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