Labour’s Achilles Heel


Grant Robertson is an excellent politician (one of the best) but is this centrist skill set best suited in a world that calls for visionary leadership to get us out of the serious problems we have? And remember centrist approaches are a key reason why we have serious problems like the climate crisis.

Achilles of course was the invincible champion of the greek army outside the walls of Troy. His passion and fearlessness in battle was such that when he was offended and stormed off to sulk in his tent; each greek leader in turn came begging he return to battle. And though he did eventually, (we know from another story he died from an arrow to the heel) he is not mentioned at the final Greek victory over Troy.

Chloe Swarbrick was very reasonable in expecting backing for her bill to remove alcohol sponsorship in sport, due to the huge social problems alcohol creates. But Grant was concerned by the disruption to funding and potential budget impacts. But why this debate? Each issue stands on its own merits, not a false relativity or one or the other.

The debate shows the fear at the heart of a centrist approach, an unwillingness to deal with consequences from taking a rational action. Because consequences mean disruption and that means political risk, i.e., you might get blamed at a later date. It is risk averse stance i.e. put up with existing problems (you can’t be blamed as you didn’t cause it). Future problems from change are overplayed and benefits are underplayed.

And where is this centrist approach learned? It is supposedly political wisdom from observing how conservatives parties approach problems when in government and (against all logic) are highly successful at staying in power.

On  issues that are not core to them, conservatives try to be seen to do something, but do minimal e.g. The bright line test for taxing property sales, but only if sold within 2 years. Hardly an effective action to cool house prices, and it didn’t (an outcome great for their property owner voters). But the pressure came off. The media move on looking for action.

So Labour mimics this and tries to play down real action. Not do too much; gun shy and cowed by mostly the right wing press pantomiming risks, but also the rest of the press can latch onto actions and that can get tough.

But does this centrism really work for Labour? Labour is positioned as a party of change, a party that wants to look after those who are disadvantaged; ‘the bottom feeders’ as Mr Luxon so callously called them.  What are the centrists doing for their voters? Or are they just holding power?

TDB Recommends

GST on Kiwisaver funds could be seen as taking on the big boys.  Armageddon was predicted by the same people who haven’t said much about the colosal share markets loses over recent years. Labour backed off, lesson learned – don’t rock the big boy boats or you could lose elections.

But Labour/Green centrists have a limited policy vision of how the economy could work, e.g., they could be investigating a public option for Kiwisaver using the power of government with really low fees. Less profits would go to overseas based providers. Private providers would quake in their boots but this is no revolution, it’s just providing a very good choice beneficial to New Zealand in a market framework. It’s done elsewhere in the world.

Centrist Labour believes it can deliver for its voters while holding a core belief that the role of government is to facilitate business and not be in any market. This is a supposed learning from previous decades of government inefficiency, rather than a learning that some governments did calculated sabotage of government efficiency. This core belief means Labour has its core strength, the power of government, tied behind its back, unlike the so successful first Labour Government. The first Labour government shifted the middle.

And their reliance on the market to deliver makes fools of them, as they are still accountable for the obvious failures of private enterprise e.g. electricity market, grocery prices, price of oil.

By having this core belief and avoiding the possibility of a government option creates a key problem for a Labour/Green centrist; trying to satisfy two different sets of voters. It’s own constituents (with the need for change). And trying to appease the big boys, the other sides voters. Because if you’re doing any meaningful change you will always upset the big boys. So doing nothing/little/guiding seems palatable because you might win voters with less controversy.

And note — conservatives don’t have to do this. They just have to look after their own. Just think of Bill English’s 2010 budget bragging about $15 Billion of tax cuts. Completely ruinous to our economy and the ability of government to function. But he delivered for his voters.

Centrists misunderstand the dynamic of what actually gets conservatives elected. Conservatives are actually visionary extremists who will say and do anything to win. A history of racist campaigns e.g.  iwi/kiwi; calling compulsory super communism (we lost hundreds of millions because of it);  the mother of all budgets that striped millions out of provincial New Zealand. A ‘think big’ pile of shit. An invented $9 Billion hole in Labour finances. Conservatives have more in common with Rasputin, yet the centrists fret over doing something wrong, all while our civil society is attacked.

But the most disgusting result of this centrist thinking, is it means punching down on your own supporters, to ‘balance’ the two positions. Currently Labour/Greens are punching down on local democracy to encourage bully building up to 6 stories so you lose your sun and privacy, with your  rights to complain removed.  These will be built in suburbs where labour/green voters are. Do they think there won’t be voting consequences? They are walking into a trap of their own making once buildings start going up. Developers have been given an almost open book to destroy heritage. Centrists claim without evidence it is about building affordable housing. Centrists relying on the market did this because they listened to businesses and want to appease them.

Yes, there are Labour/green supporters who need affordable housing; but these changes do nothing to deliver affordable housing, they are about maximising profit for developers. Affordable housing can only be filled by government (there may be a few non-profits). Centrists are about punching down rather than punching the businesses who need to use their central city lands more efficiently. Proper planning is needed.

Labour currently looks weak and directionless on policy. And this is despite Willis and Luxon showing their own gaping policy void with hysterical hyperbolic ravings on GST and Kiwisaver that only look like something was being said.

So the greeks 10 years outside the walls of Troy with their great champion Achilles were at a stalemate going nowhere. The hero Achilles is not mentioned anymore in the story (perhaps there perhaps not). But the greeks changed, they had to be clever, a new idea, a direction, a vision, to fight and win. A Trojan horse, a government role. Because otherwise they knew they were slowly but surely losing.


    • Reply to The Rough Beast at 5.32am, ‘Hi, fair comment, but it doesn’t have to be a left wing right wing analysis. Centrists are choosing not to use the full power of government based on a belief it is not efficient. I simply point out that makes problems for them and private enterprise is not exactly efficient. I’m tackling the foundation of their belief as a misguided foundation. If they want to win they need to change.

    • Reply to Castro at 6.02am. ‘Sorry. No idea what your question is directed at. People can vote for who they want to.
      Foreigners?? I assume you mean New Zealand citizens? They can vote for who they want. Why would you call them foreigners?

  1. “New Boss. Just like the old boss”.

    Inept, lacks any imagination and not very good at reading the signs, globally, economically, socially, and how these relate domestically.

    • Reply to Tane/Male/Man…. at 6.26am ‘Hi, you are critiquing a person, I assume Grant Robertson, but could be me or somebody else, so I’m not sure of your point. Perhaps because i don’t recognise your quote.

  2. Increased housing density is a good thing overall. Could do with incentives for affordable options, e.g. subsidy for cheap housing and/or luxury tax on expensive.

    • Reply to ‘This won’t get the mods’ at 6.48am. ‘Yes, I agree housing density is good. But where would you do it is the issue. In your voters back yard seems a poor choice. Especially when there are better central city locations than building in the low rise green suburbs. But you have to push businesses (not developers) to use their land better. And there is a limit to density. To preserve heritage you don’t do density.
      For affordable housing it must be delivered by government. Private enterprise simply can’t do it, non-profits could do some.

      • Central intensification is an interesting dilemma. You could assume that central city heritage owners are not Labour voters so fuckem make their suburb high density. So financially those supposed nonlabour voters lose their nice lifestlye suburb but get compensated with windfall profit via increased land value and the opportunity to build three rentals. Meanwhile a poorer and perhaps browner labour voter in a distant suburb is denied the opportunity to subdivide their land for three housing units. Oh the equity! .

  3. the bottom feeders’ as Mr Luxon so callously called them

    OR – The river of filth as Mr Woods called them…


    • Reply to gargarin at 11.05am. ‘I believe anybody can change if they need to achieve an outcome. The core centrist belief is something that people have not reflected on for a while. Hopefully they will see that it is no big deal to at least modify it to achieve a positive outcome. ‘

  4. Indeed. The neoliberal-left party is taking the same approach towards the unions and the left as James Callaghan did in the ‘Winter of Discontent’. Let’s see if that works out for them.

  5. there is no LINO messiah

    if you don’t offer an alternative to current policy, you are not the alternative to anything

  6. There are few heritage homes of note in the areas that they will want to build up. It is a better use of space to go up than taking more highly productive land from being built on . When you buy in a city you have little control who will be your neighbors and rights to sun and space is limited.

    • True Trevor, but you CAN complain about the bars/restaurants patrons making noises when the person who is complaining bought the bloody apartment knowing full well the bar/restaurants were already there.
      Gotta laugh though that in Wellington they have the homelessness and not really safe to wander the streets after dark now, wonder how much their fancy city apartments have fallen in desirability now, wonder if they blame the Govt or Council for that?….both? Lol

      • it’s the old story, hipsters buy in ‘groovy area’ hoping to recreate their student days….then start to whine because the area is groovy but they’re middle aged.

    • Reply to Trevor at 11.21am “Hi Trevor, the proposals from Labour/greens are about taking existing land zoned residential and having a right to bully build what you want in those areas. Residential areas are in the suburbs and they are full of pre 1930 houses. This is heritage. I agree with you we don’t want to waste new land. But look at all the carparks now located in central areas, these are owned by businesses, this could hold mid rises and be affordable if government contracted with builders. Private enterprise will push up the price.

      • I am sorry Stephen but we are Worlds apart in our outlook but can respect your thought.To me pre 1930 building are in many cases not fit for purpose being uninsulated and not double glazed and are on a huge section often with for immaculate lawns and flowers. The car parks to me represent customers and workers being able to move around . To eliminate cars the public transport needs to be improved one hundred percent but I fear we do not have the population to warrent a system like Melbourne or Sydney.

  7. The reason why National and Labour look the same at present is that they are both centrist political parties. How can that be when we know those who vote National are greedy selfish people who would sell their own grandmother for a quid and those who vote labour are caring philenthropic types who would donate what they don’t need from their wages to the less fortunate. The reality is generally people want the same things, and being centrist is not left or right but is reality. The reality is that to stay in government and improve NZ you have to be centrist. To me being centrist is running the country in such a way that the economics are good enough to finance infrastructure and support those who for any number of reasons, are struggling. What any government can achieve is directly related to how much money can be generated and what they do with it. Grant didn’t want to rock the sport sponsorship boat because at present the government has no money to fill that gap and the sports involved may suffer. He’s being realistic. Many would argue there’s no time like the present to make changes but the reality is that economics will always play a massive part in decision making and Governments are charged with getting it right. If NZ was a wealthy Scandinavian country building a cycle bridge across the Waitamata harbour would be the correct thing to do but we’re not. We are on the brink of being a poor country who has had to spend millions to save itself from financial collapse because of the covid crisis and has had to print money because of it. To get us out of this situation will require a balance of the correct economic and social decisions. Those from the left don’t believe National can make the correct social decisions and those on right don’t believe Labour are capable of making good economic decisions, but the reality is the answer lies in the middle somewhere. That’s centrist.

    • Reply to new+view at 11.23am ‘Hi, all your comments are part of the misguided ideas on centrism. It isn’t reality. and isn’t a thing. The centre is simply something that can move by what you do. The first labour govt did move the middle.. And the Liberals did before them. Nothing in my article is against the economy. It’s about how to use the economy more efficiently to achieve changes you want (Labour is the party of change) and for what people vote you in for.’

      • I can’t disagree Stephen but by the same logic being left or right isn’t a thing either. People take sides for all sorts of reasons but like I tried to say, we all want the same thing. If National came up with a decent social policy it would be more left than Labour. I realise you are trying to say something different but those are my thoughts anyway. In my opinion being centrist (for want of a better word) is how any party, left leaning or right leaning, survive in government for long periods. Regardless of what’s right or wrong in anyones mind. The overall population won’t accept extremes either way for any length of time. Unless we change our political system that is. By moving the middle as you describe is the same as National being more socially minded or labour putting more emphasis on business. I know you are not against economics your previous life gives you way more understanding of it than me. My comment is more of a statement of what exists I guess. I agree no bold changes are encouraged with centrist thinking, however if someone is going to lead us and be brave and influential enough to make real change for the better, they will be a very special person. I don’t see anyone like that at present.

  8. We need a new form of Government away from political lines and career politicians. Our entire set up is distorting with every passing year and most are struggling or not having their needs met. And that’s just a commentary on delivery of services. Dont even get me started on ideology!

    • Reply to Fantail at 12.10pm “Hi, everybody is better off with democracy and that means we have politicians as representatives of the people. Nothing I say is against that.

  9. It is naive to think that the fund managers would pay the GST on Kiwi saver and managed fund fees. These are passed on to the customer, thus the modelling was correct predicting smaller potential future balances due to slower compounding. As for being bold I see little from Grant Robertson or anyone else in Labour. IMO they are just a less competent version of National going by the last five years and fit the LINO title well.

    • Reply to Trev at 1.33pm ‘Hi, I don’t share your negativity. But Labour certainly can chose more effective options. I agree about the GST on Kiwisaver. But I just wouldn’t have GST full stop.

  10. @ Steven Minto.
    “Grant Robinson is an excellent politician (one of the best) ”
    How come AO/NZ’s fucked then? Oh, yes it is. AO/NZ’s fucked. It wasn’t always fucked though. It got fucked by the likes of Big Bear the chubby lovey dovy Grant. Aww. Bless.
    Some of you might agree with Russell Brand and some of you might disagree with Russell Brand but you should take a look and listen to Russell Brand anyway.
    Some of you might recall how I argued for a crowd funded actor to transcend the cabal of corrupt politicians who’ve been wooed by lobbyists for investors, privateers, shareholders and hedge fund fiddlers in order to make billions from what was once our state owned assets.
    Well, here he is! Here’s that actor! How about that.
    Are you old enough to remember how roger and his fascist mafia sold our assets, including our electricity generation infrastructure to private investors?
    Russell Brand.
    With the cost of living crisis increasing and UK households set to pay almost triple the price to heat their homes this winter, is this really all due to the war in Ukraine or is collusion between energy companies and corrupt governments playing its part?
    #energy #costofliving #pricehike #putin
    Sign up to Don’t Pay UK here
    I haven’t read Steven Minto’s Post because I couldn’t be bothered. It’d be the same flat-line narrative we’re fed daily. Settle down, shut up and pay and pay and pay. Just keep paying for what was your stuff and things paid for by your ancestors but is now in the possession of crooks who’ve hijacked our parliament.
    ( If you’re dumb enough to ask ” Wha’s America or England got to do with us lot? ” then you just put your feet up and keep watching the tele and drink that beersie. You’ll be ok.)

    • The French writer Voltaire asked us to consider whether politics was anything other than the art of deliberately lying. If he was right, an excellent politician can be said to be nothing more than an excellent liar. I have to agree that Robbo is very much an excellent politician. Jacinda is an even better politician.

      • Reply to Andy at 4.58pm. “Hi, I don’t think Voltaire is completely right. Robbo and Jacinda are decent people. Luxon and Willis say what may be authentic but that is undermined by having no policies to deliver what they say. Jacinda is very adept at speaking honestly but I think the centrist core belief (no role for govt except to facilitate) are letting her down because the effectiveness of the policies is reduced.’

        • Luxon and Willis have no policies to deliver what they say? I’d suggest that Robbo and Jacinda don’t have policies to deliver what they say, and that’s more of a concern given they’re actually in Government right now.

          And by the way, Labour does not have an Achilles heel as such; it’s more an Achilles anatomy. An Achilles heels is a figure of speech for a single weakness when the rest of the body is strong. Based on the failures and worsening outcomes we continue to see, that is certainly not the case. The only thing that saves them is the willful blindness and stupidity of a large portion of the electorate.

    • Really CB…Russell Brand!
      Another psedo socialist who is worth about 30mil NZD.
      You get a kick out of watching/listening to the mega rich telling the hoi polloi how to live and what not to do/what to do?
      Telling us all to change our lives whilst they don’t, or if they do, their mega millions remain untouched.
      Leonardo De Caprio flying in his private jet to pick up a ‘climate change’ award.

  11. All governments do what they are told to do by the people that keep them in power*. Some of them might do it grudgingly, some might do it willingly, and some might do it through sheer gullibility.

    The key challenge for any government is not so much policy on things like poverty, homelessness, crime or anything else. It’s the power to act sovereignly.

    *Hint: This isn’t the voters.

    • Reply to John Souker at 2.18pm ‘Hi, I think that is a more accurate statement about the United States or really many dictatorships. So I think our democracy in New Zealand is stronger than that. I think Labour certainly listened to the wrong people (business people) on Housing development in cities and they have been taken to the cleaners. But it was their own fault as they wanted to avoid criticism so they went in with National who would have deeply promoted these people. And National who now give them a hard time on housing anyway.

      • That’s lame so even though they are in opposition and Labour have an absolute majority it’s National’s fault?

  12. We probably need a land tax to encourage better use (ie high density housing) of the more expensive land. The most expensive land is in cities, towns and suburbs, which have good amenities and infrastructure.

    • Reply to Mikesh at 2.54pm ‘Hi I can think of other ways to get better land use. But it means instead of punching down on your voters in teh suburbs, you punch down on those not using their land well in the truly central city.

  13. “Centrist Labour believes it can deliver for its voters while holding a core belief that the role of government is to facilitate business and not be in any market.”

    And then be blamed for the market failure of the housing market.

  14. “Labour currently looks weak and directionless on policy. ” LOL

    They never had any! Outside of virtue signalling that is. Hence the recruitment of an army of consultants to try and develop policy.

    • Andrew.
      Yes Jacinda has all but confirmed that with her aspiration comment and the Labour Government’s lack of achievement.

  15. Grant isn’t a good politician, just a hanger-on to Ardern. The eternal shit-show of the neo-lib elites.
    As long as the rich aren’t disturbed everything is alright.

    And the equally eternal refusal to address NZ’s heart, the neediest.

Comments are closed.