Forget KDS now there is RLS

Chris Trotter has identified another syndrome that affects the feeble minds of the left-wing. First there was Key Derangement Syndrome (KDS), but now there is the more pernicious Reflexive Left Syndrome (RLS).

THE LABOUR PARTY is at serious risk of, once again, succumbing to Reflexive Left Syndrome (RLS). Simply put, RLS causes progressives to respond predictably (and all-too-often counter-productively) to every issue affecting the Left. Those suffering from RLS do not wait for the facts; nor do they pause to consider whether their support for one part of the Left might put them at serious odds with another. Positions are fixed with precipitate haste, and room for subsequent manoeuvre and compromise is severely restricted. RLS nails its victims to the political spot: positions they frequently cannot abandon without incurring serious damage and/or ridicule.

We are seeing this now with the Panama Papers issue. Little and Labour demanding transparency when previously they were concerned with erosion of privacy. Opposing the flag change when it Labour policy to change the flag. And now it is opposing the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary.  

The latest example of Labour succumbing to RLS involves the party’s position on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

At the First Reading of the legislation establishing the sanctuary, the vote in favour of this internationally acclaimed measure of marine conservation was unanimous. So far, so good. But, all it took for Labour to announce that it was “reassessing” its support for the legislation was a claim that it contravened the Maori fisheries settlement.

Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Maori Fisheries Trust, had announced that it was challenging the Crown’s actions in the High Court. Labour’s six Maori MPs, feeling obligated to defend their constituents’ rights under the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Act of 1992, immediately began applying pressure to their Pakeha colleagues. References were made to the Seabed and Foreshore Act of 2004. With the party registering just 28 percent in the latest One News/Colmar brunton poll, Labour’s Maori Caucus wanted to know if it was intending to alienate their people’s electoral support all over again?

With typical haste, Labour succumbed to RLS. On 12 April, David Parker, Labour’s Environment spokesperson, and Kelvin Davis, its spokesperson for Maori Development, jointly issued a press statement declaring: “The lessons of foreshore and seabed must not be forgotten and the Crown should not by legislation run rough-shod over Māori interests.”

Exactly which Maori interests were being run roughshod over was not specified by Parker and Davis. That a number of “prominent Maori” (including Sir Tipene O’Reagan and Dame Tariana Turia) had spoken out against the sanctuary was all that was needed for RLS to kick-in.

Why Labour would oppose a conservation initiative is beyond me, other than to poke pins in John Key’s eyes. There are no Maori interests in the Kermadecs, they wouldn’t even come close to claiming customary rights.

The furore surrounding the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary offers a powerful example of the political difficulties into which RLS can lead a progressive political party. Almost overnight, the significant benefits to the global environment represented by the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary have been put at risk for no better reason than that a determinedly commercial entity like Te Ohu Kaimoana wishes to reserve the right to harvest the Kermadec fishery.

The Neo-Tribal Capitalist character of the forces pushing for the scrapping of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary has not been lost on Sandra Lee. Nor has the need for all the peoples of the Earth to challenge the right of commercial interests to plunder the planet’s living resources without let or hindrance. But Labour, rather than balancing carefully the respective claims of a vulnerable ocean eco-system, and a commercial Maori entity, has allowed its response to be dictated by RLS. They have rushed in like fools – and not in the defence of angels.

Which is why they are slipping into the mid twenties in opinion polls. The crippling side-effects of related but different afflictions Key Derangement Syndrome and Reflexive Left Syndrome are hurting Labour.


– The Daily Blog


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  • Terry

    Afficionados of the master story teller Robert Louis Stevenson will cringe at Trotter’s unfortunate choice of name and acronym. To us there will only ever be one RLS.

  • Isherman

    All of which meanwhile has triggered a sustained outbreak of ROFL syndrome among those on the centre right, which we are suffering quite contently….though sometimes the cheeks can start to ache a little.

  • Doug

    For a while I have believed that if John Key said good morning to someone from either labour or the greens they would respond about child poverty, unemployment, or something like that. That is what I think the extent of RLS is currently

  • sonovaMin

    At last there is an understanding that the left just chase passing cars and take two opposing views on anything – sometimes in one day.
    I would go further and point out that far from being progressives the Left are now Reactionaries with their longing to return to the defunct and historic Marxist/socialism.

    • Nermal

      Maybe it’s because Angry Andy is taking lessons from his cat.
      A cat stands at a door, if it is out it wants in, if it is in it wants out, often both at the same time.

  • JohnO

    The Labour party are panicking at their Maori caucus opposing the Kermadec marine sanctuary even though Maori have no real interest in the area apart from a few “taniwha tax” dollars for one of the Iwi. What will Labour do when Maori oppose the Hipkins bill which seeks to close the charter schools where their kids are experiencing huge success. Maori will have skin in that issue and be much more determined to have their way.

  • simon

    Surely there is a very simple solution to the Kermadec problem – unlimited commercial fishing throughout the sanctuary for anyone with Maori ancestry provided only pre-colonial vessels and equipment are used

  • BG

    I shouldn’t be giving these Muppets advice but I doubt that they’ll listen. Can they remember that Key picked and choose his opposition topics carefully. He even sided with the govt sometimes.
    Clark was in deep dodo with the anti-smacking bill and it was Key who eventually helped her get it through. It was a fatal flaw of Clark’s. People saw a guy who wasn’t just opposing for opportunity but someone who could make deals. I recall him walking out with Clark and he looked (dare I say it) presidential. Why the hell can’t they see that barking at every car makes people just avoid their campfire because they think ‘oh that’s just the mad dog that barks at everything’