Brian Edwards Media

This Labour Government Does Not Speak for Me – A Brian Edwards Retrospective

In my beloved Rarotonga I got a bug, spent one night throwing up and the next four days with agonising stomach cramps. Not too long after getting home, I caught another bug and spent five days blowing my nose every 40 seconds, coughing up something unmentionable and chain-sucking Strepsils. A woman would have soldiered on, but I am a man and, early in the piece,  took to my bed which pleased the cats hugely.

This is why there have been no new posts on the site for some time. I’ve not been a well man. I need to conserve my strength. And would you really have wanted a rugby heretic like me writing about the Rugby World Cup?  (Actually I thought the opening ceremony and the fireworks were absolutely brilliant and would have been even more brilliant if only Wendy and Andrew had been struck down with laryngitis.  And Murray McCully has behaved appallingly over the last few days, while Len Brown has handled himself with restraint, dignity and grace. –  End of biting and insightful RWC analysis.)

Anyway, to fill the space, I thought you might be interested to read a piece I wrote for the Dominion Sunday Times in November 1987 after one term of ‘Rogernomics’.  It’s idealistic and naive in parts – I’m not sure we’d get very far without competition – but it more or less expresses my core political philosophy. And it still has relevance today.  

This Labour Government does not Speak for Me

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not believe we need to make the law of the jungle our human or economic model. I find it morally insufficient to contemplate the encroachment of that jungle upon civilisation and merely to observe: ‘This is the real world, the world in which we have to live, the world to which we must adapt.’ There is no immutable real world. The real world will be what we make it.

That is the philosophy upon which our nuclear policy is based. We do not say: ‘The real world is a world bristling with nuclear arms, this is the world in which we have to live, the world to which we must adapt.’ We have said: ‘We, a small but not insignificant South Pacific nation, reject this madness.’ We have said it. We have done it. We are none the worse off for it. Indeed, other nations are following our lead.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not believe that the end justifies the means. I do not believe that justice can be built on injustice. When an organisation such as Electricorp can declare a record profit of more than 300 million dollars while at the same time taking away the livelihood of more than 800 of its workers, in order (at the behest of Government) to maximise its future profits, there is something rotten in the State Owned Enterprise. Such ‘efficiency’ can only be defended by sophistry. Such ‘rationalisation’ can only be defended by unreason.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not a fan of competition. Competition favours the strong, discriminates against the weak. Competition stratifies, labels, pigeon-holes. Competition creates few winners and myriad losers. Competition stresses to breaking point. There are alternative and saner systems.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not a disciple of the religion of ‘user pays’. I do not, for example, believe that an elderly person suffering from diverticulitis, a painful condition controlled by the use of  bulk laxatives, should be compelled to pay $24 a month or more for a remedy that – before the advent of this humanitarian regime – was available free on prescription.

I do not share the view of this Government that terminal cancer patients, constipated through the administration of morphine, should have to pay in excess of $50 a month for Duphalac. If this is Rogernomics, you can have it. I’ll stick with Marx. ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’

Money should never be an impediment to health care. Money should never be an impediment to education. Money should never be an impediment to social services. Money should never be an impediment to justice. Money, in the society which these political entrepreneurs are creating, is all of these things.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not dazzled by the radiant beauty of market forces. Market forces are elemental and capricious. They buoy, then buffet. The argument that the free play of market forces allows ordinary people rather than governments to control their destiny, is patent nonsense in this world of international high finance, of global economic inter-connections. What control has the ordinary New Zealander over Wall Street or, for that matter, over the value of the New Zealand dollar? None. Ordinary people do not control the market. They are its first casualties.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am a believer in intervention. I believe we should intervene to relieve distress. I subscribe to the philosophy: help first, ask questions afterwards. When a small African child extends its hand to us and asks for food, we do not engage in economic dialectic. We do not debate the issues as the child starves: ‘Is this really the best way to help such children? Are such short-term solutions soundly based? Isn’t what we really need a healthy, market-led economy?’ No, we deal first with the urgent reality of the child’s suffering. We do if we are human. So it should be at home.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. It was elected by sleight of hand. The limitless arrogance of its Ministers has been matched only by the depth of its contempt for those who disagree with it, the profundity of its deafness to alternative possibilities.

These are no just some of the ‘slogans and clichés’ upon which the Minister of Finance poured scorn at the Labour Party Conference. Yet all political debate is conducted in slogans, and I prefer my slogans to his, They are more emotional. It is time for emotion.

This Labour Government does not speak for me. I do not embrace the philosophy of the survival of the fittest. That slogan has no place in a Labour Party manifesto. It is appropriate to a quite different political ideology.

[P.S. Don’t think Roger liked it. And David? Well, I’m not so sure.]

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37 Comments:

  1. And since that time, and growing faster in this term, there has been a demonstrable effort to outsource activities by government departments to international companies. Pricing, tender and response processes conducted by many if not most government departments, exclude smaller NZ companies and ignore the reality of net cost to government – if its cheaper from an international corporation that’s OK, even if NZ loses out on GST and income taxes which go to other countries.
    It is very difficult for NZ companies to win government contracts, is this the intention of “competition”?

  2. I hope you get better soon, Brian.

    I agree with the thoughts in your article about the ‘old’ Labour Party. There was a conspiracy of sorts at the time Labour were elected in 1984. Clearly, a right-wing economic policy was to be implemented, a policy that was not articulated to voters.

  3. There was an interesting article in the Dominion Post last month about Rogernomics and its legacy. Economist Brian Easton, who featured in the article, has it on his website.

    http://www.eastonbh.ac.nz/?p=1522

  4. While Karl Marx may have made sense at some time, he would be dismayed if he returned now to his main protege states, Russia and China. One run by a gang of oligarchs who have effectively stripped the silverware, the other by bland bureaucrats who are more capitalist than capitalists. Both couldn’t care less about human rights or the ‘unfortunates’ in their communities. Competition and free elections in a democracy makes it harder for that to happen here. By the way, how did Roger Douglas, who appears to be more right wing than Ghenghis Khan, gain such power in the Labour Party?

    BE: Well, there was of course no hint of what was to come in the party’s 1984 manifesto. The electorate (and quite possibly David Lange) was duped. I know. I wrote Lange’s opening TV address for that campaign. It was pure Michael Joseph Savage.

  5. Everybody knocks Sir Roger. He certainly performed a minor miracle in taking Labour slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun and a bit of flack from the pinkish folk is understandable.

    But isn’t it odd how successive governments, none of whom have had the courage to move more than a millimetre or two from the centre left, have all seen fit to leave his major policies in place?

    He was enthusiastically supported by Fa’a Goff who’s now, in desperation, busily redefining himself as an old-school socialist.

    A plague on all their houses. The system is totally dysfunctional. Give me an option on my voting paper – None of the Above.

  6. Which reminds me.

    :)

    John Mihaljevic had the right idea: “Thanks, but no thanks…”
    http://www.mistywindow.com/thanks-but-no-thanks/

  7. @ BE: Well, there was of course no hint of what was to come in the party’s 1984 manifesto. The electorate (and quite possibly David Lange) was duped. I know. I wrote Lange’s opening TV address for that campaign. It was pure Michael Joseph Savage.

    I’d like to see the script of that too please.

    BE: I’d be interested myself. But the script was written in mid-1984. It’s now 2011. Chances of tracking it down? Poor.

  8. “Well, there was of course no hint of what was to come in the party’s 1984 manifesto. The electorate (and quite possibly David Lange) was duped. I know. I wrote Lange’s opening TV address for that campaign. It was pure Michael Joseph Savage”.

    Am genuinely glad to see you are on the road to recovery, Brian. Still frequenting the Herne Bay Pharmacy for recovery supplies, or are you exercising your consumer’s right to take your custom to an economic competitor?

    I seem to remember that as a snap election had been called in 1984, Labour didn’t have the opportunity to produce a manifesto. I distinctly remember the pamphlets I handed out for Labour that year were long on rhetoric and images (mostly modelled on Bob Hawkes’ successful Australian Labor campaign of 1983), with practically NOTHING on how the promised social justice and consensus (a phrase aimed at Muldoon) were going to be achieved. I do remember a promise for a 1 to 20 teacher/pupil class room ratio. But nothing, other than “clamp down on tax-avoidance” (ha ha – some things never change) in terms of how MJ Savage Mk II was going to be funded. After all, in Muldoon the country already had a Labour PM in the Savage/Fraser/Nash/Kirk economic model.

    Roger Douglas had of course published “There’s got to be a better way” in 1981 (sacked by Rowling as Labour’s finance spokesperson the year before for giving speeches which outlined proto-Rogernomics), so the details were there. But really, that election was about getting rid of Muldoon. All Lange had to do was crack a few jokes, avoid policy detail, and the win was inevitable.

    And Labour was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1987 when those policies were clearly known and understood (admittedly with diminished majorities in Otara, but they almost won Remuera!). They even remained popular AFTER the crash of 1987, and it was only when Lange paused for his famous cup of tea that the Labour government’s popularity plummeted, primarily due to the division within the parliamentary team.

    As a result, I suspect your musing that Lange may have been duped by Douglas is wishful thinking.

    Loved Lange’s opening address at the ChCh town hall in 1984, though. I can still remember the refrain, “I give you a nation…”. You should be very proud to have written it – although I can understand (just as Lange eventually was) that you have major reservations about the outcome your efforts wrought.

    BE: I’ve really no idea what your point is, Kimbo. My piece was written at the end of 1987 when, as you say, the Douglas/Prebble agenda was well known. With regard to my comment about Lange being ‘duped’, my view is that he was unaware of that agenda until it was too late for that ‘cup of tea’. In mid-87 I was asked to come and talk to David who, I was told, was in a very poor emotional state. That was how I found him. He seemed defeated.

    “Still frequenting the Herne Bay Pharmacy for recovery supplies, or are you exercising your consumer’s right to take your custom to an economic competitor?” Do you set out to offend, Kimbo? Is it likely that, having written a post about the iniquity of what had happened to Geraldine Phillips, the owner of the Herne Bay Pharmacy, I would within weeks have taken my business elsewhere? For the record, Geraldine is operating in somewhat cramped conditions a bit further down Jervois Road. The shop is packed with loyal customers. I’ll be astonished if her previous premises ever re-open as a pharmacy. It would find no good will in the district.

  9. Dear Brian,
    I am sorry to hear that you were ill and glad that you have recovered. You must take care of yourself – you are one of the few people in New Zealand we may accurately describe as a Public Intellectual (if that’s not an insult these days) and worth your weight in gold for cutting through the bullshit with rationality and humanity.

    BE: You must spare my blushes, Andrew.

  10. Nonetheless, for all the Labour leadership contenders except Little, Rogernomics is the orthodox lens through which they view and interpret our society.

    BE: Well, I know all these people pretty well and that’s simply not the case.

  11. I find it insulting that a man who tore holes in the fabric of our society was given a knighthood.Lets not forget Richard Prebble as an accomplice in this affair ,both of whom fraudulently masqueraded as members of the Labour Party .Richard Prebbles “Ive been thinking” must be one of historys great contradictions.I note at the beginning of the book he tells an untruth about a railway workshop disguised with a term meaning the previous text is a pack of lies,which I thought summed him up.I remember him turning up on a whistle stop tour to save the railways. My father who had worked for the railways for 40 yrs was given a dismmissal notice 2 weeks later as part of a restructuring plan.I find their actions to be unforgivable.Get well soon Brian.

  12. “Do you set out to offend, Kimbo?”

    Jeez, Brian! You republish a highly polemical piece for consideration and comment, that pretty much implies that anyone who thinks economic liberalisation was both good and necessary for the long-term social good of the country, really has the motives of a Dickensian landlord, or a capacity for mental self-deceit, and you accuse me of setting out to offend?!

    My comment was an attempt, not only to offer genuine sympathy, but also to make the point that the market forces that you deride as “favour(ing) the strong, (and) discriminat(ing) against the weak” can be a means, if you exercise it well, to discriminate against the strong and unjust. An attempt to join the dots that possibly contradicts the sweeping claims your post made. Not setting out to offend, Brain. Just disagree, and learn by mutual interaction of ideas.

    “I’ve really no idea what your point is, Kimbo. …With regard to my comment about Lange being ‘duped’, my view is that he was unaware of that agenda until it was too late for that ‘cup of tea’”.

    My point? I disagree with your view that Lange was duped. As you have reinforced your view with your own personal insights and experiences of the man, I think you discerned my point very well.

    I personally think your view that Douglas engaged in mendacity is mean-spirited, and not in accord with facts that I have outlined. Again, I don’t think people who accuse others of engaging in deceit should be so quick to take offence.

    Instead, I suggest the facts indicate Lange knew exactly what Rogernomics, or at least economic liberalisation was about prior to 1984. He argues that in his autobiography.

    The issue Lange was confronting when you came across him in a “very poor emotional state”, when he seemed “defeated” was how far the reforms would go. But then Lange did have an emotional issue, because he loathed any form of confrontation, and he continually passed on the opportunity to state his concerns and practical alternatives around the cabinet table (where the much heralded “consensus” needed to take place”!) until it was too late.

  13. “The electorate (and quite possibly David Lange) was duped.”

    How casually we toss off that terrible line, with not even a raised eyebrow. Business as usual. A plague on all their houses.
    ——————————–
    ps – if Lange was that naive/weak/easily duped (and he was) he shouldn’t have been leader in the first place.

    BE: “ps – if Lange was that naive/weak/easily duped (and he was) he shouldn’t have been leader in the first place.” It may well be that David was altogether too decent a person to be suited to the role.

  14. This is an admirable political philosophy, but a little too naively idealistic don’t you think? “Money should never be an impediment to health care. Money should never be an impediment to education. Money should never be an impediment to social services. Money should never be an impediment to justice” – this is perfect world stuff. Where is the money to come from? Borrowed from China?

    This focuses too much on where money should be spent, and too little on how it is earned.

    The redundancy of Electricorp employees can be easily defended by reason – how is any organisation to remain profitable unless it prioritises efficiency and productivity? I agree that a welfare safety net is an essential requirement of a civilised society, but the level of generosity of it is dependent on the profitability of the private sector. Hiding unemployment in over-manning by SOE’s was not a sustainable policy.

    For some reason though I like it that you maintain youthful idealism and revolutionary spirit despite advancing years, and have avoided the usual path of curmudgeonly conservatism!

    BE: I think you will find that there are societies – Finland is an example – that do all the things you seem to think impossible extremely well.

  15. Kimbo,

    Your version of political history is a little different to mine. Lange paused for a cup of tea which cost Labour the election? I don’t think so. More likely is that Labour voters realised they’d be well and truly had. Labour wasn’t the party they thought it was. Labour was busy cutting the top rate of tax and snuggling up to big business to care about its consituents.

    Lange was indeed duped by Douglas and the small cabal that supported the then Finance Minister. Remember the flat tax policy which Lange seemed to support? Once Lange realised the implications of that proposal, it was taken off the table, and the relationship between Lange and Douglas soured.

  16. Alan said: “But isn’t it odd how successive governments…have all seen fit to leave his major policies in place.”

    Strange then that more and more NZers are crossing the Tasman to work and live. BTW, how’s the closing of the wage gap between NZ and Australia coming along?

  17. Ross,

    “Your version of political history is a little different to mine. Lange paused for a cup of tea which cost Labour the election? I don’t think so.”

    The problem with your analysis is that it was only after Lange paused (In January 1988), that Labour’s poll ratings plummeted, and never recovered. Kiwis punish any sign of political instability in their governments.

    I have no doubt that Labour supporters realised exactly what Douglas, Prebble, de Cleene et. al. were about well before the election of August 1987. They lost the traditional Labour seat of Timaru in a 1985 by-election. That was also the reason, as I posted, for the drop in their votes in traditional Labour electorates in 1987, and the corresponding rise in traditional National areas. However, in doing so they essentially repeated their overall i984 FPP success in terms of electorates won.

    As Labour was traditionally the party of opposition in that era, and hadn’t won consecutive elections since 1946, relying on “traditional Labour voters” was never a recipe for sustained electoral success!

    Also, Bolger, with Ruth Richardson in tow won decisively in 1990, thus reinforcing the policy recipe Douglas had resubmitted to the NZ public in 1987. Are we to believe that the electorate didn’t fully grasp what they were voting for yet again? Ruth Richardson?!

    You disagree with Douglas, Prebble, Richardson, and economic liberalisation? Go for it! I’ll agree to disagree on some of the merits. But to suggest the NZ electorate, let alone the PM was deceived by a sinister right-wing plot is an insult to the intelligence of voters who delivered the verdict.

  18. To suggest that the voters expected an extreme right wing economic policy to be endorsed by a middle left party really doesnt make sense.Im sure the voters had no idea of what was in store for them.I remember little teams of people with clipboards coming into our work place.2 weeks later you were told you were surplus to requirements.1 month after that some of us had the same job back.
    As for the need to destroy the employment services that were Government departments,they were a fair way to share the countrys pie.That money removed from those workers pockets only found its way into someone elses ,creating a greater inequity in our society.Douglas knew it was cheaper to pay somreeone $50 unemployment rather than $200 in wages.

  19. rick

    Marxism is predicated on the establishment of an industrialised society.

    While Russia and China (and others) might claim marxist ideology as their raison d’etre they are talking bs.

    Both russia and china were (and arguably still are) medieval societies not very far removed from afghanistan both geographically and industrially.

    All have warring factions, robber barons, war lords vying for power.

    Both china and russia used marxist ideology to mask a continuation of highly centralised tyrannical dictatorship.

    the tsar was replace by the CCPR and the Emperor was replaced by Mao.

    Nothing else changed.

    Marx was looking to the industrialized european states and usa as the birthplace of his future societies.

    there never was a proletariat in russia or china.
    no proletarian revolution was possible.

    It is utterly vacuous to suggest that either russia or china were/are “protege” states of marxism.

    Both russia and china were taken over by bandits who used marxism as propagandistic “cover” for their behaviour.

    Given the history of both china and russia, it is entirely understandable that that bandits would eventually take over.

    It happens everywhere, all the time. Take a look at the us political landscape for starters.

  20. That government didn’t speak for me. This government doesn’t speak for me.

    Brian, if I could suggest it, I would be interested in buying a book that you would write about the Fourth Labour Government. I trust in your ability to research and deliver a quality piece.

    And I would like read a history done by someone with insight in the internals of the party at the time, who doesn’t have a self serving personal agenda*.

    *Not naming any former Minister of Health, Local Government, and from 1987 to 1990, Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government, Civil Defence and Arts and Culture, in particular.

  21. Au Contraire, Kim Il-Sung.

    Kimbolton (if I may use your more formal title), you argue that “…Bolger, with Ruth Richardson in tow won decisively in 1990, thus reinforcing the policy recipe Douglas had resubmitted to the NZ public in 1987. Are we to believe that the electorate didn’t fully grasp what they were voting for yet again ? Ruth Richardson ?!”

    Yep, kimmmy, that’s precisely what we are to believe. You, I and the relatively small minority of New Zealanders with a strong interest in politics knew about Richardson’s impeccable Neo-Liberal credentials, most voters didn’t. As virtually all analysts have argued, voters in 1990 took their cue from the National campaign’s deliberately vague emphasis on “the decent society”, with Bolger regularly implying Rogernomics had done significant damage to the social fabric of the Country. For me, it was like watching a train wreck in slow-motion.

    Whatever their views in 1987, all the evidence suggests that by 1990, a substantial majority of New Zealanders had come to reject the Fourth Labour Government’s radical economic reforms:

    (1) Take, for example, Jack Vowles’ and Peter Aimer’s 1990 New Zealand Election Survey of about 2000 voters:

    (a) Question on Fourth Labour Government’s Economic Direction: “Thinking back over the last 6 years, do you think that with its economic policies, the Labour Government was moving the Country in the Right or Wrong direction ?”:

    1990 National Voters
    Right 8%, Wrong 60%, Unsure 32%

    (b) Question on Speed of Implementation of Fourth Labour Government’s policies: “Were its economic policies Wrong, Moved too Fast, About Right, Not Fast Enough or Unsure.”:

    1990 National Voters
    Not Fast Enough 5%, About Right 5%, Too Fast 26%, Wrong 61%, Unsure 3%

    (c) Question on Extent of Fourth Labour Government’s policies: “…Wrong, Too Far, About Right, Not Far Enough, Unsure”:

    1990 National Voters
    Not Far Enough 7%, About Right 8%, Too Far 20%, Wrong 62%, Unsure 4%

    (d) Question on Inflation vs Unemployment priority (a core policy of Rogernomics, of course, being the emphasis on reducing inflation even at the expense of increasing unemployment): “If the government had to choose between keeping down Inflation or keeping down Unemployment, which should be given the higher priority ?”:

    1990 National Voters:
    Inflation 18%, Unemployment 74%, Unsure 8%

    (2) Let’s also remember that the most significant swing in 1990 was not Labour-to-National, but Labour-into-Non-Voting. More than two-thirds of the huge swing away from Labour went to New Labour/The Greens/Non-Voting, less than a third to National.

    And once 1990 National voters clapped their eyes on Richardson’s extremist Neo-Liberal ‘Mother of all Budgets’, the Nats’ support sunk like a stone. From 48% at the 1990 General Election to the mid-30s in August 1991 and then as low as 24% in late 91.

    By the 1993 Election, they’d revived slightly, but their vote had still plunged an astonishing 13 percentage points on 1990 (almost twice the size of the swing against Labour in 2008).

    Throughout much of 1991/1992, Heylen polls suggested voter approval for both the Bolger/Richardson Government’s (a)Overall Performance and (b)Its Handling of the Economy ranged between 11 and 18%, with disapproval 68-80%.

    (3) And then, of course, profound voter disillusionment with the political class (given the persistence of an increasingly detested Neo-Liberal agenda) leading to the historic vote for MMP (hopefully to be re-confirmed in a few weeks time).

  22. “Kimbolton (if I may use your more formal title)”

    No, you may not, you arrogant, disrespectful prat! I have a moniker when blogging. Kindly respect it, just as I respect yours, markus!

    You’ve quoted lots of stats from polls, markus. I’ll go to a source I don’t usually regard as an authority, but he speaks with wisdom on this matter: “The only poll that counts is the one that is held on election day” (Winston Peters). The verdicts of 1984, 87, 90, and 93 all stand, despite your attempt to argue otherwise.

  23. “You, I and the relatively small minority of New Zealanders with a strong interest in politics knew about Richardson’s impeccable Neo-Liberal credentials, most voters didn’t”.

    Douglas and Richardson didn’t speak for you? Fine. So because you didn’t like the result, you blame the electorate, and pour scorn and disrespect upon their supposed lack of collective intelligence. I don’t buy it. Not 4 elections in a row!

    “And then, of course, profound voter disillusionment with the political class (given the persistence of an increasingly detested Neo-Liberal agenda) leading to the historic vote for MMP (hopefully to be re-confirmed in a few weeks time)”.

    Don’t disagree there was (and is, and always has been when times are tough!) disillusionment with the politicians that lead to MMP. However, the final vote (56% to 44% from memory) was hardly a resounding margin. However, it was obviously decisive, and this year’s will be very interesting!

    I don’t deny with sections of the electorate, particularly amongst traditional Labour voters, that the neo-lib reforms were a catalyst for voting in MMP. However, I thought the decisive reasons for the vote were: –

    Labour beating National in the popular vote in 1978, and 1981, yet losing both FPP elections

    Disquiet at the lack of representation for Social Credit in 1978, 81, and 84 (same for NZ Party in 1984) despite their significant percentage of votes

    And also the broken promises over National Super surcharge by both Labour (1984), and National (1990).

    All of the above were certainly thrown around in discussion and debate as selling points for electoral change, and ultimately MMP before the referenda of 1992 and 1993.

  24. MY FINAL WORD: Part One.

    Kimbo, you wrote: “Douglas and Richardson didn’t speak for you ? Fine. So because you didn’t like the result, you blame the electorate, and pour scorn and disrespect upon their supposed lack of collective intelligence.”

    Clutching at straws, Kimbo, clutching at straws.

    My quote that elicited this somewhat irritable little bon mot from you was: “You, I and the relatively small minority of New Zealanders with a strong interest in politics knew about Richardson’s impeccable Neo-Liberal credentials, most voters didn’t.”

    Now, perhaps you could tell me precisely how this constitutes ‘blaming’, ‘pouring scorn upon’ or ‘disrespecting’ voters’ “supposed lack of collective intelligence” ? It’s about voters’ lack of strong interest in politics, Kimbo, not their intelligence. And it’s not just me, it’s the view of political scientists and other expert commentators. As the authoritative 1990 New Zealand Election Study makes clear (a) only 15% of New Zealanders professed a strong interest in the political scene,(b) most 1990 National voters had little if any knowledge of Richardson’s agenda and (c) a large majority of 1990 Nat voters (62%) entirely opposed/rejected Rogernomics (with an overwhelming majority (82%) believing these reforms were either ‘entirely wrong’ or had been ‘taken too far’).

    Looks to me, Kimbo, like a fairly desperate attempt to save your argument by (i) entirely inventing a supposed sleight on my part and then (ii) recruiting the honour and maidenly virtue of the New Zealand Electorate to rescue your cause. Desperate stuff.

    Kimbo, you wrote: “The verdicts of 1984, 87, 90, 93 all stand despite your attempt to argue otherwise.” and “I don’t buy it. Not 4 elections in a row !”

    Even on its own (highly dubious) terms, Kimbo, your argument here doesn’t really stack up. Let’s take the 2 most obvious examples first: 1984 and 1993.

    Having focussed exclusively on 87 and 90 in your earlier comments, you’ve now suddenly decided to recruit 84 and 93 into your stable of elections in which voters supposedly endorsed (or eagerly anticipated) Rogernomics/Ruthenasia.

    In terms of 1984, Kimbo, all I can say is good luck with that. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any analyst in the Country (save maybe dear old Michael Bassett) who’d agree with you on that one. In fact your younger self (only a few days ago) seemed to argue against this notion that 1984 Labour voters knew Rogernomics was on the way.

    They may have had the odd hint (Douglas’s alternative budget and demotion by Rowling in the early 80s) and they may have had a problem with Muldoon’s particular style of interventionism, but that’s a long way from (pre-)endorsing a radical Neo-Liberal agenda that out-Thatchered the Thatcher government (indeed was only exceeded in its market purity by Pinochet’s Chile) and which all analysts agree remained largely hidden from the voting public in 1984.

    The most relevant poll/survey of voters carried out in 84 found that, on the question of attitudes to the Muldoon Government’s Economic Interventionism, “responses were notable in that despite the unpopularity of the Muldoon style of intervention (except among 1984 National voters), the principle of intervention was generally endorsed and the size of the “misdirected” category – particularly with respect to Labour and Social Credit voters – was unexpectedly high.”

    The Question was: “In your opinion, has government intervention in the New Zealand economy under National in the 1980s been ‘about right’, ‘excessive’, ‘misdirected’ or ‘too little’ ?”:

    1984…….All Voters…….Labour Voters

    Excessive…..33…………….39
    About Right…31……………..4
    Too Little…..1……………..1
    Misdirected…35…………….57

    Thus, only a third of all voters in 1984 and less than 40% of Labour voters thought Muldoon’s interventionist policies ‘excessive’. Significant interventionism of one sort or another was endorsed by two-thirds of all voters and more than 60% of Labour voters at the time of the 1984 Election (when this survey was carried out).

    Given that (i) in your earlier comments you rightly emphasise that Labour failed to produce a manifesto in 84, that its election advertising was long on rhetoric/imagery and short on substance, and that the election “was all about getting rid of Muldoon…All Lange had to do was crack a few jokes, avoid policy detail and the win was inevitable”; and that (ii) you’ve furnished no evidence whatsoever for this rather heroic assumption that you’ve developed over the last few days (84 result as endorsement of Rogernomics plan),……. I think I’ll stick with the expert/scholarly consensus (reinforced by my own memory) on this one, Kimbo.

    Right, so that’s 1984 out of the equation. One down, three to go.

  25. MY FINAL WORD: Part Two.

    1993: Well, yeah, the problem here, of course, Kimbo, is your implicit reliance on an utterly misguided methodology.

    You clearly imply that “The Verdict” (as you insist on describing the array of highly complex voting decisions made by the electorate on a range of key issues) can be deduced by whether or not a party (in this case National) wins the most seats or manages to retain power (albeit in this case with only a one-seat majority).

    Surely it goes without saying that THE PERCENTAGE OF VOTES A PARTY RECEIVES tells you how popular it is / how many voters support it ? And surely, Kimbo, you’re aware of the highly distortive effects of FPP, where seat and vote percentages rarely if ever correlate ?

    The fact is that at the 1993 General Election, National’s support plunged an extraordinary 13 percentage points – from 48% (1990) to 35% (1993). As I’ve already pointed out, this is twice the size of the swing against Labour in 2008 !

    Last time I looked, Kimbo, 35% represented a MINORITY of the electorate. National was the ONLY party standing on its Ruthenasia record and promising further consolidation of the Neo-Liberal programme in 1993 and it received BARELY A THIRD OF THE VOTE ! (less than half a percentage point more than Labour).

    Meanwhile, the parties (a) adamantly opposing the neo-liberal agenda (Alliance, Greens, NZF) or that had (b) sent clear signals to voters over the previous 3 years that they had no intention of reviving the agenda (Labour), took nearly two-thirds of the vote !

    There’s “The Verdict” of 1993 for you right there, Kimbo. TWO-THIRDS of the electorate does actually, you know, constitute A FAIRLY SUBSTANTIAL MAJORITY (as in “most” New Zealanders). Or do you wanna put your fingers in your ears and loudly chant “but National retained office !” ? Yep, Kimbo, thanks to the vagaries of FPP and an unprecedented level of support for the minor parties – itself testament to the degree/depth of opposition to Neo-Liberal extremism – the Nats managed to cling on to Office with little more than a third of the vote. (Incidently, why exactly do you think Bolger dropped Richardson like a stone in the immediate wake of the Election ?).

    And then, of course, there’s the poll figures throughout 1991-1993 showing overwhelming disapproval of the Bolger Government’s economic performance and the fact that its popularity plunged the moment Richardson’s Neo-Liberal agenda became obvious with her ‘Mother of all Budgets’ (described in more detail above).

    So, that’s 1993 dispatched to the outer realms of the stratosphere. You’re down to just 2 Elections now, Kimbo, 1987 and 1990 – which I’ll deal with in Parts 3 and 4 of MY FINAL WORD tomorrow or the next day (depending on time available – and assuming BE and JC aren’t thoroughly bored with this debate :-)).

  26. markus, if you aren’t able to work out precisely how, “You, I and the relatively small minority of New Zealanders with a strong interest in politics knew about Richardson’s impeccable Neo-Liberal credentials, most voters didn’t.” isn’t a case of “blaming) the electorate”, and “pour(ing) scorn and disrespect upon their supposed lack of collective intelligence”, then I fail to see how I, or anyone can inform you “precisely” or otherwise in such a way to enlighten your lack of humility.

    “It’s about voters’ lack of strong interest in politics, Kimbo, not their intelligence”. Sophistry. They are informed enough. I remember Bob Jones making the valid point that it is usually only highly dysfunctional countries such as Soviet Russia who have the strong level of interest that self-appointed pseudo-intellectual snobs like you seem to judge as sufficient.

    And your last post on the 1993 election? Lost interest in the sophistry and interminable repeating of poll data that doesn’t count (refer to Winston Peter’s advice quoted earlier). It was a FPP election, markus. Who won? What was the verdict delivered by the electorate? Refer to question # 1.

  27. “”This Labour Government does not speak for me. I am not dazzled by the radiant beauty of market forces. Market forces are elemental and capricious. They buoy, then buffet. The argument that the free play of market forces allows ordinary people rather than governments to control their destiny, is patent nonsense in this world of international high finance, of global economic inter-connections. What control has the ordinary New Zealander over Wall Street or, for that matter, over the value of the New Zealand dollar? None. Ordinary people do not control the market. They are its first casualties.””

    Interesting, Brian…

    You practically described the coming international banking crisis in 2007 and resulting recession a year later.

  28. MY FINAL WORD: Part Three.

    I entirely agree with your strategy, here, Kimbo. If your argument’s been ripped to shreds (as your’s surely has) then you’re absolutely right: it certainly IS always best to stick your fingers in your ears and relentlessly chant “sophistry, sophistry, sophistry !” or (perhaps even more ludicrously) “pseudo-intellectual snobs !”

    (This coming, of course, from a champion of the kind of Neo-Liberal extremism practically guaranteed to produce the very antithesis of egalitarianism).

    You do realise, don’t you ?, that I’m just the messenger, here. You’re actually taunting some of this Country’s leading political scientists (not to mention various historians, sociologists and media commentators) as “pseudo-intellectual snobs” for having the effrontery to point out facts you find disagreeable.

    But then, of course, you’ve been assiduously avoiding this broad scholarly backing for my core argument all along. While your theory is based entirely on your own unsubstantiated hunches and suppositions, mine is solidly grounded in the existing literature. You’re arguing completely off the top of your head, I’m simply outlining – not ‘my’ theory – but the broad expert consensus.

    The truth is, Kimbo, you’re the one who’s disrespecting the New Zealand voter. An unusually large, random (and therefore accurate and representative) sample of 1990 National voters – the very people you claim to speak for – are trying to tell you, Kimbo (through the 1990 Election Study), what their core beliefs and values are and what their perceptions and expectations of the incoming Bolger Government are. And, what’s more, they’re telling you this at the very time of the 1990 Election. Within days of casting their vote for National.

    But you don’t want to listen, do you Kimbo, because their values and perceptions are in clear conflict with your own inate sympathies for the radical Neo-Liberal reforms. Fingers in ears, once again, Kimbo, fingers in ears.

    Incidently, you mention the Soviet Union in your last comment. Well, I have to say, Kimbo, your remarks on the 1993 Election reminded me very much of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm': “Now everyone chant after me: ‘35% equals a MAJORITY, 65% equals a MINORITY !”.

    And so to 1990 (Part Four)…..

  29. “35% equals a MAJORITY, 65% equals a MINORITY !”

    Actually it is, if it’s a FPP election, as every New Zealand general election was from 1853 (whoops – I guess you don’t have to be an expert to know a bit of history) until the one we are disputing over in 1993, and the remaining 65% was split. Or weren’t you paying attention in Political Science 101 at Vic Uni c1992?!

    Which means the rest of your argument. which in my opinion remains sophistry, (and arrogantly phrased sophistry at that) crumbles into irrelevancy.

    And God truly help New Zealand if you are indeed one “of this Country’s leading political scientists (not to mention various historians, sociologists and media commentators)”.

  30. MY FINAL WORD: Part Four (The Journey Continues).

    1990: Now, I don’t even remotely expect you to read any of this, Kimbo, (too busy chanting “Sophistry, Sophistry !”), but I’ll summarise my argument on 1990, here, and then look at your counter-argument (including the Peters quotation):

    I’d argue that each piece of evidence deployed in my 1990 argument is not only solid in its own right but also confirms and reinforces each of the other pieces of evidence. Let’s go through it. I’ve argued:

    (a) A clear consensus exists among political scientists and other objective/non-partisan analysts that most voters – not ALL voters, but most – had little inkling of Richardson’s Neo-Liberal agenda in 1990, instead taking their cue from National’s deliberately vague “Decent Society” campaign theme, with Bolger’s frequent allusions to the unacceptable social consequences of the Douglas reforms.

    All part and parcel of National’s strategy to present a reasonably blurred policy image in order to maximise their vote. As one scholar put it, National in 1990 was “able to present a mixed picture to voters, allowing people with different expectations and beliefs to see what they wanted.” In particular, while not historically associated with such notions, they were able to “mobilise sentiments around equality and community values in their favour” (by emphasising the “Decent Society”), while still maintaining the support of those Nats who – reading between the lines – both anticipated and approved of the Richardson agenda.

    (b) This broad scholarly consensus that most voters were largely unaware of Richardson’s Neo-Liberal proclivities is, in turn, confirmed by the rich, in-depth information about voters’ attitudes, beliefs and perceptions contained in what can only be described as a professional, scientifically-rigorous and highly-regarded 1990 New Zealand Election Survey, designed by political scientists Jack Vowles and Peter Aimer, and carried out by a professional, long-established polling organisation.

    Conducted at the very time of the Election, this multi-faceted Opinion Poll probed in great detail the knowledge and belief-systems of a random, representative (and therefore accurate) sample of 2000 voters (twice as many respondents as most polls and therefore involving particularly small margins of error).

    The findings, Kimbo, absolutely demolish your argument that National’s decisive 1990 Election victory indicates most voters favoured a consolidation of the Rogernomics reforms. A large majority of 1990 National Party voters – the very people you’re talking about, Kimbo, the very voters you’d like to use to support your argument – believed Rogernomics was ‘entirely wrong’ (62%), an overwhelming majority believed these reforms were either ‘entirely wrong’ or had been ‘taken too far’ (82%), and an overwhelming majority (74%) rejected the core monetarist policy at the heart of Rogernomics (narrowly prioritising the reduction/control of inflation over and above lowering unemployment and other goals).

    Furthermore, large-to-overwhelming majorities of 1990 National voters favoured free tertiary education (80%), increased government spending on health (71%) and on education (60%), even at the cost of higher, more progressive taxation.

    Perhaps most interesting of all, a majority of Nat voters – not an overwhelming majority, but a sizeable one – believed an incoming Bolger Government would move AWAY from Rogernomics, would INCREASE social spending, and would be MORE interventionist than a Moore-led Labour one (that, in essence, it would live up to its “Decent Society” rhetoric).

    (c) Reinforcing the evidence contained in (a) and (b), National’s support plunged by more than 10 percentage points in polls the moment Richardson fully revealed the extent of her Neo-Liberal agenda in the 1991 ‘Mother of all Budgets’. Precisely what you’d expect of public opinion if (a) and (b) were correct. Support continued to decline steadily through late 1991 and early 1992, falling as low as the mid-20s, before reviving slightly in mid-92. Meanwhile, polls were consistently showing overwhelming public disapproval (68-80%) of the Bolger Government’s (1) overall and (2) economic performance.

    (d) And, to cap it all off, the 1993 General Election: A massive swing against National, which wins barely a third of the vote, while parties opposing Richardson’s Neo-Liberal entrenchment win a substantial majority of voter support.

    As one commentator sums up the scholarly consensus on all of this: “The result of the 1990 election has been widely interpreted as a rejection of the Fourth Labour Government’s economic policies, and similarly the collapse in support for the Bolger Government during 1991 has frequently been viewed as a result of National’s continuation of those policies.”

    Or – to take Vowles and Aimer’s conclusion – “It nevertheless seems clear that voter rejection of many aspects of Rogernomics was more pervasive in 1990 than continued support for Labour’s economic reforms…..It is highly ironic that National, identified by significant numbers of voters as opposing Labour’s economic direction, went on as government to take key aspects of those policies even further.”

    Kimbo’s Counter-Argument:

    All you’ve really got, Kimbo, is:

    (a) A completely unsupported hunch that National voters were indeed fully conversant with Richardson’s background and agenda at the 1990 Election,

    (b) A completely unsupported hunch that a highly sophisticated and scientific survey of 1990 voters somehow – for reasons you’ve been unable to specify – managed to produce extremely distorted findings,and

    (c) the misguided belief that National winning a (bare) majority of seats in 1993 – despite receiving only 35% of the vote – proves that “most voters” were ardent Ruthenasia fans.

    In the end, you’re reduced to (d) repeating Winston Peters’ throw-away line (“The only poll that counts is the one that is held on election day”) as a kind of catch-all response. A substitute for any sort of substantial or reasoned argument. The heart of the problem is this:

    (1) You argue National’s 1990 win proves most voters supported a consolidation of Rogernomics.

    (2) In reply, I highlight (amongst other evidence) a sophisticated survey of voter attitudes carried out during the 1990 Election revealing that substantial majorities of the very people you’re talking about, Kimbo – the 48% who voted National in 1990 – opposed Rogernomics, felt that at the very least it had been taken too far, and believed an incoming Bolger-led National Government would be more interventionist.

    And (3) your only reply is essentially: ‘No, I don’t buy it because National won in 1990.’

    Do you not see how meaningless this is given the context ? I mean, these are not mutually-exclusive things, Kimbo, (3) does not cancel-out (2)! The fact that National won in 1990 is irrelevant here. The VIEWS AND PERCEPTIONS OF ITS VOTERS are what matter.

    Overall, Kimbo, you prefer to rely on the very bluntest and crudest of instruments (who won in 1990) rather than the most sophisticated and revelatory (an in-depth understanding of what the people voting for that winning party actually believed and expected at the very time that they voted).

    Now, have I been tediously repetitive, here ? Have I laboured the point ? Absolutely ! Because the point needs to be driven home in no uncertain terms.

    So, as with 1984, I’ll have to choose the detailed scholarly consensus over your small collection of unsupported hunches and assumptions.

    Right, that’s 1990 firmly dealt with and ultimately sent to live in exile and seclusion somewhere near Timbuktu.

    Down to just one election now, Kimbo: 1987.

    Only two more sleeps to go…..

  31. “A large majority of 1990 National Party voters – the very people you’re talking about, Kimbo, the very voters you’d like to use to support your argument – believed Rogernomics was ‘entirely wrong’, etc.”

    Of course they did, markus. National was STILL the party of Rob Muldoon at the time. Both National and Labour were re-aligning, and trying to find their ‘proper’ place on the political continuum, which the upheaval and reforms of 1984 onwards instigated.

    Have long since lost the point you are making, markus. However, I leave you with this thought. Opinions polls come and go, and when there is nothing on the line, respondents are free to say the first thing that comes to mind. However, there is still only one poll that counts, and it is the one held on election day.

    Oh yes – and to quote Jim Bolger, “Bugger the pollsters” (said when they got it badly wrong about the size of his expected mandate, and his government just squeaked back in again in 1993. Were they engaging in a “sophisticated survey” as well?!

    Byeeeeee

  32. …despite most iof what you write being irrelevant, markus, I’m actually intrigued to see what you will do to try and show the electorate didn’t know what it was voting for in 1987.

    Also, to what extent does the voter responsibility to exercise the advice “caveat emptor” figure in your equations?

    Don’t disagree Mational’s (sleep walk) to victory in 1990, primarily courtesy of Labour’s implosion in Parliament,included campaign that you could read anything into. The “decent society”. Hell, even Hitler and Stalin could read their policies within that prism!

    But Ruth Richardson?!!

  33. MY FINAL WORD: Part Five (The Grand Finale – Part A)

    Yep, it’s that time of year again – the last of the series. The Grand Finale. A very prestigious event, indeed. In fact, so much so that I’ve rented a tuxedo specially for the occassion.

    The tension’s mounting…will there be a last minute twist in the plot ? A cliff-hanger ending ? Will any of the principal characters – Douglas, Lange, Muldoon, Richardson, Bolger – be killed-off to make way for new blood ? Well, let’s find out…

    …But, first, I should stress that I’m dividing this Grand Finale into two separate comments (Parts A and B). Part A (the present comment) really just involves some preliminary arguments. Part B (in a few days’ time) will comprise the main guts of my argument…

    1987: Well, you know, Kimbo, knock me down with a feather but I actually partially agree with you on this one. Only PARTIALLY, mind.

    If there’s one Election (out of your series of four) where it could reasonably be argued that more voters favoured than opposed Rogernomics – it was 1987. However, it also has to said that public opinion was relatively finely-balanced – the majority in favour by no means large let alone overwhelming – and that much of the approval was of both a provisional and qualified nature (as became obvious by 1990).

    (1) The first point to make is that we shouldn’t assume everyone voting Labour in 87 enthusiastically endorsed Rogernomics. This is best seen by looking at the two main emphases in Labour’s Election campaign:
    (a) Trumpeting its highly-popular Anti-Nuclear policy and…
    (b) The notion pushed repeatedly by Lange that the radical economic reforms of the first term were now largely over and the second term would prioritise social policies aimed at minimising the fallout from Rogernomics.

    Douglas and his coterie, of course, had other ideas, but we’re interested here in what the voters themselves perceived – and it was Lange’s message that they heard loudly throughout the campaign (albeit a message lacking in specificity). Hence, promises of delivery on social policy no doubt played a role in both placating and shoring-up an otherwise sceptical, if not downright hostile, traditional Labour vote.

    The other thing that anchored otherwise sceptical/hostile Labour voters to the Party in 87 was the highly-popular Anti-Nuclear legislation.

    From the findings of their 1987 Election Study, Vowles and Aimer argue that the Anti-Nuclear policy was, in fact, a more important contributor to Labour’s re-election than Rogernomics. It led a crucial number of Labour voters to support the government despite their doubts about (or outright opposition to) its Neo-Liberal reforms.

    While Rogernomics certainly exhibited its own unique pulling-power (particularly attracting younger, more affluent voters), its role in both retaining tradtional voters and attracting new ones was eclipsed by the anti-nuclear stance. In fact, so much so that had the Lange Government “backed off on the Defence issue but still chosen the Rogernomics road, the electoral consequences for Labour could have been severe.” More supporters would have been lost than gained.

    A July 1986 NRB poll tends to back this up. People were asked which Party they felt closest to on a series of key issues regardless of their voting preferences. On ‘NUCLEAR ISSUES’, Labour received its strongest support – 59% of all respondents saying they favoured Labour’s policy / 26% choosing National’s / 15% Neither or Don’t Know.

    Compare that with ‘ECONOMIC MANAGEMENT’ – Labour 41% / National 27% / Neither or Don’t Know 32%; and ‘INFLATION’ – Labour 33% / National 27% / Neither or Don’t Know 40%.

    Indeed, according to the 1984 survey data, the issue of Nuclear Ship Visits had (together with Perceptions of Political Leadership) been a more powerful factor in Labour’s 84 win than any ideological, economic or social issue. Even in 1990, after National’s dramatic volte-face on the issue, it appears Labour’s Anti-Nuclear stance was still anchoring a section of 87 Labour voters to the Party. The 1990 Election Survey data suggests that the huge swing against Labour in 1990 would have been even greater if not for the Party’s on-going ability to exploit the issue.

    Now, Vowles and Aimer certainly argue that only with the somewhat bizarre combination of the two – ‘New Left’ defence policy and ‘New Right’ economic policy – could the Lange Government have survived quite so EASILY in 1987 (It allowed them to appeal to two diverse issue constituencies – thus broadening their electoral base and maximising their vote). But it was the defence stance that made the crucial difference.

    Clearly, then, more than a few long-term (or post-81) Labour voters continued to support the Party in 1987 DESPITE rather than because of the Rogernomics reforms.

    As I say, these are just the preliminaries. I’ll outline the more substantive argument in Part B in a few days time…

  34. MY FINAL WORD: Part 6 (The Grande Finale – Part B)

    (Hate to say it, but due to intense popular demand, there’ll be a Part C, to follow. Call me old-fashioned, but there you are).

    So, why do I think public opinion on Rogernomics at the 1987 Election was (a) relatively evenly-balanced, though tilting towards support; (b) heavily qualified and (c) provisional in nature ?

    (a) Once again, Vowles and Aimer’s in-depth 1987 Voter Survey (conducted over the immediate 3 weeks following the Election) provides the most useful data. As in 1990, they asked voters about the SPEED of Rogernomics reforms:

    Entire 1987 Sample

    Entirely Wrong 20%, Too Fast 23% (= opposition 43%)
    Right Speed 47%, Too Slow 3% (= support 50%)
    Unsure 7%

    Now, unfortunately Vowles and Aimer didn’t introduce the all-important question on EXTENT of Rogernomics until the 1990 Survey. But, using the 1990 EXTENT/SPEED differentials as a rough guide, it seems likely that 1987 opposition in terms of EXTENT would have been just a little lower (and support just a little higher) than in the 1987 SPEED question.

    So, EXTENT opposition in 87 = somewhere around 38-40% and support about 53-55%. I think that gives a rough indication of the overall mood regarding Rogernomics in 87: a little over half the electorate were supporters, with a fairly substantial minority opposing.

    (b) In any case, Vowles and Aimer argue things are a little more complex than a superficial reading of their data might suggest. Support for the reforms was, in fact, heavily qualified.

    In particular, there were indications in the 1987 data of either (1) a ‘loyalty factor’ leading to the suppression of doubts about Rogernomics or (2) a perception gap over the precise nature of Rogernomics – specifically among a section of Labour partisans. They argue this because a significant slice of those Labour voters answering ‘Right Speed’ to the SPEED question (thus suggesting support for Rogernomics), then went on to indicate a degree of opposition when asked specifically about key individual facets of the reforms (with the wording of these questions divorced from any explicit association with the Lange Government, instead focussing entirely on the value of each individual reform itself).

    For instance, in the 1987 survey (as in 1990 and 1993), a majority of Labour voters (and of ALL voters) rejected the core monetarist policy at the heart of Rogernomics (prioritising inflation over unemployment). So, even in 87, one of the key defining features of Rogernomics was rejected outright by most of the electorate.

    This was further confirmed by the low salience ascribed to inflation both in the Vowles/Aimer survey and in a number of other polls at the time (for example, Roberts and Levine: June 1987). Inflation was almost always ranked lowest/near-lowest in importance among the various issues (far behind unemployment). In Vowles/Aimer, for instance, only 33% of all voters, 21% of constant Labour voters and a mere 16% of those swinging to Labour in 87 rated inflation as an issue of great importance.

    The ‘party loyalty’ or ‘perception gap’ factor also comes through in Vowles and Aimer’s correlation analysis, suggesting support for Labour’s general economic direction in 87 was associated more closely with (a) Party Identification (Labour supporters/identifiers) than with (b) Support for Deregulation, (c) Opposition to Public Ownership or (d) Opposition to Government Intervention.

    The argument being, then, that while a majority of 1987 Labour voters superficially appear to have endorsed Rogernomics “their commitment to key specifics of the Douglas economic strategy is certainly open to doubt.”

    There’s a sense, too, that support had relatively shallow roots. In particular, Vowles and Aimer found that support for the Lange Government’s anti-nuclear policy involved greater intensity of feeling than sentiment in favour of Rogernomics. For instance, when they isolated the relatively large group of voters who said they favoured BOTH policies – they found most ascribed significantly greater importance to the anti-nuclear stance.

    Finally, one might add that most Labour voters in the 1987 survey considered themselves sympathetic to ‘Socialism': On a scale of 0 (strongly oppose socialism) to 100 (strongly support socialism), Labour voters’ mean score was a significant 81 (though admittedly this, in turn, begs the question of what precisely they perceived ‘socialism’ to be).

    Part C – on the provisional nature and final summary in a few days…

  35. @ markus

    “There’s a sense, too, that support had relatively shallow roots. In particular, Vowles and Aimer found that support for the Lange Government’s anti-nuclear policy involved greater intensity of feeling than sentiment in favour of Rogernomics”.

    Doesn’t explain the demographics of diminished support in traditional Labour seats, and a huge swing in their favour in places like Remuera.

    Yes, non-economic issues can play a part in elections. Arguably the apartheid/no-politics-in-sports issue just swung things for National in 1981 (with law and order added to the mix), and contributed to Muldoon’s landslide of 1975.

    But in both those elections, economic issues were still at the heart of the decision.

    To accept your theory means suspending the NZ voter’s collective obsession with “the economy”, and positing it on a one-off ephemeral issue.

    I prefer Occam’s Razor to your lengthy qualifications, “there’s a sense, too’s”, and detailed analysis that probably misses the wood for the trees: The more likely reason they were re-elected was the same reason any NZ government is elected. Economics.

  36. MY FINAL WORD: Part 7 (Vas ist das ? Is ist ein ‘Grande Finale’ – Part C)

    Having said all this, it remains a fact that about half – perhaps a little more than half – of voters expressed sympathy for the broad direction of Rogernomics reforms in 1987 (no matter how qualified or shallow its roots).

    So, why the broad, if tacit, support ?

    Certainly voters responded positively to a dynamic/confident/decisive/outward-looking and (seemingly) unified government. What’s more, most people seemed to accept the general argument that the international economy had changed and that New Zealand needed to change with it – greater adaptability, flexibility, efficiency and so on.

    But Vowles and Aimer emphasise that, more to the point, opinion on Rogernomics needs to be set in the context of voters’ assessments of the state of the economy itself. In mid 1987, the Country’s economy appeared relatively healthy and there was substantial economic confidence. Hence, “the policies seemed to be working and it was this sense of success as much as anything which instilled confidence.”

    By 1990, it was a different story. There’s polling evidence that opinion at the end of 1988 had already become more critical of the Lange Government’s economic policies and, certainly by 1990, a significant shift in the public mood had occurred, with support very definitely ebbing (a huge almost 30 percentage point increase in opposition to the SPEED and (if my 1987 estimate is close to the mark) EXTENT of Rogernomics. By 1990, a solid 65% of all voters were saying Rogernomics had either ‘Gone Too Far’ (23%) or was ‘Entirely Wrong’ (42%)).

    The Second Term had witnessed not only the debilitating factional struggles (that you allude to) but also a deeply unpopular privatisation programme, radical re-structuring of the public service, much more obvious social fallout from the earlier reforms and, of course, the sharemarket crash.

    Perhaps most important of all, as economic activity continued to contract, Unemployment rose sharply, reaching levels universally regarded as unacceptable. By 1990, the state of the economy in general, and unemployment in particular, were by far the most important issues. The 1990 Vowles/Aimer Survey shows that empathy with Labour on that issue had collapsed even among its stable/constant voters and its record was simply dismissed out of hand by those switching from Labour.

    Unsurprisingly, there remained an overwhelming preference for an attack on Unemployment rather than Inflation: 1990 Entire Sample: Inflation 20%, Unemployment 70%, Unsure 10%. (and even on its own terms, the government was failing – as unemployment soared, the promised targets of low inflation and sustainable economic growth remained out of reach).

    The figures from Vowles and Aimer’s statistical factor analysis of issue-by-issue variables in 1990 confirms that the reasons Labour lost in 1990 are likely to be associated, first and foremost, with the failure of the government’s policies to deliver economic growth and jobs.

    Labour’s strategy of asset sales was also pushing against popular opinion by 1990. A Heylen Poll suggests that in April 1988 the public still had something of a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude to privatisation: Overall attitude to Privatisation of state-owned assets: Entire Sample April 1988: Good 36%, Bad 36%, Neutral/Unsure 28%.

    The Vowles/Aimer Survey provides convincing evidence that by 1990 a substantial popular consensus now opposed asset sales (with little partisan difference). Corporatisation and Privatisation had become associated in voters’ minds with (a) widespread loss of both jobs and access to familiar community services (like the Post Office), (b) foreign ownership (thus touching on sensitive nationalistic feelings) and (c) a rather unedifying spectacle of Corporate empire-building and bare-faced greed.

    By 1993, public attitudes had hardened even further to the point where substantial majorities were expressing support for state ownership of several already-privatised companies -Telecom, The Bank of New Zealand, New Zealand Rail.

    1993 mean scores on Privatisation: where 0=Extremely Pro and 100=Extremely Anti:
    Entire Sample 62
    National 54
    Labour 65
    Alliance 70
    NZFirst 71

    So, the point is: voters’ opinions on Rogernomics were provisional in 1987 and contingent upon economic success. Their views evolved quite radically throughout Labour’s second term – shaped by both personal experiences and perceptions of the consequences of the reforms for society as a whole. By 1990, they were judged a failure and, as one analyst put it, voters vented “their cumulative outrage against the out-going government.”

    Overall, then, the evidence goes against your assertions about 84, 90 and 93, but partially confirms your argument on 87.

    And now my work is done. This is, after all of this time, MY FINAL WORD.

  37. OK. Thanks, markus.

    “The Vowles/Aimer Survey provides convincing evidence that by 1990 a substantial popular consensus now opposed asset sales (with little partisan difference)”.

    Yep. Is still the case today. A curious anomaly in Kiwis overall acceptance of the reforms from 1984 onwards, possibly attributable to deep-seated cultural reasons.

    However, the alternative is a case of the chicken and the egg. Which came first – profound disquiet about asset sales, or loss of confidence in the sale process due to the Lange-Douglas split? You you can’t expect the public to confidently embrace rapid and profound change, when the Prime Minister and Finance Minister are at logger-heads over the details and timetable of the process.