Why Jacinda is like Michael Joseph Savage: Trigger warning – you won’t like it 


The left love Michael Joseph Savage. Every Labour MP who wishes to push their left wing credentials have photos of him hanging in every electorate office and Minister’s room.

Savage is lauded as the creator of the welfare state in the wake of the Great Depression.

He was swamped when he went into public as NZers gushed over how he had saved them all.

The most hilarious truth, provided by insights from John A Lee who served in Savage’s Cabinet and was the anti-Phil Twyford of his day, (in that he actually built Houses) paints a very different picture from the mythology the left have given Savage .

The truth is that Savage was incredibly centrist and not a radical at all. Backed up by the neoliberal Walter Nash and conservative manipulator Peter Fraser, Savage did all he could to stop transformative change, it was actually Savage’s Caucus who forced his hand repeatedly to be transformative.

The exact same dynamics are at play inside Jacinda’s Labour Government.

When there is a crisis, the Prime Minister shines, but when it comes to domestic policy, she is super cautious to the point of being timid.

Her decision to rule out revoking a racist drug law simply because 50.7% want to continue supporting the racist drug law is an example of this timidness.

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Her decision to rule out a capital gains tax, a wealth tax and refusal to increase benefits are also evidence of it.

The counter argument is that she needs to hold the centre, but if you aren’t going to be transformative with an outright majority, when the hell are you going to be transformative?

The reality is there won’t be transformative change unless we the people demand it, or if the Caucus demands it, or if a crisis demands it.

Just as it was with Michael Joseph Savage.

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  1. You forgot to mention ‘child povidy.’ Child povidy is not a simple wee issue which causes discomfort to wishy-washy liberals, it can permanently impact upon the whole of a child’s future life and well being. It can mean beautiful children living a blighted childhood, not feeling good about themselves, while other people’s children have bikes and many shoes and their own beds and breakfasts. But hey – doesn’t the govt have a plan to eliminate child povidy after today’s children who survive third world medical conditions are all grown up ?

    The well-being of our children, battered, and abused and killed in world- leading numbers should underscore all government legislation. And why not ? Because money has more clout than povidy, and profit for the rich has long ago usurped any notions of government existing for all of the people.

    The speed with which govt ditched proposals of a CGT was utterly obscene. GST on foodstuffs is wickedly punitive – but hey, without it supermarket owners could not flourish as the uber rich in vulgar Key-type mansions with the bulging bellies of the greedy, not of the malnourished, and transformational is merely another pretty-sounding word blowing in the wind.

    In a recent interview the PM said she entered politics because she likes people, and she enjoys people, and being around people. I suppose that means something.

    • How does GST on food make anyone rich. It is a tax that goes back to the government. The cost of implementation if removed would absorb much of the benefit .It would not make food 15% cheaper. If you shop around and not just go to supermarkets you can save just as much. Poverty needs to be adressed and help should encourage couples not to have children until they can look after them. The governments needs to build houses that can be rented out at a reasonable rent.This is the only way to bring the rental market down. Paying less rent will prevent extreme poverty give children a better start and the whole family a chance to improve itself and contribute to society . In turn the people would be healthier and not driven into crime and the need for drink our drugs would decrease . A win win all round.

      • Yep GST is the very definition of regressive taxation. It disproportionately harms the poor. Even in neo con Australia its only applied to processed foods like a cake but not fresh fruit and veg. Canada has a similar approach.

        Personally I think it should be dismantled and taxes applied more evenly over the earners. I’ll add we need to increase corporate tax and have a layered approach where bigger more profitable businesses pay more than their smaller locally owned counterparts.

      • Yep, GST helps govt. Not everybody can shop around – people in walking frames, people without transport. Not everyone has access to cheaper alternatives than supermarkets.

        In my large fairly up-market suburb, there are two small supermarkets, two separate pricey delis, one long-standing non-cheap butcher, and a small, now struggling , fruit/ vege shop. Well-to-do locals drive to larger supermarkets along the line, or get their goods delivered; some do go to farmers’ markets.

        The local mall features a cycle of emptying and closing shops. There is now no bank apart from one operating two days per week, possibly afternoons only. A limited post office service is available from a petrol station.

        You and I can shop around, but those who may benefit most from doing so are frequently simply not in the position to do so. Hence the supermarkets have a captive customer base.

        Some people live on takeaways not just because it is all that they the have time for, juggling jobs, but simply because it is all that they know. This is what some children are growing up with – there are people who do not know how to cook. School cooking classes were long ago abolished as non-pc.

        When I was on a voluntary social services committee, people complained about getting food parcels containing flour, because they didn’t know what it was for. My mother had a flour bin in her.kitchen. I don’t know if the fabric sackful of flour I used to buy are available now – they were handy for recycling into aprons and pot holders, which fewer need now, with fewer cooking – and fancier ones are available in fancy shops.

        Some people do have more children than they can afford, and sometimes for idiosyncratic reasons, but it is not government’s business to intervene or regulate
        people’s breeding habits. There are indirect ways of doing this, but mention it, and human righters wail like banshees.

        Houses ? Build houses ? Good idea.

        • I hear you about cooking . I am retired. 4 years ago I worked with Banardos as a volunteer for a time going into homes of young couples and taught them some basic skills to produce a cheap home cooked meal .A basic white sauce how to cook rice make an omelette . Then the government changed and they lost their funding so the programme stopped . I asked if I could continue without them but health and safety and public liability stopped that . The need is there and people happy to help it just needs the two groups put together .

          • Our group, was doing likewise. Currently, health and safety issues are likely to prevent a free clothing initiative at a local school. Parents could give stuff, and others receive it. But the germ fearers prefer that kids come to school without jackets, and so get rheumatic fever, TB, or just a bit of the old bronchitis instead.

            And what’s more, the local Sallies bin masses of good clothing weekly.
            I worked years at another charity Op Shop, which at least if it did bin stuff, did so discretely – the Sallies do it in the eye of the public – they never used to.

            Further, local neighbourhood mothers organised a Facebook boycott of the local Sallies because of their high prices. My mum would have been making the dumped clothing into padded quilts and rag rugs.

            Mary Potter, where I worked several years, looked at a client base of trendy young professional femmes in their 30’s, looking for vintage clothing and treasures – we on the shop floor knew that that was not the client base. The local area manager actually shouted down the volunteers at meetings where people were too intimidated to talk – but I rather think she was an exception. I hope so.

            The other part of the equation are the punters who dump dirty clothes and faulty goods at charity shops, thinking that the poor should be grateful for whatever they get – and that attitude may mirror govt practices – through a glass darkly.

          • Agree the health & safety laws are ridiculous. When it’s hard with big companies work safe don’t seem to prosecute too hard or at all (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/112696703/inquest-hears-that-sensor-may-have-saved-girl-killed-by-rubbish-truck and Pike River) and when its smaller targets, they seem to fine huge fines and engage in investigations for smaller injuries and smaller companies.

            The poor application of health and safety legislation is a huge issue for everyone and society, especially for teachers and schools and businesses. I’m all for safety, but accidents happen and prosecuting teachers and principals and other workers and managers, is causing a strange culture in the schools away from education and self reliance for kids and poor long lasting impacts in society with business legislation aka not wanting to hire local workers in high risk areas in case they are prosecuted.

      • Trevor, The only one making any sense. 6,190 caregivers added one or more ‘subsequent children’ aged less than 12 months to their benefit during 2019. That represents one in ten of all babies born last year. For Maori the ratio doubles to one in five. Children born onto a benefit stay there the longest. This substantially increases their risk of poverty, and contact with OT and the justice and corrections systems.

        • Something needs to be done about irresponsible males. At one time the govt of India, bribed men to have vasectomies to curb the birth rate.

          It’s a complex picture, and I don’t see the NZ males who abuse and murder babies at such horrendous rates responding readily to being prevented from being able to produce them. Some won’t even use condoms, for fairly egotistical reasons. Pity the children.

  2. Reminds me of Jim Anderton explaining to a small group how he had to screw David Lange’s arm right up his back to get him to go along with the nuclear free legislation that Lange is now famous for.
    Transformation is what Roger Douglas’s / david Lange’e 1984 government did. If you want transformation that’s how you have to go about it; in secret, in defiance of what you know to be the will of the people. Especially when you have just held a referendum to determine what that will is.
    ps I did not vote in either referendum.
    D J S

    • This is what democracy looks like


      John A. Lee and Jim Anderton weren’t the only ones who pushed their centrist conservative leaders to take up universally popular progressive policies against the opposition of the conservative status quo. status quo.

      Behind them were massive popular movements for change that gave these politicians the political space they needed to confront conservatism.

      I remember David Lange being interviewed in the ‘Listner’ saying that his most feared lobby was the Peace Movement, Lange went on to describe how when he tried to bring in the USS Buchanon warship to under the neither confirm or deny policy to water down our nuclear free stance, Nicky Hagar met with him and threatened him that if the Buchanon was allowed to come to New Zealand it would be met with the biggest protests ever, bigger than the ones that has swayed Mike Minogue and Marilyn Waring to vote against the government over this issue which brought down the Muldoon administration.

    • David – Read Lange’s autobiography then returned it to the Sallies. Charisma and wit are useful, but in his book he unnecessarily disparaged his first wife, and in my book that made him a small man.

  3. So happy to hear you know a little about John . A. Lee. He was the Labour hero in our house growing up. Never Savage. I have a few first editions of his books. I read “Simple on a Soapbox” when I was 14 years old. As a war amputee he was a personal friend of my partner’s family as his father was similarly disabled.
    A doer , and a great man.

    • Yes, Shona, and how the Labour. Party crucified John A Lee too – including for even writing, Children of the Poor. Had long ago conversations about it with a candidate’s indignant wife who knew his books backwards.

      There are the poor who determine to make others’ lives better than what they came from, like John A Lee, and the relatively “poor” determined to make their own lives better, like John P Key, and there are those from backgrounds possibly too priviliged and too sheltered and too protected, to have any insight into how very debilitating outliers lives can be, and too limited to see beyond surviving the next electoral cycle.

    • Not to mention “Children of the Poor,” which some of our current politicians could also stand to read.

  4. Correction
    John A Lee was not in Savage’s cabinet. Savage was scared of him and would not make him a cabinet minister but made him an under secretary and later in charge of housing.
    Lee wanted to Nationalise The Bank of NZ but Nash fiercely opposed that.
    Lee led the left wing of the Labour Govt and was a powerful orator, but never a cabinet minister.

    Lee lobbied to have the cabinet democratically chosen by the Parliamentary Labour party, a push that had very popular backing even from some who were not on the left of the party. Savage opposed that.

  5. This tends to be the point where those who voted for change sit back on their hands, and wait for it to be delivered, in good times as well please… This is when the effort to vote is wasted… Having a government that will listen to it’s own people requires those people to do more than whinge about insignificant details, and/or simply start becoming complacent/impatient that it hasn’t been all been “fixed” yet… It requires us to now take the opportunity we’ve given ourselves, to tell those elected representatives what it is that we consider reasonable effort… As a community, we need to actually have some sort of consensus, so that our voices don’t descend into the babble of an overcrowded nest of baby birds… Democracy is not about voting for those that promise you more “gifts”, it is about having self determination, and the freedom to work towards that… I see criticisms put up here that are valid, but both irrelevant to the issues covered in the original post, and discredited because they have been used as a “negative”, which is conveyed in an assumptive manner… If then, we are going to fall back on assumption as our logical foundation, then we have just elected the biggest group of advocates we ever have, and all we’re going to do is blow white noise at them out of our arses.. What a complete waste of time!! If you want democracy, then you have to to do the bloody work just like the pollies do!!! THAT is democracy!! It’s yours, bloody well use it, don’t be like the tories, be like real people…

    • But how might we do that @ stefan?
      “Monty Python’s Life of Brian – Now Fuck Off! Scene”
      I’ve been there.
      It’s all very well to say that we must this and that… but how?
      What’s the plan?
      Have you ever wondered that if we climb metaphorically to the very pinnacle of human endeavour and all we find is a fuzzy kind of indistinct blur, a vague void of a flattish mound where we weft and waft in and out of a space/time that’s not really defined by any clear boundaries or means of description? Then what?
      Maybe there’s no end game, so to speak. Maybe there’s only the effort of getting there? To a ‘there’ that doesn’t exist because if it did why would there be a beginning to it in the first place? It’s the effort that’s the point. Not the result of the effort.
      Another example: It’s good enough to express contempt for a trump. But we now don’t need to hoist him up and gut the fool.
      I need an ice cream and wee lie down…

    • Stefan – There are more unsung heroes than you may know about, working hard at flax roots level, to benefit the communities of which they are part. They may not be highly paid pollies wailing that tax is love -or recognise the cunt – or this is all your fault – to every dumbo in a big car, but they do hands-on stuff. They may not have their photos in the glossies, or be ogled at by media morons, but some are decent sort of people.

      The problem with parliamentary politicians is that they are not accountable, apart from being turfed out every now and then. By this time they usually have their futures sewn up very nicely indeed – on lucrative boards, or even just as estate agents : I will never use the services of Ray White or Harcourts again, because both are now employing ex-pollies unacceptable to me. I can do that.

      There needs to be a mechanism or process available by which politicians can be called to account for their failures to fulfil their job description. If minor functionaries are subject to exit interviews, then politicians should be too, but publicly so, and by an established legal process. It shouldn’t be too difficult to set in place and a clever algorithm would swiftly sort the glib, the bull shitters, the pr darlings, the pedestrian hopeless.

      Instead, they have valedictories where everyone declaims that they all really loved each other all along, and make each other feel good, forgetting who they’re there for, again. If you think that all these people are the epitome of hard work, then you do a disservice to a lot of people it’s a shame you don’t know.

  6. Well there’s a bubble popped.
    There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t suspect that I’m lost in a double helix of Black Mirror episodes.
    Are there any good people out there? Anywhere? Hello …?
    Is there anyone left who sees it, says it, gets it out there in such an honest and simple way that everyone can understand it and no one can repudiate it for being none of the aforementioned so that we chose how and when to fix it?
    Or are we all simply surfing wave after wave of burrowing maggots writhing about in the guts of our dying society and its associated culture?
    And if so… then why is that? What gives the maggots all that energy? Our money I guess.
    Graham Norton quote. For example.
    “It’s just stupid and very short-sighted,” said Norton. “You see people who are worth a billion and they’re still doing tax dodges and you think how can you be bothered? “These people who go to incredible lengths to dodge tax would be just as rich if they paid the tax – and would be living in a much nicer country.Sep 28, 2018″

  7. I hear you about cooking . I am retired. 4 years ago I worked with Banardos as a volunteer for a time going into homes of young couples and taught them some basic skills to produce a cheap home cooked meal .A basic white sauce how to cook rice make an omelette . Then the government changed and they lost their funding so the programme stopped . I asked if I could continue without them but health and safety and public liability stopped that . The need is there and people happy to help it just needs the two groups put together .

  8. You’ve read John Lee’s book. He was a major force in our literature for 40 years after his political career. As autocratic as he accused MJS in his own party. An egomaniac, though that’s not an argument against him. I’d ‘ve preferred him to have lead us on. Listen to the RNZ of him and Holyoake going around parliament together decades later, the latter being gentle and kind about the basis of NZ, the people.

  9. This is why Aotearoa/New Zealand, needs should i dare suggest like America, not a class regiment, but periods in schooling compulsory to all students about our history, good and however bad.

    In my hippie days used to live in the Wairarapa, working self sustaning growing dope paying taxes, and bringing up a family.Used to live outside of Martinbourgh, long before and the begin of the capitalist bourgious tem, we can grow grapes here, stayed and aided planting some of the best some of the best Reds ever planted in this land ATA RANGI, COST THESE DAYS NOT YOUR NORMAL.
    Yet what this to do with Savage and Ardern, well the area in Martinbourgh, we lived then was called Dry River, why, the river flows in winter but drys in the summer.History, THE BLACK NIGHT,Fintan Patrick Walsh, owned land down this Dry River Place. His legend like Lee, to the Labour Party, is like to the Union movement, bully, a thug, a import , that in both legends the capitalist employing exploiter class paid full attention in both cases to manipulate.
    Is our present Prime Minister, in their class, only if our Prime Minister, does not allow capitalist profits to unrail the Social care foundation that constructed the Labour Party.

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