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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’.



  1. wangbo says:

    Well said.

    I’m struggling to figure out how Labour failed so spectacularly to convert broad support for their policies into broad support for their party. Like you, I think part of the problem is there’s still too much dead wood that should’ve been cleared out long ago and not enough fresh blood.

    Actually, one thing I didn’t like about Helen’s reign was that (viewed from afar, I should add) it seemed to stagnate in its third term. Helen should’ve spent that third term, right from the start, bringing the young blood up through the ranks and preparing her own departure. And even after the last election Labour didn’t get the message. Here’s hoping they learn the lesson this time round.

  2. InkEatsMan says:

    Well said indeed.

    Am glad to see the Greens add to their seats, am consoling myself with this.

    “I am still troubled by Russel Norman’s entertaining of notions of working with National…”

    Read ‘Government’ here for the National Party – and working with them again – like they did on the home insulation subsidies.

  3. hayespond says:

    Also concerning is the decreasing amount of support for people suffering from mental illness and drug addiction. The welfare reforms to come cut support for these people significantly.

    What I’m most curious about, though, is who didn’t vote. Why aren’t people voting? Why aren’t young people voting? What has gone so wrong in our education system that people aren’t motivated by civic duty and the concerns facing our society? I wonder what world wide trends are in terms of the political leanings of governments that institute civic education.

  4. Mark H says:

    Hi, another well written reflection. I agree with it all though I feel it’s a shame you feel this way on the Greens. The proof will be in the pudding of course. (Yes, do see publications on that subject – like TV3 prior to election night and the Greens web site). All indications from Russel and Metiria is that if they are to get some concessions from the Nats, these will forward Green (and Left) interests, which is better than absolutely nothing, like getting 5-6000 new jobs for the housing insulation scheme. We took advantage of that with our house, so it has worked. I think it’s far overly simplistic and positivist to situate the Greens as pandering to National, as some on the Left have done in recent weeks, and miss-reads what both Norman and Key have said in public. Yes, National sucks the big one, but why simply just be adversarial to everything they do if they are implementing progressive Green policies here and there. At least the Greens might have the chance to put the breaks on one or two bad things from happening. The chance of there being significant deals is very slim in my view. There will only be significant deals from Norman and Turei if the Nationals make their policies like Labour’s and that aint gonna happen as Key has said, and the Green leaders are saying to us.

    Also, in all irony you’ll find that Labour works with and supports the Nats more than the Greens when it comes to voting things in, for instance in things like free trade deals with China and related issues – as has happened in the past. So, I suggest you look into this as in my view Labour uses a left-wing smoke screen to cover it’s freemarket ideology. The Greens are up front about their policies at least.

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