Labour’s last throw of the neo-liberal dice


It will be interesting to see if Jacinda Ardern can breathe some life into Labour’s neo-liberal corpse.

Her election, alongside that of Kelvin Davis as deputy, represents a shuffle further to the right (who can forget the picture of a deeply downcast Ardern after Cunliffe’s election as leader?) but this is irrelevant in the dire circumstances the party faces less than two months before the election.

Labour has played Russian roulette with leaders so often in recent years it’s hard to recall them all.

Labour believes it has a perception problem so it keeps changing the packaging. But the packaging isn’t the problem. It’s the content of the package that leaves them in a political backwater.

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Unlike the UK for example where Jeremy Corbyn has performed well as UK Labour leader, Labour in New Zealand has no bold, progressive policies. It offers a thin gruel of neoliberal social democracy in a country where a third of our children live in poverty and 40,000 people are homeless as a direct result of Labour and National economic policies since 1984.

Jeremy Corbyn has little charisma, no showy smile or flash dress sense. But what he does have is political integrity and policies to represent a decisive break from the rule of the rich. No, they didn’t win the election but they are on the move. People like the content of their policies and their message “for the many – not the few”.

Labour’s election strategy so far has been to tell people the party represents a “fresh approach” and we need to “change the government”.

Yes they have another fresh set of leaders but the content of their policies (eg. no increase in tax on the rich, building only 1000 new state houses each year etc) remains unchanged.

In a blog last year I wrote:

To put it bluntly I think Jacinda has perfected the political art of sounding good while saying nothing of substance.

My opinion of her politics took a serious dive in 2011 when in the space of a short time she attended the launch of a book by Paul Henry – yes that Paul Henry – and then attended a presentation by none other than Tony Blair at Eden Park.

I was one of the protest organisers for Blair’s visit and while we had a good crowd outside calling for Blair to be arrested and charged with war crimes, Jacinda Ardern was inside with a bunch of big noters helping give credibility to him and his visit.

I emailed her about these things and her response was to the effect that she didn’t only speak to people she agreed with and that she had asked Blair whether he had changed his mind about the decision to invade Iraq.

I thought her reasoning was weak. Henry is a populist racist and misogynist and there was no need for her to bolster his image and ego by her presence. Meanwhile Blair should have been arrested by the NZ government and sent to the war crimes tribunal as a suspect for the most appalling of war crimes after he colluded with George Bush and “sexed-up” a dossier supposedly justifying the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I’m happy to accept people make mistakes (I make plenty myself) and can learn and move on. I haven’t seen any evidence of that with Jacinda.

Nothing that has happened over the past year has changed my view.


  1. Exactly John why Dr Web will be getting my candidate vote and the Greens my party vote.

    Labour must be dragged left kicking and screaming.

  2. And this is why we need a strong moderating effect from the Greens . Im confident we will see that, as Im confident we will see National deposed this election. I do not think the Rogernomes in Labour will dare try and become too obvious if there is indeed a sense for the need for change, – as there is.

    Another thing is this , though many do not like NZ First for a few of their policy’s they are , in fact , far more inline with what many on the Left want to see…here are some interesting insights :

    NZF members are lefties – will they get a say in choosing government …

    So if we do get a coalition with Labour / Greens / NZ First , we will be well placed to start to see the beginnings of the dismantling of the neo liberal machine. Perhaps slowly , but it will start to happen , then done by increments.

  3. I think the woman is a flake frankly but I expect Labour have more of a chance of actually moving up in the rankings.

    It will be difficult but for the first time in 20+years I too will be voting for a Labour candidate – Duncan Webb – in a bid to get rid of the twit that currently has the seat. And the Green Party as well – I have more faith in them on social justice issues than Labour that is for sure.

      • Any leftist politician that has not been a dedicated street activist and not faced the hard work as perhaps union advocate or other kind of coal face advocate for some time will be considered a ‘flake’ by many who know what matters.

        But as of a few decades, it has become sufficient to qualify as a political careerist who works in an MP’s Office, to join international organisations, perhaps in senior roles, and to go through such initiation processes within created bureaucracies, to become a candidate for a so called ‘left’ or ‘progressive’ party:

        “Born in Hamilton,[3] Ardern grew up in Morrinsville and Murupara, where her father, Ross Ardern, worked as a police officer.[4] She attended the University of Waikato, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. She joined the Labour Party at a young age, and became a senior figure in the Young Labour Party. After graduating from Waikato University, she spent time working in the offices of Phil Goff and of Helen Clark as a researcher. She later spent time in London, working as a senior policy advisor.[5] In early 2008 she won election as the President of the International Union of Socialist Youth.”

        As for that latter organisation:

        Their historic purpose and aims have somewhat been watered down over the decades, now reduced to the following, not bad, but not sufficient, in my view:
        “Looking towards the future, there remains much work to be done. IUSY is committed to working with the member youth organizations to develop effective tools for the treatment and prevention of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. The advancement of individual human rights and liberties in many places is a special concern. The recent events have highlighted the basic economic inequality that exists throughout the world and drawn attention to the struggle for social justice and equality.”

        Under ‘Activities’ read this:
        “Naturally, the structure and international character of IUSY allows the organization to treat many of the issues in an inter-regional manner, through cooperation and coordination between different regions in order to realize joint activities.

        The global Presidium is composed of the President, the Secretary General and 18 Vice-Presidents, who meet regularly to discuss and develop policy.”

        More here:

        It is a bit like the United Nations for mostly socialist or rather social democratic, left of centre organisations, that have mostly given up the idea of revolution, and rather work within the establishment, as we know it also here in New Zealand Aotearoa.

        I wonder, where are Jacinda’s credentials as a welfare, environmental and social justice fighter, campaigner and advocate on the coal face?

    • I heard Matthew Hooten describe her as a flake, wondered what he was trying to achieve by inserting that vague word into the public dialogue.

  4. Yep, she’s wrapping and pizzazz. Social media will soar her high. In the absence of soul, and politics is all vile short-term. So , in short, hot shit. Mebbe , a govt. To no good purpose, no doubt. All good fun, in the downward slip to the ever-nearing furnace.

  5. John, thank you for writing this. I think there is a real danger in encouraging voters to focus on ‘who can put on a better show’ rather than ‘who can produce and implement better policies’. Let’s remind ourselves how taking the latter path can take us to unexpectedly dark places- think Donald Trump in the US.

  6. “Labour believes it has a perception problem so it keeps changing the packaging. But the packaging isn’t the problem. It’s the content of the package that leaves them in a political backwater.”

    Yes, you are right with your assessment of Jacinda Ardern, John, you have no reason to be apologetic at all.

    But as for Labour, it seems, the packaging does not seem to matter all that much to many out there, hence the ‘Jacinda effect’, as the media now call it.

    I must say, there is much shallowness and superficiality among large sections of the populace, as only that explains why so many now make donations to Labour, and support Jacinda so strongly on social media.

    Today I was thinking about yesterday’s events, and after some bit of confusion and even hope for the better to come, I realised, nothing much has changed at all, except the slogans and the soundings.

    Labour is still the same, the caucus is the same, the vague and lacking policy is the same. Billboards may be changed, but that is like putting a bit of new paint on the outside of an old, cold and damp house, before trying to sell it to the market.

    Close to three decades of brainwashing has hollowed the rock, the steady drop or flow of neoliberal conditioning, I am thinking of, as compared to steady water flow.

    I dread, we are now having to put up with another three years of neoliberalism, wrapped up in nice packaging perhaps, and more of the same, as the system, which is a main problem, will not be changed.

    If we get the National Party back in charge, we know what cold wind will blow for the poor and less fortunate, if we get Jacinda and her friend Grant (he only nominated Kelvin as otherwise things would have been too bloody obvious), we only get a slight moderation of the status quo, and much feel good talk.

    Neither is what we need, but perhaps Labour will after that nonsense wake up once and for all, and maybe New Zealanders will finally realise, that this kind of systemic disease based on neoliberal capitalism has is the problem and needs to be gotten rid off?

    Time will tell, look behind the window dressing, I recommend, do not fall for the surface shine, hiding some rot behind it.

  7. I note also, in all hear nice and smartly phrased speeches yesterday and today, Jacinda did not once mention the word beneficiaries.

  8. John this is the most insightful thing I can ever recall you saying. You are absolutely spot-on.

    Jacinda Ardern has been elected leader by virtue of the complete cynicism of a Party Machine that is ironically less sexist than most of the electorate. They don’t care what gender their candidate is as long as the People swoon, and the poor stooge can be trusted to do as they’re told. Jacinda is the perfect product of a disciplined Labour Party apparatus that ruthlessly culls any genuine Left-wing tendencies. I dare say she went to see Tony Blair because she is a Blairite to the core, and she wanted to connect with her hero.

    Jacinda Ardern is Neo-Labour, through and through. There will be no deviation from established Labour Party practice. The Working Class will be kept in a coma while the government advances the Washington Consensus, making sure everything is smooth sailing for the Ruling Class.

    Jacinda is their girl, not ours. This truly is Labour’s last throw of the Neo-Liberal dice.

  9. What does Labour offer us besides feeling bad about it as they continue with neoliberalism? They’re like the lying schoolteachers who said “This hurts me more than it hurts you” as they caned our young bums. At least the Tories are unapologetic about it.
    The media will play Jacinda up, but any push on the policies we need is now coming from the Greens.

    • Why the mythology that Greens are the truest Lefties? I’ve never seen other than they are distinctly middle-class, with Uni degrees rtc and good incomes. Probably not a one has seen a pair of dungarees or a cloth cap hanging in the porch ever. MeterIA had well-to-do connections in her solo Mum baby days. Too many lefties in this column cringe at the thought of Labour becoming government as de facto Pro-Natism seems to lurk somewhere in their bones. I say give Jacinda a chance.

  10. John, wether you are right or wrong about Jacinda, the fact remains she is streets ahead of anything in the Nats!

    I too will be voting for Duncan Webb (and working for his election) but I will probably party vote Green. We must get rid of that woman ‘who would rather be out on the harbour!’

    Labour may still be neoliberalism with a smiling face, but the Greens will drag them left, and some of Winnie’s policies will be good for this country!

    • That reply was the only sensible reply I have read in this tirade on Jacinda, we are not Communists, as some right wingers would like to call us, I’m a labour voter and will continue to be so, as anything is better than what we have now.
      The greens will have a strong say in things this time, which will keep the Labour Party more centre than right. And Winnie will have his share of the pie as well, it will be more balanced with these smaller parties involved

      • Still captured by the magnificence of the of political parties. Rather than offering a yes no answer. Why don’t you explain something you like about the Labour Party beyond to false MSM naritives

  11. I am in accord with everything you have written here, John. The Wageslave Labour Party is simply not left-wing, and hasn’t been since Douglas.

  12. And the Greens, by signing in to the fiscal responsibility nonsense, have shown themselves to be me too neoliberals.

    • That is why James Shaw was full of praise and excitement for Jacinda two days ago, seeing her as the new Prime Minister.

      He did not say it, but it is fact, the vote of Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis as Labour leaders, that has saved James Shaw’s neck also, as Metiria did put him back into his spot with her performance and positioning the last two weeks.

      James Shaw would love to work with Jacinda, hence he praises her like crazy, he sees himself as a minister of sorts already, while Metiria will face the stiff blow of a wind from the Nats and the system (MSD), who will destroy her credibility as alleged “welfare fraudster”.

    • Mr Shaw is working overtime to make the Greens irreversably neoliberal also, he should be removed from the co-leadership, in my view, especially since he has outed himself as a fan of Jancinda. Maybe he could join the new Labour team, and switch parties?

      • The Greens have been economically illiterate for quite some time but the austerity pledge with Labour is just beyond lunacy.
        Trying to run a surplus would send unemployment through the roof and wouldn’t be achieved anyway.
        Somebody needs to sit these idiots down and teach them some modern macroeconomics.

        • Why fuck up a perfectly fine 15% polling ranging from 9.1% to 15 and a bit.

          Greens have a Great position right now. Every one knows what’s up.

          On the other hand mainstream economics is in complete disarray. Putting Green voters in these mele would be suicide. They won’t get legislative or even the corporate side of the macro. This is everything they are against. Presenting Green voters with this mountain of info will only make them angrier and angrier and take away from the social reforms.

          I share your frustration but the economics profession is in no shape to be guiding this dab ate right now. Bad idea.

          Metiria and Shaw are the Co Leaders. They know more about there constituents than we do.

          • I think you’re wrong. There is a world wide appetite for the politics of the left. A backlash to the austerity cult.
            The Greens have just taken a stride into the austerity tent.
            They won’t get my vote.

            • Disagree. Britians consumed MSM BS on a daily telling em how awful Merkel is for accepting a million refugees and Britians said fuck that. We out. And that’s #Brexit consensus.

  13. Why do the Greens never progress ?

    Sort of mmp nomads eh ? But very attracted to the National Party.


  14. It’s a bit like calling Trump a Social democrat, get real, Jacinda will wake up the next generation of voters, who are not Neoliberals. And that will instigate change in the future

  15. “Who can forget her downcast look at David Cunliffe”. Anyone would! I met Jacinda at Labour Summer Camp where there were plenty of young people. We were washing our plates. She didn’t look down at me as Kiwi females typically do at working class males. We exchanged pleasantries. There was no hint of MP status, she just fit in with everyone else there.

  16. I have a feeling that Jacinda is the Obama of NZ. Yes we can! But it won’t happen, just as it didn’t happen in the U.S. Jeremy Corbyn came through an austerity in the U.K. far more comprehensive than anything we have experienced in N.Z. We are going to have to wade through deep shit for a period before the brainwashing of the N.Z population towards neo-liberalism fractures , and the left in general is radicalized. Only then will conditions be ripe for ” The great socialist Leap Forward!”

    • It boggles my mind what I could possibly be moderated over.Am I on the whaleoil site by mistake? Is socialism a dirty word? Is deep shit too impolite ? Have you been into the red wine? Is this the end of civilization as we know it?

  17. Never mind the quality, feel the width…

    Once again John, image trumps substance and the number of voters using their frontal lobe declines.

    What a trashy, pointless, immature society we have created.

  18. Pretty much my thoughts on Labour NZ as it standa today as well, thanks John.

    You can be sure that Labour will do better with Jacinda, just listen to the inflection of approval in the voices from nearly all the media across the board…they love her, they instinctively know she is one of them.
    I think of them as Guardian liberals, and just like The Guardian, they are staunch defenders of the establishment status quo.

  19. The Corbyn surge in the UK is not due to the substance of the policies as much as a rising climate of discontent. Would that the UK had all of a sudden become a politically literate populous. Corbyn and Bernie Sanders’ talents as leaders have to do with balancing personal ideals and a constructive consensus – just like all successful leaders must. They do it well and don’t need to be “charismatic” in the showbiz sense. I applaud them. Jacinda is more of a showbiz politician and yes we should be wary of that. But NZ is not the UK. There are obvious parallels (neoliberalism) but it’s facile to draw these in so blanketing a way. It’s easy to lump everyone into the neoliberal mcPolitics basket, and to draw conclusions based on which events people attend. But if the author wants to be taken seriously, he probably needs to do a little more detective work. The author refers to his own mistakes. I seem to recall his party rolling the dice with a certain plutocrat. Politics and contradicition are old friends. Jacinda isn’t perfect, but she’s the best chance we’ve got for steering our society away from a social abyss.

    • Steering our society away from the social abyss?
      Has she repudiated the ‘fiscal responsibility’ pledge?
      If not, she’s steering dead ahead for the abyss.

  20. I would like to know who in the LP initiated this leadership change I attended a meeting with Andrew Little he came across with a degree of sincerity and understanding of the situation I hadn’t heard from other politicians but he did mention moving on NZ 3rd world industrial relations laws and that would have been his undoing the one thing the ruling elites fear in NZ is the right of workers to have a say in there own employment conditions.And knowing that the only way that wages and conditions will be improved and therefore profits denied will be through the collective actions of a union they will do everything in there power to deny New Zealanders workers the opportunity the collective security of a Union

  21. “I note also, in all hear nice and smartly phrased speeches yesterday and today, Jacinda did not once mention the word beneficiaries.”

    I agree I believe Andrew took a serious misstep when he played into the right wing narratives of this and every election being about the ‘honest worker’ vs ‘dole bludgers’.
    The topic should be avoided.
    Something the silly greens need to think about.

    Horse face is taking a few leafs out of Keys happy joy joy book.

    At the end of the day nothing matters but winning.
    While I think replacing Andrew was a major blunder, if Arden can get a couple more % points it will greatly increase the strength of a left wing government.

    And with the support of ardent… lefties, unionists, etc.
    Real improvements can be made to this country.

    I hate self isolationists who have no idea how to win trying to drag everyone around them down with them.
    Not that I don’t support street activist types etc.
    Everyone has a place and a role.

  22. The new Sheriff of Notingham speaks.

    “You can’t condone law breaking”

    Jacinda Ardern

    What does this ignorant and shallow statement say about the new Labour leader?

    What about all those New Zealanders that broke the law to invade Rugby Park Hamilton? An act that Nelson Mandela said, brought a ray of sunshine into his cell on Robben Island.

    What about all those New Zealanders that broke the law by blockading nuclear warships entering our harbour, and made this country nuclear free?

    What all those New Zealanders both Maori and Pakeha who broke the law in occupying/tresspassing on Bastion Point?

    No wonder Labour are going down in the polls, while the Greens are rocketing up.

    “You can’t condone law breaking?, What a sanctimonious creep. Jacinda Ardern needs to apologise all those courageous New Zealanders who dared to break the law to make this country and the world a better place.

    Obviously something she would never do.

  23. John I completely disagree with you on the charisma of Jc and think you are very misguided in think he is uncharismatic. I’m next living in the U.K., and keep well abreast of local media and given the absolute drumming JC gets in the U.K. By an extremely right wing press agenda- it was both his charisma and policies that triggered the huge shift in Tory majority. Despite unpopularity in media- even right wing pundits were conceding that JCs charisma and ‘human touch’ was helping his campaign. His ability to talk and be seen to be comfortable with public and children facing his photos was to his huge advantage over Theresa May and the usual bumbling inperaonal anti personal media tour- with Theresa going so far as to drag her hire a mob of well dressed conservatives and take them up and down the country.

  24. I’m so curious that there’s not a word mentioned in here about The Opportunities Party. Any serious discussion about a progressive way forward out of the Neoliberal chokehold that’s depriving so many New Zealanders of air warrants mention of The Opportunities Party’s tax, environmental/climate change, drug and education reforms.

  25. It seems Labour do under Jacinda Ardern not really expect to win and form a new government, which is astonishing. Yesterday Winston Peters seemed to praise her and her chances:

    But this morning, on Nine to Noon, Jacinda ruled out any chance of Winston becoming Prime Minister, even for a temporary term:

    That will not go down with Winston and NZ First, and so far we cannot expect Labour and Greens to win the votes needed to govern alone.

    Although a Labour win together with Greens may be the most desirable outcome, or even a three party coalition agreement of sorts, one has to now seriously ask, is Jacinda’s intention to actually become PM, or not simply to save Labour from its most disastrous defeat ever?

    She said repeatedly she had no ambition to become leader, and was supporting Andrew while he ran the troops. Being PM comes with a lot of burden, pressure and heaps of responsibility, and it may be more than she would manage.

    So has anybody considered that this plan may be to simply prepare and warm the seat for Grant Robertson to become the new leader after the election, when Labour may not have the numbers to govern, and the Nats will get a fourth term?

    Grant has been working on this all along, I suspect, to first let Andrew run his course, and once it showed he did not gain support, he made sure he gets pushed out. As Grant could not possibly step up himself to replace Andrew, he let his friend Jacinda get there, but only to warm the seat for himself, further down the line.

    A real youth quake and more would have to happen to get Labour well into the 30s of percents, and time is short. Putting Winston into his place, and already now completely ruling out a leading role for him as Deputy PM or temporary PM seems stupid, unless it is even intentional, for whatever reason.

    • Look, can we please realize how stupid that “Winston becoming PM in a majority Labour cabinet” media pushed line is? Do journalists ask Bill English will he allow a leader of another party to become PM? This is bloody stupid – the leader of the party with the most votes gets the prime ministership, as they bloody should (which the people who vote for that party expect).

  26. The smart move by Grant Robertson was to nominate Kelvin Davis as the deputy leader, who can as required meet the expectations of being brown enough to be Maori and white enough to appeal to Pakeha and others. Once he shows that he is not able to deliver more than on Serco, prison and domestic violence topics, he’ll be the next fall guy, so Grant can step in. And once Jacinda sees it is time to extend the family, he can swiftly move up to the top job, he has been keen on all the time.

  27. “Where the people lead – the politicians will follow….”

    Any NZ political parties saying this?

    UPDATE FROM HER WARSHIP IN THE HAGUE – Thursday 13 July 2017 6.24am

    (I was invited to The Hague as an NZ ‘expert’ to attend the 2017 World Justice Project International Rule of Law Forum, 10 – 13 July 2017).

    Unfinished reporting from Tuesday 11 July 2017….

    – when I dropped my political ‘bombshell’ about NZ’s corruption REALITY being that
    in my opinion, as a proven anti- corruption ‘whistle-blower’ – New Zealand was a ‘corrupt, polluted tax haven – a banana republic without the bananas’.

    I also stated that the Transparency International ‘Corruption Perception Index’ (which NZ topped 10 times (sometimes 1st equal) without having even ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption – should be screwed up and thrown into the rubbish bin of history.

    That there were IMO, objective, significant milestones / yardsticks for quantifying corruption REALITY, rather than relying (largely) upon the subjective opinions of anonymous businesspeople for PERCEPTION of corruption (which in my view is a meaningless ‘measure’).

    I pointed out how in 2010 how I had attended the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference in Bangkok.

    Where we were told that the global procurement market was $14 TRILLION and the amount estimated to be lost in bribery and corruption was $2.5 TRILLION!

    That I had a HUGE ‘lightbulb’ moment!

    Wouldn’t $2.5 TRILLION
    $2,500,000,000,000 – help to feed, clothe, water and shelter a few poor people?

    That another ‘lightbulb’ moment – was that Transparency International were not looking at the underpinning private procurement MODEL, but the private procurement PROCESS.

    That as soon as you got into the private procurement (contracting out) of public services, formerly provided ‘in house’ by staff directly employed under the ‘public service’ model, you got into CONTRACT MANAGEMENT.

    Government or Council staff were regarded as ‘too dumb’ to do contract management – so a ‘bureaucrat'(s) would then hire CONSULTANT(S) to ‘project manage’ the WORKS CONTRACTOR(S), who would then usually SUB-CONTRACT- so by the time you got down to those in the boots and overalls getting their hands dirty and actually doing something productive – you might have up to 4 layers of pinstripe suits – clipping the ticket while effectively doing nothing.

    How on EARTH is that a more ‘cost-effective’ use of public money?

    In 2010, at that Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference, I stood on my hind legs and asked a (high-faluting) panel – where was the EVIDENCE that the private procurement of public services that used to be provided at central and local government level, was more ‘cost-effective’ than former ‘in-house’ service provision?

    (It was like I had slapped the face of the person who was chairing the panel.
    He literally did a ‘double-take’ and mumbled that there was evidence – but none was ever provided.)

    My point to this 2017 World Justice Forum group – was that in my opinion, it was time to look at the whole underpinning private procurement MODEL for public services.

    ( IMO – it is the privatisation -private procurement – of public services which is the major source of GRAND corruption.

    I am one of the few people in the world actually saying this- that the root cause of most GRAND corruption- is PRIVATISATION.

    How is it decided who GETS the contracts?

    Remember – back in 2010 – the global amount estimated to be paid in bribery and corruption was $2.5 TRILLION!


    This is a BIG deal folks.

    The whole Neo-liberal myth and mantra ‘public is bad – private is good’ upon which this massive privatisation of public services, locally, nationally and internationally was based – was NOT ‘evidence based’.

    The BIG business globalists – just MADE IT UP!

    More later …


  28. So John – do you support changing this National-led Government or not?

    I do.

    Penny Bright

    2017 Independent candidate for Tamaki.

    Exposing the $1.6 BILLION Tamaki ‘Regeneration’ – GENTRIFICATION $CAM.

  29. The point of changing a government is to have something significantly better. At present, National is actually *a little to the left* on a number of issues.

    People wanted to get rid of the Muldoon government too, and look how that turned out. . .

    It’s interesting that the worst attacks on Metiria Turei have, in party terms, been from within Labour and the Greens. Labour is obsessed with bourgeois respectability:

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