I had this big long post written out about the many, many issues I have with David Shearer’s speech: the constant buying into rightwing rhetoric and language, the illogical little anecdotes, the poor writing …
But all of that is actually beside the point, the core, the one big reason I cannot get behind David Shearer’s leadership, cannot stop criticising him, cannot stop being a terrible undermining everything-that’s-wrong-with-bloggers person.
Throughout his speech, David Shearer makes it very clear that Labour supports a specific type of New Zealander: the employed New Zealander (secret code: “hardworking”).
You think, “duh, it’s the Labour party!” and sure, you have a superficial point there. But strategically, this is a really stupid thing for Labour to do.
There are a large number of voters who probably completely agree with Shearer’s dogwhistles – that paid work is the only valuable work, that you need to prove you’ve worked hard to deserve social support. Those people are voting for National, because National offers them tax cuts – hey, you’re so hardworking, why should you pay for lazy teenagers who have a bazillion kids?
They’re not going to buy Shearer’s line because it’s still got a thin facade of leftwing policy. If they don’t want their hard-earned money supporting DPB teens, why would they want it to go to helping lazy yuppies who can’t save a big enough deposit get a first home? What about their first home?
They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and say “that’s good … but are you going to give me tax cuts? Why should I have to pay taxes so other people can get houses? I could use that tax money to buy my own house, with a nice little linen cupboard to keep all my bootstraps in!”
Then there’s the voters who realise that life and happiness are about more than being a good little productive economic unit, who believe that helping the worst-off benefits the whole.
They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and think “this is not a party of compassion. This is not a party which cares about the welfare of society. This is not a party which will protect the vulnerable – including workers – once they’ve been thrown on the scrapheap. Sure, there’s a thin leftwing facade there, but what are you offering that’s substantively different to National’s approach? Why would I vote for that when I could help the Greens or Mana have a real influence on you if you do recover before election 2014?”
And to both sides, the approach screams dishonesty. Hang on, say the first group, if you agree that work is awesome and non-workers are scum, why aren’t you supporting National’s moves to reform welfare? Why are your supporters declaring that you’re a fantastic social democrat Jesus?
The second group say, “if you really are a fantastic social democrat Jesus, why are you constantly using language to reassure the conservatives that really you hate the beneficiary menace too?”
Even ignoring my personal beliefs on the matter, this strategy does not strike me as good politics. It’s not really working for anyone. It’s not really giving a clear picture of either what David Shearer and Labour really stand for, or what they want us to think they stand for. And to me, that leads to one conclusion: they still just stand for saying whatever it is they think will get them elected and preserve their shiny Parliamentary pay packets.
That’s the problem.
This post isn’t getting cross-posted to The Standard, because I’m seriously bored with Shearer supporters
(a) acting like the kind of mealy-mouthed crap he delivered on Sunday is AMAZING ASPIRATIONAL DIRECTION-SETTING GODLIKE ORATORY
(b) acting like criticisms like mine are the real reason Labour’s polling 31%