The left’s problem and a possible solution

Selwyn Manning is a nice guy, I genuinely respect him. Even though he is from the left he is at least considered and only prone to occasional lapses of judgement and falling for conspiracy theories.

His recent articles on the SIS OIA were very fanciful, and he should talk to sensible people rather than ranting idiots who are invariably wrong like Martyn Martin Bradbury.

His latest article though looks at the problems with Labour, the left and he also suggest a possible solution. It is TL;DR, but I have read it for you.

Here are the best parts.

Labour must wake up and scent the air. Because from outside this once broad-tent, in the real New Zealand, springtime has sprung. People are moving on, fast. From here, Labour’s self-dissection will simply create a political latency that in turn will become Labour’s self-conceived prophesy – it risks creating a political sea-anchor that will cause the party to stall, further disengage from opposition-politics, and further render its MPs as irrelevant and cumulatively a spent-force.

We know from previous observations that Labour is notorious for its naval-gazing. Whenever a crisis occurs, those who have occupied its caucus seemingly for decades roll out the tried and true rhetoric of “oh we must examine why this has occurred” and “we must learn from our mistakes”. Well, this tradition fails to cut it when one considers the responsibility this party shoulders as the leading force of the political centre-left – irrespective of last Saturday’s failure.

Any self-examination, of what went wrong or otherwise, will only reveal what has been blindingly obvious to any independent observer over the past six years. The detachment, the disengagement, the aloofness, the tribalism, the inability of the party to attract quality candidates based on merit. That the inverse has too often been the case where selections have been based on a person’s label, their political identity, rather than on their raw ability to represent and lead.

This, in large part, has contributed to Labour’s estrangement from real contemporary New Zealand. Out here, real people aspire to progress and desire to prosper and expect the party they elect to be representative of their own values.

Spot on there. I’m not sure they are mature enough to see it yet though.

This will grate at many on the left: New Zealand voters today are less ideological, less tribal in their political preferences, in large proportions (especially in the cities) not born in this country and see the role of politicians and authority through a different lens than New Zealand-born voters do. People seek solutions from their politicians especially where government hinders their ability to get ahead, or operate or work in a fashion that knits with their lifestyle. There is fertile ground here for a party determined to represent people at opposition level. Advocacy and representation by opposition MPs was the culture that Labour embraced in 1996-99 – and why it was rewarded with an election win in November of that year – a win that empowered almost nine years of governance.

This is not a pure left-right axis constituency. The left’s opponents know this.

The left often criticises National for being a club, for it inciting a cult-like-culture around the Prime Minister John Key. This is all true, but it is clearly what excites almost 50 percent of the voting public.

When Labour considers its new leader, it ought to take these observations to heart.

For many Labour is guilty of having held onto the old guard; of giving in to those who burn to place identity politics ahead of class; of having advanced the interests of the ‘heir apparent’ (who was singled out for loyally serving the electorate MP or their union); for having served the interests of the political elite and the awful snobbery emitting from the supposed intelligentsia. Others speak of how Labour has lost touch with its founding purpose, criticise it for abandoning the centre, for becoming preoccupied with the left, for being too right.

Labour’s brand has become more about what it excludes rather than for what it includes. This is not all the fault of the current leader. But as he said on election night, the buck stops with him.

Labour needs to wake up to all those exclusions and select a leader that heralds a shifting of the old-guard.

You can see this behaviour int he comments section of any left wing blog. If you don’t comply with the group think then you are rinsed, discarded and left to your own devices. Labour has done this with many potential candidates too. the likes of Josie Pgani and Deb Mahuta-Coyle will likely never stand for Labour as it is now. they have been driven off for their heresies…and feel betrayed by a party that was once a broad church but is no longer.

Manning proposes some criteria for a new leader:

Let me ask you at this juncture: who could lead such a new and brave movement?

First answer: no one among the 2011-14 caucus.

For many on the left, what I am about to write will cause considerable unease and anger. So be it. So let’s be frank.

The Credentials:

  • The new leader must be able to demonstrate a winning campaign, a formula that has proven to get results against a high-tide, against a strong nationwide swing to National.
  • This person must have achieved success through a campaign founded on solution-based politics.
  • The success must have been achieved based on personal merit, electorate-specific solutions, and, popular appeal – as opposed to party interference.
  • The new leader should demonstrate an ability also to create a swing for Labour in the urban seats, like was achieved for Labour in Epsom in 2005 when the candidate pulled in a party vote tally for Labour of 9915 – the highest number of party votes for Labour in this National-stronghold at any time under MMP.
  • And the new leader must demand uncompromising standards… the same relentless hard-working door knocking commitment that sets the benchmark by example.

That excludes every MP before the current intake.

That list excludes almost all. So let’s focus on inclusions.

MY ARGUMENT HERE is the centre-centre-left bloc needs a leader that can rise above the entrenched tribalisms that flare between the centrists and those of the left.

The left also needs to explore how it can work within such a community of interests, to recognise that large proportions of New Zealanders are resistant to abstracts, ideologies and the irrelevancies that such polarising utterances ensure.

With respect to Labour, the ‘hard’-left must realise it is without representation in this parliament. It must decide whether it can embrace a politic, or at least work with a movement, that drives a narrative which openly pursues pragmatic solutions, economic and otherwise, while prioritising socially centre-left principles.

Labour’s next real leader will need to bridge these divides that dominate the public sphere – contributing manipulations of micro-groups, agendas driven by strategists, commentators, pundits and political elites. But beyond this, the new leader must occupy and counter-balance that cultural space that threatens to continue to divide provincial New Zealand against the cities.

The next leader must be a person who understands the necessity of regional development in the provinces, and how the business of commerce, economic progress, housing and real estate can, when left rudderless, impact on the livelihoods of those living in the cities and the nation as a whole.

And… in addition to all of this, Labour’s next leader must embrace the notion of a broad-church coalition of parties that forward-commits to being a solid cohesive-bloc not just after an election is held, but well in advance, throughout the entire term while in opposition.

Who among the current caucus has this passion burgeoning and burning inside her/his belly? Who among them has a youthful continence, an exuberance that is contagious?

Who can take it to Labour with a zest necessary to expel the has-beens and smarten the party up to a condition where it can convince voters (and Labour loyalists) that the days of tatty and tired thinking have passed?

In my view the ‘old guard’, and the more ‘recent old guard’ need to stand aside, resist the temptation of putting in a caretaker transitional leader, and do something brave and outside the square.

– See more at:

Sound reasoning…but who?

To truly be an alternative, the challenge to the centre-centre-left parties is to look across the Tasman, eye up what the right has done over there, put aside their own tribalism and focus on common-ground and common-need.

Stuart Nash-2From this, if they are sincere, will emerge a broad-based broad-church entity, where each party maintains its patch, its brand, but just as the Liberals and Nationals do across the ditch, command an understanding that when they speak they speak with one voice, with one leader, on one platform of coordinated policies, and as one alternative government-in-waiting.

The right in Australia got it right. The question is, can New Zealand’s centre-centre-left do it for the public, sacrifice themselves, and serve the nation’s interest?

This leads us back to the issue of leadership.

Stuart Nash, this is your time to shine. And while you are at it, Jacinda Ardern as a running mate?

Not so sure about Jacinda Ardern as deputy, she is nothing but a collection of bumper stickers sayings and has about as much political depth as a bird bath.

She thinks she is the next Helen Clark but she lacks the tenacity and the brains that Clark had in spades.

Manning however is right about Stuart Nash. None of the rest of the Labour team have the credentials and Grant Robertson has the albatross of two elections in a row coming third in the party vote.

The only problem for Selwyn’s post is that Stuart Nash has declared he won’t be seeking the nomination at this time.

It certainly looks like Selwyn Manning has stopped listening to Martyn Martin Bradbury for now.

That was a wise choice as people will see in coming weeks.


– The Daily Blog

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