What’s Left?

Written By: - Date published: 12:07 pm, February 25th, 2024 - 51 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, chris hipkins, david parker, grant robertson, greens, james shaw, Kelvin Davis, labour, Left, michael wood, Nanaia Mahuta, Politics, stuart nash, uncategorized - Tags:

From Election 2023’s result through to February 2024 there has been massive loss and damage to the Parliamentary capacity of Labour and Greens.

Who still has the capacity to lead? What’s left?

Let’s start with the Green Party.

James Shaw is a loss, since he achieved that rare thing of forming an enduring cross-Party market mechanism for evaluating and trading carbon pricing. Few in the banking or brokering or top 4 accountancy consultancies ever had a cross word to say of him.

In partial replacement, MP Scott Willis has some useful capacity in small scale green energy production consulting, but is unlikely to engage successfully with environmental regulation and the officials who draft this tough area.

Huhana Lyndon is not short of business experience, nor is Darleen Tana. The field is theirs for the Greens to engage with business the way Shaw did.

The political gain from the loss of James Shaw is the rise to leadership of Chloe Swarbrick.

She’s certainly got tougher over time, and will provide a stronger sense of attack than Shaw did to issues.

There is no list replacement for what Efeso Collins brought in the next 5 of the Green Party list, may he rest in peace. He generated a credible alternative to Labour in the massive voting area of South Auckland. Some Pasifika capacity remains in Teanau Tuiono as he spans both Cook Island and Maori peoples. There’s some of Efeso’s local government knowledge in the form of Celia Wade-Brown, Tamatha Paul, and Lan Pham.

The loss of Golriz Gharaman weakens the Green Party capacity to challenge dominant discourses in international relations, foreign affairs and immigration, particularly from a social justice point of view. Again, no current replacement.

The net effect of a strong Maori caucus in the Greens is a latent ability to build strong and deep horizontal leadership with Te Pati Maori and with Labour’s Maori caucus (such as it is now). That has some potential to continue the oppositional energy started in January 2024 with Kingitanga and at Waitangi, if there is a will to reach and cooperate across parties. Go for it, if you can outplay Winston and Shane.

Now to the Labour Party. 

Nanaia Mahuta gave her all to her people and to water reform, and she got all her reforms through. Her electoral loss and the reversal of her reforms leaves the field open for National. There is no one in Labour with the degree of expertise in water governance that she possesses. Other than Mr Parker, which we’ll get to shortly.

Michael Wood, supposedly one of Ardern’s safest pairs of hands, sank in his own political quagmire. It will not be possible for a lifetime Palmy leader like Tangi Utikere to pick up the scale and political exposure of the transport portfolio and to make dents into Minister Brown with it. 

The loss of Andrew Little isn’t quite so bad in the health front, due to the strength Labour has in Dr Ayesha Verrall. She will have a great time defending the re-centralisation of the health sector Labour led. While Dr Verrall might have been ably assisted if Dr Liz Craig had hung on, Dr Verrall knows the bureaucracy better than anyone else in parliament and she will easily match the Minister of Health on the floor and in the media.

Kelvin Davis is not a loss to be noticed outside of the Far North. Kaitaia never had the political heft it did with Kelvin, and likely never will again. But there are still a good few Maori members in caucus to assist in building a fresh and credible position with the many Maori communities and interests. Labour now rely totally on Willie Jackson to be able to reach out to Maori MPs in parliament. Labour will remain at a low ebb while they fail to make inroads into the NZFirst Maori vote or the Maori seats they used to bank on.

It is also stark mismatch that Dr Tracey McLellan as a practising clinical psychologist is the Corrections spokesperson, when Greg O’Connor is sitting there with several decades of Police experience.  We full well know that Corrections and inmates generally are going to get smashed under this government.

Stuart Nash was a loss in 2023 prior to the election, worth mentioning because few in Labour currently have the capacity to hold a useful conversation with business in New Zealand. Nash could comfortably keep up with Mike Hosking on ZB which is now a massive Labour weakness. Damien O’Connor is the sole and strong exception; a true survivor with a huge catalogue of success for our core agribusiness. Jo Luxton owning a childcare centre is never going to gain the credible bonhomie with major business required of social democrats  to run this concentrated little country.

But here we get to the big one, and that’s the loss of Grant Robertson. In quite a different style to his mentor Dr Cullen, he confined his interests in the economy to massive subsidies for business, untargeted through the pandemic and sector-targeted thereafter. It was by a long measure one of the world’s largest interventions per GDP capita of any country to sustain the economy during the pandemic. His replacement Barbara Edmonds is like Dr Verrall a public servant to her core, and has about as much daring and adventure in her policy chops as my 19 year old cat.

Hipkins’ elevation of Edmonds and the appointment of Deborah Russell to Revenue shows that Hipkins has plently of intellectual capacity to analyse and discuss tax policy, but is appointing none of the courage to grow a muscle to redistribute wealth away from our absurdly capital-distorted country. Russell has that unique capacity to come from a rock solid Labour electorate, lose it massively, and still get a promotion that befits her bluestocking beltway brain.

Hipkins is also using the elevation of Edmonds and Russell to shank David Parker. Parker is the only guy left with that combination of progressive chops, huge track record, and the merest mote of charisma to be an alternative leader to Hipkins. Hipkins has sent yet another signal to Parker to retire. This leaves Hipkins free to turn the entire Labour effort into an even more ineffectual Wellington-circling wankathon taking two terms to recover from the smashing he got it in 2023.

There’s a major risk that Labour hasn’t finished its big cull of retirements and replacements. They have proportionally lost more power than the Greens have, but both have lost.

Both Labour and the Greens have been weakened beyond the October 2023 election. 

They now have gaps that aren’t easy to fill from their substitutes off the bench.

Hipkins and Davidson in their own way are refusing to accept the real power their Parliamentary numbers state they have, and both are too busy jockeying internally to reach across the lines and form a cooperative platform against the hard right.

The new shape of the left is a long way from clarity. 

51 comments on “What’s Left? ”

  1. adam 1

    Labour will remain at a low ebb while they fail to make inroads into the NZFirst Maori vote or the Maori seats they used to bank on.

    Well that will happen when you don't keep your word.

  2. Corey 2

    Totally agree the loss of Shaw, Golriz and Collins is a huge blow to the Greens. A coleadership ticket of Shaw and Swarbrick would have been powerful.

    I didn't always agree with Golriz but when it came foreign policy she was easily one of if not the best in parliament for a long time.

    Effeso is just heart breaking, not only was a good person but also the potential he had to build the party overtime to get Passifka, Maori and South Auckland to see the Greens as an alternative to Labour is a huge loss.

    Where I disagree with you is Labour, I think it was well past time some of the Mps mentioned were put out to pasture (and some of the ones staying should go too)

    Their lack of experience is their own short sighted fault.

    Many of us in this blog (well maybe just me) from 2020 onwards were begging Labour to stop piling portfolio after portfolio on the pre 2017 old guard who were always going to retire when the 6th Labour govt was defeated.

    Not only were they overworking and burning out ministers but worst of all they were robbing the next generation of Labour MPs ministerial experience for when the party was in opposition and eventually elected again. This was negligence

    There were so many amazing experienced people elected in 2017 and 2020 that could have been elevated to ministerial positions and given higher public exposure, instead members of the old guard were at one point holding on to 3+ cabinet portfolios failing miserably in each one.

    Grant is a loss, he is one of a handful of Labour mps who was a name brand and charismatic and capable in parliament.

    But Mahuta? 27 years is too long for parliament and Damien? The bloke whose been in politics for over 30 years pissed off the aussies by lecturing them and always has a bad tale and lost west coast to bloody Maureen Pugh? Ciao.

    I totally agree Labour needs to replace people like Nash and needs Mps who can speak to business and for the love of christ needs to get some candidates who can appeal to heterosexual cis males (who the left have lost in every age group)

    The party has a lack of experience because it sucks at renewal, of all the govts in my life time the 6th Labour govt seemed to be the worst at refreshing cabinet and giving the next generation leadership positions preferring to mostly keep cabinet confined to the mps who were deemed utterly useless in the 08-17 opposition years.

    Renewal is everything and Labour sucks at it, this lack of renewal in govt is gonna hurt them in opposition and really, really hurt them when they are back in government, once again we'll have an unexperienced Labour cabinet slowed down by having to learn on the job.

    Chris Hipkins, the man who got 13 less seats than Cunliffe (who got all but one of the Maori seats) is a total failure and while National blitzkriegs the state, hasn't issued a single press release.

    If that self interested robot isn't gone by January next year the party actually could face more electorate seat losses and become a list mp party if the Greens surge more of the youth and left vote from Labour.

    Whoever takes over from hipkins, if they get into govt needs to make damn sure they do an electorate MOU with the Greens and make renewed of cabinet experience a major priority in government.

  3. Bearded Git 3

    Agree Labour certainly has problems with its post-election much smaller caucus, the loss of Robertson and, in IMHO, Hipkins' deficiencies as leader.

    Not sure if you are right that the Greens have problems though because:

    1.They have a new much bigger caucus due to their fine 12.6% showing at the election.

    2. Golriz was suffering from MS and (apparently) depression and would have been unlikely to be very effective, so she is not such a loss. Celia Wade-Brown will be an effective replacement.

    3. Shaw was mooted to leave soon and it looks like there will be a smooth transition to Swarbrick as co-leader, one of NZ's most talented and charismatic pollies.

    4. Efeso had only just been elected and so hadn't really learned the ropes or fulfilled a role for the party in parliament.

    All of this has happened almost 3 years out from the next election. So overall things still look pretty good for the Greens.

    • tc 3.1

      Good points BG.

      Chippie is the solution if its a beltway focused party of centrists you're after.

    • Rolling-on-Gravel 3.2

      Disability in politics is vital to have, same as any other background. If nobody is around to help represent the 24% of New Zealand in politics then can it be said truly to be a representative democracy?

      Do not imply disability to be ineffective.

      • Bearded Git 3.2.1

        Sorry …didn't mean to imply that Rolling….of course it is awful for anyone to get MS….I was just assuming anyone so unlucky as to be diagnosed with MS was likely to be operating at less than 100%…but I am also aware that usually it gradually worsens over several years.

  4. If Labour want to be a true party of the left, they need to ditch the entire neoliberal economic model that they are as guilty as National are of foisting on this nation. To make the socio-economic progress that the left wing of New Zealand want us to, we need a Capital Gains Tax or a Land Value Tax. Of all the centre/left parties at the last election, Labour was the only one not to offer significant tax relief, and I think this was one of the many reasons that traditionally left leaning electorates went looking for better candidates and party votes elsewhere.

    But does Labour want to be a party of the left? I am not sure that it does.

    Does it want to be a party of the centre? If it does, it needs to come up with something much more visionary than sitting on the fence and pretending to care whilst the Greens – particularly Chloe Swarbrick – do all of the mahi.

    So, what does Labour want to be in 2024? I am honestly not sure even Labour know the answer to that. Which is quite disturbing because if it wants to win in 2026 and get the worst Government in New Zealand history out of the Beehive, it has to be something.

    • tc 4.1

      Labour will be whatever chippie turns it into which IMO is already the problem.

      Captain centrist sitting in the middle with his crew of compliant mp's. I expect very little and so far it's delivered that and will continue to do so under chippie.

      • gsays 4.1.1

        Hang on, they have started a petition.

        Made some dubious claims (implying the government wants to axe sex ed) and want you to sign./sarc


        • Anne

          Thanks for the heads up. Signed it.

          What is the dubious claim? I recall NACT during the campaign making noises about axing sex education in schools. Something about it being the parents’ responsibility not the schools.

          • gsays

            Yr welcome.

            "I recall NACT during the campaign making noises about axing sex education in schools."

            Replace axing with changing and you are getting closer to the truth. Less of the gender stuff as far as I can make out.

            But not 'axing'.

            • Anne

              You don't think young people should learn about gender issues so that they can come to an informed opinion on the matter? Ignorance is bliss according to you?

              I beg to differ.

              Provided it is introduced in an appropriate way, I think it far better young people grow up with and understanding of the issue – something which was denied my generation.

              • gsays

                My issue is Labour's framing of the issue.

                Tinetti implying that the government was wanting to get rid of teaching consent when it was fairly obvious that it is the gender ideology that has proved controversial.

                So wrapped up in the Trans Women are Women mindset, she wasn't aware that this was NZ First policy. "I hadn't even heard of the 'woke gender curriculum', I had to look it up, and saw that it was something that was an imported culture war. "

                Edit oops, linky.https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/506348/government-accused-of-conspiracy-thinking-in-changes-to-sex-ed

                • Anne

                  Not sure why you linked to that item. It isn't favourable to the CoC and their proposed changes.

                  Here is Labour's full petition statement:

                  The Government has indicated it wants to remove sexual education resources and guidelines from schools and kura. This move will be a damaging step backwards for so many young people.

                  These education resources were created to answer the call of teachers and communities for more action against bullying, violence and child abuse.

                  Not only do they teach our rangatahi about consent, healthy relationships and digital safety, they create a space for meaningful discussions around sexuality and gender.

                  Now, the Government wants to take the axe to them – a move that will cause harm to our young people for years to come.

                  In Government, Labour worked hard to remove barriers so that all children could feel safe and learn well at school, while creating a more accepting Aotearoa.

                  Our schools should be inclusive and safe places for all our students whatever their gender, race, nationality, beliefs, or sexual orientation.

                  Removing important education resources, that are recommended by schools, teachers and experts, is not the way forward.

                  We need your voice. Together, we can send a clear message to the Government.

                  • gsays

                    I am fully aware of the article and the wriggly wording of Labour's petition.

                    My point stands, one of the few things they have raised their heads above the parapet for us a culture issue not class, not the short sighted ferry cancellation, not 6 house Luxons income increase for landlords, not smoking regression, not….

              • That is predicated on their actually being something called a "gender identity".

                We don't do relationships and sexuality education based on a belief in an "immortal soul" so why would we do it based on a belief in a "gendered soul"? Children and young people should be taught the truth – based on biological reality.

                Sexuality is real and provable – and we should not be lying to children that their is something "wrong" about their actual sex.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          Nothing wrong with that, but I notice Labour are comfortable to engage culture war issues, but seem terrified of class war issues.

      • 100% He is another Luxon, sure he is right. Bring on the Green Kaupapa. I am a long time Labour member, but Chippie lost me by not listening to the grass roots, making Captains calls and playing "his team" like chess pieces.

    • mikesh 4.2

      [ To make the socio-economic progress that the left wing of New Zealand want us to, we need a Capital Gains Tax or a Land Value Tax. ]

      A land value tax would be better than a capital gains tax since it can be collected on a regular basis: annually, half yearly, or whatever is considered appropriate. Capital gains taxes are collected only when the property is sold.

      Also, land value taxes can be more readily offset with reductions in in income tax.

      • Michael Scott 4.2.1

        We already have a land value tax

        I can’t afford another one

        • Craig H

          LVT would be accompanied by income tax cuts or more services which is designed so that discretionary income doesn't drop.

      • Descendant Of Smith 4.2.2

        Just bring back stamp duty but higher say 10% which is collected every time a house is purchased, death duties for estates worth over one million dollars net i.e. after debts are paid, and increased tax rates for those earning over $150,000 per annum, and a higher tax bracket for those earning over $300,000 per annum.

        Bring back universal family benefit, including capitalisation to buy a home, and get rid of all those tax trap add-ons such as working for families which are designed to have you pay back money if your income increases.

    • Michael 4.3

      What would an alternative to neoliberlism look like? Not some form of utopia but not dystopia either (which we seem to be closer to under this government). AFAICS, this alternative world must contain some form of capitalism, with resulting inequality and exploitation. But it must also contain institutions and mechanisms that control capitalism and place the public good above the market.

    • Adrian Thornton 4.5

      "If Labour want to be a true party of the left, they need to ditch the entire neoliberal economic model"….the Labour Party of NZ are Free Market fundamentalists who are as embedded to the ideology of 'NeoLiberalism' as National, ACT…that is a plain fact.

      They were the first NZ political party under MMP to rule as a single party…so we all saw and were able to understand exactly who Labour were over that period….no surprises, just more dirty Centrist Free Market Extremists who are quite willing to follow their death cult ideology all the way to the fiery pits….and drag us all along with them it seems.

      Turn Labour Left!!

      • Ad 4.5.1

        Now that Labour has learnt the public appetite for massive state intervention, exactly what decisions do you think a future Labour government should make to 'turn it left'?

  5. Darien Fenton 5

    Just in time along comes Bryce Edwards to tell Labour people like me how hopeless we are. Quoting Hooton, Andrea Vance, and even (ffs) HDPA. I cannot recall this academic ever writing anything about Nats, ACT or NZ First.


  6. thinker 6

    Stuart Nash was on tv news last night.

    That kind of loyalty I could do without…

    We can moan all we like about how politics was and should be again, but I don't think it will change back and we're stuck with American style, right wing that thinks it can run the country like a corporation, while demonizing the people who have no work and politicising the public sector, and a left that does its best on a shoestring.

    The only way forward, IMHO, is to look back further again to a time when the left represented working class values to the point where people would dig into their pockets to uphold their interests, but I think that's much harder because we are a more diverse lot these days.

    I've said it before, and it's one of those things that's easy to say but super hard to do, but if the right represents the top 10%, that leaves 90% of voters for the left to garner support from.

    Actually,I think the right works by representing the top 10% and making the next 20 or 30% feel like they belong, but that still gives the odds in favour of the left, if they can do as good a job at rousing their support base as the right has done with its own.

    • SPC 6.1

      My first reaction was that if I was Labour Party President he would be gone as a member by the end of the next meeting.

      • Obtrectator 6.1.1

        Indeed. How long before Stuart "Natsh" goes the whole hog and defects to the other lot?

      • Visubversa 6.1.2

        That was my reaction when I had to deal with him a long time ago in one of his early campaigns. He was standing in Epsom and seemed to think that if he ran a "Stuart Nash" campaign rather than a "Labour Party" campaign – he would do better.

        He was pretty bluntly told that this was not happening. His job was to help raise enough $$$ to get the signage up on all the arterial road sites, to turn up at the public meetings, to maximise the Party Vote, and to not cost us a flaming fortune having vanity photoshoots like a previous candidate whose bills were were still paying off.

    • Ad 6.2

      Anyone can accept that Nash was fired for the right reasons, but ….

      … the massive growth in gangs and gun violence accelerated through 2021-2022, and this was fully on the government to solve.

      Law and order is one of the core reasons Labour got wasted in the election. Anyone wonders why this government are so popular? It's because their Police Minister is allowed to read the room and actually do something.

      The reason Nash can talk now and the rest of ex-Labour Ministers stay silent is that the rest have gone to consultancies orbiting Wellington, so they have to stay neutral and silent in order to keep earning the $$$.

      Nash has gone to a global recruiting agency and is more free to talk.

      • newsense 6.2.1

        Actually do some window dressing that is out of the same policy play book as bene bashing: ineffective BS that plays as being tough as the media forget what happened the last (two?) times it was introduced.

  7. Michael 7

    Martyn Bradbury's remarks about Labour's relationship with the PSA is well worth reading on The Daily Blog website today. I am sure many readers of and contributors to this site will dislike Bradbury's column intensely. But that doesn't make its contents untrue. FWIW, I endorse Bradbury 100%.

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