Trotter and Edwards are wrong

by Jake Quinn

Otago University political studies lecturer Bryce Edwards writes the NZ Politics Daily. It’s a fantastic resource. Bryce does what a good blogger should do, he reviews and compiles the days ‘real’ journalism, synthesises it, presents it and offers, briefly, his learned view on it. For those of us following NZ politics from abroad it is an invaluable resource. Moreover, he collates all that material, which for political scientists studying this election is incredibly helpful.

Bryce has been accused of being too tough on Labour and the Greens. I don’t tend to agree with these accusations. Bryce is an academic, he’s sceptical of all parties and politicians generally, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps, as a commentator of the ‘left’ he is expected by some to fight their corner, he does not, this is why I respect his views especially. Today however I did disagree with his take on Chris Trotter’s latest reiteration of his diatribe against Labour and Phil Goff.

Bryce described the piece as “very thoughtful and poignant”. I say this is not really the case. Trotter has been making this exact same set of arguments for many years (perhaps most eloquently articulated by his characterising Labour’s failure in 2008 and beyond as having abandoned “Waitakere man (and his wife)” – which was, I believe, one valid and useful take on Labour’s loosing of West Auckland – the outrageous fortune vote. However, when reading Trotter’s blog today I was not convinced by it, rather I felt it was tired and much of it false.

I know many people who work bloody hard for the Labour party, good people, whose overriding political motivation is, put simply, to advance equality in all its forms; economic, social, environmental. That is fundamentally what drives the younger crop of Labour party activists now rising through the ranks, they are not managers, they’re not ivory tower academics, yes they have university educations and no they are not generally meatworkers or shearers.

Chris’s problem is that he wants the Labour party to be something no modern Labour party is, anywhere in the Anglo-Saxon world. He is bitter and has been so for a very long time. Communism isn’t cool any more, it’s not going to become cool, so get over it. Look at how well the British Labour Party is doing in the face of a very similarly styled Tory government. Labour there is well ahead of Cameron’s lot.

Why? Because people there are rather more desperate and it’s plainer to see there that the Conservatives don’t have the answers. It may come to this in NZ, but it hasn’t arrived yet. We’ve basically not grown the economy for yonks, but fortunately NZ is such a resilient place, with so much non-financial wealth and social capital (think or the things you do in your spare time in NZ that don’t involve spending money) that we can get by for much longer, and stay content for longer, on much less.

Labour in NZ, and its leader, have their failings, there are many, and Chris Trotter’s point about the Caucus having not supported Goff sufficiently (without letting him, or pushing him, to step aside) could well be valid, I do not know. What I am sure of is that blaming Labour people for having abandoned the working and middle class, which Trotter does, is just false. They may have abandoned Labour, but Labour hasn’t abandoned them.