Hooton on the bumbling, fumbling, hapless Labour party

Matthew Hooton looks at the pressure on Andrew Little to move Labour to the left.

It has all the hallmarks of Matt McCarten blabbing to his mates trying to duck the blame for Andrew Little’s hapless bumbling.

The most common description of struggling Labour leader Andrew Little’s big Budget 2016 speech was that it delivered “mixed messages.” That was the kindly conclusion of reporters as diverse as TVNZ’s Katie Bradford and the Herald’s Claire Trevett.  It raises the question of how an opposition leader could have allowed himself to present such a mishmash of contradictory slogans.

In the speech, Mr Little declared Labour had a “positive plan” for “middle New Zealand” to achieve the “Kiwi dream.” This was defined as “a good job, a home they can call their own, a good school to send their kids to, healthcare if they get sick” and a “decent chance to get ahead … if they put the effort in.”

So far, so good: Elections are decided by the median voter and these are words with which three-time election winners like John Key or Helen Clark would begin a big speech.

But Mr Little just couldn’t manage it beyond the opening words and what followed was more 1980s student-politics Leninism aimed to please the quad.

Mr Little spat out the names of the class enemies: the property speculators, the land bankers, the tax dodgers. Only the kulaks failed to get a mention.

It was classic student politics…and that is Labour’s problem, they’ve never graduated past student politics.

Mr Little then outlined a picture of New Zealand absolutely foreign to middle New Zealand.  He spoke of the horrors of rising unemployment, stalled wages, mass poverty, failing schools, doctors and nurses unable to do their jobs, children sleeping in cars and families crowded into garages. “An entire generation,” he declared, “is locked out of ever owning their own home.”

A bizarre metric was constructed to show economic growth flowing “to the mega-rich” and not to “workers,” defined narrowly as those in a traditional PAYE job.

This is the sort of staunch left-wing rhetoric a Labour leader should use if their objective is not the “middle New Zealand” targeted so successfully by Mr Key and Ms Clark but the so-called “missing million” David Cunliffe believed would propel him to the prime ministership.

These are those who are not enrolled or do not vote and Labour assumes (wrongly) that they would all tick left if they did.

And they aren’t listening to Andrew Little, or anyone else for that matter.

In fact, Mr Little is not as gormless as he looks.  Along with his chief of staff, the personally far left but professionally pragmatic Matt McCarten, Mr Little knows full well Labour must position itself in the centre.

Labour’s long-standing pollster, UMR Research, reports that 57% of New Zealanders – by definition “middle New Zealand” – think the country is heading in the right direction.

There has been a sharp upturn in the percentage of people who think their personal circumstances will improve over the next year.  Tales of doom and woe do not resonate with the people Mr Little needs to switch their votes from National to Labour.

Even on housing, where there is a genuine issue, Census data suggests the majority of people still buy a house in their 30s and a surprisingly large chunk of people even in their 20s.

Saying an “entire generation” is locked out of the market is to insult those crucially important voters in their 20s and 30s who have worked hard and saved up for a home by bracketing them with those who have not.

Similarly, describing as “workers” only those in a traditional PAYE employment relationship with a boss is entirely out of touch with the real economy in the crucial electoral battlegrounds of West Auckland, South Auckland, Linwood and Redwood where National has made such enormous gains over the past decade.

Labour is not going to win an election, or come anywhere near it, until it takes as its starting point the real social and economic conditions that the majority of New Zealanders experience, and that is improving family incomes and wealth.  Mr Little and Mr McCarten both know all this.

They may well know it but their messages are for the hard left and permanently destitute…where there are precious little votes.

Why, then, does Mr Little’s rhetoric seem to imply he thinks the social conditions in New Zealand in 2016 are comparable with those in Russia in 1916, and that expressing greater and greater outrage, louder and louder, will deliver him a revolution?

Because that’s all he’s got. Same with fools like Martyn Bradbury.

Mr Little’s problem is that his ability to retain the leadership through to the election depends not on professional politicians connected at least in some way with their communities but to the faceless union bosses and hardcore Labour activists who gave him the job in late 2014.

On their behalf, harsh words were recently exchanged at Labour’s New Zealand Council that Mr Little is already positioning himself too far to the right.

The idea of chasing middle New Zealand is anathema to party organs now dominated by extreme-left entrists from the old Alliance.

Mr Little has been given strict instructions by those who sustain him that he must chase the missing million, not Labour’s class enemies in middle New Zealand.  Is it any wonder Winston Peters is picking up voters from what remains of Labour’s West Auckland and provincial rump?

Yep, I’d suggest Matt McCarten is furiously spinning to avoid being the blamehound. The problem is when everyone else has been blamed and executed and the problems continue then people will naturally start looking at who and where the real problems are.

 – NBR


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  • localnews

    We all know that eventually national will get voted out. It worries me that John Key gobbling up labour policies every week will one day doom us to a hard left wing opposition winning an election. We could easily end up with a fool like grant Robertson as prime minister, and matt mccarten could end up very powerful
    Mr key has made no effort to groom a successor and his political expediency could end up looking foolish. He should have kept the national party on the right, where the people who voted for him expected him to be

    • Jim460

      That worries me too, but it is not as bleak as it seems. While Labour will one day (probably) be part of a government, there is no guarantee they will have the numbers to implement their agenda, or even be the largest party in that government. They don’t understand the electoral system they put in place. They (or an ideological ally) need to win centre votes directly, not inherit them by default under FPP.

      • localnews

        True, I would rather we had centre right and centre left parties, but we seem to be developing centre left and hard left parties.
        I suspect that a let of the people who voted for national would have liked a bit more of a rightward drift, and we are normalising the lefts policies while ignoring the alternatives, all to choke off labours oxygen.
        Is that just avoiding debate?

    • STAG

      National will win 2017 and then, because National do listen to the people I predict a sharp shift to the Right, a 5th term is not on the cards but a long run of conservative socially responsible center right wing government is from then on as the population changes.

      • localnews

        Let’s hope. They came in this time with a strong mandate and have drifted left. If they are returned, won’t they see that as endorsing their left wing policies?
        They have spent so much time choking off labours oxygen that they don’t seem to be setting the agenda anymore, just reacting to the opposition and media pressures.
        I wonder if some of winstons support is coming from people who wish to move right, eg crack down on immigration, Maori handouts etc

  • Caprice

    Don’t worry, everything will be alright for us once the sheeple wake up to what a nasty man mr shonkey really is…(whoops, I’m writing on the wrong blog)

    • STAG

      Typing with you left hand only today?

    • Zanyzane

      Labours top 4,
      Little, who is always angry and looks like a muppet. Keeps trying to steal Green voters and has no idea who the average kiwi voter is.
      Robertson, who has a tax kiwis to the death fetish and back stabs his leader with his left hand while smiling and shaking hands with his right hand
      Ardern, who is clueless on most matters
      Twyford, who is a racist and makes up statistics like 40% chinese foreign buyers and forgets that Labours stronghold of Mt Roskill is 60% Asian. Way to go Twyford. Next election, Mt Roskill goes National.

  • sandalwood789

    Dear Andrew Little –
    *Please* move Labour to the left! That will ensure that your party remains in Opposition for at least another decade or two.

    • OneTrack

      You mean move further to the left. Most of the moderates have been already purged.

  • Left Right Out

    “These are those who are not enrolled or do not vote and Labour assumes (wrongly) that they would all tick left if they did.”

    I think Hooten forgot to mention they are also anti govt, no matter who is in power

  • Tom

    All that will happen if Labopur moves further left is they will make room for other left parties to fill that void like NZ First and the Maori party.

  • OneTrack

    I just love that 57% think the country is heading in the right direction, but ~20% of them won’t be voting for a party to keep it heading in that direction. The cognitive dissonance is amazing.

  • kayaker

    I personally know four people of that ‘entire generation’ who are building and or renovating their own homes in Auckland. No handouts, just sheer hard work, ambition and thrift.

  • Maisie

    Re young owning their own homes. I have 3 sons, now in their early 40s. Youngest bought his first home when he was 19, the other two bought their own homes in their early 20s. This was done by working hard, while still at school and saving this money, back in the days (not so long ago I must add) doing hard manual labour jobs like carting hay and relief milking etc etc. now these funds are spent by today’s youth travelling overseas, spending on expensive vehicles, (our boys had vehicles but ones they could afford) and IT gear. Nowadays they have to have the best and brand new! Putting things on ‘ tick’

    • Michelle

      l have a friend whose child has the money for a deposit on a house but has decided to use that money to travel and then come back in a few years and settle down
      They don’t want to use the money for a house just yet they have different priorities these days but Labour and the Media party just want to blame the government

      • sandalwood789

        I think that in the next decade fewer young people will be doing the traditional “big O.E.” to the UK and Europe because of the utter mess that they are becoming (due to huge immigration). No-one wants to travel to see a cesspit.

        The young will probably instead go to the States, Asia and South America.

  • Wayne Peter McIndoe

    Shows the disconnect between Labour and the voters it wants to reach out to. Most people are aspirational, they want to improve their position in life and dont like some politician like Little saying that they are wrong for doing so.

  • Damon Mudgway

    I think Labour need to face facts…there’s simply no need for a far left party in NZ politics anymore. National have done a better than most in keeping most people happy, most of the time. By moving to the left, National have basically put Labour out of a job. Shreud politics by the Prime Minister to be sure. He’s lost some voters along the way, but they’re not leftist, and he’s gained a few traditionally left leaning voters, thereby relegating Labour to the rubbish bin.

    Sorry Labour, but in your current state as Union lackies, you’re just surplus to requirement.

  • JC

    If Hooton is right then getting into power is secondary to other union objectives, which means many Labour supporters are being duped.


  • Sideshow11

    I’ve just seen on Facebook that Andrew little is speaking here in Waihi this afternoon . Finding it hard not to reply to the post , pointing out that the world I live in isint that negative . And that I don’t live in a garage or car because I work 70 hours in a job I love by choice . And any party which promises less tax will get my vote rather than one that promises more tax for those that don’t / won’t work

  • XCIA

    Labour have gone back to the future with their merchandise sales to reinforce their “we’re backing the kiwi dream” propaganda. This tea towel will set you back $20!

  • rangitoto

    “Mr Little declared Labour had a “positive plan” for “middle New Zealand”
    to achieve the “Kiwi dream.” This was defined as “a good job, a home
    they can call their own, a good school to send their kids to, healthcare
    if they get sick” and a “decent chance to get ahead … if they put the
    effort in.””

    Sounds like he wants them to become National voters.

  • Zanyzane

    Andrew Little keeps aiming for the minority left which is the Greens. That is why Labour is shrinking as a party, they don’t even know who the average working kiwi voter is. Average kiwis want more than just a house, they want a holiday home and they want a retirement income from an investment property. He keeps insulting the traditional labour voter. No wonder we are all voting for National.