Can Peters be Trotter’s Trotsky?

It has been entertaining watching activists on blogs and other social media trying to influence the outcome of the formation of a new government, from imploring parties to do what they want to subtle attempts at influence.

Chris Trotter has been in activist overdrive at hos Bowalley blog, and also at The Daily Blog and in weekly media columns.

Adults In The Room?

WHAT’S GOING ON, JACINDA? Why has the former Labour Finance Minister, Sir Michael Cullen, and Helen Clark’s former Press Secretary, Mike Munro, been invited on to your team of negotiators with NZ First? And, while we’re on the subject of Labour’s Rogernomics Generation, why was Annette King sent to ride shotgun alongside you for the duration of the election campaign?

These are important questions, because when Jacinda talked about ushering in “generational change”, most New Zealanders fondly assumed that she was committed to taking their country forward – not back.

The other assumption New Zealand made, as the baton of leadership passed from Andrew to Jacinda, was that she was completely up to the job of carrying it without assistance.

I think she’s up to doing it without Trotter’s assistance.

“Dear Winston” – An Open Letter To The Leader Of NZ First.

Changing the government will require a wise head and a great heart. You have until Thursday, Winston, to prove to New Zealand that you possess both.

The Hallelujah Song.

Winston needs to know that Labour’s reach continues to exceed its grasp: that its MPs strive for something beyond mere political power; that it is still a party of nation-builders.

He will be studying Jacinda Ardern especially closely. Does she fully appreciate the sheer weight of the hopes and dreams New Zealanders have heaped upon her? Is she ready, truly ready, to fulfil them? And, does she show even the slightest sign of knowing how? Is hers the principal voice among Labour’s team of negotiators? Or, does she constantly defer to her friend and ally, Grant Robertson? And does Grant, in turn, look to his mentor and patron, Sir Michael Cullen, for the right words at the right time? And has Sir Michael ever known how to sing the Hallelujah Song?

In the absence of the Left’s uplifted voices, Winston will take what he can get from the Right.

When he’s not in despair Trotter is often angling for his revolution.

Play It Again, Winston: An Article Written 12 Years Ago For “The Independent”.

Jesson took a kinder and more measured view of his subject:

“Perhaps the truth is that Peters is a sensationalist with an element of sincerity? Who knows? Probably not even Peters. It doesn’t matter anyway because Peters’ importance is his role not his motives. His role is indicated by the name he has chosen for his party: New Zealand First. And it is indicated by the things he campaigns about, because there is a consistent thread running through them. He is as fiercely opposed to foreign investment as he is to the government’s immigration policies. Peters is a rarity in New Zealand, he is a nationalist – probably our only serious nationalist politician since Norman Kirk, or perhaps even John A. Lee.”

It is significant, I think, that both of the politicians to whom Peters is compared by Jesson were from Labour.

At this point in its history, New Zealand stands in need just such a nationalist politician. Already, in the private seminars and political briefings paid for by the big corporations, there is talk about the changes our association with the burgeoning economies of Asia is bound to bring. Hints that our Enlightenment faith in individual liberty and the Rights of Man may have to be modified if we are not to antagonise our new “partners”.

Winston Churchill heard similar whispers in the early months of 1940 – and rejected them. Britain, he knew, was more than a collection of islands, it was a collection of ideas. Ideas too valuable to surrender for the paltry “rewards” of a dictated “peace”. Ideas worth fighting for.

It’s that same determination to stand and fight that lifts the movie Casablanca so far above the ordinary Hollywood fare. The unlooked for appearance of the idealistic Ilsa, draws forth a kindred response from the world-weary Rick. In the end we discover that the hero’s dead-pan, wise-cracking persona hides something altogether more admirable – more noble.

So play it Winston. Play it one more time.

You know what we want to hear.

You played it for Bolger, now play it for Clark.

If he could stand it, so can she.

Play it.

Play out the revolution for Chris. In his next post he actually headlines the ‘R’ word.

Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution – Or Not?

“THESE TALKS ARE ABOUT A CHANGE in the way this country is run. Both economically and socially.” That is how Winston Peters characterised the government formation negotiations currently drawing to a close in Wellington. But, what could his words possibly mean, in practical terms?

If seriously intentioned, Peters’ call for economic and social change would have to encompass the thorough-going “de-neoliberalisation” of New Zealand.

A well-organised campaign to root out neoliberalism from all of our economic and social institutions would signal that Peters was serious about changing the way this country is run. And for all those who pretend not to know what the term neoliberalism means, let me spell it out. I am talking about the deliberate intrusion and entrenchment of the logic and values of the marketplace into every aspect of human existence.

Replacing it with the deliberate intrusion and entrenchment of the ‘logic and values’ of the government into every aspect of human existence.

Governments often seem to lack logic, and struggle to appreciate that singular values cannot be applied evenly and fairly onto millions of people.

Neoliberals have been hard at work in New Zealand society since 1984 and the damage they have inflicted upon practically all of its institutions is enormous.

There have been large scale changes for sure – but they have been a mix of success and failure, improvement and deterioration.

New Zealand has significant social challenges for sure, but going back to a type Muldoonism, that Peters seems to hanker, would be as misguided as it is impossible.

I somehow doubt that trotter was a fan of the pre-1984 government. He hankers for winding the calendar back further, to 1972 and to 1938. The world has changed a wee bit since then.

It is possible, of course, that Peters is talking-up his disdain for the Greens in order to avoid spooking his core supporters in the countryside; and that, privately, he is right behind the eco-socialists’ radical policy agenda. Except, if that is the case, then he must surely be bitterly disappointed by Labour’s extreme policy timidity.

In other words, non-revolutionary.

Is the sort of party that invites Sir Michael Cullen and Annette King to join its young leader at the negotiating table, really the sort of party that is getting ready to throw its weight wholeheartedly behind “a change in the way this country is run. Economically and socially”?

Labour and National got by far the biggest share of the vote (over 80%). NZ First got 7.2% – even if Trotter can convince Peters to lead his revolution it would be with small minority support.

Trotter is an opportunist, imploring what he thinks is the most likely way to swing his revolution. Winston Peters is a very unlikely Che, but it seems to be Trotters’s best and possible only chance right now.

An Expression Of Democratic Interest.

REGARDLESS of NZ First’s ultimate decision, Writ Day, 12 October 2017, was a day for celebration. The 2017 General Election, now completed, will, eventually, deliver a government which has been shaped by the will of the New Zealand people – in full accordance with democratic principle.

The tragedies and injustices that impelled the electorate’s judgement will carve-out for themselves a substantial and urgent claim upon the new ministry’s programme.

How many votes were compelled by “tragedies and injustices”? No evidence, Trotter is speaking for himself only.

The priorities of government will change, for the very simple reason that we, the people, have changed them. Any politician who believes it possible to simply pick up where he or she left off before the voting started, is in for a rude awakening.

Not that our elected representatives need to be told this. Those who live and die by the democratic sword require no lessons in the keenness of its blade. Of much more concern to us should be the people in our community who wield delegated authority. Those employees of central and local government whose daily decisions influence people’s lives so dramatically. The class of persons who used to be called “public servants”, but who are, increasingly, taking on the appearance of our masters.

It’s a process which has been underway for the best part of thirty years; set in motion, as you would expect, by the radical “reforms” of the Rogernomics era.

Back to this again.

That these free-marketeers seized upon the “public choice” theories of the American economist, James Buchanan, is unsurprising.

It was only after Buchanan’s death that researchers uncovered his life-long links to the most extreme anti-democratic elements of the American Right. Buchanan’s concern, like that of his wealthy backers, was that the stark contrast between private selfishness and public altruism would, in the long term, prove politically unsustainable. Only by forcing the public sector to become as vicious and unaccountable as the private sector could the dangerous example of collective caring be negated.

Labelling the private and public sectors as vicious could itself be seen as vicious.

If our new government is serious about wanting to bring public spending under control, it could do a lot worse than to start by reversing the perverse reforms of Buchanan’s “public choice” disciples. After all, if there is one group these free-market theorists hate more than responsible and caring public servants, it is responsive and caring politicians.

Who are “these free-market theorists” in New Zealand? Straw men and women?

It is a measure of the free-marketeers’ success in undermining the credibility of anyone claiming to serve the public good, that merely suggesting a politician might be responsive and caring is enough to invite instant incredulity and derision.

That’s extreme ideological nonsense – one could say inviting incredulity and derision.

Buchanan and his ilk’s hostility to democracy arises precisely out of its ability to create public institutions capable of responding positively to the expressed interests of ordinary citizens. Democracy also makes it possible for ordinary citizens to redirect economic effort away from purely private purposes and towards more publicly beneficial endeavors. In other words, the expressed will of the people is able to override the “logic” of the market.

“Politics without romance” was how Buchanan described the substitution of market forces for Democracy’s “expressive interests”. If the 2017 election was about anything, it was about turning that around.

Trotter seems to be trying his hardest to turn one claimed extreme (grossly exaggerated) into his own preferred extreme.

I doubt that Peters is the one who will deliver it for him. If Winston starts a Trotterite revolution (very unlikely) there is likely to be a very unhappy electorate. That’s not what most of us voted for.

Trotter should try to get himself appointed to the NZ First board. Too late this time round but he might then be in a position to choose the government in 2020.

But Trotter joining NZ First is about as likely as Peters taking his pleas for revolution seriously.

Corbyn, Little and political atheism

Chris Trotter has long despaired (intermittently) about the chances of a proper socialist leaning Labour Party and government in New Zealand.

He has just spent some time in the UK and likes the growth of Corbyn support, but despairs about anything similar here with Andrew Little.

Chris Trotter: Hard to imagine Andrew Little inspiring Corbyn-like passion

It was hard to imagine Corbyn-like passion inspiring many in the UK a couple of months ago.

“Oh, Jeremy Corbyn! Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” The half-chant, half-song rose out of the Glastonbury crowd like the roaring of the sea borne on a rising wind.

The slightly built 68 year old received it all with the aplomb of a veteran rock-star. Microphone in one hand, a sheaf of speech notes in the other, he delivered an address that mixed soap-box oratory with the poetry of Shelly: “Rise like Lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake your chains to earth like dew/Which in sleep had fallen on you/Ye are many – they are few.” How the young lions roared!

Now, delivering a speech is not the same as delivering a government, and Glastonbury is not Britain, but there there’s no disputing that Jeremy Corbyn has redrawn his country’s political map.

In large part because Theresa May handed Corbyn the opportunity on a platter.

Labour looms so much larger now than it did just two months ago when the British commentariat was predicting electoral catastrophe on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Were an election to be held in Britain tomorrow a sweeping Labour victory is the most likely result.

In New Zealand, however, it’s a very different story.

We don’t have Brexit, and we don’t have Theresa May.

Here, with a general election less than three months away, Labour is languishing in the political doldrums. When Kiwis mutter “Oh, Andrew Little!”, it is with a mixture of exasperation and despair.

There is quite a bit of that. Bill English left a large opening after stumbling over the Barclay issue, buy Little wasn’t able to capitalise, in part due to the coincidental timing of Labour’s intern embarrassment.

If we had a Glastonbury, it’s hard to imagine our own Labour leader receiving the same rapturous reception as the Brits’. Hard because the voters’ ability to imagine a better tomorrow is critically dependent on their political leaders’ ability to describe a future worth living in.

Little is not an exciting or inspirational speaker. I saw him in person in Dunedin a couple of months ago and he was uninspiring.

I watched a video of Little speaking to a meeting on the North Shore three weeks ago and it was just as lacklustre. He has learned his lines better, but fails to fire interest or passion.

As one young festival attendee at Glastonbury remarked when asked for an explanation for Corbyn’s extraordinary popularity: “He’s brought Labour back to its old self again.”

And that, of course, is precisely what Labour in New Zealand hasn’t done.

Trotter wants New Zealand Labour’s ‘old self again’ but I doubt that’s what most voters want. the world has moved on over the last century.

The question that arises whenever three or more Kiwi leftists gather together in the name of social-democracy is: Why?

What is it that holds Little back from making the same sort of unequivocal, old-fashioned Labour promises as Corbyn?

Probably because it wouldn’t be popular here. Competing with the Green and Mana Party for votes is not a winning strategy here under MMP (the UK doesn’t have MMP).

What does he think he has to lose – apart from an election which nearly all the polls say he cannot possibly win?

It’s quite possible Labour could lose even more support, especially if they suddenly lurch towards Trotter’s old fantasy.

Labour in New Zealand – like the Democrats in America and the New Labour Party of Tony Blair – are locked into the politics of subtraction. All their energy is devoted to shifting voters from the Government’s column to the Opposition’s.

Because that’s how MMP elections are won.

They have forgotten that the parties of the Left have always and only been about the politics of addition: of bringing new social classes and forces into the electoral equation; of adding new and exciting possibilities to the lives of ordinary citizens.

Politics isn’t a profession – it’s a calling. And when a political leader answers that call with sincerity and love – oh how the people respond!

I see two major problems with that sermon.

  1. Andrew Little. He is sincere enough, but has shown no sign of inspiring loving devotion.
  2. Kiwis. Only a very small minority seem to have been ever enraptured by evangelical religious or political leaders.

Trotter and a small cadre of socialists from last century may wish for the second coming of Labour as much as they like.

But just as religious atheism is on the rise in New Zealand, so too is political atheism.

Campaigning has changed from last century’s corralling the political flock to the modern day trying to herd cats.

Politicians now need to appeal to people on the basis of competence, and on the understanding of merit based policies, not fire and brimstone political bible bashing.

Trotter’s neo-liberalism

In his latest newspaper column Chris Trotter tries to define neo-liberalism in The ideology that dares not speak its name

In the case of neoliberal ideology…we are presented with a very different picture. In essence: a codification of the economic, social and political pre-conditions required for massive social inequality to become a permanent feature of contemporary capitalist society; neoliberalism generally prefers to avoid self-identification.

He mocks Rob Hosking’s ‘ignorance’ about it:

Last week, for example, The National Business Review‘s Rob Hosking responded to Sue Bradford’s accusation that the Greens had sold out to neoliberalism like this: “As always, it isn’t clear what is meant by ‘neo-liberal’, apart from ‘bad things’.”

Hosking may well be more familiar with the comments sections at The Daily Blog, where Trotter is a regular author.

In the age of Google, Hosking’s professed ignorance as to the term’s meaning is curious. Even the humble Wikipedia could have offered him enough to be going on with:

“Neoliberalism (neo-liberalism) refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalisation policies such as privatisation, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. These market-based ideas and the policies they inspired constitute a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus which lasted from 1945 to 1980.”

Google also, as usual, allows you to find variations to this, but along similar lines. A Primer on Neoliberalism looks like a good overview.

Admirably clear. And while there’s certainly scope for scholarly debate around detail and emphasis, Wikipedia’s definition is more than sufficient to dispel the feigned ignorance of neoliberalism’s most zealous defenders.

Why, then, do neoliberals like Hosking continue to insist that they have no firm grasp of the term’s usage – other than as an expression of left-wing abuse?

But definitions don’t go anywhere near describing how the term neo-liberalism is used. More often than not it is used as a general spit at current politics. It is often little more than an abusive expression.

The answer is simple. To survive and prosper, neoliberalism and the policies it inspires cannot afford to be seen as just another ideology – like communism or fascism. Rather, it must be accepted as a law of nature – as unyielding to human influence as the weather.

What absolutely must not become widely understood is that neoliberalism is, indeed, an all-too-human artefact: formulated by twentieth century economists and given popular currency by individuals and institutes funded by extremely wealthy and politically motivated capitalists.

It can be as understood as anyone wants it to be understood. There are no rules and regulations that ban looking it up on Google (that would be anti-neo-liberal).

After 33 years of neoliberalism, young New Zealanders find themselves burdened down with debt and, increasingly, shut out of the housing market.

The young All Souls Fellowship holder, Max Harris, has written a whole book, The New Zealand Project, on what he sees as young New Zealanders’ alienation from politics.

Young people have been relatively uninterested in politics for a lot longer than 33 years,

But how could a generation raised under neoliberalism be anything else?

All their lives they have been told that to be human is to compete.

I can remember a lot of criticism of schools and sports removing competition too much, where everyone is a winner no mater how good they are at something. During the last 33 years it is common to see kids sports awards and kids school awards being rotated sol that no one misses out.

That the way they buy and sell things (commodities, other people, themselves) is much more important than the way they vote. That their position in the socio-economic hierarchy is entirely attributable to the wisdom or unwisdom of their personal choices.

This is typical Trotter tosh. “That the way they buy and sell things (commodities, other people, themselves) is much more important than the way they vote”? Good grief.

Bill English must do Trotter’s pigeon hole head in. As Minister of Finance English bumped up welfare payments, the first real raise in over 40 years (since before ‘neo-liberalism’).

Looking at the definition that Trotter favours: These include extensive economic liberalisation policies such as…

  • privatisation,
    – there has been very modest privatisation over the last 8 years, and private management of Mt Eden prison has even been rescinded
  • fiscal austerity,
    – one of the biggest criticisms of English’s fiscal management is the amount the  deficit has grown, which is far from austere.
  • deregulation,
    – the Government has found it very difficult to deregulate, for instance the RMA has been very difficult for them to get through parliament
  • free trade and
    – they have tried with the TPP but Donald Trump has stymied it in a very non-neoliberal move.
  • reductions in government spending
    – government spending has kept rising, and is set to rise even more this year as a surplus becomes available in election year
  • in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society
    – the public/private balance is not changing much, we still have a very large government that remains prominent, for example with large injections of money into transport and housing.

The political world didn’t suddenly change completely and irreversibly 33 years ago. There were some significant changes for sure, but the alternative in New Zealand was letting the country go broke after the extreme interventions under Muldoon.

Ruth Richardson turned up the austerity screws in the early 1990s, but since then government has been a mix of many things, with it’s ‘neo-liberal’ component being very moderate.

While everyone in New Zealand hasn’t won Lotto yet, and there are huge hurdles to home ownership, in the main most New Zealanders are able to do ok, if they put effort in and things work out for them.

People like Trotter despise an extreme form of neo-liberalism so they can suggest an extreme alternative. The political, economic and social realities in New Zealand are far closer to the middle.

“Trotter at his best”

Blazer said this was Trotter at his best…

I’m not so sure, unless that refers to his best at generalisation, labelling and taking sides in messy wars.

Bowalley (and The Daily Blog): Us and Them: The Fatal Divisions of Exploitative Culture.

OURS IS NOT JUST A RAPE CULTURE: it’s a Kill Culture, a Rip-off Culture and a Lie Culture as well. But, rather than attempting to reconcile ourselves to living in a multiplicity of malign cultures, it is probably more helpful to think of ourselves as inhabiting a single Exploitative Culture. One in which human-beings are consistently treated as means to another’s end – not as ends in themselves.

Cultures are far more complex than that. Labelling a whole society with negative culture tags is generally counter productive to sensible and reasoned discussion.

The trick to running a successful Exploitative Culture, therefore, lies in defining who is – and who is not – a member of it. Or, to put it another way: who is included in the idea of “Us”, and who belongs with “Them”.

Generally speaking the smaller the “Us”, the greater the power. If you’re a member of the “One Percent”, for example, it not only means that you are obscenely wealthy and powerful, but also that 99 percent of your fellow human-beings are, in one way or another, exploitable.

This sort of generalisation doesn’t help either. Yes, richer people are possibly more likely to exploit others (but are by no means the only ones who do that). But richer people are also more likely to contribute donations, and larger donations, to good causes.

Exploitation is always and everywhere associated with actual physical violence, or the threat of it. Without violence people simply would not consent to being treated as the means to someone else’s ends – they would rebel.

I don’t agree with this. Threat of violence is far from the only thing necessary for exploitation.

Exploitative Culture (which is to say all culture) may thus be further defined as the organisation of, and the devising of justifications for, purposive social violence.

We thus return to “Us” and “Them”: which may now be thought of, respectively, as those who must be protected from the imposition of purposive violence; and those upon whom such violence may be inflicted with impunity.

Does Trotter think that ‘the one percent’ are the only ones who threaten or use violence?

Consider the current controversy surrounding “Operation Burnham” the botched, or exemplary (depending on whether you believe journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, or the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lt-General Tim Keating) attack on settlements in the Tirgiran Valley in Northern Afghanistan.

What happened in the Tirgiran Valley could not have happened if its inhabitants were regarded by the New Zealand soldiers taking part in the operation as members of “Us”.

Wars tend to have an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. The SAS soldiers were acting on behalf of the Afghan Government which was acting on behalf of more than 1% of the population.

The whole purpose of their book, Hit & Run, is to make the reader see the victims of Operation Burnham as people like themselves: hard-working farmers; a trainee schoolteacher home for the holidays; parents and grandparents; a three-year-old girl called Fatima. And the more successful the authors are at transforming “Them” into “Us”, the more outrageous Operation Burnham seems to the New Zealand public.

I don’t think the whole purpose of ‘Hit & Run’ was to support Trotter’s theories on ‘us & them’.

Trotter seems to have decided that the Hager & Stephenson book is 100% correct and that the victims of the attack were as claimed by some and were all innocent people just like ‘us’.

He ignores the fact that people from that area are also alleged to have been involved in violent attacks on other people in Afghanistan, rebelling against their government and supporting an extremely repressive Taliban.

For ordinary men to accept their subordination to stronger, richer and more powerful men, Exploitative Culture supplies them with their own inexhaustible supply of subordinates – women and children. And since there can be no exploitation – no power – without violence, the maintenance of this primal dichotomy is of necessity achieved through the unremitting application of physical and emotional coercion. Domestic violence, rape, child abuse: these are not just the products of the masculine/feminine dichotomy, they are also the most tragic expression of the “Us” and “Them” divide.

The non-consensual penetration of a young woman at a party; the invasion of a distant river valley by airborne special forces; both are symptoms of the same dreadful disease.

There are certainly strong links between war and violence (and rape has often been a weapon used in wars) and domestic violence and sexual assaults.

But I think it’s all a lot more complex than Trotter suggests. For a start the perpetrators of domestic violence are far from confined to some financial 1%.

Trotter predicts

Chris Trotter makes a number of debatable predictions for the year in 2017 in the shadow of Trump (Stuff).

The political consensus at the beginning of 2017 – election year – is that the National-led Government will hold on to power.

Who is in general agreement that National will hold on to power? I think there’s too many unknowns and uncertainties to claim this with any confidence.

National are very likely to comfortably get the most votes and seats in this year’s election, but it’s far from certain whether they will be able to form a similar coalition to this term (with ACT, UF and the Maori Party), or if the need more whether NZ First will join a coalition or let National run a minority government from the cross benches. It’s also possible (but unlikely with Turei as leader) Greens  could enable a National led Government either in coalition or from the cross benches.

Not in its own right, as might have happened had John Key led them into battle, but with sufficient parliamentary support to govern comfortably.

They don’t govern comfortably this term, requiring two of the three minor support parties to back any legislation, and they have been limited because of this.

The most significant political event of 2017, however, could well be the collapse of the Labour Party and the emergence of the Greens as New Zealand’s leading party of the centre-left.

Labour collapsing is a real possibility, and any further decline in their share of the vote could be seen as a collapse. But they could just as likely stay at a similar level of support, or increase their vote a bit (to the high twenties), or recover into the thirties. At this stage i think which of these will happen is impossible to predict with any certainty.

In a way Greens can already be seen by their actions as the leading party of the centre left going by performances inside and outside Parliament. Their party vote seems to have hit a ceiling at about 11%, but even if they increase to say 15% (their target last election) they are likely to remain smaller than Labour.

A number of people have predicted that NZ First grow bigger, causing a drop for Greens to fourth in the party pecking order. I think this is quite possible – NZ First are likely to pick up more ex-National vote than the Greens if the National support declines.

A key factor driving the New Zealand electorate’s flight to the right will be the profound and ideologically toxic influence of Donald Trump’s presidency.

There has been no sign of New Zealand moving much to the right this century.  Both Helen Clark and John Key aimed at the centre and apart from a few policies mostly stayed moderate. Even National’s asset sales were watered down to being only half sales.

If anyone has learned anything yet about the effect of Trump they should know that it’s difficult making predictions about his influence. It’s quite possible Trump as US president will have a negligible effect on New Zealand overall. Or not.

Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman predicts a global trade war, and the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine is filled with disquieting articles foreshadowing an ominous deterioration in the relationship between the USA and China.

The future for US trade relationships and US foreign relations are uncertain. Trump will definitely do things differently – but it depends on how China learns and adapts as to whether problems will escalate or not. Predictions of Trump trashing the economy have already proven to be premature at least.

If the US and China clash New Zealand may manage to stay out of the melée. That could be complicated by Winston Peters – but if there’s trouble abroad and Peters is seen to try and stir that up here it could easily backlash against him in the election.

In a neat division of political labour, NZ First will lead the attack on China while, publicly, National condemns (but not too loudly) Peters’ racially-charged rhetoric. Meanwhile, privately, the conservative supporters of both parties will be encouraged to recognise the inherent electoral synergies of the unfolding crisis. As the countdown to the election shortens, the prospect of a National-NZ First coalition government will begin to acquire the aura of inevitability.

Some voters here like maverickism, but most prefer stable status quo government when it comes to economic matters.

Especially if there is an ‘unfolding crisis’ a National-NZ First coalition government will become more uncertain rather than certain. If Peters ramps up his attacks on China it is more likely to create further division between NZ First and National, and voters tend to avoid this sort of uncertainty.

Amplifying the conservative message among the Maori electorate, the Maori Party will cast the Chinese as a second-wave of colonisers threatening not only tino rangatiratanga but also Pakeha sovereignty. Iwi corporations will be portrayed as the foundation stones of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s economic independence. The incipient government of the centre-right will thus be presented as a National-NZ First-Maori Party alliance.

Is Trotter serious? Or is he taking the piss? Or is he trying to stir something up?

An alliance involving NZ First and the Maori Party seems unlikely given Winston’s previous antagonistic attitude towards a ‘race based’ party.

I think it’s highly unlikely that Winston will present an alliance including NZ First and National prior to the election – he has been staunch in not indicating which way he may go – and even less likely of any NZ First-Maori Party presentations.

The turmoil created by the Trump administration will similarly throw into sharp relief the serious disjunction between the beliefs of the Labour Party and its electoral base. Even if Andrew Little and his advisors were of a mind to join with Peters in attacking China, the reflexive anti-Americanism of his caucus and Labour’s wider membership would drive the party inexorably towards their enemy’s enemy. Immediately, what was left of Labour’s support among “Waitakere Men” would decamp for the Sinophobic right.

That’s more likely to be to  NZ First rather than to National.

The reverse manoeuvre – in which Little prevails upon caucus and party to follow National, NZ First and the Maori Party into Trumpism and Sinophobia – would only drive Labour’s younger, more progressive, voters toward the Greens.

I think Trotter is in fantasy land here trying to connect National and the Maori Party with ‘Trumpism and Sinophobia’.

And to claim ‘Trumpism and Sinophobia’ would split Labour is even more bizarre.

The classic Labour solution – trying to have a bob each way – risks losing both the conservative and the progressive components of its electoral base.

Labour already seem to be trying the bob each way approach, and have already lost both conservative and progressive parts of it’s electoral base to an extent. An international crisis, should it happen, is more likely to force Labour into being seen as responsible rather than divisive.

The extreme-nationalist complexion of the Trump administration and its geopolitical focus on the burgeoning power of China can only hasten the disintegration of Labour’s electoral position.

I think this is far from certain, and even if it becomes a contributory factor  in further Labour decline it would be impossible to quantify.

It is, however, highly doubtful that sufficient young people will participate in the 2017 general election to significantly offset the emotionally powerful appeal of an unabashedly nationalistic, Sinophobic and pro-American coalition of National, NZ First and the Maori Party.

I think Trotter is trying to create an absurd political meme here, either ignorantly or disingenuously. Fantasy or deliberate fiction.

Neither conservative fish nor progressive fowl, Labour is likely to see its party vote plummet into the teens – and with it any hope of reclaiming major party status.

That’s already possible without any Trump crisis involved.

The baton of progressive politics will pass to the Greens. Real political power, however, will remain with the National Party and its allies.

It may be that Trotter has genuinely given up on the Labour Party. Labour could collapse further.

But NZ First becoming allies with the Maori party seems preposterous. And National joining Winston’s Asia bashing and siding with Trump is more so.

Trying to promote Greens as the progressive baton carrier and the dominant opposition party seems to be wishful thinking, at best.

Trotter’s political propositions were all over the place last year, and they seem even more confused now.

Trotter tightens moderation

All blogs and social media forums have their own moderation policies. It is obviously up to each how they want to run things.

There have been a number of sites that have  put comments in the too hard basket and shut them down altogether, notably RNZ and The Spinoff and some have suggested that NZ Herald seems to effectively be doing similar.

This week Chris Trotter announced that he would continue allowing comments but under stricter moderation.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO READERS: Moderating Comments On “Bowalley Road”.

READERS’ COMMENTS to the postings on Bowalley Road constitute an integral part of the blog. That is why I do not intend to follow the example of Radio New Zealand and The Spinoff by switching-off the comments function.

I do, however, understand why those two sites chose to do so. The viciousness and crudity of anonymous commentators is extremely wearying to the spirit. Though the worst examples are swiftly deleted, they must first be read – and that is not a pleasant duty. Also vexatious are the tangential conversations and ideological disputations that ramble on between commentators. Though obviously engaging for their participants, they contribute very little to the overall enjoyment of the blog.

With these issues in mind, I have decided to tighten-up the moderation of comments to Bowalley Road.

The first and most important change relates to anonymous commentators. From now on all anonymous comments will be deleted without being read. My strong preference is for commentators to use their real names. I do, however, understand why some people feel very uneasy about doing so – especially on such an overtly political blog as Bowalley Road. Accordingly, I will continue to accept pseudonyms, but only with the proviso that commentators, having chosen a name, stick with it. The use of multiple pseudonyms, if detected, will result in the offender being permanently banned from commenting on Bowalley Road.

The use of multiple pseudonyms is a common problem where malicious people try to avoid moderation, some repeatedly.

But it can be difficult to differentiate between legitimate use of a pseudonym versus anonymity being used to avoid being linked to past abuses.

I tend towards giving people with pseudonyms the benefit of the doubt. The small number of serial abusers are usually easy to identify – the more they try the easier it is to pick up red flags.

The second change in moderation policy will be to shut down all tangential conversations and/or slanging matches between commentators. Those deemed to be straying from the issues raised in the posting will be warned once to stay on-topic. Persistent off-topic commentary will be deleted.

Chris can obviously do what he likes but I disagree with this approach, especially on ‘tangential conversations’. The more comments there are on a post the more they can naturally diversify. Often that diversification adds to the discussions in a very good way.

Trying to judge what is too tangential or off topic risks leading to selective pruning that can fit your own preferences, something I want to avoid.

There can be a fine line between banter, vigorously contesting opinions and slanging matches. Things can go to far but again I prefer to lean towards allowing freedom of expression. Otherwise there’s a risk of stifling discussion and picking sides (or a perception of picking sides).

With these changes, I hope to restore Bowalley Road’s commentary threads to their former high standard of tone and content. In essence, all I am asking from those who wish to participate in this blog is a modicum of self-discipline and a generous helping of courtesy.

Most of us would like that.

But ‘warts and all’ robust discussions are an important part of politics, as long as it doesn’t go to far, too personal and too abusive.

How to moderate is an ongoing challenge but I will continue to lean towards fair and balanced freedom of expression as much as I can.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste but there is a shrinking number of forums relatively free of restriction so I think it’s important to keep at least one going.

 

A divinely crafted political entity

Chris Trotter is back to blasting “Labour’s 1984-1990 betrayals” and wishfully proposing a “divinely crafted political entity” in An Opposition Worthy Of The Name?

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.

.In contrast to this approach, Trotter wants a left wing dream team.

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) about being a “Broad Church”, but the sad truth remains that its reservoir for recruitment has never been shallower.

That is a real problem for Labour.

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.

He must presume that Jim Anderton is in permanent retirement and perhaps that Matt McCarten is going to remain in the background coordinating it all.

Here is a better look at Trotter’s divinely crafted political entity:

  • Andrew Little
  • Hone Harawira
  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Laila Harré
  • Stuart Nash
  • John Minto
  • Kelvin Davis
  • Annette Sykes
  • Grant Robertson
  • Julie Anne Genter
  • Annette King
  • Metira Turei

That’s just twelve, more would be needed for a Cabinet.

That’s just 50% Labour. Even with last election results and current poll numbers that must be based on Trotter’s perception of competence and electability rather as it is nowhere near proportional representation.

It is disproportionately weighted to the far left with three from the MANA Movement plus Laila Harré, all from the Mana/Internet disaster rejected by voters.

The most notable omission is James Shaw. As Green co-leader that’s odd.

And leaving out Labour’s best performer, Phil Twyford, is curious.

That line up would attract the vote of the 1% who supported Internet/Mana and possibly most of the Green supporters, say 10%.

And if they are lucky about half of the current Labour supporters, the left and the unions, might be happy with that, but few of those with some leaning towards the centre and the 10-20% of centrist voters who have deserted Labour are unlikely to be impressed.

Trotter’s list may be divinely crafted by unions and far left activists, but it would destroy Labour. Andrew Little would be unlikely to get back in on the Labour list.

Perhaps that’s what he wants.

 

Facts arising out of the Panama Papers

Christ Trotter summarised the Panama Papers:

  • New Zealand is not a tax haven in the generally accepted definition of that term.
  • Changes to New Zealand legislation have put this country at risk of being perceived as a tax haven.
  • The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, took advantage of our legislative laxity to promote New Zealand as a politically stable and corruption-free hiding place for their clients’ assets.
  • The National-led Government’s responses to IRD warnings that New Zealand was at risk of losing its corruption-free reputation were wholly inadequate.
  • The entire problem can be solved easily: simply by toughening-up the disclosure provisions of the relevant legislation.

Trotter also summarised Labour’s handling of the issue:

If Labour had been willing to assess these facts dispassionately, and with an eye to presenting itself as a credible alternative government, its handling of the Panama Papers would have been very different.

From the outset, it would have made it very clear that its number one priority was to protect New Zealand’s international reputation. That being the case, it would have been very careful to avoid calling their country a tax haven.

Their treatment of the Prime Minister would also have been different. Rather than attempting to associate him with the dubious behaviour of Mossack Fonseca, they would have acknowledged that the offending legislation had evolved gradually, under both Labour and National, and offered to make its remediation a bi-partisan effort.

Having sought out and obtained the best advice available from tax lawyers and accountants about how the legislation might best be rewritten to eliminate its usefulness to entities like Mossack Fonseca, Labour would then have approached the Government with an offer to rush through the necessary changes under urgency.

It’s hard to argue with this.

From Labour fails to make gains from Panama Papers

Waatea 5th Estate

I got around to watching Waatea 5th Estate for the first time since their first week tonight.

Joining us tonight to discuss…

The Veitch apology
Faulty Housing data
Media Merger kills 4th estate
Cameron Slater
Key’s tantrum

Tax expert, feminist and Labour Party Candidate – Deborah Russell

one of this country’s best newspaper columnists – Rachel Stewart

Former Green Party MP and human rights activist – Keith Locke

And blogger, political commentator and author – Chris Trotter

Some of it was interesting enough.

Russell and Trotter made some good points – not leaning to port so hard they nearly capsize helps.

But Bradbury is terrible, his presentation and voice, and also his fairly extreme bias. His first programmes were tolerable but he is more opinionated and more overbearing and more high pitched. I don’t see him taking over from the 4th estate any time soon.

And the name screetched by Bradbury isn’t great, Waatea is pronounced something like Waah teah.

You can’t just whack wings on the devil and call it an angel

Another lament from Chris Trotter, who seems to have resigned himself to needing divine intervention to rescue the mess of the left.

An Opposition Worthy Of The Name?

IT IS ONLY NOW, thirty years after the event, that the full effects of Labour’s 1984-1990 betrayals have become visible.

Still blaming today’s problems on a last century government that rescued New Zealand from Muldoon induced economic disaster.

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.

Key’s successes and National’s successes are not an “extraordinary run of political good luck”, despite the left’s disbelief that they could do anything well.

But Trotter is probably right to an extent at least about “If only we had an Opposition worthy of the name!”

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.

He may also be right about that. But then he goes into dream land.

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) Can anyone apart from Trotter realistically see  all or even most of those people being able to work together on a common cause?

b) Can anyone apart from Trotter see that one of Labour’s big problems is who they would need to make up the numbers to form a government. The electorate has rejected them for the last two elections.

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!

Trotter finally reveals his actual dream.

He doesn’t want a broad centre to far left left joining of forces. He seems to want Labour to leave the centre and hand itself over to the activist far left.

He fails to recognise that the mass of voters who can make a different government don’t want his far left to be seen as being too close to a centre-left party.

Labour are in serious trouble and are not inspiring hope of success on the left.

But trashing the centre and ceding to the far left is not the divine star leading to the promised land of the left.

The big plan last election was for the far left tail to wag the Labour dog, but the tail fell off.

Now they seem to be kicking an ailing dog thinking that a magnificent tail will morph out of the mess.

You can’t just whack wings on the devils of 2014 and call it an angel.