Labour dudes: shut up please and let Louisa Wall lead you to victory

Via Giovanni I was led to this guest post at Recess Monkey by former MP and former Shearer Chief of Staff, Stuart Nash.

It’s lovely when the internet provides you with confirmation of your opinions.  Take it away, Stu!

I want to start by saying that I support gay marriage and, if I had been in parliament, I would have had no hesitation in voting in favor of Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill. It sits perfectly with the Labour values of fairness and equality.

Despite that, I am not happy about it!

Cue then your generic “Labour should care about the issues that matter” with some wonderfully value-free “we need to focus-group everything” rhetoric in the comments:

While a party can NEVER betray its philosophies and principles, in opposition it must always look to maximise opportunities to prove to the voting public that it is on top of the issues that matter: or at least show that it understands the issues and has a plan as to how to deal with them. Only by proving competence will a party achieve electoral support (and fair enough too).

The notion that Labour, as our second largest political party, as the “main” or “major” political party of the Left, has absolutely no ability to actually influence those “issues that matter” is pretty much 90% of the problem with the party at the moment.

The idea that Labour has no power to say “Oh check it out, our economy’s in the toilet and our social services are suffering” in the face of John Key smiling and waving next to Hilary Clinton is ridiculous.

That Labour just has to jump aboard whatever bandwagon NACT is currently driving, has to parrot whatever rhetoric Paula Bennett is spewing about beneficiaries, has to “prove itself” to people.  Not, by the way, in any kind of “prove we have those philosophies and principles we can never betray” way, just in a “find out what people think is important, presumably by reading the front page of Stuff, and then talk about that” way.

So you can probably look forward to Shearer’s next speech to the heartland being on the importance of Sally and Jaime Ridge to our economy.

You know how you retort to people, Stuart, when they say “ugh, gay marriage, focus on things that matter“?

You say, “It’s the luck of the ballot!  Louisa put forward a bill that meant a lot to her, and in Parliament we have time put aside to consider those issues.”

You say, “New Zealand is a country that prides itself on fairness and treating people equally.  I think that does matter because it affects every single policy we have.  Do you think National thinks the same way, with Cabinet Ministers breaching people’s privacy and John Key getting carried around Rarotonga on a litter?”

Wait, no.  That’s not reaching to the middle!  Instead, after Louisa Wall has put in the hard yards and taken shit for something in your own party’s manifesto less than a year ago, what you should really do is buy into the rightwing propaganda machine’s lines about “caring about things that matter”, and what you should really talk about is how, oh sure, a member of your party only brought us one step closer towards our egalitarian ideal, but don’t you wish she hadn’t?

This is the writing of a man who was leading Shearer’s Parliamentary office.  This is the attitude of someone who must have had a major role formulating Labour’s approach and tactics and messaging.  And he thinks it’s a good idea to parrot rightwing key lines and undermine a great achievement by someone who in any just universe will be the future of his goddamn party.

It gets better:

Both David Clark’s $15 minimum wage bill and Clayton Cosgrove’s bill on state asset sales were both drawn in the same ballot as Louisa’s bill (how many knew this?). Both these bill’s represented headline Labour policies at the last election, and were very popular across a wide range of voters.  These are prime examples of Labour concentrating on issues that matter to a significant number of good hard working Kiwis, yet many of those same struggling Kiwis have no idea that we are still fighting hard on their behalf. Both issues have, by-and-large, been lost in the mele caused by the marriage equality bill.

You know what, Stuart?  The “melee” of the marriage equality bill happened because people give a shit about it.  Because ordinary people on their own mobilised Facebook pages and got out there on Twitter and created hilarious memes and challenged the Conservative/Family First bullshit right where it was happening, on Facebook, in Stuff comments, on the grounds of Parliament.

People with no Party resources or history of organisation to back them up.  People who cared, who found that this issue, rather than a somewhat highbrow economic discussion of minimum wage vs unemployment, rather than a bill on asset sales which seems superfluous given they’re already out there collecting signatures, was something they could really hold on to.  Something that mattered to them, even the heterosexuals.

Now, sure, marriage equality had a huge advantage in terms of being part of a global discussion; if we could only get George Takei to shoot a 30-second PSA on the living wage it’d do wonders.  And Gods know it’s easier to mobilise ordinary, unpoliticised people when you can say “You see that mean man Colin Craig?  He hates Tamati Coffey.  What a dick, right?”

But Labour is just sucking, as it has sucked for a long time, at making simple, punchy messages which engage people.  And what do you do?  You sit around complaining because someone’s brought more attention and mana to your party than its own leadership could manage in years.  Because it doesn’t fit the Waitakere Myth, which for some reason all the straight white dudes are desperate to cling to.

Please, senior Labourites:  get a fucking grip and recognise a good thing when it’s happening to you.  

Also, seriously, it’s this bad now: follow Gio’s advice and hire someone like me, who’s been offering you the same advice free of charge since 2009 and here again in 2011:  identity politics are not your enemy.  You’re the enemy, when you alienate your natural allies and shit all over your own success, when you buy into bullshit about how recapturing The Glorious Centre is a winning strategy instead of wondering why hundreds of thousands of people saw nothing worth voting for in 2011.

Related reading:  Scott Yorke at The Standard

34 comments

  1. Dan

    Wow. Fuck that guy. If this is where Labour are headed I’ll happily keep voting Greens for the foreseeable future.

  2. Giovanni

    We should recognise that it is quite possible to be in favour of equality but not in favour of equity, which makes marriage equality a qualitatively different political issue to the progressive reform (or even the basic defence of) industrial relations and welfare. However since Labour keeps saying that everything they do is motivated by the principle of equity, then maybe once in a while they could, you know, act like it.

    That Stuart Nash was ever integral to the party strategy beggars belief, doesn’t it? I mean how do you rely on somebody who is so outstandingly mediocre?

    • QoT

      Seriously.

      I do take the point, and if Labour really just positioned itself as being the economically leftwing party of welfare and industrial relations … well, I’d be pissed off but at least we’d know what to expect. But Labour consistently talks up its socially-liberal cred when it’s convenient, i.e. when they want to have a go at John Key for attending the Big Gay Out or slag off National for its lack of women or Maaori/Pasifika representation. As I keep harping on, they including discussions of marriage equality in their election manifesto.

      And focusing on the economics instead of the social justice side of things doesn’t have to involve constantly slagging off social justice issues as unimportant or vote-destroying, and it doesn’t mean constantly attacking your own party’s heritage (i.e. “gaggle of gays”). But it seems like the people who want Labour to be a party of the worker simultaneously expect social liberals to be on their side – as you say, because they spend so much time talking about equity and fairness.

      It’s so fucking frustrating because it’s like all these senior, experienced political people have never read any political history outside biographies of Savage and Kirk, so they missed the whole “if you keep shitting on oppressed minorities and promising to deal with their problems After The Revolution, they will fuck off and create their own movements and stop giving a crap about your cause” thing.

      • Giovanni

        But fighting for equality and fighting for equity aren’t mutually exclusive – quite the opposite. Fighting for both makes us stronger. Social issues get blamed for the ill fortunes of the party by cowardly Blairites as a cover for the fact that Labour has failed for qutie some time at being the economically leftwing party of welfare and industrial relations.

    • Stuart Nash

      dead right. Don’t worry about trying to develop and market solutions to the mounting unemployment, a tanking economy, disgraceful changes to the education system, record numbers leaving for Australia, assets built up over generations being sold etc etc. Don’t worry about trying to hold the govt to account for the worse child poverty in a generation, the erosion of beneficiaries rights or the mounting examples of crony capitalism,

      Get off your fucken high horse and climb down from your ivory towers and try, just for a week or so, to understand the issues that NZers are talking about in the pubs, outside the school gates, rugby clubs, communities up and down this country. Youre so glorious and articulate in opposition… amazing.

      • QoT

        Um … besides the actually-good education policy announced mere days ago, Stuart, one fails to see any evidence of Labour “trying to develop and market solutions” to just about anything. And when your frame of reference is “marketing solutions” no fucking wonder the party’s been so ineffectual, except of course for MPs like Louisa Wall who did what she felt was right and just … and got shat on for it, by YOU.

        • Stuart Nash

          you got it in one mate. No evidence of Labour developing solutions to the major issues I outlined. Believe me, the work is being done, but why do you think it hasn’t go the necessary airtime..? You just provided the answer to my question.

        • Giovanni

          Ah, media: where would we be if we couldn’t blame you for our incompetence?
          The ever so slightly contradictory part of your argument, Stuart, is that you’re also admitting that the Greens are creaming you on traditional Labour core issues. So how come they are managing to get the airtime?

          (And by the the way it has so little to do with airtime. When you were advising Shearer to lie low on port of Auckland and cram as much equivocation as there were words in his Finland speech, the media were there with microphones and cameras at the ready, practically begging Labour to say something – anything – they could use. Not only that, but on POAL you could have used your own freaking blog – but didn’t. Meanwhile just about everybody else on the Left was managing to make their position clear without the slightest difficulty. Labour’s message is confused because the party is confused. Nothing proved it more sharply than Shearer’s idiotic bludger on the roof anecdote. You can’t communicate clearly if you can’t make up your mind on where you stand on things. Comms are really the least of the party’s problems.)

      • Rich d'Rich (@rich_d_rich)

        Labour might get the average retarded white male in the pub or rugby club to *vote* for them, but how many are going to actually *campaign*. Pretty much none of them.
        The smart, conscious people who might go leafletting and doorknocking for Labour have deserted for the Greens. (Or Mana, Occupy, etc). How’s Labour going to get workers – by paying them, like NACT and Colin Craig. Good luck finding rich pricks to finance that…

        • Stuart Nash

          So what you are saying is ignore the ‘white male voter who visits a pub’? Wow. Now that’s going to get Labour elected… In Napier we had a whole number of ‘white males’ campaign for us – and we reduced Tremain’s majority by nearly 6,000: the best result in the country against a sitting Nat MP. Funny, in Napier the supporter base in growing and enthusiasm levels rising: and we have a large number of – wait or it – white males, and white females: in fact people of all ethnicity, sexuality age and reason. You see, here in the provinces we try and attract everyone who is looking for a way to change the govt.

          • QoT

            Yes, Stuart, that’s exactly what people are saying. I can’t imagine how Labour is coping without your insightful analysis.

      • Chris Miller

        The party that people have traditionally dismissed as drugged up hippies has far better economic policy than Labour does right now. The low income people I associate with have far, far more support for the Greens, and they can’t even afford to rent the shitty shack in the ivory tower’s backyard.

        I find it pretty fucking hilarious when well-paid politicians tell poor people to look at the real world though.

        • Stuart Nash

          My point exactly. The Greens are caning Labour in the PR stakes, and so we need to do so much better at getting our messages out there: we have great policies, and great people, however, we are not communicating in a way that inspires and energies and enthuses. We really do need to communicate very clearly our policies around the issues that really matter: like, for example, child poverty; which is a national disgrace.

          • QoT

            we have great policies, and great people

            [citation needed]

            Seriously though, Stuart, can you at least acknowledge what you said? i.e. essentially “goddammit can the queers shut up about their human rights until we win back the centre?” The fact you continue to characterise issues like child poverty as “the issues that REALLY matter” is the entire problem.

    • Stuart Nash

      yeah. Dead right mate. Issues like child poverty, jobs, education are the preserve of the ‘narrow privileged world view’ that I inhabit. You know, it is great to finally hear Shearer talk about jobs and education on the radio, because this is what its about. Oh that’s right” jobs and education don’t matter. Fuck me; call yourselves activists… The hypocracy of your post astounds me.

      • QoT

        Stuart, if you have a smidgen of understanding of progressive political issues (and one simply must hope that being a Nash and a former Labour MP you might be a bit clued in) you will know damn well that when a hetero white dude starts shitting on a brown queer woman for being a “distraction”, it’s pretty fucking obvious to the rest of us what you consider to be “issues that really matter.”

        Not equality for oppressed groups, that’s dead right.

        • Stuart Nash

          I’m not even prepared to engage in rubbish like this. And don’t lecture me on progressive politics. If you want to debate my politics or my views, then I will engage, but when you start pulling these sort of cards then i totally disengage. For the record, Louisa has been a friend of mine way before both of us were in politics.

          • QoT

            Here is it, peeps, straight from a former senior Labour advisor: pointing out that the privileged group directing Labour rhetoric is, um, privileged = “rubbish”. Besides, Stuart has a queer brown friend, so shut up! And while you’re at it, lay down in front of this bus for the sake of The Glorious Left.

      • Good Gravey

        Awwww Stu, you’re cute when you’re frothing at the mouth. With that bit of drool on your chin.

        You actually prove my point by asserting your graciousness in matters you care about.

        And in case it escaped you….oh yeah, it obviously did…I never said other issues weren’t important. But so is marriage equality. Just not important to you.

        Then you seem to fall into the old trap of seeming to think we can’t be active in multiple issues.

        • Giovanni

          That’s not a lady thing, it’s general contempt for the electorate. There is no other country on earth, I’d wager – certainly not the one I grew up in – in which it is acceptable for a party leader to be elected and wait three months before giving his first political speech. This idea that you’ll wear down the electorate by being political, or alternatively that the public cannot listen to more than one political message at once, is both deranged and self-fulfilling. I don’t know if the defenestration of Nash and Pagani will mean that Labour finally lets it go – I find it hard to be optimistic – but hey, it costs nothing to hope.

          Now if you’ll excuse me I have to mop the floors of the ivory tower again. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s such a good idea to keep a horse in here after all.

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  4. Arthur (AmeriNZ)

    Look, there are two reasons Stuart is wrong:

    1. Both “David Clark’s $15 minimum wage bill and Clayton Cosgrove’s bill on state asset sales” are dead ducks. National will never permit them to pass, so however good they may be, their only purpose for Labour is to use them as marketing tools later: “See? We tried to do something but National stopped us!” But marketing a failure as a positive is always fraught—a loser, however noble, is still a loser.

    2. In stark contrast, Louisa’s bill looks likely to pass. By embracing the bill fully and forcefully, Labour will be ON THE WINNING SIDE, something that’s pretty rare for the Opposition, regardless of party. It is always better to pick a winning issue than hope to be able to sell a losing one as a win.

    I could add that fairness and equality ARE core Labour values, but I’d hope that would be bloody obvious. I could also point out the hiding that Labour has been getting from its own left wing, and that large parts of the base—the activist base, I might add, the people who wage election campaigns—are pretty dissatisfied with Labour. That, too, is obvious to anyone who follows blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. To me, it seems like a HUGE strategic error to, frankly, dump on that base AGAIN by telling them that an issue they care about isn’t important or a “real” issue.

    Having said that, I also don’t think there’s a point in dumping all over the people like Stuart and all the others in Labour with whom we disagree, however strongly. Yes, we must stand our ground, yes we must tell them how completely wrong we think they are (and why!), but they are, more often than not, allies. If the goal is to win elections to enact Labour policy, then tearing each others throats out every time we disagree seems like a pretty stupid way to make that happen.

    • QoT

      they are, more often than not, allies

      I disagree, Arthur. Allies have to stick by you through thick and thin. Stuart Nash has managed to attack Louisa Wall while she’s succeeding. Fuck knows what he might have said if the bill hadn’t passed!

      But I do agree that it should be obvious fairness and equality are Labour values – I think the problem is that recently Labour (specifically Shearer) have had a different interpretation of what “fairness” means and how “fairness” should be described.

  5. Jordan Carter

    Well, I have a different take on it from Stuart. I didn’t write this in response to his blog, which I saw later, but in response to Mike Williams’ words on the radio that Monday (3 September). http://jtc.blogs.com/just_left/2012/09/back-with-equality.html is the piece.

    “Let’s not play divide and rule. Let’s not engage in reverse wedge politics against ourselves. Instead, let’s celebrate the founding and distinctive principle [equality] that motivates our movement, and that is more relevant to New Zealand’s future prospects than it has been for many years.”

    It remains to be explained to me why it is that trying to hide the genuine connections between all these struggles is a good idea. Surely they’re all stronger when they are working together.

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