Even Trotter is using a photo of Little looking spastic

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WHY, OH WHY didn’t Andrew Little keep his mouth shut? Or, when asked by a journalist to respond to the political observations of his party’s former leader, just stick to the time-honoured current leader’s script?

“I’ve enormous respect for the wisdom of Helen Clark. Her record of winning three elections on the trot speaks for itself. Her political observations are informed by the experience and achievement of many years. Only a fool wouldn’t listen very carefully to her advice.”

If that wasn’t sufficient, then Clark’s remark about Labour needing to “command the centre” should simply have been endorsed. Something along the lines of:

“She’s quite right about that. When questioned, the overwhelming majority of people position themselves between the extremes of left and right. And if you don’t secure the votes of a very big chunk of these centrist voters, then your party’s chances of being elected to govern are next to zero.”

A statement of the bleeding-bloody-obvious, of course, but sometimes the bleeding-bloody obvious is what people need to hear. It reassures them that you, and the party you lead, are in tune with their own general view of the world. Nobody gets to become Prime Minister by making voters feel that the Leader of the Opposition is out-of-tune with their general view of the world.

And yet, that’s exactly what Little did. He described Clark’s bog-standard pol-sci observation – that, to win, his party must “command the centre ground” – as “pretty hollow”.

Pretty hollow!

Yeah, Angry Andy really doesn’t do surprise questions very well.  

When challenged by RNZ’s Susie Ferguson on Tuesday’s Morning Report to come clean on his “hollow” remark and confirm that Labour was set firmly on a left-wing course, Little’s prevarication was nothing short of heroic. Left and right, he insisted didn’t matter anymore, he was much more interested in responding to the issues brought to him by the people he met every week as he travelled around New Zealand.

Ferguson struggled on womanfully for several more minutes in a futile attempt to get Little to acknowledge that the sort of political engagement he was describing was precisely the sort of engagement that Clark was advocating when she offered up the bleeding-bloody-obvious comment that Labour must “command the centre ground”.

Despairing of getting a coherent response from the leader of the party which still lists “democratic socialism and economic and social co-operation” among its objectives, Ferguson changed tack and asked Little to name the left-wing politician from whom he drew the most inspiration.

His answer to this question was even more depressing than his earlier responses. In a year when Bernie Sanders proved that calling oneself a “democratic socialist” is no longer a declaration of political irrelevance. In a week when that “radical left-winger”, Jeremy Corbyn, was re-elected with an increased majority by Labour’s 600,000 members. Who was the left-wing politician Little identified as his inspirational role-model?

Bill Shorten.

That’s right, Bill Shorten. The charismatically challenged and ideologically inert leader of the Australian Labor Party, for whom the need for Labor to “command the centre ground” enjoys the status of unchallengeable holy writ.

If Little cannot refrain from shoving his philosophical foot this far down his political throat every time he opens his mouth, then maybe he should sit out the next twelve months in silence!

A version of this essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 30 September 2016.

Trotter is spot on.

 

Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road


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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.

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