Polity: In defence of the centre
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BenWilson, in reply to
that political compass that was doing the rounds a few years back had far more to offer if only our surveys had been less one dimensional.
Well, ironically, when the parties are actually placed on it, they form a reasonably straight line (albeit on a slope), which pretty much means that it's one dimensional. It's almost the main finding of that analysis - that "Authoritarian" and "Right" are strongly correlated, similarly with "Libertarian" and "Left". If you just rotate it 45% clockwise, you've got Left-Right. The compass is just distinguishing "Authoritarian" from "Right" without any clear reason for doing so.
Or perhaps I should say – there might once have been a rhetorical reason for doing so, when parties like ACT purported to offer an option in the bottom right quadrant. But in practice the opinions of their membership, and then ultimate their leadership, were actually in the upper right (or extreme right using standard parlance). It was a graph simply made to make ACT look unique. Which is didn’t, because it isn’t.
You could also suggest that NZF might go more to the top left quadrant. But they don’t really seem to end up there using the questions of the compass. They just end up in the middle, maybe a shade to the left. I found them to be very close to Labour, when you get down to their actual opinions. I think (but didn’t explore greatly) that demographics forms the main difference between these two parties.
Since these were weak dimensional choices, I looked for better. Didn’t find them, though. I’m sure they are there, with the right questions, but it seems like forming a nice left to right graph IS the analysis most designers of these questionaires seem to want, so that is, of course, what they get.
chris, in reply to
Thanks Ben that was illuminating both in terms of how much it revealed as much as how much it didn’t, very impressive work. I guess to be a little clearer about what I was getting at in the section you quoted above, my issue with these blogs is not so much that there weren’t more dimensions. It’s that in terms of this blog series, and the Labour party’s direction, my doubt is whether this discipline is the best fit for what is essentially an ideological service that the Labour party is anticipating providing to actual humans.
What I’m getting at is that this single dimension is such that the strategists in the Labour Party feel they may flit back and forth along it at will, without IMHO fully accounting for the fact that voters (who would be less likely to change the brand of cola they drink) do the same, rendering the entire exercise akin to a game of musical chairs. The difference here being that a voter can change colours with little ado while a political party in the public eye risks being labelled a ‘sell out’ or one of many such expressions that are nigh on impossible to quantify. I’d even go so far as to argue that it is just this; Labour ideological chop and change routine over the the last three decades compared to National’s consistency that is a chief reason why they are no longer solo contenders at this juncture.
As a consequence of these blogs I’m less confident in Labour’s bottom line because one of their number is front footing with this continuum as the benchmark of who we are and what we want rather than presenting any identifiable ideological position. Rather than asking us what we need. “jobs, jobs, jobs” is all well and good, who’s going to argue with that? It is a start.
At this point, subsequent to the “ham-fisted” (as Andrew Little categorised it on The Nation) Chinese name maneuver, I’d wager that Labour have become even less distinguishable from NZF than they were when the survey was carried out.
But still at this point, beyond our placement on a graph we are nuanced organisms. We are nuanced organisms who will react unfavourably when antagonised by party affiliates on a web forum. There’s no two ways about that, antagonising your would-be supporters is poor politics. sure I understand that Andrew Little’s got a real connection with people who don’t hang about in political forums on the interwabs, but it’s no longer 1998, 82% of the population of New Zealand are internet users, having strategists turning people off your brand for argument’s sake in a freely accessible domain that enshrines that exchange for perpetuity is a lose-lose situation.
A lot is made of National’s aspirational politics, and just as much is made of the left’s negative attitude and while I remain suspect about any of the aspirations Joyce or Key would have me hold, I am inclined to agree to an extent that the left still offer very little to compete with:
“I think we’re on the cusp of something very special for our country, I’d like to be our Prime Minister and lead us to that.”
Bullshit or not, the political impact that this sentiment has had remains as tangible as anything else going at the moment, while also being immeasurable.
BenWilson, in reply to
Thanks Ben that was illuminating both in terms of how much it revealed as much as how much it didn’t
I'm starting to realize that stats is supposed to be that way.
It seems to me that you're rather bitter on Rob Salmond. I think this is misplaced. It's perhaps a sad truth that a party like Labour has to consider positioning strategy, with all the winners and losers that that entails, but I'd rather they did it with data under the guidance of a guy like him, than with the kind of knee-jerk reacting that often mars their decision making.
I'm not sure they do really "Flit back and forth along this line", since their position is an aggregate of many positions, and overall there's not much flitting - what flits is their position on particular issues along that dimension - they trade one off against another, depending on it's apparent popularity. It's annoying and it's why I won't vote for them (I basically don't really know what they stand for), but I can understand that I am an atypical voter, and further that the party that I tend to vote for recently (Green) is stuck with Labour anyway. The silver lining is that Labour is also probably stuck with Greens too. I'm not a typical Green voter either (so far as I know), since I mostly like their economic and social policy - environmental issues are a distant 4th or 5th place really. When they actually ever get some power, I may live to regret supporting them, as their compromise is likely to be every reason I voted for them in the first place. Such is the reality of actually gaining power. Such is my main disaffection with representative government. I prefer referenda. Except that they're always on stupid shit like flags and smacking, because that is also part of how representative government works.
Stephen R, in reply to
I'm not a typical Green voter either (so far as I know), since I mostly like their economic and social policy - environmental issues are a distant 4th or 5th place really
That's a significant part of why I vote for them - I looked at relevant financial policy and decided that I didn't trust Labour not to screw things up without the Greens keeping them honest, since Michael Cullen left.
I also think Labour has developed a certain amount of authoritarian tendency that bugs me, which I hope the Greens would help keep in check if they ever got into power together. (I mostly think this after a long conversation with Annette King in her position as Minister for Police who was pushing for the right to confiscate people's stuff without having to convict them of a crime.)
chris, in reply to
It seems to me that you’re rather bitter on Rob Salmond.
No, not at all, his work this year and the lack of confidence this work has given me in Labour’s future direction definitely irks me, but Rob Salmond, I don’t know him, it’s never personal, he’s just another number on a graph. That he’s put himself in the position to be the butt of Gower’s ‘name’ joke on the Nation wouldn’t trouble me in the least were he not widely identified as being loosely involved with Labour strategy. It’s all visible and campaigning never sleeps.
what flits is their position on particular issues along that dimension – they trade one off against another
At this point they seemed to have traded everything for more or less nothing, as you say:
(I basically don’t really know what they stand for)
I feel the same. Relative to the other parties this aggregate will be more fluid. They wish to increase tax revenue, but they’d rather ban than tax offshore investors, their website states that they want to introduce a CGT, their press announcements state that they’ve dumped the CGT. It’s sloppy. One year they’re railing against rushing through increased surveillance legislation, a couple of years later they’re supporting the rushed passing of a law that called for an “intrusion on people’s freedoms” while claiming that it needed to be held up to greater scrutiny.
As Stephen says above:
has developed a certain amount of authoritarian tendency that bugs me
Compared to Labour under Norman Kirk or even Lange, it's a palpable shift.
When they actually ever get some power, I may live to regret supporting them, as their compromise is likely to be every reason I voted for them in the first place.
chris, in reply to
Sorry I had to nip out midway through editing there for a rod of dowel, but coming back to this:
It seems to me that you’re rather bitter on Rob Salmond. I think this is misplaced. It’s perhaps a sad truth that a party like Labour has to consider positioning strategy, with all the winners and losers that that entails, but I’d rather they did it with data under the guidance of a guy like him, than with the kind of knee-jerk reacting that often mars their decision making.
I’m not sure they do really “Flit back and forth along this line”, since their position is an aggregate of many positions, and overall there’s not much flitting
This is not so much the Labour party considering strategy behind closed doors, as a blog on a web forum, followed by a discussion from more or less whoever wishes to participate. There are 17,000 views to date. I find what you’ve written to be well considered and informative and most of all well measured, perhaps flitting back and forth along the line is an unfair dismissal on my part, but the tenor of the discussion wasn’t set by us:
But “pulling the centre back towards the left” is massively, massively hard. You win those people over by being relevant to them as they are, not by telling them they’re worldview needs a rethink.
I do think Rob makes some salient points throughout these pieces, the second sentence above is a good example, so I don’t understand, with this in mind, why one would then follow up with an attack on Stephanie Rogers, a misrepresentation of some PAS posters, a dismissal of Mike Smith, and then a rejig of Chris Trotter’s world view. That makes so little sense to me and is one of the reasons why this series is still on my mind. It’s especially confounding when in amongst it all Rob presents a lot of good sense, well formulated ideas and informed propositions:
Instead it’s about – for want of a better word – “narrative.” And issue emphasis.
It all becomes part of that narrative.
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