MUST READ: The Looming Fight


THERE’S A FIGHT LOOMING. No, not with National – they’ll be licking their wounds for years. Not with Act, either. Their numbers will gradually decline as National’s slowly recover. And the looming fight certainly won’t be with the Greens. They have some very serious soul-searching to do out there in the political wilderness where the voters are poised to send them. Like all prophets, they will be required to wrestle with the Devil in lonely places, defeat him, or never be heard from again. No, the fight that’s looming will be where it always is when the future of New Zealand is being decided – in the Labour Party.

Now some on the Left may be anticipating a renewal of the fight that was brought to an abrupt end by David Cunliffe’s catastrophic performance in the general election of 2014. The election (by the slimmest of margins) of Andrew Little to Labour’s leadership was a vote, by what remained of Labour’s left, for what David Lange called “a cuppa” – a pause in the ongoing hostilities during which the wounded could be attended to and the dead decently buried. It was a long truce, during which nothing much happened either ideologically or practically. Under Little, a grey fog descended upon Labour. A poll-depressing pall which was only lifted by the sudden rise of Jacinda’s glorious sun.

If, as seems increasingly likely, that same brilliant Jacinda leads Labour to an absolute electoral victory on 17 October, all thought of some sort of factional renaissance should be dismissed out of hand. For the foreseeable future, what Jacinda wants, Jacinda is likely to get. Which means that the fight, at least initially, will be for the Prime Minister’s ear. Ground-breaking policies will be proposed. Bright futures sketched-out confidently on paper serviettes. Historic opportunities grandly explained. Only then will the real fight finally begin – the fight between Jacinda’s heart and Jacinda’s mind.

Shortly after ascending to Labour’s leadership, Jacinda described herself as a “pragmatic idealist”. It was an inspired oxymoron – packing into just two words the essence of the social-democrat’s dilemma. It was good to know that she knew what lay ahead of her. That as undisputed leader of the centre-left, she would herself become the battlefield upon which these contradictory impulses: her idealism and her pragmatism; would engage one another.

The coalition with NZ First and her understanding with the Greens spared the prime Minister the worst of it. For the past three years jacinda has been able to make out a plausible case for her idealism having little choice but to reach a series of pragmatic accommodations with “Mr Peters” innate conservatism. It was a good line, because it allowed her followers to believe that Jacinda’s idealism remained unbeaten and unbowed. That, given a chance, her bright blade would flash in the sunlight and the forces of inertia and indifference would be laid low beneath its righteous fury. Jacinda’s pragmatism, it seemed, was all about making sure that, when the moment came, her idealism would be ready.

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Barring something truly awful intervening between now and election day, it would seem that this long awaited and keenly anticipated moment will soon be upon us. Jacinda’s pragmatism, if it is not to be twisted into a cynical and demoralising opportunism, will then be required to meet the extraordinary challenge of setting the unencumbered Labour government’s idealistic pace. How “unrelentingly positive” can Jacinda and her colleagues afford to be – and how kind?

Much will turn on how Jacinda perceives “idealism”. Does she equate it with the phenomenon that some call “wokeness”? Is it a simple matter of scratching every itch inflamed by the Twitterati’s ideological eczema? Will an unencumbered Labour Government put all TERFs to flight? Legislate for tino rangatiratanga? Ban all forms of hate speech? Destroy the dairy industry? Squeeze the rich until the pips squeak? Or, is Jacinda’s idealism something more organic? Something rooted in the idea of community? In the mutual obligations of citizenship?

We must hope it is the latter. Because if it is the former, then the next three years will be very fraught and full of political danger. “Wokeness” has about as much support in the New Zealand electorate as the Green Party – which is to say, bugger-all. Not that the woke understand that. As actual or wannabe members of the “progressive” wing of the political class, they are anxious to impose their own, tortuous, ideology upon what they regard as the deplorable prejudices of their unenlightened fellow citizens. If Jacinda’s idealism turns out to be woke idealism, then the people will flee from her in droves – and bitter disappointment.

But I do not believe that the looming fight will be a struggle between a woke Jacinda and the rest of us. I believe it will be a fight between Jacinda’s vision of a government that continues to foster the solidarity and sacrifice manifested in the battle against Covid-19, and those who want to put an end to it. Her idealism, so far, has been about bringing New Zealanders together. Is it too much to hope that an unencumbered Labour government, led by Jacinda, will be one which builds on New Zealanders’ new appreciation of the role an active and protective state can play in securing the common welfare of all its citizens?

Everything in Jacinda’s political career to date points to her almost instinctive understanding of how important it is (to quote Jim Anderton’s famous injunction) “to build your footpaths where the people walk”. Her political pragmatism has always recognised the futility of trying to force people to be good. Her political idealism is founded on her conviction that people find goodness in themselves, or not at all. “They are us”, she declared on 15 March 2019, and a whole nation showed the world what she meant. “Unite against Covid-19”, she urged, and New Zealand did just that. “Be kind”, she implored, and 50 percent-plus of us are willing to go on giving it a try.



  1. That is all very interesting from the psychological perspective Chris. But in the real world things are falling apart SO FAST we cannot even be sure the globalised financial system will be intact at the end of the year.

    Many still think the turmoil we are witnessing is due to Covid-19. It’s not.

    The system has been staggering along since the bursting of the bubble over 2000-2001, the Mortgage-Backed-Security scandal of 2007-2008 (Lehman and all that) and the eruption of energy prices followed by an almighty collapse (up to $147 and then down to $33).

    Fracking, tar sands extraction and deep-water were financially viable when oil was trading in the $60 to $120 range (though never environmentally viable). But current prices do not support fracking, tar sands extraction, deep-water etc. Indeed, current prices do not support the oil industry at all: hence Shell cancelled it dividend for the first time ever a few months ago.

    On the other hand, oil prices cannot rise (other than as a reflection of the devaluation of the dollar) because economies are so pummeled the is ‘no money’. All the sectors we knew were very short-term aberrations -such as tourism- are down the drain for ever.

    Against that backdrop we are on the midst of planetary meltdown which is resulting in an ever-increasing, ever-more-expensive saga of infrastructure and environmental catastrophes that take us towards properties becoming uninsurable and towards collapse of the industrial food system.

    It is worth noting that two decades ago, when the financial shenanigans went into hyper-drive after Bill Clinton threw Glass-Stegall out the window, atmospheric CO2 was ‘only’ 370 ppm (90 ppm above normal): now it is around 410 ppm, just about to swing into upwards again after the seasonal drawdown associated with Northern Hemisphere summer photosynthesis. It will be 420 ppm (130 ppm above normal) next May.

    400+ ppm atmospheric CO2 is not compatible with continuation of ‘project industrial civilisation’. Nor is a global human population of 7+ billion attempting to emulate what happened in Britain as a consequence of coal and iron ore being readily available [300 years ago].

    So, the proverbial shit is hitting the fan. And there’s no stopping it.

    As Charles Hugh Smith has so eloquently summarised the social-economic predicament: we are just like the last days of the Roman Empire, when confusion reigned supreme and emperors only lasted a year or two.

    The system is rotten to the core and completely unsustainable, and is at the precipice so many warned about for so long -and were ignored. Because the system was rotten to the core.

    ‘How We Got Here: the Global Economy’s 75-Year Stumble to the Precipice’

    So when mainstream ‘idiots’, the mouthpieces of dysfunction and globalised looting and polluting, tell us about plans for infrastructure development over the next 30 years, or talk about the future of globalised sport, or talk about tourists returning, we can only laugh, whilst at the same time crying ovr the utter stupidity of it all.

    Whether Jacinda actually knows what lies ahead and is just playing the game for another few weeks is a matter of conjecture. I put it to my son that she is unreachable, and that writing to her would be a complete waste of time because any letter pointing out reality would be intercepted by a ‘gate-keeper of dysfunction’ (went there, did that a decade or more ago; got bullshit answers from mindless bureaucrats), or being scientifically illiterate and immersed in the narratives of empire and industrialism all her life, she would not believe the truth anyway.

    I thank her for reducing the cost of going to the doctor. And the winter home heating allowance. That’s about it. I do not thank her for the idiotic spending on BAU and squandering of resources on businesses that have no future and which are destroying the future.

    May you live in ‘Interesting Times’ (Chinese proverb/curse).

  2. More bs pledges and no delivery for another 3 years if labour get lucky.
    Retarded Incrementalism kills. Lets hope the Maori Party and Winston are there post election to end this miserable labour party nightmare.

  3. Oh come on Chris Trotter, you’re better than this. Jacinda is definitely a woke sympathizer when it comes to social/cultural issues. Back in 2016 she announced “women” as one of her top three priorities – a surprising priority in a country with soaring male suicide rates, where boys are falling further behind at school. The examples below show Jacinda subscribes to the feminist interpretation of the so-called “gender pay gap”:

    She also seems OK about Andrew Little pushing “hate speech” legislation, when we already have laws to deal with those who would incite people to harm others, or themselves.

    This isn’t about idealism – it’s about ideology.

    But it’s equally clear Jacinda isn’t about to do what we might expect a supposedly left wing government to do – overturn the neoliberal revolution. I even wonder if Jacinda gets it – if an interviewer asked her to explain Keynesian vs Friedmanite economics, do you think she could provide a satisfactory answer?

  4. Yes Chris of course;
    We all agree; – but Jacinda needs to instruct all her MP’s to respond to every voter who writes to them for assistance as our Environment Centre is receiving complaints that virtually no MP’s in Labour have responded to public letters sent to them for engagement or meetings with them or even respond to the letters they sent to Ministers so if they do not show any care for public concerns the trust we all have will quickly vanish as fast as you can say “no inclusion”.

    • Cleangreen- That is so bad if govt ministers are not even responding to letters – there should be established processes in place, even if only to provide an interim response.

      The best, and most detailed responses I’ve received from a minister, were from the maligned Jonathan Coleman, twice. They also impressed my GP who couldn’t stand him.

      Still waiting for a response from Helen Clark when she was shadow Minister of Health yonks ago, but I did get an interim response, which I possibly still have, filed.

  5. Yes. Given that most New Zealanders did respond with a welcome maturity to the PM’s call to place the well being of the community foremost in our minds with the surreal impacting of the corona virus and the unspeakable horror of the Muslim tragedy, the outlook is reasonably promising.

    It is, of course ironic, that those who tried to capitalise on these awful events for their own purposes have been politicians elected to represent the whole, but it looks as if the possibly most pernicious individuals to poison the Parliamentary precinct will be gone post election, and that has to make a difference.

    With climate change the challenge, and the environment under threat right now, whether deniers will use woke or other issues to try and distract the community from threats to their own elitist issues is an unknown – but by and large, the acceptance of the importance of the common good is something we’ve responded to well so far. The young parents out there seem pretty switched on, and they’ll be wanting a decent society for all kids.

  6. The question is Chris: how much agency can be given to just one person? Yes, in some jurisdictions political agency appears to lay with one individual, but I don’t think this is the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand, at least not at present. John Key gave the impression he was in charge but I strongly suspect he was simply a puppet of the neoliberal right. I am not suggesting Jacinda is a pawn of the liberal left in the same sense; the point I am making is that surely the decisions to steer the country in a certain direction are not her’s alone to make. That is clearly apparent in the public health response to Covid 19. Jacinda clearly brings her own beliefs, convictions and style but one would hope that the Labour party is more than just one person. Let’s hope she can (continue to) surround herself with like-minded people.

    • Therein lies the problem.

      Jacinda may well have above-average intelligence and better morals than most but that is of little agency when she is surrounded by fools, seat-warmers and egotistical liars, and is constantly fed false narratives.

      Grant Robertson would be a classic example of someone who is completely away with the fairies and who delivers absurdities to the public on a regular basis. I found Andrew Little to be utterly unreliable, and more recently just plain nasty. So it seems to me Jacinda has a pool of 2 or 3 who are not completely useless to draw from.

      Admittedly that is still a lot more than National, which apparently is totally devoid of talent and is totally dependent on making up stuff as they go along and hoping no one will notice the omissions, inconsistencies and contradictions.

    • Lets hope she can surround herself with people who have a grip on reality, the knowledge, the experience and the expertise to develop the desperately needed forward thinking policies ( especially in energy and transport) required. Personally I have given up hoping.Nepotism and careerism have failed us ….what a surprise! We are being led by utter muppets. To quote Bob Jones on NZ anybody with any get up and go has got up and left.

  7. Excuse my ignorance but can someone tell me whether Jacinda Adern and her people said something, anything, like this?
    ” Yep. It’s true. roger douglas DID sway caucus against Lange back in the day. A caucus who then invited douglas back into the fold so Lange, true to his promises, quit as PM which paved the way for douglas and his cronies to infect Labour with the far right politics we’re now only too familiar with.
    And while roger douglas and his cronies were within Labour for that short time they managed to [rip off] our country, it’s economy and its resources thereby setting AO/NZ back in its social and financial development by generations.
    It’s now time to be clear about that and remedial action is to be undertaken effective immediately.
    roger douglas and his associates have therefore been arrested and are held in custody pending an inquiry because they represent a significant flight risk. I’ve sought advice from the Crown on the possibility of delaying the 2020 election until some political integrity is achieved with regard to this matter because at the point in time, political integrity cannot be an assurance that’s able to given to the public of AO/NZ. ”
    Has Jacinda Aderns Labour government said anything like that? Anything at all? Anyone? Has any one of Labours ministers said anything even remotely like that? A sentence? A paragraph?
    Has any one of our extremely well paid political representatives said that? Anything even vaguely similar? In their sleep? While unconscious?
    Because if not? Then what have we got? Who are labour? What, is labour? Just who is jacinda adern?
    I wonder what Labour would look like today if there hadn’t been a fortuitous slaughter by a deranged Australian and a virus that needed a team of 5 million to hide from.
    If jacinda adern’s never going to broach something even vaguely like the above? To try to open even a sliver of a crack into the scheming scum bag underworld who, for more than 36 years have been exploiting our otherwise charming Kiwi-as she’ll be right, oh well never mind, at least we can have three feeds a day attitude to create billionaires of themselves at the expense of our homeless and most at risk then what the fuck is labour? Because at this very point of my writing this I can safely say to myself in the mirror that labour’s an alien entity that tells us it’s for us but it behaves as if it’s for Them.
    Here’s the thing.
    If labour proves again that it’s not for the collective [us] after the election? Then we must insist that it becomes so or labour had better put on some fucking running shoes. If labour fucks us this time around? The gloves must come off.
    If we can band together to protect ourselves from a virus we can band together to protect ourselves from savage exploitation and the best way, indeed the only way to achieve protection from a confident cadre of riche abusers is to strike.
    Look it up?

    • It’s not a question of if Labour fucks us again countryboy. They will, just as sure as the sun will rise at dawn tomorrow. The question to ask is who will they blame ? especially if NZ First and the Greens are not there?????

    • I have a 10-20% hope Labour will do the right thing. I believe Workers Unions will be the start of any revolt against neo liberalism, but they are tightly tied down and near enough muzzled. Labour must unshackle the Unions and make them compulsory and let the workers strike for change. Bottom up, only way.

  8. Looking at Labour as a party why does their “idealism” to me at least, look a lot like Nationals? Why are they planning to charge (after the election I see) people for emergency housing?

    This is a failure to keep up state housing that is not just down to them in fairness but the neo liberal user pays response looks in my view just like National.So pro Labour pundits can talk about Labours idealism all they like. Until that idealism actually looks and behaves materially in a better and genuinely kinder way than the opposition I wont be voting for them.

    Nor I suspect will a lot of other left wing Socialist voters like myself and fair enough too.

  9. On a lighter note I guess Judith Collins will send her Chnese partners a note to buuy all the damaged cars for sale to us here in ‘snooze-land’?

    Tidal wave sweeps cars off road in China
    Watch the dramatic moment when a huge high-tide wave swept away vehicles on a road near the Qiantang River in Hangzhou, China. The extreme weather was caused by a tidal bore, which occurs when a tidal flood pushes into a narrow waterway.

    • Aljazeera informed me today that 17 out of 18 provinces in Sudan are under water, and it’s still raining. No one has much idea how much damage has been done, or when the rain will stop. The currency is collapsing and people are beginning to starve.

      Do brown lives matter? Apparently yes if they are at home, but no if they are overseas, if TVNZ is anything to go by.

      Meanwhile, over in the land of Trump fantasies, tropical storm Beta is about to hit. Yes, they did run out of standard alphabet and are on to the Greek one.

      No rain in California, though.

  10. When the dilemma facing Ardern is expressed as idealism vs pragmatism then the argument is already out of touch with reality.

    Idealism and pragmatism mean something only the historical context of capitalism, specifically A/NZ’s history of white settler colonial capitalism.
    Her idealism is therefore limited to making capitalism do what is impossible, equalising and humanising society. Her pragmatism is the sum of miserable compromises that result.

    Idealism is nothing by attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable, the drive for profit and the ability to redistribute it to the working majority. Pragmatism is the result of attempting to do this without losing the parliamentary power already severely curtained by the power of capital over property, labour and money.

    What these “contradictory impulses” represent at heart is the underlying contradiction between capitalism and nature. There is no way the Labour Party or any capitalist government (embedded in a ‘constitution’ which guarantees the right to private property and its defence) can resolve this contradiction.

    Its resolution requires the smashing of the institutions of the state that keep capitalism alive as the enemy of nature and humanity. That task is not even on the horizon of parliamentary democracy, let alone its agenda.

    So all talk of Ardern somehow resolving that contradiction as the ‘idea’ of “community” made up of people “who recognise the good” in them by being “kind” is at best reactionary utopia so long as we live under the yoke of capitalism.

  11. Just a few “reckons” from a peon in the land of the electorate.
    “How “unrelentingly positive” can Jacinda and her colleagues afford to be – and how kind?”
    – I’m not sure whoever your God is, intended humans to be unrelentingly positive – unless of course by synthetic means. It is an aspiration of course but then I think reality still exists and humans have a variety of emotions that they seem to increasingly be unable to deal with. (Pick your poison: P pot or piss, Prozac or a stint in Gloriavale or as a subscriber to the Destiny ‘church’)

    Incremental pragmatism went out with the last of the last floods, and H1 and H2. If only because the planet is burning, the pace of change is no longer linear and more akin to the richter scale. Incremental pragmatism can no longer cut it (much as we’d all like it to – if only because we’re creatures of habit and routine)

    And then of course aside from JA’s brilliance (albeit with a bit of a stubborn streak that goes with it), she’s only equipped with 6, 7, 8 colleagues – 12 at most, who’re up to the task and they can’t do it all by their hisandherselves. Better than stubborn streak though than the mean and nasty streak that accompanies one or two of her colleagues, or a lazy streak that renders them the highest paid procrastinators on the planet. And that’s before we get into blokes entering their mid-life crisis.

    Not all bad though …. the worst of them in Labour are a shitload better than their opposition.
    ………. but – we’ll get what we deserve

  12. “… the fight that’s looming will be where it always is when the future of New Zealand is being decided – in the Labour Party.”
    “Historic opportunities grandly explained. Only then will the real fight finally begin – the fight between Jacinda’s heart and Jacinda’s mind.”

    etc etc etc

    The art of schmoozing, eh?
    Brendan O’Neill on the New Class Struggle


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