The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

At least

It seems to me, as a NZ leftie, that really there aren't a lot of choices for me at the moment. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there aren't a lot of options I like, politically.

On the right hand I have National, Act, and the general Forces of Darkness who throng around concepts I find anathema. Ideas like low (or no) taxation, privatising state services, selling assets, cutting benefits, and generally advantaging the rich (and priviledged) over all others.

The left palm displays the Labour-led Government, which doesn't exactly set my leftie heart aflame with passion for their policies, or even their principles, but is better than National.

And that seems to be all there is. As far as Government leadership goes there's only National or Marginally Better Than National.

On international relations, I can wicker all I want about Helen Clark's senseless lunch attempt to get a free trade deal with George W* whilst delicately not mentioning the USA's human rights abuses. But I know that John Key and his ilk would probably lick the POTUSA's boots clean after the soup and enthusiastically ask him where he got all those fab ideas for dealing with prisoners by the time the entree was on the table. At least Clark didn't commit us to a stupid war in Iraq.**

On education, I can express my extreme frustration with Labour's approaches to tertiary, secondary, primary and early childhood, but at least I know they are not going to set up direct competition between state schools and encourage the profit motive ahead of all else. There is still a pretence (and possibly in some of the Labour caucus a genuine belief) that education shouldn't be about making money. Unlike another party I could name. At least Labour has significantly increased funding in this Vote and brought special education and kindergarten back into the state sector.

On health, I could vent my spleen about the way Labour-led administrations rely heavily on
the goodwill of those working in the system, but I know they won't gut the public provision of healthcare like National would. And they have given the nurses pay parity, which is A Good Thing, and one that National would certainly not have done.


On the parlous state of our police force, in particular it's attitude to women, the Labour-led government certainly hasn't been as fulsome in its condemnation as I would like, but at least Clark has actually said some critical things. What's the National view on the police? Judging by their membership in the blogosphere the general view in that party might be that this was all about a few rotten eggs and not systematic at all, no siree.

I could go on and on with examples, but you get the drift.***

What this situation means is that Clark and co can rest on their laurels to a certain extent. They know that whatever they do it is unlikely to be as bad as what National would do in the same situation, from the point of view of their supporters and those further to the left. Why bother trying when you've already got a substantial number of votes sewn up, purely because the other option is worse?

(I did warn you I was a bit grumpy and bitter at the moment.)

So what's a leftie to do?



* If Sheriff Howard got a bum deal then what chance have we got? Less chance than a koala in a forest fire methinks.
** Maybe our troops in Afghanistan, that forgotten war, put her off?

***Besides, it's quite hard to pin National down on their exact intentions in government because they so rarely communicate any actual policy. I can only judge them on past performance and general principles, neither of which are in their favour from my point of view.

17 comments:

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

Labour is largely the party of the status quo. National governments drag us to the right, then Labour does nothing much to reverse that. Next time there's a National government, we'll go even further right, and the Labour government after that will probably remain well to the right of the current one, because that will be the new status quo.

Span said...

Ok that didn't cheer me up!

You are right though. It disappoints me no end how the pendulum shifted so radically to the right in the 80s and 90s that now the pivot seems to be terminally ROC, despite the cries of "communist!" from some on the right.

Gerrit said...

Is the alliance still a functioning party? I would have thought that all the left leaning members of the electorate, seeing they have been duped by a purple coloured Labour party would swing in behind the Alliance. Much like the right leaning members of the National party are gravitating towards ACT as National becomes a purple coloured organisation.

I think you are right that the swing towards the centre right will continue.

The reason is simple in that the Labour party has made a hash of running the country for the last four years.

More money spent for very little gain. A huge surplus not being spent on infastructural capital works that are already 30 years behind. Same old tired Labour faces that should have been replaced by fresh people and ideas.

Watching Hodgsons trying to deal with the pathetic Auckland medical laboratory fiasco sums whats wrong with the Labour party.

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

Yes, the Alliance is still functioning, but unlikely to regain much ground without media support, which isn't going to happen. If it got as much coverage as National (a reasonable suggestion since it's the opposition party on Labour's other side), I have no doubt it would be back in parliament at the next election.

Make Tea Not War said...

I dunno what other NZ lefties should do. I'm also unexcited about Labour but what I, personally, have concluded is that I really only have time and energy to have informed views on a certain number of issues. So my theory is I'll try and contribute to movement in the direction I want to see on those issues through whatever means I can- submissions to select committees, letters to the editor, involvement at local community level etc- and the rest I just have to let go.

Chris said...

I don't agree that Labour is the party of the status quo. Labour is more inclined towards incremental change rather than the 'crash through or crash' approach of Roger Douglas or the National Party. I too find this frustrating sometimes, and I do wonder whether the political mood is changing. Towards the end of the 1990s the public mood was for a period of consolidation and predictable governance, with no 'radical' change. But I do wonder whether the public are getting bored with that and now want something a bit more exciting???

Gerrit said...

I think you are right Chris that the electorate wants to see the government take positive action on a number of fronts (health, police, public transport, education, etc.,etc.)

I wonder if the Labour party ever did any strategic planning because they have got the mood of the country all wrong. And putting priority on the repeal of s59 shows they got it all wrong. (a section that has only been used 7 times as a defence). Sure the section needed modification but buying into the Greens total ban?

Another down side for Labour will be if they cannot pay back the $800K they owe. Especially if they bring out more legislation not to have to physically pay it back.

It really feels like they are in their death throes.

Blaming a right wing press (which the right wing claim is a left wing press!)on the Alliance not getting traction is rubbish. By that measure the existing Labour party would never had started, women would not have got the vote, anti-nuclear protest would not have suceeded, etc.

Where is the Alliance and the working persons spirit gone?

What the Alliance does have to do is get more into the 21st century. I know Chris Trotter is not Alliance (or is he?) but if that is representative of left wing views (stuck in the dark satanic hills of an 19th century industrial revolution english cotton mill) then no the electorate wont buy it.

Times have changed, get with it.

union_grrl said...

I think looking to the Alliance for any sort of leadership or hope for the future is an exercise in futility - sadly - they still have good policies but no traction politically - and probably too much bad history to repair.
There does seem to be no political force for socialist types to focus there energies - so i spend my time immersed in the union movement.
Yes Labour is not all we want it to be, but hey i agree with Span, it could be a hell of a lot worse. Blind hatred for the labour party because they are not militant enough is to disregard the opinions of the working class - i personally am not going to do that. Members i represent vote labour, and will continue to vote labour. Until their is a decent left party, or the proletariate are ready to take up arms and rid themselves of their oppressors (tongue in cheek) we need to try and keep labour honest - make submissions etc do all that - if they don't follow process appeal that - but lets not serve the right and get national voted in just because we're disgrunteld that Labour hasn't gone far enough.

Jordan said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again. The fifth Labour government is a triage government. It has staunched the right wing bleed in most areas.

It doesn't have the intellectual tools or the political capital to go much further than that. You cannot unwind a neoliberal tide that has been think-tanked and propagandised for forty years all around the world, in a measly eight - especially when most of the rest of the world hasn't even backed away as far as we have here in NZ.

The task of the sixth Labour government and beyond will be to work out what social democracy means in the context it starts its work in (shaped by this fifth Labour government).

I hope by then we have the analysis and the political resources to go further towards a more equal society.

That is the task. You, Span, are a talented and creative political thinker. Why don't you do more thinking along these lines? The only things I am sure of are that the world has changed, and that dirigiste 70s social democracy is not the answer now, and even more won't be the answer when the next centre left government takes office.

Jordan said...

I should clarify, for the record, that this does not mean that the current govt is out of time or ideas. It does mean that in making fundamental shifts to some of the issues that lefties care most about, I am not expecting major progress. Gradual, slight changes yes, but no biggies.

Gerrit said...

I guess what you are saying Jordan is "trust us we know what we are doing and we are doing and we know where we want to go"

Problem is the left doesnt trust you not does a significant percentage of the population.

Maybe you could paint a picture of wha the Labour government would propose doing in the 4th and 5th terms that would satisfy the left while keeping productivity up?

While we bemoan the National party lack of policy, this "trust us we know what we are doing" from the Labour party is just as bad.

Incremental change to what? The electorate is not going to vote for anymore incremental change when bad mangement of most government departments continuously hurts Labour.

Gerrit said...

Jeez, even I cant understand my last post so here goes the correct one.

I guess what you are saying Jordan is "trust us we know what we are doing and we know where we want to go"

Problem is the left doesn't trust you, nor does a significant percentage of the population.

Maybe you could paint a picture of what the Labour government would propose doing in the 4th and 5th terms that would satisfy the left while keeping productivity up?


While we bemoan the National party lack of policy, this "trust us we know what we are doing" from the Labour party is just as bad.

Incremental change to what? The electorate is not going to vote for anymore incremental change when bad mangement of most government departments continuously hurts Labour.

Span said...

The role of the Alliance is something I have wavered back and forth on since the 2005 election. Perhaps it will form fodder for a future post, it might be a good chance for me to get my own thinking straight. I am still a member.

Jordan you can claim that most of the rest of the world hasn't backed away from neoliberal reforms as much as NZ but it doesn't ring true. Particularly in comparison to many of the European social democracies, NZ went much much further in the first place.

Given the limited political capital which you talk about (and to a large extent I agree with you on that) then we need to be engaging in a discussion to grow that capital. That's actually part of what I've been trying to do here I hope, although I don't know that it's much chop in an environment where most participants are right of centre.

Ultimately though I think there are too many in Labour who do not want a shift to the left, and some are still in Cabinet.

J1 said...

Gerrit: that's precisely what I'm not saying. Not from me will you see any soothing noises about 'trust us' - I know the Labour Party pretty much inside out these days, and I think we need a robust debate on the left about the way forward. That's the opposite of a 'trust us' claim.

Span - yes, we are far out on the right. But changing that is a slow process, especially when some of the architects of that change are still in government. That's why I think a forward looking debate is of interest.

Both - Labour doesn't have all the answers, but it's the only party that can pull the numbers for change in a progressive direction. It always has been and for the foreseeable future, will be. So rather than bemoaning it (which I will never do - the day I do, I'll have to resign from it), I challenge you to help push it along.

Gerrit - why don't you explain what you'd do in the next two terms, and why?

Gerrit said...

Jordan, you asking me what I would do exactly illustrates what is wrong with Labour. Dont you have a stategic plan?

Or are you going into what you hope will be a 4th and 5th term in office without one? Where is Labours leadership at? Make you dispair at the ineptitude!

Now if you have one tell the people about it. Have said it often and will say it again. Part of the strategic plan is a marketing and sales initiative to inform us, the people, of your intensions (so we can make an easy choice to vote for you).

Now if you want my ideas, fine but I charge for my time and knowledge. I'm for sale.

The fact that you need a strategic plan (Remember -- if you dont know where you are going, any road will take you there) you get from me for free.

J1 said...

Gerrit, you certainly win points for patronising. Well done. Do you seriously think any political party would discuss its strategic plan in public?

It's about as likely to happen as is me saying we don't have one. Both would be a nonsense.

The internal debate in the Labour Party about where to go next cannot and should not be all that is happening. I don't think it's reasonable for people on the left to have an attitude that says, it's up to Labour to come up with everything, and we will just sit here and take pot-shots at whatever they come up with.

So it's a genuine question. Lots of people are working on it, but the more who are, the more likely the country is to get the best possible centre left agenda.

Gerrit said...

Jordan,

Do you have policy then that you will pursue in the 4th and 5th terms?

The strategic plan would be how to introduce them, so yes I dont expect you to publish that but policies, yes I do.

Policies are going to get you elected so you better have the sales and marketing plan to win the voters over.

"I don't think it's reasonable for people on the left to have an attitude that says, it's up to Labour to come up with everything, and we will just sit here and take pot-shots at whatever they come up with."

Heh?

Explain please.

Are we not the customers (voters) and are you not the salesman for the policies that will see a 4th and 5th term for the Labour party?

We decide what we like. You provide the policies.