Chris Trotter

Chris Trotter sends a warning to Little Angry Andy

Chris Trotter thinks that Andrew Little has had a great week.

We disagreed as we shared a short conversation in the offices of Radio Live yesterday, but I have just read his column where he sends a veiled a warning to Andrew Little.

The message to the man he defeated by a single percentage point could not be clearer.

Little expects a lot more from his future Finance Minister than the standard neoliberal commitment to keeping the books in the black. He will not be judging the worth of Labour’s economic policies by the level of praise emanating from the business community. For Little, looking after the One Percent’s funds cannot be Labour’s first priority. The critical challenge confronting Labour’s next Finance Minister will be funding the changes so desperately needed by the other Ninety-Nine Percent.

In other words: how does Labour make sure that a rising tide of economic growth lifts more than just the luxury yachts?

Little has strongly hinted that the answer to that question does not lie in the introduction of a Capital Gains Tax, or raising the age of eligibility for superannuation from 65 to 67. New policies, based on the electorate’s most urgent needs, is what Little has asked for, and his promise to review the Shadow Cabinet’s performance in 12 months’ time strongly suggests that he means to get them. Little’s colleagues would be wise to assume that his threshold for failure is set a lot lower than his predecessors’.  Read more »

Trotter on John Key’s history lesson

Chris Trotter isn’t taking the lefty stance of mocking John Key’s version of history after the stupid Waitangi Tribunal decision.

THE PRIME MINISTER, John Key, has been much mocked over the past week for his claim that New Zealand was settled peacefully. Hoots of derision have echoed through the Twittersphere from those who profess to know their New Zealand history a great deal better than the Prime Minister.

Are they right? Is Mr Key wrong?

It might help to place the Prime Minister’s comments in context. His remarks followed the Waitangi Tribunal finding that the tribal chieftains of the far-North did not cede sovereignty to the British Crown when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840.

This finding is considerably more controversial than anything the Prime Minister decided to offer by way of commentary. The Auckland-based historian, Paul Moon, has already derided the Tribunal’s historical conclusions, and his intervention is unlikely to be the last.

The tribunal’s decision will likely be ignored.

A crucial element of the settled view is that the Maori chieftains who signed the Treaty, many of whom had enjoyed long and mutually beneficial relationships with the Europeans who had taken up residence in New Zealand since Cook’s exploratory voyages of the late eighteenth century, knew exactly what they were agreeing to at Waitangi on 6 February 1840.

Captain William Hobson was guaranteeing them the inviolability of their traditional territories and the safety of their people. In the light of what had befallen the iwi and hapu of Niu Tirani (New Zealand) between 1769 and 1840, the existential value of these guarantees is readily appreciated.

The indigenous population of these islands at the time of first European contact is estimated at 100,000. Between 1800 and 1830 as many as 30,000 Maori were killed and/or driven from their traditional lands by enemy iwi and hapu armed with the devastating military technology of the Pakeha. The protection of Queen Victoria (symbolising the world’s most powerful nation) was what they needed. Hobson offered it. The chiefs grabbed it with both hands.    Read more »

Russell Brown thinks Little is a disaster

Pots, pans and pannier bags blogger Russell Brown rarely, if ever these days, writes about politics.

He has broken habit by writing about Labour’s just completed leadership election.

Unusually for him it is brief, he’s normally a big fan of the tl;dr post.

I’ll be brief (it’s 5am where I am and have to catch a plane) but the Labour’s leadership result and the means by which it was achieved both seem disastrous for the party and for the prospects of the centre-left.

Little didn’t win the support of the party or the caucus, he loses his electorate more badly every time he contests it, and he’s vowing to dump all the intellectual capital built up by David Parker. I can’t see any good thing about this.

Am I missing something?

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Trotter on Phillip Smith and the wombles who enabled his escape

Chris Trotter will probably be getting hate emails from the caring and sharing leftwing who think nothing of attacking people for voicing an opinion that differs from theirs, but rush arms outstretched to give sociopaths like Phillip Smith a good hug and a cuddle after he was raised bottle fed not breast fed causing his sociopathic marauding through society.

Trotter is a truth speaker…this is what he has to say about Phillip Smith and those who enabled his escape:

THE BUREAUCRATIC STUFF-UP that sped Phillip Smith/Traynor on his way to Chile, Brazil, and from there, thankfully, into the handcuffs of the Brazilian Federal Police, has exposed one of the most perilous fault lines in New Zealand society.

On one side of the fault line stand the experts and professionals. On the other, ordinary New Zealanders: the laity.

In the modern meritocracy New Zealand believes itself to be, expertise and professionalism are supposed to trump the layperson’s “instincts”, “gut feelings” and “common sense”.

Like the priests and the pastors they have largely superseded, experts and professionals lay claim to specialist knowledge of the world. Their mastery of the modern, “scientific”, method of explaining the universe means that, all other things being equal, the judgement of the expert and the professional is supposed take precedence over the traditional prejudices and ignorant superstitions of “ordinary people”.

But, Phillip Smith/Traynor’s scandalous escape from custody will, almost certainly, turn out to have been facilitated by the judgements of the experts and professionals employed by, or contracted to, the Department of Corrections. Indeed, it is already pretty clear that had the advice of those ordinary New Zealanders caught up in the multiple tragedies of Smith’s offending been heeded, he would never have escaped from custody.

The people who Trotter is referring to are the likes of Kim Workman and other crim hugging weirdos.

Real people think a bit differently.

Ordinary people recoil in horror and disgust from the criminal acts for which Phillip Smith/Traynor was convicted.

Their instinctive response is the same as that of any social animal confronted with a deadly threat to the survival of its young: kill it if you can, or, if that proves impossible, drive it from your midst.

The gut-feeling of non-expert, non-professional New Zealanders is that the likes of Phillip Smith/Traynor are irretrievably evil. As killers, abusers, manipulators and deceivers they must never, ever, be believed or trusted.

The common sense of ordinary Kiwis tells them that, if the possibility of judicial error requires them to rule out the hangman’s noose, then murderers and paedophiles should simply be locked up forever.

What part of “predatory child abuser” and “vicious murderer” do the Department of Corrections’ experts and professionals not understand?

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Trotter asks if Labour really can be rebuilt

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Chris Trotter wonders whether Labour can put its troubles behind them and start to recover relevancy with the voting public.

THE CHAIRS in the final meeting venue have been stacked away. All that expensive signage, commissioned for the benefit of the television cameras, no longer has a purpose. For the second time in just 14 months, Labour’s Leadership Contest is all over bar the voting.

The contrast between the road-show just concluded and what was, effectively, the David Cunliffe Coronation Tour of 2013 could hardly be starker. Then, it was the rank-and-files’ and the affiliates’ moment to deliver a very emphatic one-fingered message to a caucus it had grown to despise – and they delivered it with both hands. This time, it’s been the Labour Caucus’s Victory Tour.

In both 2012 and 2013, Labour’s MPs had warned the party’s members and affiliates that Cunliffe was unacceptable – but they refused to listen. Now they know what happens when a leader lacks the fulsome support of his caucus colleagues. No one’s saying it out loud, but the most important single feature of this year’s leadership contest is David Cunliffe’s absence. No matter which of the four grey eminences emerges from the complicated processes of preferential voting as Labour’s new leader – Caucus has won.

Yes, they will have slayed the Cunliffe dragon…sort of…for one of the contenders has cut a secret deal to help rehabilitate the man with the brain as big as a planet. Trotter thinks that had Cunliffe stood things may have been a bit different.

Had Cunliffe’s name been on the ballot paper, he would, almost certainly, have triumphed again. I don’t think it’s stretching the truth to say that among Labour’s staunchest supporters – Maori and Pasifika – the Member for New Lynn is loved. When informed that their champion had withdrawn from the race, a hall packed with Maori and Pasifika trade union delegates audibly groaned and tears flowed. Only when told that Nanaia Mahuta had entered the fray did their spirits noisily recover.

But, no matter how strong the loyalty shown to Cunliffe by the true believers who give Labour two ticks, it was made abundantly clear to the party membership just how ugly things would get if he insisted, once again, on soliciting their support.

The embittered David Shearer may have led the charge, but every political journalist in the country knew that his acidic tongue was just the poisoned point of a much larger spear. Shearer’s mission was to demonstrate to the rank-and-file and affiliates that the longer Cunliffe persisted in his fantasy of continuing to lead the party the worse things would get. They had to know that Caucus was perfectly willing to destroy the Labour Party in order to save it.

Rather than unleash a no-holds-barred civil war at every level of his Party; one from which it would likely not recover; Cunliffe bowed to the inevitable and withdrew from the contest.

From that point on, the outcome of the 2014 Leadership Contest ceased to matter very much.     Read more »

Labour’s institutional dysfunction

Danyl McLauchlan is one of the few on the left wing that I can respect.

His observations when he isn’t being silly or writing bad satire are usually spot on.

He has taken the time to discuss the Labour party and what he sees as their impending collapse.

I don’t know if Labour is a dying party. Looks like to to me, but there’s still time to turn things around. I do think there’s an important difference between National in 2002 and the Labour Party in 2014. After their 2002 election loss National realised that it faced an existential crisis and took drastic action. They bought Steven Joyce in to review the party, underwent a huge reorganisation and then united behind their subsequent leaders, Brash and Key. The sense I get from Labour is that they don’t have anything to worry about because hey, National was in big trouble a few years ago and now look at them go! Sure, Labour aren’t doing great right now but it’s just history; it’s political cycles. You gotta ride it out and wait until the tide washes you back into government again. There was a nice example of this from former Labour President Mike Williams on the Nine to Noon political segment last week. Williams announced that the leader of the Labour leadership contest will probably be the Prime Minister in 2017 because four term governments are rare. Forget all that hard work of somehow beating John Key, which Labour has no idea how to do, or even reforming the party. Fate will just return them to power, somehow, because that’s what sometimes happened in the past.

I don’t think Key and National see themselves as being circumscribed by fate, and that they should just resign themselves to losing in 2017. I think they’ve built a fearsome political behemoth that dominates New Zealand’s political landscape and which they hope will endure for a long, long time, even after Key finally retires in his fifth term (or whenever).  Labour dying is not a worst-case scenario for the New Zealand left. Labour hanging around, slowly dwindling, occupying the political space of the center-left but not winning an election for another twenty years is the real and highly plausible doomsday scenario. I don’t know how much of National’s strength is an accident of Labour’s current weakness, but I do know that the new Labour leaders job will be reforming their party, and not beating Key. That’s not even an option for Labour until they somehow transform themselves into a modern professional political party, and figure out who they are and what they stand for.

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Rodney Hide on Hager’s outrage

Rodney Hide writes about Nicky Hager’s outrage at having the police raid his house.

It’s an outrage! A shocking abuse of police power! Oh my goodness. The police have raided Nicky Hager’s house.

The poor thing. He was “speaking truth to power”. The state retaliated.

Hager has said: “The police actions are dangerous for journalism in New Zealand.”

To the anointed left, Hager is an investigative journalist. He is good and true. Blogger Cameron Slater is a smear merchant and paid shill. He is evil and false.

An anonymous hacker stole Slater’s emails and Facebook messages.

Hager then published them in Dirty Politics to implicate Prime Minister John Key in dark and evil plots. The links were tenuous at best.

I warranted a brief chapter myself. Hager alleges Slater blackmailed me to resign the Act Party leadership. It’s not true.

The first I knew of any allegation or blackmail was Hager’s book.

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Chris Trotter on why changing leaders won’t be enough for Labour

Chris Trotter is a wise man of the left, more’s the pity that they don’t listen to him more often.

WHY DOES LABOUR do this to itself? Yes, they have just suffered an unprecedented (post-1922) election defeat, but that’s only because the 2014 General Election was itself unprecedented (post-1951).

And, besides, I’m tempted to say ‘so what?’ In 2002 the National Party suffered an even more embarrassing result when Bill English led his party to its worst defeat ever. National’s Party Vote plunged from a bad 30.5 percent in 1999, to an even worse 20.9 percent in 2002. (A whopping percentage point slide of 9.6, compared to David Cunliffe’s 2.8.)

The interesting thing about that debacle, however, is not what the National Party did in response, but what it didn’t do.

For a start, it didn’t change its leader. National understood (as Labour apparently does not) that a debacle on the scale of 2002 has many more contributing factors than simply a poor performance by the party leader. Defeat on such a scale is clear evidence of systemic – as well as personal – failures. Which is why the first priority of National’s hard-headed businessmen and farmers was to give the party organisation a very solid kick in the bum – not to sack Bill English. (He would keep.)

In the months following its 2002 defeat National thoroughly renovated itself: achieving for the Right what Jim Anderton, between 1979 and 1984, had achieved for the Left. Namely, the transformation of an ageing party into a vehicle more appropriately aligned to the economic, social and political context in which it operated.

Crucial to the success of such operations is the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of those best equipped to wield it. Under MMP, one of the most important functions to streamline is the formation of the Party List. National has achieved this by means of an all-powerful board of directors; the Greens by giving the job to their party members. For Labour, however, the list formation process remains the Party’s Achilles’ heel.

Bluntly, party list formation in the Labour Party is a colossal rort; a travesty of democratic principle on the scale of the “rotten boroughs” that once allowed the British aristocracy to control the composition of the House of Commons. More horse-trading takes place during this dangerously opaque process than at an Irish county fair – with considerably worse outcomes.

It’s ironic really, because Labour once boasted the most ruthless and centralised mechanism for selecting candidates of all the political parties. Seventy years ago it was the selector representatives of the all-powerful Labour Party Executive who called the shots – and they seldom missed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then National, when renovating its structures, post-2002, paid Labour the most fulsome of compliments.

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Trotter on the bull-fight that was Election 2014

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Chris Trotter has now commented in writing about the election result.

He summarises:

Overall, the image presented to the electorate was one of John Key as the embattled matador. Alone in the arena, he faced charge after charge from a seemingly never-ending succession of bulls. But with every twirl of his cape and flash of his sword the pile of dispatched cattle-beasts grew higher. The crowd cheered. The roses rained down. “Bravo!” shouted 48 percent of New Zealand. “Three more years!”   Read more »

How about all those game changers, eh?

During the last parliamentary term we were all told repeatedly that this policy or that person was a “game changer”.

How did those game changers all work out?

Chris Trotter thought Matt McCarten was a game changer:

These are the stakes the Left is playing for – and they could not be higher. If progressive New Zealand rallies to Cunliffe’s and McCarten’s bright-red banner and helps them convince Middle New Zealand that Labourism, far from being an alien and dangerous creed, actually stands for all that is best in this nation, then it will have won an historic and lasting victory. But if it fails to seize the opportunity it has been given, then all that is worth fighting for on the Left will go down to defeat and New Zealand will be National’s for the foreseeable future.

Now IS the time for all good comrades to come to the aid of the party. Because, whichever way it turns out, the appointment of Matt McCarten is bound to be a game-changer.

Chris Trotter was very prescient in that post, he also predicted disaster.

[T]he Left has been given an extraordinary opportunity to prove that it still has something to offer New Zealand, but a desperately short period of time in which to do it. If old wounds, old grudges, old defeats (are you listening Jim?) are allowed to get in the way of making this unprecedented situation work to the advantage of ordinary New Zealanders, then it will end in failure.

And that failure won’t just be Cunliffe’s and McCarten’s, it will be the failure of the entire progressive movement. And it won’t just be for a triennium (or three) it will be for an entire generation.

If Cunliffe and McCarten are allowed to fail, the Right of the Labour Party and their fellow travellers in the broader labour movement (all the people who worked so hard to prevent Cunliffe rising to the leadership) will say:

“Well, you got your wish. You elected a leader pledged to take Labour to the Left. And just look what happened. Middle New Zealand ran screaming into the arms of John Key and Labour ended up with a Party Vote even more pitiful than National’s in 2002! So don’t you dare try peddling that ‘If we build a left-wing Labour Party they will come’ line ever again! You did – and they didn’t.”

Be in no doubt that this will happen – just as it did in the years after the British Labour Party’s crushing defeat in the general election of 1983. The Labour Right called Labour’s socialist manifesto “the longest suicide note in history” and the long-march towards Blairism and the re-writing of Clause Four began. (Never mind the impact of Maggie Thatcher’s unlikely victory in the South Atlantic, it was Michael Foot’s socialism wot won it for the Tories!)

Plenty of others thought Matt McCarten was a game changer…they just didn’t realise he wasn’t working for Labour. He certainly was a game changer…for National.    Read more »