Friday, 18 July 2014

Labour Green coalition: more venting + general spleen aimed at the Labour caucus

Another round of atrocious polling for Labour, and another round of desperate, "If we add Labour, the Greens, Mana and NZ First together, we only need a swing of about 4% to FORM THE NEXT GOVERNMENT!!"

It used to be just,  "If we add Labour, the Greens, Mana and NZ First together, we can FORM THE NEXT GOVERNMENT!!"  Indeed, I can recall the days when it seemed possible that it might just be Labour and the Greens needed.

And there were times before that when Labour used to be the largest party in Parliament, I tell you!!

But the drift away from the left has been going on for so long it can not be ignored.  And the more coalitions and esoteric combinations get talked up, the more the support for the left bloc declines, and the more wildly fanciful the proposed ways the left can win power get.

(The idea of actually getting out there with  whole bunch of sane, practical policies that people like, expressed clearly by people who really seem to care and who want to make the country better, seems to elude many.)

This has been going on so long now that it takes a few moments to remember that Labour And The Greens is not actually a political party, but to radically different political parties and there is no certainty the the will form a coalition, even if it is just  monogamous couple, and even less certainty if what is proposed is a polygamous monstrosity featuring Labour, the Greens, IMP and NZ First.  And Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.  I'm sure t some stage, the Maori Party will be included, and people will suddenly remember that Peter Dunne worked well with Helen Clarke ... It seems there is no limit to the optimism of the left when faced with the direness of the polling numbers.

(The other response is t proclaim the polls are incorrect, not just wrong, but deliberately so and are being produced in order to make National's victory more likely.  I kid you not.)

But let us, for the moment, focus just on the idea of a Green / Labour tie up, as it seems to be the most likely least unlikely way of Labour achieving some sort of victory in September.

It is a possibility, but by no means a certainty.

Lumping the two parties together as if they were one is to make the classic mistake of assuming that the Greens have to go with Labour. They don't. Labour haven’t exactly made it easy for them. Their policies aren’t exactly going to set green hearts racing, and they will not be too willing to make concessions, as they don’t want to be portrayed as ‘beholden to the radical eco-Nazis.’

The Greens might well decide against a coalition with Labour. The voters clearly don’t like it – he more it gets talked about, the smaller both parties’ support gets! Faced with putting an unwieldy coalition of three or four antagonistic parties into government (and getting the opprobrium that would go with it) and ‘constructive opposition’ to a minority National government, they might be better off going with the latter.

Labour have treated the Greens badly over the course of several elections. they might think it is time for a bit of utu.

The Greens want to preserve the Green party.  A short term alliance with a deeply unpopular Labour party and two or three other antagonistic parties is likely to produce a dreadful government that will struggle to achieve anything and will be deeply loathed.  The Lib Dems in Britain have suffered dreadfully for putting in the Conservatives; the Greens would become even more loathed than that if they put in a Labour Party that was polling 25%.

Bear in mind that both parties have seen declining support in recent polls.  The more the Lab-Green coalition gets talked up, the less inclined people are to vote for them.  Labour supporters who want a strong government, left or right, and who reject the flakey kooky enviro-whacky Greens (and there are som of those out there) looking to National, on the (dubious and short sighted) reasoning that they've been in charge for six years, the country hasn't fallen to pieces and at least they are getting things done without having to be beholden to crackpot fringe groups; and Green voters are perhaps feeling disappointed that their party is being treated as a de facto extension of Labour, rather than a distinct entity representing their interests.  After all, there must be reasons why they are voting Green rather than Labour in the first place, and if they feel these needs are not being met an more ...

With all this in mind, the Greens might prefer to hang back and wait until the situation changes and they can form a less demented, two party coalition; or until they actually replace Labour as the main opposition party.  Which no longer seems as fanciful as it once did.

Given that Labour's policies are not massively more pro-environment that National's, the Greens might feel they were not worth supporting -  a harsh lesson to Labour on the reality of the disparate nature of the left these days, and the need to be more accommodating to left wing partners.

After all, Labour have consistently treated the Greens shabbily, and there is no reason for the Greens to think that will change now.  Not just utu, but survival instinct may prompt the Greens to frown, purse their lips and say, "Thanks ... but no thanks" when Labour offers them a chance of a quick grope and snog.

Bottom line is, Labour can not and should not be counting on the Greens to get them across the line.  It's a measure of how shamefully useless they are that this is the case.  A substantial portion of National's vote is soft, made up of centrists who might instinctively vote for Labour, but who have been come inured to National because, bluntly, Labour are not offering them anything worth voting for -  a tired, scheming caucus, out of touch leadership, a vague and muddled policy program.  And this at a time when National have been blessed with the most formidable political operator in New Zealand's recent history, and a caucus scarily intent on winning and holding power.

It's almost as if Labour have decided to sit this one out.  Not Cunliffe - he knows he's only got one shot - but too many of the old crew are sitting back and happy enough to draw their salaries.  And too many of the 'new blood' are reluctant to be associated with what looks like a doomed campaign.  Might be  career limiting move, you know.

Idiots and scum the lot of them.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

There is no (more thn usual) media bias in New Zealand

At least, no more so than anywhere else.  Yet in New Zealand it seems to present an insurmountable obstacle.  Whereas in other countries, the left just gets on with getting popular and - occasionlly at least - getting elected.

Hell, if Ed Miliband can lead the Tories in the polls, after just four years in opposition, it shouldn't be that difficult for NZ Labour to challenge John Key and his tired, corrupt bunch of cronies.

Yet it seems to be too much to ask.  And so the predictable wail goes up - the incessant refrain of media bias. A recent example fom the Standard being this complain from Karol (who is highly skilled at discerning media bias where normal people might tend to over look it because it ... er ... isn't there.

In this case, the offending article being an Op Ed piece by Tracey Watkins, examining the political career of Laila Harre and the jigsaw puzzle that make up the left of NZ politics.

The article that provokes Karol's wrath is actually a fairly complimentary piece about Harre’s achievements and experience, and an accurate historical commentary on the history of the Alliance. And I'm willing to bet that if Watkins hadn’t written this piece, people would be whining about how the left were being ‘shut out.’ If she had written a puff piece about how wonderful and ace Harre and everything left was, then she would have been lying and doing a disservice to her readers.

The more articles like this, the better. It makes IMP look more serious and interesting, and reduces the perception that the party is just a bad joke by Dotcom. Stop being such a bunch of sad, paranoid complainers, the left! This isn’t media bias. This is responsible reporting.

Real media bias is the Daily Mail smearing Ralph Miliband to hurt his son’s election chances; or the Telegraph’s grotesquely skewed coverage of the expenses scandal a few years back; or the attempts to hurt Harriet Harman or Jack Dromney by trying to connect them to the Paedophile Information Exchange.

If you think a judicious profile of Laile Harre is ‘bias’ you don’t even know the meaning of the word.

The left is fragmented. That’s a fact. It will probably become more fragmented and will finally evolve into several strands, of which Labour will be the largest, but nowhere near as dominant as it has been or even is now.

Anyone who pretends the left isn’t fragmented is deluded. It is one of the fundamental problems we have to address. Contrast with the right, which is able to command a solid 40%+ of the vote.

Floating voters and potential switchers are disinclined to vote Labour because they no longer look like a party of government. The sooner Labour acknowledges this and sets out a common agenda with the Greens, IMP and others, the better.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen for a couple of elections.

 Another issue that has provoke fury on the Standard is the return of the dreaded wyrm, sorry worm.

Apparently, political debate that guage the audience reaction are not a good thing because they cheapen the debate and turn politics into a win/lose game (er, isn't that the point? We win, they eat that, they win, we eat that?).

 I think this is a convoluted way of saying they think the left will fair less well at the hands of the worm (as it were) than the right wing parties. Cunliffe will struggle against Key, because he manifests the same unlikeable tendencies of the later Clarke. He doe snot come across well, and has yet to articulate a clear, gripping idea of what New Zealand should be like.

It shouldn't be difficult. The message of the left is a sure fire winner. We want children to grow up in dry, warm homes and attend well resourced schools where everyone gets a quality education which doesn't depend upon being born into the right family. Workers should have well remunerated jobs, and be able to do them in safety and with the security of knowing they have a solid union behind them looking out for their interests. And we all get to be free, equal citizens of a just nation that is based on the rule of law and openness, which cares for the environment and serves as a role model to other nations to aspire to.

Yet this simple message seems to have eluded Labour since some point early in the century; they've been running scared since 2005.

As a result, people have lost interest in them, and simply vote National because they seem like a better bunch of managers than the other lot. If they bother to vote at all.

So, I for one welcome the return of the worm. I’m mostly in favour of things that will attract public interest in the election, as both major parties seem intent on making into a stunningly dull affair.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

But, really, why would you?

There is a post over on The Standard by 'Blue,' calling on people to get out and vote National out on the 20th of September.  Though not explicitly couched as a call for people to vote for Labour, it effectively is.  I doubt Blue would be too cheered by the idea of the missing million showing up and casting their vote for John Key.  So it is calling for people to vote for a Labour lead government.  I massively support the goal, but find the substance of the message dis-spiriting.

The poster blames pretty much everything for Labour's malaise and voter's lack on interest, from the police to "a triple whammy of dodgy polls, Government-manufactured ‘scandal’ and hysterical opinion pieces."

But I think that is all missing the point. Part of the problem is (unintentionally) summarised in the title of the post - people might be inclined to vote National out, but they sure as Hell can't think why they might want to vote Labour in.

They might not trust John Key any more, but they sure as Hell don't trust Cunliffe. They might not like where New Zealand is going, but Labours alternative is not winning much support. It isn't registering. It isn't making people's ears prick up and think, "Yeah, we need some of that!"

As for the 'dodgy polls,' spare us the excuses. If Labour are tanking in the polls it is because the electorate Just Don't Want To Vote For Them. It might not be as dire as 23%, but it certainly isn't much better. Labour have managed to move backwards from the glory days of David Shearer. No policy, no unity, no leadership, no vision, no message, just a weak bunch of time serving vacillators who are thinking they'll be back no matter what, so why bother trying?

New Zealanders are still voting for John Key because they think he is better than the alternative. That's a bitter truth but one the Labour party will need to face up to.

Until Labour can actually put together a coherent series of arresting, exciting policies that stand up to scrutiny and don't sound intimidating or confusing ("They're going to force me into Kiwisaver? Then put up the rate?") they haven't a hope. And they won't d that until about half the MPs in caucus have been ejected and replaced by real people, not political professionals and nonentities. And that's only the first step.

It's pathetic that two defeats and another in the offing have not percolated through to the senile brain of Labour. It isn't working, to borrow from Saatchi & Saatchi. It might be unfixable. We might be looking at a new, post-Labour left. Which is a shame, as it will take a couple of electoral cycles at least for that to work itself out. And that means another couple of years of Key and then a term and a bit of Bill, at least.

Maybe Labour really needs to be hammered in September. National experienced that in 2002. Maybe Cunliffe will be Labour's Bill English, who failed because he couldn't win the support and trust of the radical right fringe of his party. It was brutal, and it nearly ushered in the now unthinkable idea of Don Brash as Prime Minister. But it lead to the formation of a new, disciplined, focused and united party, Hell bent on winning power. Unfortunately.

Perhaps Labour needs that sort of near-death experience, so it finds the will to re-invent itself. Or maybe it just needs to be put out of our misery.

Even if Labour manages some sort of victory in September, it will be nothing to celebrate about. The party of the working class, the party that is supposed to champion the 99% of New Zealanders who aren't stinking rich and who don't own gold speedboats, polling 30% and jobbed into power by the Greens and Winston Peters?

It's an indictment of the uselessness of the Labour Party that it has come to this.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Come on, England!

Obviously, a Scotsman supporting Uraguay activated the infamous Curse of Costa Rica.

This is going to be one of these mad World Cups where it seems anyone could win, and then Germany / Brazil / Spain does. I'm glad I'm not English, because I'd suddenly be possessed by Hope and Absurd Dreams of Glory.

I suspect, however, the massive uselessness by all the 'big' teams is going to cancel itself out and everything will proceed as normal after the alarums and excursions of the pool phase.

Still, Costa Rica, eh? Trying to make me look bad. I might visit them with a plague or an earthquake or something.Weirdly, as a Scot, I found myself supporting England against the All Blacks last night, and would love to see them beat the Italians today.

Helps that the English rugby team now play more interesting rugby and isn't full of obnoxious fools like Carling and Guscott.  And the English football team are so perennially hopeless they are virtually Scottish these days.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

New Newark

A poll from Lord Ashcroft suggests the Tories are on slightly safer ground.
CON 42%(-12) LAB 20%(-2) LDEM 6%(-14) UKIP 27%(+23)
Changes since the General Election.

It will be interesting to see Labour's vote up substantially in one and down a wee bit in the other; until the world adopts my form of mathematics, both can not be right.

Of course, if Labour do increase their vote share it proof the people - even the people of Newark - are hearing Ed's message. If Labour don't increase their vote, it is evidence of massive tactical voting and proof the people - even the people of Newark - hate the Coalition like poison.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

What is Labour's problem?

I've just had another look at the recent One News-Colmar Brunton poll - the one that gave National 51% of the vote and Labour more than 20 points behind, at 30%.

Looking beyond that painful picture, there is a list of issues concerning New Zealanders.  They were:

  • Education, identified as a key election issue by 40% of the electorate.
  • Health - 37%.
  • Jobs - 30%.
  • Child Poverty - 27%.
  • Wages - 25%.

This is quite astonishing, because all five are areas Labour should absolutely own.  Fair access to education and health are fundamentally leftwing issues.  Employment opportunity, security and workers' rights ditto - why do you think it was called the Labour party?  Child poverty, absolutely a leftwing issue.  Wages ties in with employment and jobs.

Labour should have been making the running on these issues for years by now.  Not because they are potential vote winners, but because they are the building blocks of a just, fair, socialist society.

Instead, we've had ... nothing much.  Kiwi Build.  Something about power bills.  A smart idea about using savings to balance economic pressures, which probably sounds alarming to the average voter ("They're going to put up my Kiwisaver rate whether I want it or not?").

Other than that, a yawning chasm of indifference from the leaders of the so-called people's party.  The election is coming up fast.  The government should be utterly on the ropes - it is incompetent, corrupt and vacillating.  The only thing keeping its ratings so impossibly sky high is that the alternative major party of government looks even less plausible.  They don't look like an alternative government.  They don't even look like a credible opposition.  They look like what they are - a bunch of over educated elitists waiting for their turn to play with the levers of power and happily drawing their salaries in the mean time.

Their lives won't be made substantially worse when Labour are trounced again in September.  Hell, some of them will probably find their career prospects enhanced as they seek more remuneration in the private sector.  they won't be living in run down, damp, unhealthy rentals, or working on inadequate minimum wages terrified of losing their jobs, or sending their children to desperately under-resourced schools staffed by exhausted teachers trying to educate far too many students.

So you can understand the lack of passion and urgency in Labour.  This is not about them, or their people.  They're part of the problem for the left, for progressive parties and socialists.  Unfortunately, they will have to be part of the solution as well, for the foreseeable future as they still bring in about 30% of the vote, and will be more amenable to working as part of a progressive coalition than National (though it isn't as great a difference as it should be - I can almost imagine National working with the Greens at some point.  Almost.  A possibility that seems to elude Labour, who boorishly seem to insist the Greens are simply a kooky extension of the left.)

But the left, sadly, needs to start looking to the future and beyond the Labour Party in its current form.  Perhaps it can re-invent itself, but it seems unlikely.  Vested interests aren't very good at looking after anyone's interests other than their own, and not particularly good at that, either.  They'll carry on assuming they are one of the two parties that are imbued with the divine right to rule New Zealand, as their support dwindles further and further.

Which is - oddly - why I welcome the inflation of National's poll ratings.  It is the evidence of voters simply giving up on Labour.  As voters are inherently a conservative bunch, many will give up, initially, one main party for another.  They understand (unlike fanatic activists) that Labour or National has to form the foundation of the next government.  And they are so disgusted with Labour that they switch to National, as the default alternative governing party.

But their loyalty to National is only going to be temporary, as everything that is wrong with Labour is found in National in concentrated form.  Indeed, National make a virtue of all the things that are alienating voters from Labour.  So, after handing National an undeserved but probably inevitable third term, and being treated like garbage as a reward, the voters will look else where.

I have no idea what the political landscape will look like in ten years time.  It is just possible some charismatic class warrior will seize control of Labour and revitalise the party.  But wasn't Cunliffe supposed to be that guy?   (Though I've always been sceptical of Cunliffe's progressive credentials)

It hasn't worked, and probably won't work in the future because of the deadening hand of the vested interests.

The reappearance of Laila Harre on the political scene -  in one of the strangest political marriages ever - perhaps provides a clue.  Perhaps the future will look a bit like the Alliance, only this time it won't be crushed by Labour antipathy.  If Mana and the Internet Party can find some common cause, and Laila Harre finds it not too ludicrous to join the fun, perhaps some loose knit but formal left bloc is conceivable.

Post 2015, a few disheartened Labour MPs - the ones that actually become MPs for the right reasons - might find their way into it as well, as the party drifts into the mid 20s and the government benches seem to drift further and further away.  And suddenly the voting public will notice that there are smart, passionate and essentially normal people in politics.

And finally Labour - a pointless rump polling 15% - regains power as a junior party in a new progressive government.

Insane?  Maybe.  But not as insane as continuing to vote for Labour and expecting them to suddenly to decide to change their behaviour.  That's a classic example of doing something repeatedly and expecting a different out come.

Labour isn't working.

Can't be fixed.

Time to do something different.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Newark by-election

The electoral excitement just doesn't stop coming in Britain.  After the dizzy thrills of the local and Euro elections, up next is a crucial by-election, brought about by Patrick Mercer resigning his seat in Newark.

Normally a safe Conservative stronghold, a pre-poll poll of Newark suggests the UKIP might pull off a stunner, if Labour voters are smart enough to vote tactically: 

CON 36%(-18)
LAB 27%(+5)
LD 5%(-15)
UKIP 28%(+24)

 Obviously, the 28% voting UKIP aren't going to vote Labour; but Labour voters should think of switching to the UKIP to humiliate the Tories. It might be strategically astute for Labour as they would benefit from the UKIP being in parliament and increasing the likelihood of a fatal split in the right vote.

The aggregate loss of support for the coalition, 33%, is awesome.  True, Mercer was a corrupt self serving Tory (ain't they all) but he was also very popular.  The people of Newark - hardly radical country - seem to be repudiating the coalition.

Will they be smart / cynical enough to switch votes to the UKIP?