Neil Kinnock

Andrew Little’s New Plymouth problem

Given the lack of talent for Labour’s leadership spill, Andrew Little looks like a good safe bet.

But there is a problem, and that is his less than stellar performances in New Plymouth.

Phil Quin explains;

There’s a lot of smart money going on Andrew Little’s bid to lead the Labour Party, but the numbers in New Plymouth don’t lie. So what are they saying?

There’s a lot of talk about “listening” in Labour circles these days. Announcing his bid for the party leadership, list MP Andrew Little named as his top priority “getting the process underway to listen to the voters who have abandoned us”. Grant Robertson agrees, telling reporters last week “as we emerge from our heavy election defeat, we must now take the opportunity to listen”.

I suspect Little and Robertson have in mind some version of a “Labour Listens” tour (as Neil Kinnock did in Britain in 1997 and Gordon Brown did in 2010), a series of carefully staged outreach events involving a great deal of ostentatious nodding and taking of things on board. This is all well and good, and may even help in the long run, but there’s no reason to wait for a bus trip to start the process.

New Zealanders have said a great deal already, and in the most unequivocal terms imaginable: they have voted.

As it turns out, electors in New Plymouth haven’t left much to the imagination when it comes to Little. Labour’s performance in the seat since he became the party’s local standard bearer has been disastrous. It seems worth analysing Little’s record in light of David Cunliffe’s endorsement, not to mention his own acknowledgement that the next party leader will need to arrest the party’s decline by rebuilding the party and reconnecting with voters. “We don’t have a choice,” Little told Lisa Owen on The Nation last weekend, “We’ve lost three elections in a row. Our vote has been going down. We’re down to 32 MPs. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel”.

He should know. In the two elections since Little became Labour’s candidate in New Plymouth, National’s party vote margin in the electorate has more than doubled from 6,600 to 13,000 votes. After a 5.8 percent two-party swing from Labour to National in 2011, there was a further 6.3 percent swing in New Plymouth this year – roughly three times worse than the nationwide average. As the electorate candidate, Little also attracted 6,500 fewer electorate votes than in 2008 when the previous Labour member, Harry Duynhoven, lost the seat. After three years of resources and profile as a list MP based partly in New Plymouth, Little managed a 7.8 percent swing against him on the electorate vote this year, to compound the 6.7 percent he suffered in 2011.  Read more »

Same problem here for Labour

Labour in the UK is in dreadful trouble with a lacklustre leader who is highly rated, by himself mostly.

Last Friday, Ed Miliband’s team assembled to review the previous day’s launch of the “Condition of Britain” report from the IPPR think tank, which Miliband had enthusiastically embraced. The morning papers were dominated by England’s World Cup defeat at the hands of Uruguay, but what coverage there was gave the Labour leader’s aides cause for concern. “No one’s out there backing us up,” observed one of his press advisers sombrely.

Although the speech had been heavily trailed in advance, the rest of the shadow cabinet were conspicuous by their absence. With the exception of Rachel Reeves, who holds the welfare brief, few of Miliband’s colleagues appeared keen publicly to endorse his tough new line on benefits.

“Well, what did they expect,” one bemused shadow cabinet member told me. “He’s spent the past four years telling everyone: ‘I’m going to stand up to the Tories on welfare.’ Then he suddenly says: ‘Actually, you know what, I’m not.’ And he expects everyone to come running?”

As Ed Miliband is painfully aware, no one is planning to do so. Which is why his office had to spend the rest of Friday ringing round, drumming up support for their beleaguered boss in the weekend papers. Reeves, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt duly emerged to issue supportive statements, along with Neil Kinnock, who was – bizarrely – sent out to rebut the charge that Miliband was turning into
 Neil Kinnock.

One person who did not issue a supportive statement, of course, was the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls. Indeed, over the past few weeks, rumours have started to circulate in the corridors of Westminster that Balls is “on manoeuvres”. “He’s up to something,” MPs have been whispering to one another, in conspiratorial tones.

Read more »

What makes leaders unelectable

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Leaving John Armstrong’s truly weird opinion piece this weekend, Labours modern leadership across the globe is strikingly similar, out of touch, a bit odd and a long way away from the ordinary man on the street.

It is a life of multi million dollar properties, backyard beehives, fine wines and the pretence of trying to represent the working class.

When aside from having them cheer you on at a  meeting for the faithful then retiring to your nice hotel ordering an expensive glass of wine and hanging your $3,000 suit up, the gardener, window cleaner, house cleaner and the odd tradesman are the only time the new Labour elite get to rub shoulders with mere mortals.

It is the same for David Cunliffe and it is for Ed Miliband.

This should have been one of the best weeks of Ed Miliband’s career. In fact, it has been by far the worst. Disaster followed disaster.

Having made the ‘cost of living crisis’ the centrepiece of his local and Euro election campaign, the hapless Miliband suggested that his family’s weekly shop cost around £70 or £80 — a figure most commentators agreed was a woeful underestimate, suggesting that he didn’t really know what he was talking about.

Then the man who lives in a London house worth £2.5 million announced rather coyly that he is only ‘relatively comfortably off’.

Elsewhere, he floundered in a cringe-making radio interview in Swindon, unable either to remember the name of the borough’s Labour leader, or identify that the Tories ran  the council.

Worst of all were those pictures of him clumsily scoffing a bacon-and-ketchup sandwich in a desperate attempt to look like a man of the people. Those images, above all, will remain in the public’s minds.

To cap it all, yesterday — a day when he might have expected to be celebrating victory in the local elections and telling his troops to ‘prepare for Government’ — Mr Miliband found that Labour had turned in a shockingly poor performance.

Read more »

Imagine life without Radio NZ and TVNZ? … Bliss?

Think about how great it would be without the left wing bias and just plain wrong-ness of Radio NZ and TVNZ.

Earlier I blogged about what is happening in Greece…now the subsidised illuminati of the BBC are working themselves into a lather in the UK.

But others like me think it would be bliss, and the trough-snufflers of state funded broadcasting would finally have their throats cut.

John Humphrys has invited Radio 4 listeners to imagine life without the BBC. They are to picture themselves sitting down to watch Countryfile or Holby City, only for the screen to go black. That’s what happened to the Greek national broadcaster ERT, you see, the Hellenic equivalent of the BBC. On Tuesday night the good citizens of Greece were watching the news when
 pfft. Apparently the money had run out.

I closed my eyes, but before I had a chance to imagine a Britain without the BBC, Humphrys dismissed the idea as “unimaginable”. You have to admire the complacency behind that “unimaginable”. The Herculean smugness. The scale of the self-congratulation. And it’s not just Humphrys. They’re all at it, all the 30,000 or so people who work for the BBC.  Read more »

A history lesson for Labour

With all the constitutional changes in Labour over the weekend, a correspondent points to the UK in the 80s and the similar changes made by UK Labour, and the subsequent de-stabilisation by Tony Benn.

The hallmarks and history are remarkably similar to what we are seeing now:

In a keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference of 1980, shortly before the resignation of party leader James Callaghan and election of Michael Foot as successor, Benn outlined what he envisaged the next Labour Government would do. “Within days”, a Labour Government would gain powers to nationalise industries, control capital and implement industrial democracy; “within weeks”, all powers from Brussels would be returned to Westminster, and abolish the House of Lords by creating one thousand peers and then abolishing the peerage. Benn received tumultuous applause.

In 1981, he stood against incumbent Denis Healey for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, disregarding the appeal from Michael Foot to either stand for the leadership or abstain from inflaming the party’s divisions. Benn defended his decision with insistence that it was “not about personalities, but about policies.” The contest was extremely closely fought, and Healey won by a margin of barely 1%. The decision of several moderate left-wing MPs, including Neil Kinnock, to abstain triggered the split of the Campaign Group from the Left of the Tribune Group.

Luckily there is a documentary about all this on Youtube. It is fascinating. This is the first part of the documentary called “The Wilderness Years”

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Josie Pagani on Trotter’s World

ᔄ Josie Pagani Facebook Page

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.