73 ~ What is Left? And what is right. 

This is the weirdest New Zealand election I can remember. I have been angsting over it all, along with many others, and often the discussion comes down to what Labour stands for. I’m not sure, any more. But we want the left to win, so that includes the Greens, for the most part, and the Mana part of Internet-Mana at least.

But for that matter, what is ‘left’? What does it mean? And is that term itself redundant?

Well, yes and no. The fundamental principles of the left still stand. Unfortunately the semantic war has been won by the right if the term ‘left’ makes you squirm, and some Americans even use the term ‘socialism’ as a pejorative with the same weight they managed to attach, throughout the Cold War and beyond, to the term ‘communism’. And they knew very little about either. (I’ve always believed ‘know your enemy’, myself.)

But I think calling the left something else is pointless. I’d be more keen to reclaim it from the right-wing ideologues and propagandists. Otherwise the whole concept just gets even more dissipated, and this works to the right’s agenda.

Wikipedia defines it well enough: “left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It is typically justified on the basis of concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.”

If you already think any of that’s wrong, we know which side of the divide you’ll be on. For this is how Wikipedia defines right wing politics: “Right-wing politics are political positions or activities that view some forms of social hierarchy or social inequality as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically justifying this position on the basis of natural law or tradition.”

Is that really you, right-winger?

People who place themselves on the left typically want equal opportunity, the chance for reconciliation, and rehabilitation (even in the case of societal offenders). Anyone who says that the left is tainted thanks to Mao and Stalin is profoundly ignorant (wilfully or otherwise). What these two (and their many lesser versions) represented was actually right-wing appropriation: Mao and Stalin were ruthless opportunists who cleverly hijacked left wing societal impetus to set up very right-wing regimes.

Stalin and Hitler have far, far more in common than Stalin and Ho Chi Min.

People on the right typically want ‘freedom’, but what they mean is the freedom to make money by whatever means possible. They want freedom from societal constraints because they’re so fixated on personal gain. They dislike taxes and any other checks placed upon them, and conversely seek to punish anyone perceived as transgressing against their personal and familial wealth acquisition. As Judith Collins plainly stated, in agreement with Cameron Slater: ‘punish twice’. That’s why you see groups like Act and the Conservatives crying for harder sentences and less reconciliation. That’s why, rather than fix problems with WINZ and CYFS and trying to deal with desperate people after their benefits have been reduced, John Key’s solution is to post more security guards.

One of the weird things I’ve noticed about New Zealanders overseas is that they’ll brag about New Zealand in left wing terms: ‘we gave women the vote first, pioneered social welfare and housing, we’re the most egalitarian, the most multicultural …’ and then you find out they’re Act voters from Remuera. Darling.

Which just goes to show you they are (justifiably) ashamed of what they truly believe in. Because these are actually all things they’d like to get rid of.

For the fact remains: many New Zealanders are right wing at heart. If the polls are accurate, half of the country that will vote, will vote right. The strange thing in the polling, which Mike Williams pointed out on National Radio, is the larger proportion (compared to previous elections) of people refusing to say who they’ll vote for.

Unfortunately, I think this is because they want to vote National, and they’re ashamed to say so.

As they should be. As that means they want to vote National despite all the revelations about how National really operates.

Despite National having no ideas to fix the mess they’ve made.

Despite the national debt they’ve created.

Despite the inequality that’s spiralled out of control under their watch (but that is policy, actually, as that’s how rich people really make profit and feel elevated).

And despite National not wanting to ‘change’ anything, because they’re doing all the right things already. Does New Zealand look right to you?


Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on September 9, 2014 at1:35 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 72 ~ Incompetent!

I have waited a while to comment on the Dirty Politics, or ‘Hager saga’, event as I wanted to see how things would shake down. And boy have they shaken down.

National keeps pointing the finger at Kim Dotcom as if he’s the only person in New Zealand ‘intelligent’ enough to release the hacked emails as cleverly as they’re being released. That just shows you how out-of-touch and stupid National is about IT. I could give you at least 10,000 New Zealanders with the skills to do that – out of the rest of the population, if you want to do something like that, for Christ’s sake just Google it like anyone else. It’s hardly rocket surgery.

Basically, as we all now know, some people in National have been super-complicit in aiding ace arsehole Cameron Slater into attacking opposition figures to the current regime in the most uncompromising terms, to the point of deep and nasty slurs (Christchurch earthquake victims ‘scum’, West Coasters as ‘ferals’ – and we haven’t seen the half of it). Some are opposition figures, some are completely innocent people who somehow got fingered by people who can’t be bothered checking facts to safeguard the innocent.

As even dyed-in-the-wool, suckled on right-wing cow milk National supporters begin to shudder in shame, Brand Key bravely denies, doesn’t recall and smiles weakly through the constant flow of revelations. I’ve said it before – the people standing behind Key have very little to recommend them. He’s it – Key is the Great Hope of National, because for some unfathomable reason (to me) people like him. Do they like the other National MPs? OK, let’s hear it for Nick Smith, Jerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, to name just a few. Didn’t think so …

And now, ‘at the end of the day’, Mr Key, that’s it. All you’ve got is you. The economy is rocketing along like a speedy racing boat? Don’t think so. Dairy prices are falling, farmers up north are already going bust, companies and mines are laying off more staff.

Then there’s the things you don’t care about – child poverty is now on a par with Mexico, equality is more dramatically polarised than ever before, and National invented an entirely new category of New Zealand suffering: the working poor.

Let’s check back on your record: some great work has been done in Christchurch under National’s watch. Except what you’ve done in three years would have been achieved in six months by a competent government. Likewise the disaster would have been used as a boost to the economy much more comprehensively and much sooner by a competent government. One that didn’t think of Christchurch as Labour-voting ‘scum’, anyway.

For shame.

So here’s my prediction of how this will play: National will keep painting Key as the poor victim of a smear, of looney lefties out for blood, of ‘hacking’ (since no one, especially them, seem to understand what this means). He will play the sympathy card: ‘I have some good policies but all this Dirty Politics noise is deflecting attention from them’.

Except National doesn’t. Except that it’s not a ‘smear’ if someone on the left is merely pointing out what National has been up to, which looks to be utterly true and utterly unconscionable in a country we used to consider a leader of civilisation.

And this is what the Left has to do: paint him as what he is – incompetent.

Key has not been in control of his own cabinet; he has failed to get and read briefs, by his own admission, even when they are from the Security Intelligence Service and even when they concern the leader of the opposition; incompetent in preventing the kind of bitchiness that Collins can’t seem to control, not to mention her scandalous misuse of government credibility and her own privilege (Oravida) and incompetent at managing his connections even when they’re with someone as patently out-of-control as that simpering fascist fuckwit Cameron Slater.


Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on August 21, 2014 at7:33 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 71 ~ Dot-con

There’s an election coming up. Once again, National is polling strongly, Labour has yet to make real headway, and the Greens (and Labour, for that matter) have what percentages they do retain threatened by the Internet Mana party. This new hybrid party will only do any real good in the current socio-political scene by appealing to those who would vote National, but if anything, having Laila Harré as head of The Internet Party and teaming it with Mana makes them look left wing, rather than as a party typical National supporters might swing to. The only real impact this unnatural hybrid can make is to energise the overly large sector of the young adult demographic that doesn’t actually vote. This is also, of course, the most attractive sector (and the only place for any real traction) for the Greens and Labour too, to increase their vote. So once again, this new party conglomeration is actually more threatening to the left than it is to the right, despite the stated intentions of Kim Dotcom and his oft-quoted deep (and justified) dislike of John Key.

Even this is a marker for the left – it’s an attractive position to those who already dislike National and Key, while being unattractive to those who do like Key. Internet-Mana is unlikely to sway anyone from the right while simultaeniously adding to the fragmentation of the left.

So, thanks a lot.

Of course, philosophically, Kim Dotcom belongs on the right – after all, he’s a laissez faire trader who made millions from selling other people’s intellectual property illegally. At heart, he belongs with Act.

Meanwhile, what does National actually stand for? As we have seen repeatedly, it’s a party run by the rich. Almost every week for the last year we’ve had our faces rubbed in the directorships, landholdings, property portfolios, company and international trade interests and the personal wealth of ministers in National. We also often see that John Key is once again holidaying in his luxury pad in Hawaii – he has another at that rich people’s preserve at Omaha north of Auckland.
So who do you think these people instinctively serve? Not ordinary New Zealanders.

Let me be clear, here: nobody ever gets rich from just doing good. Meanwhile that vast pool of people that has little is where wealth actually comes from. They buy stuff. It doesn’t actually matter how little they can afford, as long as you can get them to buy something they don’t need, you’re onto a winner. And when they run out of money completely and end up out on the street, so what? Social services have been cut to make the current account deficit look better. It’s good PR.

If a large proportion of this struggling market doesn’t vote at all, National couldn’t be happier.

And if you think National has anyone at all in the party with a good heart, look who they need as their allies. You’d have to be pretty blinkered to think Act was a party you’d want to go into coalition with. Its leader was found guilty of fraud, its founding philosopher sounds like a fizzing right-wing nutcase and it’s new leaders are, frankly, both naive and hilarious. And if the blank-eyed ravings of Colin Craig and his personal Conservative Party doesn’t make you feel odd in the stomach, well, vote National. Because these are the only viable partner options for National, although the vestige of the Māori Party might still be around. For the fact remains that National has been slowly dismantling Māori ever since the party made the mistake of its pact with Key.

National needs to be as popular as possible – it wants and needs to govern with a full majority. Then it can finish destroying New Zealand’s egalitarian society and welfare state all by itself.

The only hope for New Zealand is that National doesn’t make it.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on July 17, 2014 at1:18 pm Comments (0)
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Lefter 70 ~ The country should be rousing about housing

Are you pleased with the budget? It does nothing to counter the crazy rise of house prices, most notably in Auckland. It does nothing to make more houses affordable, though at least National has been putting some thinking into the issue. What National’s plan amounts to is to allow in immigrants at the current rate (which is escalating) despite evidence that immigration is one of the primary factors in pushing up house prices, while also keeping the pressure on house availability, which is constrained. Why? Because rich people own houses, and they stand to gain from this. Meanwhile, National is changing the rules for state housing: a state house used to be for life, in a contract signed with the Crown. The contract changed a few years ago, to be with the government, and went to a three-year term … except nobody ever saw one of these contracts. Certainly, nobody was told about these contracts – not even the tenants of state houses.

Glen Innes and other poor Auckland suburbs are currently having their state houses moved off, to make the land available to developers. This is the other part of National’s brilliant plan. Contrary to the Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, which aims to keep Auckland within its bounds and make it denser, National’s brilliant idea is to scrape the state houses off their sites, getting rid of the tenants in the process. Fifteen families in Glen Innes got their marching orders last week – 90 days to get out. This process, largely kept out of the papers, allows developers to build those godawful suburbs you see everywhere. Simultaneously, National intends opening up land on the verges of Auckland to developers. In other words, so Auckland can sprawl more.

If you think Auckland has problems with traffic congestion and a pretty crap public transport system, it’s because of that very sprawl. At least the council is trying to deal with this, by improving public transport and trying to institute denser housing developments. This is why the council is at odds with National – letting Auckland sprawl more only suits one group. You guessed it: the rich. They get to make huge profits from the houses and land. And yes, the rich vote National (or worse). The greedy always want more – with National, they get it.

National working for the average New Zealander? Not bloody likely. Your government is evicting poor families to add to Auckland’s problems by contributing to sprawl for the benefit of one of the lower forms of life: property developers.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on May 16, 2014 at9:58 am Comments (0)

Lefter 69 ~ Thank goodness for David Parker

I haven’t had much positive to say lately about Labour, but it’s from despair rather than malice. Finally, though, a light at the end of the tunnel. And an incandescently bright one, too. Let’s hope it shines on all the dark corners created by National over the last two terms, with their patsy yes-man partners. David Parker presented a policy – a policy! At last! One that’s profound, well thought out and, best of all, even innovative. And it’s not one National can steal, as it’s too counter to National’s coda. Neo Liberals might rail at the level of state economic control it implies, but that’s because it’s a policy that’s bad for the greedy and good for everyone else. Yes, that’s what I mean: it’s a good policy that’s good for the country. Parker even nails his ‘egalitarian outcomes’ to the masthead – it’s what Labour was founded on, but how long since you heard anyone say it? 

Civilised countries have schemes, you see, that draw on national savings plans to balance the economy. Personal savings helped Japan weather the collapse of the ‘Asian Tiger’. Best of all, KiwiSaver does something to counter the stranglehold Australian banks have on New Zealand money. Again, a good thing. Note that Just days after the ANZ posted a record NZ profit, Westpac followed suit … at the same time as Westpac is running ads to asking Kiwis to donate to their rescue helicopter. Excuse me? Your record profits came from us.

Pay for it yourself.

How long does anyone honestly believe New Zealand can carry on as a low-wage, high risk (in Rod Oram’s words) economy? Until the bubble bursts. But that’s the game National is playing. National knows Labour will have to put everything back together again sooner or later, and so the cynical seesaw continues.

We entrust our welfare – social and economic – to those we vote for. National has blatantly been flogging the country’s assets off while keeping the economy turning in favour of local consumers rather than our exporters. People are pleased because they can buy more stuff they don’t need, as the country sinks deeper into debt. Debt always comes back to bite. But it’s such an easy sell – everyone likes buying stuff. We can hardly stop ourselves – so someone has to do it for us. Meanwhile, National’s core constituency gets richer in the short term.

And good lord, the Sunday Star Times even has passages that are quote-worthy. I love this one from Parker: “Giving rights to the minority never takes it away from the majority.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s majority party is becoming very frayed around the edges. MPs have quit, Judith Collins and Maurice Williams have shown where arrogance leads and John Key’s smile looks increasingly strained.


Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on May 5, 2014 at9:57 pm Comments (1)

Lefter 67 ~ Labour’s love’s lost

Shane Jones quit Labour. People say it’s because Labour has drifted too far from the centre and leftwards, but I disagree. Labour does need to get away from the centre. Currently, this wishy-washy centrist Labour looks like National Lite, and since National already holds the reigns, people will just vote National as the familiar line of least resistance. The option is centre? Well, National is already there and already governing. 

The trouble is, with Cunliffe faffing around and not being definitive about anything, and no decent Labour policies we can sink our teeth into, National Lite is what we have with Labour 2014 anyway. Sure, Cunliffe can quip (so can Key), but is wit all he has?

I’ve written and said this many times before, but Labour doesn’t know what it is any more. If Labour doesn’t know, we don’t either. Who wants to vote for something with an identity crisis? Not me. So I’m afraid, unless something amazing happens (and I’m no longer holding my breath), Labour will not win this election, condemning us to another three years of Key and all his social damage in pursuit of lining the pockets of the wealthy few. How they must be laughing at the rest of us!

But what will then be the outcome for Labour, and the left in New Zealand, when National wins again? Collapse and, hopefully, finally, the rebuild I’ve been calling for. Somebody posited to me recently a Labour co-led by Jacinda Adern and Grant Robertson. It would certainly make a striking and bold statement in the gender stakes, and they’re both very valuable, clever, experienced people, but would they create a new Labour we can believe in? Because that’s what we need.

I want a left-wing government. It’s another thing I’ve been repeating. That’s because I’m an anarchist at heart: I hope for a world in which people are good enough to work together for the greater good thanks to non-violent cooperation. I’m not stupid enough to think this is imminent by any means, but I truly believe it’s a worthwhile aspiration. One which can only come closer under a left wing government.

But Labour, currently, isn’t really left wing. It’s policies are National Lite, it doesn’t know what it stands for, but at the same time it’s tarred by Old Left (the unions, for goodness sake!). Labour’s leadership struggles to satisfy Old Labour while making a pretence of engaging new (younger voters), but Labour should have taken the bull by the horns after losing the last election and set about defining a new role, image and purpose for itself for this century. But it failed. Actually, I don’t believe it even tried..

Jones was Old Labour. But so is Cunliffe, I’m afraid.

Labour is, currently, doomed to fail.

And that failure will be New Zealand’s.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on April 24, 2014 at8:28 am Comments (0)

Lefter 66 ~ National: Rusting on its laurels

National has been demonstrating the three strongest planks of its fiscal policy and crowing about the results. These are: wait it out; hope for oil; and sell everything possible.

This is the kind of hands-on fiscal management that voters apparently wanted, as it’s a commonly-cited excuse for voting National. If you look back, National has done very little, if anything, to foster the job market, create jobs off its own bat or in fact do any kind of monetary management at all. National seems to attract two kinds of voters: those who know bugger all and don’t care but at least hope to become a little personally wealthier, and those moribund conservatives to whom social responsibility is anathema, always looking for people to blame for their own lack of success or those to denigrate because they’ve found it, and thus feel superior.

Meanwhile, as John Key gears up for the election, he’s looking increasingly concerned at the prospects of governing in partnership with nutters and right-wing ‘philosophers’. There’s a philosophy of greed? Demonstrably yes, unfortunately. Look at Act’s two new top people. Its interesting, if not unsettling, that such a facile thing can be dressed up as academia. But I guess everything can be, ultimately.

Once again, it’s high time for Labour to demonstrate it is different to National. Yes, I mean left wing. Some Labour people may need to look up what it actually means. I still think Labour has an identity crisis. It wants to act, and to be, socialist, but it’s too scared to say so. State a position and market it, Labour. That’s what you need to do. Sure Cunliffe can snipe effectively at Key, but how about some policies?

This just shows that the right has won the battle for hearts and minds, which is bizarre in a way since those are two of the things it cares very little for. It’s not just heartless, it denigrates culture in favour of business, thereby discounting pursuits of the mind as counter to profit.

Where does that leave Labour? Scared of what it represents, and bound by decades of what it has been. Why doesn’t Labour oppose drilling and mining? Because it doesn’t have much union support left (since unions are so small now) but what there is left, Labour feels it can’t afford to lose. Drilling and mining means workers and workers are, still, sometimes, in unions.

Which means once again the Greens steal the moral high ground on this, along with policies that seek to protect the poor, to educate and to raise New Zealanders up as good global citizens.

The more the Greens position themselves as socially left, the more some Labour voters will identify with them.

That’s what I’ve been doing. And Labour’s biggest criticism of the Greens is that they’ve never been tested in government.

Well, that’s possible  to rectify.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand, Politics, Thought on February 7, 2014 at6:26 pm Comments (0)

Lefter 65 ~ Greed and prejudice

I predict that’s how this government will be seen from a few years hence. There has been a steady stream of measures that advantage those above certain pay scales while demonising, stigmatising and punishing those below.

A lot of the conscious or subconscious motivation for the demonising process is pseudospeciation. You and I are the same species. Our human species spent a few hundred-thousand years (at least) escaping from, preying upon and defending ourselves against other species: big cats, crocodiles, angry antelopes – you name it.

As we brought these mostly under control, or at least learnt to control our environments to the extent where the ever present danger wasn’t so ever present, the restless human mind fostered conflict between people instead, to make up for the shortfall in … I don’t know, adrenaline rushes or something? Or purely from self interest and covetousness for what others had.

Which is not to say I’m a complete cynic. Humans also collaborated to farm, build villages, transport networks, to trade, so swap knowledge and to otherwise mutually benefit each other.

Anyway, back to pseudospeciation. If I call you a kike, a pom, a jungle-bunny or any of the other thousands of pejorative terms we have invented for each other over the millennia, I am making you ‘other’. Not human like me. Something I can more easily be prejudiced against and ignorant about.

The more National punishes those on low incomes, no incomes and benefits, the more people on good incomes can feel they are not as human as them. The more easy it is to scorn them, fail to identify with them and, most importantly, to empathise with their state and conditions. The more Māori slammed into prison, the more others can tell themselves ‘they’re not like us’. The more money the wealthy make, the wider the gap between us and ‘them’.

As the gulf widens, the more they can kid themselves they are better, more deserving and above all, right.

Right being the operative word.

There are three major tiers to New Zealand society these days — those with hardly anything, the middle band and the wealthy. The middle band – the middle class, if you like – used to be much bigger. Now they’re either being pushed into the underclass by multifarious moves by this Government (and Labour pushed some of those out there was well, but it’s getting much worse under Key and Joyce) or sold the line that they, too, can reach the top band.

This makes them into de facto National supporters (or worse). They’ve bought the Key Kool Aid of upwards mobility, status elevation and cash, thanks to tax breaks, prosecutions redirected towards benefit fraudsters and away from the much more prevalent and costly white collar crime, and measures like the ability to fire people within 90 days without any reason or right of comeback, meaning companies can use cheap, low-wage hires to get them through busy periods. This is just another Faustian bargain.

And they fool themselves they work hard for this.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, New Zealand on August 29, 2013 at7:17 pm Comments (0)

Left 64 ~ Labour leadership: where’s Jacinda?

I feel I have to weigh in on Labour’s leadership. Everybody else is. Do you judge people by their faces? There’s a theory that by around 30, your life experience etches itself on your face so it more truly reflects your personality. Look happy or calm, that’s because you have been happy or calm a lot and so on.

Andrew Little looks a bit bitter, don’t you think? Grant Roberts looks like a baby. Cunliffe looks like a Cheshire cat, sure, but not like negative experiences have dictated his life – while Shane Jones somehow looks defeated already.

But of this somewhat unsatisfying foursome, Jones would be my pick if he made a run (I don’t expect him to). He’s savvy, clever, quick and a good debater.

Jones would help get Maori back on side and a lot of men, anyway, would forgive him the porn thing. The stupid thing there, sorry to say, was that Jones used his ministerial credit card to purchase porn in a hotel – not the porn itself. Under the surface, that’s what many guys would actually think, since the figures of men actually looking at porn is  high, and just not generally admitted to. So it’s disingenuous (if awful) for many men to castigate Jones for looking at porn.

But using that credit card showed an incredible naivety or, worse perhaps, simple lack of thought, and that’s a worry – attention to detail was Helen Clark’s big strength. I don’t think he has that – or at least, he didn’t. Has he now?

The likely winner is Cunliffe. Grant may have the numbers outside caucus, but it’s caucus that brought Shearer down. Cunliffe has caucus support, he’s  smart and he’s combative – he would certainly take the fight to Key, which Key might be anxious about (not a bad  thing). But Cunliffe has a mean streak and he’s made dedicated enemies because of it.

Some people reckon Grant could get the numbers to trump Cunliffe, but the problem is I don’t think he’d get the vote of the country come election time unless Grant really ups his game and looks much more decisive in front of the camera. He needs to develop some gravitas.

Yes, Grant is gay. This is hardly insurmountable. The CEO of Apple is gay and he’s widely perceived as effective, decisive and at the top of his game.

Being gay is ever more tolerated in New Zealand (thank goodness). It’s not a bad thing at all as far as many women are concerned, and even for NZ blokes most will admit the onus is on effective leadership, however perceptions around sexuality may make them feel. The church isn’t exactly on side with Labour anyway, thanks to all the advances for gay rights championed by Labour – and this means the most challenging sector of Labour’s traditional base for a gay leader is South Auckland Polynesians, who are already feeling alienated.

With smart handling, none of this is impassable – but currently Grant, to my eyes anyway, simply doesn’t look ready.

But I wish Jacinda Adern would put her hat in the ring. Jacinda’s name is already being mentioned by people, including in the media, as a contender for leadership. Sure, many would say she’s not ready (I think she is –many people just aren’t ready for her). My point is, if Adern goes for leadership now, it puts the party, Labour supporters and the country on notice that she’s a future contender for leadership. Adern is not that far past 30, she’s already incredibly accomplished, smart and successful, and she already has enviable international experience. And Adern is assured and erudite in front of the camera.

If she does put her hat in the ring, she will draw some support. She probably won’t win – but it puts the country on notice she’s a possible future leader. Which I think is a really good thing, to give many people hope for a revived Labour that can be relevant for people under (and over!) 50.

If Cunliffe wins, he might keep Adern at arm’s length as a possible rival, but is that such a bad thing? He’s 20- years older. She’s going to outlast him anyway, one way or another. Or he might, if he’s as clever as people say he is, keep her close, to help him engage with younger voters. Either way is not so bad, I reckon.

And if Grant wins (I’d be most keen on him upping his game and winning) he would probably keep Jacinda Adern close anyway. He’s smart, she’s smart. Their ages are fairly close and they’d make a wonderful combo, along with other young and effective Labour MPs. The party would really appear infused with fresh blood, which it desperately needs. The blood’s there, it’s just mostly invisible. Move into the light…

The other thing like about Jacinda is that she’s not scared of the Greens. Shearer couldn’t seem to take them seriously and Goff treated them as irrelevant even when they had become clearly relevant. And Adern and Turei, now that’s a power combo!

Problem is, at the end of the day, Labour still doesn’t seem to know what it’s about. And if Labour doesn’t, nobody else does.

Whoever wins, I still want to know what Labour actually represents. Succinctly and clearly. Please!

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on August 23, 2013 at10:13 am Comments (2)

Lefter 63 ~ the Key to failure

It’s a salient feature of New Zealand politics that personalities – and personal issues – soon overtake actual politics. Depressingly, this fact doesn’t seem limited to New Zealand but let’s not go there (Australia’s Labor pains have been embarrassing as well as divisive). Regardless, as John Key’s incipient nastiness increasingly emerges, so does a little desperation. They are, of course, related.

The National Party has been gambling on increasing it’s majority to it can govern alone, so has been steadily eroding and emasculating the Māori Party. Actively or not, it has also presided over the decline and fall of United.

Meanwhile, National has been implementing it’s standard Tory-style policies of privatisation and of further elevating the elevated classes (of which Key is a salient member, having clawed his way to wealth via the immoral and counterproductive route of currency trading). Everything is up for privatisation. Mines, transport, primary industries sure – that’s standard stuff for the right. It doesn’t work, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that when you privatise, the wealthy make more money, and then when it fails, the burden is carried by the rest of the population, then baled out by government using the tax money paid by what’s left of the besieged middle class. And since the very rich pay bugger-all tax and have loads of money, it doesn’t effect them. It’s actually another oppressive measure disguised as ‘economic necessity’ that further erodes the middle class while doing no good whatsoever to the underclass.

But privatising education, and even enquiries into domestic abuse? That strikes me as a new plateau of disdainful cynicism. Fortunately the Glenn inquiry is collapsing under its own weight, making National look as bad as, oh, say an underhand deal with a casino. Which in itself is an unspoken poverty and stupidity tax.

Anyway, as the Maori Party grinds itself into an impossible position, and Dunn reaps the rewards of his own lack of a clear position (which has, till now, always allowed him to deal with anyone who’ll have him), National needs to pull some dramatic moves to ensure it can win the next election.

Hence the u-turn (an apt metaphor) on Auckland’s transport woes. This is quite a desperate act, but it acknowledges the power of Auckland. Previously the government was diametrically opposed to the left-leaning council helmed by Len Brown. The mayor must applaud the shift, because he gets what he wants, but it also puts him in the invidious position of being in bed with Key. Let’s just wait and see how this all pans out. Personally, I think Len Brown is just a populist jerk who enjoys the limelight, but I guess the jury is out till the next local election.

However, the real worry is that Key’s ploy may just work. Aucklanders are rightly pissed off at the sorry state of transport, and it’s expensive to fix, but it has to be done. If Key looks like he’s behind it, it will bring back his wavering middle supporters.

Meanwhile, in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, Labour retained its majority but the most important fact is that, while Mana (avowedly left-wing) trumped the Maori Party, together they got more votes than Labour. The by-election was both a triumph for the left and a clear signal of where NZ Maori sympathies still lie.

Can you see the two Māori parties coalescing? I can’t. If Pita Sharples sorts himself out and steps down and Tariana Turia also goes,  Tu Ururoa Flavell takes the (co-?) helm. He still needs to sort out his differences with Harawira, which may not be possible. If anything, the two Māori-focused have become more opposed philosophically: one of collaborationist versus one embracing resurgence of the distinctive Māori culture. An accord between the two Māori-representative parties would make them a force to be reckoned with once again, but it may also be a blind alley. There’s a distinct place in our culture for the political and cultural values of Hone Harawera’s party, but the Māori Party’s aims have become far from distinct. And it’s hard for lap dogs to change their ways.

Mana  leans more towards Labour (which has been, of course, traditionally more affiliated to Māori, and which has certainly done Māori a lot more good over the decades than National). National will  have to move to shore up the Māori Party’s position – and this will go down like a cup of cold sick with many of its remaining supporters and make them look even worse. Key’s only option is to try and further demonise Mana.

So wait and see what Key does in this space.

But does Labour deserve our support? My own support is never available unconditionally. Labour has done some unforgivable things in the past, including the Foreshore and Seabed act that created the completely unnecessary rift between the left and Maori in the first place. And there were lots of personal issues involved in that process as well.

But sure, we can move on. I’ve said it before: Labour is nowhere near left wing enough for me but I’d rather live under Labour (and/or the Greens) than anyone else.

But Labour with who at the top? Shearer is on notice, apparently. I think he’s a nice bloke. So? In the spin when he was running for Labour’s top job, we heard he ‘stood up to warlords’ in African climes. There’s little evidence of that mettle back here in New Zealand. And he’s still getting really basic things completely wrong.

News bytes, David. I paraphrase but fairly recently, John Key accused the Labour Green joint announcements as wacky evidence of the extreme left.

This is the kind of thing National supporters will gleefully seize on and brandish at every opportunity. So what do we get in return?

Shearer said ‘that’s just a line’. Blah.

So National supporters can yell at me ‘wacky extreme left’ (quite truthfully) and I get … Nothing. I know this kind of thing is rubbish, but it’s important rubbish – especially in the age of instant social media.

It  reminds me of my criticisms of Phil Goff. I conceded he may have been a very intelligent and worthwhile leader (and indeed, he proved this in his vigorous, if frighteningly solo, election campaign) but wrote that his advisors patently needed firing.

It seems they haven’t lost their jobs.

Increasingly, the next election looks like National’s to lose. But I’d rather have it Labour, Greens and Mana’s to win.

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, Pacific, Politics, Thought on July 1, 2013 at9:26 am Comments (0)