How left wing are our left wing politicians?


trickle down
It was a simple enough idea with a simple enough question. I wanted to find out how left wing the politicians of our 3 left wing political parties rated themselves.

The question was this: How left wing would you rate yourself out of a scale of 1 to 10. 10 being Karl Marx and 1 being the love child of Roger Douglas and Milton Friedman.

The question was a little tongue in cheek but I was interested to see where each of the politicians placed themselves in terms of the direct intervention of the state.

With our currency being pimped as the new gold and Nouriel Roubini predicting the next bubble that will catastrophically collapse the global economy, how our left wing Parties intend to reform Capitalism is crucial if NZ is to survive the new economic normal.

Some politicians were thoughtful.

The very erudite Rajen Prasad wouldn’t give me a ranking, but he did give me this…

Hello Martyn

From my perspective I find your question difficult to answer as any answer will pigeon hole my position on all matters forever rather than be more nuanced. . I believe in the importance of addressing both social and economic factors that affect development. I believe that in the modern complex world many factors are under the control of individuals and families but there are just as many influences to their lives that are outside their control but nevertheless exert powerful influences on individuals. I believe policy should address all those factors.

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I do not accept that the market is capable of addressing all of our development needs and that it often needs to be humanised through other principles and policies.

I believe that the state has an important role to play and in a democratic society and that it needs to do the bidding of citizens without unnecessarily limiting the rights of individuals and families.

I strongly believe in the rights of people and the protections that goes along with that. I value diversity and see it as a central aspect of life in the 21st century and something that needs t be celebrated because we now look like the world.

I could go on. I would have to characterise the right in a particular way to position myself on the left right continuum. If I positioned the current national government as a right government than I am clearly on the left. How far left…Hummm. I think centre left would describe me. I am a liberal on many issues but I do believe in individual responsibility for those matters that are in my ambit to influence.

This probably does not help.


…Chris Hipkins continued this line…

I’ve been contemplating it. The problem is the question is pretty ambiguous. Marx thought it acceptable to use a person’s sexuality to ridicule them, an approach I don’t think reflects modern ‘left wing’ values at all… I would describe myself as quite left wing on economic and environmental issues, and very liberal on moral issues. So I reject the notion of a linear political spectrum. Not sure that answers your question though…

Hone Harawira was the highest self ranked leader of a Political Party at 100, which should help make any foreign investors intending to plunder our assets think twice.

Clare Curran’s same self ranked answer of 100 made my left wing heart flutter and pupils dilate. Being 10 times the socialist Marx was means that if Clare ever becomes Broadcasting Minister, we will be able to see the new Radio NZ offices from the Moon and TVNZ will have a broadcast reach to Alpha Centauri.

Megan Woods decided her answer was 1000, making her 100 times the socialist Marx was. My guess is that’s what happens when you hang around Jim Anderton’s electorate too long. Bless.

David Cunliffe and Phil Twyford both ranked themselves at 8 while Rino Tirikatene said a solid 7. Darien after a lot of prodding finally gave me a 10 and Maryan Street came out of the idealogical closet bravely declaring herself a 6.

The delightful Gareth Hughes fronted for the Greens, and as is the hive mentality of their party, they had decided to answer collectively. Kind of like the Borg, but armed with tofu.

Their answer was very funny and clever – but also interestingly revealing about their free market cornerstones…

I chatted to my colleagues, and we thought the left- right spectrum is a bit more complex than a couple of polar opposite white guys from history. Here’s where we think we stand as a Green Caucus:

The Green MPs
– on eco warrior spectrum from Exxon Mobil to Jeanette Fitzsimons ( we are at least a 9)
– on economic spectrum from Ayn Rand to Hugo Chavez ( maybe 7)
– on cultural rights spectrum from Richard Prosser to Annette Sykes (8 )
– on gender from Silvio Berlusconi to Caitlin Moran ( 10 – we’re great!)

…on Monday I will post up my interview with co-leader Russel Norman and I put to him their answer of 7 on the economy and question how important free market principles are to their economic platform. It’s an interesting insight.

Annette King rated herself alongside Norm Kirk but Ruth Dyson & Clayton Cosgrove were gloriously dour and humourless…

Hiya. Sorry but too shallow and meaningless for me. Spending today remembering the 185 lives and thousands of homes lost in our region 2 years ago, many of whom were friends. You know my voting record. So does my electorate and Party. That’s a good steer from me!
And Clayton says ditto.

…charmers aren’t they?

What was more fascinating than what was said, was what wasn’t said. Shearer, Robertson (both of them), Jones, Mahuta, Goff, O’Connor, Parker, Mallard, Moroney, Lees-Galloway, Sio, Mackey, Horomia, Dalziel, Faafoi, Huo, Wall, Clark and Little didn’t want to announce their ‘left-ness’.

Even the Princess Leia of the Left, Jacinda Ardern didn’t want to rank herself, other than pointing out that she was the ex president of the international union of socialist youth.

Who would have ever foretold the day when Labour MPs were fearful of showing their leftwing leanings? That sound you hear is Norm Kirk is rolling in his grave.

Labour’s political identity crisis helps explain its lack of traction in the polls. Their fear of mentioning ideology to a consumer culture has seen them drag their philosophical anchor all over the spectrum from beneficiaries on the roof to wanting to give away 100 000 affordable roofs.

What they seem to have not picked up yet is that when people can’t afford to be consumers, they remember they want to be citizens.

In his brilliant essay critiquing the 25 year experiment of neoliberalism in NZ, Brian Easton argues that the left in NZ need to create an economic argument that goes beyond the failed free market dogma.

The Greens are leading that debate and MANA is contributing with the Financial Transaction Tax, but Labour’s fear over who they are confuses voters as to what the Party stands for.

800 000 enrolled voters didn’t bother to vote in the last election making it one of the lowest voter turn outs on record and most of them were former Labour Party voters. The grassroots base want a Party far more to the left where as the Leadership seem to think fishing for National voters is the winning strategy.

Labour have 18 months to work out who they are and what they stand for, I will ask this question of all politicians in the 3 left wing parties again next year to see if they have made up their minds.

[poll id=”21″]


  1. Perhaps for a more in depth and consistent gauge of their political leanings, you should have got them to complete The Political Compass test. It would have gauged their position in either the authoritarian left/right or libertarian left/right.

    Although those who failed to declare their political persuasion probably would have declined to participate. Interestingly, looking at the site ( you can find many analyses of the major “left-wing parties” worldwide have moved progressively towards the authoritarian right over the past forty years, placing them near the major right-wing parties in the authoritarian right quarter. Well I suppose that’s their idea of centrism.

    P.S. Congratulations for The Daily Blog, a great site.

    • Put the Political Compass test up on Red Alert: Mallard got snarky about it.

      And you’re right, over the last few decades the left wing parties have been moving to the right. This, IMO, is because the right are leading them by the nose often by seeking compromise. The problem being that as soon as a compromise is reached the right then go even more extreme and seek another compromise which they get and the downward spiral continues.

  2. “800 000 enrolled voters didn’t bother to vote in the last election making it one of the lowest voter turn outs on record and most of them were former Labour Party voters.”

    How do you know most of them were former Labour Party voters?

    I did vote and I am a former Labour Party voter.

    A single scale of leftness is of very dubious value. The Greens were the most thoughtful by looking at categories but even then sensible decisions are often best made on an issue by issue basis.

  3. The whole notion of “left” and “right” are artificial political assignations used to oversimplify politics so it can be superficially reported to people with below average IQs. That is how I see it. I’d rate myself on your useless scale as a simple 0 (zero) – it makes just as little sense.

  4. What a load of twaddle. The left-right paradigm is problematic to the point of facile and you’re being a bit self-important describing unwillingness to participate as a fear of showing left-wing leanings.
    With the exception of underlining the smart wit of the greens, this was an entirely unedifying read. Perhaps for your next piece you could do a Best Dressed MP feature and expose the unwillingness of the Labour front bench to adopt op-shop couture as further evidence of alienation from their core values.

    • SUFI: okay, non-participation may well be more to do with those named being cautious rather than fearful…. but I can’t see how disagreeing with Martyn’s view gives you the right to the put-down “a bit self-important”

      Nor does the article suggest that the non-participants are ‘alienated’ from core left-wing values.

      Rather your comment suggests to me a defensiveness and unwillingness to engage in what I think is an entertaining and provocative post – ‘a bit of a sense of intellectual superiority’ ay?

  5. I don’t see that it’s particularly useful to ask people to rate themselves on this kind of thing–you may as well ask “How good do you think you are at maths?” All we gain from it is that Clare Curran and Hone Harawira have an inflated understanding of how far left their own politics are. Big surprise.

  6. Nice piece Bomber. An obvious but revealing question to ask. To weed out the ideological position of those too coy to give a straight answer, another question to ask is ‘what do you believe is the appropriate role of government in society and the economy?’

  7. …the paraphrase: “If that is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist”.

    The problem with asking a question like you did is that Marx has been seriously misrepresented over the years and so now very few people even have a clue as to what Marx’s thoughts were politically. This seems to be especially true of the right who all think that the USSR was a prime example of what Marx wanted. IMO, Marx would not have called the USSR or the PRC communist, he would have called it what it was/is: Oppressive and fully against his teachings. Marx held that democracy was the foundation of socialism/communism.

    The closest that seems to have been to Marx’s thinking was the Paris Commune:

    Karl Marx, in his important pamphlet The Civil War in France (1871), written during the Commune, praised the Commune’s achievements, and described it as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, “the form at last discovered” for the emancipation of the proletariat.

    And neither he nor Engels held back the criticism there either although I think that was more because of some of the things they did (taking out loans from a bank) and not following through the initial victories.

  8. Isn’t asking how left wing are you about as meaningful as asking how religious are you? Nobody these days really knows what the term means any more I suspect, including politicians. What was it that you were trying to find out?

  9. Depressingly typical responses from the political class – “Well, it all depends on what you mean by X. If you put X in its historical context then of course there’s the change in social expectations and nuances surrounding X’s application to the everyday situations, but I expect – hey, is that your baby. Isn’t he/she handsome/pretty. May I kiss him/her.”

    I suggest most people understand Left/Right to be a shorthand reference to a spectrum running between emphasis on individual rights and responsibilities being on the Right to the emphasis being on social rights and responsibilities on the Left. The fact that most politicians who belong to parties which were once of the Left appear to have lost sight of that distinction shows how thoroughly the dialogue has been captured by the Right.

  10. Left and right are illusions kept alive with growing amounts of cheap available energy, well it has been since the BS that is democracy started. The illusion of human rights and an equal share of the commons is well and truly over.
    The age of choice is coming to an end, we are headed back to where society was prior to fossil fuels, except with 7 – 10 times more people.
    We are arguing about how many Angles fit on the head of a pin, instead of focusing on how we are going to maintain law and order, and feed and water New Zealand citizens, but I know that is way to dark for everyone, sorry.
    One thing is clear there is no real voice in parliament to address the real issues, National are full steam ahead with road building, and Labour don’t even rate peak oil/climate change in their first 20. And the Greens want to increase fossil fuel use via more manufacturing and a devalued dollar.
    Note to Russel manufacturing has a carbon foot print.
    Why not ask the ‘left’ what they think of the below facts.
    “The long term sea level that corresponds to current CO2 concentrations is about 23 meters above today’s level, and the temperatures will be 6 degrees C or more higher. These estimates are based upon real long term climate records, not on models.” – See more at:

    The Standard revisited. 😉

    • Cute, but there’s plenty of energy available from solar. Pre-industrial societies used windmills at 5% efficiency, water mills at much the same, and crops at about 2% (30% of that lost to oxen). We have wind and water turbines at 60%+ efficiency, solar panels around 20% for cheap, and electric vehicles that do far better than animals even considering construction costs.

      So there’s at least ten times the energy recoverable from the same sources, only you can build solar in arid regions and wind turbines on hill tops where nothing edible can be grown. Solar heat stores in insulated buildings is vastly better than pre-industrial ideas too.

      As to left and right, we’re all Marxists now. We can vote and the elected representatives rule, there’s public education, no local famines and no poor starving in the streets, women can own property and work in any job, there’s an independent police force and judiciary and public service in general, reserve banks manipulating the economy for the public good, … all that stuff was his idea. Anyone thinking they’re less left than a Marx doesn’t know much about Marx.

      Well, maybe the National party, on their bad days.

      • I was banned by the operators of ‘The Standard’ (the propaganda arm of the left) for questioning the qualifications of the Labour ‘leadership’ and their ability to lead. After staying away for about a year after the ban expired I re-engaged on TS, and got banned again for mentioning unacceptable truths.

        I won’t return to TS: the operators are deluded idiots, just like the politicians and wannabees they blindly support.

        As Robert Atack pointed out, Labour (and most of the rest of society) ignores all the factors that make the present economic arrangements possible -cheap and abundant liquid fuel energy and stable environmental condition, and furthermore, ignore all the factors that make life on Earth for humans possible -the appropriate balance of geochemical and geophysical systems.

        Fuckwits would be too a good a description of Labour MPs. Or Greens for that matter. These maniacs are quite content to destroy their own children’s future, via abrupt climate change, in the pursuit of failed ideology centred around economic growth and the perceived ‘right’ to squander energy and resources.

        Democracy? We have never had democracy in NZ. We have had a faux democracy in which corporations and money-lenders have selected governments composed of opportunists that have facilitated the short term agendas of corporations and money-lenders. Now that we have hit the energy wall and the bankers’ Ponzi scheme is unravelling corporations and money-lenders are leaning on governments to impose ‘austerity’ on the lower echelons of society, in order to maintain the flow of wealth upward.

        Most people are too ignorant and stupid to see what is right under their noses. After more than a decade of a campaign to wake people up to reality I gave up. People are the architects of their own demise. It’s just that they have not yet realised what is on the horizon -the triple tsunami that will ‘wipe out’ most of them.

        In addition to wiping themselves out, industrial humans are taking down the entire biosphere via CO2 emissions and destruction of the natural systems that maintain chemical balance. In particular, this planet can only support human life in the long term if the CO2 content of the atmosphere is below 350ppm (perhaps below 320ppm). It is rapidly approaching 400ppm and is rising at an ever faster annual rate (about 2.5ppm per annum at the moment and headed for 3ppm per annum)

        If anyone bothers to read this, I’m sure there will be responses along the lines ‘you’re too gloomy, that will never happen, there’s plenty of energy, global warming is a myth etc….. all the usual nonsense that comes from uninformed fools.

        The fact is, the present system is coming to a very rapid end, and soon politics as currently practised won’t matter. All the scientific and economic evidence indicates the present economic arrangements will collapse before the end of 2015. Sadly, we are likely to witness a shift from the covert fascism we currently endure to overt fascism. The elites will do whatever they can to maintain their lifestyles at the expense of the rest. It has always be so.

        Rather than prepare for the inevitable collapse, your average fuckwit will continue to believe in the system.

  11. Let’s do this again. This time asking how neoliberal our MPs are. I heard one National MP say, before the last election. ‘no we are not neoliberals that’s hard right..”

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