Still Looking For A Compatible Rabbit

By   /   March 9, 2018  /   19 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

New Zealanders haven’t “moved away from representative democracy”, Mr Sutton, representative democracy has been moved away from them. A necessary precaution, lest ordinary people get it into their heads to take on the greatest “power-hungry despot” of them all: the totalitarian ideology we call Neoliberalism.

BILL SUTTON, a Labour politician of the 1980s, was the butt of one of David Lange’s most vicious jokes. Like so many of Labour’s “Class of ‘84”, Sutton was a Rogernome. Swept-up in the tornado of change unleashed by Labour’s Finance Minister, Roger Douglas, he and his colleagues found themselves, by the beginning of the Fourth Labour Government’s second term, dangerously off-side with both their prime minister and their party. By 1988 the divisions within Labour had grown to the point where Lange felt besieged by upwards of half his own caucus. Bill Sutton was one of the more outspoken of the prime minister’s critics.

This was the context in which Lange quipped to reporters that Bill Sutton’s much-needed brain transplant had been delayed because his doctors had been unable to find a compatible rabbit.

Not many politicians come back from a crack like that. Certainly, few were surprised when Sutton’s “marginal seat” of Hawkes Bay – along with a great many others – returned to its more natural shade of deep Tory blue in 1990. In a few years, Bill Sutton had become just another former MP whose name, outside of Hawkes Bay, had been forgotten by everyone except political train-spotters.

As a member of that querulous fraternity, however, I simply had to discover whether the Bill Sutton whose Hawkes Bay Today/NZ Herald opinion piece  I’d spotted in Dr Bryce Edward’s inestimable “New Zealand Politics Daily”, was THE Bill Sutton – David Lange’s incompatible rabbit.

It was. And the title of his commentary, “Politics Has Changed For The Worse”, was more than interesting enough for me to click on the link. After all, if politics isn’t what it used to be, then its Rogernomes like Bill Sutton who must shoulder a fairly large share of the blame.

Not that there’s a single contrite word in the entire piece about the ongoing social and economic effects of the “reforms” of the Fourth Labour Government. Although a scientist by profession, Sutton was never able to grasp that, for all its pretentions to the contrary, economics owes almost nothing to the scientific method. The whole so-called “discipline” has always been, and remains, a sub-set of politics – hence its original designation as “Political Economy”.

I always got the impression that Sutton saw Rogernomics as an expression of natural law, like gravity. Certainly, he was one of the most tireless repeaters of TINA – the “There Is No Alternative” mantra which Douglas’s defenders dutifully deployed against the growing number of critics of the Fourth Labour Government’s economic “revolution”.

Thirty years on, however, Sutton (a published poet) is acutely aware that something has gone wrong with New Zealand politics – and society. As he observes, plaintively: “in the 1980s it was still possible for people with good jobs and supportive families to set these aside, and seek election to Parliament, in the hope of changing New Zealand for the better. And even within a conservative electorate like Hawke’s Bay, it was possible to persuade a narrow majority of voters to agree.”

Not anymore.

“That would be inconceivable today, because New Zealand politics has changed, and not for the better. Steadily fewer people are bothering to vote, significant numbers don’t even get their names on to the electoral roll, and those who still do these things have fewer expectations about changing anything. The best that most voters today are hoping for is a government that won’t make things any worse. What a discouraging prospect for potential candidates!”

It is nothing short of astonishing that the man who aggressively countered his government’s critics with the assertion, “There is no alternative!”, is unable to connect the dots between an economic and political system which insists that it represents the terminus of history, and these rising levels of political disillusionment and despair. If this, the neoliberal world order, is as good as it gets; and if all the truly meaningful decision-making powers have been taken out of the hands of politicians; then what, in God’s name, is the point of casting a vote?

What, then, is Sutton’s explanation for the demise of democratic politics? Oh, that’s easy. According to Sutton, the steady decline in political engagement is just “one tiny part of a global phenomenon, the move away from representative democracy towards its only proven alternative: rule by power-hungry despots, who brook no disagreement, even from their supporters, and are ready to resort to whatever means seem necessary to shore up their power.”

Ummm, no, Bill. I don’t think so. The malaise you describe is traceable to the hollowing-out of our political institutions which began with the very same reforms you were so proud to champion as a freshman MP in the Lange-led Labour Government. The reforms which caused Labour to shrink from a party numbering close to 100,000 members to one numbering fewer than 10,000. The reforms which gave birth to a professionally-trained political class, whose members glide effortlessly between the public service, the news media, public-relations firms and Parliament, and who have nothing but contempt for the opinions of ordinary people.

New Zealanders haven’t “moved away from representative democracy”, Mr Sutton, representative democracy has been moved away from them. A necessary precaution, lest ordinary people get it into their heads to take on the greatest “power-hungry despot” of them all: the totalitarian ideology we call Neoliberalism.

The despot you helped to enthrone, Mr Sutton. The reason why New Zealand politics has changed so profoundly for the worse.

 

***
Want to support this work? Donate today
***
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook
***

19 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Nice write-up Chris, just read the article in the Herald.

    It reads like it was put together over breakfast and sent off this morning before work. No real analysis or evidence that Sutton spent any time thinking about the issues in depth.

    What’s the point of it? Why does it exist? Who read it and thought yes, that deserves to seen and read by as many New Zealanders as possible.

    One can only wonder.

  2. Pete says:

    The power-hungry despots at the moment who brook no disagreement are the ones disconcerted, discombobulated, disgusted and downright dirty that National didn’t get in.

    Their qualifications might be the same as Sutton’s – the science of stupidity. (With a diploma in flaunting it.)

  3. CLEANGREEN says:

    Yes Chris we now see that Labour have emerged as just another “light blue” ‘National light’ party again as in 1984.

    Neo-liberal’s to the core this lot are it seems.

    This now has come home to roost when Labour Napier MP Stuart Nash who is the Police Minister, has made several errors so far now winding up looking like a light version of National as he was in the Wairoa Star yesterday saying effectively his rail fight is over as he claims the rail to Gisborne is now (quote) “a hard ask”!!!!!!!

    It was just only two years ago that Start Nash while in opposition was saying boldly quote “that the Napier Gisborne rail line was vital for economic growth.”

    Now he is saying that re-opening the line from Wairoa to Gisborne would be a tough ask.

    Admittedly his electorate stops just short of Gisborne, but as Minister of Police he must be concerned about the safety factor. All credit to the truckies who regularly drive that road, but how much growth can it safely sustain.

    If we want growth we must utilise all the infrastructure available instead of putting more bigger, heavier trucks on a road not built for that purpose.

    Unbelievable!!!!!!

    Hon’ Stuart Nash should honour the 29 workers that died after a flood at a rail work camp while during his first Labour Government was building the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line under Michael Joseph Savage between 1937-42 and now he as our MP represent us all and strongly rail against its closure six years age and demand that it re-open for our safety and prosperity now.

    Sadly at this rate the Labour coalition will loose the 2020 election over these clumsy errors now.

    • MattyGee says:

      I drove from Auckland Airport on Thursday night (the 8th) to Te Awamutu and counted 85 trucks on the road (travelling north and south). Does anybody take note of the sheer volume of heavy vehicles on our roads at any given time? Obviously Nation didn’t care…

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    ‘Although a scientist by profession, Sutton was never able to grasp that, for all its pretentions to the contrary, economics owes almost nothing to the scientific method.’

    People like Bill Sutton are an utter disgrace, and give science in general and scientists in particular a bad name.

    Science is all about careful observation and establishment of hypotheses that stand up to vigorous scrutiny: economics, and particularly ‘neoliberal economics’, is mumbo-jumbo, a travesty of the original root of the word economics; modern economics is full of contradictions and is disconnected from reality; modern economics is a prime cause of the multitude of predicaments we now find ourselves in.

    Despite all the unscientific mumbo-jumbo that constitutes modern economics, it is still held in high regard by the idiots that inhabit parliament and the civil service, and is rammed down out throats on a daily basis,.

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    Brilliant , Mr Trotter.

    Please keep it coming, … however , as Mr Sutton is a scientist and will know the implications of the amendment to your brilliant analysis I am about add ,… I do hope you are not offended…

    … ” I always got the impression that Sutton saw Rogernomics as an expression of natural law, like gravity ” …

    I would change ‘ gravity’ to Darwin’s theory of Evolution , – whereby Rogernomics / neo liberalism is simply an expression of ‘ survival of the fittest’ in its most base, grotesque , callous and inhumane form…

    Thus perhaps it should read :

    … ” I always got the impression that Sutton saw Rogernomics as an expression of natural law, like Darwins ‘survival of the fittest’ ”…

    Surely that was what Friedrich Hayek had in mind in returning to the elite of Britain the total free market for their exploitation , preservation of power , position and lavish lifestyles that they enjoyed in the 19th century … I’m sure Mr Freidrich Hayek (1899 – 1992 ) would have been lavishing much praise on Mr Sutton and Mr Douglas in the latter years of his life for helping him continue his work …

  6. Andrew says:

    I’d love to know what you propose as an alternative to the current liberal/capitalist approach.

    Go for it! Spell it out, because I can’t wait…..

    (coughvenezuelacough)

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Its been spelt out to dumbarses like you for several years now , ANDREW ,- don’t you ever bother to read anything to gain a knowledge of our culture ? Do you really think NZ’S political and economic history stopped and started with Roger Douglas in 1984 ?

      Are you a foreigner ?

      Are you American ?

      Are you new here in NZ ?

      Are you stupid? ,- or just being plain deliberately dishonest and pig shit ignorant ?

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
      http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

      Get an education , chump,- and realize the good old US of A doesn’t hold either all the answers or the knowledge of how we do things around here , bud.

      This aint fuckin’ Texas, and the Beehive aint the fuckin White House , mate.

    • Jono says:

      Andrew obviously you don’t have a brain or you would know the world did survive before 1984. But hey study a bit of history you might be surprised what you find. Otherwise go back to Whale oil blog where u belong…

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Wait a mijnute Andrewo

      We are yet to hear your explanation of how NZ under your “miraculous” far right wing Neo-conservative capitalist society of “the have’s and the have not’s” now where in just nine years we hardly have any homes for rent, or food to feed us, since during this time our diet of red meat has slumped from 19 kg per person over year to just one kg an year!!!!!

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/101973933/Lamb-meat-disappearing-from-New-Zealand-plates

      Many more negative results I could add to the two issues I explained that are now the direct result of “free market” neo-conservative corporate policies.

      As always you will put a narrow focus on what is a massive shift in wealth from the 99% to the 1% and no record of the resulting negative effects that result from the widening gap between rich and poor.

    • David Stone says:

      For all the implied derision Andrew , it is a fair question.
      I can’t speak for anyone else, certainly not Chris, but my alternative would be…
      Take back control of the banks through the reserve bank so that the RB h controls the quantity of credit issued. (I would even set up a sovereign banking system but this isn’t really necessary as long as the state owns the reserve bank and the reserve bank has control of the commercial banks).
      Take back control of the natural monopolies that were necessarily created by the state on behalf of the people, and that everyone needs for their normal existence in a modern world.
      Take back control of the flow of value (exports/imports) directly so that a balance of trade can be managed rather than just hoped for.
      Redirect the deployment of these mechanisms to prioritise full employment of New Zealanders. So that nothing is imported that could have been made here except that there weren’t enough workers available to make it here.
      It was all like that once. In my lifetime. It isn’t mysterious or novel . Or complex, or long passed.
      D J S

  7. Johnnybg says:

    The totalitarian ideology we call neo-liberalism indeed; and its enabler, our slimy, rotten to the core, dictatorial party political system we laughingly call democracy in action. What, in God’s name, is the point of casting a vote say’s Mr Trotter, & for once I totally agree with him. (not sure what God has to with it though). I’ve only ever voted once & it got me & the country no where, it only perpetuates the painful farce & encourages the bloated swine who take us for a ride every three years.

  8. Andrea says:

    I’ve never bothered to look: how many of that tribe are still above ground? Did they continue to leave a trail of misery and destruction behind them?

    Could you manage a teensie touch of kindness, though? He did use ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’…;-)

  9. Nobody says:

    Is this trait peculiar to Labour? Today, Jacinda Ardern’s government betrayed virtually its entire base by signing the TPPA, over the objections of the largest protest movement in a generation.

    Afterward, the ACT Party applauding Labour’s duplicity, in wisely “faking” their opposition and ignoring their constituents, for the good of the nation. Ponder that for a moment.

    We are such fools.

  10. David Stone says:

    Good one Chris!
    And fair comment Wild Katipo. The analogy of laissez faire economics as being the natural order hence TINA, and Darwinism is exactly thus.
    For a while civilisation intervened on behalf of Darwin’s failures , but his winners are prevailing at the moment.
    D J S

  11. Tom Gardner says:

    Chris, I do so love your writing: ” . . . . forgotten by everyone except political train-spotters. As a member of that querulous fraternity . . . . “

  12. David Stone says:

    Good one Chris!
    And fair comment Wild Katipo. The analogy of laissez faire economics as being the natural order hence TINA, and Darwinism is exactly thus.
    For a while civilisation intervened on behalf of Darwin’s failures , but his winners are prevailing at the moment.
    D J S

  13. Marc says:

    “The reforms which gave birth to a professionally-trained political class, whose members glide effortlessly between the public service, the news media, public-relations firms and Parliament, and who have nothing but contempt for the opinions of ordinary people.”

    It is true, so true, what Chris wrote there. That explains also the conduct of many of our present members of government, who (albeit hesitantly and half heartedly) joined protests against the TPPA and other National supported agreements and policies, but once in government, suddenly act very differently to how they behaved before the election and before being in government.

    They tell us anything many of us wish to hear, in order to get voted in, once they are in government, they ignore us and even have the audacity, what they do now, is really in our interest.

    No wonder fewer and fewer people bother voting.

  14. phillip ure says:

    good/well-deserved ‘burn’..

    and fuck those/any querulous neoliberals going: ‘but – why..?’..