Tony Blair

Why is it Kiwiblog has the best posts when Farrar is away?

Lifestyle, arts and travel blogger David Farrar is away again.

Kiwiblog has again reverted to a blog of David’s mid-life crisis and travels.

Not content with his own travel blogging, he also now has guest travel blog posts.

However he does have a guest post from Kiwi in America that is very good. Why is it Kiwiblog’s best posts are while he is away?

Regular readers of Kiwiblog will recall my lengthy essay posted on Easter Friday about the recent history of Labour; some of it based on my time as an activist there until the mid 90’s attempting to explain Labour’s present day conundrum.

In a nutshell it said that an attempt by the left of the party to seize permanent control of Labour after the massive post Rogernomics ructions under the leadership of Helen Clark, led to a gradual purging of activists from the centrist and right wings of the party. Clark, and her followers in the Head Office and regional hierarchies, ensured the selection of candidates in winnable electorate seats (and after the introduction of MMP, also the party list) that not only ensured she could topple then leader Mike Moore after the 1993 election but also cemented her power base inside Labour guaranteeing her an unchallenged 15 year reign as Labour’s leader. This handed power in the party to an increasingly narrow base of sector and interest groups such as academics, trade unions, progressive feminists and the rainbow coalition gradually driving out activists who were more likely to be white, male, socially conservative, small business owners and church going people of faith. After Labour’s 2008 election defeat, former members of the harder left New Labour Party, homeless after the dissolution of the Alliance, the demise of Anderton’s Progressives and the rise of the Greens, began to come back to Labour assisting in the movement of the party more to the left.

This trend culminated in the amendment to Labour’s Constitution at its 2012 Annual Conference giving 40% of the vote for Party Leader to the party membership and 20% to the affiliated unions leaving only 40% in the hands of the Parliamentary caucus. This new formula enabled David Cunliffe to win the first full leadership primary in 2013 despite having only minority support in caucus – the first time this had ever happened in Labour’s history. The result of his elevation to the leadership was Labour’s third successive and even more disastrous defeat.

When you drive out of the party its more centrist activists, you leave a vacuum that has been filled by harder left activists. When these same activists, alongside the more traditionally left wing trade union leadership, have control of the party’s candidate selections, its policy formation and now the election of its leader, over time you end up with a party, candidates and policies that no longer appeal to middle NZ and a party that is no longer the broad church it used to be. The party may be truer to its left wing principles but it now produces candidates, policies and campaigning rhetoric out of step with the aspirations of floating middle NZ voters that decide elections. National’s moderate centrist direction under John Key has become the natural repository for various key demographic groups that once used to strongly vote Labour and accordingly, Labour has ended up falling further behind National in each subsequent election post its 2008 defeat culminating in its second lowest vote this election since its formation in 1916!

Labour is now undertaking yet another review of why it was defeated and another likely more bruising leadership primary.

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Phil Quin talks about Labour’s dilemma – unelectable leaders

Tim Watkin  Phil Quin writes better than he speaks, and today he has written a post about Labour’s dilemma, the fact that almost all of their choices for leader are actually unelectable to the wider electorate.

Labour has done a fine job of selling the democratic virtues of their new way electing a leader; it rolls off the tongue to say that 40 percent of the outcome is determined by rank and file members. But whose democratic interests does it really serve?

In 1980, the Labour Party in Britain similarly gave party members a say in the leadership; but, as Tony Blair points out, the reforms lacked “any appreciation of the vital necessity of ensuring that, as well as MPs or leaders being accountable to the Party, the Party was accountable to the electorate”.

Given its paltry membership, Blair goes on, UK Labour “became prey to sectarian groups from the Ultra-Left”, a decent explanation for why the party remained in opposition for seventeen years after “empowering” members.

I’ve always said that if you are a keen observer of UK politics it stands you in good stead to predict what will happen here. Labour’s system is just one part of the problem.

If there is a case to be made that Labour’s current membership is representative of the party’s broader constituency – which I take to include supporters and would be supporters  – I’m yet to hear it. For a start, members are heavily concentrated in urban pockets; in most suburban and provincial electorates, they number in the dozens at best. Activists also tend to be older and, inevitably, sit way to the left of the political spectrum. To most people, especially post-Boomers, joining a political party is so out of kilter with modern sensibilities it almost qualifies as oddball behaviour.

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Comment of the Day

From the post about ISIS, Olivia Pierson writes:

I’m so glad you put this up Cameron. I have to say I felt a twinge of disgust when I read Andrea Vance’s op-ed; again with the staggeringly militant ignorance of NZ journalism on geopolitical issues which deeply matter!

Firstly – Vance says; “In the last two decades, Iraq has not been far off the military radar.

Military intervention to eliminate weapons of mass destruction was built on a fallacy, years of slaughter failed to remove the threat of terrorism or install democracy.”

The removal of the psychopathic Saddam Hussein Baathist regime was inevitable and appallingly long-overdue, a reality which Tony Blair knew along with President Bush – hence the Anglo-American coalition to overthrow it. The questions around WMD was only ONE of the reasons which put this coalition on the right side of history.

According to the United Nations, there are four egregious acts where breaking even one of them, can and should result in regime change; Saddam broke all four:
1 – committing genocide (against the Kurds),
2 – the invasion of a neighbouring state (Iran & Kuwait),
3 – proliferating nuclear weapons (Saddam himself boasted that Iraq was on its way to acquiring a centrifuge (we now know he only had a blueprint) and remember the 550 metric tons of yellow cake airlifted out of Iraq and shipped straight to Canada in 2008? Should the world have just taken a violent psychopath’s word that the enriched uranium was intended for peaceful purposes only?)
4 – aiding and abetting terrorism (Saddam was a renowned and prolific supporter of terrorism to many Islamist militant organisations, among them Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who moved freely between Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan and Iraq – a fact which obviates Saddam’s blessing.) Read more »

Echoes from the UK that give insight on New Zealand

People are sitting and watching the debacle that is David Cunliffe unfold before their eyes. They wonder at how the Labour party could have got it so wrong, after the heady days of Helen Clark’s power.

Part of the problem lies with that legacy of Helen Clark. She turned the party into a cult of personality and then surrounded herself with people who lacked ability, colour or ideas…lest they rise up and challenge her. So focussed was she on neutralising threats from within that she didn’t see John Key sneak up on her.

The marks of Helen still pervade the party, and now they seek to purge anyone from the centre right in the party. This of course has already been foreshadowed in the UK where Labour suffers the same issues.

What is it with British political parties? Is there some masochistic tendency – a perverse self-destruct mechanism – which invariably makes them denounce the very thing that has provided them with unprecedented success? You must accept that there is an uncanny parallel between the Conservative modernisers’ renunciation of Thatcherism after a single electoral defeat which followed on 18 unbroken years of power, and the Labour party’s rejection of its New Labour incarnation after an unprecedented three terms in office.

Somehow the idea became received wisdom that winning three times in a row – and then losing – was a kind of moral catastrophe rather than being a simple (indeed, healthy) consequence of democratic life. Since when have politicians assumed that when they lose an election it must be a sign that everything they have been saying and doing is totally unworthy and repulsive to the people – who had, until that point, been voting for them consistently for nearly two decades?

But here we are again. Labour is roughly where the Tory party was around 2000: in full-on self-flagellation mode – renouncing the version of itself which had been its most stupendously effective election-winning formula in post-war history. Blairism has become the precise analogue of Thatcherism – the evil spectre that must be expunged before the party can regain trust and credibility. In the case of Tony Blair, there is a convenient – and fatally confused – issue which can be used to justify his disgrace. His foreign military ventures and his association with the Bush “war on terror” have given licence to his perennial enemies within Labour to cast his whole political programme into disrepute.

That he transformed the Labour message, so as to make it not only electorally attractive but consistent with modern British social attitudes, is deftly buried by the Neanderthal Left, which always hated his reforms and his attempts to break the party’s dependence on the trade unions.

This brings us to Ed Miliband, who was put into the leadership by those unions precisely for the purpose of driving out the last traces of the Blair heresy. So the lesson that Blairism learnt from Thatcherism – that contemporary British politics is now all about individual aspiration, self-determination and genuine fairness (which is to say, you get out of life pretty much what you put in), rather than the old Left dogmas of class hatred, passivity and state-run collectivism – must now be expunged from Labour’s message.    Read more »

Playing the race card is damaging Labour

There are serious murmurs and shocked tones swirling around in side Labour over David Cunliffe’s dog-whistle on immigration.

Already James Caygill has voiced his concerns, there are many others, including candidates and MPs that I have spoken to who are of the same mind.

We don’t have to look too far for an indicator how this will all play out. Labour is still shoulder to shoulder with their UK counterparts, right down to the weird posh leader elected by pandering to the unions and the membership.

As I predicted on Friday, Labour is this morning in the grip of a Ukip Crisis. “Miliband under pressure as Labour splits over how to win back voters,” reports the Guardian. “Elitist Ed is heading for disaster: Labour MPs says party leaders have their head in the sand over ‘terrible’ European elections result,” reports the Mail.

As if things weren’t bad enough, Tony Blair has also chipped in. “It is right to be worried when a party like Ukip comes first in the European election, it would be foolish not to be. But on the other hand we also have to stand for what is correct and right for the future of Britain in the 21st century,” said our former PM, in an intervention that will enrage both the Left and Right in equal measure.

Blair is whistling in the wind. We are currently witnessing a flight from reason. The false narrative that “Ukip are as much of a threat to Labour as they are to the Tories” has taken hold and, for the while at least, there is no shaking it.

Because they will become useful at a later date, I’ll just lay out the facts. The Lord Ashcroft exit poll of the Euro elections found Ukip taking votes from the Tories by a margin of 2:1. That is when their vote share falls in a range between 30 per cent down to about 15 per cent. Other polling has shown that once their vote sinks below that level, they start to take votes from the Tories by margins of 3:1, 4:1, 5:1 even 6:1. The Tories privately put the cross-over point at between 10-11 per cent. That’s the point where Ukip start to take votes from the other parties a little more evenly (though the bulk of votes still come from Conservative switchers). Ukip are today polling 13 per cent. They will be well below that come election day. Read more »

This is what is happening to Labour here

All political parties – particularly parties of opposition – have to have some basic philosophical core.

That’s because if they don’t, they simply wander around aimlessly trying out every passing political fad, and entertaining every passing political snake-oil salesman, when they should instead be settling on a clear path to power.

Dan Hodges explains:

Before Saturday I’d come to the view that the Left had won the battle for control of Labour. I was wrong. No one has control of Labour. This is one of the fundamental problems facing Miliband’s party. Unlike in 1981 (the Bennites) and 1985 (the Kinnockites) and 1994, (the Blairites) there has been no definitive political settlement.

This morning it’s just been announced that Tony Blair is preparing to make a “big contribution” to Labour’s coffers, to offset predicted loss of income from the unions. What the hell is that all about?

Ever since Miliband was elected, we’ve been told his entire political plan revolved around moving Labour beyond the Blair/Brown years. You may agree with that plan, you may disagree with that plan. But it sent a clear signal about Labour’s direction of political travel. As did Miliband’s stated desire at Saturday’s conference to open politics up to “ordinary people”. How does that fit with the news that Blair is about to become Miliband’s sugar daddy?

Some people will claim this is evidence Labour is a “broad church”. It doesn’t. It shows Labour isn’t a church at all. It’s just a large room with lots of people shouting wholly contradictory things at one another, while people huddle around saying “Hell yes, I agree with that! Oh, wait, hang on a minute. What did he just say?”   Read more »

Miliband and Cunliffe both have the same problem

David Cunliffe and Ed Miliband both have the same problem.

They have an astonishing lack of charisma, poor body language, unfortunate mannerisms and both are beholden to ratbag union bosses.

Without the trade unions, Ed Miliband would not be an aspiring prime minister. But for the intervention of the “brothers” – in the shape of the trade union bosses – it would be his Blairite sibling David, now exiled in New York, getting ready to fight the next general election. It was not to be.

When, in September 2010, Ed beat his own brother to the Labour leadership by a whisker, his victory was down to the backing of the giant trade unions Unite, Unison and the GMB, whose bosses recommended him to their members and allowed him access to their membership lists. While David had more support than Ed among MPs, MEPs and constituency Labour parties (CLPs), it was outweighed by the power of the unions in the party’s complicated electoral college.

That night, after the result was announced, trade union fixers and assorted hangers-on toured the bars of the conference hotel, toasting their success. The traditionalists had routed the Blairites and reclaimed the party. Labour’s new leader would be their man.   Read more »

Bill Clinton might not be a dodgy rooting ratbag, but Tony Blair might be

Liz Hurley has denied a torrid affair with Bill Clinton, describing such rumours as “ludicrously silly”.

As celebrity gossip goes, it takes some beating: actress and model Elizabeth Hurley has year-long affair with Bill Clinton while he was US President.

Throw in the suggestion that they had a liaison in the White House while Hillary Clinton was next door, and that Mr Clinton ended it when he realised he was falling in love, and you have a story that rivals Marilyn Monroe’s alleged fling with John F Kennedy.

But when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, as Miss Hurley pointed out on Wednesday when she was forced to deny the “ludicrously silly” report and threatened legal action as it gathered pace online.

The allegations were made by Tom Sizemore, a Hollywood actor who claims to have dated Miss Hurley in the 1990s.

Sizemore was recorded on video boasting to friends that he had arranged Miss Hurley’s first rendezvous with the president in 1998 following a White House screening of Saving Private Ryan.

The actor was one of the stars of the film and claimed Clinton pulled him away from the screening for a private conversation.

In the video, obtained by the gossip website Radar Online, Sizemore says Clinton asked him: “Did you go with Liz Hurley for four years? Do you still see her?”

When Sizemore confirmed that the couple had dated but were no longer an item, Clinton is said to have asked for Miss Hurley’s phone number.

In the recording, Sizemore claims the then-President told him: ‘Give it to me. You dumb m***********r, I’m the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.

“The buck stops here. Give me the damn number.”

Why didn’t he just get the NSA to give it to him?

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Same problem here

Tony Blair has a point when he lambasts career politicians.

Tony Blair said MPs should work normal jobs before entering politics to give them a better overview of how the world works.

Tony Blair took a swipe at modern MPs like Ed Miliband for lacking experience outside politics, claiming they should work normal jobs for several years before heading to Westminster.

The former Prime Minister said there was a “general problem” in Western democracies with career politicians who have never worked outside the political sphere.

He insisted that following careers in other areas before taking up politics was vital as it meant the MPs were “better able to see the world”.   Read more »

Boris smacks Red Ed

Boris Johnson doesn’t spare anything on his spanking of Ed Miliband and his Cunliffe-like lurch to the left.

So now we know what he wants to do with the country. It’s “socialism”, folks! For years now, Ed Miliband has been studiously blank about his intentions. To a degree that has maddened supporters and opponents alike, he has refused to say much about how Labour would govern the country. He has curled himself into an ideological foetal position – so as to present as small a target as possible – and hoped that Coalition unpopularity would allow him to stand up at the last minute and slither unobtrusively into power.

And now, in an incautious admission, he has reminded us of his core beliefs – as the proud son of a Marxist academic. He wants to restore socialism to Britain. In spite of everything, the mission of Labour under Ed Miliband is to revive a political belief system that brought Britain to its knees, that blighted the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, that was responsible for untold murders and abuses of human rights, and that in the past 30 years has been decisively rejected across the planet in favour of liberty, free enterprise and market economics – a rival system that has lifted and is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and servitude. Someone needs to tell Ed Miliband that socialism failed, and I have just the man to do it.  Read more »