This shouldn’t really need to be said. But just to be clear, because I’m sensing some confusion: I’m pretty sure I do not have the power to substantially affect the outcome of the next election.
This blog is not going to deliver a victory to David Cunliffe, and my tweets are not going to herald a John Key victory. If I switched this whole thing off tomorrow, the media would still be able to find a quote from someone which proves The New Zealand Left Is Hopelessly Divided, if that was their angle. But 2014 will almost certainly be the third election in a row where someone somewhere/everyone everywhere will decide that it is my “lack of unity” or “looking to be offended” or “call out culture” which is the problem – not their own lack of principle, clarity of message, or integrity.
You see, I’m a woman with opinions. Usually pretty loud, brash opinions. And sometimes I have them about people who are, in a very general sense, “on my side”, who I think (hat-tip to Craig) could do better.
And I am absolutely going to have a go (sorry, “conduct a witch hunt”) at leftwing, liberal men who expect to be thought leaders in our movement but consistently use women (and Maaori, and whoever else adds a flourish of diversity) to build their own cred while shouting over them whenever they disagree.
I am not going to change. I will continue to be bitchy, catty, picky, over-sensitive, easily-offended, hold a grudge and act like a total cow. Because that’s what you call women with unabashed opinions, isn’t it?
Here’s another old chestnut I’m really bored of hearing: that the Green Party is somehow obliged to stop standing candidates in seats which Labour wants to win (i.e., presumably, all of them).
Stuart Nash rolled this one out two weeks ago – and don’t worry, Stuart, I’m just going to quote you again:
There is no doubt that an effective candidate improves the party vote: it’s the reason why the Green’s refuse to stand candidates aside in general seats, when to do so could well mean that Labour wins the seat; because they know that without a candidate their party vote drops.
Nash wants to act like this is just a terrible bit of self-serving puffery on the part of the Greens, who are denying Labour its god-given right to keep ignoring how MMP works and win all the seats. And I say “act”, because Nash is a former MP and former senior adviser to the Leader of the Labour Party, so I think it’s quite fair to expect him to understand our electoral spending laws:
206C Maximum amount of party’s total election expenses
(1) If a party is listed in the part of the ballot paper that relates to the party vote, the total election expenses of that party in respect of any regulated period must not exceed—
(a) $1,091,000 (or such other amount as is prescribed by the Governor-General by Order in Council under section 266A); and
(b) $25,700 (or such other amount as is prescribed by the Governor-General by Order in Council under section 266A) for each electoral district contested by a candidate for the party.
My admittedly-not-legally-qualified reading of that is that parties get to spend an extra $25k for each electorate candidate they stand. Any list-only candidates have to come out of the first million.
So of course the Greens are going to run candidates in a number of electorates where they know they don’t have a chance of winning – it affects the amount they’re allowed to spend campaigning. And of course it raises their profile and of course it helps build activist networks and gives candidates valuable campaigning experience. And sometimes people are going to vote for the Green candidate and not the Labour one.
This is an MMP world. Labour candidates should win electorates if the electorate wants them to be their representative. Not because Labour thinks it’s owed a guaranteed number of seats (and terms in government.)
Yes, this does create some annoyances for the left in odd electorates like Ohariu. But we cannot treat voters like they’re too stupid to understand what their electorate vote means. People in Ohariu who in 2011 voted for Gareth Hughes – or Peter Dunne – instead of Charles Chauvel had their reasons. They may not be reasons I like, or reasons you like, and certainly whatever they are they’re not reasons Stuart Nash likes, but … that’s the lumps of democracy for you.
Labour can do better. But it won’t start if it, its leadership, or the people its leadership listen to, persist in stomping their feet and laying the blame everywhere but at their own door.
There’s a pretty scary meta-plot to the Rob Gilchrist story. And that’s, basically, how the rampant misogyny of otherwise-liberal, otherwise-righteous leftwing dudes, led to Gilchrist being able to continue to spy on progressive and environmental groups in New Zealand despite others pointing out his shadiness.
The people pointing it out? Oh, right. Women.
Women like Tove, who got suspicious, and whose privacy was coincidentally breached – that is to say, photos of her just coincidentally ended up on fucking neo-Nazi sites, and just accidentally got mailed to members of the New Zealand Police. (How’s that cultural transformation coming, by the way?)
And when this was pointed out to other activists? Gosh, if it doesn’t read like every single character assassination of every single victimised or abused woman in history. “That’s what he said you’d say.” “He’s a good guy.” “Well actually, he said you were the cop.”
What made Rob Gilchrist – the dude who was spying on you all for ten years – more trustworthy than a young woman activist?
Besides, you know, her pesky gender.
Wait, QoT, you horrible manhating radfem, you cry. You can’t just jump straight to accusations of blatant misogyny and leftwing activism being a total old boys’ club. Not on just one little accusation (by a WOMAN, too!)
Sorry, dudebro lefties, but it’s actually not good enough to blithely accept the word of Important Dudes because they are Important Dudes. You’ve managed to figure this out where traditional economic power structures are involved, but you’re continued to labour (yep, I went there) under the idea that you’re immune from that follower shit. That it’s different when it’s one of the club doing it.
The boys’ club.
And at the end of the day, who’s suffered for this? Who’s been ostracised, victimised, forced to completely uproot her life because you scumfucks wouldn’t believe a young woman over Your Mate?
The woman has. Because it was so fucking easy for you to believe a woman would lie about rape. Because it was so fucking easy for you to spin some little scenario about how she must be the liar, she must have initiated everything. In the face of her fervent activism, it was easier to believe she was a neo-Nazi cop than question Your Mate.
You should all be thanking your fucking stars that Rob Gilchrist didn’t provoke you all into comfy jail terms. And you should be doing a daily fucking penance for letting your sexist jerkoff attitudes prevent you from nailing a spy in your midst sooner.
You should also bear very closely in mind that it was another woman, Rochelle Rees, who finally uncovered his crap. Stellar fucking work there, dudes.
(Also, even if you seriously want to play the who-me-a-misogynist card, apparently none of you douchebags have watched a single police drama in your entire life. You know the number one sign of a dirty snitch, people? It’s being the guy who keeps accusing others of snitching. Every fucking time.)
David Shearer was on The Nation on Sunday, continuing to emphasise for us all that he sees absolutely no problem in psychically diagnosing people’s health based on their neighbour’s greedy, judgemental envy.
And he rejected criticism from his party’s left over his references to a sickness beneficiary who had been well enough to paint a roof.
“You know you work, you pay your taxes, and then when you need it you lose your job, you have an accident, the State looks after you.
“As soon as you’re able to get back onto your feet again, the expectation is that you go back and you start paying your way again.”
the speech that I made is about fairness, and it is about a social contract, and it is about paying your way, and then living up to your responsibilities at the other end. That’s all it was, and New Zealanders are very very attuned to somebody doing the right thing, whether it be paying their taxes, or not taking advantage of the welfare system.
Now sure, there’s nothing wrong with fairness, and there’s nothing wrong with talking about “doing the right thing” – what is wrong is the Leader of the Labour Party claiming he gives a crap about fairness while continuing to defend that anecdote.
Because if he wasn’t calling the guy painting his roof an evil bludger, if he wasn’t taking it upon himself to judge another person’s right to a benefit, if he wasn’t in favour of believing everything a grudge-holding stranger tells him … he wouldn’t still be saying “as soon as you’re able to get back onto your feet again”. He wouldn’t be saying “New Zealanders are very attuned to somebody doing the right thing.”
Because all that says is “clearly, this guy was back on his feet, and clearly his neighbour was “attuned” enough to make medical judgements about him.”
David Shearer, plainly, still thinks it’s okay to make assumptions about other people based on gossip. David Shearer still thinks it’s okay to label people he’s never met as bludgers just to make some point about “fairness” – and per my previous post, it’s a very nasty kind of “fairness” that involves throwing sick people into the gutter just because it’ll win a vote from their petty, mean-spirited neighbours.
David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party, literally uses the phrase paying your way to describe how people should behave.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, another David was delivering an interesting speech about economics and supporting the vulnerable. Lucky for him Labour’s a “broad church”, right, David S?
Stuart Nash would like you all to know that, despite the fact that harridans like myself have
misrepresented my position – and my values
Still Concentrating On The Issues That Matter
and anyway, the post he’s
come in for a lot of flack
wasn’t actually about Louisa or the Marriage Equality Bill at all
So I apologise. When someone’s post begins talking about Louisa Wall and the Marriage Equality Bill, I assume they’re talking about Louisa Wall and the Marriage Equality Bill. But clearly, Stuart was talking
about the strategy Labour has pursued so far this year
and while you may assume that when a person starts talking about A, then starts talking about B entirely in the context of A, they’re drawing some kind of connection between A and B, you would be wrong. And you should be ashamed. Why, when Stuart starts by saying:
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!
And over the next two paragraphs says
… I warned that Labour must not get sidetracked …Labour MUST NOT get sucked into the game of responding to these periphery and/or manufactured issues …
Little did I know that it wasn’t the Nats who would create the side shows … Louisa’s Bill was ill-timed … the fact that it was drawn out of the ballot was unlucky for Labour). For the past month or so this issue has been at the forefront of the mainstream and social media.
And then continues
In the meantime, the state assets sales programme is in trouble, farms have been sold to the Chinese, educationists decry the rise of charter schools, the poverty gap is increasing at an alarming rate, Kiwis are heading to Australia in record numbers, our unemployment rate is climbing, and there is at least one dreadful health story a day that should be in the papers.
Why, in that context, when I say things like
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?
I’m really just misrepresenting Stuart. He didn’t say that Louisa Wall shouldn’t have submitted her Bill, he just thinks … she shouldn’t have submitted her Bill. And he’s not buying into the idea that marriage equality isn’t important, he’s just saying it’s a peripheral sideshow issue distracting from the things that matter. And he’s not bagging her, he just feels the need to write another post talking about the “unlucky” timing of it all on top of his previous insistence that she “hold back” for The Good Of The Party.
But it’s okay, folks. Stuart has good people around him. From his second post:
Anyone that knows me, my family and my politics will know that I value human rights above all else. Equality of opportunity is my guiding philosophy and the reason why I am involved in the Labour party.
And you know that when someone says above all else, that’s a pretty strong statement indicating they won’t compromise on their core principles. Someone who values human rights above all else would never, for example, write something like:
Louisa has to hold back. The vast majority agree that her bill is morally right and should be passed into law, but now it needs to take a back seat and let the issues of health, employment, education and finance come to the fore, otherwise there won’t be anyone left in New Zealand who can afford to get married.
… just like Stuart did in his first post. I do so look forward to hearing about how finance reform will mean same-sex couples stop being treated like second-class citizens. Oh right, because they won’t be able to afford to get married. You know how the queers like to splash out on frocks, we need to avoid another recession for their sakes!
But then we are dealing with somebody who can sincerely type (in his second post):
Labour doesn’t need to convince voters that our values are sound
Which is true, because before voters can ask if your values are sound they have to know what your values are, and for someone who spends a lot of time emphasising that Labour Is A Great Party With Amazing Values And The Left
owns the political space around human rights
… Stuart sure loves acting like those values don’t mean shit unless Labour can convince voters that they are
prudent managers of the economy
… a phrase used twice in his second post.
Sorry, Stuart. I guess I’m just going to keep unwittingly misrepresenting you, because for all you’ve made a second post about how people didn’t understand your first post, all I hear is “waa waa waa shut up minorities” with a coda on the theme of “anyway we don’t need to talk about values, just the economy, so shut up again”.
And when you’re blaming a single, well-supported Private Member’s Bill for an entire party’s inability to get on the telly, you should probably reconsider your political strategy cred.
Please, Stuart. Try to dig up next time.
PS. Doesn’t it absolutely tickle you to see someone waving the Old Left banner talking about “owning political space”? Human rights discussions aren’t a commodity, Stuart. And you don’t get to “dibs” the human rights conversation, especially not when you’re saying some human rights (i.e. the icky gay ones) can go sit in the corner quietly while the real human rights issues (i.e. the ones assumed to affect Waitakere Myths) get some breathing space.
This is a question which gets thrown around every time someone in the Labour Party takes a pot-shot at women, at queer folk, at beneficiaries, and then gets called out for being a judgemental, privileged douchebag.
Why can’t Labour get back to its roots? Back to being the party of the worker? As muerk commented on Twitter,
Labour was a party for working class folk, like miners. It doesn’t represent them like it used too.
Well muerk, that might just be because we’re in the 21st fucking century now.
Now, don’t take this wrong. I’m not saying the priorities of miners are unimportant just because they’re a much smaller part of the population than they used to be (that would just be hilariously ironic); what I am saying is that the privilege of viewing the entire NZ population in terms of:
Rich white dudes | hard-working white dudes | other [chicks | brown dudes]
… is not one anyone with half a brain should be coveting these days.
Yes, welcome to the world of identity politics. The world wherein people have those horrid “identities”, i.e. have the temerity to be loud and demand that the world recognise the many ways in which we are not just rich white dudes, hard-working white dudes, chicks, or brown.
Identities which were not necessarily chosen, but embraced, because white-dude society used different aspects of our rich and complex human experience to make the world their playground and shut out anyone who was different.
So now we don’t get to just pretend that all politics is an epic struggle between The Upper Classes [white, dudely] and The Working Classes [white, dudely]. Now we have to accept the basic human reality that women, and people of colour, and migrants, and people with disabilities, and queer people, and the non-working poor are actually all around us. Don’t run, they can only see movement!
And here’s where it gets totally freaky, people longing for The Good Old Days. Those working-class folk, like miners, who Labour used to represent?
Some of them were probably queer.
Some of them certainly had disabilities, if only through the kind of workplace accidents you get when you’re in a manual labour industry.
Some of them, these days, will be women. Or Maaori. Or Muslim.
It is frankly a fucking crime against the amazing diversity of human existence that some people want to pretend that all those nasty “identities” are just exclusive little groups on the fringes, demanding more than their fair share of the political spotlight.
And it is frankly fucking stupid to act like retreating one’s focus and attention back to that once-mainstream group, identified purely by Current Location Relative To Mode Of Production, contains even a milligram of political sense.
Because when Labour people, or people in the non-specific-Labour leftwing zone, attack abortion rights, attack marriage equality, attack beneficiaries, attack Maaori, they’re not saying “let’s get back to focusing on the issues facing all workers”.
They’re saying “let’s get back to focusing on the issues facing all workers which are strictly limited to white, hetero, cisgendered, able-bodied currently-employed dudes.”
And that’s a ridiculously small segment of society these days. And a lot of them actually support progressive issues which don’t actually affect them individually! It’s like they understand that society is made up of a lot of people and when we’re all being treated with dignity and respect and given the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, everyone benefits!
So, really. When you talk about “Labour getting back to its roots”, all I hear is “waaaaaah, stop talking about issues that don’t affect me personally, I want all the attention!” Because it’s not even politically rational.
Unless of course these people honestly do believe that a political party can only discuss one issue at a time. And that thought is simply depressing.
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
NRT for details. My brain’s just stuck trying to decide whether I scream “FUCK YOU” loudly at the ceiling or roll my eyes so hard they fall out.
My feelings are pretty much still summed up in this post I wrote in January 2011. Labour, in power, needed to keep the middle classes happy, and so by buying into the idea that a well-above-average income makes you a “struggler” (pay no attention to the median income behind the curtain) they introduced “in-work” tax credits. Which weren’t about work, they were about children (and thus the Independent Earner Tax Credit was split off to keep us DINKs happy.)
Beneficiaries didn’t get the tax credit, because according to Labour, they needed to be “incentivised” into work. And if you honestly believe that that doesn’t tell you everything about Labour’s real attitudes to the unemployed, you’re kidding yourself.
Labour believed so strongly that beneficiaries were horrid bludging scum that they fought tooth and nail when the Child Poverty Action Group tried to draw their attention to that pesky human rights law we have.
Then came election 2011, and once their self-preservation glands finally realised that saying “I think Liz Hurley is hot too!” was not actually going to win back the centre from That Nice John Key any time soon, they had a brief brain explosion and literally announced a policy of “extending the in-work tax credit to beneficiaries”.
Josie Pagani, for one, had a really hard time explaining this to people. Of course, as far as she’s concerned that’s because Beneficiaries Are Scum, not because it sounded fucking ridiculous.
Now the election’s gone, and apparently the meme of the Labour upper echelons is “we need to revisit things. Oh, not the things like “listening to John Pagani” and “buying into Chris Trotter’s wish fulfilment”, maybe just the things which contributed to our downfall because even though they were good policy we completely sucked at selling them.”
So, here we are. Holly Walker is trying to do something to reverse a Labour policy which punished children living in poverty for their parents’ lack of advanced SQL development training and Chartered Accountant qualifications, and Labour is promising only the very, very see-through “we’ll support it to first reading.”
My mind’s made up. If you’re in Wellington and a loud expletive rattled your windows right before this went up, my apologies.
Does David Cunliffe have a secret army of ninja warriors training in the Waitakere ranges? An underground volcanic lair? Has he implanted Trevor Mallard with a miniature explosive which will be triggered if he ever experiences a moment of true happiness?
Seriously, these are the only conclusions I can draw. I feel like finding whichever senior, probably safe-electorate-seat veterans who know they’ll be collecting a Parliamentary paycheque till the day they die, MPs talked shit to Duncan Garner and slap them upside the head, screaming “YOU DO GET THAT HE LOST, RIGHT?”
I mean, Shearer’s in charge, right? And the big Labour Party reforms are basically going to cement his leadership in place, right? So why the need to tear him down, and why pick that most cliched of leadership-challenge moments, When He’s Overseas, to do it?
It’s just a bit fucking pathetic, is what it is.
Meanwhile, the Glorious Golden Saviour of Labour has been making more dire speeches. This one was to the heartland. I can tell by the way he says “heartland” 18 times in a 2,900-word speech (that’s 3 times per page in a 10-pt Word doc.) Truly inspiring Sam Seaborn-esque lines include:
We need the heartland of New Zealand to succeed. If it doesn’t succeed, New Zealand won’t succeed.
One of their points is that here is no shortage of ideas and strategy and documents, and most of them contain sound advice full of proposals for incremental change that will, taken together, add up to a big difference.
Remember, it’s all in the painfully. Slow. And thoughtful. Way you over-pronounce it.
Either that or the entire Labour leadership is dedicated to trolling me and willing to destroy their own credibility to do so, which is probably unlikely. Probably.
Let me just put my reaction to this utterly shambolic recent offering into perspective: tonight I rewatched part 2 of a great episode of The West Wing, “20 hours in America”. And this happened:
President Bartlet: The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Bruno (to Sam): When did you write that last part?
Sam: In the car.
In comparison, dear readers, we of the New Zealand left are meant to derive hope, inspiration, and enthusiasm for the cause out of:
When I visit some of the smartest new businesses as I go around New Zealand I see them working cooperatively to get ahead.
Almost invariably I see management and workers intelligently demonstrating good faith on all sides and a recognition that everyone’s in there doing their best.
Look, even Martin Sheen ain’t making that scripted-by-committee shit sound cool.
I said this in my last, more even-handed post on the topic, and clearly no one paid attention, so here it is again:
Great speeches are stirring and powerful and they have a sodding point, which they make clearly and strongly in a whole series of interconnected sentences. Maybe they use repetition for effect (dream/fight them on the beaches etc) and maybe they start off with a cute little anecdote … but fuck, they’ve got to have soul.
I sincerely defy anyone, including youse fullas on Twitter making statements like “but you’re not the target audience” and “they’re trying to recapture the centre, not disaffected progressives”, to tell me that “A Country That Works For All Kiwis” has soul.
That lines like:
I’d like to begin with a question.
Are you familiar with the expression ‘shadow yacht’?
… actually speak to you as a person and make you want to know more … rather than sound like the opening of an infomercial for some kind of self-actualising book-on-tape series narrated by a man with too many teeth and pretty hair.
Or that a wandering paragraph about mansions in Connecticut (probably most familiar to Kiwis as the resident state of the Baby-Sitters Club) has even half the power of any hand-written amateur “I am the 99%” sign you might have seen over the past year.
Or, to be honest, that there is anything in this set of vaguely-connected sentences which in any way can be distinguished from exactly what John Key would say in any speech on a similar theme:
I want us to become prosperous together and give everyone a fair share.
New Zealand has such enormous potential as a nation – that we really can be a place where anyone can grow up hopeful, with the future they dream of within their grasp.
Last month I gave the first of a series of speeches I’ll be making about New Zealand’s future.
I said I intend to lead a government that creates a new New Zealand.
I’ll be setting out how we get there, step by step.
I have talked about the need to lift our educational achievement and the importance of science and innovation in creating more exports.
Today I want to talk to the New Zealanders who are doing the work but not reaping the rewards.
Here in New Zealand we have been working harder than almost anyone in the developed world.
But it’s not paying off.
We are trying to succeed by squeezing more out of people, by paying lower wages than other countries and working longer hours than them.
When people tell me they’re actually working harder for less, I believe them.
Hundreds of thousands of honest individuals get out of bed each day and go to work, and they cannot get ahead.
The only difference is in the next line, where Shearer … well, eventually makes some kind of point about growth in productivity vs wage growth in real terms and somehow this is about Australia, but where John Key would … also make some point about Australia, but then move on to red tape, company tax, and trickle-down theory.
The point, yet again, is this: it may seem really nifty to those who are still hanging on to the dream of a Labour Party with guts to see a speech full of positive aspirational stuff, occasional plaintive dogwhistles to the nursing/IT 2.5 kid crowd and the contractor who wants a new van … but what is there in this speech which will make some swinging centre voter say “Ooh, I like this Nice Mr Shearer a lot more than Nice Mr Key”?
Are we seriously just going to see Labour churning out more “I like New Zealand. New Zealand is great, and our people are great. And we’re not bastards with shadow yachts, we just want to have a nice soccer camp for our children, and our children’s children” in the hope that enough Gerry Brownlee-related cockups will take the shine off Key and make Shearer comparatively brighter?
And the thing is, at its very, very stripped-down core, it’s not actually a bad speech! There are some points in there about the super-rich prospering at the expense of workers, the myth of “productivity” gains, plain simple facts about how hardworking New Zealanders are, creating real opportunities for young people … and it’s completely drowned out with smarm and cliche and significant. Pauses.
The closest we get to impassioned, punchy oratory is this (and it’s not very close at all):
We need to imagine an economy where we say: Dammit, we can have a country where everyone has enough to live on.
But after trudging through the schlock that came before it, all my brain could leap to was this.