Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the new Labour leadership

November 12th, 2008

Not unexpectedly, Phil Goff’s first press conference as Labour leader did include a mea culpa of sorts for the “disconnect’ that had occurred in Labour’s relations with the New Zealand public – although the who, how and why of this inexplicable fault in the wiring was not fleshed out with any specifics. The mood of the new trio at the top ( Goff, deputy Annette King, Finance spokesperson David Cunliffe ) was resolute and upbeat.

The mandatory nods to inclusiveness were made. Why, Goff explained, if the new government did good things for New Zealanders then the Labour opposition would support them, but woe betide if the reverse should happen. Here Goff cited a curious trio of possible evils in waiting : the privatization of ACC, the dissection of Kiwisaver and the removal of r & d tax credits.

Somehow, I doubt whether the business sector’s imminent loss of their r&d tax credits is the topmost concern for Cleaners Union members in south Auckland this morning, but I could be wrong. On balance though, there are genuine reasons for the new captain to be feeling chipper. No blood was spilled during the transition. With the exception of the Electoral Finance Act, there are few policy positions that need to be recanted and amended. Much of Labour’s policy programme over the last few years has in fact, already been embraced by John Key.

Moreover, Goff begins his quest to regain power with a sizeable caucus crew. As he pointed out, the public this time has left Labour with a caucus of 43 MPs, a far cry from the 27 left after the rout in 1990. In contrast with that humiliation, people were also not particularly angry with the Labour government, he feels, but were simply….tired of it.

It remains unclear whether Labour realizes that one of the things that people got tired of was the sense of being patronized – and Goff hasn’t banished that fatal air of superiority from his own delivery. “Time will tell whether the changes proposed,” he said, almost wagging his head at the possible folly, “will be what the public were lead to believe.”

Yes, the public may one day come to rue the change they sought on Saturday. But if and when they do, there is no guarantee that a paternalistic Labour would be the only, or best source of relief. The Greens, now that they are finally free from any structural ties to Labour, will be trying hard to supplant them as the most effective opposition party on the left. On industrial relations and beneficiary issues, the Greens have already been making much of the running in recent years. If Labour remains intent on projecting a kinder, more efficient brand of centrism, they could well be overtaken significantly on their left – and the risk will be increased if Act does manage to pull National further to the right.

At this point though, just what Act is getting from their dealings with Key remains unclear amid the noise of Rodney Hide playing to the galleries. If attacking Key on Sunday night as being to the left of Helen Clark on some issues wasn’t bad enough, Hide took time yesterday to bicker about the unseemly ambition of his new partner in government, Peter Dunne – perhaps in payback mode for Dunne’s own crack on election eve that Act represented the sound of “economic jackboots.”

Maybe its just as well these guys won’t be in the same Cabinet room together. Safe to say, if it was the Greens and Progressives behaving this way, editorials up and down the country would be thundering about the irresponsibility of such behaviour in a time of national crisis.

Obviously, much of Key’s hopes for a wider consensus will depend in the next few days on whether the Maori Party takes the bait, and comes on board with National. Why they would want to do so remains a mystery – because being a Minister isn’t a free lunch, and entails wider responsibility for the government to which said Minister belongs. Especially if a big portfolio like Social Welfare is in the offing. Taking on such a role would turn the Maori Party into the local version of the Palestinian Authority, as the enforcement arm of the National Party on welfare – and one operating under economic settings into which the Maori Party would have no direct input at the Cabinet table, let alone control.

Scale the ambitions back down to a smaller portfolio – such as Broadcasting – and the minimal gains possible would then need to be judged against the shared blame for anything the new government may choose to do to Maori families and workers. Being outside Cabinet by then may not be distance enough. Dr Pita Sharples could find that the credibility of his criticism of government will suffer somewhat, if it is being delivered from the back seat of a ministerial limousine.

ENDS

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    1. 7 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the new Labour leadership”

    2. By simon on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

      “Safe to say, if it was the Greens and Progressives behaving this way, editorials up and down the country would be thundering about the irresponsibility of such behaviour in a time of national crisis.”

      Oh, yes! Too many ironies, too little time. Here’s one for starters: doing deals with as many parties as possible is now statesmanlike, wise, inclusive, balanced etc. Please delete all previous references to “five-headed monster”.

      Meanwhile, will Hone Harawira reject the new government before Christmas, or will he wait until after the summer break?

    3. By stuart munro on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

      The real test for John Key will be whether he chooses to do anything about NZ’s position in the world economic crisis. Obama has identified biofuels and green technology as growth areas in the new economy.
      Key has to date nothing comparable to offer as yet, but if he doesn’t direct National’s energy into productive endeavours it will surely chase it’s old dreams of zero taxes and the re-establishment of the workhouse.

    4. By John Cook on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

      Another sore loser is Stuart .Democracy has spoken.Perhaps the whingers should leave and give the electoral majority a chance to support
      the new government who have not even been sworn in yet.

    5. By Tom Semmens on Nov 12, 2008 | Reply

      Merely by flirting with the idea of getting into bed with National the Maori party went from a dead cert six seats with a chance of a clean sweep to merely adding one more.

      Signing up to a deal with National will be the Maori Party’s death warrant, they will with two elections be just another dead end on the road of Maori aspirations.

    6. By Michael Collins on Nov 13, 2008 | Reply

      Great line!

      “Taking on such a role would turn the Maori Party into the local version of the Palestinian Authority, as the enforcement arm of the National Party on welfare – and one operating under economic settings into which the Maori Party would have no direct input at the Cabinet table, let alone control.”

      Just had to say that.

    7. By stuart munro on Nov 13, 2008 | Reply

      Mr Cook has the lack of grace to make ill informed personal attacks.
      Democracy most probably covered her face and wept – for New Zealand, not for Helen.
      I should leave? I will fight for my country, and our enemies will die. Screaming.
      I guess that means you, Mr Cook.

    8. By Vince Damphousse on Nov 14, 2008 | Reply

      “Yes, the public may one day come to rue the change they sought on Saturday. But if and when they do, there is no guarantee that a paternalistic Labour would be the only, or best source of relief. The Greens, now that they are finally free from any structural ties to Labour, will be trying hard to supplant them as the most effective opposition party on the left. On industrial relations and beneficiary issues, the Greens have already been making much of the running in recent years. If Labour remains intent on projecting a kinder, more efficient brand of centrism, they could well be overtaken significantly on their left – and the risk will be increased if Act does manage to pull National further to the right.”

      That might be good spin for the Greens but I’m not convinced it is particularly good analysis.

      First, you cite yourself Labour’s 43 MPs as giving them good clout in opposition. The Green’s inferior numbers make your suggestion that they will supplant Labour on the left a bit unlikely.

      Second, as a large party formerly in government there will always be an effort to hold the middle-ground. It appeals to many voters and it allows a party to tack, say, to the left. You’ve also downplayed the fact that the previous government was more than happy to symbiotically use the Greens go pass leftish social legislation. It worked well and I’m glad that it did.

      Finally, how many environmental bills do the Greens have in the hat? Sometimes to me at least it seems as if the Greens are more concerned with tasers than with the environment. Why aren’t they pursuing a “carbon tax or nothing” strategy since that would be the best thing possible to combat greenhouse gas emissions?

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