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.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.