Ardern has failed the left, apparently

I’ve seen comment in various places along the lines of how Jacinda Ardern could have embraced Metiria Turei’s sacrifice and led the revolution that would rescue new Zealand from a calamitous era of ‘neo-liberalism’.

Much of this is encapsulated here:

For there really was a window. An opportunity. Instead of playing her part in the political assassination of Metiria Turei, Ardern could have used her new position and her extraordinary popularity to stand by her side.

Together, she and Turei could have broken the siege that has prevented beneficiaries – which is to say, a significant portion of the working class – from leading a dignified life and participating in society.

Hope rippled around New Zealand’s far left that revolution was finally in the offing.

Yesterday, it was Jacinda Ardern’s turn to take the pledge, and she didn’t hesitate for a moment. ‘Yes,’ she said. Neoliberalism has failed. This may be what the majority of her supporters wanted to hear her say, but it also turned every other answer she gave in the course of the half-hour interview into a test of that premise.

This in turn underscored that it is one thing to look at Labour’s policies going into this election as a series of discrete (and largely desirable) interventions into various areas of New Zealand’s life; quite another to view them in aggregate as an expression of an overarching political project. Which – since the leader is so adamant that neoliberalism has failed the country – ought to be a project of anti-neoliberal reform.

It’s expecting rather a lot of a new leader who has risen in urgent circumstances leading in to an election to suddenly ignore all of the policy development done by her party over years and to adopt reforms demanded by a radical but small minority outside the party.

The term ‘neoliberal’ is often said to be excessively vague, but its value in this context was in fact to give specificity to Espiner’s line of questioning. Most obviously: would Ardern consider revisiting the Reserve Bank Act, the Public Finance Act or any of the other legislative instruments that have allowed the last four governments to put neoliberal reforms into practice?

The answer – need I say it – was no.

And in the process of the fairly gentle interrogation that followed, the much-vaunted boldness of the Ardern project evaporated.

She thinks that climate change is the ‘nuclear-free’ issue of our time, but wouldn’t commit to divesting from coal or even ceasing to issue new licenses for deep-sea oil exploration.

She wants to end child poverty, but wouldn’t resile from her predecessor’s foolish commitment to contain spending to 30% of GDP and keep guaranteeing operating surpluses – one of the main causes of the staggering, crippling rise of our household debt – nor does she think that the government needs to seek more revenue through taxation.

She is even open to getting the TPP back on track, subject to conditions that she would not reveal in order not to show her hand in the upcoming negotiations.

Ardern has left her self open to criticism by claiming that neo-liberalism has failed and the climate change is the most important issue of our time.

But she could hardly have made as radical changes as Lange/Douglas had in the 80s, in reverse, just before an election.

Such a decision would have carried its own risks, naturally. But then this is what defines political courage, and it’s nothing if not courage that we desperately need.

That would have been crazy. it would have been political suicide, and Labour would have headed the same was as the Greens in the polls.  Winston would be vying with National to run the next government.

In other words: Ardern gave every indication that under her leadership, and with a much diminished contribution from the Greens, Labour remains committed to the continuation of the fundamental policies of the last 30 years. Call it the interlude we get to have every nine years or so in-between Tory governments.

We’ll see the back of some truly dreadful ministers, associate ministers and undersecretaries. Some people’s living conditions will improve, or at least stop deteriorating – which of course is not insignificant. It never is.

But the desire for deep and lasting change that the enthusiasm surrounding Ardern both evokes and demands will likely remain unfulfilled. Nothing illustrates this prospect better than the literal papering over of last month’s empty, self-defeating slogan – ‘a fresh approach’ – with an even emptier one – ‘Let’s do this.’ This what?

This is from a post by Giovanni Tiso: The neoliberalism question: notes on the Ardern/Espiner interview

If Tiso, and Trotter, Slater, Bradbury et al really want to start a revolution then they should stop expecting someone else to do it for them.

They should start a party, put forward the policies they want to see, and put them to the electorate.

Or they could join an existing party and argue their case in policy meetings and put themselves forward for candidacy and for the party list and sell their revolution to the voters.

This is a democracy, and like it or not that’s how things work here.

Sitting on the sidelines complaining because yet another party leader doesn’t instantly turn into a party dictator is fairly fanciful and futile.




  1. chrism56

     /  September 13, 2017

    What else did you expect from Mr Tiso and Bradbury? The former is an A Grade whiner. The latter has the reverse Midas touch, where everything he is involved with turns to shit.

  2. High Flying Duck

     /  September 13, 2017

    You’d better watch your back PG – Clarke Gayford will be gunning for you for repeating such scurrilous attacks on the people’s princess.

    Having policy before the election would be being reckless. Far safer to have a committee afterwards when everyone has stopped paying attention.

  3. Ray

     /  September 14, 2017

    It is worth remembering that Giovanni is a communist, immigrant, who is a house husband who cares for two autistic children while his wife attempts to make a living as an artist.
    Consequently I would suggest he is a nett consumer of our taxes and his ideas be treated with that in mind.
    I actually enjoy his various attempts to change how NZers think, as he has interesting outsider views of our country.

  4. Kevin

     /  September 14, 2017

    Jacinda is a lefty through and through. If Labour’s ratings have dropped it’s because their policies are stupid. No government has ever been elected by promising to create new taxes. No use blaming Cindy.

    • Blazer

       /  September 14, 2017

      their policies are only stupid to the greedy,rednecks,wowsers,and…squeakers.

  1. Ardern has failed the left, apparently — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition