Trotter on the Man Ban

I have been waiting for Chris Trotter to deliver his thoughts on Labour’s “Man Ban” and it was worth the wait.

Chris Trotter is one of my most respected left wing commentators…he is also one of the few left wingers I can tolerate a beer with..or in his case usually a fine red wine.

Chris explains his thoughts on Labour’s “man ban”.

MIDST ALL THE CLAMOUR of its detractors, the true significance of Labour’s “Man Ban” has eluded most commentators.

Yes, the proposed rule change has undoubtedly damaged Labour’s election prospects.

Yes, there are many more important issues the party would have preferred the news media to focus upon.

Yes, it is further evidence of a party with no reliable political grown-ups in charge.

Yes, Labour’s opponents will dine out on it for months.

And, yes, it’s the only thing the 2013 Annual Conference will be remembered for.

But, the “Man Ban” is also proof of something else: that the distance separating Labour’s rank-and-file from Labour’s Caucus has grown as wide as the gulf that once separated the “old” Labour Party from the “new”.  

Simple and profound…I said to one of my close Labour confidantes that I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Labour party. Chris then goes on a reminiscent exploration of the New Labour party and shows how actually listening and speaking to people/voters rather than sitting in the beltway imagining policy is how Labour have lost touch with their roots. The NLP had gender equity provisions…pushed through by women members.

Imagine my consternation, then, when taking the NLP’s message to the doorsteps of working-class Dunedin, I was taken to task for its gender equality rule. Not, I hasten to add, by working-class men, but by working-class women.

For some reason, the NLP’s quota policy struck a very tender nerve. Unschooled in the subtleties of feminist theory, these daughters of the proletariat roundly took me to task for having such a “bloody silly rule”. When I attempted to explain the purposes of positive discrimination to one stern matron, she held up her hand for silence, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was wrong.

“Don’t you see, son? It’s as bad to put someone into Parliament on account of what they haven’t got between their legs as it is for what they have. All that should ever matter is what they’ve got in their heads and in their hearts!”

As you can see, I’ve never forgotten her words.

Labour has forgotten, they are mired in identity politics.

The public responses of Labour MPs Clayton Cosgrove, Damian O’Connor and Shane Jones make it very clear that the idealism of the party’s rank-and-file is not about to be embraced unanimously by Labour’s parliamentary contingent. Indeed, given the latest remarks from Labour Party leader, David Shearer, the news media will almost certainly make getting rid of the “Man Ban” a test of his ability to rein-in the “stupidity” of the party organisation.

Political journalists and commentators are united in their view that the proposed rule changes constitute a massive political “own goal” for Labour. They seem equally certain that the daughters of the New Zealand proletariat (not to mention its sons!) remain as unenthusiastic about gender quotas in 2013 as they were in 1989. Labour’s problem, according to this argument, is that its apparent obsession with what candidates do or don’t have between their legs will call into serious question what they have (or don’t have) in their heads and their hearts.

Chris Trotter can see the politics and reality of the situation. It’s a pity that Kate Sutton, Sue Moroney and Moira Coatesworth cannot or will not. The first indicator will be the Roy Morgan poll the week after  next, Roy Morgan pollsters will already be picking up feedback. UMR who were polling in Hamilton this week will likewise be picking up the sentiment…by Tuesday, panic will set in amongst caucus…and the party will verge on a massive split between caucus and members…it already exists but it will become obvious by the end of next week.

Though the gender quota rule may have irritated potential NLP and Alliance supporters, these latter parties’ core policies were so unequivocally left-wing in character that annoying internal organisational details could be overlooked.

The same cannot be said of Labour. As was the case in the 1980s, the wishes of the Labour rank-and-file and the political plans of the Labour Caucus continue to clash. Labour MPs remain convinced that, in any battle with the rank-and-file over policy (or anything else) they must never be seen to lose. The rank-and-file’s across-the-board radicalism is, therefore, perennially blunted by parliamentary pragmatism.

The battle is joined…and as usual there will be victims of battle…in this case the Labour party. Destroyed by within by apparatchiks who know nothing of reality. Tim Barnett’s final destructive curse upon Labour. Trotter knows this, I know this.

Can this battle between pragmatism and principle ever be ended? Not, I suspect, without pitching the party into the same sort of cataclysmic disunity that split Labour and led to the formation of the NLP in 1989.

But all those rank-and-filers who yearn, as I once did, to rescue their party from the quicksand of compromise and lead it up onto the high moral ground, should bear in mind this uncomfortable truth.

There are bugger all votes on the high peaks of principle.

If you want to win elections (which is what political parties are all about) then, in the words of Jim Anderton, you must be prepared to “build your footpaths where the people walk.”


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  • Greg

    As long as the left are cutting their own throats its ok with me:)

  • Rodger T

    Dear O dear,Labour has caught the Green disease and they have had a “man ban ” since their inception.
    Looks fatal for Labour tho`, the Greenies are only the carrier.

  • island time

    I like his Anderton quote at the end….”building footpaths where the people walk…in other words, populist policy

    • MarcWills

      Not so much populist, as government by the people, for the people.

    • Random66

      I remember hearing how Sir Keith Holyoake used to walk to parliament each day so that he was able to stop and talk to the people who put him there so that he could know what their concerns were. Perhaps Labour needs to walk those same footpaths again now and listen to the peoples concerns if they have any real hope of ever being in parliament again.

      • Kim Arnold

        used to see Lange walking down the t5errace in the morning, waving to the toots and the yells of “yah bastard”…tamihere is also an MP i used to see every morning waking along Lambton Quay, starbucks cup in hand… have never seen National mp’s…and i am not a labour supporter

        • johnbronkhorst

          Holyoake was a NATIONAL PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • AnonWgtn

        I saw Holyoake one Friday afternoon walk out of Parliament straight across Bowen Street, to the screech of brakes and tooting of a bus coming down then road.
        It screeched to a halt and the driver – big fella, got out to remonstrate with the stunned jaywalker only to find it was Holyoake, after lunch.
        They shook hands and a laugh was has all round – off he went like wise the bus.

      • Elitist Tory

        It was only about 50 metres – Holyoake’s house was across the street from Parliament in Pipitea St.
        It is still there.

  • Gob Smacked

    Many Labour party members, mostly from the big towns, believe Labour needs to go further left in order to ‘keep it real’ but this has allowed all sorts of abominations to come out in their thinking.

    It is almost like they jabe seen the success of the Greens and said “aha we could do that” but forgotten they were the bigger party. Now they are just on a slippery slope to being a minor party.

    Perhaps out of the ruins a new party will arise that is left wing on other matters but wont care what sexuality, gender or ethnicity you are. Only then will this new party hold a chance of regaining middle New Zealand.

    If you want to pick a minority position then be prepared to be voted the minority.

  • Whafe

    With Chris Trotter being one of the most respected left wing commentators – I do wonder if this lead this abysmal Liabour party to take note?????? MMMmmmmm, no I doubt it….
    What makes me laugh hugely is the fact that Liabour seem to not really give a dam…. There is no true leadership at all, none what so ever

  • LesleyNZ

    Well there we are. The writing is on the wall. Where’s drama queen Trevor? He is becoming a bit of a Wally…………………..

    • GazzW

      Trev’s too focussed on the intricacies of the Speaker’s rulings these days. He just wants to get over the line now and pick up his very generous super. There’s no future for him in Parliament because there’s no future for labour.

    • island time

      Becoming???? I thought he always was……

  • Mr_Blobby

    We need to give the current Government a bit more time to hang themselves what can we do………

    I know we will implement a man ban and piss off half the electorate and the other half won’t vote for us because we have no gonads.

    The Nats wont see that one cumming.

  • MarcWills

    “Political journalists and commentators are united in their view that the
    proposed rule changes constitute a massive political “own goal” for
    Labour.” – except notably for Fran O’Sullivan in today’s Horrid. The dumbest column I think she has ever published. Total loss of my respect for an intelligent commentator. At first I thought it must be a satire – but no! It’s what she really means.

    • Elitist Tory

      That is because Fran is a token woman; the idea she is there on merit is preposterous!

    • dianne65

      I read Frans column and had to look twice, to believe she had written such crap. I thought is was satire too MarcWillis. Shocker from Fran.

  • Elitist Tory

    .Interesting article by Trotter.

    But he also shows the patronising, out of touch, university common-room mentality of so many on the left.

    I knew Dunedin circa. 1989 extremely well – and there was no ‘working class’ or ‘proleteriat’ as he claims but a fairly universal ‘lower’ middle class.

    I can just see Trotter at University sipping wine with his friends and saying “oh let’s use these really cool terms like proletariat and working class to make ourselves more radical”; all very ‘Rik’ from the Young Ones (which probably explains the 800 votes the NLP candidate received at the 1990 election).

    • Kimbo

      I am always amazed at how Christian fundamentalists were outraged when ‘The Life of Brian’ was released in 1979.

      The real ‘blasphemy’ was against the pretentious intellectual left-wingers. Watch the movie, and I swear, it is a running commentary on Labour, Green, and Mana Party Politics: –

      “REG: Right. You’re in. Listen. The only people we hate more
      than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.

      P.F.J.: Yeah…

      JUDITH: Splitters.

      P.F.J.: Splitters…

      FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People’s Front.

      P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters…

      LORETTA: And the People’s Front of Judea.

      P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters…

      REG: What?

      LORETTA: The People’s Front of Judea. Splitters.

      REG: We’re the People’s Front of Judea!

      LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.

      REG: People’s Front! C-huh.

      FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?

      REG: He’s over there.

      P.F.J.: Splitter!”

    • Kimbo

      …and from the same script, which is surely a prophetic commentary of the mind set behind the Man Ban: –

      “JUDITH: I do feel, Reg, that any Anti-Imperialist group like
      ours must reflect such a divergence of interests within its power-base.

      REG: Agreed. Francis?

      FRANCIS: Yeah. I think Judith’s point of view is very valid,
      Reg, provided the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable
      right of every man–

      STAN: Or woman.

      FRANCIS: Or woman… to rid himself–

      STAN: Or herself.

      FRANCIS: Or herself.

      REG: Agreed.

      FRANCIS: Thank you, brother.

      STAN: Or sister.

      FRANCIS: Or sister. Where was I?

      REG: I think you’d finished.

      FRANCIS: Oh. Right.

      REG: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man–

      STAN: Or woman.

      REG: Why don’t you shut up about women, Stan. You’re putting
      us off.

      STAN: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our
      movement, Reg.

      FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?

      STAN: I want to be one.

      REG: What?

      STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to
      call me ‘Loretta’.

      REG: What?!

      LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.

      JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

      LORETTA: I want to have babies.

      REG: You want to have babies?!

      LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants

      REG: But… you can’t have babies.

      LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.

      REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb!
      Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

      LORETTA: crying

      JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he
      can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.

      FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for
      your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

      REG: What’s the point?

      FRANCIS: What?

      REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies
      when he can’t have babies?!

      FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

      REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality”.

    • kehua

      Is that you Unsol?

  • cows4me

    The Liarbore Party remind me of some farm advisers I’ve meet. At the heart of it they mean well, after all they have all the books, all the certificates and all the answers but the real world doesn’t respect their books, certificates or answers.

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    When are the next TV1 and TV3 polls due?

    • Elitist Tory

      Haven’t had any for a while – they almost certainly show Labour in the 20s and National in the 50s so they are refusing to publish them.
      I expect they are getting Colmar Brunton to start asking “if there was no National party who would you vote for?” – real Soviet Union stuff, keep polling until you get the result you want.

  • parorchestia

    It was General Eisenhower who, when he was President of Colombia Uni after the war, said “Put the paths where the students walk.” Jim didn’t acknowledge his sources (nor his savouries!)