Brian Edwards Media

I find myself wondering…

I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party whose philosophical and moral values are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition.

I’m a socialist at heart and, whatever it is, New Zealand Labour is not a socialist party. It wasn’t just Rogernomics that scotched that idea; Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, a significant influence on the Fifth Labour Government, was really just a watered down version of Douglas’s ‘trickle-down’ economics. The ‘third way’ was, by definition, a ‘middle-way’, neither one thing nor the other and ill-suited to political idealism of any stripe – a Clayton’s political philosophy.  

I read that Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, wants to move the party to that ideological no-man’s-land that is ‘the centre’. National already occupies that space but, as the distinctions between Key and Shearer lose focus – both promising to deliver ‘a brighter future’ and the Labour leader ditching policies specifically directed at putting more money into the pockets of the poor – I’ve no doubt that an accommodation can be reached between centre-right and centre-left. The centre is a wide church. 

I was brought up the only son of a solo mother in a council housing estate just outside Belfast. Technically we weren’t working class. My mother’s parents were wealthy antique dealers in Antrim. But a bad marriage left her with no money and a kid to look after in wartime  and post-war Northern Ireland. So she got a job as a shop-assistant with a Belfast optician at 19 shillings and sixpence a week before joining the Inland Revenue Department as a  Collector of Taxes in the early 1940s. She kept the job for life.

The thing about the Northern Irish working class is that they value education for their children above everything else. And, then at least, education was essentially free at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary. My mother chose to send me to a ‘state assisted’ grammar school, which my uncles and male cousins had attended, and which cost her, I think, about £10 a term. My university education was to all intents and purposes free. I’d been studying for my Ph.D. in Edinburgh for two years when I discovered I had been entitled to a married student allowance. I belatedly applied and a huge cheque duly arrived from Belfast.

These experiences informed my view that, in any enlightened and progressive society, there should be no financial barriers to getting an education to the highest level. Education should be freely available  to everyone. Health care should be freely available  to everyone. Social security should be freely available to everyone who needs it. You get the picture. I’m a socialist at heart.

I’ve done reasonably well in life. I’m not rich but, at 74, I’m what you might call ‘reasonably comfortably off’. In the process, I’ve paid a hell of a lot of tax. And I don’t mind. I’m a firm believer in progressive taxation – ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,’ as Marx  so neatly put it. You can call that Communism or Socialism or pure Christianity.  It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the core principle that the strong should support the weak. So it’s good that Labour’s new leader is at least intent on keeping a Capital Gains Tax as Labour policy. The earnings of the rich should be taxed to support the poor.

But I’m not comfortable with Mr Shearer’s reported intention to move the party ‘to the centre’. It’s a misnomer for one thing. Labour is already in the centre. It has already lost its working-class constituency. Any move ‘to the centre’ will merely be, as the share-brokers say, ‘a technical correction’, not as extreme as in ‘84 but a move to the right nonetheless.

What Labour politics now seem to be about is finding ‘sellable’ policies and a ‘sellable’ leader in order to regain power. (For National read ‘retain power’.) What Green politics seem to be about is persuading people to come across to policies not obviously or immediately founded in self-interest, but in the long-term interests of all of us and (there’s no avoiding it) of the planet. No doubt they’d like to be in government too. But it doesn’t seem to be their primary motivation.

So I find myself wondering…

 

, , , ,

99 Comments:

  1. I’ve been following a similar line of thought for the last year or so. Will see what the next couple of years bring and if things don’t change, will let my membership lapse.

  2. I’ve been thinking the exact same thing Brian, I would like politicians to have principles and Labour seems to be changing it’s principles in a flakey attempt to make itself more appealing and be more like the current government which is the last thing we need. While the Greens seem to becoming more aware of the political games they must play to gain power, they at least have principles and appear to be the only truly left leaning party left. I used to be Labour/Green…now I think I will be going Green/Green.

  3. “What matters is the core principle that the strong should support the weak.”

    Hard to argue with that, but what also seems to be starting to matter is growing questions. Should the industrious support the lazy? How can those who really need it be targeted while minimising those who work the system?

    There’s only a small percentage at the problem end but they get a lot of attention.

  4. Matt McCarten wrote an article in todays Herald that gives an insight into Labours move to recapture the center. I support his theory. The center is occupied by middle class floaters and like it or not they decide the outcome of elections.

    So Brian if you want a left leaning govt that includes the ‘socialist’ Greens who represent the ‘tribal left’ then Labour, like it or not, must recapture the ‘floaters’ in the electorate middle from National to ensure a left bloc majority in the halls of power.

    Shearer I believe will deliver. He needs to ‘regain’ power to do that.

  5. As always I am probably a little off subject. In many ways my philosophies are very close to yours Brian. I too believe that the strong should support the weak and that by and large education and health should be universally available.

    What I grapple with though and have never found a satisfactory answer to, is the phenomenon of – for want of a better word – accommodation. By which I mean the tendency of individuals to factor into their expectations the support that is available to them and thereby cancel out the benefits of that support.

    At its simplest this means that the ready availability of support will over time become of less and less value in helping people live full and productive lives.

    One approach is to ignore that consequence. However, I can’t because I think there is too much evidence that welfare can have a long-term detrimental impact on its recipients.

    The corollary is that I am almost forced to the conclusion that the full-orbed welfare state only functions properly for the one generation that remembers where it came from, as you clearly do.

    As for the Greens, what I cannot accept at all is their approach to economic development. I simply cannot accept that a proposal, for example, by Bathurst Resources to mine 200 ha of the Denniston Plateau to produce many hundreds of millions of dollars per annum in export revenue should be opposed because of what exists within that 200 ha. The trade off between the need to eat and the need to preserve is entirely in the wrong place. 200 ha after all is a very tiny piece of this country and if that is what it takes for the Coasters to eat, so be it.

    In the end I believe their approach to economic development is a middle-class indulgence that ignores the needs of the poor. In fact the two sides of their philosophy – welfare and economics are a simple contradiction.

  6. Obviously this is not a quandary I now find myself in. Though it may not be so obvious my only political career was in the precursor to the Greens, the Values Party. In that context we hosted Petra Kelly, then leader of the first green party, Die Grünen, from Germany in a visit to New Zealand. However we came to Values from the socially liberal, feminist and environmentalist wings rather than socialist. By the time the NZ Green Party arose from the ashes of the Values Party to succeed under MMP I was wary of its narrow agenda and its desire for central control to force that agenda – reversing the Values principle of maximum decentralisation and local control and initiative.

    Unfortunately, environmentalism has now become an populist ideological faith rather than a pragmatic, scientific and economic rationalism. As such all kinds of nonsense, mostly harmful, is promoted under its banner.

    Likewise, its socialists largely fail to realise they need capitalists to pay for their socialism. And they have zilch understanding of how to make capitalism work – to the point where most of them want to sabotage it as far as possible.

    To me, the most important thing in life is freedom, and that is the most important political value. Where we may agree is that freedom for all to access education and a basic quality of life is part of that freedom. I find that pursuit of that principle and goal makes allegiance to any one political party impossible and new judgments are required at every election and on every issue.

  7. Why am I not surprised that Edwards is disappointed with Labour like Trotter before him he is labour in self professed name only. For whatever reason both appear to have been disappointed in the past by the party and now seem to be doing their best to undermine the whole Labour Party.
    By all means change your party but just do it and allow the Labour Party to continue without your ‘help’. I believe both Labour and you will benefit.

    BE: I’d really decided not to respond to comments on this topic, since I’ve expressed what I want to say in the post. But really the idea that I’ve been “disappointed in the past by the party’ and am ‘doing my best to undermine’ it is so preposterous as to require an answer. ‘I was certainly disappointed by the Douglas/Lange abandonment of what I saw as core Labour values in 84/87, but then how many of us weren’t? I remember writing David’s opening TV address in ’84 which was pure Michael Joseph Savage. In November 1987 I wrote a column in the Dominion Sunday Times headed This Labour Government Does Not Speak For Me an attack on Rogernomics. Nine years later, Judy and I began advising Helen Clark, whom we greatly admired and continued to advise for 12 years. We were never disappointed in her. Most recently we supported Phil Goff in the last six months of the election campaign. It’s pretty difficult to see this as ‘doing my best to undermine the Labour Party’.

  8. @ Alan
    “I find that pursuit of that principle and goal makes allegiance to any one political party impossible and new judgments are required at every election and on every issue”.

    Bad judgment by the electorate on Key then, wouldn’t you agree? Your comments reinforce my belief that the greedy middle class floaters attracted to the ‘pork barrel issues’ are the ones that have been determining the outcome of elections in this country for far too long.

  9. Yes, I understand your wondering Brian. What baffles me is, the financial crisis/bailout was an opportunity for the “left” to re-position itself, to ditch the neo-liberalism dogma of the past 30 years and actually represent the anger of the people. But in Britain, the US and NZ, this simply did not happen. The left – Labour, the Democrats – continued on their path of advocating the “trickle down” effect (surely discredited fully by now) and continued to imitate the tory right wing. For this, they deserve to be condemned, and to remain out of power for the forseeable. Their lack of political spine has been a disgrace. The problem with the Greens of course is that they are really the alternative option for the comfortable middle class urban elite who are disillusioned with Labour. Are the Greens really proposing an alternative that addresses the inequities of crony capitalism? I don’t think so. For that, you have to look to Hone and the Mana Party. Still, extraordinary the failure of the “centre left” when you think about it.

  10. If New Zealand’s post-war history is any example, if Labour go to the left, they will become the almost-permanent party of opposition, maybe being able to cobble together a one-term government as they did in 1957 and 1972, before being swiftly thrown out for at least three terms.

    Then they won’t be able to deliver policies such as they did between 1999 and 2008 – the Employment Relations Act, Working for Families, the Super Fund, stopping the privatisation of ACC, interest-free student loans.

    But I can understand that if you are a person of left-wing principle, it is not palatable or acceptable to swallow the dead rats required to win power. Which contrasts with the more pragmatic approach that causes National to traditionally resonate with more Kiwis – if election results since 1949 are a guide.

    Either that, or Labour banks on a long-term shift in the political DNA of the electorate. Personally, I think that is unlikely, and due to their vested-interest in the matter, Labour folks are not usually that good at picking the public mood or perception.

    Which is why Helen Clark, for all her critics, was an incredible asset for Labour, and they are now struggling to fill her shoes.

  11. @ Kat & Alan Wilkinson

    I find myself in complete agreement with Kat (on why Labour needs to compete for the centre – I’ll let you have the shot at John Key without a response for a change).

    And Alan Wilkinson was involved with Values?!

    ‘Scuse me – gotta go lie down. My world is shifting on its axis!

  12. 12

    Kat, no. All the alternatives to Key were much worse for freedom, for economic management and for the ability to support the education and health of NZers.

    I don’t know why you think your beliefs are relevant or even of interest, let alone what possible relevance they have to my comment.

  13. 13

    Kimbo, my fellow Values co-leader, Jon Mayson, went on to become an extremely successful business leader as CEO of Port of Tauranga. So better have a sleep as well.

    But, yes, that shows where the Greens lost their way.

  14. “I don’t know why you think your beliefs are relevant or even of interest, let alone what possible relevance they have to my comment”.

    Alan, your ‘beliefs’ obviously went out the window along with the baby, the bathwater and the Values Party. That may not be of interest to you in the ‘floater’ camp, but it is relevant.

  15. 15

    Kat, I make my judgments on the evidence, not beliefs. My babies have grown up into well-adjusted adults, the bathwater long ago flowed under the bridge and the Values Party inevitably succumbed to FPP.

    And if all voters had your hopeless dedication to “the party” we would live in a totalitarian state where the ruling party never changed. Be careful what you wish for.

  16. Kat, would care to define this mythical greedy middle class for us? At what income level do I in your eyes become middle class? I also suppose that anyone who voted for National or Act is by your definition greedy.

    The sad reality is that the Labour Party has driven away its core constituents, some to NZF, some to the Greens, and some even to the NP. Many of these went not because they were greedy but saw a party that no longer represented their beliefs.

    There is also a school of thought that your middle class consistently bears the greatest burden. It does not enjoy the benefit of WFF and it does not get the full benefits of tax cuts. The middle class has to pay for access to healthcare (because I am defined as ‘middle class’ my local DHB regard me as capable for paying for the privilege of radiology services in the region). The middle class does not get community service cards and is generaly squeezed between the poor and those whom Mr K represents.

    In spite of this I have voted for the Labour Party, because I consider myself well off in relation to many others in this country and broadly agree with the philospophy that those with the broadest shoulders bearing the greatest burden. I can however understand those in my position who put a bit of self interest ahead of other considerations. When I look back on successive Labour Governments I see no real progress in improving the lot of those at the bottom of the heap and all the Green Party would achieve were they to get anywhere near the levers of power would be to provoke a massive flight of capital from the country.

    It is a pity Kat that socialism attracts so many like you who speak cliche ridden claptrap. It reminds of a phrase used by Victor Meldrew, “I don’t know what language you are speaking, but it sounds like bollocks to me.”

    I also wonder why Kimbo thinks HC was such an asset to the Labour Party. In the end she was its greatest liability. She was a socialist who kept her mouth shut and head down during the excesses of the Douglas era and when given the chance did little to put right the damage.

  17. Alan, that is were you have me wrong. Not unlike Kimbo, at times.

    I am not in ‘hopeless dedication’ to the party, or any party for that matter. I just know which side of the ‘line’ I stand on. I am on record years ago denouncing ‘party politics’ in this country in favour of a more community based and decentralised system of govt.

    It just so happens that in my lifetime successive National govts in NZ have blatantly compromised freedom and quality of life in the favour of some ‘privileged few’ over the majority of others.

    This is the John Key ‘aspirational’ society that I don’t like. I don’t like the cronyism. I don’t like the way a certain sector of the electorate continually subscribe to this con at the expense of ‘freedom’, ‘education’ and a ‘quality of life’ for everybody.

  18. “I have my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others.” Marx (Groucho)

  19. @ Ben
    “……….the broadest shoulders bearing the greatest burden”

    “….middle class consistently bears the greatest burden”

    “……..in improving the lot of those at the bottom of the heap”

    Take a look at yourself before you accuse me of “cliche ridden claptrap” !!

  20. @ Kat

    “Alan, that is were you have me wrong. Not unlike Kimbo, at times”.

    Given the tedious sourness with which you usually express your opnions, I’ve pretty much given up trying.

    @ Ben

    “I also wonder why Kimbo thinks HC was such an asset to the Labour Party”.

    Wasn’t saying I necessarily agreed with her and her policies (although she got some things right – and Labour usually has a better foreign policy than National).

    Instead I was referring to her capacity to do the one thing politicians seek above all others – WIN!

    Don’t shoot the messenger, Ben. I don’t make the rules – I just report them.

    And good thoughts on the middle class. But I suspect your wisdom is wasted on the one you were directly addressing.

  21. Once a upon a time the Labour party cared about Joe and Joanna 6 pack.

    I am old enough to remember those days.

    Nowadays the Labour party only cares about the boardroom table and shareholders.

    I am old enough to remember when that happened.

    The Labour party need to ponder why so many people did not bother to vote at all at the last general election.

    Doing “National party LITE” might not be a very good idea.

    The National party did a “Labour party LITE”
    plus some crap about matching Australian taxes and wages.

    Have not heard much about Australian taxes, wages or jobs lately.

    The “centre” appears to be an area occupied by deranged politicians lying to the electorate and bamboozling ignorant media employees.

  22. Also & similarly wondering. Firstly though,is William (above) also a fan of iPlayer/QuestionTime..? That quote was used, with attribution, by an SNP panelist in St. Andrews just a couple of days ago.

    Secondly, I remain exasperated that offered a choice of an immediately available nimble, keen and able Cunliffe, they opted for the much slower Shearer. So far he has failed to convince me either of a genuine passion or of the leadership drive needed. Not too hopeful either that time (and Plunkett?) will resolve his predicament.

  23. 23

    So where does that put you on the POAL situation? Len Brown hides behind legislation, Labour spouts left(ish) platitudes, while the hard working personnel of a publicly owned enterprise get ripped off to chase some right wing utopian goal where we all get to be our own employer and capital owes us nothing but the chance to “sell” or “market” our labour. Shearer ain’t got the fight in him, neither do the Greens, Cunliffe put up his dooks, but mostly the left has just pretended it doesn’t matter, or can’t do anything.

  24. @ Brian Edwards:

    Brian may I recommend the late great Tony Jundt’s last work Ill Fares The Land. As a twenty something attempting to make my way in an uncertain world I found Jundt’s take on social democracy both enlightening and invigorating (politically speaking). The New York Review of Books published an extract online:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/apr/29/ill-fares-the-land/?pagination=false

  25. Welcome to the best practice, of Green politics….Hope you enjoy the journey! & stay in good health.
    :)

  26. Ooops! Headlines made in the Herald:
    “Labour stalwart Brian Edwards says the party’s move to the political centre, which was further hinted at in new leader David Shearer’s speech last week, is driving him away from the party and into the arms of the Greens.”
    Now you are the Guru Brian.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10793025

  27. The trouble is that over the passed 30 years we have become a global society of individuals. We are encouraged to put ourselves first, being greedy is actually ok, “you deserve it” is powerful permission.

    Social justice is now a column on the spread sheet, easy to note and ignore. Local government has moved from working for the community to being in charge of the community. Corporate salary packages and corporate management systems have taken over from common sense and common good.

    As for the Greens being of the middle class, to attend a Greens conference is to rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, the skills in the party are very wide ranging and they reflect a greater slice of New Zealand”s population than any another party.

    To quote Bruce Jesson, Labour is the Party of Capitalism and National is the party of Capitalists. There is actually more to life than business.

  28. That’s interesting, Kat. You regard the concept of the broadest back bearing the broadest burden (not dissimilar to Marx’s concept) as claptrap. Improving the lot of those at the bottom of the heap does not interest you either.

    Yes the concepts are cliches but of rather more truth and value than spouting about the greedy middle class and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

    The concepts are cliches because they are frequently stated but with little intention to address the issues inherent in them. I think we know what side of the line you stand on; presumably the same side as the Chardonnay cabinet (yes, another cliche, I know).

  29. 29

    “What matters is the core principle that the strong should support the weak.”

    That is a personal view which I accept in some contexts – people supporting others within their families who need help; people supporting neighbours and friends in need; people supporting charities.

    The key point is that they offer this help voluntarily – they are not forced to do so.

    So many people who believe the strong should support the weak, also believe the strong should be FORCED to support the weak.

    When that happens, all morality, all choice, all virtue is removed from the equation. People are made to give whatever money the almighty state believes they should give, and they are told (not asked) to give. A gun is placed to their head and they are told if they want to keep living in New Zealand without having their assets seized then they had better hand over the money, and fast.

    That’s as far from charity, morality and the virtue of helping others less fortunate than yourself as I can imagine.

  30. Welcome on board Brian.
    If we just look at the In Work Tax Credit and the continued discrimination against the poorest families by Labour and National, its hard to see how one can support them.
    Shearer’s speech was so new Labour that it prompted my first ever blog.
    http://neiljamesmiller.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/the-silence-of-the-lamb/

  31. Labour face a no win situation whatever they do. If they move to the ‘centre’ they alienate the socialist voter such as yourself. If they stay where they are or go to the left they run the risk of not being in government again. They simply have to move as they are doing through political expediency. The Green model is all lovely and idealistic but impractical in the world we now live in. Everyone in the world would love to live in a beautiful unspoilt farm park, with birds tweetering and no cows farting and definitely no mining. We could all ride bicycles, grow our own GST free vegetables, and no one would be too rich or too poor. Dream on. In the 1950′s New Zealand was one of the richest countries in the world. We could afford free medical care, free education, etc, etc. No longer. We have to farm, mine, develop, educate, advance or we will die. Sure we need protection for those, who require assistance from time to time, but we also should expect, all who can, to pull their weight. If we want to provide employment in the future, we need to provide capital and incentives for business development. Instead we label successful business developers as ‘rich pricks’. A guy like Owen Glen, who donated millions to a university engineering faculty, ended up getting the cold shoulder at the building opening. Unbelievable and disgraceful as he is exactly the type of business leader we need. Entrepreneurial, smart, generous and rich. After all, there isn’t going to be much employment, if the only business in town is a bicycle repair shop.

  32. Well Ben, the side of the line I stand on does have a wine cupboard with some Pinot in it which I prefer over Chardonnay.

    As an example of the other side of the line are the assets sales this govt calls ‘partial sale’ cynically aimed at the wealthy ‘mums & dads’ to buy into while the country as a whole becomes poorer through the loss of the profitable ROI from those assets.

    Opposition to Keys ‘aspirational’ spin is not solely a socialistic attraction, it also makes plain economic sense.

  33. The NZ Labour party has lost its way and is showing no signs of finding it again. They were already well in the center now they want to nudge further over into the Nats space. Its just the politics of power. I don’t buy the “you have to be in power to change things” argument, its as important how and why you got into power, to many good values have been lost in the pursuit of political power.

    What really interest me is when people like Brian start moving over to the greens , how many more like Brian are considering this? What effect will that have on the Greens? A very good effect I think, they are pretty good operators already but with some more experience in policy and media who knows how they will develop.
    I am hopeful

  34. @ Richard McGrath

    “..people supporting others within their families who need help”

    To quote a departed sage (my mother-in-law): “One’s family is merely an extension of one’s self.”

  35. @Richard Aston
    The Greens only exist because Labour voters vote for them. As Matthew Hooten suggested on NatRad this morning…Labour’s repositioning is a good thing for the left. There is a consolidation of a left wing block taking place. Something the National/Act have lost.
    Labour didn’t lose the last election. The left did…and the right are hanging on with their fingertips.
    BTW…for a great political drama about unexpected coalition politics check out the Danish/BBC coproduction – Borgen. Great TV.

  36. Good comments Brian. Agree. Quick Cv.1960s Auck.Socialist Forum. 1971 joined NZLP. 1984 Labour Candidate. Resigned LP with Jim Anderton. Foundation member New Labour,Alliance and Progessives. 2011 voted Green. Party vote NZF. 2012 rejoined LP. Like Brian now doubting wisdom of that. Caucus too weak to back Cunliffe.Shearer great guy but not forceful or outspoken enough. I’m a socialist,NOT a social democrat. Keenly supported HC but main fault was silence during Rogernomics era. LP downhill since.

  37. “I began advising Helen Clark, whom we greatly admired and continued to advise for 12 years. We were never disappointed in her.”

    You were never disappointed in her? I was disappointed in her micro-management. But most of all I was disappointed in her disregard for social justice. Look at her comments re the Achmed Zaoui case:

    Kim Hill: Does it seem odd to you that while you’re toying, and excuse the expression, with esoteric and non-urgent ideas about a written constitution or should we have a republic, arguably and we saw this at your Labour party conference at the weekend, arguably the most important issue for a large number of your supporters is Ahmed Zaoui – who has been locked up for two years without trial or charge.
    Helen Clark: I would say to you that the most important issue by far to our supporters is the fact that this Government has presided over radically falling unemployment, that many people have jobs because the economy is growing and tax revenue has rolled in, we’re able to invest a great deal more in education and health and services to old people and families. That’s what matters to the people I represent.

    …..

    Kim Hill: Why is it that the Government didn’t accept the Refugee Status Appeal Authority’s decision that unambiguously said – this man is not a terrorist – he doesn’t present a terrorist threat – he is a genuine refugee. Do you not wake up and think ‘we have a genuine refugee locked up for two years’.

    Helen Clark: No, I don’t.

    Kim Hill: Well, why not?

    Helen Clark: I personally think that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority was cavalier, in dismissing, without taking evidence from either the French or Belgian legal systems – why they reached the decision that they did. It [the RSAA decision] relied on advice from Mr Zaoui’s side of the argument.

    Kim Hill: Have you read it?

    Helen Clark: I’m well aware of what is in it…

    Kim Hill: Have you read it?

    Helen Clark: No, no of course I haven’t.

    ….

    Kim Hill: Well you are not going to say that it is alright to put somebody in jail for ten months in solitary confinement– in jail for two years without trial or charge!

    Helen Clark: Well it is hardly Guantanamo Bay!

    Hmmmm, so because Zaoui wasn’t in Guantamo Bay, his imprisonment for 2 years – much of in in solitary – without charge was OK? I wonder what Michael Savage would make of that?

    Then there was Helen’s indifference to the plight of Peter Ellis, who I consider to be a victim of an egregious miscarriages of justice. The Clark government set up a sham of a ministerial inquiry, presumably to arrive at the conclusion it did arrive at. Ellis is continuing to fight for justice but he won’t get assistance, it seems, by anyone in the Labour Party.

  38. The last time I voted Labour was for Annette King and probably 1997.
    You lost your way, instead of improving the working environment for small business owners and increasing the opportunities for apprenticeships and trade training and home ownership.

    You chased the very very small LGBHT vote and “gender issues”.

    Then you got arrogant with it and passed law retrospectively to protect one of your own who broke the law, took away our rights to free speech in an election year, miss managed our finances by spending without a corresponding increase in GDP or even proper costings and there we go.

    We lost trust in you and didn’t vote Labour and it is as simple as that.
    Nothing you have done since has led to us thinking that you have changed.

    The middle of the ground people have floated off to National or NZF and the Greens have grown at your expense.
    That they are the Watermelons, Green on the outside and Socialist on the inside is great so why should we vote for you?

    Middle New Zealand has Mothers and Fathers and normal stuff like that, so why did you take the reference of Mums and dads out of 100 laws rather than enhance our employment opportunities and build up the social capital of ordinary New Zealand families?
    Mike Mckee

  39. Sad isn’t it Brian. A quick cv. 1971 joined LP. 1984 LP candidate. Resigned LP with Jim Anderton. Foundation member NewLabour,Alliance,Progressives.2011 voted Green.Party vote NZF. 2012 rejoined LP. Like Brian now having doubts about remaining a member. Labour caucus too weak to back Cunliffe. Shearer great guy but move to even closer to the centre big mistake. 70s debates lost by the socialists to retain Socialism in LP constitution.HC great but silent in Rogernomics era.

  40. I was actually quite pleased that Shearer was referring to the Finnish model in his speech last week. Scandanavian-style social democracy and a mixed-economy is probably about as radical as I’m prepared to be.

  41. The problem I have with what Brian and people like Kat claim, about supporting those in need – is that its all smoke and mirrors, and simply a way of controlling people ensuring that your party gets the most votes. Its cynical, and is not working – but it makes them feel like they are changing the world simply by ticking Labour/Greens on election day.

    The fact that over 50% of families in NZ are on WFF, which is a hugely inefficient way of rebating tax is a prime example of this. These families don’t need WFF, they need lower tax rates and incentives to be improving themselves – not financial incentives for having extra children that they can’t afford.

    While on the outside Labour and the Greens come across as being socially compassionate and caring, the way they implement these policies is dirty, cynical and morally reprehensive.

  42. @Richard Aston
    “What really interest me is when people like Brian start moving over to the greens , how many more like Brian are considering this? What effect will that have on the Greens? A very good effect I think, they are pretty good operators already but with some more experience in policy and media who knows how they will develop.”

    This is a very good point. The Greens charter and party structure make them uniquely responsive to their membership. Policy is formed through a democratic consensus based process and the party list is selected by the membership. More than any other party they reflect the collective aspirations of their members. As their membership grows and changes so will their political influence and positioning. The solid set of values and democratic mechanisms bode well for the future of the Greens in NZ.

  43. I think some folks may be over-looking something; this is an MMP environment, not FPP.

    As such, we, the Voter, have a “menu” to choose from. Especially for those on the Left.

    (The Right Wing seems not to have fragmented as much as the Left. Curiously, they understand the need for collective political action btter than the Left. Though at the same time, Right Wing principles are fairly simplistic, so it’s easier to have one, united party.)

    So with MMP, the opportunity arises for a Leftist or Centre-Leftist to pick a Party on a sliding scale, to vote for.

    A social liberal or centre-leftist might vote Labour.

    A centre-leftist or socialist might vote Green.

    A socialist or marxist might vote Mana.

    The final mix determines how leftist the resulting coalition will be. (NZ First is a wild card I haven’t touched on. They usually win the nationalist/right wing or “grumpy” vote.)

    Interestingly, as I get older, I’ve moved from Labour to the Greens, as Brian is considering. At the next election, I’m tempted to support Mana.

    Sometimes though, I wonder if I’ve changed, or has New Zealand has shifted underneath my feet?

    Reponse to Alan Wilkinson; “Likewise, its socialists largely fail to realise they need capitalists to pay for their socialism.”

    Really? Funny how it was the State that built almost every aspect of our infra-structure; educated the citizenry free of charge; had free healthcare at one stage; built roads, dams, telecommunications, hospitals, schools, etc. All built by that dastardly socialist government that also gave children free milk from 1937 to 1961.

    As for “And they have zilch understanding of how to make capitalism work – to the point where most of them want to sabotage it as far as possible.” – our Chinese cuzzies might have a word to say to you about that. – http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/karl-marx-high-revs-in-his-grave/

    In fact, recently, China admonished the US for their destructive government debt ($13+ trillion and rising). http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/naughty-americans-told-off/

    And just remind us Alan; how many socialists were on the boards of Lehman Bros, AIG, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, when they brought the world economy to the brink of collapse?

  44. 44

    Ditto Brian. I joined the NZLP when Bill Rowling became Prime Minister, and have always voted Labour. Except last election, when I voted Mana, and would have like to have voted Green as well. I am more and more impressed by Russel Norman and Metiria Turei, I feel in tune with them, and have a lot of time for Hone too, he’s a battler.

  45. I actually think it is a wise move by the plotters in the labour party organisation to take the centre ground. MMP created 3 new left wing parties whose supporters had historically supported labour. On the right only Act drew far right thinkers away from the national party. As long as the National government continues to run the country as a business with scant regard for social policies, eventually the centre ground voters will see through this right wing government in centre sheeps clothing. I understand that polling is already showing a move to the left during the second term of this government. What labour has to do is build solid policy to attract centre voters such as equality of educational opportunity for all young New Zealanders and access to good health care.

  46. What took you so long, Brian? I’d attach more importance to your new wobbliness if you’d found the courage to voice it during the last three years of the Clark fiefdom. Now, anything you say can have no effect. Like Chris Trotter’s post-election rants (two elections ago) : too little, too late.

  47. I feel the same as you Brian. For the past 2 elections I have swung between the Greens and Labour. I was drawn back to Labour last election by Phil Goff. I really wanted him to win. But now that Shearer is fronting, I’m wondering what it is that Labour stands for. I really hope that Labour says something that makes me go “Yes!” soon, otherwise I will be cancelling my membership. I want to like Shearer, but at the moment I’m struggling.

    Strangely, according to Political Compass, a move to the centre would in fact be a move to the left for Labour. They are already a centre-right party: http://www.politicalcompass.org/nz2011

  48. 48

    Frank, I know I’m wasting my breath with you but all the good things you claim socialist governments did were actually funded by the tax and profits gathered from free enterprise – mostly farmers.

    Ironically the Chinese government does understand the value of free enterprise, no doubt because of its very recent experience with the alternative. Our Greens have had no such invaluable education. They think Government funding grows on trees.

    And finally, the essence of free enterprise capitalism is that poor businesses are allowed to fail. Don’t blame capitalism for socialists governments which didn’t allow that to happen.

  49. 49

    Kat: “I am on record years ago denouncing ‘party politics’ in this country in favour of a more community based and decentralised system of govt.”

    Then you (and I) have no party to vote for in NZ.

  50. Alan, here I was believing that Julius Vogel the original ‘socialist’ had nothing to do with borrowing the equivalent of $6B in todays money to build the railways and open up the townships and provide the settler farmers to flourish.

    The leftist thinkers and doers will always be the change merchants of significance. The political right are bereft of original ideas and can at best only manage. The current particular lot are managing poorly.

    Probably why Brian, Chris Trotter and other thinkers are so frustrated by the current stultifying political climate. Shearer certainly has his mountain to climb.

  51. 51

    Kat, big Julie borrowed on the basis the capitalists would pay in the future – as I said. And he wasn’t planning on giving the money to his unproductive friends but building infrastructure for productive people. Sounds exactly like this Government doesn’t it?

  52. @Old Tony: “As for the Greens, what I cannot accept at all is their approach to economic development. I simply cannot accept that a proposal, for example, by Bathurst Resources to mine 200 ha of the Denniston Plateau to produce many hundreds of millions of dollars per annum in export revenue should be opposed because of what exists within that 200 ha. The trade off between the need to eat and the need to preserve is entirely in the wrong place. 200 ha after all is a very tiny piece of this country and if that is what it takes for the Coasters to eat, so be it.”

    Having just visited Denniston Plateau this caught my eye. I’d like to ask how much of this export revenue will buy food for the Coasters to eat and how much of it will line the pockets, bank balances and stockholdings of the already-eating-very-well-thank you portion of the population. Because I really doubt if this decision is a simple trade-off between the need to eat and the need to preserve.

  53. 53

    Jennifer Tooseman

    I agree with you Brian, and the same kind of thoughts seem to be troubling Robert Winter too. If stalwart Labour party supporters like both of you and no doubt many, many others, are so troubled with Labour’s apparent new direction, then I fail to see how they can regain power! Who will want to campaign, leaflet drop etc. How many party members can they afford to lose? I can’t understand why they want to fight National for the centre votes, when they could be out there trying to regain the votes of the million people who didn’t vote. I would have thought there were richer pickings to be had there. But then of course, that might actually require them to do something new and think outside the box. Cunliffe would have achieved that, but Shearer? – no hopes of that with him and his “advisers”! Sad, really, it seems that Labour mps are only concerned with personal job security and their own personal ambitions!

  54. left, right …
    bit of a march really – left, right. left, right..
    they’ve both had their triumphs and disasters, depending on the terrain.
    for example – the labour government impressively and thankfully legislated education for all to the age of 15- an absolute major- (1935?.. or there abouts) but then it set off following an economic model for education in the 1980′s – new left terrible.
    within labour itself there is the left, right march.
    being in the labour party does not necessarily signify a left perspective nor has it done for some time.

  55. Alan, the only people this govt is making pay are the middle to low incomes, the poor, the sick and the destitute. The only expansion this govt is involved with is increasing the numbers of the aforementioned.

  56. 56

    Kat, that’s just silly. Most of the money to fund the Government comes from a small proportion of taxpayers. You have your head deep, deep in the sand.

  57. Alan, and that tax take from those taxpayers you mention is shrinking, tax cuts, unemployment, migration. Hence asset sales, centralisation and other straw grasping nonsense from this govt.

    ‘Head in the sand’, thats not one of those cliche ridden claptrap thing a-me wot-its is it?

  58. The centre is a good place to occupy if all you care about is winning the next election; building and sustaining your base in the long term requires standing up for your values and actively attempting to persuade voters to your worldview. In the long term this is critical to the health of both the party and the country, but in the world of the 24-second news cycle it’s been put into the too-hard basket. A shame.

  59. Hear,hear Brian,my 74year old father,and my 50year old self have been saying exactly this for quite a while.Having voted Labour all our working lives,we couldn’t bring ourselves to do the same last elections,the Greens got our vote,and my wife’s I might add.To our dismay we are being pushed further away from The Labour Party every day,from the leadership challenge,to the pathetic response to the wharfie issue they are constantly letting us down.The LP needs to understand one thing,The mainstream media are Not their friends(including RNZ these days)they need to get their message across in an entirely different way,the Nats will screw the floaters over in their own time.Good job,you get the govt you deserve.Regards.

  60. kat- you’re dreaming.
    my mother darns her and, until latey, dad’s underwear (truly). they have scrimped and saved all their lives and our lives. she has some money in the bank cos they have been afraid to spend and because its been so ingrained it became their culture.dad had worked in physical jobs and largely for wages since 15. dad sadly passed away last month (83 years old)but prior to that, he was put in a home when mum keeled over lifting him and became crippled with back pain – and had to accept our persuasion that dad had to go into a home. she was at his side at least 3 hours a day with him in there, feeding him and sitting with him.

    oh, you have savings lady. $800.00 a week to pay, thankyou.

    if you have a house you pay rates.
    if you do spend lots (not mum) you pay lots of gst.
    if you have property you pay environment rates.
    if you have a job you pay taxes.
    if you have a government decided “decent joint income” you pay full costs for child care, the doctor, medicines.
    if you pay for personal and family health insurance you are contributing to non- insured people’s time in hospital insurance (choice i guess).
    if you pay your rent on time – or if you decide to fulfill your rental agreement and actually pay your rent at all – you do not get a monetary reprieve from winz who’ll give you the money and work out another drip feed to the public service.
    if you pay your children’s school fees you help provide for those that may not be able to.
    if you pay your sport’s fees, take your car to all the team’s games for your child and provide after game food you help provide for others who do not/cannot.
    if you both have decent income as decided by study link you do not get living expenses paid for your son/daughter at university.(joint income $60,000 -from memory).

    so, kat, i’m not sure what you mean by earners flitting about unburdened.i don’t state these exaples begrudgingly as you may well accuse. i just think you should appreciate the range of ways a range of people. contribute to the welfare of others through government force and a sense of community.
    oh – and then i repeat -there’s tax to save to pay and gst that businesses also pay.

    i said to mum – geez, you should have gone back to visit family overseas through your lives and had some smart clothes. you should have spent your nest egg and then dad’s care would have been paid or at least subsidised.

  61. @ Daniel Webster

    “The centre is a good place to occupy if all you care about is winning the next election; building and sustaining your base in the long term requires standing up for your values and actively attempting to persuade voters to your worldview. In the long term this is critical to the health of both the party and the country, but in the world of the 24-second news cycle it’s been put into the too-hard basket. A shame”.

    You are welcome to call me cynical, but I suspect most people (and I’ve done it myself) take the high-road of values and the need for persuasion/educating the electorate when their opinions are not currently shared by those in power.

    But if by chance the government of the day does decide to lead in spite of majority public opinion (e.g., Norman Kirk breaking his election promise and cancelling the 1973 Springbok tour, John Key and partial asset sales), then you get complaints about the lack of a democratic mandate to make those decisions.

    At least if you govern from the centre the final onus is always on the electorate. And they/we, not the politicians are ultimately responsible.

  62. It’s worth noting that in America and Britain, they still cling to the 2-party system.

    The Alliance would be the natural home of those who are to the left of Labour, too “smokestack left” for the Greens, and too heartland-ish for Mana – were it not for the fact they’re a spent force without Jim Anderton. And is there any room for a socially liberal centrist Lib-Dems style party in NZ? United Future is more like Euro-style Christian democrat, and NZF is a bit like the ‘old Right’ a la Pat Buchanan.

    Any moves by Shearer’s Labour to capture the centre ground is inherently a double-edged sword. There’s always the risk of selling out core supporters, but then again there’s little risk of spoiler votes in MMP.

    On macro-economic policy, Finland isn’t an exact match for NZ – I don’t think there even is one – but it matches better than the other alternatives we’ve been lectured about. The Celtic Tiger was pointed to as a model to emulate – until it landed flat on its face. Singapore, apart from being a major cargo/passenger hub, has also been an illiberal democracy from day 1 – although recent political gains by its opposition parties are starting to change that. And those who whinge about ‘nanny statism’ probably haven’t heard of Lee Kuan Yew’s immortal words: “If Singapore is a nanny state, then I’m proud to have fostered one.”

    Alan W: classical liberalism doesn’t hold a monopoly on capitalism. China’s model is more akin to the seemingly contradictory ‘market socialism’, and Germany’s post-WW2 mixed economy has served it well, despite having to bail out East Germany, and apparently right now Greece. What we have in NZ right now is more of a white shoe brigade system.

    Ben: For a fun, quick run-down of middle class squeeze, you can’t go further than Robert Reich’s The Truth About the Economy. He describes the US, but it applies to the entire Anglosphere.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTzMqm2TwgE

    (Disclosure of interest: long-time Labour voter, went Green in 2011 for the primary purpose of keeping the Big Red honest.)

  63. Brian – its very simple – labour has lost its way. Its had some great ideas 60 or 80 years ago. Those ideas have been modified to try and keep the party in power – and those changes have corrupted the whole concept of what those original ideas stood for.
    Just like National – labour will become a marshmellow slob as it goes for the middle ground and as we have seen in some many overseas systems it all turns to shit as they will do anything to get into power.
    The only thing that stops them coming right is the belief within the party that they are right and the electorate is wrong (similar to the Anglican church as they lurch around trying to find themslves in the supreme belief that all the trouble isnt from within…)
    Although the greens might turn out to be the ideological branch of labour in the short term – the fact that the greens are disconnected from commercial reality will be a millstone around labours neck. Im not sure sure whaich is the worst of the options: going for the middle ground or going for the greens.
    In recent decades labours misunderstanding of the commercial realities has been a major factor in their slow decline.

  64. @bje
    “i’m not sure what you mean by earners flitting about unburdened”

    Neither do I. But I do know that the current govts tax policies adversely affect people in the middle to low incomes.

  65. @ Kat

    ““i’m not sure what you mean by earners flitting about unburdened”

    Neither do I. But I do know that the current govts tax policies adversely affect people in the middle to low incomes.”

    Which may, or may not be an adjustment on a previous imbalance weighted heavily against higher income eraners, which may still well exist even once the present Government’s policies have been enacted! Which was Alan Wilkinson’s point.

    So maybe, just maybe, Kat, there is a case for you doing some homework before you come out all-guns-blazing with the class warfare, when ultimately you haven’t taken the time to arm yourself with all the relevant facts.

    Just a suggestion, because given your stridency and tendency to play the man and not the ball, “I’m not sure…neither do I” ain’t a particularly good look or compelling argument for rational people.

    Regardless, carry on as you wish…

  66. 66

    DeepRed: “classical liberalism doesn’t hold a monopoly on capitalism”

    Quite true. So freedom requires much more than capitalism which is just a subset. That is why classical liberalism is about both social and economic freedom.

  67. Brian

    Thank you for a thoughtful post and thanks also to many of those who have commented. This is one of the most stimulating threads I’ve read about NZ politics in some years. It suggests we live in a time of trouble, doubt and an awareness of the need for alternatives.

    Brian, I too grew up in the UK in the decades following World War Two, albeit in the leafy home counties and not in Northern Ireland.

    Like you, I believe implicitly in free education, free healthcare, progressive taxation etc. But I’ve never considered myself a Socialist, as I don’t believe in the social ownership of the means of production and distribution nor in political narratives based on the concept of eternal class conflict.

    And so I prefer the term Social Democrat. My top-of-mind political hero, by the way, is Willi Brandt.

    I also, however, believe that the government has a role to play in counter-cyclical economic stimulus and in fostering the real economy, as opposed to merely the financial sector.

    This broadly Keynesian approach is also, of course, part of the long-established Social Democratic armoury and, in the past, tended to ensure that a nation’s economy could continue to deliver the social policies that we both support.

    Like you, moreover, I find myself at least as much aligned with Green social policies as with those of Labour. But, here’s the rub: I’m not sure that Green policies are similarly focused on creating the economic base required for a functioning Social Democracy.

    That’s not to say that I disagree with the Greens over their environmental concerns. It’s just that they put the emphasis in a different place to me. Moreover, I can’t escape the feeling that some of them just don’t like economic growth in principle.

    In recent years, I’ve noted that David Cunliffe was an outstandingly able exponent of the Keynesian/Social Democratic approach to the economy (the first Labour’s had in many years)and was amazed when his party turned elsewhere, to a man with few obvious political skills and no clear policies.

    So for whom would I vote if an election took place tomorrow? I really don’t know.

  68. @ Kimbo
    “At least if you govern from the centre the final onus is always on the electorate. And they/we, not the politicians are ultimately responsible”

    Finally after all your negative rhetoric toward me and accusations of holding the electorate in contempt, class warfare and ‘playing the man, not the ball’ (cliche ridden claptrap?!) here you are reiterating what I have been saying all along.

    So Kimbo, I would be interested to know, in your view, what people typically make up the political ‘centre’?

  69. @ Kat (and markus)

    “So Kimbo, I would be interested to know, in your view, what people typically make up the political ‘centre’?”

    I know I will probably live to regret dialoguing with you, but I seem to remember from my cursory knowledge of politics that Richard Nixon was the first to target “the middle ground”. by pitching his message and policies to an archetypal white middle aged women living in Ohio worried about crime because of her policeman husband, and family income issues paying the mortgage, what the local school where her kids went to was like, etc.

    Applying that to NZ, I seem to recall the Eden seat, smack bang in the middle of the Auckland Labour/National divide used to be the classic weather vane electorate under FPP.

    Seems a good place to start. Middle ground voter has a mortgage, or is looking to own a house, is employed, and is willing to see the government help the “deserving poor and unfortunate” (I’m making no judgement here on whether that belief is right or wrong – just reporting what I suspect middle voter believes regarding the matter. Likes “fairness” (is almost the NZ motto). Worries about crime. Is essentially pragmatic (also a NZ trait), so suspicious of “experts”, “academics”, and ideologues of any political persuasion. Will sometimes allow “sexy” issues like Springbok rugby tours, nuclear-free, and anti-GM to sway them, but economic well-being is the crucial factor.

    Now look at who has been winning elections from 1949 onwards. Even Kirk in 1972, Lange in 1984, and Clark in 1999 onwards pitched there.

    But just my opinion. What does resident political studies expert, markus, (who I haven’t seen around for a few weeks) say? He always brings good insight, expertise, and hard data.

  70. It really comes down to a true Christian spirit.Its lacking in todays society.Labour once ran with it, but for me that mantle has been passed over to the Greens.I worry that with the continuing redistibution of wealth from the poor to the rich,that a bloody revolution will be the result.
    An example of the Right”s rhetoric regarding Left
    From an accountants newsletter-
    “An economics proffessor at a United States college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before,but had recently failed an entire class.That class had insisted that Obamas socialism had worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich a great equilizer.
    The Proffessor then said “OK ,we will have an experiment in this class on Obamas plan”.All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive an A (substituting grades for dollars -something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
    After the first test,the grades were averagedand everyone got a B.The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.As the second test rolled around ,the students had studied little had studied less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.The second test was a D . No one was happy.
    When the 3rd test rolled around,the average was an F .
    As the tests proceeded,the scores never increased as bickering,blame and name calling all resulted in hard feelingsand no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.To their great surprise all failed and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great the effort to suceed is great,but when the government takes all the reward awayno one will try or want to suceed.
    It could not be any simpler than that.
    These are possibly the 5 best sentences youll ever read and all applicable to this experiment.
    You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
    What one person receives withpout working for ,another person must receive without working.The Government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from someone else.You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them.and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to workbecause somebody else is going to get what they work for ,that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”
    I do not agree with this and find it to be devisive and counter productive.

  71. Kat are these people in middle incomes to whom you refer the same as the greedy middle class?

  72. Ben, no, middle income does not necessarily denote middle class. Middle class is a societal hierarchy and the other is an economic hierarchy.

  73. 73

    Excellent, Kat: “Middle class is a societal hierarchy and the other is an economic hierarchy”.

    Now can you please place Helen Clark and Brian Edwards in their respective slots in your two hierarchies so that we will know what to think about them from a proper Lefty perspective?

  74. Trevor, the simple answer is jobs. If Bathurst mines then Coasters work and as a consequence eat. So too do the staff of the many other businesses which support such an operation. The company although presently Australian is relocating to NZ. Tax will be paid here and I presume also royalties. Finally shareholders will get their dividends. Would be great to see the money go round…

  75. in reference to my last post.my gripe is that i am forced, through my payment of tax, to enable public acts that do not add up to healthy social sustainability.
    my taxes do not reward hard work, honesty, saving, forward planning, perseverence, collaboration within family or community- all things good for people , families, community.
    people are often penalised for that which is good for society.
    those attempting to live virtuously in regards to sustainability for a strong society have penalised for it by present and successive governments.
    labour or national? – it remains the same.

  76. Back to school, pjr

    In the final analysis, all wealth is a social creation. None of us, other than storm-tossed survivors on a desert island, could ever put more back into society than we take out of it. Nor can any one generation put in more than it takes out.

    Obviously, some put in more than others and, sometimes, those that do so are comparatively wealthy. But sometimes, as in the case of most ambulance drivers, they are not wealthy at all.

    The process is neither inherently rational nor inherently fair. Nor is there any reason to expect it to be, as (guess what?) Santa Claus does not exist.

    And so the state has the responsibility to conduct such mildly redistributive policies as are compatible with continued economic growth and the preservation of civic freedom.

    None of this constitutes Socialism. You might actually argue that it’s a form of Burkeian conservatism, as applied to contemporary society.

  77. @ Alan
    “Now can you please place Helen Clark and Brian Edwards in their respective slots in your two hierarchies so that we will know what to think about them from a proper Lefty perspective?”

    Alan, your comment/question is just begging the question or fallacious at best. From a proper lefty perspective that is.

  78. 78

    Kat, I’m sorry to see the Left’s class analysis dissolve into nothingness so fast. I was so looking forward to its rigorous application.

  79. Alan, as Brian said in his post the centre is a wide church. I am happy to participate in a general discussion on the make up of the centre but have no intention of providing you with some cheap fun pigeon-holing the host of this blog or the former PM.

  80. @ Kat

    Kat, at the expense of provoking yet another complaint that I am launching an ad hominem attack against you, I note that you’ve given two responses to Alan W’s question: -

    “Now can you please place Helen Clark and Brian Edwards in their respective slots in your two hierarchies so that we will know what to think about them from a proper Lefty perspective?”

    …but have failed to answer it directly either time. Instead, you’ve continued to make assertions, sprinkled with phrases such as, “begging the question”, “fallacious” “cheap fun”, and pious side-steps such as “I…have no intention of…pigeon-holing the host of this blog or the former PM” – when you were the one who initiated the pigeon-holing in the first place!

    Post whatever you like, and interpret this as a personal attack if you will, but I personally consider it as standard blog etiquette that when you make an assertion, and your bluff is called – you front with some facts.

    This is not a personal attack against you, Kat – just an attempt to try and maintain some dialogue standards. Yes, we’ve traded barbs, some of them cheap at times – but come on! Is that honestly all you’ve got?!

  81. @ Kimbo

    Not wanting you to live to regret dialoguing with me and in the interests of your ‘standard blog etiquette’ perhaps someone else who cares to read the posts up to this point can give their learned opinion on: a)Exactly what, according to you, ‘assertions’ I am supposed to of made.
    b)What ‘bluff’ has been called.

  82. @ Kimbo.

    Thanks Kimbo. I’ve been a bit short of time over recent weeks. I’ll just comment on your (following) point (while at the same time listening to Bob Dylan’s original 1973 version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ on youtube):

    “If New Zealand’s post-war history is any example…..Labour…will become the almost-permanent party of opposition…..the more pragmatic approach that causes National to traditionally resonate with more Kiwis – if election results since 1949 are a guide.”

    That’s a very popular argument, Kimbo, (Colin James repeated it just 5 weeks ago) – popular with historians and political scientists – but I’ve long had my doubts. For one thing, the argument always focuses on the post-war period – thus conveniently excluding the First Labour Government’s cycle of 3 or 4 consecutive Election victories. For another, it wrong-headedly focuses on who won the most seats when of course it’s the popular vote that tells you who resonates most with the average Kiwi (if such a beast exists).

    If, for example, you consider who won the vote (rather than most seats) in Elections since, say, the Great Depression, you get the following:

    Labour/Left: 1935, 1938, 1943, 1946, 1957, 1972, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1993 (Labour+Alliance=53%+Peters=62%), 1999, 2002, 2005.

    = 14 Elections.

    National/Right: 1949, 1951, 1954, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1969, 1975, 1990, 1996, 2008, 2011.

    = 12 Elections.

    In fact, even if you take the post-war period, it’s still only 12 National/Right, 11 Labour/Left.

    Although personally I’d probably take 1954, 1969, 1978 and 1981 out of the equation and label them essentially dead-heats (given that less than 1 % separated the two major parties). So, 12/10 or 10/9 and 4 Too-Close-To-Calls.

  83. As Burke wrote “when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”[

  84. I,too experienced a similar education system to BE’s. It worked very well until the 1960′s when people got more affluent and expectations increased. Then, schools stated charging for exercise books and some text books which were previously free to the user. Sports got more expensive and school trips more elaborate and further afield. Parents who had done reasonably well decided that for status, private schools were the thing. Successive governments financially supported private schools thus diluting the money available for state schools. The situation now is that to get an education parents pay fees no matter where the school is. Obviously, state schools in affluent areas can call on higher fees than schools in poorer areas.
    Perhaps BE and I were at school in more enlightened times. I regretfully agree with a previous commentator that such a system can only last for one generation.

  85. 85

    Kev, I don’t know where you went to school but I started at a NZ state high school in 1958 and then we certainly paid for all our books, uniforms and school camps and had done so from primary school.

    I think the big change came in tertiary education as participation rates increased and were funded via student loans.

  86. @ markus

    As always, you stimulate good discussion.

    Umm. Not sure if I agree on you analysis on 1987 (as we’ve discussed before, was a strange election endorsing Rogernomics, which, after all the dust settled, is properly on the right wing end of the spectrum), and also 1993 and 2005 (despite who formed the government) courtesy of the Winston First vote. Hey – if you are (rightly) going to claim the popular vote for the left in 1978 and 1981 then it works both ways!

    Whatever you may think of him, Peters a populist centrist, and the inheritor of the Rob’s Mob mantle. Economically interventionist, but at odds with the rest of the left wing on social, moral, and foreign affairs issues.

    Also, I’m not sure it is arbitrary to focus on the post-war period to the exclusion of the first Labour government. The almost unbroken National reign from 1949-72 was actually a back-handed compliment to Savage and Fraser, as they essentially maintained the paradigm that was adopted in the 1935 watershed. As I understand NZ politics, that was the second of the big three “eras” – the others being the Liberals in 1891, and the third 1984 and Rogernomics. As even the host of this blog site seems to be lamenting, Roger’s reforms still hold sway in one form or another, even over the main left-wing opposition party.

    @ Kat

    You left it for others to answer, but as they are probably sensible enough to pass by on the other side, allow me to fill in the blanks: -

    Question:

    “a)Exactly what, according to you, ‘assertions’ I am supposed to of made?”

    Answer:

    “Ben, no, middle income does not necessarily denote middle class. Middle class is a societal hierarchy and the other is an economic hierarchy”.

    Question:

    “b)What ‘bluff’ has been called?”

    Answer:

    “Excellent, Kat: “Middle class is a societal hierarchy and the other is an economic hierarchy”.

    Now can you please place Helen Clark and Brian Edwards in their respective slots in your two hierarchies so that we will know what to think about them from a proper Lefty perspective?”

  87. Kat, while you are answering all these questions I really would like to know who these greedy middle classes are and how one qualifies for this title.

    I suspect in your hierarchical world (I thought I had left all this garbage behind when I moved from the UK) BE is middle class. Are Gareth and Sam Morgan middle class? Do you consider all of them greedy?

    I object to labels being attached to groups, be they lefties/righties/middle class/working class. Those who have money and do not share your political philosophy are not necessarily greedy.

  88. @ Kimbo

    1993 = definitely a win for the Left in terms of the popular vote (Labour + Alliance = 53%). Moore had clearly distanced the Party from Rogernomics (at least in terms of campaign rhetoric) over the previous 3 years.

    2005 = call me sentimental but I might be prepared to meet you half-way and add it to my Too-Close-To-Calls (though I’m still inclined to say a Left win – Left = 46% / Right = 44% / Unaligned (Peters/Maori) = 8%).

  89. @ markus

    Thanks on 1993 – yes, had forgotten that the Alliance split the vote on the left, which was fatal in the days of FPP. Now it is arguably in Labour and the Greens longer-term interests.

    Hey – while I’m picking your brains – where on the political spectrum do you think Socred from 1954 to, say 1987 (when I think they lost all their seats, and they ceased to be a vote-splitting entity that influened election outcomes) fitted?

  90. totally agree ben. drafting and yarding people is divisive, inaccurate, rabble-rousing and counter productive. but, hey, divide and rule.
    people who do this grouping exercise are like lieutenants to their rulers, herding people for politically tactical reasons. (misguided, ignorant and/or arrogant).
    these manipulative strategies are snapped up by the media to feed their stouch-searching news entertainment machine.
    finding common ground and developing any shared social policy vision actually has a better chance of facilitating positive social change for times ahead.
    but,,, hey, the media deserve better than the scraps that that may create, don’t they? nothing like a war zone, boys.

  91. @ Ben

    Well I could play Kimbo’s cute game and say “Don’t shoot the messenger, Ben. I don’t make the rules – I just report them”.

    If it wasn’t for the ‘label’ how would you know the Marmite group from the vegemite group?

  92. @ Kat

    “If it wasn’t for the ‘label’ how would you know the Marmite group from the vegemite group?”

    No, no, Kat. Ben, pjr, Alan Wilkinson and I all understand your desire very well. You want to assign labels, and it would appear it is a curious an arbitrary mix based on personal income levels, divided by adherence to a particular brand of left-wing orthodoxy of which you are the self-appointed arbiter. We’ve all seen the “Life of Brian”.

    We’ll get around picking your analysis to pieces in good time, just as soon as you stop faffing around playing the shell game, accusing others of, “cute games”.

    In the mean time, we just want to know what the difference is that causes you to assign the following labels,

    “Middle class is a societal hierarchy and (middle income) is an economic hierarchy” to one group as follows: -

    “Your comments reinforce my belief that the greedy middle class floaters attracted to the ‘pork barrel issues’ are the ones that have been determining the outcome of elections in this country for far too long.”)…

    but not it would seem another…

    “Now can you please place Helen Clark and Brian Edwards in their respective slots in your two hierarchies so that we will know what to think about them from a proper Lefty perspective?”.

    Unless we should just stop wasting time, assign the label “busted flush” over any of your class-analysis, and denote you as a fully paid up member of the People’s Front of Judaea (splitters!!).

    Ah, why bother? Your wriggling around dodging an issue you raised pretty much settles the issue.

    JC: Saved you from yourself, Kimbo.

  93. “JC: Saved you from yourself, Kimbo”.

    Yes, now and then I catch myself before the OCD kicks in. Not often enough! :)

  94. first of all thanks for the chance to comment,
    look guys in case ya haven’t heard politicians all politics are puppets run by corporations it maters not witch of the party’s are elected from the selection given! A SHORT INVESTIGATION OF THIS FACT SHOW IT TO BE TRUE!!
    http://www.davidicke.com/
    here is a good starting point to the rabbit hole but you must leave all ya previous programming at the door and open your eyes
    wake up my brothers and sisters
    love you all!

  95. Good evening Brian,
    I watched TV news last night and veiwed the antics of university students who were occupying the roofs of houses and flats, one whose roof collapsed with the weight of irresponsible party goers. And these are supposed to be the intellegentsia of this age. I for one, am not impressed.
    I also watched parliamentary debate, nasty brats in swanky togs, outshouting and cat calling during a members presentation, exibiting all manner of infantile behavior and cretinish mannerisms, most of whom were members previous of that university fraternity, all brains and intellect, but not an ounce of good old fashioned courtesy and common sense.
    Grosely overpaid louts and boors, who do not perform nor produce to the level required by the salaries and gratuities that they pocket.
    The New Zealand gene pool has become corrupted beyond repair, New Zealand politicians are the definitive proof of my assertation.
    So in the end sir, it is immaterial as to which party you support or feel affinity to, they are staffed with rampant genetic failures.
    Let us all stop the nonsense of engaging in clever intellectualised debate amongst ourselves, and admit…New Zealand has become the harbour of political failures.
    Of course, there are notable exceptions…I’ll leave it to you to determine who I’m refering to.
    “Point of order Mr Speaker”

  96. 96

    I would just like to remind us all of the awesomeness of Dr Brian Edwards. If anyone else has resolved a labour dispute on telly, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.

    http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/gallery—post-office-go-slow-1970

  97. Just curious Brian (after a bit of time has now elapsed), this issue garnered nationwide media attention (National Radio, NZ Herald, this blog ;) ).

    Has anyone from the Labour Party been in touch and asked for your views & reasons for your disillusion with Labour? If so, and assuming you gave them chapter and verse, how did Labour respond?

    I only ask because Labour seem to ignore every one of their former supporters who walk away. Their attitude seems to be expressed by Darien Fenton MP, who so eruditely put it, ‘why’ bother with ex-Labour supporters (in that case, Peter Leitch)…