Chris Trotter

Bogan expert disagrees with Trotter

A dead set bogan expert, a PhD in boganology no less, disagrees with Chris Trotter over Labour targeting bogans for support.

The article is good and certainly needs a bigger audience than the few lamb chop recipe aficionados that infest New Zealand’s premier blog for posts about pots, pans and pannier bags.

First and foremost, there is some initial clarification needed. Being a Bogan is not based on deficit. Perhaps it is due to academic thinking on subcultural groups such as Bogans, typified by the work of academics in the Birmingham tradition such as Hall in Resistance through Rituals, which conceptualised youth cultures as a way for young people to support each other due to class subordination. Their so-called deviant behaviour was viewed as a reaction of working-class youth to structural changes in post-war Britain.

The Birmingham tradition of sub-cultural research is hugely influential to this day, including further research in the 1970s concerning subcultures such as Mods, Rockers, and Skinheads. Chris’s column is reminiscent of this thinking, in his suggestions that Bogans are a response of sorts to Labour’s economic changes in the 1980s, vis-a-visRoger Douglas.

I am not a political scientist. While more research would be needed in the area before a definitive statement could be made, I will say that working class is not a dirty term. The working class have marketable skills; they build your houses, they fix your car, and they replace that o-ring in the tap in your kitchen sink which you really should have done yourself.

They rent a room and not a house because it means more money to buy that gearbox they wanted. They lack tertiary qualifications not because of a lack of intelligence, but because you don’t need a doctorate to get a job as a mechanic when a certificate will do – a job that they enjoy and gives access to a decent work space.

The problem with the Birmingham tradition was that it portrayed subcultural groups as unwitting dupes or victims who banded together due to a lack of voice. While the Birmingham tradition provides a useful base for research into such groups, to apply such thinking to more modern communities silences those the research purports to give voice to. The Bogan, and by extension the working class, are not victims in a modern sense.

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Trotter suggests Labour replaces Asian votes with Bogan votes


Even though he spelled bogan incorrectly (I looked it up to check) Chris Trotter makes the case for Labour exchanging Asian voters for Bogan voters.

CAN LABOUR WIN the “Bogun Vote”? Should it even try? Seriously, if going after the votes of “Waitakere Man” is considered bad, then pursuing the Bogun Vote must, surely, be worse? And yet, at one time, the in-work, well-remunerated, union-dues-paying, domestically-settled, family man – and his sons – constituted the heart and soul of the Labour vote. Indeed, so irrevocably gendered was the New Zealand working-class vote that the poet, James K. Baxter, made humorous reference to it in his otherwise bleak suburban tragedy, Calvary Street:

Where two old souls go slowly mad,

National Mum and Labour Dad.

In 2015, however, Baxter’s stereotype seems all wrong. Fifty years after the publication of Calvary Street it is Dad who votes for National and Mum who (maybe) votes for Labour. In 2015, the self-employed, well-remunerated, domestically-settled, family man – a.k.a Waitakere Man – is much more likely to vote for the Right than the Left. His children, if they bother to vote at all, probably do the same.

Of course they vote National, most of them are self employed and self sufficient…not bludging, entitled ratbags.

Boguns are very different from, and should never be confused with, the offspring of Waitakere Man. The latter represents working-class New Zealand males on an upward socio-economic trajectory. Boguns, by contrast, represent working-class New Zealand males on the socio-economic skids. They are the blokes – especially the young blokes – who struggle to find and remain in even the most poorly-paid employment. Their domestic situations tend towards the precarious. They rent rooms – not houses – and struggle to both make and retain strong social connections. That’s why mateship is so crucial to the Bogun identity; especially mateship built around sporting allegiances and motor vehicles.

The fathers and grandfathers of 21st Century Boguns were the men for whom the fully employed, compulsorily unionised, welfare state was, primarily, constructed. Men of modest educational attainment and limited ambition who were able, nevertheless, to live full and rewarding lives under the state’s (and their union’s) protection. These were the men who worked for the state-owned Post Office and Railways; whose families occupied state houses; whose award-wages kept them, if not in luxury, then, at least, in reasonable comfort. They were also the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. That it was Labour, in the person of Roger Douglas, who destroyed their world and cast them and their families onto the scrapheap, is the defining Bogun betrayal.

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Poor old Chris Trotter, he is back on his Greek delusions

Dear old Chris Trotter, he is back making up wistful stories about the demise of the socialist ratbags in Greece, who seem to believe they can have a free ride paid for by other hard working people like the Krauts.

He thinks there are three groups commenting on the Greek crisis, the first group is the largest and are those who simply don’t care.

Then there are people like me, and most readers of this site who he describes like this:

Then there’s the group that regards the unfolding Greek crisis as a simple morality tale. According to this view, the Greeks awarded themselves a lifestyle they had not earned and paid for it with other people’s money. When the music stopped and their creditors came a-calling, the Greeks were required to discover just how unpleasant life can become when excessive debt falls due. As far as this group is concerned, the Greeks are in the process of being taught some very valuable lessons. On no account, therefore, should the EU be encouraged to remove its knife from Greece’s throat.

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Trotter comes back from his ‘mare with a ripper

Chris Trotter had a nightmare of a post about the wogs going broke in Greece.

But he has recovered his composure with a great post about how much distress Labour is in.

IF EVERYONE who voted for their Labour candidate in last year’s election had also given Labour their Party Vote, National would have lost. The discrepancy between the two vote tallies is startling. Everybody’s heard about Labour’s woeful 2014 Party Vote. At just 25 percent, it was Labour’s worst electoral performance since 1922. Nowhere near as well known, however, is the number of votes cast for Labour Party candidates across the country’s 71 electorates. That number, at 801,287, is 196,752 larger than the 604,535 Party Votes Labour received. If every Electorate Vote for Labour had been matched by a Party Vote, the percentage figure alongside Labour’s name on election night would not have been a derisory 25, but a much more respectable 34 – almost certainly enough to have changed the government.

Such a huge discrepancy between the Party and Electorate Votes indicates a political party in serious trouble. What it reveals is that where voters are either well acquainted with, or have been introduced effectively to their Labour Party candidate, they are much more likely to place a tick beside his or her name. When it comes to Labour as an entity in its own right, however, the inclination to give the party a tick is nowhere near as strong.

What this says is that people like some of their local Labour MPs but think the party as a whole are unfit to govern.

In the Christchurch electorate of Port Hills, for example, the long-serving Labour candidate, Ruth Dyson, received 18,161 electorate votes. The Labour Party on its own, however, mustered just 9,514 Party Votes – a whopping 9,205 less than National’s 18,719 Party Votes. Small wonder, then, that 27 of the 32 MPs in Labour’s caucus are electorate MPs, with only 5 coming in off the Party List.

Unless this situation is turned around – and quickly – Labour’s electoral performance can only deteriorate. As the party’s well-known and affectionately regarded electorate MPs retire, the assumption that Labour people will replace Labour people is being called into question. Once again, Christchurch supplies the example. The parliamentary seat of Christchurch Central was for decades regarded as one of the safest of Labour’s “safe” seats. True to form, in the 2005 General Election Labour’s majority was 7,836. In 2008, however, with a new candidate, it’s majority shrank to just 935. Three years later, National’s Nicky Wagner took the seat with a majority of 47 votes. In last year’s election National increased its majority to 2,420. Significantly, National’s share of the Party Vote over those four general elections rose from 30.5 to 44.6 percent. Labour will have to work very hard to recover Christchurch Central in 2017.

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Chris Trotter’s politically incoherent rant about Greece

Chris Trotter can usually be relied on to give a sensible opinion on most political matters, though occasionally he loses himself in an orgy of self congratulation when it appears someone can claim “Capitalism doesn’t Work”.

Chris’ delusions about capitalism and the Greek Crisis have come to a head with a piece where he welcomes the bludging Greek ratbags voting not to pay their debts.

He usually gets the diagnosis right, but doesn’t always get the treatment right.

THE UNFOLDING CRISIS in Greece has stripped Neoliberalism of its protective disguise and the world is recoiling from its ugliness. In normal circumstances the true purposes of the world’s neoliberal elites are masked by their use of opaque economic jargon. In the case of Greece, however, the social science of economics has been turned against them by some of its most impressive exponents. Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman have told the world that what is being done to Greece has nothing to do with economics, and everything to do with politics. A whole country is being driven to the wall in a desperate bid to destroy its left-wing government. Neoliberalism simply cannot allow the Greek Prime Minister’s, Alexis Tsipras’s, powerful lessons in democracy to go unpunished. If his Syriza Party is allowed to defeat austerity in Greece, what is there to prevent Podemos from defeating it in Spain? Or Sinn Fein in Ireland?

Yes Chris, it is all to do with politics, although those from the Austrian or Chicago schools of economics might disagree with well known left-wingers and Keynsians, Stigliz and Krugman. The politics is pretty easy to understand, especially if you take a step back from the ideology of a looney left Greek government who says “We won’t pay you”.

Germany’s 72-year-old Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, has clearly been unable to cope with his 54-year-old Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis. Everything about the free-wheeling Greek economics professor offends the unyielding German ideologue. Varoufakis has been unsparing in his criticism of Germany’s inability to grasp the necessity for Greek debt relief (which even the IMF now acknowledges). It’s an act of insubordination which Schauble and his colleagues are resolutely determined to punish. So unchallenged has neoliberalism’s ideological hegemony been since the collapse of Soviet-style socialism that it finds itself unable to adequately respond to Varoufakis’s neo-Keynesian populist critiques. Their greatest fear is that, like the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the Greek Finance Minister will draw the world’s attention to the fact that the neoliberal German Emperor is wearing no clothes.  Read more »

‘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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