Political activism and maintaining a career

An interesting post at The Standard – Left wing activism and the humdrum need to maintain jobs and careers, about the difficulties of being a left wing activist while maintaining a middle class mortgage supporting career.

This is by a new author, ‘Advantage’, who as ‘Ad’ has been one of the commenters worth keeping an eye on in Standard threads.

See if this rings any bells. You’ll have your own stories on this.

You’re highly qualified. You can’t trust those around you with your politics. Random restructures hit teams around you. If you’re outed, you’ll likely never work in your chosen field again. Your few close friends are allies, others have flamed out like a final Mad Max ride. Your nom-de-plume protects your mortgage.

A few peel off to work in Parliament, others to minor NGOs, some reduced to commenting alone, still more get post-campaign burnout and become melancholic muggles.

The choices narrow for the remainder. Build or find a project in your “spare time” and believe in its ability to inspire; this site is one. Choose union activism to rail valiantly against the rising exploitative tide, and forgo your career arc. Some retreat to the grey economy, rebuke the world, retire from the field early, sending occasional missives on purity.

Others keep their suits on. They find social reform, or governance positions, or built infrastructure projects, on a monumental scale, and push their shoulder in. They make deals. They compromise everything especially themselves. They are strategic brokers, and they are paid for it. One’s function in politics changes as one’s ideals are replaced by instruments.

The comments thread is interesting too (if you can get past the few “right bad, left perfect and hard done by” bits) with discussion and expansion on the themes raised.

I’m sure there are jobs in which people interested in any sort of political activism feel restrained and see a need to keep their activism anonymous to their workplace. From the left, right or no aligned.

RedLogix comments:

Absolutely. I’ve never worked in a situation where I felt it wise to even talk about politics, much less ‘out’ myself.

It is absolutely one of the covert control mechanisms embedded in most workplaces, an effective prohibition on ever talking about salaries, politics, workplace bullying and so on. Increasingly the only things that are talked about are sport, the weather and workplace gossip. The intent is to keep worker powerless.

Ad responds:

This is as I suspected.

Sorry to sound like Morpheus out of The Matrix, but it means those kinds of people really are out there.

What I am pointing to is their latent power.

Such insiders have massive institutional knowledge, are paid like professional people, have immense industry networks, and are often in charge of projects or programmes that have real effects in the world.
– Industry specific knowledge is vital for policy formation
– Paid professionals have the capacity to be donors (a growing left problem)
– Networks have specific political power into specific Ministries
– And programmes and projects can become part of policy direction as well

Political movements of the left need to nurture this kind of person.

In the modern world many people choose to put families, careers and private lives before political activism and other interests, even if they are inclined towards it (most have little or no interest in politics).

Could I have been an MP? Could I have been an All Black? Either is possible (although it’s unknown if either were attainable) , but for twenty plus years in the prime of my life I toiled away raising a family and going from job to job in order to survive financially.

My marriage didn’t come out the other side of that intact but I have children and step children and another marriage plus step children and grand children that I am very thankful for. The lack of high profile achievement and failing to solve the worlds problems has instead had it’s own big rewards. And now I can dabble (at politics, I gave up rugby at the end of last century).

Ironically (in respect of Advantage’s post) the longest I have had a single career job for has coincided with when I have been able to try out a bit of political activism. I’m aware some jobs wouldn’t allow that – perhaps those who want to pursue activism have to choose a job that’s compatible.

‘Sick and stupid attitude’

Sad but not surprising to see this responses like this to the issue Anne Tolley raised about people having babies in at risk situations from Anthony Robins at The Standard:

Nats and reproductive rights

The Nats are obsessed with the reproductive rights of those they deem “unfit”. Once again they are floating the idea of compulsory controls.

Are we still “not quite” at the stage of compulsion, or are the Nats going to cross that line? It’s obvious from their record that they have a thoroughly unhealthy obsession with the idea.

Why not make the very difficult issue of at risk children another political shit fight Anthony.

John Key “thinks” (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that parents on the DPB are “breeding for a business”. That kind of sick and stupid attitude can never be allowed to control reproductive rights.

That’s a link to a 2008 news report that says:

He has criticised Labour for its DPB policy, saying in 2002 that it had led to the situation “where people have been, for want of a better term, breeding for a business” – a statement Labour has since used against him.

Still using it against him over a decade later.

Talking of stupid attitudes Anthony, where are Labour’s solutions? That’s right, policy is next year’s project, trying to trash anything Key or the Government does or raises is this year’s strategy.

CYF has failed to adequately address the issue of large numbers of children being born into and living in high risk situations for several decades. Past Governments as well as the present Government have failed to make major improvements.

This deserves a serious discussion. At risk kids shouldn’t be used as a petty political football.

One thing that should be considered is whether any children are born as a result of perceptions of financial incentives by parents at high risk of harming their children (or putting them in situations where harm is likely).

The DPB is essential assistance for many mothers but that doesn’t rule out some misguided choices by mothers (and fathers) who are at risk of being poor parents.

But is the DPB a lifestyle choice for some? It is a question that shouldn’t be swept under a political rug.

Shitty political bitching, or prepared to look at some very difficult issues around children who have poor parents and crappy and high risk lives Anthony?

Greens should tow the leftie line!

There were a number of Labour MPs who were obviously very annoyed with the Greens when they worked out a deal with National on Red Peak and cut Labour out of the loop.

The feeling of errant child who should check with Mum and Dad before doing anything goes deeper than that in Labour.

Here’s some comments from The political machinations of the flag debate at The Standard. Micky Savage:

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Green and if I did not have so much Labour DNA in me I would probably have joined the Greens. But I wonder if their deal with National this week over Red Peak was a good thing to do.

Jenny Kirk:

Silly Greens, and quite possibly naive and green Greens. This is what comes of choosing a Leader who has not been in Parliament beforehand, or been in any previous position that required political nous. The Greens have damaged themselves…

Media commentary suggests that Labour are the most damaged (self-inflicted) but instead of looking in the mirror they turn on the Greens instead.


SO lets not discuss Labours failings here, as this is a National Party Project and a National Party Failure to be shared with the Greens.

Sabine again:

So let the Green celebrate their success in being a Poodle to National, let them celebrate another ugly meaning less tea towel on a flawed project that is nothing but an artificial penis extension for the PM, and hey if they behave real well they might get another cycleway, cause they for sure aint never gonna feed the kids.

In my books the Green in NZ can take a hike.


James Shaw is just an utter dic*head and Key clone.


 The Greens leadership need to get to grips with changing the government, not softening the current one with compromise. Otherwise they will find in November 2017 that they just got their souls sucked dry.


But I suspect that after their secret arse licking of Key, the Green dunderheads will begin to lose some of their support base, primarily benefiting New Zealand First, whose position as the coalition king makers will get more strengthened.

Heather tangua:

A good summary, I agree about the Greens, can Labour trust them again?
They did go behind their back directly to Key, this is not the way partners work together to see a change in government


The Greens got played. Did they not realise they are dealing with a guy who will throw them under the bus tomorrow. Why did the Greens empower Key to do destroy the Greens ?


I think they call it principles, and the Greens have just shown that they are as good and as bad as all the other party, albeit with only 10 % of the vote.

So yea, let them be junior party in support of the National Party.


Labour had National over a barrel on this and the Greens where stupid to let the pressure off of National.
You have done this country a big disservice the Green Party.
One of the stupidest moves you could have done!
They shot themselves in the foot and I suspect that future polls will how a drop for them.
Labour was trying to save this country a big chunk of money by getting the referendums combined so the Greens in my book just cost this country a lot of money we can not afford!

Except that Labour were going to save no money, the referendums were going ahead regardless,


based on recent events either the Greens are fools or they are taking crap advice hook line and sinker ….maybe both

another reason why Labour can not rely on the Green Party as a coalition partner ..nor can the Left


I think the behind the scenes stuff is the reason for all the angst.

If either Labour or the Greens want to do a deal with National about anything they should tell the other party beforehand.

Anne responded to that:


Lesson to be learned for both Greens and Labour. Keep your friends and potential allies in the mix.

No ifs and no buts.

Puckish Rogue:

I agree, why don’t the Greens realise that they’re merely a branch of Labour and act in Labours best interest

Just plain selfish from the Greens, I mean the audacity of the Greens to make their own decisions when they should be doing what Labour want them to do

Labour activists to Greens: Toe the line! (Labour have enough trouble getting their own to toe the line).

Greens have had a valuable reminder that they can’t trust Labour. Labour need to earn that trust and earn co-operation and support.

Until then Greens should build on this and try to negotiate whatever policy gains they can.

“Doesn’t listen to old white men”

A comment by ‘vto’ on sexism at The Standard is likely to prompt some interesting discussion.

Interesting letter to the editor in the local rag this morning hauling ‘opinionist’ Beck Eleven up for her outrageous gender profiling and outright sexism over her recent repeated statements that she “doesn’t listen to old white men”.

She and others such as Michelle a’court have a history of sexism and bigotry based on a persons gender and age.

And of course it is something which goes on around here all the time, by the likes of Tracey (hi tracey)…

The examples of this are so numerous that it has become acceptable to label people on the basis of their gender, race and age. An example of this was on NatRadio a couple of days ago where a young female musician said similar about old white men. The broadcaster let it slide.

It is ok to label some parts of society on the basis of the gender, age and race. Apparently…

… interesting. And foolish because it permits the same labelling in return….. I mean, really, how much value is there in young white women opinions? Or any female opinions, no matter the age or race?

Sound familiar?

Much of this sounds familiar to me. I’m probably regarded as an old white man by Beck Eleven.

Some people have said or implied I shouldn’t express an opinion about younger people, Maori, women’s issues/feminism etc. I was recently attacked on Twitter for having an opinion about the Greens.

This is the age of the Internet, which gives ordinary people an opportunity to speak and be heard – but paradoxically an active minority or people see fit to try and shut up anyone who they deem shouldn’t be speaking.

The opportunity to speak (online) is being challenged by those who seem determined to restrict speech.

Of course Beck Eleven can choose who she listens to and who she doesn’t listen to. But it often goes beyond that – it’s common for people to try and shut up and shut out people they don’t want anyone to listen to.

We’ve got a lot to learn about our new opportunities and freedoms to speak,.

Corbyn – revolution or threat?

Jeremy Corbyn’s remarkable elevation from 33 year maverick back bencher to UK Labour leader is prompting some remarkable claims.

Anthony Robins seems ecstatic at The Standard in UK – Cameron loses his shit, new members flood to Labour:

Last night our time the UK was waking up to the first new day of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. PM David Cameron lost his shit, in what will I think become one of the most (in)famous political tweets of all time:


I’m not sure that will become infamous, it seems a logical first shot across Corbyn’s bow from the Conservatives.

 Meanwhile in the real world, since the Corbyn announcement new members have been flocking to UK Labour…


It’s understandable that Labour supporters here would be excited by that sort of news, but it may be political PR, just like Cameron’s tweet.

Corbyn certainly seems to have sparked a revolution within the UK Labour Party. Whether that translates into a UK revolution is yet to be seen. He is unlikely to prompt a surge in membership for Labour in New Zealand.

Many voters may well see Corbyn’s Labour as a threat to security – Corbyn wants to withdraw from NATO and scrap their nuclear Tridents – and a threat to the economy – he leans strongly towards socialism.

Cameron’s first shot is probably mild. Corbyn and Labour a sure to get a lot more strongly worded criticisms than that.

Corbyn may well be leading a revolution. But if that revolution is seen as a threat to the majority of UK voters the revolting may end up being confined to Labour.

Political bias even in flag choices?

Surely only the politically paranoid could think of things like this.

This came up in a discussion about claimed political bias in media.

If any more proof is required of the slant to the right in nzs media just look how predominant the national blue is , hoskings radio adds are one example Is it driven by national or is it being done by a bunch of sycophantic creeps.?
Edit I just noticed the colour of seven sharp page at top of the post !!

The Seven Sharp colour scheme is blue but it looks nothing like National’s blue.

Have you seen the flag short list and how many have 2/3 National blue and 1/3 red?

Good grief. Apart from wondering why someone would think up political paranoia like that Weka is wrong. Look at the final forty flag choices.

FlagsFinal40The reason why blue is a common colour amongst them is because it’s the predominant colour of the current flag.

If anything the flag colours are biased against ACT and UF, I do’t see any of their yellow or magenta at all in the flags.

b waghorn

I hadn’t noticed a bias but it wouldn’t surprise me, I have thought that party colours should be avoided on the new flag if it happens (although it doesn’t leave much) and TV stations should definitely avoid them around news shows.

So the flag and media organisations should avoid any blue, red, green, black, yellow or magenta in case some tragics perceive some bias?

Can we please consider flag alternatives withoput having to appease every perception of colour/ethnicity/political/gender imbalance.

Sustained attack on the media

Winston Peters got some attention earlier this week attacking Mike Hosking. Andrew Little joined in.

Politicians attacking promiment people in media is not a good sign.

It has become common to see people attacking journalists on Twitter. Sometimes these become social media campaigns, like the anti-Mediaworks campaign in reaction to the demise of Cambell Live.

This is bad for speech and democracy – if that campaign succeeds in crashig Mediaworks then we have fewer broadcasters and less media variety, which would be much worse than swapping Campbell Live (one frontperson) for The Story (two frontpeople).

The first comment on The Standard’s Open Mic today, from Paul:

The opposition and other progressive forces in the country must maintain a sustained attack against the bias in the media.
Target the main puppets and always question their impartiality.
When being interviewed live make these accusations.
Control the corporate media, don’t let it control you.
It will never accept a progressive victory in the elections unless the opposition exists on its terms.
Follow the SNP and break your dependence on the corporate media.

If the “opposition and other progressive forces’ wage a “sustained attack against the bias in the media” it would be sad times for politics, media and democracy.

The media has become the scapegoat for the failure of Labour in particular to rebuild and look credible.

Attacking the media and trying to force a ‘bias’ shift is bad enough on it’s own. But it also diverts from the real problems that the left need to deal with instead of blaming everyone else foer their failures.

A sustained attack on the media – and that’s more likley to mean a sustained attack on the bits of media that the attackers don’t like, therefore trying to force their own media bias – is an apalling approach to politics.

Government versus Opposition

In response to the latest Roy Morgan poll result at The Standard:


On the Government’s side:
– Key understands that wall to wall media coverage is the best way to stay popular
– Chinese voter intentions will harden to National in Auckland
– The National front bench are firing, and providing Key with strong coverage
– TPP protests appear not to have touched underlying popularity

On the Opposition:
– They Opposition remain a long way from looking like an alternative government
– The rural economy has not yet fully soured. (It will)
– Criticising real estate capital growth is not popular
– Winston Peters continues to get better media traction than Little
– Greens have no MSM profile currently

It’s making 2017 look hard for the Progressive side of the fence.
Should have been firing by now.

Colonial Rawshark:

I agree with all your points. Previously I had thought your statements around the ‘inevitable decline’ of the Key Govt as probably being a bit too early and a bit too optimistic.

Colonial Rawshark (Tat Loo) is a maverick LOabour realist.

This seems like a reasonable assessment of the current state of play.

“Labour is the party of economic competence”

Anthony Robins makes a case at The Standard that Labour is the party of economic competence.

The old myth that National are good managers of the economy should now be well dead and buried. By any realistic assessment of the records of the last two governments, Labour is the party of economic competence.

Labour: 9 surplus budgets, paid down net government debt to zero, established the Cullen fund, KiwiSaver, KiwiBank and emissions trading scheme, low unemployment, negotiated a successful free trade agreement with China, and so on.

National: 7 deficit budgets (so far), ran up record government debt, sold productive assets, made significant losses by cutting Cullen fund contributions, gutted the emissions scheme, got taken for a ride by Hollywood, Sky City and Rio Tinto, higher unemployment, is negotiating a disastrous TPP, and more.

There’s some valid points there, but also some questionable ones. And some significant omissions, for example Kiwirail, and the fact that the New Zealand economy was heading into difficult times while Labour was still in Government, having committed the country and the incoming National Government to significant increased spending.

There’s certainly things National can be criticised for, but “made significant losses by cutting Cullen fund contributions” is nonsense, and the Hollywood deal can be credited in part for improving tourism which is one of the countriy’s biggest earners now.

Labour needs to highlight the issue of economic competence next election (with any luck the media will do their job too and fairly present the facts). It is supposed to be a core National strength, but any clothes that emperor ever had are long gone now. National is vulnerable.

Robins looks back to the Labour Government led by Helen Clark and Michael Cullen. They were voted out in 2008, seven years ago.

National aren’t judged on the Bolger Government, or the Muidoon Government.

Of course National is vulnerable, especially if the economic situation worsens or doesn’t improve much.

But Bill English is widely seen as a very sound Minister of Finance who has managed the economy through very difficult times. If he remains then National may still look economically reliable. If not it National will have to look like they have got a comparable replacement.

Sure “Labour needs to highlight the issue of economic competence” – but Andrew Little and Grant Robertson have to do quite a lot of convincing yet about perceptions of their economic competence. If they are still leader and Finance Spokesperson at the election.

And absent any poll recovery miracle Labour still have to grapple with how economically competent Labour+Greens looks, or Labour+Greens+NZFirst looks.

They’ve got plenty of time. It’s two years until we head into the next election campaign.

But they’ve had plenty of time. It’s nearly seven years and four leader/finance spokesperson combinations since Labour lost power.

Before Labour is seen as ‘the party of economic competence’ they need to be seen as a party that can competently manage itself.

Heat on National over accumulating problems

It’s normal for an incumbent governing party to accumulate problems, especially when well into their third term.

And it’s normal opponents to keep highlighting these problems and keep hammering the Government with them. As Greg Presland has done at The Standard in National’s terrible deal making.

John Key’s reputation as a formidable wheeler dealer deal maker is clearly mythological rather than real. And a series of deals have been completed based entirely on a prejudice that private enterprise does things better than the state.  But the reality does not match National’s ideologically blinkered view.

Attacking Key on one of his claimed or perceived strengths.

These deals include the following and there are multiple posts on The Standard on each one.

  • Novopay – the go live decision that has cost us $45 million was signed off by English, Joyce and Foss despite the awareness that there were multiple faultswith the system at the time.
  • Tiwai Point and Rio Tinto – where a foreign multinational corporation exploitedthe Government’s insistence of partially privatising our power companies and was paid $30 million dollars to continue in business for a short period of time.
  • Warner Brothers – a threat to move filming overseas when clearly this would not happen resulted in $30 million tax credits, rushed legislation and some manufactured news for John Key.  Irish Bill’s analysis here is compulsory reading if you want to understand the extent of the duplicity that National engaged in.
  • Saudi sheep – where we have the payment of a failed bribe, a sheep farm in a Saudi desert where most of the lambs died, negotiation of a MOU with a foreign state where National’s behaviour has been described as duplicitous and an active attempt to avoid legal and bureaucratic oversight.
  • Trans Pacific partnership – where we are giving up our sovereignty, Pharmac’s effectiveness and opening up our Government being sued whenever it acts in the public good all for the possibility of a minuscule increase in overseas markets for milk we currently produce at a loss.
  • Sky City – where the Government has sold legislative provisions, engaged in a contractual process described as banana republic stuff without the bananas and created future increased problem gambling and misery for a convention centre with hopelessly optimistic predictions of job creation and economic activity.
  • Serco – it has become abundantly clear that the so called innovative approach does not exist and Serco’s profits depend on cutting prison officer numbers and allowing the gangs to take over.  Inmate deaths, the hiding of violent incidents because they affect the bottom line, rampant drug taking and prisoner violence appear to have become the norm.
  • Charter schools – where instead of closing a failing charter school as recommended Hekia Parata gave that school more money.

And National’s economic strategy?  It appears to be a combination of trust private enterprise, multiple dairy conversions, a cycleway (remember that?), building holiday highways, an Auckland real estate boom and precious little else.  National clearly lacks the skills to create a modern economy and a modern state.  Without heavy borrowing and the Christchurch rebuild our economy would be in tatters.

It is not only the lack of substance that is becoming increasing clear.  It is also that National’s and Key’s style in creating a media narrative that does not match reality is now being increasingly clear.  About time.

I don’t think all of those should be much of a problem on their own. It’s easy to surmise Labour would have done something to rescue Tiwai Point, while one Charter School has severe problems others seem to be doing ok and Warner Bros/The Hobbitt have helped New Zealand’s tourism industry substantially – see Tourism set to overtake dairy as largest export earner.

But Novopay was a debacle, Sky City has looked shaky if not shonky at times and the Saudi sheep – what happened and how National have handled the issue over the last month – looks awful.

So accumulatively the heat is on National.

They are going to have to be seen to sort some of this stuff out or the voters will sort them out in 2017.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,118 other followers