Can Labour Still Win?


THE QUESTION IS, can Labour still win in September? A week or so ago, the answer would have been an unequivocal “Hell yeah!” Indeed, the general consensus about the forthcoming general election was that Labour would not only be re-elected, but would win enough seats to govern alone.

Never has Harold Wilson’s famous quip: “A week is a long time in politics” been more appropriately applied than to the brief space of days during which Jacinda Ardern transitioned from international poster-girl to clay-footed statue. A decidedly wobbly-looking statue!

It all boils down to trust. What’s required to build it. How easily it’s lost. And how much more effort – not to mention plenty of old-fashioned good luck – it takes to get it back. Jacinda, and the whole Labour operation which she, single-handedly, is holding up, faces a gruelling uphill struggle just to get back to where they were. Todd Muller, who had been looking suspiciously like dog-tucker, is now very much in with a chance.

Jacinda’s situation isn’t helped by the fact that an unhealthily large percentage of the Parliamentary Press Gallery is in the market for her scalp. They hated being seen as the bad guys. Every day that the Jacinda and Ashley Show was playing, they had to endure the public scorn that poured down upon them. The public had no idea what their leaders had to endure from the news media. But there it was, laid bare, live, on national television. The petty point-scoring. The holier-than-thou posturing. The preening “people’s prosecutors” all vying to ask the “gotcha” question guaranteed to make Jacinda squirm.

Ah, but now everything has changed. Overnight, the story of those two unfortunate women and their fateful road-trip to Wellington, has broken the spell. Overnight, what had looked like – and been accepted internationally – as a practically faultless performance on the part of the New Zealand government and its compassionate prime minister began to unravel. Now it’s just one big ball of tangled wool, an all the media kitty-cats’ little claws are giving it hell.

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Saint Ashley has had his angel’s wings ripped bloodily from his back. Unfair? Of course it’s unfair! But that’s the whole nature of the political game, isn’t it? Win big. Lose big. And, being brutally honest, he really did need to make sure that the wires connecting his command-and-control levers were actually attached to something ready, willing and able to be commanded and controlled. It’s a bit late in the day, now, to discover that they weren’t.

Oh sure, Jacinda has called in the troops. That was a cool move. People like that sort of thing. But her next move, bringing in Megan Woods, wasn’t so smart at all. Jacinda needed to remain front and centre. No longer paired with a Director-General of Health, but with an Air Commodore. What she needed to project after the detection of all those embarrassing new Covid-19 cases was a no more Ms Niceperson image. She had tried to be kind, and far too many selfish bastards had taken advantage. Now it was time to kick some idiot Kiwi butt – and kick it hard.

Megan looks like an admission of failure. Political tragics living within the Wellington beltway may understand that she’s one tough cookie who gets the job done and suffers fools not at all. But all the public is likely to remember about Comrade Woods is that she was the person Jacinda brought in to clean up the god-almighty fuck-up that was KiwiBuild. Their entirely predictable conclusion: the Nats are right, this is another fuck-up. Their next entirely predictable conclusion: Labour just can’t get anything right – they’re bloody hopeless!

Is it hopeless? No, not yet. There’s still a bit of time to sort out this omnishambles. But, boy-oh-boy, it will require everybody in Jacinda’s kitchen cabinet to reach down deep into themselves and retrieve a whole lot more imagination, competence and courage than they have displayed to date. This government needs a plan – a solid, simple, no-frills, no-excuses plan for New Zealand’s economic recovery. Not a Treasury Plan, but a Labour plan. A plan that looks, smells, tastes and feels like the sort of remedy Mickey Savage, Bernie Sanders, or – oh, what the hell! – that AOC would be proud of. A plan that the Greens will swoon over, and that NZ First will reject outright.

Are you beginning to see where I’m going with this? No? Well let me make myself crystal clear.

To get out of the awful predicament in which she and her party now find themselves, Jacinda needs to goad Winston and Shane into doing something really dumb. Like refusing to back Jacinda’s and Grant’s democratic-socialist plan. The moment he does that the Prime Minister can justifiably pay a visit to Dame Patsy Reddy, advise her to dissolve Parliament and issue the writs for an early election.

When she’s done that, she can return to the Beehive Theatrette and deliver the speech of her life. A speech calling upon New Zealanders to give her the majority she needs to steer the country out of danger. A speech that asks the voters to set the principles of MMP aside for the duration of this once-in-a-generation national emergency. An emergency that New Zealanders dare not leave to the free-market instincts of the National Party to fix. A “give us the tools so we can finish the job” sort of speech.

As a garnish to this blood-rare steak dinner, she might then tip the wink to Labour voters in Auckland Central to cast their Electorate Vote for Chloe Swarbrick. You know, just to rub salt in Winston’s wounds!

In the meantime, while all this political drama is unfolding, Jacinda needs to make it very, very clear to Air Commodore Darren (Digby) Webb that she expects him and the NZDF to make this country’s borders tighter than a tin drum, and while it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to shoot anyone, a few cuts and bruises wouldn’t unduly bother her – or the rest of the country.

So, get to it, Jacinda. Strap some steel around those clay ankles of yours. Shut this omnishambles down. Change the conversation. And, for Christ’s sake – and all our sakes – win the bloody election!



  1. Well said Chris. In retrospect re: early elections I guess Hooton was right suggesting she should call it in Jan. In any case she definitely needs to do as you suggest and follow a true Labour agenda and put this three years of failed policies behind her.

  2. I would really like to see a breakdown of just who is returning to NZ.
    Are they overseas travellers? People who were on their OE of a lifetime?
    People who abandoned New Zealand for pastures greener, and now want back in?
    People who, since Key, have been allowed to flood into NZ and claim residency?

    What jobs are they coming back to? Or are they coming back to enjoy our QE-generated largesse in a (relatively) Covid-free paradise?

    Sweet baby cheeses – too much to expect any decent reporting on this from our lame MSM, rather than political hit jobs ad infinitum.
    Oh, and where’s the investigation into Michael “bodybags” Woodlouse and his withholding critical life-threatening information?!
    Same old same old.

  3. Yes indeed Jacinda, harden up and win the bloody election. But can you really see Ardern and Robertson implementing a democratic-socialist plan? This morning I learn the government is planning to charge returning Kiwis part of the cost of quarantine. When a supposedly left-of-centre government thinks like that, it shows how stuck we are in the user-pays model.

  4. Too right, Chris.

    One thing Jacinda does have going for her amidst the omnishambles is the fact that most of the rest of the world is in a mega-omnishambles. And the global mega-omnishambles is getting rapidly worse, pretty much by the hour.

    I cannot vote for Labour because, apart from the personal dealings I have had with one very prominent member of the government which demonstrated to me that he was unreliable, was a liar and had a rather nasty personality -you know, the little man who couldn’t lead, nor even win the seat he contended- everything Labour have done in the past and do in the present just gets us into a worse environmental and energetic mess. The only thing they got right was the lockdown. And that really was a week too late, though, as luck would have it, it turned out to be just in time.

    I cannot vote for the Greens because everything they promote just gets us into a worse environmental and energetic mess.

    I have never voted National, and could never vote National, because everything they promote just gets us into a worse environmental and energetic mess. They are the party of financial, economic, environmental and social mismanagement; egregiously loot-and-pollute and transfer-wealth-upwards; promote the short-term interests of banks, corporations and opportunists; cheat and lie, and be surreptitiously proud of it; meticulously avoid discussing anything that matters in the long run; churn out neuro-linguistic programming propaganda and con the masses over and over again; Blather on about freedom whilst instituting a police state run by money-lenders and opportunists in back-room deals. Pretend to be the party of sound management, and pretend to be ‘good Christians’ whilst promoting the opposite of anything Christ ever suggested.

    I’m sure, from the little I have seen, that Todd Muller fits all the categories.

    As for Winston -well I have never trusted him; slippery as an eel, and with Trump-like tendencies to say and do what’s good for Winston.

    So where does that leave me? Vote Labour in order to keep the others out? I am astute enough to know that my vote won’t make a scrap of difference in a society that is manipulated by the media -especially the television and Internet media- on which none of the factors that matter are EVER mentioned! Just phony ‘debates’ in which various forms of business-as-usual are promoted.

    Well, we’ve seen where business-as-usual gets us. In deep hole that is made ever deeper!

    It surely is time for radicalism; well past it, in fact. But Jacinda is still trying to appeal to ‘middle New Zealand. And in doing so she will continue to sabotage herself and the nation (and her progeny’s future, of course -another taboo topic).

    I am personally not that interested in the election as such, since the whole world is in the process of being remodeled by Covid-19, by the declining energy availability, by the declining resource base, by the accumulating pollution and by the out-of-control money-printing, and is unlikely to stagger on much beyond August anyway.

    The house of cards is finally collapsing, after many far too prop-it-up measures since 2001, when the series of financial shenanigans commenced in the US.

    • Goodness me, how did I manage to get those words out of order?

      The house of cards is finally collapsing, after far too many prop-it-up measures since 2001, when the series of financial shenanigans commenced in the US.

    • AFKTT.
      Join the club.
      Kiwis are so besotted in the hope messages spewed out by Business NZ and politicians that a rational wider view is drowned out.
      But letting NACT having even another term will do no good and add layers of harm to future community welfare in NZ.
      So strategic voting for the least harm plus a party vote towards the best hope for environmental restoration, are the only options above ground.

  5. I keep thinking that Jacinda maybe our Winston Churchill in many ways, and one being when the war was over they were turfed out.
    Think about it, both very good orators, both faced a once and life time threat to their country’s existence, both rallied the public behind them, and both ironically saved by shear luck of being an island nation. If Britian was attached to Europe, then Hitler would have strolled into London unempedded, and if we were all the way at the bottom of the south Pacific we too would have had a far worse time than we did (not that I think it’s over).

    However, making great speeches and rallying the troops doesn’t cut it all the time. And Labour is 30% without Jacinda, that’s a whole lot of pressure to put on anyone, especially when you look around her and you just see ineptness.

    Btw Chris, you can hardly say that Megan has fixed Kiwibuild

  6. Yes we need Jacinda to win and take her coalition with her; – as they both combine to temper the blue tinge neoliberal MP’s inside Labour still today 30yrs after Ruth and roger wrecked our old Labour egalitarianism.

  7. Hey Chris, hahahaha, I wouldn’t have been offended if you’d said ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’. Sounds a bit weird and uber-woke to change that phrase to ‘No More Ms Niceperson’, not?
    But as usual, you’ve nailed it!

  8. The MMP system is a statistical mincing machine – in that the outcome of an election is largely a random event. Consider:

    No party has ever managed to get 50% of the vote. Those polls showing Labour at over 50% are probably an anomaly and not sustainable in the face of recent cock-ups with the quarantine system, further job losses and the start of the National election campaign.

    NZF is unlikely to scrape 5% because they’ve consistently polled well below that since they betrayed their voters by going with Labour.

    Will the Greens manage 5%? It’s in the balance.

    I expect ACT to bring in 3 MPs, but those votes will mostly come from former National Party voters.

    • If NZF and Greens don’t get to 5% Labour will end up at over 50% anyway by MMP rules given that those votes will be effectively removed from the total proportion.

    • Your analogy of ACT may well be correct with leaves your math on the other parties incorrect. Their numbers will therefore remain the same as at the last election with the National/ACT parties still failing to get the numbers. ACT with it’s ex dancing with the stars leader Rodney Hide and it’s current DWTS Seymour, are as irrelevant today as it was at it’s inception . If Winston is the kingmaker once again you can rest assured he won’t go with a party that continually tries to knife him in the front. As Winston rightly said, the right wing and it’s neoliberalism is dead and a bygone era.

      • I don’t think Winston will be going with anyone this time around. He’s shot his bolt.

        There are the results of an SFO inquiry on campaign funding fraud about to drop just before the election. That won’t play well.

        I also hear he was recorded taking money from a certain group for making a certain policy decision which he subsequently reneged on. That particular group is very annoyed and may decide to make that recording public.

        Fun times!

  9. It should have been quite clear at the outset, that the lockdown was only the first battle, the economic side an entire campaign, but winning the war means having a watertight border against covid 19. It’s surprising to me that- yet again, we have a critical national catastrophe (Christchurch earthquake) and yet the answer as last time is an untrained, underprepared, underfunded, divided beauraucratic response. Our border control should have been immediatly placed under a civil defence controller with powers to order in a coordinated response from military, medical, immigration and welfare officials, to closely manage our nationwide quarantine, to provide facilities and insure smooth monitoring and processing in and out . Extraordinary times requires extraodinary measure! With climate change side effects in the future we will need to buck our ideas up. Jacinda had the oppotunity to bring in capable and expert officials to manage each stage of the ‘war’ (like bloomfield) instead she gives the adhoc job to ‘fire brigade ‘politician and an airforce officer when things go wrong. Let’s see a little more drive, a little more vision, capability and reponsiblity.

    • Civil defense? The “ no tsunami oops yep tsunami” people?
      The “oops we sent out a test emergency evacuation message accidentally in the middle of the night but didn’t tell you it was a test” people?
      Worse bumbling clueless bureaucrats in this country we do not have and that’s saying something.

  10. Labour will win the election and likely with an overall majority provided they cauterise this total cluster ASAP.
    If this incompetence continues or we start seeing community transmission, then all bets are off.

  11. The Covid19 saga will make for a very, very relevant experience as it allows a reality-check of what we have in place, and what not, and what is actually functioning.

    Experiences made and lessons learned from Covid19 will show to be extremely useful for future mitigation and adaptation measures in the light of unfolding ecological and climatic emergencies… watch the developing water crisis…

    It is highly unwise making Covid19 a political issue a la western party style.

    Styling Covid19 up to an artificial party conflict between Labour and National (for example) will not serve any further public interest and we may even loose the opportunity to draw the appropriate conclusions from this experience altogether.

    The Covid19 saga is far from being over, and we know very little about actual genesis and behavioral pattern of the virus, its development over space and time, as well as its factual effects and potential impacts, and an eventual cure.

    Over the past two decades I have been professionally working in 20-something countries on subjects related to Early Warning Systems (EWS) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR); this in Asia, the Pacific, Europa and Africa.

    I can assure the reader of this blog that none of these countries, which includes so-called developed states, has an appropriate capacity to deal with sudden disaster-like events on a larger scale. Everywhere it lacks strategies, communication, personnel, equipment, facilities, guidelines, training (both scholarly and hands-on) and regular public exercises (very important).

    Realistically, in the year 2020, we must expect that standard disaster risk management will not and cannot work as anticipated and wished for by the population.

    This is the reality. Let’s face it.

    And let’s change it. Fast and furious.

    Deploying police or military will not fix the substantial institutional shortcomings, the enormous lack of understanding of what is actually happening, the completely inadequate response through neo-liberal party policies.

    The next malfunction is to be expected. Anything else would be a surprise.

    Measuring the risks….

  12. Nice op-ed, an enjoyable read, if not a little fantastical towards the end lol 🙂

    The government can sure help the economy by funding projects but more importantly it can help by; creating/keeping an economic playing field appropriate for TRUE capitalism ..

    .. that includes a State Safety Net, UBI, better housing, etc. Environmental regulations are important too – we don’t all want to die from dysentery on the road to wealth.

    I’m still blocked from Labour’s Facebook – can’t vote for a party like that. Act sadly gets my vote, they’re competent, for cannabis/drug reform and aren’t Keynesian ideologues like Labour, National and the Greens.

    My electorate vote will go to the ALCP candidate .. if the ALCP is still around ?? I won’t be voting for the do-nothing Duncan Webb.

    But like you say, ‘a week in politics..’

  13. Can they still win? Probably, but they need to pick up the many balls they have dropped and stop appearing to bullshit so much.

  14. Omnishambles? Last time I looked, zero cases community transmission. In general, NZ has a lot of freedom as the virus is still way off peaking on a global scale. Everything is going pretty much as predicted, including that mistakes would be made (and corrected).

  15. If the two Brits, or any other of the several thousand incoming who sauntered across the border without so much as a Covid test, end up precipitating community transmission.
    You’ve just witnessed the political equivalent of the Dean Barker/Team NZ choke, 7 up in the best of 15.


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