Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: In defence of the centre

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  • Sacha, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    If you think it is too hard, get out of the way and find someone more interested in trying.

    This.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And here's some of the reaction to recent NZ Labour positioning, with usual caveats about single polls rather than trends. Seems even racists want to feel confident their interests will be represented competently. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/71308270/national-jumps-to-outright-majority-in-latest-roy-morgan-poll

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Nick Russell,

    190,000 since the 2015 general election according to the guardian – that was at 9 August.

    You are flat wrong.

    The polls may be wrong (YouGov has Corbyn on 57% of the Labour electorate) and the 400,000 people who have swelled the number eligible to vote in Labour’s leadership to 600,000…

    According to that same story, 160,000 people joined Labour on one day.

    I’d feel a lot more hopeful about that if you had some evidence. It sounds like wishful thinking.

    Check out this story in the Financial Times that talks about his support base:

    Meanwhile Kat Fletcher, the 35-year-old former president of the National Union of Students, has been put in charge of organising nearly 5,000 volunteers — an army far larger than anybody in the core Corbyn team expected at the outset of the campaign.

    What is happening in England right now is in some ways a replay of the Scottish independence referendum. The intervention of the English establishment politicised Scotland and while the referendum failed, the dominant establishment party – Labour – was routed and it increasingly looks like a Phyrric victory. Corbyn could easily spark a similar politicisation of England, which is why the establishment is so terrified.

    Pitching for the youth vote in this day and age is a waste of time. There are too few of them and they don’t turn out to vote.

    I would contend that no one has really tried to turn out our ’missing million”, To do that, you’d first need a leader offering real choice and real hope and secondly you’d need to convert that hope into a powerful, mass based political movement. Corbyn currently has both, no Labour party here has had anything of the sort since the early 1980s.

    To that extent you are right – New Zealand is saddled with two elite cadre parties and I don’t think Labour actually wants mass participation and the attendant risk of leftists re-capturing the machinery of candidate selection and mobilising a radical, hopeful base. So far, our suffocatingly provincial media and parochial political outlooks has permitted this to continue. But don’t bet on it lasting forever.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    The actual destruction of democracy only really happens when free voting is prevented. That might not even be needed by oligarchs controlling the system, if low participation does the job for them all by itself. But it could always leap back into action with sufficiently motivating causes. Only if the actual institution of voting is removed or subverted does the system cease to qualify as democratic.

    What the Anglosphere is heading towards is some kind of inverted totalitarianism and/or illiberal democracy, rather than traditional autocracy.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Danyl offers some relevant reckons.

    This pattern of left-wing centrists adopting ‘strategic values’ because ‘that’s what voters want’, and then getting annihilated because of total political ineptitude is becoming a depressingly familiar trend. There’s a cargo-cult mentality to it, I think. ‘Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were centrists’, the reasoning goes, ‘They moved left-wing parties to the right and they won. So to win you need to move to the right.’ So they move to the right and just sit and wait for the voters to fly in. But they never come.

    Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were very astute politicians and they figured out at the beginning of their careers, all those decades ago now, that at that moment in history the best way to win was to move their parties to the right. But what if that moment in history has passed on now, and the best way to win is . . . something else? If they were starting their careers would they repeat the same strategy even though it isn’t working? Or would they look for something new?

    I think they’d look for something new. And I don’t think it would be movement along the values spectrum. It would look, probably, like the data-driven grass-roots campaigning of Obama. But the closest we have to that in New Zealand is the National Party.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were very astute politicians...

    Blair and the Clintons have another thing in common - they both despise anyone from outside their familiar networks of vested interests as political amateurs. On the evidence of his contributions here, Rob Salmond's pretty comfy with that world view.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Similar story in the US. Enthusiasntic support for Sanders almost organising itself.
    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/bernie-sanders-rallies-2016-grassroots-support-121512.html?cmpid=sf#ixzz3jG4mIbhu
    I think both candidates are less concerned with winning the next election than with saying what they feel needs to be said, changing the conversation, addressing the elephants stomping on the furniture, shitting all over the floor and eating all the cream buns.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    Tom Semmens 1 ..... Rob Salmond 0
    (Brilliant, eloquent, hard-hitting strike by Centre-Forward, Semmens, from his own side of half-way - straight into the back of the net)

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    More to the point, democracy in the West is less likely to go down in a hail of bombs and bullets, than it is to rot slowly from within.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Mr Mark,

    Semmens is the left wing. He has rejected the position of centre forward many times.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    My reading of it is that Sanders and Corbyn are both appealing to anti-globalist sentiments - they are rejecting today's dominant ideology of globalization;

    http://mams.rmit.edu.au/es4cefpg6ifj1.pdf

    I heard Sanders mention his rejection of the military-industrial complex in the US, for example, and he supported that assertion by pointing out his No vote with respect to The Patriot Act. This is his denial of claim six of the globalist political ideology;

    Claim one: globalization is about the liberalization and global
    integration of markets

    Claim two: globalization is inevitable and irreversible
    Claim three: nobody is in charge of globalization
    Claim four: globalization benefits everyone (...in the long run)
    Claim five: globalization furthers the spread of democracy in the world
    Claim six: globalization requires a global war on terror

    I think this anti-globalist sentiment resonates with youth in part because globalism is all they have known and they can see the falsehoods in those claims (even though they have no knowledge of its specific claims as a political ideology).

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Let’s start with your proposed purpose for Labour, which I think you’ve got half right. My changes are in CAPS, and basically delete “radical” and insert “lasting:”

    The purpose of the Labour party is to be a vehicle of LASTING change, to stand for something that gives hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the exploited, and to fight with them to get elected, and when elected use that power to bloody well ram MEANINGFUL change down the throats of the neoliberals THAT THEY CAN’T EVER UNDO.

    I don’t really care how radical or not radical the change is, I care how long it lasts. Because when it lasts longer, it helps more poor, oppressed, exploited people. That’s why Working for Families is better than a UBI and high marginal taxes – it’s broadly popular enough that the right can’t afford to undo it, even when they desperately want to and win three terms in a row. That’s why public opinion matters.

    Secondly, whining that
    <q>…“pulling the centre back towards the left” is massively, massively hard…

    as a reason not to try is lily-livered defeatism. If you think it is too hard, get out of the way and find someone more interested in trying.</q>

    I’m much more interested in delivering than in trying. My assessment, which is well supported be evidence, is that the best way to deliver centre-left government is to get the centre to support it. So I choose the route that’s most likely to deliver what we all want – meaning, lasting, progressive change. My worry about the alternative jump-to-the-left plan isn;t that it's a lot of work, its that it's more likely to fail.

    And, to anticipate the retort that this strategy is obviously no good at delivering because Key's still in power, I'd suggest (1) he's been targeting the centre, too; and (2) you also look at the policy achievements of Blair, Clinton, Obama, Gillard, and Clark. (Yes, Clark made sure she was closer to the centre than the Nats were, too.)

    Neoliberal capitalism is a zombie ideology discredited everywhere except in its extreme supporters in global financial markets and the inertia of it’s colonised establishment bureaucracies.

    I’d check your facts on that one.

    All the other contenders in the UK leadership election – and most of our Labour party – are interchangable memebers of that colonised establishment, as are the Tories. That isn’t democracy, that is a one party state with a charade of choice, a charade that is increasingly being seen through with declining voter participation as people give up in disgust.

    I don’t think Andrew Little is a John Key clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Grant Robertson is a Bill English clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Jacinda Ardern is a Judith Collins clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Phil Twyford is a Nick Smith clone. Do you?

    Also, check your facts on voter turnout. It has been in steady, secular decline across the western world for the past 50 years – you really think that half-century trend all over the place is about lack of radicalism on the left? The leading scholarly explanation for that is cultural, not ideological (see Putnam’s Bowling Alone, for example).

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    Attachment

    If you think it is too hard, get out of the way and find someone more interested in trying.

    …spotted in Venice.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Check out this story in the Financial Times that talks about his support base:

    Paywalled, unfortunately. But you snipped the bit that's the evidence? I can't say I have any feel for how amazing getting 5,000 volunteers is in a country of 64 million people. That it was unexpected doesn't tell me a lot. Something like getting maybe 350 students in NZ to volunteer? 15 from each University/Polytech? I'd be surprised if there aren't 15 volunteers here in Auckland Uni just for the Green Party.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    I don’t really care how radical or not radical the change is, I care how long it lasts.

    I care how good it is. I don't want either radical or long lasting change if they're for the worse.

    That’s why Working for Families is better than a UBI and high marginal taxes – it’s broadly popular enough that the right can’t afford to undo it, even when they desperately want to and win three terms in a row.

    I'll accept that WFF scores more points on ease of acceptance. That isn't the whole story though. Counting against it is that it can't do much for the unemployed, and it doesn't level the playing field. It fundamentally gives assistance to one of the less needy groups, the middle classes. I mean yes, sure, it's a system that the political right can accept, which makes it lasting. But something can be lastingly crap. To suggest it's better to help children by giving money to working families, than to give money to all families, just because your political enemies think it's better, is not something I can buy in such an un-nuanced form.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    What is happening in England right now is in some ways a replay of the Scottish independence referendum. The intervention of the English establishment politicised Scotland and while the referendum failed, the dominant establishment party – Labour – was routed and it increasingly looks like a Phyrric victory. Corbyn could easily spark a similar politicisation of England, which is why the establishment is so terrified.

    Two points: first, the major beneficiary of the election in Scotland was not a defeat for the establishment. It was the Tory Party. Vote SNP, get Cameron. Secondly, the establishment is not terrified at the prospect of Corbyn winning the leadership. The Tories are laughing so hard they can barely stand. Go read the Telegraph or the Spectator if you don't believe me.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 129 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Which is not to say that I disagree with your main thrust here, Rob. I just don't think it's something that one can generalize about. Which is why I don't agree with Tom either. It seems to me that both strategies are always on the table. If you break the direction the Left could take into smaller components then you can move in both directions simultaneously. Towards the center on one issue, away from it on others. You can aggregate all the directions together if you want to make extremely weak generalizations that apply for short periods of time in particular places.

    Also, it's possible to move in directions that are neither toward nor away from the center, but are still highly significant. You can rotate your position around the center until you're the diametric opposite to what you started as, without ever passing through the center at all. I don't think this is a likely thing to happen, but my point is that thinking about this as a one dimensional line of movement is very, very simplistic.

    If your point really is to just say that sometimes it's OK to move toward the center for politically expedient reasons, then I totally agree. If you are saying that's what we should be doing right now, and/or for all time, then I don't see the case as particularly well proved.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Nick Russell,

    I don’t see how you work that out.
    Tories 330 – 1 in Scotland
    Labour 232 - 1 in Scotland
    SNP 56

    If Labour had done better in England, they could have chosen to bury the hatchet with the SNP and form a government, or sulk in opposition to a minority Tory government. It was failing to get English votes that lost them the election, not Scottish people voting for what they believed in.

    Taken in isolation Scotland is rather a contra example to the idea that only centre-right parties can win power. The Scots voters first threw out all their Tory MPs in the 1990s, then threw out all the Labour ones at the last election. At Holyrood, they have enacted free university education amongst other policies that the English have been told are impossible.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S, in reply to BenWilson,

    I consider WFF to be more like an employer subsidy than anything else, shifting the cost of a fair wage on to other taxpayers.
    Employers should be paying a living wage.
    A lot of research points to higher wages at the lower end creating more growth in the economy through the greater likelihood of it not being saved but spent again creating more demand and subsequent jobs.
    Far more preferable also for the worker to know he earns his own way and isn't relying on a Government top up.
    A phenomenal increase in wage growth in real and percentage terms has gone to the top end in an endless cycle of pay parity. Yet restraint is always called for at the other end of the scale.
    Why is this country importing farm workers [as one example] from third world countries other than to keep the cost of wages and production lower?
    It's an industry that prides itself on being the lowest cost producer in the world and should therefore be able to pay better.
    Instead the extra money just goes into a cycle of higher farm prices and debt for new entrants.
    The whole greed is good ethos from the eighties is still lingering and Labour has to show that it no longer subscribes to this idea which it was mesmerised by in the Lange/Douglas years when the country did have to be opened up but some of the consequences are now being realised with the cost being borne by the less well off.
    NZ went on a neolib bender from '84 and is still drinking from the same bottle.
    I won't get on to the market failure in housing or I'll get no work done at all.

    Since Apr 2010 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I think the only way Labour and the SNP will ever enter into a long-term coalition is if Labour essentially gives up in Scotland, like the Conservatives have. As long as Labour aspires to win Scottish seats in Westminster, it must fight the SNP. That's FPP for you. That doesn't mean there is no prospect of a short-term coalition, like the Conservative-LibDems just did. But it would not be harmonious - Labour would continue to try to kill the SNP even while working with it, in exactly the same way as the Tories have just done to the LibDems.

    Has it occurred to you that some people in England may have voted Tory precisely because they wanted to avoid the risk of Labour-SNP government?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 129 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    Rob "How have centre-left parties gone when they've tacked away from the centre ?.....it goes badly"
    and
    "declining centre-left fortunes when its narrative swings left.."
    and
    "the centre-ground really is where elections are won and lost"
    and
    "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 their worldview needs a rethink. "

    Very simplistic.

    And grossly inaccurate in its implications.

    Unlike you and me, Rob, the vast majority of voters don't think in any sort of coherent Left/Right terms.

    Polling in the UK suggests they want:
    (1) Economic competence and credibility
    (2) A Party close to them on key issues

    (1) Despite Jon Cruddas's highly misleading report that UK Labour lost the May Election because it was too "anti-austerity", All the polling I've seen suggests a majority of Britons oppose a continuation of austerity policies and believe the cuts in spending (both locally and nationally) have gone too far.

    Corbyn (assuming he emerges as leader and doesn't full victim to what may be a current campaign by New Labour Grandees to conduct a Soviet-style purge on his known supporters) needs to take the anti-austerity fight to the Tories, making it clear to British voters that their (majority) instincts are, indeed, correct - as Paul Krugman has said 'The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain - and most of the British media."

    (2) The problem with your argument, Rob, is that, on so many of his proposed policies, Corbyn is, in fact, entirely in tune with public opinion. He's not the one telling them "their worldview needs a rethink" !!!
    On bringing railways and energy companies into public ownership, on rent controls, on higher tax rates for the wealthy elite, on a mandatory living wage, on cuts to tuition fees, on Trident and banning nuclear weapons and on his previous opposition to the Iraq War and bombing Syria - on all of these issues, Corbyn has the majority (sometimes - as in the case of nationalising railways and the energy companies - a very large majority) of voters on his side.......and against both the Blairite and Tory Establishment.

    All of which, of course, raises questions about just how far to "the Left" Corbyn and the British public actually are. Maybe just maybe - he's occupying the centre-ground on many of the fundamental issues and our Blairite chums are off to the loony-tune Right.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    Attachment

    The political landscape if framed by the sustainability debate. Labour I would put at somewhere around the Brundtland approach (fence sitting between status quo and reform) and National in the neoliberal camp (firmly status quo). Neither (at the moment) strike me as transformative in nature..

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    Nick Russell "...he is promising to wind the clock back to Labour's 1983 manifesto, the longest suicide note in history...This seems to appeal mainly to people who were not around in 1983 and who think that the voting public secretly yearn to renationalise the railways, abandon nuclear weapons etc ...... I think the technical term for such people is 'deluded' "

    See point (2) in my comment above. You appear to be the one who's hopelessly "deluded" and living in the past. Public views have changed - in some cases, quite dramatically - since 1983, my expat Tory chum. Something you're just gonna have to come to terms with.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    Not that I'm suggesting a Corbyn-led Labour Party would win the next General Election. The moment he takes the leadership, the MSM and the bulk of the PLP will wage war on him (hell, it's already happening as we speak). But then, neither Burnham or Cooper are likely to take Labour to victory either.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Mr Mark,

    You do realise that the Conservative Party just won a general election with an absolute majority, right?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 129 posts Report Reply

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