Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


The Letter - 7 July 2014: Election year conference

7 July 2014

Election year conference

Party election conferences are the party’s chance to set the election agenda. They are our equivalent of American Election Conventions, where the parties can get a 10 percent bounce from a successful convention. The party leader’s speech is vital. Leaders have surprisingly few chances to give a scene-setting speech. At the conference the Leader has it all: an autocue that makes any speaker look presidential, an audience willing to clap anything and guaranteed coverage by the media. President Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention helped Obama beat Romney. Sunday was David Cunliffe’s chance to set the election agenda and he blew it with a cliché ridden, humourless speech. In contrast, David Shearer gave a better speech last year but then he did have a compelling personal narrative of having walked the talk.

What was wrong with the speech?

It was a technically poor speech, and commentators who do a simple Google fact check will have a field day. Cunliffe is basing Labour’s election campaign around the claim that inequality is growing. Fact check: inequality is falling and New Zealand remains a very equal country. The claim that around a quarter of a million children are in poverty is dubious, to say the very least. Cunliffe says households in poverty have less than 60 percent of the medium income after housing costs. If Bill Gates came to live in New Zealand, the medium income of the country would rise and, according to that logic, more children would be in poverty. The poverty measure also ignores non-cash transfers. Those non-cash transfers, like health and education, are real and substantial. Cash them up and many of those in “poverty” are on higher incomes than the medium household. Even Cunliffe’s claim that home ownership is falling is a myth. Over 200,000 homes are now held in family trusts and must be pulled from the statistics – including Mr Cunliffe’s.

Awful economics

You cannot win an election without having a credible economic policy. Cunliffe said with some justification that the present prosperity comes from the sale of milk, which is a commodity. He then said the problem with the economy is our dependence on commodity exports. Does Cunliffe not know most of the world’s exports are commodities? Labour, he says, will take us to a new “value” economy, as if milk has no value or New Zealand producers are not looking to add value to their base product. How? By making government the business sector’s unwanted “partner“. Government will make the investment decisions for business but not share any of the risks. It is just not credible to believe David Cunliffe and David Parker know more about business investment than those who risk their own money.

What is wrong with Labour?

According to the latest polls, 72% of voters will not vote Labour. If you are white or male or have a job in the private sector or own your own house, you do not vote Labour. Labour is now a Maori/Pacifica, beneficiaries, union-funded and government employees’ party. The core of Labour’s traditional vote, male, unskilled workers, have largely left the party. There was nothing at this weekend’s conference to attract middle New Zealand to vote Labour. The Warrior’s League team stopped using the Cook Island drums when they realised it was putting off the fans. Voters watching David Cunliffe enter the conference to the sound of Cook Island drumming will have wondered where he thinks Labour’s voting strength lies.

How did this happen?

Labour parties in the old Commonwealth are all struggling. The old working class base has shrunk. Most people now receive some form of tertiary education, so the party has to widen its appeal. Socialism, the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange has failed. Just saying “neo-liberalism has failed” is not a policy. Based on reality, it’s not even accurate.

Collapsed membership

New Zealand Labour was once one of the biggest political parties in the Western world, as a percentage of population. David Cunliffe boasts the party membership has doubled – from virtually nothing to almost nothing. But who would want their new members? Mathew Hooton, in an excellent article in the NBR, cites the example of ‘new’ member Jill Ovens, a senior Service Workers Union official who stood against Helen Clark in Mt Albert twice, as recently as 2002, but now with her husband Len Richards – famous for a scuffle outside a Labour Conference – was a delegate to last weekend’s conference. Jill and Len and Matt McCarten regard Helen Clark as a neo-liberal. They are now “working from within” to make Labour a true socialist party.

Direct leader election

It is Jill and Len who voted to make David Cunliffe leader. There has always been tension between the MPs, whose mandate comes from the voters, and the Labour Party activists who represent themselves. Direct election of the leader by the party has shifted the power from the caucus to the membership and the unions. In the days of compulsory unionism, unions such as the Hotel Workers Union, the predecessor of the Service Workers Union, was a moderate union. As union membership is increasingly rejected by the private sector workforce, the unions have got more involved in politics. What they cannot achieve industrially they now seek to gain from politics. They contribute heavily to Labour’s campaigns and demand extensive voting privileges in return. The party membership is so small that tiny pressure groups who want radical social change have also managed to achieve significant power in the party. Groups with agendas the electorate is only vaguely aware of, for example “gay”, “lesbian”, “Maori”, and “Pacific” interests, run influential factions within the party that determine policy, party list ranking and now who is leader. There is no moderating center. David Cunliffe’s “ashamed to be a man” statement was directly aimed at the militant “feminist faction” that has the votes to decide whether he remains leader. It was a statement that should never have been made because few outside the party knew why it was necessary. But it was made, duly publicised, and Cunliffe was publicly derided. In reality, he had no opportunity to tackle the popular reaction.

What does it mean?

What is surprising is that Labour still receives a quarter of the vote. At 28% Labour cannot win constituency seats outside of the main centers. Labour is no longer a New Zealand wide party. If John Key can put together his MMP strategy, a topic for another Letter, the left may be in opposition for twenty years.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Open Source // Open Society - Full Coverage

Gordon Campbell:
On The Reserve Bank And Auckland Housing

The ‘crisis – what crisis?’ response by the government to the Auckland housing price bubble is no longer acceptable.

So says Reserve Bank governor Grant Spencer – who used unusually frank language in his speech and subsequent interviews yesterday to call for a capital gains tax, and to generally chastise central and local government for their inaction on a threat to the country’s economic health and financial stability.

That threat has been real for some time. The housing price bubble has already created a currency bubble... Undaunted, the government keeps calling this situation a success story. More>>

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

Bangladesh: GCSB Dragging NZ Into Human Rights Abuses

The New Zealand government should stop providing intelligence assistance to Bangladeshi security agencies that are known to systematically engage in human rights abuses, said the Green Party today. More>>

ALSO:

Troops Heading To Iraq: Government Must Come Clean On Deployment

New Zealanders deserve more than to hear about their troops’ deployment overseas from Australian media, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “News from Australia that Kiwi troops are on their way to Iraq this week is another example of the culture of secrecy and unknown protections around the deployment.” More>>

ALSO:

Image: Strikers And Protestors Join Outside McDonald's

A group of protestors took to McDonald’s Manners St today as a part of the international fast food workers day of action to end zero hour contracts. More>>

ALSO:

Greens: Special Education Funds Not Spent

More than $32 million of funding for children with special needs has not been spent by the Government, despite families of children with special needs complaining for years that they’ve been denied the support they deserve. More>>

ALSO:

John Key: Pre-Budget Speech To Business NZ

So this Government will remain relentlessly focused on improving the competitiveness of our economy... We will continue to give businesses a platform to invest, grow and create jobs in the knowledge they will be backed by a clear and consistent government policy programme. More>>

ALSO:

Multimedia: Andrew Little’s Response To John Key’s Pre-Budget Address

Labour Party leader Andrew Little spoke today on John Key’s pre-budget address this afternoon in Wellington. Little said National has had seven years to achieve a surplus and Kiwis have “fufilled their end of the bargain.” More>>

Surplus Baggage: Key Backs Off ‘Artificial Target’

John Key’s attempt to redefine his cornerstone promise of two election campaigns as an artificial target suggests his other promises are works of fiction, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On UE Pass Rates And University Dropout Rates

Houston, there is clearly a problem with (a) the plunge in pass rates for University Entrance qualifications, which has been especially steep among Maori students and also a problem with (b) the failure rates for Maori students among those who reach university... Unfortunately the two problems seem related. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
More RSS  RSS
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news