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November, 2011

  1. Lefter 50 ~ The Good, the Bad and the Down Right Ugly

    November 27, 2011 by emweb

    Like a lot of lefties, I’m probably not having the best day after the stunning victory for John Key.

    But there are some good things.

    Then we’ll get onto the bad.

    Labour ran an excellent campaign. We now know what Labour stands for. This is a huge relief, as it’s all good things we can believe in.

    But there remains a lot work to do to spread those beliefs. The campaign was too short, thanks to rugby. At least Labour now has three years in which to establish (and sell) its values.

    Phil Goff really proved his mettle. It may have been too late, and he may have looked like he was doing it all alone at times, but at least the party political broadcasts showed a broad spectrum of Labour types, speaking on a broad range of left wing values. I thought they were excellent, compared to John Key’s solo efforts as the mumbling poster boy for New Zealand greed. My admiration for Phil Goff has risen dramatically. Shame the Labour Party once again let National call the shots, letting the Rugby World Cup stop a decent pre-election run. Labour even failed to capitalise on the tea incident. This shows a lack of gumption, frankly – and look what some gumption did for Winston Phoenix – I mean, Peters.

    The Greens did really well. They deserved to. The country deserves some eco sense. Good for them. I am still troubled by Russel Norman’s entertaining of notions of working with National, but they deserve to celebrate.

    However, it’s clear which message most New Zealanders bought.

    No message, essentially – as long as it starred John Key.

    Labour is currently down to 34 seats against National’s daunting 60. Throw in the utterly politically useless John Banks and Peter Dunne, and that’s 62 for the right. A slim majority, for a 120 seat parliament. Hardly comfortable.

    Clearly on the left, we have a bloc of 48 seats, comprising 34 for Labour, 13 Green and 1 for Mana. This may rise to 49 or even 50. Christchurch Central may tick over to Labour after the specials are counted. The tally is currently set at 10,493 votes each for Labour’s Brendon Burns and National’s Nicky Wagner, but 3700 special votes remain to be counted, with a lot of (hopefully) Labour supporters being out of their electorates due to the quakes.

    There are other marginal seats – fingers crossed.

    New Zealand First gained a staggering eight seats out of nowhere. NZF didn’t really figure in anyone’s calculations even three weeks ago. Philosophically, NZF is – well, effectively centre, due to an odd mix of left wing ideals and right wing conservatism. The only good thing about NZF, really, is Peter’s disgust at John Key. This adds a volatile element to the next three years and makes things unpredictable. At least it adds interest.

    The Māori Party has only three seats, but will most likely go back into formal coalition with National. But that’s still a fairly slim majority. Sixty-five seats out of 120. But it’s a majority. The Māori Party has been punished for its dalliance with National and its spurning of Labour and, more divisively, of Hone Harawira. Support for The Māori Party has virtually halved and while Tariana Turia has already stated the Māori Party needs to go back to the people for direction, the most likely outcome is no curb to National’s highly dodgy and unpopular asset sales, but rather an Iwi share in the spoils.

    While this will dilute what National can do with the loot, it doesn’t stop the reprehensible sale of our assets from happening. Which in turn will make Māori look even worse. With Sharples and Turia set to step down, by the next election I predict the curse of coalition with National will be complete (just look at United Future and ACT). Māori will evaporate.

    Tariana must have been blinded by her position in parliament, even as her party ebbs away around her. She said “You can’t make gains unless you’re sitting at the table of the Government” on TVNZ’s Q + A. Really? Māori started out strong. Look at you now.

    This is a shame. When The Māori Party first gained some votes, I thought it a very positive development for New Zealand. Those hopes have been systematically undermined under the seduction of ‘power’-sharing (actually, power-curbing) with National, for whom Māori aspirations are largely irrelevant accept as impediments. Keep your enemies closer, indeed.

    The good for Labour includes Phil Twyford’s decisive win in Waitakere (well done!), a very strong showing in South Auckland (huge Labour majorities in  Manukau, Mangere and Manurewa), the retention of the West Coast despite Damian Connor’s outbursts against the Labour machine, and gains in the Māori seats.


    But there’s lots of bad

    Amongst the bad is the fact that we live in a country where half the population voted for a wealthy, glib trader of the ilk of the people who caused the global recession.

    All they can see is that Key made lots of money. This has been held up as a good thing. So they voted for a wealthy man, fronting an otherwise almost faceless party with no substance and no real policies except for selling some of our assets. This has proved that we live in a country where the majority of people really are stupid (or at least, vote for stupid reasons), and unfortunately also disproving Muldoon’s racist comment that New Zealand immigration to Australia was raising the IQ of both countries.

    With Labour’s failure to elevate young talent far enough up the list, Kelvin Davis and Stewart Nash and others have lost their positions in parliament.

    A real loss.

    Jacinda Adern failed to take Auckland Central back for Labour. As a Grey Lynner, I find this particularly galling. Grey Lynn was Labour from the early 1900s until Nicki Kaye, but the changing demographic of the inner city has favoured National. I hope Adern can soldier on. She ran a good campaign with a great team, and she’s an asset to Labour. (In fact, only 535 votes separates Kaye from Adern.)

    John Banks is in parliament. When you consider David Parker got around the same amount of votes as the margin that separated Banks from National’s Goldsmith, you have to wonder if this was a serious misstep for Parker – and for Labour.

    However, Parker did achieve his personal objective of ousting Brash, for which we can all be truly thankful.

    Labour, every defeat is a lesson. So please take the lesson.


    The Down Right Ugly

    National has been given a mandate to really rip into the country now. To all you fools who voted for National: you deserve it.

    But I don’t. Anyone who cares about people does not. One in five New Zealand children living in poverty do not deserve it.

    Poor schools don’t deserve it. Schools will now be rewarded for ‘achievement’ – this is shorthand for ‘well resourced schools will now get more money’, as all National’s measurements favour white wealthy kids in well resourced schools. It’s going to be bloody hard on lower-decile schools, as if things aren’t hard enough for them already, with many having to feed and even clothe their kids before trying to teach them.

    Also ugly is what might happen in Labour now. Biblically, one little David beat one big Goliath. Now Labour has three little Davids who may well engage in slaying each other instead of that (very aptly) ‘giant Philistine warrior’: John Key.

    I don’t know which one I’d support – David Shearer is a Goff protege. Shearer doesn’t have the long-term Labour experience of the other two, but this may not be a bad thing. Mike Williams thinks this makes him a non-runner, but I’m not sure.

    Of the other two, I admire Cunliffe’s incisive intelligence but a lot of people find him threateningly nasty when he’s in full flight. It doesn’t make him very likeable. And the dumb voters obviously want ‘likeable’, even though I personally find it incredible that anyone finds Key even remotely appealing.

    David Parker is likeable, but I think his participation in Epsom was a mistake. People say he’s on the right of the Labour Party, as was Goff. If this is so, I don’t think this is where Labour should be heading. National is going more right; Labour does not need to. And it has certainly done Labour no favours in the past.

    Is there a non David in the wings?

    OK, being National under a Labour banner worked for a while, with three terms in a row, but Labour has had to differentiate its brand as its identity steadily evaporated. This has now been redeveloped pretty clearly.

    Now Labour has to sell it.

    I feel really critical (as I have often stated) that Labour wasn’t doing enough to promote young talent three or even five years ago. Yes, that’s you, Helen. This has not been good for Labour. We don’t see enough of the progressive and proactive younger Labour people, and we should have. And we should do.

    But there are many good people there. I think the campaign was very good. Just too late, and perhaps not fully supported within the party, despite appearances.

    I would have started last Christmas. I think people fearing the recession but still being motivated by their personal greed when it came to voting has been very detrimental to New Zealand’s prospects.

    But Labour now has three years to sell an excellent message while the world falls apart and National redirects the economy to favour the wealthy even more, while it further dismantles New Zealand education, cultural and social development.

    If Labour can just get its shit together without terrible and acrimonious splits from leadership upheavals, things could go well.

    Labour needs to examine where people who voted for Key got their information.

    May I also suggest a substantial rebranding of the unions to engage with people as they suffer even more from the predations of National (ie the business, land-owning and farming classes).

    In short: To work!

    And here’s a slogan for you: ‘New Zealand Back in the Black’.


  2. Lefter 49 ~ Left, right, Left! Our children suffer

    November 23, 2011 by emweb

    In the last Lefter, I wrote about how confused I was as to who to give my party vote to.

    Actually, in some ways, the choice is easy. I have to vote left.

    So do you.

    Anyone who saw TV3’s Inside New Zealand documentary, ‘Inside Child Poverty’, should think the same. One in five New Zealand children live in poverty. POVERTY. Schools are trying to feed kids – which is outside their mandates – because many are not fed at home. Schools are even having to clothe some kids. Meanwhile, diseases that have virtually disappeared in civilised countries are running rampant through cramped, damp, cold, poverty-stricken houses – and we’re supposed to be living in a successful western democracy with the benefits of a subtropical climate.

    Now if you don’t think these figures are thoroughly, profoundly reprehensible and terrible, you need your morals examining. If you have any.

    But hey, you’re going to be voting National, or worse, ACT, anyway, right?

    There are fundamental differences between the left and right philosophical positions. Basically, the left believes in ‘we’, the right believes in ‘me’. The right is about individuals prospering, and this is invariably created by making sure other people don’t. Its driving force is greed, and it sells the possibility of satisfying that personal greed as its pathway to a better future.

    The right is also about punishment of transgressors, since transgressors are invariably a threat to people to whom the personal financial bottom line is the primary concern, no matter that the crime. You’ll notice it’s the rich – almost by default, right wingers – with the big fences and security gates around their houses.

    I talked about these philosophical differences at greater length way back, if you’re interested in a longer discourse.

    One thing I find strange about National’s criticism of Labour’s plan to borrow to finance getting New Zealand back on my feet is that it’s an acceptable facet of business – to borrow to foster enterprise. As long as it’s done within limits – the massive worldwide debt crisis is a result of not staying within limits. But in itself, it’s hardly strange or dangerous. It’s how we all buy houses, for example.

    As the aforementioned documentary pointed out, Sweden looks after its kids. It feeds them and provides medical care. Swedish authorities say this produces a medical and health cost saving at a factor of four – it’s four times cheaper to look after kids than to put them into the health system after they get sick. Here, authorities – particularly the National party – continually complains about the cost of health. Meanwhile, it plans to cut those on benefits by … cutting people off from benefits.

    But letting poverty-driven disease, obesity and malnourishment run rampant through our primary resource – our kids – is not just a crime, it’s financially stupid. And with wages driven down and no plan to raise the minimum wage, it’s also workers’ children who are suffering these days with lack of decent food and respiratory and skin conditions.

    Any person with any morals at all could not countenance such a position, and the most incredible thing to me is that we are letting this happen – and we have let this happen – in a major food-producing nation.

    But the people who run our agri-business prefer to sell their produce overseas at a premium, while our children go hungry. That’s why milk is unaffordable.

    Would you call these people patriots, I wonder?

    Labour, to be honest, had a hand in producing this situation in the first place, with various privatisation measures starting 1984 – but National has made things a lot worse whenever it has been in office. Plus National has rescinded Labour’s attempts to put things right every time it has had the opportunity.

    And it was Labour in the first place, remember, back in the 1930s, that set up the welfare state that made us so prosperous in the 1950s and ’60s.

    Basically, National’s intent is to drive down conditions for the poor and to keep their wages low. This produces a captive market prostrating itself for low-wage jobs, coupled to the chance of summary dismissal at the whim of those intent solely on their own personal fortunes.

    A proper left wing government sees infrastructure – transport, education, health, municipal services – as investments in the population. In turn, this is an investment in the society, culture and economy of the nation. A healthy, well-educated population stays in the country, makes work, is well paid …

    Why would you live in a country that doesn’t care about its kids?

    Indeed, record numbers are leaving.

    Key reckons he’s produced 63,000 jobs.

    Does it count that they are in Australia?

  3. Lefter 48 ~ I’m so confused!

    November 20, 2011 by emweb

    I am so conflicted right now. With only a few days to go, I can’t decide who to vote for.

    Let me lay it out for you.

    I am much more left than the established left. Broadly speaking, I want more equity for everyone. I am not too left to vote, however – I may believe that nobody has power over me except me, but I choose to drive on the same side of the road as the law mandates for both my own safety and for the safety of others.

    I’m pragmatic.

    But for me, the crucial part of the above statement is ‘I choose’. And I choose to vote, too.

    I was happy when Hone Harawira criticised the Māori Party, as a representative (then), as I thought every word he said was true and they would take heed and improve things.

    Instead they spat the dummy and acted like angry children. More fool them.

    This led to a breakaway and the forming of the Mana Party, which at first sight looked like a nationalist Māori party but that rapidly took on the trappings – and some of the figureheads – of the real left.

    Yay, but … I can’t help feeling it’s not the party for me. Hone cannot help himself, being first and foremost an advocate for Māori and a lefty second, and much as I admire both, I think if the unthinkable happened and Mana gained real power, the ‘left’ part would be subsumed. So much as I support this, it doesn’t make me want to vote Mana. (But perhaps I should go along to a couple of meetings and spend more time working it out.)

    I don’t want to sound critical; if I was Hone I dare say I would be exactly the same. But I’m a white, born-in-Europe lefty. And as much as I have admired John Minto in the past, to me he has become the rent-a-protester he was unfairly accused of for so long. Protesting against a lone tennis player because she happened to be Israeli (she was not representing Israel in the match) a few years ago was unforgivable grandstanding in my view, and persecution of an individual that was unfair, unwarranted and completely out of order.

    After the official launch of the election campaign, my thought to vote for Jacinda Adern in Auckland Central and maybe Green in the party vote went out the window. The Greens’ opening salvo was so lame and hokey, it put me right off. Meanwhile, though, Labour did what I’d long been advocating – a return to old-time Labour values and a clear statement of Socialist intent.

    I was sold. My vote would be Labour-Labour.

    But now, after a few weeks of campaigning … not enough has been done to strike National with their failures over the Rena grounding, and/or over the Christchurch earthquake aftermath. It seems to me that a lot of anger both near Tauranga and from a groundswell of angry Cantabrians has not been capitalised on by Labour. This is crazy.

    So it looks to me as if Goff is still pissing in the wind, and I think that’s due to his own party’s machinations as much as his own personal lack of popularity with the general voter.

    I have to hand it to Goff. He’s been a trooper, battling hard. I admire that. But he’s in a wholly unenviable position. How often does he seem to be battling alone? I may be completely wrong on this, but I suspect his losing the election is the only way to create the succession some Labourites think is needed, and, cynically, I reckon that’s what various members of his caucus are counting on. And that’s despite committing the rest of the country to another, and much more damaging, term under that smug trader and his greedy henchmen.

    And if you want a glimpse of what is really (or may be) going on inside Labour, check this post out.

    But imagine if Labour could form a government, and National could not? It would not have majority support; it would be due a coalition with the rising Greens. Labour would be a minority government run by an unpopular leader with a strong Green lobby. That might possibly be good for the country, if they can make it work, and if Labour MPs can keep their secret anti-Goff daggers sheathed … but with more recession woes looming, how effective could this possibly be under considerable internal and external pressures? A minority Labour alongside a fresh party, newly in actual political coalition … scary.

    Worse, imagine if the Greens went into coalition with National? The very entertaining of this thought puts me right off the Greens. How could they?

    And if my party vote did go to the Greens, how betrayed would I feel?

    Hugely! How about you?

    But worse, apart from any social and moral conundrums this throws up, coalition with National would, in all probability, effectively finish the Greens.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the Maori Party, United Future and Act. They all expected more power than they would otherwise have. They are now all effectively in tatters. Want the Greens to dissolve? Have them form a coalition with National.

    However, and despite all, I do not want National in power. Much as I relish having something to bitch about and hate, I vote for the party I think will do best for most people in New Zealand – and needless to say, that’s not rich people.

    So where does that leave me? Anxious.

    And really confused.

  4. Lefter 47 ~ The Reality

    November 8, 2011 by emweb

    John Key says Phil Goff needs to ‘focus on reality’; that there’s been a global recession and an earthquake.

    Yet we went into his term of office with a big surplus and full employment. Which was rapidly spent on rewarding the wealthy – once that was gone, the reaction was to cut benefits, education, healthcare and anything else they could think of.

    Unemployment has spiralled out of control, the rate of people leaving for Australia (a key election plank for National) has gone up dramatically, and the gap between the wealthy and those who do productive work has widened so dramatically that the poorest of New Zealand’s workers are now lining up at the food banks with beneficiaries. Even more so, the gap between wages here and in Australia has also worsened – another key election plank of National.

    A socialist government would have got us through this recession, like Labour did for us in the 1930s.

    So to me, this current government looks inept verging on larcenous.

    But I think we should give John Key his due. He has largely succeeded and stayed true to form.

    He was a successful man in his own right, with a massive personal fortune from currency speculation and trading – and that’s what people thought ‘we’ needed at the helm. Well, he has succeeded – Key has continued to stay wealthy despite the recession, despite the earthquake and despite the misery and depredation in the rest of the country. Well done. He’s the 1% you hear about. And far too many of the 99% voted the silly prick into office.

    The mistake people made was in thinking that since Key could amass wealth for himself, he’d do the same for anyone else. He’s rewarded his class of greedy speculative arse holes, sure, and that was done quick-smart with an ill deserved tax cut for them almost immediately, but that’s a small proportion of the population of the country.

    He’s done it by demonstratively widening the gap between them and everyone else – despite, or in spite of, the recession, which would have been a spur to action for anyone who actually cared about their country. Now his mates can get cheap labour they can fire when the fancy takes them – well done, John Key. They call this ‘labour force flexibility’.

    The next step after that is called ‘slavery’.

    It never ceases to amaze me that we teach our children to share and that greed is bad – and then we are upbraided as adults for knocking the ‘tall poppies’, who are inevitably those who have made it by being greedy and not sharing.

    The tall poppies are taller than ever, towering over the masses, smiling smugly, congratulating themselves, and laughing at us behind their hands for giving them such a mandate.

    These people are hardly patriots. Rather the opposite.

    And we voted for it. And we’re about to do so again.

    Promising New Zealand a blighter future.

    God help us.


  5. Lefter 46 ~ Balls

    November 1, 2011 by emweb

    Back in April this year I set out a way Labour could win, or at least genuinely fight, this election. I am very pleased to say Labour has now largely embarked on much of what I proposed.

    I’m not taking credit for it. I have only a few thousand people reading this blog. But it’s very pleasing to see that some others at Labour have been on the same page, and for the same reasons, and that some decent acton is finally being taken.

    Did you see the opening Party Political Broadcasts? National’s was boring verging on turgid, featuring John Key almost exclusively in the full knowledge he’s actually the only thing National has going for it. As ridiculous as that is. Key then answers fake questions from a fake audience. It’s kinda bizarre, considering how much money National has to spend on this kind of media, that it’s such tripe. In the forthcoming ‘ulluctions’, Key mumbles about investing ‘bullions’ into ‘newzillanders’. Crikey, that’s rich – he’s been cutting right, left and centre. I struggled to stay awake through it, although his argument that selling New Zealand’s assets will lead to having more assets woke me up a bit.

    Labour’s Party Political Broadcast was moving, direct and interesting.

    The Green’s one was so hokey, it made me want to put my party vote with Labour. And that’s a breakthrough.

    And then we had the first head-to-head debate between Prime Minister Key and Labour leader Phil Goff.

    It’s amazing to me that the more conservative commentators decided John Key came out better in the opening televised debate. To me Key looked like a gloating, smug schoolboy one minute, and an errant schoolboy being reprimanded the next.

    Also, while it was unfortunate that at times they talked over each other (if only for the sake of audio clarity) I thought Phil Goff showed some balls. And thank god for that. It was such a pleasant surprise. Goff took it to Key on most issues and, in my household, there was cheering.

    Some people said Goff didn’t present enough policies, but I think that’s rubbish – Labour’s policies came out well. And they’re about the tough decisions we need to take now, both to correct National’s mismanagement and also because of the recession. And now, with foreshadows of an even tougher recession to come, I’m even more scared that National will get a second term. By the end of it, we’ll be squarely third world.

    As for the exchanges between the two, if something on TV is called a ‘debate’, they should be debating directly, and I reckon that’s what TVNZ should have been fostering. I was annoyed they weren’t allowed to develop their exchanges more. I suspect Key would have been showed up even more for his lying and evasion, and that’s what TV One was trying to avoid.

    The questions from the panel and from the video submitters were pretty irrelevant and a distraction, and I have to wonder how and why they were chosen at all. Guyon Espiner could have carried the whole thing by himself, introducing topics that seemed representative of such input rather than screening the clunky home videos and the distracting questions from the panel of misfits. This would have allowed more time for real debate – and Mark Sainsbury’s input was not needed at all.

    As for Dr Jon Johansen and Dr Claire Robinson, the ex Private Secretary to Jenny Shipley got to lead that commentary too, and Johansen only asserted himself in the post match briefing much later on that night. So anyone missing that later commentary might take Robinson’s queue that Key was the better in the debate, which was far from the truth.

    Afterwards, in a text poll, 61% of people said Key impressed them the most in the debate in a text poll, compared to 39% for Goff. That looks bad, but considering Goff was on (I think) just 14% as preferred leader, that’s actually a dramatic rise. But the poll is hardly scientific.

    The biggest thing in National’s favour now is the short electioneering window forced by the date set in the full knowledge that the Rugby World Cup would effectively hijack the nation’s attention. That, coupled to Key’s popularity – but last night we saw Key’s smug veneer begin to crack.

    So keep the hits coming, Labour.

    We need a left wing government.

    It’s now becoming a question of saving the country.

    Afterwards, reported the NZ Herald, Key again took exception to being called a liar. “It’s a very strong term and I don’t believe I’ve ever used that about Phil Goff. I’m not a liar.”

    Well, that’s a lie. And what does this presuppose; that Key gets to lead with the terms of abuse? Bullshit.

    But the reason you’ve never used the term about Phil Goff is that Goff is not a liar, actually, Mr Key.

    You are.