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Undefeated

Written By: - Date published: 3:14 pm, November 17th, 2008 - 41 comments
Categories: activism, greens, labour, maori party, Media, national/act government - Tags:

Paul Holmes wrote yesterday: “While Labour moves to the Opposition benches, it does so weirdly unmolested by the election defeat, weirdly undefeated”

Damn right, the Left seems undefeated, and so it should. The Right has only won power by masquerading as the Left; Key’s mandate is only to maintain the legacy of the Fifth Labour Government (and, somehow, solve every problem going at the same time).

The Left was not rejected in a landslide – the Labour/Progressive/Green vote was 41.1% (will be 42% once specials are counted) compared to 47.2% in 2005. Those few percent who moved from Left to Right want a continuation of the policies of the last nine years, they just wanted a change of leadership for change’s sake.

It was a close race, a 2.5% shift from National to Labour (about what Labour lost in the closing two weeks of the campaign) would have been enough for a LPG+Maori government to be formed*. Despite nine years of government wearing away at support, despite a constant negative campaign for four years straight from National, despite a year-long campaign from the media, particularly the Herald, that recalls the vitriolic anti-Labour press of the 1930s, they only just got enough, the people did not abandon the Left in droves and they want to see the policies of the Left continued.

And, while many great policies are now on hold or under threat, we have a lot to look forward to. Being in opposition is a poor substitute for being in power, rather than racking up achievements the goal is to protect those that have been made form destruction, but at least now it will be Key and his mates having to answer the hard questions. Labour will be chomping at the bit, waiting for the first question time. For the activist too, having the Right in power is invigorating. In reality, we are always in opposition to the ruling capitalist class. Now that the capitalists’ parties are in power again, the heat comes back into the conflict. We can build and extend our networks as the Right’s policies increase consciousness and militancy in the Left.

Key has over-promised and simply has no policy plan which can deliver. Even though the media will continue to give him a free ride, the Left knows there will be plenty of opportunities to hammer his failures as time goes on.

Sure, the Left has lost the Treasury benches but they are just one tool with which we fight for what we believe in; we keep going without them. Yes we are undefeated, and we will soon start clocking up the victories again.

*(I know the Maori Party just went with National but the clear first preference of Maori Party voters and its membership was Labour – that’s the deal that would have been done if the Moari Party were kingmaker. Indeed, I’m hearing reports that many Maori Party supporters are fuming at Turia over the ‘consultation’ that took place before the deal with National was signed).

41 comments on “Undefeated”

  1. Paul Holmes also said in the Herald: “But when I suggested to him people might have been tired of being told what to do by intellectual left-wing feminist women…”

    Looks like Chris Trotter was right after all…..according to Paul Holmes.

  2. gingercrush 2

    Well good luck because I think you’ll find it more difficult than you realise. Because traditionally first term governments have carried over to the second term. And I would argue that the reason there wasn’t a big fall was Helen Clark herself. I really think she became such an asset for the Labour party that without her as leader you may struggle. But we have yet to see Phil Goff and Annette King work so we’ll see. Anyway good luck because I think you’ll need it.

  3. Scribe 3

    Are you going to be this angry and bitter for the next three — er, 12 — years, Steve?

    [lprent: we have a *long* way to go before we drop to the level of whaledrek, no (I’m a) munster, or dpf on winston. I’m not even going to mention the sewer denizens (besides I think a lot of them do it for comic effect). Now that is a bitter and twisted bunch]

  4. Good post

    From now on until they show otherwise I believe that we should refer to this Government as the ‘Labour lite” government and John Key should be affectionately known as “H3”.

    If they behave and do most of what they promised to do (excluding Kiwisaver and privatising ACC) they will go down in history as a competent Labour Government.

    I only wish that I could expect them to do what they say they will.

  5. scribe. bitter?

    are you going to be unrelentingly negative for ever?

  6. Scribe 6

    Me? Negative?

    I’m positive and ambitious for New Zealand 😉

    [lprent: I’d thought that phrase had become a synonym for “meaningless waffle”? I’d have written a comment, but I’m on the moderation run. But that I couldn’t resist.]

  7. Scribe,

    I can only speak for myself but I agree with Steve. Once a political person always a political person just because your favourite party isn’t in power doesn’t mean that you stop. And why don’t you stick the angry and bitter were the sun don’t shine. This has nothing to do with angry and bitter but everything with weary. The first massive reversals have already been announced and privatising water is downright immoral, so we have a lot to fight for and against.
    And if you don’t like that than why? I hear whaleoil has a soft spot for trolls like you.

    And lastly i’m hopeful that with the financial Armageddon coming our way people will want to know how come and guess what all we have to do is point at our subprime minister the ex Wall street/City of London Forex and derivatives gangster.

  8. r0b 8

    No government can stay in power for ever, and as I suggested might be the case before the election, we lost this one but we lost it well. A small soft shift to the right, a smooth handover of power within Labour. An excellent legacy to cap off 9 years of competent and productive government. Thank you once more to Helen and Michael and the Labour led government.

  9. Rex Widerstrom 9

    Those few percent who moved from Left to Right want a continuation of the policies of the last nine years, they just wanted a change of leadership for change’s sake.

    Congratulations, Steve. It can’t have been an easy task, going round asking them all why they voted the way they did. I’d have thought finding them would have been difficult, too.

  10. Rex. I’ve never encountered, nor seen interviewed a single former Labour voter who expressed any reason for voting National other than ‘time for a change’.

    As a election winning meme it was devastatingly effective, Crosby/Textor’s best work, but it doesn’t generate a mandate for a change in policy direction, especially as Key guaranteed to these voters that he would not undo the flapship policies of the Fifth Labour Government.

  11. Regan Cunliffe 11

    Those few percent who moved from Left to Right want a continuation of the policies of the last nine years, they just wanted a change of leadership for change’s sake.

    Keep telling yourself that. And that it was because the world was wanting change in governments everywhere. And that the world is in a recession and that incumbents are suffering as a consequence.

    There are plenty of us who voted for the left last time and swung right purely to stop the flood of legislation that being forced upon us without little or no public consultation or when public opinion was actually ignored.

    The arrogance is still continuing as you naively presume why you lost. It just proves that the reason why you lost is that you’re actually out of touch with the people and reality.

  12. r0b 12

    There are plenty of us who voted for the left last time and swung right purely to stop the flood of legislation that being forced upon us without little or no public consultation or when public opinion was actually ignored.

    What flood? In nine years we had – what – The Section 59 repeal that National supported? The shower-head beatup that never was even policy let alone law? The EFA that had wide public consultation? Ummm – what flood?

  13. Regan Cunliffe 13

    what flood?

    Privvy Council, EFA, ETS, Section 59, foreshore and seabed etc etc etc

  14. r0b 14

    Privvy Council – policy in manifesto before the election.
    EFA – public consultation process.
    ETS – public consultation process.
    Section 59 – private member’s bill supported by National.
    foreshore and seabed – public consultation process.
    etc etc etc – what? What flood?

    Your mistake RC (and it is a common one) is to convince yourself that legislation that you don’t like personally had “no consultation”. Wrong.

  15. Rex Widerstrom 15

    Steve I still think you’re giving way too much credit to Crosby Textor (I’ll start peddling conspiracy theories that you’re secretly on their payroll if you keep this up 😉 Watch for yourself in the next edition of TGIF 😀 )

    Most people are naturally conservative creatures. It’s been well established that, next to the death of a loved one, moving house is one of the most stressful events in people’s lives. And that “nesting” is what people do in times of external stress – not just because the money to go out to dinner etc isn’t there but because they feel safe amongst the familiar.

    They dont just wake up one morning and feel “I’m bored with this lot, I think I’ll change the government”. Even if they’re not especially happy with the way things are, that inertia against change (aka the advantage of incumbency) must be overcome.

    I’ve no more insight into the collective mind than you, but I’d posit that if Labour had set aside some of its unpopular social engineering agenda (as Regan refers to above) – sacrificed it at the altar of the good things they could have achieved in other, more traditional Labour areas like wages, youth education and training, the economy and so on – they might just have hung on.

    I guess it depends on what’s meant by “time for a change” though. My parents, for instance, have voted Labour all their lives. I only found this out a few weeks ago because they said that though they thought Labour “looked after people like us better” they were just sick and tired of being pontificated at and hearing other people told how to live their lives. So yes, they felt it was “time for a change”, but not in the almost apathetic way I think you mean it… they had been highly motivated to overcome their inertia, and a longstanding habit (or loyalty, if you prefer).

    That’s no more valid than your sample, of course, but I’d suggest is more typical of the “silent majority” of Labour supporters than the more engaged and active ones you’ve probably seen or spoken to.

    Yes, Crosby Textor gave Key some talking points to piggyback on public disquiet about the increasing nanny statism Labour was displaying but really, anyone with half a brain could have done that.

    edit: And what toad says. Excellent summation, toad.

  16. toad 16

    Steve, I agree the left were not “defeated”, but here’s my take on why the centre-left lost power:

    The Taito Phillip Field Affair

    Allegations of misconduct against Field had been simmering since just before the 2005 election. Instead of implementing a proper investigation with the teeth to interview witnesses under oath, Clark implemented an Claytons inquiry that was widely perceived as a whitewash designed to clear Field. Then despite further very serious allegations, Field was retained in the Labour Caucus right through to February 2007, creating a perception of tolerance of impropriety and possible corruption.

    The pledge card

    Labour’s handling of the pledge card and the Auditor-General’s report was appalling. The should have simply admitted “we got it wrong, and we’ll pay the money back’ (as the Greens did). Instead, they allowed the pledge card affair to drag on interminably, and were subjected to daily allegations in Parliament of corruption. They hadn’t actually done anthing that most other political parties had done, but their reluctance to own up to their mistake and put it right undermined public confidence in them as a Government.

    David Benson-Pope

    Much like Taito Phillip Field actually, although the allegations were not so serious. The perception was created, through Clark’s continued tolerance of Benson-Pope through the “tennis balls affair’ in which he had quite clearly been economical with the truth. He was finally dispatched in July 2007 after allegations of him lying to Parliament over matters relating to the appointment of a Communications Manager in the Ministry for the Environment. Clark said at the time, “The way in which certain issues have been handled this week has led to a loss of credibility and on that basis I have accepted Mr Benson-Pope’s offer to stand aside’. Pity for her that she didn’t realise he had lost credibility much earlier.

    The Electoral Finance Act

    This was handled by Labour in the most appalling way. The original Bill was so poorly drafted that Justice Minister Mark Burton deserved the sack for allowing a Bill that was such a shambles to come before Parliament. He was later quietly stood down, but by that time the damage had been done. Labour railroaded the Bill through Parliament, refusing to consider very pertinent submissions from organisations such as the Human Rights Commission or suggestions from the Green Party who were left with a “take it or leave it’ option. This allowed the right to create the perception of the Electoral Finance Bill, and consequently of Labour, being undemocratic – a task which the NZ Herald took up with great gusto.

    Winston Peters

    Need I say more. Clark stood by Peters as allegation after allegation of impropriety and, in the last few weeks, even corruption emerged against Peters. In her first and second terms he would have been promptly dispatched, at least temporarily, for allegations of far less substance, but her continued tolerance of him as a Minister allowed her and her government to be tarred with the same brush as Peters.

  17. Regan Cunliffe 17

    Actually, it has nothing to do with whether I like a piece of legislation. There is some policy that I actually agree with. What I don’t like, however, is when legislation is forced on a population who generally aren’t in favour of it or aware of what is happening – whether I agree with that policy or not.

    Paying lip service to “public consultation” and yet ignoring public opinion doesn’t cut it for me. Nor does it make it just.

    But I’ll say this again, you assume you lost because change was what was wanted for changes sake. You are wrong. Change was wanted because you weren’t listening. You lost voters because you weren’t listening. And now, you continue to defend yourselves instead of listening.

    The election was about trust and the electorate couldn’t trust you to listen. I wonder how many years it will take before you do.

  18. r0b 18

    Paying lip service to “public consultation’ and yet ignoring public opinion doesn’t cut it for me. Nor does it make it just.

    It isn’t “lip service” just because you don’t like the outcome. Don’t mistake your opinion for public opinion. You don’t speak for me.

    But I’ll say this again, you assume you lost because change was what was wanted for changes sake. You are wrong.

    Yeah OK. I guess I just imagined all that ad nauseam “time for a change” stuff. Thanks for clearing that up Regan.

  19. Concerned of Tawa 19

    Good assesment Toad.

    Oh and Owen….

    Add to that the “Anti-Smacking” Bill which couldn’t have been handled worse either.
    Fronted by Bradford in a PR disaster, then Clarks “Absolutely not, I think you are trying to defy human nature” flip flop. The whole thing became a complete farce until that nice Mr Key came along and offered Clark some rope.

    Winston though has to be for me the golden rat. Nothing has given me greater pleasure than to watch Clark (and the left on here) defend this horrid racist blight on NZ.

  20. r0b 20

    Nothing has given me greater pleasure than to watch Clark (and the left on here) defend

    You need to get out more!

  21. Regan Cunliffe 21

    Thanks for clearing that up Regan.

    You’re welcome

  22. randal 22

    how come the tories won but they are still wingeing?
    is that all they know?

  23. Daveski 23

    Toad – Spot on

    I agree it’s the election mandate does not give National carte blanche to make wholesale sales.

    Having said that SP you overlook the fact that Labour also resisted making substantive changes to key legislation as many here have pointed out … err pointedly.

    In the wrap up Toad, the only other thing I would add is that Labour appeared to get more arrogant in their last three years and i would specifically suggest the failure to build an effective relationship with the MP has now come back to bite them big time. Helen should have done what Key did – go out of her way to include them to build on a stable government alliance. I still haven’t seen a satisfactory explanation that explains why they didn’t.

    Anyway, it’s like the saying about the Pommy rugby team – you can never beat them, just score more points

  24. rave 24

    National controlled the media, and many workers have lost their class culture, end of story.

    Labour may not have been defeated but the workers were and will suffer more defeats before they are strong enough to counter the dominance of capitalist ideology.

    The only way to counter the media from imposing a crass bourgeois culture onto Labour’s heartlands is to revive working class culture at its roots to create a popular culture to counter the crap shoved down our throats by the MSM.

    Once the working class takes ownership of family violence then there is no need for nanny laws, soon to be heavily augmented by big daddy laws, to stop us killing ourselves.

    Once we make the fight against global warning part of each wage negotiation and strike against polluters, there is no need to impose laws that are evaded or shifted onto consumers.

    Once we are able to fight for our own freedom we won’t be seduced by baubles to suck up to banksters to get some crumbs. The sheer indignity of having to deal with the modern day coloniser would register as not only class shame but class anger.

  25. mike 25

    Man and I thought Trotter was taking it hard…

    It must be terribly painful to watch Mr Key so effortlessly cementing a Govt in record time before announcing a what Gustaffson called one of the stongest line-ups he ‘d ever seen. He will make us all proud to be kiwis once again SP then you may finally acknowleged just how much the left did lose in 2008

  26. gingercrush 26

    Not to mention the evidence, clear evidence that Labour has a real problem outside the cities. For every province to go to National is clearly a problem. Not to mention in Auckland, besides South Auckland and elements in Auckland itself it went blue. Wellington stayed red. In Christchurch two electorates, Port Hills and Ilam were blue and Christchurch Central nearly went blue. On the otherhand Dunedin did stay red. But for everywhere else to go blue in the party vote is a worry and something the centre-left needs to sort out soon. And most provinces North to South went Blue in 2005. Which means in most of those provinces there is a clear problem.

    Some of those provinces shouldn’t even be blue. West Coast should not be Blue. Nelson and Invercargill should not be blue. How New Plymouth became blue is beyond me. Napier shouldn’t really be blue and there are clear problems that the left message isn’t working in the electorate of East Coast. I also think the left is losing support in Auckland city and a number of those electorates could potentially become permanently blue. Its one thing to have a centre-left message. But if that message isn’t getting through to certain electorates, its a problem.

    Long term the centre-left is in danger of being a party seen for the cities. Dunedin and Wellington look certain to always be Labour territory. But with Christchurch I think your watching a city that isn’t looking as Labour as it once did. Ilam has always veered towards the centre-right. But Port Hills went to National this year. Christchurch Central could cause problems and even Wigram could one day shift to the centre-right.

    As for Auckland. East and North is already National. South Auckland will remain Labour. West Auckland did vote National this year but I think its still natural Labour territory. But its an area that may well become a swing area. And whoever is in the lead nationally will likely pick it up. Auckland city itself is interesting. Parts of it are National while parts are Labour. Mt. Roskill and Mt. Albert I think are slowly becoming blue. And when the day comes that Phil Goff and Helen Clark are gone. They’ll be areas to watch.

    Perhaps I am shooting the gun and some areas went blue simply because nation-wide the vote favoured National. In which case when things are super tight we’re looking at what happened in 2005. There provinces went Blue, cities went red. The difference proved largely to be South Auckland. But as much as South Auckland grows so too is North Auckland and that is sharply looking like becoming permanent National territory.

    Whatever the case. Labour needs to sort its problems in Auckland, make sure Christchurch doesn’t slowly go Blue and reach into some of the provinces. Start with Nelson, Palmerston North and Invercargill, But don’t forget about Napier, New Plymouth and the East Coast.

    In regards to the Invercargill electorate. Its shifting and is reaching into the countryside. Meaning the city/township itself of Invercargill will become less and less relevant.

    —-

    I’ve left Hamilton out because my heart tells me its slowly shifting towards always likely to favour National but my brain tells me it merely swings to whoever is in front.

  27. randal 27

    LPRENT
    this is pure undiluted cut and paste spam from the ct machine
    do we have to put up with this?

    [lprent: It isn’t visible on google as a cut-n-paste from what I can see (which I don’t like). I’d say that is gc’s own words. I don’t stop the right commenting here, and there are good points (albeit rather naive) . I just stop trolls.]

  28. lprent 28

    gc: You are correct, and incorrect. Basically your thinking is too short-term. Have a look at the final tallies for the 2002 election. By the same argument you’d have to say that the whole country was turning red.

    For that matter I can remember similar shifts several times over my 50 years in the party vote. Usually it happens when a government falls off the treasury benches. The only time it is a problems is when the party vote isn’t counted and between the electoral system and the boundaries commission, National runs a gerrymander.

  29. gingercrush 29

    2002 was a real strange election in that National was downright pathetic and Labour looked particularly strong. There you saw New Zealand First and United Future swallow up much of National’s vote and that was reflected in electorates. I know what you’re saying in regards to shifts. But there are signs that outside the odd strange election (2002) certain areas typically will go Red or Blue and other areas tend to swing. And I know I am ignoring the Green vote and also that its party vote that is relevant. But you can point to electorates where the party vote is always going to go Blue or areas always Red and areas that swing.

  30. lprent 30

    gc: There are VERY few electorates that haven’t been on both sides of the fence at some point or another. Sure there are boundary changes, but generally you have to look at population shifts. When I was born (where I live now) was one of the most notorious slums in NZ. Now it is an area that you have to be a millionaire to buy a house.

    More importantly, if you look at the long-term shifts in party support in any electorate (not who wins the electorate), you find long-term cycles. Even the King-Country seat (and I can’t remember that ever not being Blue) has a significant left vote.

    The advantage of MMP is that vote gets represented these days. I’d hate to go back to the feudal fiefdoms that FPP exposes (and I opposed MMP at the start). It does lead to a far more responsive and representative political system.

    Anyway, enough blogging – back to finding the damn memory leak. Makes me feel like I’m programming in c#

  31. MikeG 31

    The electorates are too large to be talking about the provinces ‘going blue’ etc. A better analysis is that done on the Wellingtonista, showing a booth-by-booth red/blue indicator. Unfortunately it was only done for the Wellington area – it would be great to see it for the whole country. I live in the Tamaki electorate, and even there with a huge National majority, there were some polling booths that had a huge Labour majority.

  32. gingercrush 32

    Talking about electorates being blue/red is doable but I do agree one needs to be careful and look at booths etc or in places like Rangitata look at Ashburton and Timaru as separate then consider the small towns etc. I did enjoy that Wellington map and it’d be interesting to see someone do that for the whole of New Zealand.

    Its probably easier to do it in the cities than the country because an electorate like Clutha-Southland is huge not to mention the Maori seats.

  33. Mr Shankly 33

    One of the major problems that labour now faces is that is not an inclusive party. This is very similar to where National was nine years ago.

    Many groups feel that they have not been well represented, disadvantaged or discriminated against by the Labour government. This may be parly because as Labour attempted to identify special groups within New Zealanders for special attention – it only highlighted that their own grouping was missing out. National is more appealing as they have moved to the centre and are an inclusive party of New Zealand.

  34. randal 34

    wrong mr shoankey
    natoinal only appear to be more inclusive so they can lull peopleinto a false security before they and their creepy colleagues from act really put the bite in
    btw
    mr shonkey was it you who wrote that crummy letter in the dompost this morning criticising Dr Michael Culllen
    is it natoinal party policy to demonise him after the elction whihc you suposedly won.
    are you bad losers or just like thata s a matter of course

  35. gingercrush 35

    Mr Shankly I disagree. Likely we’re seeing a real difference in city voters vs province voters. Where Labour use to do very well in large provincial towns like Napier, New Plymouth, Nelson and Invercargill. Increasingly they have shifted to National. Though need to be careful because so far there isn’t much analysis. I’m going through it myself for personal interest. But lol I sure am not an expert or academic.

    And if anything National’s result in 2005 forced Labour to go more centrist themselves. That was evident in them choosing United Future and New Zealand First for supply and confidence over the Greens and Maori party.

    2005 was a battle between a very right wing National Party and a left Labour Party. The 2008 election was a clear battle between National that moved centrist flaked by hard-right Act and centrist United Future versus a centrist Labour backed by a hard-left Green party.

    Where your argument could work is that voters saw that Labour needed the Green party and thus, the new government would be more leftist than previously. And perhaps that scared some voters away. But I haven’t seen any analysis of that and the swing away from centre-left was likely too small to warrant such an argument.

  36. Mr Shankly 36

    Gingercrush I could argue that provincial NZ is one of the groups that felt like it was missing out and undervalued under labour.

    Labour needs to refind its roots and truly represent working class people through out New Zealand. This group quite rightly feels they have been taken for granted and even excluded in favour of left wing intellectual liberals.

    Labour supporters may argue that with working for families etc the lot of the working class has improved – the problem is their perception is that they have been forgotten as too much emphasis was placed on things that do not really matter to them by the last labour government.

  37. gingercrush 37

    That argument has some merits. Though the provinces tend to not look at class or consider class important.

  38. randal 38

    you are both wrong and more to the point you are acting in concert
    norty norty
    labour was defeated by the combined efforts of natoinals backers and suborning the meedia
    someone callow
    fat tony amosh
    blerrrrkkky
    gayone epsinner
    lateon smiff
    altogether they harped and screamed and whined and appealed to the most base prejudices in the kiwi psyche till they got a result
    no more of your jiggery poekery please
    why dont you call a spade a spade
    and admit you whined till you won
    like a greedy kid after some lollies
    everyone else KNOWS

  39. Chris G 39

    Fantastic post SP,

    Particularly the paragraph about bringing the heat as opposition. Great stuff! Im already excited about 2011 electioneering and debate. In the mean time as bob jones said:

    ‘When the Nats get in power everyone needs to batten down the hatches and get ready for a recession’

    Indeed we should batten down the hatches, bob.

    if you must know, for labour he said: ‘The economy bubbles but you get all sorts of crap like Womens Affairs and [Some other liberal thing I cant recall what he added]”

  40. jason rika 40

    Labour lost and I am still understandably sad if not a little annoyed. People are dumb, end of story. The only bright light is I just got a pay rise. Cancelled my nanny herald subscription. I refuse to read that refuse. Maybe $400 odd dollars. Now thats freedom of speech, vote with your wallet.

  41. mike 41

    Well Ive seen some worthless crap in my time, but this lot surely wins the title “most drivel”

    I continue to be amazed at the rubbish that everyone writes about this election. About why maori and national could never get together (theyre both conservative – what would be more natural). About why labour lost (the majority of those who voted are pissed off with them – just like the same lot were pissed off with shipley and her lot after 3 terms in 1999), about how ‘undefeated’ labour seem to be (crap), about how hide will ruin the country (crap again – he’s all wind), and all those other etherial ideas and dreams.

    Its simple people – More people voted against labour than for them – thats why they lost. National didnt win – no one wins elections – the incumbents lose them.

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  • Speech to Labour Party Congress 2020
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