Now up at The Standard and reproduced below for those who choose not to tread there.
Guts. Backbone. Chutzpah. Grit. Will. Vision. Courage.
The one thing all of these words have in common is that Phil Goff could quite easily have used them instead of “balls” when he said:
“It’s time to make a decision that will build a stronger future for New Zealand. We’ve got the balls to do that. John Key doesn’t.”
And I know that Phil knows that, because he’s quoted using at least two of them elsewhere in that story.
Normally you’d cue up a big ol’ Queen of Thorns rant complete with naughty cusswords and all-caps. But seriously? Phil, save us the trouble of firing up a whole two brain cells to figure out your subliminal messaging. We get it. You’re a Man’s Man and you speak like Common People and The Days Of That Nasty Bitch Helen Are Behind Us.
You’ve been listening to Chris Trotter and you wanted to make it very clear, to talkback land and those nasty white-anting progressives at the same time, that you’re A Safe Pair Of Manly Man Hands and Not A Pussy.
You’ve chosen to put yourself firmly, obviously, in the camp (ha) of Damien “gaggle of gays” O’Connor.
Or alternatively you’re a bit shit at figuring out the implications of your own words.
In either case, those of us clinging to a phantom hope of a Labour/Green/Mana-or-Maori coalition actually delivering good outcomes for women, non-whites, queers et al can surely, at this point, take it as read that your party gives not a shit for us if we’re in the way of taking power. (And somehow expects us to vote for you anyway.)
I mean, when Jordan Carter’s pre-emptively parroting the line on Twitter I think we can safely file this crap under “Labour election key message”.
Or I’m just vindictively destroying the Left from within. Again.
I feel like I’ve been making this argument forever, but I’m prompted to make it again by this post at Imperator Fish (the title of which must be satirical … except that as I’ve already predicted, it’s probably going to be used a lot more seriously on 27 November).
Even if there’s some fair comment amidst a great deal of the carping I’ve heard about Labour and its leadership, direction, PR, etc, it doesn’t change the fact that a bad Labour’s still (in my totally unbiased opinion) miles better than a good National.
Well, to continue my horrid carping, Scott, that’s not a fact. It’s an opinion. Like you just said, in fact.
Here’s a few scenarios to kinda prove my point:
Scenario one: My personal, entirely uneducated, pick
The polls turn out to be [roughly, and surprisingly] on target and National scrapes in with a set of agreements allowing them to deal with ACT, the Maori Party, maybe even the Greens on certain issues, Peter Dunne if he survives. But they don’t have the numbers to ram through the vicious rightwing agenda they really want to; for the first year or so at least, John Key wants to maintain his fluffy-bunny facade so they only partially sell our state assets, they only slightly cut taxes for the rich, they only mildly shaft the health and education systems.
By 2014, New Zealanders are starting to get bored, John Key probably fucks off to early retirement in Hawaii, Bill English and Steven Joyce enjoy a bloody feud, ACT implodes again, Labour has a proper rejuvenation of personnel and approach, and voila, a mighty [centre-]left victory ensues, in good time to renationalise our assets and save our social safety net.
Scenario two: Labour at all costs
Labour miraculously scrapes together a coalition with the Greens and Maori Party/Mana. ACT are trounced, Dunne vanishes, Winston bites off some of National’s base but is once again pretty much robbed when he doesn’t win a seat.
But Labour are still kinda floundering. They’ve got capital gains tax, and that totally populist “mess about with monetary policy” policy, but Phil Goff still isn’t Helen Clark, one of the Davids gets tired of playing the waiting game (having been banking on a 2011 defeat to shake stuff up), there’s no clear direction, there’s no [authorised this time, please?] pledge card of good solid achievables for people to say “I’m glad I voted for Labour, they’ve ticked off all the boxes and really made a difference.”
2014: the centre thinks “Well that was a fucking waste of time, wannit?” and goes back to National, which now gets to openly campaign on its vicious rightwing policies under the banner of “you gave Labour a go and they did fuck all, so clearly we’re the only people with answers”. Labour is a one-term government and the Right claim a firm position as The Only People With A Clear Idea Of What To Do. We get royally fucked.
Scenario three: my personal dreamland
Labour get their shit together, the All Blacks lose terribly, John Key is caught embezzling charity money, Mana and the Greens stake out nice mutually-exclusive patches of policy and take 15% between them. A new era of socialist awesomeness dawns.
But that’s not really the point. The point is that I have no time for the idea that any Labour under any leader with any level of cohesion is better than any National-led government. It may feed nicely into the beltway left’s firm belief that John Key is actually Beelzebub and when the light of the full moon hits the Beehive on the equinox everyone will “wake up” and realise who their true leaders-by-right are, and it certainly dovetails with that whole entitlement complex that apparently I’ve just been making up in order to personally destroy the Labour Party.
But National, especially National led by John Key and operating in an MMP world which puts them on shaky ground for stable coalition partners, is simply not the reincarnation of Rob Muldoon, or the third coming of Roger Douglas. And when the alternative is potentially a “bad Labour” which solidly fucks the entire left movement in this country for a decade by failing to produce a concrete, inspiring ideology … yeah. Fuck that “fact”, Scott. Whoops, there I go again, sowing discord, I’m such a baaaaaaad leftie.
H/T No Right Turn, who pretty much sums it up:
It’s Monday, so that means it must be time for the regular weekly failure by Phil Goff. This week’s fuck-up? refusing to work with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party
I flatter myself to have been saying this for two and a half fucking years, though it’s not really flattering to admit one’s been bashing one’s head against a brick wall for that length of time and clearly lacks the readership or influence to have got the message through to anyone, but nevertheless:
Dear Phil (and fellow anti-Mana naysayers),
Not all of us on the left are solely motivated by giving you and your mates a pay increase and a shiny Beehive office.
Many of us probably voted either for the Greens or for parties which clearly had no chance of breaking 5% specifically to get this through to you.
Some of us were probably thinking of voting Mana just to re-iterate that message to you given your clear desire to pretend like 2008 was all a bad dream.
Ever wondered if maybe confirming that you’re a racism-pandering centre-soliciting no-hoper focussed entirely on becoming John Key Mk II might not change our minds on that one?
Ever wondered if maybe we might quite like the idea of a leftist party with a practically-guaranteed electorate seat which you just might have to put your big boy panties on and deal with in 2011?
Given your single-minded focus on being PM, I think we can be pretty sure you’ll swallow that dead rat if you have to.
So how’s about you try getting a vision, being an opposition, running a campaign based on actual values and clear, focused key messages which are more than “we’re John Key lite” or “we’re populist and shallow too”, and stop treating the left voters who either switched teams or didn’t even bother turning out last election day like we’re silly little children who don’t understand how you’re just entitled to our votes.
… and it ain’t because of road safety rules or the stellar work Labour’s designers did making the authorisation as small as possible while remaining vaguely legible.
It starts with a speech by David Cunliffe in November 2010:
Crucially in a capital constrained fiscal environment, we will better leverage the Crown’s balance sheet in new and innovative ways.
We can expand public-private partnerships for new transport infrastructure. The project scale must be right and the PPP benefits must outweigh any increase in cost of capital, but that leaves plenty of scope for win-wins .
We can unleash State Owned Enterprises to create and grow new subsidiaries with private partners and shareholders, without diluting the taxpayer’s equity, or wholly or partially privatizing the SOE.
We can turn old models of Government participation in economic development on their head by using equity rather than grants; private sector exports [sic] rather than bureaucrats, and rigorous performance measures rather than public sector doubletalk.
Which with its combination of basically saying “we like the good kinds of privatisation which aren’t really privatisation but are a magical process of getting private investment in public assets without them expecting any form of stake or ownership in return” plus buying into “the public sector are fat and lazy” rhetoric plus the line that “no seriously, this is totes New and Innovative and not the same old neoliberal shit with a few sops to our remaining lefty fans” was depressing enough.
Anyhoo, the sadly-in-hiatus Marty G took to that on The Standard, got a pretty awesomely upfront response from Cunliffe, and then pointed out that PPPs are still universally shit and that expecting to get honest, balanced advice from Treasury? Tell ‘im ‘e’s dreaming:
There’s a difference between National and Labour’s policies on SOEs and privatisation – National: we might part sell SOEs, Labour: we might part sell new subsidiaries of SOEs as long as it doesn’t dilute equity in existing SOEs – but they look very similar to the casual observer. Especially since National could just adopt Labour’s policy, carve SOEs into ‘new subsidiaries’, and sell them off for the same result as its policy.
The notoriously ‘pro-road at any cost’ NZTA, Treasury, and MED will be chomping at the bit for sell-offs and PPPs, and providing advice that everything will be fine.
Fast-forward to recent weeks, and Labour launch a bold, certainly attention-grabbing, Stop Asset Sales campaign. It’s probably good marketing, it’s a nice clear message, it would definitely be nice if it seemed to be part of a concerted campaign, and it’s got two major weaknesses in that the non-politically-aware demographic might just be confused, because That Nice Mr Key said they wouldn’t totally sell asset sales* while the more-politically-aware demographic look at speeches like Cunliffe’s above and wonder, “Shouldn’t those signs read “Stop Asset Sales, terms & conditions apply”?”
And then you get a snarky hater like me who first of all looks at the “donate a sign” page for the campaign and thinks “If Labour is literally spending $10 per sign and can’t even give a discount on a 10-sign donation I may not want such fiscal geniuses in charge of my country’s economy” and then sees Trevor Mallard trying to sell the line that:
Phil Goff has made it clear that No Asset sales means just that.
Which he really, really hasn’t if you’re a sarcastic wench like me. Consider:
“My position is I don’t want to see the SOEs sold at all,” Mr Goff replied.
“I just want to consider flogging off small parts of them under a theoretically restrictive set of conditions,” he continued.
“What I am saying to you today very clearly is that Labour won’t be selling the assets that all of us as New Zealanders own now.”
“But my Finance spokesperson also says very clearly that we will consider arrangements which basically boil down to partial privatisation, giving the private sector the benefits and putting the risk onto the public sector.”
“But I have to look after the interests of all New Zealanders, both as taxpayers and consumers.”
Because you can always spot the Labour leaders by the way they categorise New Zealanders as consumers and taxpayers,** unlike the right who focus on New Zealanders’ rights as citizens … oh wait.
“As taxpayers it doesn’t make sense to us to lose control of those assets.”
“Which of course is exactly the line National is running with that whole “keeping a controlling stake” thing, but we mean, um, a different kind of not-losing-control-of-those-assets …”
“The difference is when you have sold them you have lost them and lose the dividend stream forever.”
… Unless you don’t sell them but instead allow private investment in their subsidiaries and expand public-private partnerships, right?
Goff scoffed at National’s plans to sell to “mum and dad” investors. “Mums and dads can’t even afford the power bills, let alone to buy the power companies,” he said.
Mr Goff was later observed looking puzzled and asking his political advisors, “Do you peeps think I should have maybe led with that strong, punchy mums-and-dads line instead of waffling on in terms which actually leave a lot of space for us to organise schemes and partial privatisations which the good people spending their $10 per sign will probably consider a betrayal of a rather blunt, uncompromising campaign statement?”
*And even lefties aren’t entirely comfortable expressing the view that everything is a lie.
**Maybe if Goff loves consumers and taxpayers so much he could set up an Association for them.
Mr Goff has admitted he got it wrong when he pressured Prime Minister John Key to reveal details of a police investigation into a former National MP.
Mr Goff says he has a better understanding now of how these things work and regrets pressuring Mr Key at the time to discuss aspects of the police complaint.
I cede the floor to Mr McEnroe.
So let’s get this straight:
One of the only issues in this term where Goff has been able to largely control the story, stand up for a progressive principle in the face of horrific misogyny and victim-blaming and conspiracy-theory-spinning. The scalp of a Minister and an eternal “so why was he fired, Mr Open Smile and Transparent Wave?”
… was all a fucking mistake because a former Minister of Justice, whose deputy is a former Minister of Police, didn’t know how sensitive-political-ramifications investigations went?
Let’s consider something far less Pythonesque.
Phil Goff doesn’t actually believe in the right of women not to be sexually harassed and doesn’t really think New Zealanders have the right to know why a Minister of the Crown was bundled out of a job. Phil Goff sat on his fucking hands over whatever allegations have been levelled at Darren Hughes and hoped it would all go away and has no one in his staff who thought “maybe this could fucking backfire on us a tiny bit”.
And now that it has, now that those principled statements have been revealed as waffle, the only possible way to make this not about hypocrisy and cover-ups and double standards is to tell the public Phil Goff has no fucking idea what he’s doing.
That is their idea of “positive” spin.
We are just so fucked.
There isn’t just one hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. The second is equally unpopular with people, but if it doesn’t offer a clear way forward it at least suggests a fixable problem. At the same time, it’s not the kind of thing Labour/the Left want to have bandied about too publicly in an election year.
Everything Labour does is waffle.
No, seriously, everything.
Where my previous post argued that NACT are motivated by a clear and demonstrated drive to financially benefit themselves and their class and keep the true “middle New Zealand” distracted by shiny, often illusory toys (beneficiary bashing, north-of-$50 tax cuts), this one poses more of a question I wish I didn’t suspect the answer to:
What the fuck is Labour doing except waffling?
Waffling, swaying, flip-flopping, whatever today’s pop-propaganda term is, from one statement to the next, one lukewarm denunciation to the next, since the 2008 defeat Labour has basically been a yacht captained by people who figured hey, it was their turn so they might as well have a go, desperately seeking the right current to sail them into Getting Elected Harbour and getting caught on the treacherous reefs of No1curr and Fuck You’re Uninspiring every single time.
Everything is waffle. Waffle doesn’t win elections.
A first pre-emptive rebuttal: Key/National did not waffle their way into victory in 2008. They made explicit, just-qualified-enough statements which set them firmly and believably (to the middle-voting public) in the role of Just Like Labour Only Without The Sense You’re Being Put On The Naughty Spot.
But what the fuck does Labour stand for at this point?
Waffle. Whatever the headless chickens and soccer-fan octopi in the strategy team think is a winner this week.
What month is it? Are we panicking about the loss of the “centre” vote and rehashing really obviously-going-to-backfire Brash/Orewa dogwhistles? Hmm, fuck, that didn’t go so well (hint for Labour strategists: when Idiot/Savant is telling you you’re fucking hypocrites, be worried). Best throw some “I can’t believe it’s not a real leftwing policy” bones to the fanbase! A fanbase who, possibly in serious need of some reassurance that the Apocalypse had not in fact left them in a better-treed version of Transmetropolitan, thought “fuck yes! A real turnaround!”
‘Cause you see, “the many, not the few” involves such fantastically leftwing setpieces as “listen to the stories about gang members ripping off WINZ, those fucking bludgers!” and “young offenders need intervention and literacy skills AND a kick in the pants, am I right, holla at your boy Garth McVicar!”
But some celebrated nevertheless, right until the rightwing research unit bots said “Oy, bitches, how’s 1985 treatin’ ya?” and silence descended, because not all the pretty speeches in the world from Goff count for shit until he utterly disowns that Rogernomics crap. Prediction: never going to happen.*
January 2011. Election year, baby. And someone gets it through HQ’s hivemind that maybe being a bit fucking bold could be a good idea! Let’s do it! Let’s face down those NACT bastards with their relentless “the left doesn’t understand how the economy works” meme and release completely uncosted tax policy! How could this go wrong???
Oops, even one of the staunchest left bloggers in the country came to the conclusion: waffle.
Which is not to mention that whole not condemning Paul Henry’s vile fucking racism thing – can’t upset the white underclass since we’ve thrown those nasty identity politics types under the bus (oh wait, but the Big Gay Out’s on this weekend!). Or the neverending quest to try to turn a stern, serious, career politician into his affable, smarmy, shallow opponent (because of course the only way to defeat an opponent is to become him … wait, what?). And let’s not forget that this isn’t just a Goff problem when suddenly Annette King tooooootally wants to help out those poor people who incidentally Labour royally fucked by defending a discriminatory policy tooth and nail.
Not just waffle. PowerWaffle.
To put it bluntly, fellow lefties: we are in an election year with a main-left-party leader who thinks the appropriate response to “I told my mate Tony Veitch that Liz Hurley’s a hottie” is “I think she’s hot too butIlovemywifebecauseI’mabetterfamilymanthanyou.”
You thought we were fucked before?
We are so fucking fucked.
*I’m like Ken Ring, only I admit I make shit up off the top of my head and act smug when I’m correct anyway.