Rodney Hide on Labour’s primary

Rodney Hide observes fatal flaws of Labour’s primary at the NBR:

HL Mencken correctly regarded governments as “brokers in pillage” and elections as “advance auctions in stolen goods.”

The Labour Party’s primary is the auction we are having ahead of the advance auction. It’s a fantastic spectacle – far better than circus and fireworks – which is just as well because it’s potentially costing us a fortune. Labour’s primary is not proving cheap.

Cunliffe made an offer; Robertson matched it. Robertson made an offer. Cunliffe matched it. And so on.

In general elections, politicians buy middle voters, hence interest-free student loans, working for families and affordable housing.

In the primary, it’s Labour Party members and union bosses being bought, hence the “living wage” for government workers and even more law for unions to bash employers with.

It’s clear that taxpayers and business owners don’t factor among the Labour Party membership. It’s their income that’s being bid away. 

The pork dished out has been astonishing. I’m looking forward to whomever wins trying to explain to their members, who voted them, that the pork was just the crackling, the roast will have to come much later, because it is simply unaffordable. Their votes will have been bribed out of them and shamelessly exploited.

In a general election, the costs of the advance auction are downplayed. In the primary, tax hikes have been hyped-up and made virtuous. The rich are to be robbed and the spoils are for the cardigan-wearing bureaucrats and school teachery-types who make up the Labour Party.

The usual general-election restraint that’s necessary not to scare middle voters is not in play. The contenders are promising away our future income without political risk.

It’s no wonder that Labour Party activists are cock-a-hoop: their childish political fantasies are being indulged. The would-be Labour leaders are promising those who do well the stick and Labour activists with their BAs in politics the carrot. Hallelujah. Socialist nirvana is just another auction away.

The policies promoted are simply unworkable, unaffordable and idiotic. John Key is going to have a field day pointing that out.

Of course, the Labour Party members and activists make the mistake that all party members and activists make. They think the middle voter is just like them – and that the 800,000 stay-at-home voters are just like them, too.

By their reckoning, all that’s needed for a landslide is the Great Leftward Lurch that the primary has prompted. It’s what they have been dreaming of for years. It’s why they joined the Labour Party. It’s why they have been disappointed for years with the Labour Party leadership and caucus.

The only trouble with the theory is that it’s not true. The stay-at-home voters and the middle voter are nothing like Labour Party activists and members. They don’t follow policy; they aren’t ideological; they don’t care for politics.

Rodney is dead right. This is the problem that the Martyn Bradbury’s of this world and the other mouth-breathers that infest his site and The Standard fail to understand. There isn;t a day that goes by without Martyn writing about this mythical 800,000 voters who were wanting to vote for Labour but didn’t…they bizarrely claim that ALL those votes come to them. They are wrong.

The primary is simply intensifying Labour’s fight with the Greens and it’s a fight that Labour can’t win: no one can out-left “Red” Russel Norman.

To have a shot at the advance auction that matters, the winner of Labour’s primary must shift voters from John Key. Policy that excites the Labour Party membership and union delegates doesn’t do it.

Helen Clark succeeded as a Labour Leader because she pursued middle-of-the-road policies. She used the taxpayer to buy middle-voters. Likewise, John Key has succeeded by being a good middle-of-the-road politician pursuing Clark-lite policies.

The trouble for Labour’s winner is that the primary has left him buying the wrong votes. He must change what he’s offering and whom he is offering it to.

And that is where Labour’s troubles are only just beginning…the base have been promised the earth and the new leader will only be able to deliver a shadow of the moon in return.

That’s not going to be easy. The promises made have been public. And they have been made to union bosses, party activists and members. They are going to be anxious to keep account. Oh, and the media know, too.

The Labour Party knows how to buy votes. It’s hard-wired. Its difficulty is in realising whose vote they must buy. That’s where Clark was brilliant.

The National Party is different: it knows how to promise little and deliver even less. In difficult times that may be all that’s necessary.


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.