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The Real Deal: How Labour could, once again, become a workers’ party

By   /  June 9, 2015  /  68 Comments

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Does Labour’s historical constituency: the hundreds-of-thousands of New Zealanders who live off wages; who struggle to pay mortgages or subsist on the old age pension; any longer resemble, or have anything in common with, the 32 individuals who comprise Labour’s current caucus?

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HOW MANY LABOUR MPs could make a reasonable fist of spelling out the priorities of a family with pre-school children? What about the thoughts of a young couple just starting out on their journey through life together? How many could summarise the views of a Tongan cleaner setting out for work very early in the morning, while her neighbour – a beneficiary – lies tucked up warm in bed? And the elderly: those over 70; how closely does the Labour Party’s world view mirror the attitudes of these New Zealanders?

A healthy Labour Party, with a caucus broadly representative of its voting base, could answer each of those questions with considerable confidence. It would know what each group was thinking because, within the ranks of its caucus, there would be MPs drawn from the same demographic slivers. Labour’s politicians would look and sound remarkably like them because they had come from very similar backgrounds and shared many of the same experiences.

It’s why National is so successful as a political party. It’s MPs don’t have to pretend to be members of the professional middle class, or farmers, or small business owners, or upwardly mobile tradespeople – because that’s exactly what they are. Representing such people, and defending their interests, is what National does. The ordinary voter looks at the National Party, at their MPs, and says: “Yep, they’re Nats alright, true blue through and through. When they open their mouths they sound exactly like the people who sent them there. They’re the real deal.”

Can the same be said, honestly, of Labour? Does Labour’s historical constituency: the hundreds-of-thousands of New Zealanders who live off wages; who struggle to pay mortgages or subsist on the old age pension; any longer resemble, or have anything in common with, the 32 individuals who comprise Labour’s current caucus?

How does a family, struggling to get by on or below the median household income of $68,600 per year, even begin to relate to a “representative” earning $150,000 per year (not counting allowances)? The quantum of parliamentary salaries, alone, constitutes a formidable barrier to the sort of trust and identification Labour MPs must have to be effective representatives of working-class New Zealand.

In their much derided review of Labour’s conduct of the 2014 general election, its authors draw attention to the parlous state of the party’s finances. So broke is the party that the reviewers felt moved to warn both the caucus and the organisation that if its financial situation is not improved “then it will continue to experience electoral failure and place the status of the party as a political institution of influence at risk”. Well, here’s an idea (hat-tip to Danyl McLauchlan). Why not make it a rule that a Labour MP cannot take home more than the average wage of, roughly, $55,000 per year. The balance of their income, $95,000, would go to the party. This would guarantee Labour an annual income, from its current 32-strong caucus, of at least $3,040,000 per year, or, $9,120,000 over the three year parliamentary term.

That’s not a bad war chest – and just think of the effect on Labour’s voters! Knowing that their MPs are unwilling to take home more than the average income earner. That they’re prepared to give up two-thirds of their salaries to ensure that, come election time, the party of the workers stands a fighting chance against the party of the bosses. That they’re not just in it for the money, and the perks, and the power. What do you think that would do for building trust and identification?

“But, what person in their right mind would agree to that?”, I hear you say. “How could you possibly hope to recruit competent men and women to stand for Parliament on the offer of the average wage?”

There are two replies to that question. The first points to the quality of the current crop of MPs. These are the product of Labour’s current, utterly Byzantine, selection process. The cynical horse-trading that goes on, as one sector group deals with another to “get their candidate up”; not to mention the bare-faced corruption in the credentialing of selectors makes FIFA look like a paragon of democratic probity. Who would be willing to say that, in every case, Labour’s current crop is worth $150,000 per year?

The second reply addresses the need to attract MPs whose overriding motivation is to make life better for ordinary working-class Kiwis. People who go into politics not because it offers them a long and lucrative career, but because there’s something they want to do. It could be in education, health, the environment or the workplace; the important thing is that, for this sort of politician, the goal is everything. All the other political stuff matters only insofar as it propels them towards the place where real and lasting change can be made.

Candidates with concrete goals should not have to win the backing of jealous sector groups, or secretive moderating committees, but only of ordinary party members, in an organisation-wide ballot – after the fashion of the Greens. Consider a candidate like Dr Liz Craig, who, alongside her husband, Dr David Craig, has fought, inside the party, to put an end to child poverty for close to ten years. Every delegate to Labour’s annual conference knows Liz and David – and what they stand for. If Liz’s name had been on a ballot paper sent out to every Labour Party member, she would be in Parliament today. Not for the money. Not for the power. But for the kids.

And there would be more like Liz. A forestry worker, determined to introduce a world-beating health and safety regime, might be put forward by his union. A school principal, absolutely committed to the reform of our education system might throw his hat into the ring. Or, an aged care worker, dedicated to finally achieving equal pay for work of equal value. The list could easily be extended beyond the 120 parliamentary seats available.

And, as the membership and the public grew accustomed to a Labour Party made up of idealists and reformers, chosen transparently and democratically by those with the most to gain by empowering ideals and reforming this rotten economic system, then, very rapidly, Labour would, once again, look and sound like the workers’ party it was always intended to be.

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68 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    When will Labour drop the Neo Liberal B/S and promote a fair sustainable set of policies – They need to be brave and point out what has happened in the US and UK. Is this the way we want NZ to go……
    Labour seem to have no back bone and leadership and to use a well worn phrase – have become National Light. If only they would return to the ‘Workers party’ – work with the Greens and a revamped Mana Party then we would have something going…………..!!!!

    • Blake says:

      I agree Tom, Labour needs to be brave and come up with different and clear strategies and have a strong leader that we all can get behind. Working even more closely with the workers and the Unions and The Green Party and Mana etc. is what is needed for many of us to get behind them. Clear strategies that clearly spell out new paths to less chaos and more strength in all realms. Sucking up to those greedy mega corporations is not the answer. Is Andrew Little the best man for the job ?

      Promoting renewable resources and funding them much better is needed.
      Follow Icelands lead and kick the crooks and banksters out.
      Industrial Hemp is one that I fail to understand why Labour does not get behind. It manufactures not only tons of jobs but many high quality products for us to use and to export – AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DRUGS OR PROMOTING DRUG USAGE. It has the potential to turn our economy around. What about wave energy and much more solar investing?
      Get rid of Big Oil / fracking / seismic testing and sucking up to the UN and the US and become more independent and self sufficient. Export trade is very important but responsible trade is needed without corporate takeover and corporate greed. Have the guts Labour to break free and come out and state that TPPA is wrong and we can do better.

      No one wants a light version of National, we need a complete break away from that kind of madness that is taking this country down a very ugly path. More peace and self sufficiency and much less stress and chaos.
      Then we can properly take care of those in need and have a social care system that does not need to be privatized. Privatization is just wrong ! !
      National and its lame leader need to be put out to pasture ASAP !

      • Tom says:

        Well put Blake. 100% with you.

      • Blake says:

        All you nay sayers who ticked down on my article, please have the guts to explain why and what was said above that you object with ?
        Come clean, speak it out instead of hiding behind a down tick !

      • Agree with your general sentiments there Blake, but just to clarify, industrial hemp is legal in Aotearoa and has been since Nandor Tanczos was a Green MP. There are a number of well established growers working under license to produce hemp crops, and work is underway to develop locally made processing tools, based on design experience from overseas hemp industries, which can turn the help into consumer-grade products.

        With the need to transition away from carbon emitting fossil fuels and disposable plastics, it makes sense to put more public investment into plant-based fuel and product research, with the results released to the public online under a free license (eg CreativeCommons) to speed development and implementation. Hemp would be an excellent material to research and release this way.

        • Andrea says:

          For the past twenty-plus years we’ve had ‘contestable funding’ for research. Picking winners and safe bets. The kiss of death.

          Is it time for a more-practical model? We need the research, the researchers, and the funding/resourcing for the adaptions and improvements to currently available equipment.

          Open-source. Crowd-funding. Floating a co-operative company for local and international service.

          Scientists are supposed to ‘publish’ and attend prestigious talk-fests so they build recognition and credibility for themselves and their work. This could be actively built in to a new model.

          A different set-up from the traditional ‘campus’ model, or the ‘free market’ make-them-compete model, free of political posturing and dogma, could be attractive to those of the scientific community who would rather work than write up screeds of bureaucrat compliant BS for trifling amounts and no security.

          We’re wasting our talent otherwise.

    • Winnie says:

      Re-instate the $1000 signup to Kiwisaver that National axed (because neo-liberal right wingers don’t need Kiwisaver).

      Keep Super age at 65, no means testing superannuation, lower retirement age for select professions to immediately lower unemployment.

      Fix all state houses and introduce a Warrant of Fitness for all rentals.

      Bring a Euthanasia bill to Parliament for Select Committee consideration.

      Keep the current flag.

      Put development incentives into the regions, and reward any immigrants or refugees to move outside the main centres and staying there.

      Bring back Campbell Live.

      Get rid of Paul Henry right-wing gobshite….

      Get rid of Mike Hosking right wing narcissist…

      Reduce the number of pokies for Skycity because the Convention Centre will be smaller.

      Get rid of Maggie Barry, Moonbeam and Moonbeam’s owner.

      Labour and the left block, sorted.

    • Raf says:

      Really, really unwise to go on about “the workers”. Rightly or wrongly, too many groups feel excluded from this phrase, and too many people feel it’s old-fashioned, meaningless, blokey and vaguely threatening.

  2. Gosman says:

    I know financial maths is never a strong suit for leftists but your calculations are majorly flawed. I believe you failed to take in to account the fact that Parliamentarians pay taxes on the Salaries just like the rest of us.

    • Tom says:

      Ah ‘mr pin head’ speaks ……… look at the concept …….. mr righty..!!!

    • Brigid says:

      And perhaps English isn’t yours. I believe your last sentence could do with a tad editing. Why have you given ‘salaries’ a capital letter? What is meant by ‘the salaries’? What salaries? Throwing stones in glass houses much?

    • wild katipo says:

      Oh dry up with your gross generalizations and foolishness. No ones prepared to consider anything you say when you make idiot statements like that.

  3. Martin says:

    Couldn’t agree more Chris. however common sense seldom prevails nowadays. I wish we had a strong, sympathetic, understanding and humane alternative to National. Fingers crossed?

    • Lara says:

      We do actually. It’s called the Green Party.

      They’ve got some pretty well costed out economic goals. But the right keep harping on about Greens “bankrupting the country” without ever actually stating exactly how (and never actually reading their policy and it’s independently audited costings).

      And that “loony left tree hugging economically incompetent” label seems to have stuck in the minds of people not prepared to look further than a media sound byte.

      Labour is National Lite. Has been since 1984. Its from where ACT was born FFS!

      Expecting Labour to have a social conscience = expecting John Key to tell the truth. Not gonna happen IMO.

  4. dangerousdave says:

    Yet another excellent piece, Chris. Labour are indistinguishable from National now, but that isn’t their only problem. There is a huge middle class in NZ that are now predominantly centrist, and that’s where Key has positioned National. There is no-where for Labour to go. The nature of work has also changed dramatically. There are far more self employed/contracting workers in NZ now, and they see life and politics very differently to Labour’s traditional constituency. It’s sad to say, but I can’t see Labour recovering anytime soon. The Greens leadership change may well eat further into Labours vote, as will the ongoing strength of NZ First.

    • downwithnats says:

      The destruction of manufacturing jobs was the work of National. They now have the working and once-were-working classes running and hiding from labeling as miscreants and persection by all government departments. It is difficult to find a left-supporting public as they can’t afford to live in one place for 3 years, or ever own a home, or learn to read and vote. Labour will be there for them. They wouldn’t even know to where to look for support from list only Green MPs.

      • dangerousdave says:

        “The destruction of manufacturing jobs was the work of National.”

        Nonsense. Manufacturing has been in decline in NZ for decades, and the liberalisation of the economy, which was it’s catalyst, began in the 1980’s under a Labour Govt. And don’t forget, NZ still has a relatively high level of employment participation, despite the changes the country has had to ensure.

        • wild katipo says:

          Yeah well your wrong as well , mate.

          Industrialization has been in decline in this country for decades because when the IMF granted loans in the 1960’s under Kieth Holyoake’s National party it was not injected into urban industrial projects – instead being centered around the primary industry’s such as farming.

          And when the time came for those loans to be paid back the scurrilous neo liberal Mont Pelerin Society advocate Roger Douglas subverted Labour – leaving his backers there and then establishing ACT – the most far right political party this country has ever known.

          And proof it wasn’t just Labour but National as well is by a cursory look at the members of the board of the Mont Pelerin Society :

          Roger Douglas , Minister of Finance , Labour party .

          Ruth Richardson , Minister of Finance , National party.

          And as for the large employment participation in the ‘rockstar economy ‘ , mate , – when you have large numbers of unemployment and a large population of those working for a minimum wage that is casualised and that cannot even cover the basic costs of living or basic necessities – it doesn’t matter how much ’employment participation ‘ you have – that economy is diseased to the core.

          • dangerousdave says:

            You have a distorted view of history, and a view of the future that is redundant.

            The IMF loans had no impact on manufacturing, they simply supported primary industry. The two sectors are not mutually exclusive.

            Manufacturing decline in NZ is a natural outcome of globalisation, which began with liberalisation in the 1980’s, under Labour. And yes National have carried that on, because it is the prevailing global economic orthodoxy, and is being adopted even in former socialist/communist countries.

            As to the present and the future…we don’t have large numbers unemployed. 5% unemployment is not ‘large numbers’. No economic system has ever achieved full employment, simply because there are always a hard core who are unemployable. Casualisation of the workplace is a trend that is part of globalisation, and workers can adapt it to their benefit if they’re smart enough.

            What you view as sinister, I view as an opportunity. Shame more don’t.

    • This “large middle class” thing is a myth imported from the US and part of neoliberalism. This fictitiously extended “middle class” is contrasted with a similarly fictitious “underclass”, of various people who stay in bed while the “middle class”… goes to work for wages or a modest salary, which shows they’re actually *working* class, as are those lumped into the “underclass”.

      Supposedly “middle class” people being “self-employed” (at worst a zero-hour contract with every one-off employer), or being a small farmer selling surplus to cover cash costs while living off the land, can be as precarious as being unable to find regular paid work (eg zero hour contracts and similar exploitation), or being unable to do regular paid work due to disability, or for that matter, precarious as working for a wage or salary in a political-economy where you could be downsized, outsources, part-timed, casualized, or demoted at any time.

      So, National aren’t willing elections because of a “centrist” middle class. They’re winning because they have successfully framed the Opposition parties as threats to the job prospects of large sections of the working class. Nobody is going to vote for their own redundancy. They either vote National, or NZ First, or maybe Conservatives, or maybe join the “missing million”.

      One small example, most people in mining-based communities won’t vote Greens, nor vote Labour while they look like they’re taking climate change seriously. Not until they are convinced that both parties are serious about making sure mining workers are redeployed, in green jobs consistent with their current skills, seniority, etc. The same applies to workers in other unsustainable industries. They need to believe they all need to know that transition to deep democracy, permaculture, free culture, is compatible with everyone making a good living.

      • dangerousdave says:

        1. There is no ‘missing million’. That is a myth invented by Labour to excuse electoral incompetence.

        2. National is winning because it has the most impressive electoral machine ever see in this country, which has emboldened it to occupy the centre of NZ politics, where the vast majority of votes are.

        3. NZ has a large middle class, in fact NZ IS principally middle class. We have a very small number of mega wealthy, and an equally small number of mega poor.

        • wild katipo says:

          Rubbish. We have a LARGE AND SIGNIFICANT number of unemployed and those working on minimum wages – wages that does not cover the cost of basic human necessities in either health , housing or nutrition.

          Had a look into the stats the food banks keep trying to alert us too?

          Taken notice of UNITE Unions anti Zero hour campaign?

          Taken notice of economists warning of the overheated and about to burst housing bubble?

          Read and heard about the hardship caused by slashing of funding for social services?

          And that’s only the beginning. Others could name a whole heap more .

          Well – FUCK ME !!! – your middle class sure seems to be in a power of shit if that’s what you want to call it , mate !

          Hey -and while were at it – what was all that kerfuffle about DIRTY POLITICS not so long ago – and its ongoing crap still going on in today’s newspapers?

          Ever considered THAT has something to do with ‘ Nationals most impressive electoral machine ‘ ???

  5. Sunny says:

    Trotter, I stopped reading when I got to the “beneficiary tucked up warm in bed”. I know people on a benefit who try and try to find work long after I would have given up…..work that has all gone/been sent to slave wage countries. Bed is probably the only ‘warm’ bloody place in their skanky old flat! Why, Labour, should these people ever vote for you? No heart, no brain, no backbone…ladies and gentleman, the Labour Party of today. An embarrassment and a waste of space.

    • downwithnats says:

      Your comment is the waste of space. The green left is hollow when it comes to anything but vocal noise. Where are their free meals and working social programmes?

    • Liberty4NZ says:

      Sunny, I don’t think Chris was being derogatory with the “beneficiary tucked up warm in bed”, statement. I think he merely meant cleaners and beneficiaries receive about the same amount of existence level low income, so perhaps the cleaner is wondering why they work very hard for low/no quality of life. That is what I understood it to mean.

      • trendy lefty says:

        If you think cleaners working fulltime get the same as a beneficiary, you haven’t been on a benefit for a long time.

      • Liberty4NZ – ” I think he merely meant cleaners and beneficiaries receive about the same amount of existence level low income”

        Do you actually know what the unemployment benefit is, for a single person, over 25?

        I doubt you do, “Liberty”.

        • Liberty4NZ says:

          As a matter of fact I do Frank and would be happy to e-mail a copy of my personal tax summary to TDB. I was in no way, shape or form putting down beneficiaries and see my comment has been misconstrued. That was not my intent. My point is that with the benefit being measly but secure, I fully understand the choice out of necessity and survival to remain on a benefit, rather than work in low paid, insecure work that make a family worse off, after transport costs are taken into consideration, as that is what our work conditions have become. People who make this choice are putting their family and common sense ahead of their pride. I work part time because of the lack of work around and with one of my jobs I have a zero hours contract. Fuck Frank, I am on the same side!

          • Liberty4NZ says:

            Furthermore Frank, I love the word Liberty, it means freedom. Freedom for EVERYONE to live a happy, rewarding and fulfilling life. We haven’t got that now, but that is what we are aiming for with blogging, getting the ideas and thoughts out there.

    • trendy lefty says:

      Yeah, that beneficiary tucked up in bed crap stuck in my craw too. When were you last on a benefit Chris? I was on the UB for 9 months until a year ago. No one would hire me – I applied for so many jobs. I had never been involuntarily out of work before. It was a horrible experience. I love that I get up and go to work now and if some other poor bastard is still in bed because they don’t have a job to get up and go to, then fair bloody play to them. Your mean little remark tarnished an otherwise good column.

      Quite besides which, I generally still got up in the morning and did exercise and worked in my garden and did voluntary work. But yes sometimes I stayed tucked up for a while, because it was freezing and fucking depressing.

      And hey there are Tongans on the benefit too you know.

      • Nick says:

        You entirely miss the point. How often we all get lost in the weeds. The point was neither about the Tongan cleaner or about the beneficiary. It was about trying to understand the mindset of people from whom the typical MP is further and further removed. There was no comment pejorative or otherwise about either the cleaner or the beneficiary, only about Members of Parliament who would be unable to understand either.
        It is a worthwhile post, Chris. but the damage caused by the neo-liberal revolution is not only hurting the workers you wish to support. In fact the world has changed in many ways over the past few decades. Unlike the Labour supporters of the forties and fifties, we have had some experience of socially interventionist governments. We have seen both the positive and negative consequences. The Worker’s Paradise approach looked to become a trap in so many ways. We must invent a way for the government to assist, to promote a better country without stultification. To give all individuals, whatever their situation, the feeling that they can control their own destiny without total subjection to the supposedly empowering collective and so on.

        In the fifties, the population numbers and work structure also supported the kind of limited political allegiances you eulogize. Those numbers no longer make political sense. We must find allies among the environmentalists, the educators the internationalists and the socially aware, or be consigned to the sidelines for the foreseeable future.

        We also know that even if by some magical series of events a “Worker’s Paradise Party” seized the reins of power, the result would likely be internecine warfare with contributors to this blog-site manning both sides of the barriers. The only way to advance the Left social agenda is to imagine and promote a national structure which is genuinely appealing to enough Kiwis to earn their confidence. Not putative gestures such as the one you suggest. You know as well as I do that higher salaries for MPs actually help people who otherwise could not afford to stand, although you are right to bemoan the fact that they might sometimes lose touch with people they seek to help. it is also true that sometimes elected representatives stay on and block the advancement of new blood. This is particularly true when a party is going backward.

        Room was found for a David Lange when an opponent for Rob Muldoon was required. One would hope that space will be found at next opportunity. To make this happen people of good intention will need to argue from within. Demonstrational criticism from without is really not quite enough.

        You show an academic rigor in much of your writing, Chris. Perhaps you should cast the same critic’s eye over this most recent contribution to the debate.

        • Kingi says:

          The image was also about trying to represent the views of the cleaner (that is, anybody who goes to work for a minimum wage under shitty conditions) with those of the beneficiary. Both are Labours target electorate. But the point is, the cleaner and the beneficiary are one and the same. They are both victims of the neoliberal shitstorm, and in a single moment the worker could become the beneficiary.

  6. phillip ure says:

    unsure what you are on about here..

    putting to one side the eyebrow-raising ‘beneficiary tucked up warmly in bed’..(!)..(where the f. is that lazy-bene bullshit coming from..?)

    you propose some utopian/will-never-happen version of what we have now – as labours’ ‘solution’..(!)

    whereas in reality – all the labour party has to do – is to be a bloody labour party – and to have policies reflecting that..

    (and the labour election ’14-policy of raising benefits only at the rate of inflation – the same as the tories – ain’t it..how can the ironies/alarm-bells of some beneficiaries being a little bit better-off in april next yr under the tories than they wd be with what labour ’14 be ignored.?)

    ..and as the first commenter noted – labor needs to shed their neoliberal history of the last 30 + yrs..

    ..but we all know that ain’t gonna happen.

    and i can’t see yr fanciful-ideas/handwringing on the sidelines – advocating very much at all – really..

  7. Aaron says:

    The question then is how do you get rid of the neo libs currently sitting in safe seats?

    It’s a pity they keep amalgamating councils because it limits the number of mayoralties on offer.

  8. Jerko says:

    FYI the much derided review of the Labour Party election performance was made up from contributions of party members. I submitted my own comments as a member. I joined the Labour party even though I no longer live in NZ because I want the corrupt current regime wiped from the face of NZ politics. Unless people put their money where their mouth is not much will change. I agree that the many of the dead wood Labour MPs need to go. Including but not limited to, Annette King, and Ruth Dyson. That issue will be dealt with as a result of the review. Try getting anything positive from Labour out there in MSM, it’s stacked against them for gods sake.

  9. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    An excellent idea Chris.

    And it will be instituted when?

    Labour has not been a representative party since Roger Douglas’ scorched earth economics. That, incidentally, was the very last time I voted labour, and yes I’ve been a working man most of my life and active in the trade union. A change in approach like this, while excellent and focussing on what Labour is meant to be will be majorly difficult to sell in these greedy, greedy times. There is an awful lot of backstory to overcome first.

  10. Jo Planet says:

    Everyone – yes everyone – will be better off under Labour + Greens + Mana. That is where holistic,healthy, ecologically sound and egalitarian policies can currently be forged. (Although this would have to be satisfactorily explained to the high end capitalists.)

  11. SimonD says:

    There used to be a time when MPs were not paid at all, rather it was deemed to be a duty or calling. Of course people soon realised that the lack of income drove self selection as only “people of means” could afford to be MPs. Hardly representative.

    If you move back to this type of model, you will self-select but at the low end. Only people on average/below average incomes would feel becoming an MP would offer a compelling career proposition. Assuming a competent government requires qualified people, do you think you would get a competent government if the only people in government are those earning below the average wage.

    On the flip side I find it difficult to vote for Labour currently because candidate MPs only have experience of education or union leadership. None of these professions could afford to become MPs so the experience profile of MPs would certainly get a change. Who knows what the outcome would be!

    • wild katipo says:

      Wrong. Another generalization.

      The Labour party is a big organisation and within that organisation are people from all walks of life and all manner of former occupations and standards of business and academic qualifications..

      You have tried unsuccessfully to skirt around the very issues that have caused the decline in effectiveness of Labour.

      The answers to which can be found from the year 1984 onward’s.

      And despite the so- called effectiveness of the Clarke years – even then – Labour only tinkered with the neo liberal machine.

      That is where we got the slogan ‘steady as she goes ‘ so regularly presented to us. And nothing at all has really changed at all.

      Just more tinkering that doesn’t upset that whole neo liberal edifice looming large over Labour.

  12. Nick J says:

    “Of the people, for the people and by the people”…..as you say Chris, it sums up National nicely. Wouldn’t it be nice if Labour could say the same. There is a superior number of people Labour could claim as their own people, real people who aspire to something better than that aspired to by Nationals people. And i think you have nailed how.

  13. wild katipo says:

    I think perhaps Labour , like many organisations is suffering the effects of atrophy , – but more importantly , subversion.

    Similar to how the World Bank and IMF was originally set up in the very early years of Keynesianism….they were both taken over by individuals and lobby groups that were basically wanting to install a version of neo liberalism. That happened most vigorously during the 1960’s.

    We have all said the same thing in various forms for a long time but the fact remains that 1984 was the turning point for Labour. The year of the subversion of Roger Douglas and his Mont Pelerin Society neo liberal so -called ‘ reforms’.

    We all know that Douglas went off to form ACT , and left behind his neo liberal backers in the Labour party. And not only have they been complicit in further bolstering that ideology , but have also aided and abetted its survival.

    Its been around 35 years now, and if there was enough will in Labour they would have purged those anti -worker ,anti egalitarian individuals from their midst. But they haven’t.

    Moreover , because they haven’t , we are now seeing the natural outcome of the consequences of that failure. Which is , a general cynicism and decline of voter interest towards that party .

    Which is sad , really …but they are simply now paying the price for that lack of action and fortitude . Instead , we have a Labour that is dominated by neo liberal advocates in its caucus , and a caucus that seems quite content to squash any attempts at reforms – even to the point of foregoing an electoral win.

    And political annalists and journalists can write as many papers, reports or articles as they like – but until that party has the gumption and courage to do what is necessary we will continue to see the slow , dismal , and convoluted decline of the NZ Labour party.

  14. XRAY says:

    One thing I would insist of my Labour caucus demonsrate is that each one of them own one house only in areas suffering from housing shortages i.e. Auckland . Be pure when it comes to this crisis, not part of the cause.

  15. ThinkAboutIT says:

    Chris I invariably find your pieces erudite and well thought through however with respect to this effort, “Mate I would add a little bush to skunk weed you must be consuming”.
    1) this is not a pre-technological society,
    2) while I abhor the emphasis on the self and the demonization of community to deny the former is doomed to failure.

  16. bad12 says:

    Interesting, like other commenter’s Chris, i would just luurrrve to read from you an explanation of your ‘channeling’ of the former Leader, David Shearer, ”beneficiaries tucked up in their beds”, Please Mr Trotter do tell,

    Putting that aside tho you do ask the question of Labour, although i feel we need be looking not at Labour as what it once might have represented and how it might again do so, in my mind such a Labour Party no longer exists,

    What Labour’s Leadership need accomplish, as in now, is some serious bridge building, if Labour cannot build a coalition between itself and the Green Party, and, itself and NZFirst, along with an understanding that all 3 Party’s ‘could’ form a coalition, then the alternative is to wait long enough until the electorate turns on the National Government,

    All 3 Party’s should be talking now about the general direction they want New Zealand to be headed and crucially Andrew Little need be negotiating Winston Peters into a position where He could take His party into coalition with Labour and the Green Party,

    i realize that the remnants of the Clark Government dream of a day after a future election where they can form a cozy business as usual government with NZFirst while shutting out the Green Party but i would suggest that this particular fantasy just aint going to happen again,

    Labour is where it is at in terms of funding and membership because its past iterations as a government from Lange through Clark say
    that’s what they deserve,

    Its all hardly lost tho is it, a 32-33% Labour, a 10-12% Green, and,a 6–8% NZFirst still adds up to a majority doesn’t it,

    Here’s my ten cents worth on Labour’s 2014 election, the billboards, put whoever designed them up against the wall, Vote Positive was the bold message we got driving past at 50K, Party Vote Labour was what needed to be said,

    The policy: from the point of view of the low waged who every day labour in the economy, as in physically do the real work, Labour proposed to build 150,000 houses for the middle class,

    The low waged would and never will be able to obtain a mortgage for such affordable houses, next, the low waged will get a rise in the minimum wage sliced and diced to create further division by low waged Government workers getting the ‘Living wage’ and the rest getting to whistle,

    But wait there’s more,

    The low waged would then be forced into losing whatever they gained by compulsory superannuation, and, if that wasn’t bad enough, Labour in the form of David Parker gleefully told all those low waged workers that their compulsory superannuation contributions would be adjusted upward so the children of the middle class who could get a mortgage to buy those 150,000 houses Labour proposed to build would have low interest payments on their mortgages,

    Then there was the superannuation policy, enough has now been said about that right???,

    Do David Cunliffe and David Parker consider that because the people in my neck of the woods came out on the losing side of the neo-liberal equation of winners and losers that we are all entirely stupid,

    Labour, in my opinion, at election 2014 got more of the vote than it’s policies said it deserved,

    Finally Mister Trotter, a quick cast of my mind around the little street i live in, of 4 DPB mums, 3 of them go out to work every day, 1 hasn’t got a car, She walks Her kids to school every morning and then spends the rest of the day volunteering down at the local community hall, then after school she walks back home with the kids,

    The bloke on the dole down the end of the street, after having had his second heart attack in 2 years is back working part time,

    How many fingers am i holding up???…

    • phillip ure says:

      i read that coment – liked it – then scrolled back to find who wrote it..

      and it was you – you devil..

      the standard misses you/your input..

      ..and that comment shows why..

      • bad12 says:

        Tena koe Phillip, kia ora for the ups, i see you have been having some recent travails over there at the ”we are not Labour website”,

        My view is that i am happily banned for life,(well worth the laughs while the incident occurred), and my presence there was probably only tolerated as ‘smoke’,

        (It’s bloody amusing to compare the treatment of authors there vis a vis Cunliffe and Little as Leader with the hope being here that those that run that website and to a certain extent have had the ascendency inside Labour for far too long, the socially liberal but fiscally right, might just be losing their grip of the party, but, i won’t hold my breath),

        There’s a ‘Open Mic’ here at the Daily Blog Phillip so we may be able to continue our ‘no holds barred’ debates on various subjects through that channel, moderators permitting of course, the boundaries of the pair of us verbally disemboweling each other being as yet uncharted territory on this forum,

        Have a good one my friend, don’t give up the fight….

        • phillip ure says:

          chrs..

          i am still somewhat puzzled over what i actually received that ban for..

          ‘cos i read right back thru the thread – and couldn’t see a trace of what i was accused of..

          ..and so just put it down to yet another irrational-outburst/rage..

          ..and i am certainly not the first ..

          ..in fact..this banning and the one before were the same..for no visible reason – and i almost didn’t bother going back..

          but now having done it twice to me – more fool me to go back for a third..eh..?

          i’l tell ya what – i’ll only go back there if they lift that life ban on you – ‘cos your reactions were justified – it was just another irrational outburst..

          ..and as with me..that moderator stephanie (who is a spin-doctor for the engineers union) had a large part to play..

          ..she has engineered the exit of quite a few others too..many of them interesting writers..which has not helped the site..either..(the other authors need to call time on her indiscriminate/hair-trigger banning..)

          ..in fact i see her and prentice as being textbook-examples of the authoritarian left ‘in the wild’..

          ..and interesting how they so devalue/abuse the people who make the place..the commenters..

          it makes me wonder if they even realise they have that asset – without them..the commenters..the site wd be diddly-squat – just a half a dozen people talking to each other..the penny might drop for them one day on that one..

          ..but anyway..meh..!..i didn’t even get pissed off about it..

          (i had seo-software to wrestle with..)

          ..but back to yr comment..

          there is one fact from that labour ’14 election campaign that we must never forget..

          ..that was labour confirming that like the tories – they would only raise benefit-rates at the rate of inflation..

          ..i remember cunliffe saying that in the last week of the campaign..on television..(they had dodged the question ’till then)..

          ..and to me it proved that life for the worst off wd be little better in 2015..had that poxy policy-mix (as you listed..)..come to pass..

          ..and going green for a moment..i think the green party dodged a bullet in ’14..

          ..they missed being shackled to what wd likely be a one-term labour govt..and (rightly so) reaping their share of the backlash/dismay due labour – because of those afor-mentioned poxy-policies..

          ..one would hope they have learnt from that..and will find some bottom-lines..next time..(normans’ ‘there are no bottom-lines’ was another dismaying moment from that campaign)

          and re shaw..i swung to supporting him for two reasons..one was based on his performances at q-time in parliament..where he impressed me..

          ..reason two was the knowledge that the greens are not a dictatorship like say..the national party..and that their party constitution has enough checks and balances to ensure no dictatorship by the leader..

          ..all that made me swing my written/editorial-support to shaw..

          ..and i look forward to seeing what he and turei will serve up..to date they are going well..

          (i liked it how shaw hammered key on climatechange – and then..equally adroitly..turei also hammered key on climatechange..co-leadership at its’ best..

          ..all good..)

          r u on twitter yet..?..i resisted for a long time..but have now embraced it..it is great for breaking-news..it is always there first..and you can follow interesting people..

          sign-up..and say hello.. phillip ure@vegandogs50

          good to yack with ya again..

          • phillip ure says:

            and..heh..!..i hafta tell ya..

            ..the first (and only) person to block me from their twitter account..was/is dunne..

            (i actually take that as a mark of pride..)

            ..and i did manage to get a few haymakers in first..

            ..haymakers wreathed in/with pot-smoke..

          • bad12 says:

            Phillip, regarding our mutual friend, a climber within the Labour Party as well as a paid union rep,

            i loved every minute of that little clash, very revealing, you have to think if wee Stephanie can so casually let go the view that ‘abortion would be a good means of combating child abuse and neglect’ in the pages of the ‘not the Labour website’ then such a view isn’t shared by her alone,

            Of course she got hot when i called her on that view, demanding a withdrawal,(which she actually got), and, i believe the ‘ambush’ in open mike the next day, again demanding i withdraw the remarks i made, was in fact brought about by her realizing just how fascist,(for want of a better description at this time of night), her bizarre ‘abortion would be a good means of controlling abuse and neglect’ comment was,

            Hell don’t martyr yourself on my account, i ride the edge, always have done, i have to expect to get shoved over the cliff occasionally…

  17. Mike in Auckland says:

    “HOW MANY LABOUR MPs could make a reasonable fist of spelling out the priorities of a family with pre-school children? What about the thoughts of a young couple just starting out on their journey through life together? How many could summarise the views of a Tongan cleaner setting out for work very early in the morning, while her neighbour – a beneficiary – lies tucked up warm in bed?”

    Well, I did not like that bit about the Tongan cleaner and the beneficiary, who “lies tucked up warm in bed”.

    Chris should know better, that not all beneficiaries lie in a warm bed in a warm home, or lie in bed into the day, while others are at work.

    So perhaps this was a bit of a slip, of prejudice against those beneficiaries?

    Anyway, as for making Labour more representative, yes valid questions can be asked. The trouble with Parliament and law making, even with working as an opposition, that is that you will not get damned far with having ordinary workers and family members sit in Parliament, as MPs need to have a sound enough grip of the law, the legislative process and language, and what comes with it.

    You may have the most sincere intentions and ambitions, but if you cannot even read law and understand much about it, any person will soon look like an amateur and will be humiliated by the “smarter” lot in there.

    So the challenge is to be well informed, well enough educated and qualified, capable of understanding and speaking matters, not just in simple terms, and at the same time stay connected with the persons the politicians represent.

    That is the major balancing act there is, and few can manage it well.

    Those realities are also part of the reason we have the kind of modern day class system we have. Go to your local Council meetings and hearings, and you get an impression of it.

    We have ended up with a society where we are governed and administered by technocrats, legal and other experts, who know all the ins and outs, and hardly any ordinary person is still actively involved in running anything, apart from the own “job” they may perform each day of the week, through which people also earn their living.

    Perhaps the best representatives are those from working backgrounds, who come from more humble beginnings, who trained, educated and enlightened themselves, and worked themselves into better positions, and who have at the same time NOT FORGOTTEN, where they come from. Those that have an honest interest in creating a fairer society, that is not as unequal as the one we have, and who are determined to fight for this.

    So we may look at each and every Labour MP with that in mind, to see who fits that description, and who not.

  18. Dennis Dorney says:

    I agree in principle about the need of MP’s to contribute to the Party. When I was in Australia I was a member of The Australian Democrats before it self-immolated. The MP’s were required to put a fair chunk of their income to the Party, the logic being that the successful MP’s achieved their position by the efforts of all those members, and other MP’s, who put in vast amounts of effort and their own money, for the Party’s good.
    Something else that the Australian Democrats did that Labour here should emulate, is this:- When the party was formed, all of its policies were proposed and voted for by the members. Those policies remained until they were replaced by others,using the same democratic process.
    The right wing media mocked and ridiculed those policies and called it ‘the fairies at the bottom of the garden’ Party. The AD’s were definitely hurt by these attacks but the policies remained in place election after election while their vote remained around 5%. Eventually the voters got to admire the courage of the party for sticking with their beliefs and began to look carefully at the AD’s policies. When they did, the public found that they liked them, so that at one time the AD vote in some seats in South Australian state elections rose to around 25%.
    What went wrong? The AD MP’s began to resent the power of the members to create policy and their MP’s voted in parliament for the introduction of a GST, which was totally against Party policy …… then it crashed.
    One last thing; In Australia elections are funded by the state according to results. The last I heard, the going rate was a rebate of $1.60 per vote received. As long as NZ allows a rich party to fund election campaigns to a figure exceeding all other parties combined (excluding the privately owned Conservatives and Internet Party) we will never be able to change governments except for the odd occasional event.

  19. There used to be a clause in the Labour manifesto which related to the ownership of the means of production and the redistribution of wealth. Until this clause is reinstated Labour is merely a capitalist party whose difference from National or the Greens is just window dressing. Capitalism is the problem. Neoliberal capitalist measures introduced since Douglas the traitor has created the confusing set of anomolies that you refer to with the cleaner and beneficiaries dichotomy. Until the question comes back to whether we want to move toward a society that is not in thrall to capital, no change in Labour, no voting in the Greens, no eco capitalism will change anything. Capitalism is the problem. Fight that.

  20. Kim dandy says:

    Just take the bull by the horns, Labour – do what you need to do to get this current regime out – for the whole countries sake.

  21. CLEANGREEN says:

    Wild Katipo had the idea as Labour has lost its direction and soul for looking after the downtrodden here.

    Labour was gentle, caring and compassionate when the masses flocked to “The kinder, Gentler” government when Helen romped home in 1999, on this policy after 8 yrs.’ of torturous crushing National “divisive hate politics” of no care & “take it all” as we have again now.

    So wise up labour before you loose it all for us hoping you will finally wake up!

    “I think perhaps Labour , like many organisations is suffering the effects of atrophy , – but more importantly , subversion.”

    • phillip ure says:

      @ cleangreen..

      ‘..Labour was gentle, caring and compassionate when the masses flocked to “The kinder, Gentler” government when Helen romped home in 1999..’

      and a wee bit of a factcheck on that claim is that working for (some) families ignored/sidelined the sickest/poorest..(remember ‘deserving-families’..?..)

      labour did s.f.a. for those hurting most for nine long bloody years – and is as much to blame as the tories for the shit-hole we currently find nz in..

      (and i actually blame them more – as they should bloody well know better..)

      and until labour do a mea culpa over that history – and prove their mea culpa by policies directly addressing what ails us..(u.b.i. etc.. etc..)

      it is all just an exercise in onanism..really..

      • wild katipo says:

        I think he was making the point that the populace reacted in knee jerk fashion over the most turbulent times of the introduction of the false reforms of the neo liberals – however , Labour didn’t actually address the genesis of WHY there was so much suffering – it simply tinkered.

        Which – even that seemed like a better alternative to the Lange , Bolger , Shipley era.

        But in reality …it just kept the neo liberal agenda on slow tick – and ultimately set up the stage for a Don Brash to step in after playing round with social engineering….hence why we ended up with ‘ beer and barbecue John ‘.

        Nothings changed – neo liberalism and its backers still playing the same old games of extremes and counter extremes to sucker punch the voting public.

        Neo liberalism is the enemy . And its adherents – not necessarily any one party.

      • bad12 says:

        Remember history Phillip, far from showing any form of kindness in it’s prior 2 iterations Labour 1984 Lange/Douglas deliberately attacked the employment of the low waged and started the direct attack on beneficiaries by attaching income tax to all benefits…

        • phillip ure says:

          i missed that one/decade..was living in various parts foreign..

          ..but i do know that whatever graph/area you look at..

          ..showing how bad things are now – in so many ways..

          ..that rogernomics upheaval is where it all started turning brown and runny..

          i saw an interview with/article about richardson now..recently..

          ..she is apparantly unrepentant about what she (and others) have wrought..

          (and there are still far too many of them still staring out at us from the labour party side of the house..)

  22. Shona says:

    Arrogant, overpaid, out of touch lacking in compassion, fractured.fragmented, deluded, troughing, spineless, talentless, Blairite scum. That’s the NZ Labour PArty. Oh and I voted for Cunliffe. After last year’s appalling display of utter spite by that lot I hope they self destruct asap.

    • phillip ure says:

      @ shona..

      ‘Arrogant, overpaid, out of touch lacking in compassion, fractured.fragmented, deluded, troughing, spineless, talentless, Blairite scum. That’s the NZ Labour PArty.’

      + 1..

  23. TorySplinterCell says:

    More naive idealism from Mr. Trotter about Labour once again rediscovering its fountain of youthful workerism. But at least some concrete pragmatism when it comes to reforming party democracy and finance.

    Here’s another problem Labour faces, its membership (passive affiliated members excluded) is drawn almost exclusively from university campuses and only a tiny handful of those campuses at that, thus ensuring a steady stream of middle-class youth, and aspiring middle-class youth. Take Little, Cunliffe, Robertson, Goff, – all recruited as liberal students, who after time served in various bureaucracies seamlessly transitioned into another bureaucracy – the LP.

    Until Labour makes an effort to recruit and to organise working people and not just students into its party the party will never be a true workers’ party.

  24. wild katipo says:

    The reason why the two big party’s appear as such is the neo liberal agenda.

    And while National and Labour had large differences before 1984 , – yet still we had an advanced society which was relatively wealthy by world standards – the reason for that was we practiced an entirely different economic system than the one currently .

    It was called Keynesian economics.

    And neo liberalism and Keynesian economic theory , at least politically , are antagonistic towards each other – even though some portions of neo liberal theory are PART of Keynesian economic theory.

    Throw out the practitioners of neo liberalism and we would arrive at something like we had before, such as the Scandinavians have now -and ironically – would eventually mean that the populace would in general become wealthy by world standards once more……something the neo liberals would fight fang and claw to avoid at all costs.

    As theirs is a doctrine of the preservation of wealth and power in the hands of the rich only.

  25. bad12 says:

    This is modern Labour, Jacinda Adhern speaking to the Legislation promoted by Chester Burrows that was to go on to criminalize the partners of DPB dependent mums where any fraud was detected gave a rousing display of opposition,

    Next day Labour voted For the legislation, a case of political schizophrenia???,

    In a week where opinion writers in that right wing rag the Herald were decrying the death of a New Zealand child for the want of some electricity to heat a Home where more than one child was suffering from a respiratory disease i get in my letterbox a 2015 calendar with fridge magnet from Rongotai MP Annette King,

    i will assume that some twisting of the Parliaments rules allowed such a calendar complete with King’s mugshot to be paid for and distributed
    via the largesse of the public purse and of course, when i looked at this half good, it being June, 2015 calendar, i sure as hell seen Red,

    There are lessons, for Labour, to be learned from both the incidents i describe above,(my reference to ‘half good’ an unintended metaphor of description that is perhaps deserved of Labour),

    For the cost of the manufacture, printing, and, distribution of that particular half good relic of some other decade Annette King would have better served her electorate by finding a means of hiring another staff member onto her electorate staff who’s sole purpose was to ensure that in families where respiratory disease is present those families were receiving ALL their entitlements from the State,

    Half good alright…

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