Where are the thinkers of Labour?

In the early 80s before the 1984 election Labour’s opposition was populated with thinkers.

Roger Douglas, David Lange, Michael Bassett, Geoffrey Palmer, Peter Tapsell, Mike Moore and Richard Prebble.

They didn’t just oppose Muldoon, they came up with some solutions to the morass the country found itself in. They showed an enormous tallent and prodigious thinking power. That powerful opposition went on to become a reforming government making dramatic lasting positive changes to the New Zealand economy crippled by Muldoon’s legacy and global economic conditions.

Even Helen Clark cut her teeth in politics at that time.

If Labour are going to challenge National seriously rather than sit back and expect to win in 2014 then they need to show the same sort of vision and ideas that those aforementioned lumnaries of Labour showed.

The problem I have is that I just don’t think there is a single one of the current Labour caucus that remotely qualifies in the same league.

There certainly isn’t a Richard Prebble and a book like “I’ve been Thinking“.

Hel me out here readers, is there anyone in the Labour caucus right now that will have such a dramatic positive effect on New Zealand like that of the 4th Labour government?

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  • Bumhole Mcfee

    Unfortunately they are too much like most of National and are more interested in their salary and perks than serving the public.

    • How many Labour politicians have taken a pay cut to become an MP? Not many, I daresay.

  • Cobalt Wizard

    In today’s political line up “thinker & labour” is an oxymoron

  • Anonymous

    There is no one, period.

    The only one in the entire caucus who I would even consider capable is Damien O Connor and I think he’s like Jim Sutton was , in the wrong party.

    P.S Lange was no thinker, a quick witted gob maybe.  Douglas was the brains, Dr. Bassett was too talented to even be in Parliament

    • Dr Wang

      Hear hear!

  • Matt Collins

    To be honest with you Whaleoil i think the best thing Shearer could do to get into Govt would be to folow in the footsteps of Tony Blair in his early leadership days and create a ‘New Labour’ vibe,the past of the Labour Party is littered with unpopular politicians (From Lange and Douglas to
    Clark and Cullen) so what the Labour Party really needs to do is to have a major restructuring of their party and to get rid of all the deadwood (The Trade Unions and the ‘Rainbow’ sector have far too much power in the party)

    • Apolonia

      It’s already been done. The party’s led by Key and English.

    • Gazzaw

      I absoutely concur Matt. I have no objection per se to the trade unions & rainbow sectors but not one of the MPs representing those groupings bring anything to labour aside from their mediocrity. They are people who have zero chance of winning any support from the middle ground and that is the key to a labour victory in 2014. 

  • Matt Collins

    “a dramatic positive effect on New Zealand like that of the 4th Labour government” I fundementally disagree with your analysis there, it is true that the Lange Govt did get rid of the wasteful spending and over-the-top regulation of the Muldoon years but i beleieve they went over board with the economic theory (Similar to the Bolger Govt with Ruth Richardson)

  • Euan Rt

    It is indeed a sad indictment on the current crop that their brains trust is so scant. They could at least form some policy around land ownership in the current climate and try and get some traction, instead of just saying no, yes, maybe under those circumstances… They are like a bunch of chickens in a chicken shed all buk, buk, bukking to each other as if they were each important, but quite unaware that their fate is in the hands of the axeman at the door. They need more than just strong leadership which they do not have IMHO, they need direction; and I believe you are right in suggesting that they don’t have a navigator on the not so good ship, Labour.

  • Jimmie

    Labour needs to void itself of 3 groups. Trade unions, Rainbow faction, and old has beens from Clark’s time. The whole lot – gone. Change their constituion or what ever.

    Then they need to find good talented, principled candidates & a group of policies that are genuinely good for NZ. They also need to rebrand their party to reach out to their natural constituents – Low income workers & the brown voters of South Auckland

    Labour has 4 problems that I see:

    1 They have no idea what they stand for apart from a natural greed to get back into government.

    2 Trade Unions – these piss off grass roots labourites as the unions seem to wield to much power and leave the supporters hanging dry. Also they turn off a lot of low income workers who fail to see the relevance of unions in todays world.

    3 Rainbow Faction. A natural turnoff to their PI church going folk – especially when they get involved in situations that reinforce natural stereotypes against gay Pollies. (Chris Carter etc.)
    Also they appear to have too much influence in Labour’s caucus in relation to their size. 

    4 Old Has Beens. Everytime potential voters see ex Labour Ministers & MP’s from Helen Clark’s era – it just brings back bad old memories and reminds them that Labour hasn’t changed, just put sticking plasters (New Leaders) over old festering sores –  while nothing else changes.

    Laobur should have learn’t from 2008 & definitely from 2011, but are slow slow learners it seems.

  • Mike

    Jacinda Arden. ’nuff said.

    • Kimbo


      Little Miss Smiley-face gets marks courtesy of her Bachelor of Communications for prize-quality turd-polishing and marketing.

      But parroting messages is not the same as coming up with ideas.

  • Euan Rt

    Looking at all the links you are making to Fran O’sullivan lately, she would be an excellent contender for Labours’ thinktank. But now they wouldn’t let her in the door, because she doesn’t always say ‘nice’ things about them. They can’t change if they are not prepared to face the mirror and see what the rest of us see.

  • AnonWgtn

    Labour do not have to do anything.
    The real Leader’s of the Opposition are a combination of Winston Spoiler Peters and Russel Commie Norman. And a bit of a weak Hone Hika
    Labour only has to let them do the work for them.
    Labour do not have to put anything seriously forward.
    I don’t think that they have the collective capability, or real brainpower, other than their
    sidekick unions.

  • Blair Mulholland

    Fuck Labour, where are the thinkers in National?  I swear the discourse and debate in the United States, shallow though some of it can tend to be, leaves NZ politics for dead in terms of policy arguments and principles.  NZ politics, and the NZ media, are an embarassment.

    • Euan Rt

      When I was in the US last year it was incredibly depressing seeing all the empty houses and depressed economy. I am happy that National have a direction they are heading in, trialing all be it new Act policy with the idea of improving education. I think progress is about innovation and balls not talk and debate. If you are saying that the US have big issues to deal with, then I agree. Fortunately we have our own issues to deal with  – like welfare, education, treaty negotiations. I see these being addressed if too slowly but at least the right direction.

      • Gazzaw

        I’m with you Euan. I’m fed up with the talking & the rhetoric. We want action now & I think that we may just see plenty from Bennett & Parata. I don’t know about the treaty, does anyone really know what to do about it? It’s just a huge boil on the arsehole of national progress. Successive apologist governments should never have allowed the situation to deteriorate to where it is. Too late to fix I fear without major divisions being created in this country.

      • Euan Rt

        Not sure on the treaty Gazza. Would love to say burn it. But somebody has to grow some balls and deal with it. It should be an historic document by now. Having been implemented and the ideals incorporated into a New Zealand Charter of some sort that does not discriminate based on race.

  • newbie

    Great article. The 1984 government was reform minded and persisted with an agenda that transformed this country from a state-run banana republic, to the free-market economy that we are today.  Even though many of the reforms, were, and still are unpopular with many, I believe they laid the platform for economic growth of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  In a similar vein I am glad Key and National are persisting with the SOE reforms – it shows the critics that National and its policies are driven by conviction, rather than fickle public opinion. For this country to go forward there needs to be bipartisan consensus on issues such as trade policy, superannuation, limits on the size of governement in relation to GDP, and an ongoing committment to productivity growth e.g. like Australia. 

  • Good post Whale and to the comments made here.
    Personally I think both National and Labour have or will have the same problem.
    Labour currently has it now with no thinkers – with The Greens in contention of becoming the new Major Opposition Party (to where they will stay unless they get their feet bloodied and enter a formal government arrangement).
    National in my personal opinion will start hitting that problem post 2014 – why?
    Who would replace John Key seriously after he goes and still be liked by the electorate?
    Has National got too many “Yes Men” and “Plodders” and not enough (because their is certainly some that do right now have) thinkers and balls of steel to get the Party through post 2014.
    Has National got a robust enough Party structure that encourages strong debate (from the floor of Conference) rather then the patsy questions get asked. Has the Party got enough structure to find, encourage, support and “foster” up and coming MPs and those who “should be” MPs into powerful and robust Ministers (Tony Ryall comes to mind with his great handling of that damned Ministry of Health folder) rather then a errr – Cam how do we go in bringing up the new and up comings for new MPs. 

    These are all important questions to both Major Parties unless NZ becomes the 7th state of Aussie Land rather than Aussie being the 4th Island of NZ ;)

  • jay cee

    more to the point where are the thinkers in national? after all the country needs more vision than sell to the highest bidder,(cafar farms) bash the unions and benefitaries(parata and bennett) and
    a “me too” pm who awaits  washingtons lead on most international  political stands.  

    • Anonymous

      Incorrect jay cee, that’s away from the point. Refer back to the blog heading. Labour is still in the political wilderness, they’re the ones needing “more vision”. Labour takes the ‘opposition’ title too literally, offering no solutions but plenty of opposition. On this current trajectory they will lose the next election as well.

    • Anonymous

      Bashing beneficiaries? Someone has to, they can’t just leech their entire lives. And why are you so xenophobic? Why do you care who one private citizen sells his property to?

      As for Labour’s thinkers, most left and formed the Act party, then the remaining decent MPs were crushed into submission under Helen’s iron fist. You’re left with a bunch of sort cocks, wretched harpie women, and gay guys to run the second largest political party in the country. O’Conner is probably the last real Labour man left.

      • jay cee

        bashing beneficiaries is just the rights way of pointing to a section of society and making them the scapegoats for all the countries problems.being doing it as long as i can remember. no i.m notxenophobic as said in an earlier post look at who is behind this crafar farms purchase. i had no problems with other land sale to foreigners deals as they were not a front, for all intents and purposes, a totalitarian regime. does chris finlayson know you have an  issue  with gay guys being positions of authority? 

      • Anonymous

        There’s a difference, Chris FInlayson doesn’t make being gay his entire purpose in politics. He’s not constantly accusing his detractors of homophobia, and he isn’t given an undue amount of influence in the affairs of one of the country’s major political parties. He didn’t get their through a quota system, he got their through shear talent. But above all, Chris Finlayson has been 100% awesome ever since he told some Hone-ites to go to hell.

        As for beneficiaries, people who do not work and demand the sweat of another’s brow cannot expect to be treated with respect. They should be ashamed to be on a benefit, and they need to be reminded that it is the industrious propping them up – not wrapped in cotton wool by the left and held up as Gods among men.

  • Mort

    Jay Cee: your arguments are typical leftist trite, you create straw man arguments and then insinuate that if someone makes a comment describing a situation, that is factually true, that they must be in some way a degenerate homophobes/ misogynist/ racist or some such.
    Where is Labour’s plan to get people off benefits into real jobs, and by that I mean jobs that will generate export dollars or have a real benefit to society, unlike most of the positions created in the final years of the Clark/Cullen regime, which were essentially desk versions of the 70s railway yards, nothing of essence produced, real entrepreneurs hindered, and wealth stolen/ wasted in the process. A large exercise in make work to the detriment of society as a whole. But this model of make work just created brain dead regulations, which mostly failed to achieve the desired outcome, but which required drones to enforce the regulations, and thus one more otherwise useful person gets sucked into the mechanics of a big govt system, with its ever increasing largesse and waste, taking from the producers in society, to enrich the insiders.

    • Hakimofphut

      Labours plan is  to do what they did before  which worked and reduced  those out of work to the lowest levels in  30 years.

      As for real jobs that dont  make a lasting contribution, have you heard of  National Cycleway- should be a roaring sucess

      • Mort

        What was the quality of the jobs created under Clark? How much actual productive capacity was generated? How much productivity was inhibet by the jobs created?
        There are instances in the failure of Helengrad policies which due to entrepreneurial nous, will result in increased productivity, a case in point is the threat of tax penalties for failing to reforest harvested trees. The new dairy farms in  Reporoa which have replaced the previous forests are a good example of this. In net terms of export dollars, the milk proteins will probably be higher yielding than the plant cellulose, and the returns start coming in a lot earlier than the traditional 20yrs + it takes to harvest radiata pine. There are going to be some issues arise with usage change of this nature, but nothing that a bit more nous can’t solve. But alas the window for changing the land’s use to optimise returns has now closed, and owners wishing to improve their return will face stiff penalties for doing so, the clipboard weasels have once again placed an obstruction to productivity in the way.I agree with you about the cycle way, it too is a make work project and will fail to meet the desired uplift in jobs. The long term jobs it will create will be relatively lowly paid, like the rest of the Low end tourist service sector.NZ needs to improve its export market in both volume and quality. Primary industry research will have some benefits. Other markets need to be tapped/ created.Becoming self sufficient in petroleum would help our balance of payments, create high paying jobs in the sector, as well as servicing the industry.You only need to look at the changes that are happening in formerly dead rust belt regions of the US, like Oklahoma, where industry is now starting to rekindle, accommodation/ housing, cafes/diners, direct servicing etc are growing and employing people by their hundreds, to realise the potential that harvesting the oil and gas that is abundant in NZ could bring. We as a nation could be energy exporters, and thus be free of many of the rick vagaries of petroleum politics. 

    • jay cee

      i create straw men arguments? hell 99% of the posts here demonise labour like they’re the government. yes you are right labour may have encouraged some schemes that did not have  a safisfactory outcome however at least they were only guilty of trying to get people “of their arses and out to work” as oppossed to “sitting around  on their backsides collecting the dole etc” (sound familiar?) brain dead regulations are just another way of saying that may solve the other blokes problem but it creates one for me i.e. theres no gain for me so it must be bad,ignoring the fact that believe it not we are all pretty much in the same boat or put another way its like sitting in first class at the front of the plane and saying any engine problems are only going to affect those in cattle class. in  my life time one thing has become
      abundantly clear,those on the right, like youself mort, are always saying “me first and the devil take the hindmost” until you and your ilk start falling behind then the tune nearly always changes to “why doesn’t the government do something”? which means that deep down we’re all sociallists at heart, eh?

  • Anonymous

    Whaleoil, i havent agreed with most of your posts in the recent months, you seemed to be biased towards one party in particular. We hear about the bad and foolish things of the labour party but hardly anything from national, maybe you just dont have that much time in the day. :>

    Today i find myself fully agreeing with you on the issue of Labour. I am nearing 40 and been a Labour voter all my life, but i found myself at last elections trying to find one reason to vote for them. needless to say National got both votes in a Labour stronghold.

    I am looking at Shearer with an inquisitive mind, what will he do? how will he reshape a dead party? only time will tell.