Chris Trotter

‘Please do nothing Andrew’ implores Chris Trotter

Chris Trotter is hoping that Andrew Little continues to remain obscure.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the Labour Party is currently engaged in a critically important political campaign. No, it may not look like Labour is doing very much at all at the moment, but that is the whole point. After the sheer mayhem of the last four years, a period of tranquillity is crucial to Labour’s chances of re-election.

All of the party’s research suggests that by the end of 2014 the New Zealand public was fed up to the back teeth with Labour. As far as most voters were concerned the party was a joke. It seemed to specialise in choosing the wrong people to lead it. Its caucus was incapable of even the most perfunctory political discipline. Indeed, there were some MPs who clearly got a bigger thrill out of sticking the knife into the back of a colleague than they did from sticking it into the front of the Government. The party organisation was no better. It delighted in choosing Party List candidates that struck many of its voters and potential voters as having been drawn from a carefully prepared list of the politically bizarre and/or the simply unelectable. (Which may well have been true!)

As 2015 loomed, what Labour most needed to do was to get its name out of headlines. No more leadership elections. No more Caucus back-stabbing. No more shots of furious rank-and-file party members calling for the heads of the “Anyone But Cunliffe” faction. The new leader, Andrew Little’s, best course of action, after he’d spent a little time reassuring the voters that he could string together a coherent English sentence, and that he wasn’t in the least bit sorry for being a man, was to say and do as little as possible and just let the people of New Zealand get used to him.

It could be a cunning strategy or it could be that Andrew Little is just plain tits.

And that, if you think about it, is pretty much what Labour has been doing all year – as little as possible. With the honourable exception of Phil Twyford, who has been waging a solid, one-man-war against the Government’s disastrous housing policies, the Labour Opposition has assiduously (and largely successfully) avoided making a fool of itself. Its key strategists figure that if it can avoid making a fool of itself for another six months, then the electorate might just be ready to start treating it as a serious electoral option.

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Maybe Labour isn’t dead, it’s just restin’

Chris Trotter writes a post that has a remarkable resemblance to Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.

IF IT HAD ONLY HAPPENED ONCE, I could have written it off as a simple overstatement. Politics lends itself to exaggeration, and there was a lot of that associated with the Labour Party’s Review of the 2014 General Election. But, what I’m describing wasn’t the usual bluff and bluster of the instant commentariat. What I was hearing was coming from “civilians” – people without a platform – ordinary folks. And, what they’ve been saying to me, over and over again, in the week or so since the Review was leaked to TV3’s Paddy Gower, is the same statement-cum-question:  “I think Labour’s finished as a major party – what do you think?”

Now, this is a not the sort of statement/question that political parties ever want to hear. Because it isn’t just another complaint about this leader, or that policy. No, this is an existential query: and existential queries only get made when the subject has already got at least one foot (and a good portion of leg) in the political grave.

I recall people saying very similar things about the Alliance after it split apart over Afghanistan. And they’ve been writing off Act as a zombie party for at least the past six years (quite correctly, in my opinion). Some people were even moved to question National’s future after its Party Vote plummeted to 20.9 percent in the general election of 2002.

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Trotter provides a solution for Labour’s money worries

Chris Trotter provides a solution for Labour’s money worries.

In their much derided review of Labour’s conduct of the 2014 general election, its authors draw attention to the parlous state of the party’s finances. So broke is the party that the reviewers felt moved to warn both the caucus and the organisation that if its financial situation is not improved “then it will continue to experience electoral failure and place the status of the party as a political institution of influence at risk”. Well, here’s an idea (hat-tip to Danyl McLauchlan). Why not make it a rule that a Labour MP cannot take home more than the average wage of, roughly, $55,000 per year. The balance of their income, $95,000, would go to the party. This would guarantee Labour an annual income, from its current 32-strong caucus, of at least $3,040,000 per year, or, $9,120,000 over the three year parliamentary term.

That’s not a bad war chest – and just think of the effect on Labour’s voters! Knowing that their MPs are unwilling to take home more than the average income earner. That they’re prepared to give up two-thirds of their salaries to ensure that, come election time, the party of the workers stands a fighting chance against the party of the bosses. That they’re not just in it for the money, and the perks, and the power. What do you think that would do for building trust and identification?

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John Key has too much rat cunning to get caught by James Shaw

Chris Trotter is a good commentator who usually gets things right.

His one problem is he doesn’t actually get that most of NZ are deeply sceptical about anyone on the left, no matter what their background.

He thinks that new Greens leader James Shaw is the next messiah who will rescue the left from close to a decade of stupidity and that Shaw is going to take on Key.

“I have been clear on the campaign trail that while I don’t support a formal coalition with National, I am very open to working with National where there is common cause. Let us build common cause on climate change.”

This is the cleverest sort of politics: not only does it break the Greens out of their “far-left” ghetto; but it also extends the hand of cooperation to the National-led Government. And here, again, Shaw demonstrates his assured grasp of the public’s rising frustration with politics-as-usual: “We should talk to each other rather than past each other, and agree on an ambitious target that New Zealanders can be proud off. New Zealanders want their politicians to work together, and act on common interest. Let’s find common interest on climate change. That is my challenge to John Key today.”

What can the Prime Minister do? If he accepts Shaw’s extended hand on the climate change issue: Shaw wins. If Key declines to accept the Greens’ challenge, then, again: Shaw wins. For National (and for Labour, too) this can only be a lose/lose proposition.

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Did Nash win Napier because of McVicar?

All the luvvies on the left don’t want a rugby playing, beer drinking, woman rooting Labour MP to look like he has ever done anything good. So following Chris Trotter’s endorsement of Nashy for the next Labour leader they are aggressively running the silly line that vote splits gave Nash Napier.
Don’t believe it. Nashy won Napier because as Chris Trotter says:
Screenshot 2015-05-30 at 17.46.47
Fifth Time Lucky? After trying, and failing, four times to make an emotional connection with the electorate, perhaps Labour should look for a leader who got himself re-elected to Parliament the old-fashioned way – by raising heaps of cash and then persuading “mainstream” New Zealanders to vote for him. Napier MP, Stuart Nash (above) addresses a provincial business audience.”

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Labour’s problems and a possible solution, Chris Trotter explains

Chris Trotter analyses Labour’s problems and discusses a possible solution to their woes.

THE LATEST ROY MORGAN POLL has cast a deep pall of gloom over all three Opposition parties. Among Labour supporters, however, a growing sense of utter futility is palpable. Support for the party has crashed back to the abysmal figures of Election Night. Barely a quarter of the adult population is willing to identify Labour as their first electoral choice.

The corollary to Opposition gloom is, of course, Government elation. And, with the Roy Morgan poll showing National on 54 percent, who can blame its MPs and supporters for breaking out the bubbly? Remember, this latest poll was conducted when Amanda Bailey’s ponytail was dominating the headlines. Did it damage the Prime Minister’s reputation? (As so many of John Key’s enemies were hoping.) Not appreciably. “Teflon John” continues to shine.

The problems are well known, we just saw them repeated in the UK. Doing more of the same is no longer an option.

At around the same time as Roy Morgan’s callers were working the phones, Sir Michael Cullen and the NZ Fabian Society were attempting to rally Labour’s dejected troops with a presentation entitled, rather hopefully, “Destination: Next Progressive Majority.” Arriving at that destination, says Sir Michael, will depend on whether Labour is able to re-present itself as the party of Choice, Aspiration, Responsibility and National Pride.

For that re-presentation to work, Sir Michael stresses, Labour must re-connect emotionally with the electorate. “Policies can be a means to this”, says the former Labour Finance Minister, “but rarely the most important means.” In saying this, Sir Michael is echoing the advice of Lynton Crosby – the man who, earlier this month, won the UK General Election for the Conservative Party. Policy matters, says Crosby, only inasmuch as it expresses the less tangible and more visceral reasons for supporting one political party over another.

“This is Key’s huge strength”, Sir Michael observes, “he has enormous emotional connection with voters. The sloppy language we like to make fun of is the language most people speak, not like University lecturers like Helen, Steve and I. The casualness to turn things aside, not important, at the end of the day.”

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Chris Trotter kicks the liberal elite tossers in the goolies

Chris Trotter talks about the UK elections, but you could easily mistake his swipe at the liberal elite wankers running Labour over there for a swipe against the liberal elite wankers running Labour here.

WHETHER THE UNITED KINGDOM has a Labour Prime Minister by the end of this week remains to be seen. What cannot be disputed, however, is that among Labour’s traditional working-class constituency, much of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government’s programme remains surprisingly popular.

Four out of five trade union members, for example, told pollsters that they thought the £26,000 cap on benefits was a good idea. Indeed, Matt Ridley, Member of the House of Lords and author of the bestselling book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, reports that “Tory candidates out canvassing tell me they are finding that welfare reform, while horrifying the metropolitan elite, is most popular in the meanest streets — where people are well aware of neighbours who play the system.”

If this wasn’t true, it is hard to explain how, after five years of swingeing austerity, the Conservative Party is polling neck-and-neck with Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.

To hear the British Left tell it, the last five years have been an unmitigated social disaster. It’s a claim which, if true, would be propelling Labour towards a landslide electoral victory. But, if the experts are agreed on anything about the 7 May election, it’s that, outside of Scotland (where the Scottish National Party are poised to win every one of Scotland’s Westminster seats) it’s not going to be anyone’s sort of landslide.

When even unions are sick of welfare you know you are in trouble pushing it. Unions of course represent working people, which is what Grant Robertson was mentioning the other day….that Labour has been ignoring the working people while pander to bludgers and criminals.

What horrifies “metropolitan elites” has, however, come to dominate the policies of both the British and New Zealand Labour Parties. Highly educated and socially liberal, the party activists of both countries would rather see their parties split in two than endorse the “reactionary” views of their working-class supporters. That these views might be shared by sufficient voters to materially boost Labour’s chances of winning general elections deters them not one bit.

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The good, the bad and the ugly from Chris Trotter

Chris Trotter can be an excellent commentator when he doesn’t let his propensity for some histrionics get in the way.

Yesterday he wrote a post at Martyn Martin Bradbury’s hate speech blog about the Campbell Live issue that has the left wing luvvies all exercised.

The thing about a good puppet show is that you either can’t see, or are artfully distracted from seeing, the strings. It’s when the strings themselves become more interesting than the puppets they’re attached to, that it’s time to get worried.

And that time has come – which is why as I sat there in Ika (formerly the Neapolitan eatery Sarracino, formerly the chapel of Tongue’s the undertakers!) watching present and former MPs, trade unionists, left- and right-wing journalists, all shaking hands and exchanging gossip, the setting slowly morphed into the Kit-Kat Club from Bob Fosse’s classic movie, Cabaret.

And up there on the stage, playing the role made famous by Joel Grey was our emcee, Wallace Chapman. And the floor-show, Ika’s Cabaret Band, if you will, were (from right to left) Fran O’Sullivan, Bill Ralston, Simon Wilson and Phoebe Fletcher.

Together, they discussed and dissected the decision to hang the sword of Damocles above the marvellous Mr Campbell’s current-affairs half-hour. All good stuff, and the punters lapped it up (along with their whole gurnards and snappers, expertly seasoned, and kept warm with the most fashionable vegetables).

Oh how nice, lefties and Dirty Media practitioners all enjoying a convivial atmosphere.    Read more »

Trotter on Nash and the Greens

Finally a Labour MP that doesn’t want to do dumb stuff that doesn’t get people elected.

This means he will probably get a good hiding at the next Labour caucus meeting, and sent away on sensitivity training.

But Chris Trotter nails it:

IF THE GREENS want a glimpse of their future with Labour, then they should listen to Stuart Nash.

Speaking yesterday (31/3/15) at the big oil exploration industry conference at Sky City, Labour’s energy spokesperson warned his audience that the tiny minority who opposed oil drilling was “always in our ear”. What’s more, he said, “they’re very media savvy”.    Read more »

Trotter on the effects of Northland on Labour and National

Chris Trotter has always been a keen observer of Winston Peters and in his blog he comments on what the victory in Northland means for Labour and for National.

To hold Northland will NZ First be required to veer to the Right – thereby alienating the thousands of Labour supporters whose votes provided the foundation for Mr Peters’ upset win?

Will the National Government, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, begin to re-position itself as NZ First’s future coalition partner?

How will Mr Peters’ Northland victory influence Labour’s political positioning – especially its relationship with the Greens?

Good questions which Trotter goes some way to explaining.

Labour, if it is wise, will seize the opportunity provided by Mr Peters’ victory to put even more distance between itself and the Greens. In his continuing effort to “re-connect” Labour with its traditional constituencies, Andrew Little must already have marked the numerous ideological affinities that draw non-National provincial voters towards one another. These are conservative people, whose personal morals and political values often place them at odds with the more “progressive” voters of metropolitan New Zealand.

The extent to which Labour’s Northland voters defected to Mr Peters indicates that, at the very least, the NZ First leader’s political values presented no insurmountable barrier to Labour’s people following their own leader’s tactical advice. Indeed, just about all the insurmountable barriers to the re-connections Labour must make if it is to regain the status of a “40 percent party” have been raised in the cities – not the provinces.

Even in the cities these obstacles persist. Labour’s traditional urban working-class supporters have more in common with their provincial brothers and sisters than many Labour Party activists are willing to admit.

Shunting-off their social revolutionaries to the Greens might decimate the ranks of Labour’s membership, but it could, equally, swell the ranks of those willing to vote for the party in 2017. Shorn of its radical fringe, Labour not only becomes a much more comfortable fit for NZ First – but also for working-class New Zealanders generally.

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