the scrap heap by a failing socio-economic paradigm.

      • adam 10.3.1

        A neo-liberal driven paradigm that says we must open our country to internationally deregulated competition so that our manufacturing sector eventually shrinks to below a 5% capacity to make anything at all, as it cannot compete without the reintroduction of tariffs and quotas so we could once again protect locally producing industry and the jobs and wealth that that would circulate throughout our economy.
        NZ is slowly becoming a social and economic wasteground of failed economic policies derived from neo-liberalism and put into effect through both National and Labour governments support of those policies that are cemented in via the IMF, WTO and the WB.

  11. AmaKiwi 11

    Mickey’s on spin cycle.

    ??? “we support low-paid workers” ???

    How about we are outraged at taking from low-paid workers and giving it to the wealthy?

    Low-paid workers pay a huge amount of their income in taxes: 15% GST, petrol taxes, rates (which landlords pass on), high ACC levies (which are a lot higher if you work with you body than sit at a desk), income taxes, etc.

    I’m going to Bastion Point this weekend, put my ear to the ground, and hear if Mickey Savage is turning over in his grave! He’s probably on spin cycle!

  12. Kaine Thompson 12

    “You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision. The articulation of a narrative about where we are, where we are going and how Labour’s values best realise that. Only once you get buy in on that can you start getting buy in on how you get there. If approached this way- I think you will start seeing the centre and some of those who did not vote come with (note not to) Labour.”

    Of all the posts I’ve read, this one nails it for me. It articulates for me what the actual issue is. It’s not a case of build it and they will come but if voters have a clear sense of your principles, they will come to you with a tolerance for the fringes of your policies. I think that may be a little earnest, but as a basic, I can’t see any other way to start.

    Analysis of those who voted and those who didn’t, who is left, who is right, who is centre, what centre is – none of that matters if you can’t establish clearly, a sense within voters that they know who you are first. Labour must offer positive alternatives based on principle, not positions in the negative and for me the Grey Power speech was that low point.

    I don’t blame Shearer, I don’t blame anyone, for Labour’s current position because that’s pointless unless there’s a plan to fix it – fixing it for me, at least in the first instance, would see Shearer lead from the front and for him to trust his instincts and his own words rather than second guess himself.

    For all the gazing in to the future anyone can do, it must be… to do what you must do… with the world as it is now… and, for how you want it to be. It should not be about how you think it might be… and, then to try and get ahead of it. This post proposes that the conversation is not the right conversation, I agree. Of all the things I have seen here, the question of whether voters see themselves reflected in Labour is the important first-question.

    I think the answer is still “no” at the moment, but the solution is not in shifting to where Labour thinks the majority of them are because that is ever-fluid, it is to bring them to where Labour is. This to me is where the conflict is being created by some elements of the current approach, it’s simply that so many don’t know where Labour is.

    Labour must not only say what it wants to achieve, but how it will achieve it. The positive alternatives are missing such as in the Grey Power speech in my view. The things Labour says it will do have to be within reach of people, they have to be able to touch it, know it’s real and that it will make their life better. Importantly though, people need to trust Labour will work to do it.

    • Tom Gould 12.1

      @ Kaine, if I had a dollar for every time I have read over recent weeks mention of “Labour values” and “Labour principles” … Can you clearly articulate these for me, please, perhaps in the context of your call for “positive alternatives”. A few examples of these alternatives would be nice, too.

      • Kaine Thompson 12.1.1

        @Tom, don’t get me wrong, I’m not stargazing either… But, Labour’s values include inclusiveness for example, say what it means, say how that translates into what it is we want to achieve by being in government. I mean for me, the principles/values are there already but there’s a disconnect because the focus is on policies that resonate, rather than – by some views – demonstrate consistency with the principle/value.

        Positive alternative – an opposition must oppose, clearly. But by opposing something, there should be a clear plan of what the alternative is. “Tax Cuts for the rich”, what’s Labour’s alternative, be clear, be honest. “No Asset Sales”, what’s Labour going to do in response to those if it becomes government? “Where are the jobs”, what’s Labour’s plan to encourage job growth? “National is bad”, how’s Labour better?

        That’s where I was coming from… 🙂

        • Tom Gould 12.1.1.1

          @ Kaine, with respect, you have evaded the question. Can you please explain to me what are the “Labour values” and “Labour principles” you and others regularly refer to? You say they “are there” so can we see them please?

          • dancerwaitakere 12.1.1.1.1

            – Social Justice
            – Equality
            – Solidarity
            – Multiculturalism
            – Collective Responsibility
            – Compassion

            These are /some/ of the values, I believe, that Labour need to articulate.

            • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1.1.1

              And what kinds of things (not specifics) is Labour willing to do to enact those values.

              Hint: “incentivising market actors to consider those values from time to time as part of the pursuit of economic growth” is NOT going to cut it.

              • Kaine Thompson

                The only thing I would add to what Dancerwaitakere said is “inclusion” but off the top of my head, that’s a familiar list of things. Tom, the things I would point to include marriage equality, raising the minimum wage, trade training, broader student support, investment in R&D, capital gains tax, extensions to paid parental leave, mondayisation of public holidays, using dividends from state owned assets… these are all positive alternatives.

                If you’re asking me to come up with a list of new ones on my own, I’d say no one person has the answer and there would be better ideas than mine but reinvesting in the cullen fund, addressing inequality that came about through an increase to GST, redirecting resource in to trade training, taking advantage of clean technology alongside a programme to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and on and on.

                The broader package of policies though, have to be linked to a clear sense of why they’re important to Labour. Take National for example, you may not agree with them but their view is that low taxation allows individuals to make decisions about how to use their own money because they will make better decisions than government. I don’t necessarily agree and think there is a balance. Take the Greens, “Drill it, mine it, sell it, cut it” Clean Rivers, Safe Communities and on and on.

                If you have better ideas, then put them out but in saying we have heard enough about a demand for vision, all we are doing is criticising Labour for doing the same thing we choose not to do at the same time.

                It’s just my view and I accept it’s one of many, and like I said, I agree with the post and what it says. It resonates with me well, but without any collective sense of direction both in Parliament and amongst supporters (members or not), we may as well talk about the international space station as a solution to global warming.

                • Tom Gould

                  @ Kaine, thanks for the list of policies, but what I was after were Labour values and Labour priniciples. I guessed you could not articulate them. The Labour Party website says:

                  The Labour Party accepts the following democratic socialist principles –

                  
• All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot.

                  • The natural resources of New Zealand belong to all the people and these resources, and in particular non-renewable resources, should be managed for the benefit of all, including future generations.

                  • All people should have equal access to all social, economic, cultural, political and legal spheres, regardless of wealth or social position, and continuing participation in the democratic process.

                  • Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a greater amount and a just distribution of wealth can be ensured.

                  • All people are entitled to dignity, self-respect and the opportunity to work.

                  • All people, either individually or in groups, may own wealth or property for their own use, but in any conflict of interest people are always more important than property and the state must ensure a just distribution of wealth.

                  • The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and that the Treaty should be honoured in government, society and the family.

                  • Peace and social justice should be promoted throughout the world by international co-operation and mutual respect.

                  • The same basic human rights, protected by the State, apply to all people, regardless or race, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious faith, political belief or disability.

            • newsense 12.1.1.1.1.2

              shared prosperity

            • Mary 12.1.1.1.1.3

              Yes, I couldn’t agree more, but they don’t, and more importantly, they don’t want to. Unless you’re a worker, of course.

  13. felix 13

    “Voters want to know that we get them.”

    But you don’t.

    “We understand their struggles and successes;”

    But you don’t.

    “… that we are part of their personal journeys;”

    But you’re not.

    “… that we understand their lives.”

    But you don’t.

    “Our voters just want to know we’ve got their back:”

    But you haven’t.

    “… that our future is their future,”

    But it isn’t.

    “… that our guiding values are theirs.”

    But they aren’t.

    Voters don’t want to hear any of that shit. What we want is for it to actually be true. So stop trying to figure out how we’d like our shit sandwich wrapped and get to work on making a better fucking sandwich.

    When we see you doing that – really doing it – we’ll come running to join you and you won’t need your meaningless platitudes and branding exercises.

  14. ‘Value speak’ is just bureaucratic bullshit.
    The only value of value is the value of the commodities produced by the working class.
    Whoever lives off the bulk of that expropriated value can pay all the toadies and hangers on to articulate conversations about spurious values while depriving said class of the value of its labour. 
    The Labour Party is misnamed, it is speaking for those who appropriate value not those who create it.

  15. Sanctuary 15

    I finally got around to listening to Josie Pagani on radio NZ from Monday, and she is full of nonsense, but a very particular nonsense that reflects the wider abandonment of socialism in Labour in favour of faction driven post-modern relativism. I think Josie Pagani (and by extension, certain advisors who have Shearer’s ear) is nothing more than a not very good post-modernist in a party founded on principles of modernity and that she is dimly aware her world view is instinctively hostile to. Socialism – a supremely modernist creation – believes science establishes facts, political theory establishes the social state, that secularism usurps religion, and in this country this expressed itself in our welfare state. Pagani implicitly rejects this rational approach as obsolete modernism in her ever so clever post-modernist world. This is why IMHO she is resistant to class based analysis – she has no time of the old paradigm of the rich, the middle class and the working class. She sees the world instead as the information elite, the middle class and an underclass. In her world, the information elite craft the message for the millions of individual middle class realities and the underclass are ignored. Gone for Josie is the simple socialist focus on the wants of the poor and working class complete with objective measures of their needs; Instead there is a kaleidoscope of competing interests and wants some of which – such as feminism and biculturalism – seek to reject as patriarchal or culturally inappropriate scientific fact they don’t agree with and want to replace class with cybernetics as an explanation of the organisation of society.

    The trouble is politics, like war, is defiantly anti post-modernist. Pagani’s belief that modern politics is fundamentally post-modern is simply wrong, and it is proven wrong every time it comes into contact with objective reality. Pagani sounds like an blathering idiot completely devoid of common sense because she is. When confronted by the unapologetic realpolitik of the economic/demographic divide and conquer politics of the hollow men she has no real answer, as Hooten showed when he wiped the floor with her. When confronted by the ugly intrusion of objective reality in the form of angry activists she retreats into the denial of cognitive dissonance.

    Stripping politics of innate meaning and reducing it to merely debating the semantics needed to frame a huge number of individual (middle class) realities is a form of political nihilism that is consuming Labour from the top down. It is why we don’t see an articulation of Labour values – Labour values are modernist, scorned by the post-modernists like Pagani – or a Labour vision, since a political vision is futile when it can be legitimately interpreted in as many ways as it has readers or listeners.

    In short, Labour needs to re-assert the fact it is modernist party committed to certain ideas and ways of interpreting the world. When the institutional culture again reflects the values that led to the party being created in the first place, the articulation of those values will come naturally and the vision will be the cause and the effect of policy.

  16. fatty 16

    Labour need to define inequality as the prime issue. They must start pointing out that rich people are the problem, not the solution. Its OK to denounce greed, Labour should not be encouraging greed. The Occupy movement put inequality into the mainstream discourse, now is an opportunity which has been provided by the people…Labour are watching the boat sail by.
    Accumulating resources such as housing is a burden on us all and should be prevented.
    Labour are afraid of the wealthy, Labour used to challenge them, now they allow them to thrive.

  17. Blue 17

    Or Labour could try being Labour again.

    Housing and jobs. As in, many people can’t get a decent job and can’t afford to buy a house.

    If Labour made a real attempt at tackling those issues, they’d be voted in with a landslide. But, just like National, Labour have some watered-down, piss weak tinkering around the edges crap passing as policy on these issues.

    Leaving it to the market to fix is a right-wing solution. The left wing solution is active intervention. The Government building houses and creating jobs.

    Labour bought the right-wing way of doing things, where the state is hands off and just tries to prod private enterprise gently in the guts with the tip of their pinky finger.

    • Peter 17.1

      Yep. Darkhorse had an interesting graph about the decline of the State and the subsequent rise in law-making, over the past 15 years. Whereas once a Minister would instruct the relevant agency of state to deliver something, now Parliament has to pass a law, invariably, a very badly written law, that in all probability, will hardly be used.

    • Draco T Bastard 17.2

      And what do you do if the jobs are disappearing faster than the government can create them?

  18. lefty 18

    If the present Labour Party wanted to truly reflect its values it would rename itself Capital.

    • Colonial Viper 18.1

      The Capital Party

      I like it. Financial capital-centric, and Wellington-centric.

  19. Karen 19

    I think there’s way too much expectation that Labour can win more votes if only they can articulate their position more clearly. I think that most people who vote already know which side of the left/right divide they sit on. The reason so many people didn’t vote at the last election in my opinion is because they couldn’t be bothered thinking. The mainstream media guided those non-thinkers to believe that Goff was a loser and therefore anyone voting for Labour would be a loser by association. Just like McDonald’s advertising gets little kids to believe anything associated with McDonald’s must automatically be delicious, the MSM got people to believe anything associated with Labour is naff. Just before the last election I met someone who could be described as your typical ‘Waitakere Man’, not overly articulate, but skilled and reasonably intelligent. We got talking about the up coming election – he said he used to vote Labour but this time was voting for National. I asked him why, and he answered as though it was all perfectly logical …”Well you wouldn’t vote for Goff would you?”. I asked him why not and he just could not frame one single reason why not. Then I pointed out that voting for National would be a vote for asset sales. He was genuinely nonplussed at that, and said “but he (Key) wouldn’t go ahead if we didn’t want asset sales would he?” This guy simply could not join the dots because he’d been sold a message (“Key is cool, Goff is a loser”) and he hadn’t bothered to think further about it. Anyway, I met him again after the election and asked him if he voted for National. He said he didn’t bother voting at all in the end…

  20. Michael 20

    Labour, or whatever replaces it, must create solidarity among the working and non-working poor. After all, both groups live in poverty because of the defects of modern capitalism and both will benefit from its reform (not eradication, IMHO). Labour has managed to do this, very successfully, before (1935-1949) and intermittently thereafter. For a start, I reckon the bureaucracy must be overhauled (repeal the State Sector Act) so that the “poor” (not sure how to define the term but anyone earning less than me will do for now) can have some confidence that public servants will actually serve them, rather than themselves and the elite. Ministers must be accountable to the people for the performance of their officials and must be given powers sack or discipline those who won’t do what they are told.

    • Colonial Viper 20.1

      So you’re going to reform private sector capitalism by reforming the State Sector Act as a priority?

      I’d suggest if you really wanted to reform capitalism you would start by reforming the role of banks, money and credit in the economy.

  21. AnnaLiviaPluraBella 21

    A thoughtful piece today from Bryce Edwards  in the NBR
     
    “Should politicians lead political debate or follow it?
    Do political parties best serve democracy by ‘listening to the people’ or by articulating their own vision?
    These are two distinct approaches to the role of party politics, and it’s worth keeping them in mind when following the ongoing online discussion over Labour’s political direction.
    …..
    The different political approaches boil down, according to political scientists, to whether politicians and parties should be ‘preference-shapers’ or ‘preference-takers’. Much of the debate around the Labour Party – and all New Zealand parties – occurs within a mindset that assumes that political parties are ‘hostages’ of the fixed ideological preferences of voters. Rob Salmond epitomises this, as does the Pagani approach.
     ….
     ‘You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision’ .”
     
    Have a full read on teh NBR.   

  22. newsense 22

    anyone else nostalgic for the golden days of Phil Goff ’11?

    • Colonial Viper 22.1

      Yeah man. Goff in the last 3-4 months put in a Herculean effort, against an unfriendly media and too many disloyal MPs; he could speak and hold a crowd then go outside and kick ass in front of the TV cameras. It was a mistake for him to step down as quickly as he did IMO.

      • KJT 22.1.1

        Yeah. Goff put up a good fight for three months. Pity it did not start in 2008.

        Almost made me eat my words about him..

        Unfortunately Goff was too nice, and probably too taken aback by Keys bare faced lies in the debates.

        Definitely much better than Shearer so far. From what we have seen a good Labour leader, from Nationals viewpoint!

        • Colonial Viper 22.1.1.1

          Definitely much better than Shearer so far. From what we have seen a good Labour leader, from Nationals viewpoint!

          I’m sure everyone here remembers everyone from Fran O’Sullivan to Hooten to Farrar praising the hell out of Shearer while discounting Cunliffe.

          Well, Labour got exactly what those people wanted.

          • felix 22.1.1.1.1

            Exactly. And there’s no real pleasure in saying “I told you so” but we all fucking told them so.

      • mike 22.1.2

        “It was a mistake for him to step down as quickly as he did IMO.”

        In the days after the election I expressed my disappointment here that sticking with Goff didn’t seem to be an option on the table. He really did step up for the election, and looked like he finally had Key figured out. It’s not easy to beat someone who doesn’t play by the rules, but with another 3 years he could have made that transparent tool his bitch. Maybe. Or maybe Shearer will learn by 2014, maybe, he’s not been so convincing so far.

        • jasper 22.1.2.1

          Emailed goff and told him that. Got a standard reply from his secretary. Finally rescinded my membership. Labour aint the party for me. Work full time. Got a house mortgage kids and a fulltime disability. No help from the state for the last year and I’m glad I got myself going again felon the depressive funk I was in.

          This blabour party under shearer sucks. It’s you either vote a shyster or a clam.

  23. Zola 23

    What Labour needs is someone who can speak from their heart, from their gut about things they passionately believe in. Disembodied men in suits prattling on something that they think the voters might go for turns off everyone. Let’s have some passion and anger, and some courage to make the real changes that are desperately needed. I’d follow them – boots an all.

  24. Alan Ivory 24

    “You can’t get people to think about policy unless they buy into the project. What is missing from Shearer at the moment is the articulation of Labour values. The articulation of a vision. The articulation of a narrative about where we are, where we are going and how Labour’s values best realise that. Only once you get buy in on that can you start getting buy in on how you get there. If approached this way- I think you will start seeing the centre and some of those who did not vote come with (note not to) Labour.”

    I agree and this is what Cunliffe has been doing in his recent speeches.

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