I feel sorry for Labour Party members and supporters

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I feel really sorry for the members and supporters of the Labour Party as they watch their caucus tear itself to shreds.

And no matter what the outcome of the coming leadership race Labour members and supporters will be the losers.

For the past 30 years these loyal Labour followers have struggled in vain to regain control of the party from the extreme right wing policies introduced by Labour government Minister of Finance Roger Douglas in 1984. Those policies remain at the core of Labour economic policy even today despite them leading directly to the massive inequality, endemic poverty and demeaning hardship which characterises so much of family life in New Zealand today.

Again and again these loyal Labourites have been rebuffed and defeated by a hard-core of right-wing MPs.

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The battle for Labour’s soul reached an early peak in the late 1980s as a campaign, working from the inside, tried to unseat the hard-right Labour MP for Auckland Central, Richard Prebble (who went on to help form the ACT Party). The attempted coup failed along with attempts to stop Labour’s right-wing caucus heavyweights from abandoning such core Labour values as the goal of full employment – still absent from Labour policy today.

Labour gives lip service to these issues but its core policies remain in line with the demands of the corporate sector.

Labour members scored a small but significant victory two years ago when they insisted, over the arguments of Labour’s right-wing MPs, that the wider party membership would have a say in deciding the party leader. This resulted in last year’s election of David Cunliffe to the top job to the absolute dismay of most of the Labour caucus.

Cunliffe was elected by Labour members and supporters precisely because he signalled a shift away from hard-right economic policies and even mentioned the word “socialism” – shock horror!

But Labour’s hard right MPs were having none of that and one of the great ironies of Cunliffe’s leadership was that he went in to the 2014 election campaign with even less progressive policies than the right-wing Phil Goff as Labour leader at the 2014 election.

Labour under Cunliffe abandoned its plans to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables, make the first $5000 of income tax free and stop the blatant discrimination against the children of beneficiaries through the in-work tax credit. In their place were policies such as making housing more affordable for the children of middle class families.

Such was the weakness in Cunliffe’s leadership in caucus that he was so easily undermined and quite unable to shift Labour back towards being a social democratic party.

Labour policy remains dominated by a market-first, right-wing agenda and none of this will change as a result of the leadership race because Labour’s right wing MPs are now in a much stronger position in caucus than they were before the election.

Most of Labour’s right-wing MPs are in safe Labour seats so that with a depleted caucus the right wing are now a significantly larger portion of the caucus. Added to that is the election of at least two more to join that right-wing group, Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash, and we see the solid ground which MPs like Clayton Cosgrove feel beneath their feet as they openly attack Cunliffe.

For the majority of the Labour caucus the leadership race is a campaign against Cunliffe – not so much the man himself (although I’ve no reason to doubt his personal failings) – but to drive out any possibility of a return to progressive Labour policies. It’s for this same reason the corporate media are campaigning hard alongside Labour’s right-wing MPs to oust Cunliffe.

I think Cunliffe will be defeated but the alternative is worse in that it will further entrench Labour’s right wing. It’s all very well for Grant Robertson to claim Labour must return to its core values but Robertson has no intention of feeding hungry kids, ending child poverty, making tertiary education free, having every family in a warm dry home or seriously taxing the rich.

I’ve personally found Robertson pleasant and affable but these qualities are no replacement for policies to make a difference for low and middle-income families.

When I first arrived in Auckland in 1977 I remember the graffiti which said “Don’t vote – Fletchers always wins”. When we look at the corporates-first policies offered by Labour and National it’s no wonder disillusionment is so high.

I’d say Labour’s right-wing MPs are the single most important reason so many New Zealanders don’t register or don’t vote in elections.

Either way the Labour leadership contest goes Labour members and supporters are being asked to continue eating rats – their now 30-year diet. I sincerely hope some of them will finally abandon the party and put their energies into genuinely progressive solutions to the multitude of distress caused by Labour Party policies which bedevil our low-income communities.

61 COMMENTS

  1. tough words, john, but honest. the political battle is always for middle nz. and as long as they can get their cellphones and skyteevee, 4 bedrooms and no garden, new car even though nothing was wrong with the old, all style no substance they’ll vote in droves for the smart suits and glib chatter of the nats. labour shouldn’t be involved in this asinine competition.

    • Middle NZ?

      Muldoon once fought on what was once the middle ground.
      Now he would be described as hard left.

      Like frogs being slowly brought to the boil in water, the environment and so called middle has been redefined without most of us realising it.

      • Robert perfectly right comment there.

        Robert Muldoon was a middle NZ guy alright compared to this NatZ mob, he took on the banks mostly overseas of course and this mob wouldn’t say anything against any corporation no matter what, they sold us all out Muldoon didn’t do this.

  2. Dead on what little money we have . Excellent Post and I agree completely .

    I might have to change my mind re grant robertson . He’s gone back down to lower-case .

    So , what the hell to do ? Emigrate ? Get rich quick ? Become a martyr and suffer along side hungry kids and parents beside themselves with anxiety ? Become an angry mob and tear down parliament ?

    We need a focusing mechanism . We need a dynamic leader .

    We need an actor !

    I said that years ago . We need an actor to play out the role of Leader to a script of our making . We need a script and we need an actor .

    What’s George Clooney doing after his honeymoon I wonder ?

    Julian Assange , Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald failed because they only appealed to the already converted . And the intelligent .

    If however , Brad Pitt told us Kiwis that in order to save our country we must jump off cliffs , cliff space would become a premium and the cues would stretch miles back into the countryside .

    We need to form a group of non – denominational , a-political intellectuals to go on a writers retreat and spin up a script . We then need to have a whip round for a decent salary for an A lister to do the job unfettered by the frailties of morals , values , beliefs , pride , greed and ego that , as you say , bedevils the actual politician . We have a contract . We know where we are . Everything’s above board .

    Remember when those who said that it was possible to fly a heavier-than-air
    machine and were rubbished for that ? Remember those who were crucified for suggesting that the earth might in fact be round ?

    My idea is a good one .

    Learn from the enemy . Jonky is a paid employee and he’s doing a stellar job . Instead of hating his guts , we should learn from him .

    I’m going to write to George Clooney and ask his advice . Watch this space .

  3. Outstanding summation of the last 30 years John. I left the Labour Party in 1985 and I ain’t going back. But I can’t vote left because all that would do is empower the biggest party on the left and the arseholes within it that I hate. Until the Labour Party either splits in two or slowly dies the left in New Zealand has few options. The Labour Party is more right wing than the Nats in a lot of ways yet the only option for the left to get rid of National is to elect more right wingers. Can’t do it

  4. The voters overwhelming rejected the left this time round, the only true left wing parties, mana and the greens not even managing to get 15 percent of the vote combined. If labour goes further left all they will do is spend another 3 years in opposition, allowing a center right government to rule.

    Surely it’s more preferable to have a labour party actually in government, even if it means shifting further to the center.

    Ideological idealism is all very well, but you have to yell a long way from the back benches to be heard.

    • so can you explain why left wing ideas came up very highly rated in polling and why national keep feeling the need to knick left wing policy?

      why all of a sudden JK cares about child poverty when only a few months back they refused to even measure it and laughed at the idea it even existed!

      And explain how the nats were so desperate to not scare the horses back in 2008 and so keen to under play asset sales in 2011

      labour sucked – but the underlying concepts behind the policies are as popular as they have always been – problem is many NZers are to busy to be politically aware and think the PR image of key is the real key and that his mere presence somehow reverses everything we know about national, the people who back national, the people who are still MPs in national and their historic record as a party.

      • It’s interesting that you suggest National are implementing left wing policy yet many others are suggesting the Nats are to the right of Attila the Hun. Doesn’t make much sense to me. NZ’ers don’t seem to want policies from either extreme, which is why IMP and ACT are dead in the water. Likewise the Greens are static because people view them as marxists using the environment as a trojan horse. Whether it was true or not, Labour were painted as moving to the left, and it scared the horses. To be electable, they have to be a true centre party, that balances pro-business policies and a compassionate face.

          • Yep like United Future but without selling out:) God how long has Mr Dunn been in parliment his ever popular spout of income splitting for tax purposes. Well voters in his electorate, have you ever wondered why this policy has never come to fruition? In spite of no concessions, he did get a big pay bonus from National for his loyalty and his ‘concern’ about mass surveillance while voting it through last term. WAKE UP a Koala would be more effective in parliament and a lot cheaper to keep!

    • There’s not much point in being in government if all you stand for is being in government. Labour’s problem (I was a member for 24 years) is that it no longer stands for anything. That is why why it has lost 90% of its membership in the last 30 years, and why it may quite possibly never fill the Treasury benches again.

    • Did the voters “reject the left”, Sansa?

      Or, more likely;

      * Key’s popularity is still a factor with many voters,

      * disunity amongst left-winger parties and candidates (eg; Nash, Davis, et al) was off-putting to many people,

      * The “Moment of Truth” and “Dirty Politics” raised valid issues – but too complex for most NZers to absorb it all – and so Key’s scurrilous labelling of it as a “left wing smear campaign” stuck,

      * the economy is perceived to be growing – even though it is about to tank,

      * the media may have complained bitterly about a dearth of policies being discussed – but they were the worst offenders when it came to sensationalistic muck-raking,

      * and dirty politics won out in the end, because, simply, not everyone read the book.

      Because when you do look at “left wing policies” such as NZ Power, they were popular with the public. It just wasn’t in their minds when they voted.

      • Points 4 and 5 precisely, Frank.

        JM, as for the crack about “no reason to doubt (DC’s) per
        sonal failings”–I can remember when you were blacklisted erroneously for personal failings, and you appear to have had your cause of the past, vindicated.
        Easy on the slurs unless you’re targeting JK.

        • What does this mean ‘can remember when you were blacklisted erroneously for personal failings,….
          what were these ‘personal’ failings

    • Sansa better you amend your opinions by an overview this rubbish you spoke of, with help by the right wing Rupert Murdock spin machine that took the wrecking ball to Labour And their opposition.

      We were damaged as voters by a right wing smear campaign

      Rupert Murdock did this in Australia his home country also re-election and post election my brother in Australia reports yesterday as Murdock is now interfering in Queensland elections also now.

      Quote, “Murdock did the same for our Tea party government and one of the paybacks was to dismantle our ABC tv/ radio because it is the only media that tells the truth so his cronies are being appointed to the ABC board and news and investigative programmes are being weakened and they want to privatise it. ”

      So if we had a left wing media things may well have been very very different.

      All opposition parties must force public media assets TVNZ & RNZ to be split in two for a right wing media and a left wing media to be balanced and ban Murdock media from interfering in our political scene.

      Then we will have results that actually are not skewed by only a right wing propaganda machine.

      • They are doing it now with the appointment of Guyon to Morning Report.

        I don’t know much about the other presenter Susie Ferguson but if anyone heard her interview of the co-ordinator of the seach for the missing 5yr boy taken of the beach by a wave, it was an absolute disgrace!

        I noticed she didn’t get the next days interview with the guy. He probably refused to be interviewed by her again.

  5. The right wing undermined and sabotaged any chance for a Labour victory by engaging in stupid behavior, public disunity, or actively attacking potential allies. There was a reason why the likes of Nah, Davis, Hipkins, Goff, Shearer, etc, attacked Mana. They knew that a Mana-Internet presence in Parliament would encourage a resurgent Labour Left and they would have none of that.

    When Key, Winston Peters, and Whaleshit all support a Labour candidate you just know there’s something seriously wrong. Throw into the mix rightwing media commentators like Armstrong, Gower, Hosking, etc, and that’s the established political/media/business hierarchy doing their damnest to ensure this country stays solidly on the Right.

    The masses aren’t stupid. But neither are they politically aware. So they bought the narrative, and the rest since 20 September, is history.

    Students in the future will shake their heads at this country’s naivete.

    • And the middle classes / working classes will as well when the TTPA is signed behind closed doors – something that InternetMana would have put a brake on , pronto !

      They will all pay dearly for that .

    • A preliminary analysis of the vote count after the election shows that 1300+ National voters in TTT voted Labour.

  6. Absolutely right, John. I was an active and frequently office-bearing member from 1987 until early last year, when I finally despaired that Labour would ever return to its roots, and resigned. I believe that Labour is now terminally ill. After 30 years of caucuses betraying the members, and a 90% reduction in that membership, there seems little hope for this once great left wing party. The new constitution is an attempt by the membership to force the caucus to move left, as was the election of David Cunliffe, but no-one can lead a caucus without its support, as we now so clearly see. Changing leaders will be utterly futile, and the mere fact that they do not seem able to grasp that is evidence of how out of touch the caucus is, and how moribund the party. RIP Labour – but she won’t even get that!

    • There are ‘ways’…. to eject the ringleaders of the neo liberal ABC’s…after that, …. a mopping up campaign….’either you are for us , or against us’.

      It takes time, targeting…and above all else…balls.

      Cunliffe with a dedicated, no nonsense deputy leader who is isn’t afraid when things get down to the line would erase this cancerous disease…. for once and for all.

      Someone with long standing credibility , someone with a proven track record , someone with an affinity with workers issues and the privations of lower socio economic means ,someone balanced in opinion , someone not given to fanciful or emotional outbursts,…..

      Someone like Nanaia Mahuta.

      • @ WK –

        I know it’s a long shot, but I’d love to see Nanaia Mahuta throw her hat into the ring for the Labour leadership challenge.

        And no baggage attached from the Rogernomics era either, to drag the party backwards!

        Nanaia Mahuta, a PM in the making 🙂

    • So sad but feel the same (and I hate it).

      Funny – MPs being acused of running FFP election campains but MPs used to listen more to branches before 1984.

    • I agree with what John Minto (and Alma) are saying but what is the solution? Is there still a Mana Party and an Internet Party. And are you still a member of Internet Party, John?
      If Labour in its present form is terminally ill will the Left quit and join up with IMP, if that is still possible? Lots of questions. No answers and the clock is ticking …

  7. Country boy is spot on again. NZers have been dumbed down to a point that they are personally driven.
    John key has been marketed to the masses. It worked for him.
    Lets throw Jacinda the top job in labour and market her as person who cares about her country and the people in it.
    She’ll look good in all the woman’s mags, breakfast TV, look better in photos than John Key (in the herald), giving labour the popularity vote.
    Could be worth a punt….but still write that letter to George, Country boy, just in case.

    • Adern is not contesting the leadership, she doesn’t want it. All resources go into Robo. Nash is the only other considering a crack, though Parker is also his own man so I would expect he will work the crowd, however it still dilutes the numbers.

    • Don’t give Labour your requiem yet. The ABC camp are about to feel the backlash of rank and file.

      Many Left wing activists are prepared to administer CPR. Campaign for Party Reform and it will bounce back just like National did from the drubbing of Shipley’s government in 2002.

      • We still need Labour even though they have been a mess since HC. Greens could have stepped up but I feel they have also been disappointing. I actually think both fractions of Labour have some validity. If Labour campaigns on increasing taxes such as income and capital gains they will struggle for votes. Think about it, with finance scandals, low wages, job insecurity, Christchurch earthquakes, Northland floods, high cost of living etc the only thing most kiwis still have going for them is equity in their house and their meager wage. There house is their golden nest egg. Oldies have paid it off and others have mortgages which means interest rates being low are important. Thinking about what I heard out there Kiwis are not so inthralled with JK as most of the left wing bloggers are saying. They voted more because hearing about tax increases could put them over the edge. While you can beat kiwi voters up as much as you like I think it was self interest in stability that made them vote National, conservative, NZ First or not vote and a lack of counter message from Labour about cracking down on corruption which made voters think they were the same, i.e. They are as corrupt as National but National will tax me less. I liked Cunliffe as a leader but I do not trust Labour such as Goff and Nash. I suggest a transitional period to get economic stuff through like JK “I will not sell assets until my vote me in a 2nd time.” they need to tackle dirty politics and corruption through the courts first before anything else to gain credibility and trust back from voters.

        • I don’t know why you are going on about the golden nest egg that is the house that people own. There was never ever going to be capital gains tax on someone’s personal home but on rentals. I am all for that for sure just as I am for a financial transaction tax so that the trillions a year that come in and out of NZ are taxed.

          Labour should be buried they no longer stand for what they used to, the working people, the poor the disenfranchised.

          The Greens well I think they have a lot more to offer, one of their key planks at this election was to move kids out of poverty. metiria spoke very well on that topic a number of times.

  8. Labour is already too far left for the Kiwi people.

    I understand your wish to pursue a hard-Left course. It’s very principled, as long as you realise you’ll never win a New Zealand election from the Left – the Kiwi voters who decide elections only vote for the centre.

    Incidentally, the Caucus have devoted their lives to representing their constituents – there’s nothing immoral about them pushing for policies the Kiwi people actually want.

    • Christopher I don’t think you even know what a left wing party is?

      You have no reference point to even understand the difference between Right and Left wing, because all we have now are sham impersonators. Labour has not been a true Left wing party since 1975.

      In recent years in my opinion Labour has been a neo-liberal vehicle for radical feminism and the Gay movement. Nothing whatsoever to do with traditional left wing values.

      Those were the days when a confidence trickster called Roger Douglas burrowed his way into Norman Kirk’s caucus and schemed and plotted for the day when he could sabotage the whole party.

      When Douglas confided in Norm Kirk about his private agenda for fiscal reform Norman Kirk is said to have told him never to mention it again or he would be removed from the Labour Party. The rest is history.

    • @ Christopher . Do you read ? Or do you believe what your pillow tells you just befor you go ni ‘ ni’s ?
      Sorry . Sarcasm is a natural instinct for me after years of practise .
      If you think Labour is ‘ too left ‘ then your piano playing career is in dire straights . You must never , ever drive a car in New Zealand . If you were in the army ? You’d be the guy walking off in the opposite direction to the rest of the marching troops . Let me ask you a serious question ? Which hand do you prefer most to scratch yourself with ? If you were to write a note to another ? Which hand would you use ? When throwing a ball , which hand ? If , say I were to lob a brick at you , which hand would you use to catch that brick and lob it kindly back ?

      Not knowing your right from your left is down right dangerous to not only yourself but to others . If needs be , get someone close and trusted by you to draw you a fucking diagram .

  9. Still maintain that the trash talk from msm attacking the too-intelligent-for-average-Kiwi acceptance, meaning Snowden, Greenwald, Assange and of course the racist BS slamming Dotcom, (who organised the visits) was the real reason for the left defeat.
    Because the inflated, boorish hatred (or stony, petulant silence) aimed at these people but most of all at Dotcom, splurged over and caused the near rout.
    Sure, outsider introduction backfired in closed circuit society (meaning the right) – but their information may, by slow osmosis, reduce the asinine, imbalanced worship-of-false-prophet-Shonkey.
    Well, for our mental health’s sake, I hope so.

    • I do believe your right , however…for any average person …the message of Assange , Greenwald , Amsterdam, Dotcom. , Snowden , …..to be honest…it REALLY REALLY isnt that hard to follow…at all.

      Its pretty basic,…and all there for one to see.

      Its just plain bigoted , bloody mindedness of a self indulgent people who dont give a damn about future generations . At all.

      Its all about ‘ ME’.

      Its not for no good reason that the saying ‘Im alright , Jack ‘…is attributed to New Zealanders.

  10. John’s views highlight the dilemma we face in attempting to evaluate an institution’s worth: its declared goals and abstract values will be of little use in determining its practical responses and its observance of personal loyalties. Political principles become compromised by the very nature of institutionalization – the resultant loss of ideals often occurs without fanfare (whether at practical or policy levels). At a very basic level, we can observe this in the adoption and subsequent abandonment of the Rules of War, and in the prohibitions of slavery. It should therefore be no surprise when we see how the concept of “labour” has been manipulated.

    Please excuse me for that rather elaborate introduction to the perceptions colouring my own sense of political futility. My father was on old-time socialist, loyal to his union and proud of our working-class identity (seeing education as our great potential); my mother had taken up liberal ideals, allowing her to dream that “the vote” would be the great social leveller. Their votes cancelled one another. My youthful observations of the rich who exploited us made me cynical about both parent’s political loyalties and led me to identify corporate institutions (and the English) as the cause of our disadvantaged status. I joined the Scottish National Party and subsequenly became disillusioned to the extent that my over-the-top activism led to exile (in Germany, the US and finally NZ) – as described in my memoir RETIRED TERRORIST.

    Here in NZ, seeing the political mess that is the Institution of Democracy (as demonstrated in today’s political dilemmas) – and observing from afar the conitunuing political turmoil in Scotland – I can only wonder what humanity should do next. Could we ever create a political entity that immune to institutional weaknesses? I don’t think so. I amuse myself by watching Chinese and Russian news services, and I eschew the many mad religious proposals that so many other worried folks seem to embrace. I can only thank God for folks like John -and thank God I’m an atheist!

  11. John I agree with your assessment, but i am not the least saddened because this day has been way overdue coming. This showdown over leadership is the neo-liberal Right wing outing themselves.

    I say let them. There is growing rage amongst Left wing activists about the hijacking of politics by the ABC camp and after this show down no doubt many will be shown the door or they will scurry off to form their own splinter party in protest.

    This is a great day. It is about the rebirth of the old Labour which some of us still remember. The path back is a long climb but worth the view.

  12. The answer is right there staring us all in the face….Cunliffe as leader….with Nanaia Mahuta as deputy leader. Perfect.

    Think of it…a strong , social democrat like Nanaia Mahuta to back up Cunliffe against all comers…media , ABC ‘s…destructive neo liberal right wing policy…

    You’d bring old time Labour values back into relevance and prominence in no time flat.
    Then we ‘d have a REAL alternative.

    The kind of alternative that saw Labour raise to 38% in the polls in David Cunliffes first speech…

    The force would be unstoppable.

  13. You NAILED it John! and, THIS time, we will NOT fail!

    Thirty years later, we KNOW that neoliberalism is a FRAUDULENT doctrine, a cunning ploy to pillage and plunder, for the benefit of the rampant globalist fasicst-corporate cartel, and fact that a good number of our LABOUR MPs still believe in this false doctrine, that is about as useful as the Easter Bunny, is truly SHOCKING.

    This is about basic ideology, and the brutal fact is that we have been sold down the river to corporate-fascist interests, and it is time to confront the apologists for that head-on, and to reclaim OUR party back from the heirs of the Rogernomes.

    THAT is what this is all about, NOT the personalities involved. Personally I do not give a damn about the personalities, and all the silly arguing about the sexuality of some of the candidates is a massive red herring.

    This is about making it plain, once and for all, that the Labour Party belongs to its MEMBERS, not to a small faction in caucus, who have successfully hijacked OUR party for the past 30 years! But, NO MORE!!! Time to take back control of OUR party!

  14. The timing is not good for another lot of voting. Maybe there should be a 3 months “time out” before a decision is made, so people can come to terms with the changes that have happened and resulting future directions. Annette King and David Parker will keep on doing the work that needs to be done, without all the hubris and hoo-hah.

    The thought is from an ed in the odt: http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/editorial/318202/expensive-save-labour

  15. Andrew Little has thrown his hat in to the ring – what a great ringmaster he would be! Things are getting interesting…

  16. If the combatants in this open display of disunity had ever run businesses (successfully), held positions of authority in the private sector, or maybe, just shown some personal success, they would not behave in this manner. This is typical of unionised drones who have lived lives of envy of the hard working successful members of society, believing, if they can get into political positions of influence, they can make amends for their lives of leeching and failure

    • Dunno about being unionised…but your right…the neo liberal and ABC factions DO live a life of envy- they wanted to be National and ACT MP’s so badly but were rejected…..so had to settle for staying in Labour instead.

      Sad little individuals….not even being true to themselves.

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