Josie Pagani has written a classy post on her Facebook wall about Chris Trotter’s post regarding Labour becoming a refugee camp. It addresses some of the issues besetting Labour currently in a thoughtful way that unfortunately will be falling on deaf ears:
Chris Trotter’s latest column attacking Labour for being a ‘refugee camp’ for voters is infantile.
I grew up in the 1980s in England. I watched the left eat away its support for nearly twenty years by blaming the working class for not voting Labour. “What on earth is wrong with them?” they asked.
Actually it was worse than that. They used Trotter’s type of rhetoric, pretending they stood up for a ‘real’ working class, but they actually despised working people, looked down on their values, and enough working people understood that and elected Mrs Thatcher.
These were wilderness years for Labour. It lasted decades.
This is the same attitude that saw Clare Curran whine on Red ALert about the Greens stealing Labour’s voters…some they have continued to do BTW.
It took the wonderful oratory of Labour leader Neil Kinnock to name and shame the snobs. At the 1985 Labour party conference in Bournemouth, he picked up Labour councillor Derek Hatton and the Liverpool ‘militants’ by the scruff of their necks with his eloquence and set the Labour Party on a long path that took it back to government.
What Kinnock said in 1985 to the factions who thought their values were better than the voters’ values, needs to be said to Chris Trotter and anyone else who wants to take New Zealand Labour into the wilderness:
“I tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They get pickled into a rigid dogma. And you go through the years sticking to that outdated, misplaced dogma, irrelevant to the real needs of people.”
Unfortunately I suspect Josie’s refreshing outlook is in the minority in Labour, who seem set to return to “pickled dogma”.
Chris Trotter sneers at a Labour party which is winning back former Labour voters and has “rediscovered its respect and admiration for their values – especially their commitment to hard work and personal betterment.” Oh, how terrible – a Labour party that values hard work and personal betterment!
His thinking is exactly the indulgent smug behaviour that allowed a Thatcher government in the UK to attack unions and destroy jobs for nearly twenty years.
Unfortunately for Josie Labour still is stuck opposing the values of hard work and personal betterment, instead they seek to protect the work-shy and oppose policies that would develop precisely the large numbers of blue collar jobs that Labour so used to covet.
The variety of left he advocates asks Labour today to repudiate social democracy in the form recognisable to every successful, history-making social democrat leader the world over. Helen Clark, Obama, Gillard, Hawke, Schroeder – not one of them would indulge Trotter’s view.
The real dividing line on the left today is between Trotter’s version, where no one ever has to make tough decisions and a pretend utopia can be romanticised because it never has to be elected; and genuine social democracy that is radical precisely because it stands beside working people who worry about their jobs and need more money in the weekly wage packet to pay the bills. That’s what I want.
I suspect that Josie Pagani’s thoughts are very much in the minority in the union and teacher dominated Labour party.