Trotter on Labour problems, and his fantasy opposition wishlist

Chris Trotter has had another lucid moment, albeit with a fantasy paragraph near the end.

He discusses what is wrong with the opposition:

IT IS ONLY NOW, thirty years after the event, that the full effects of Labour’s 1984-1990 betrayals have become visible. The party’s inability to respond coherently to John Key’s National-led government has allowed the latter to escape, Scot-free, from economic and social policy failures that daily grow more intractable. All over New Zealand, voters shake their heads in frank disbelief at National’s extraordinary run of political good luck. Everywhere their cry is the same: “If only we had an Opposition worthy of the name!” How right they are.

I pity Chris sometimes, with his rose-tinted glasses. He still thinks that Roger Douglas did enormous damage to New Zealand when, in actual fact, he saved it from the rampant socialism of Muldoon.  

The signal achievement of National’s nine years in opposition was the unification of the Right. With ruthless efficiency, Don Brash and John Key rolled up National’s electoral competitors, leaving only the vestiges of parties that had once attracted, between them, more than 10 percent of the popular vote. By the time National assumed the Treasury Benches in 2008, United Future and Act had become mere grace-and-favour parties, entirely dependent on Key’s goodwill for their survival.

On top of that Key moved National to the centre.

It is a feat which Labour has singularly failed to replicate. A point which the latest Roy Morgan poll drives the home with particular force. In the pollster’s latest survey, the party accounts for less than half of the combined Opposition Vote (Labour 26%, Greens 14.5%, NZ First 12.5%). Sadly, the electorate’s imagination simply isn’t equal to the task of transforming these three distinct political entities into a governing coalition it could feel comfortable supporting. In spite of the fact that Labour, the Greens and NZ First jointly command 53 percent of the popular vote, their chances of unseating National are slim.

They are slim because National plus NZ First equals 54.5% with one less support partner and no Greens.

Were Labour able to move as easily along its half of the political spectrum as National, then things might be different. Its four post-Helen Clark leaders notwithstanding, Labour has not been able to emulate Brash’s ruthless consolidation of National’s ideological base. No one was prepared to believe in Phil Goff as a champion of the Hard Left. Indeed, since the departure of Jim Anderton in 1989 there’s been no one in Labour’s caucus capable of assuming that role. David Cunliffe tried – but failed.

As will Andrew Little. It is from here that Trotter departs on the fairyland express.

It was Helen Clark’s great good fortune to have Anderton and his Alliance available for coalescence. Their eventual partnership brought together the Hard Left and the Soft Centre in a fashion which Key, nine years later, was only too happen to imitate – drawing away tens-of-thousands of former Labour supporters in the process. That the parliamentary numbers never allowed Prime Minister Clark to replace the Alliance with the Green Party – thereby acquainting the electorate with the Greens as responsible and creative Cabinet Ministers – has proved extremely costly for the New Zealand Left.

The bitter truth is that if a beneficent angel were to uplift the best politicians from Labour, the Alliance (before it disappeared) the Greens and the Mana Party, and drop them into a divinely crafted political entity that might – or might not – continue to exploit the still potent Labour brand, then the Government of John Key would be in real trouble. The current Labour Party bleats on (and on, and on, and on) about being a “Broad Church”, but the sad truth remains that its reservoir of recruitment has never been shallower.

A genuinely “broad church” party of the Left would balance off Andrew Little with Hone Harawira, Jacinda Ardern with Laila Harré, Stuart Nash with John Minto, Kelvin Davis with Annette Sykes, Grant Robertson with Julie Anne Genter and Annette King with Metira Turei. The whole spectrum of alternative power: from Soft Centrists to Hard Leftists; would be covered.

A party with all those players would be as popular as a pork chop at the local Muslim festival. The voters would take one look at that and vote National giving them 60% of the vote.

That Labour’s fatal apostasy [the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle] has rendered such a divinely appointed caucus little more than a pipe dream is the besetting tragedy of progressive New Zealand politics. Its embrace of neoliberalism in the mid-1980s left Labour with the political equivalent of syphilis. Sadly, every one of the many attempts to administer the Penicillin of genuine progressivism (God bless you Jim, Rod, Laila!) was rejected. Consequently, Labour’s bones have crumbled and its brain has rotted. Small wonder that the other opposition parties are reluctant to get too close!

It might almost be funny, if the only people laughing, all the way to the ballot-box, weren’t John Key and Winston Peters.

At least Chris gets that bit right. John Key and Winston Peters will be forming the next government.


-The Daily Blog


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  • Seriously?

    I don’t think NZ First will form part of a government, be it Labour or National led. Winston has a niche that works for him, and he’ll stick to it.

    The last time the baubles of office became too much to resist, the confidence and supply with two outside cabinet ministerial posts, in 2005-2008 it nearly saw the death of the party. It posed a problem for Winston. It is one thing keeping others honest, and spouting rhetoric, it is another thing altogether then the public start asking why you did not deliver.

    A prediction: Winston will say away from being a part of a government for as long as he remains at the helm. After he is gone, the underlings may use whatever support is left behind to be a part of the real action, and that will be the final nail in the parties coffin.

    • Christie

      Disagree – Winston will be king maker again, and he will jump at the ‘baubles of office’. As he is now 70, his opportunities are limited. He doesn’t care whether he has to deliver or not – think Northland – because he will get what he can, and will blame the major coalition party for everything else. That’s the beauty of holding the balance of power – it is all care & no responsibility.

      • Peter

        Totally agree. Winston has been good in opposition. The minute he has been handed any position of power, he has fumbled and faltered.

        • andrewo

          Headed for the drinks cabinet more like!

    • kayaker

      Winston is desperate for power. He wants that in his last gig. Either that, or a cushy overseas posting.

    • OneTrack

      Another prediction – if Little offered him the Prime Ministership, he would jump at it.

  • Quinton Hogg

    Mr Trotter blathers on about progressive politics.
    I have never had it explained to me what that is, and likewise the term “neoliberalism”.
    I think the progressive bit refers back the halcyon days for the left when we had the pound, import licencing, NZ shut on saturdays and sundays, 6 o’clock closing and currency restrictions.
    It is pretty clear that Mr Trotter wants Labor to go further left but the reality is the middle is the place to be.

    • kayaker

      That ‘neoliberalism’ word gets me too. Not even Wikipedia can help me. My eyes just glaze over.

      • Richard McGrath

        For neoliberalism, read free market capitalism

        • A Goldie

          And individual choice

          • OneTrack

            Oh, the horror. The peons can’t be allowed individual choice (like charter schools), they might choose the “wrong” thing. And then where would we be.

        • contractor

          As practiced by mankind for thousands of years.

    • localnews

      The obviously chose the label of progressive themselves. If they had asked the marketing department it would be labeled regressive

  • Urbanviper

    Some people in Labour pay lip service still to the idea of being a broad church, but purge after purge has resulted in a very compact party neatly placed to fiddle on the fringes of New Zealand politics. The Greens and Alliance were never meant to be mass movement parties so they can & could have a very narrow base. But to win government one of the partners needs more than 30% at a minimum and to do that, Trotter is correct in saying, Labour needs to be an active, respectable center-left party where a diversity of opinions is actually allowed.

  • R&BAvenger

    Mighty strong koolaid that Trotters is drinking when he nominates his combo’s for an opposition party. Hopefully it does come to fruition.

  • DLNZ

    Therein lies the problem… the majority of the “best” opposition politicians have no clue, score own goals every time they open their mouths to the media or during question time, never had a job and lived off the taxpayer for almost all their lives.

  • Pita

    Political good luck? More like political good management, steering a centrist course and exercising fiscal restraint is unlikely to frighten the horses.

    Sadly, the electorate’s imagination simply isn’t equal to
    the task? Sadly Chris, like the rest of the Labour party, gives very little credit
    to their constituents beyond rump Labour, where none is given. They are far savvier and economically literate than they were prior to 1983 and are less likely to be swayed by electoral bribes that the country can no longer afford…”Show us the money”
    resonates loud and strong.

    • Left Right Out

      Political good luck like the GFC and ChCh quake…. these guys just love misery on the left

  • cows4me

    What if, what if. Trotter more and more reminds me of a sad and bitter man sitting in the dark, tears rolling down his cheeks, cooking sherry in hand, as he watches old video tapes of his beloved Labour and it’s fruitcake leaders. He dreams of his progressive utopia, what if what if. The really sad thing about all of this is he honestly believes progress-ism is where it’s at. For someone who claims to be well educated he obviously slept well during history lessons.

    • A Goldie

      Cows it would be port, at least a good tawny, not cooking sherry for the enlightened

    • Ruahine

      I miss Jim Knox.
      He took over from Tom Skinner as Secretary of the Fedurayshun of Labiir. (F.O.L). He was always having a go at the Guvmint.

      I think I will get in touch with Chris. We could have a few Chardonnays and reminisce about the good ol’ days.

  • Tiger

    It must really hurt the likes of Trotter, the left and their enablers (MSM) to think that when they walk down the street, sit at a desk, sit in a bus to work (yeah right), that every second person they look at is a National supporter!

  • Left Right Out

    Doesn’t say much for Stu Nash when he’s “counter balanced” by Minto

    • MaryLou

      Poor bugger. He didn’t deserve that. He’s one of the few who if he thinks before blurting, seems to have some nous.

  • MaryLou

    “A genuinely “broad church” party of the Left would balance off Andrew Little with Hone Harawira, Jacinda Ardern with Laila Harré, Stuart Nash with John Minto, Kelvin Davis with Annette Sykes, Grant Robertson with Julie Anne Genter and Annette King with Metira Turei. ”

    Oh my gosh that’s nightmare stuff. I bet he said it with a straight face too.

  • The other Neil

    The fundamental effect of Rogernomics was to place the country back on a central path. That the left fails to realise that Muldoon was left of left is their mistake. Equally they fail to realise that unless you are 45 to 50 years old or more, that you will have almost no knowledge of ‘Rogernomics’ or Muldoon. Voters younger than that have gown up with free trade, the internet, buying things from overseas online, deregulated markets, simple tax structures etc. For them that is normal.

    They do not hanker for the left or the right, they are generally happy with what they have, they are the centre, where the centre is not a fixed point, but ‘experiential’ i.e. a function of what they have experienced.

    The only people longing for a harder left or right, are those that have sufficient personal or philosophical interest to think about it. That is not most people.

  • Observer

    Lol at the “Broad Church” suggested. Labour should go back to David Shearer and try to get more centrist.

  • Alan Beresford B’Stard

    Hone Harawira, Laila Harré, John Minto, Annette Sykes. Don’t these lefty fools realise these people are absolutely toxic to 90% of voters.

    • hookerphil

      Cannot believe any person who was around and not part of the anti tour brigade would ever place a vote anywhere near Minto.

      • Rob

        AND he is teaching our children!!

    • A Goldie

      97.5% on a good day!!!

  • Alan Beresford B’Stard

    I love the way the left go on and on about life before Roger Douglas. As if a highly regulated, wage controlled, unionised, tariff ridden, subsidised country was some sort of utopia. It wasn’t, it was awful. The first Lange govt. was the best thing to happen to this country.

    • Miss McGerkinshaw

      I was overseas when the ‘great upheaval’ took place but lived here before and after and know which side of the fence I’d rather be living in. Sure Roger’s policies were not very Labouresque but they proved the making of a better NZ.

      A bit like when UK joined the EU. Reluctantly and with much angst, if I remember correctly, we finally cut loose from those apron strings and became stronger for it.

  • XCIA

    I think perhaps comrade Trotter needs to buy better quality wines with less additives. I couldn’t see “neoliberal” anywhere in his dialogue……do I need to update my spectacles.

  • Noeyedeer

    Two points worthy of note. Trotter is obsessed with what happened in 1984 and the ‘Great Betrayal’ as he sees it. That was 32 years ago. The longer you hold onto something the heavier it gets so get over it Chris. Secondly he holds the electorate in contempt (“Sadly, the electorate’s imagination….”). Reeks of “I know what is best for you peasants” attitude. Good luck with that strategy. I can see how well it is working.

  • Hard1

    Trotter wants us to drink a Smoothie with Pepper, Salt, Chilly, Vinegar and Nuts?.
    That sort of stuff he writes begs the question “Why do we need an opposition at all?”

  • “frank disbelief at National’s extraordinary run of political good luck”

    Simply mindblowing! Does he mean the Christchurch earthquakes, the GFC, the Chinese and Dairy downturns! Reminded of the Keynes quote: “When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do.” We know what Chris Trotter does and that is to simply go into a fictional universe where facts don’t exist.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    What a massive serving of baloney but at least he might have got all the fluff out of his navel. At the end of the day it is better that Labour remain just as they are over there on the hard left with a hapless leader going nowhere. Or perhaps further down the polls.
    Sadly Trotter does not improve with age with early signs of dementia being conveyed in his ranting evidenced by long term memories dominating his train of thought.
    By comparison to the majority who delight in learning something new everyday as well as the advent of a mistake second time arising is avoided and referred to as experience. Where as Mr T dwells on the past and sits pondering what might be if he could wind the clock back along with his waistline.