The Dim-Post

April 29, 2010

She’s just a sort of bigoted woman who says she used to be Labour

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:55 am

Gordon Brown’s gaffe after speaking to a former (now very much so) Labour supporter is all over the UK news; the whole interview is interesting, illustrating how traditional working class voters who historically voted Labour are now motivated by identity politics, not class politics. They may support left-wing economic policies, but culturally they have nothing in common with Labour and everything in common with the Conservatives: fear of youth and immigrants, hatred of beneficiaries etc; they’re on low incomes and no longer unionised, they have many views that Labour MPs find repulsive.

Obviously the same pattern repeats itself in New Zealand: Ministers like Collins and Bennett are an especially powerful tool for National in capturing what used to be the working class. Labour has no one that can even speak to this demographic. I think Goff’s counting on a resurgent Winston Peters to win many of these voters back in 2011.

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42 Comments »

  1. Jesus that’s depressing. The hilarity of Brown’s gaffe aside, you’re suggesting that the politics of fear and division are so effective that low income workers will actually vote for people who will actively work against their best interests as long as they pledge to punish people worse off than them even more harshly? Fantastic!

    Comment by Guy Smiley — April 29, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  2. Guy – the Republican party has made electoral hay with that strategy for the last 30 years. Who cares if you have enough to eat if you keep out teh darkies and be mean to teh gayz?

    On a related point, I genuinely think that a libdem (or Canadian Liberal party) style economically centrist, socially liberal party would do well in New Zealand these days.

    Comment by Eddie C — April 29, 2010 @ 7:39 am

  3. Dog whistling goes a long way.

    Comment by Dav — April 29, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  4. I think Chris Trotter has been making a similar for yonks now, and getting excoriated by the People’s Republic of Grey Lynn for his troubles. I was mulling over the dismal Bill English’s declaration of war on free child care and I realised that for all the criticism of Labour not absorbing the lessons of their defeat the same could be said of Mr. English in spades; He clearly hasn’t learnt a thing from being part of the loathed Shipley government and he clearly hasn’t learnt a jot from leading National to its worst ever electoral result. His May budget will be an exercise in small minded Shipleyism. I think that for the last several months things have been trending nicely for Labour.

    But having said that, if Labour were to lose in 2011 I’ve been listening a bit to Shane Jones – he has some robustly put views that appeal to Waitakere man and he can say things that might upset Public Address man but as a Maori they won’t be able to immediately dismiss him a racist/dangerous populist or whatever elitist criticism they like to use to get the servant class of their front porch.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 29, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  5. Going back to apologise in person was another catastrophic move. Ensuring the media hysteria was moved up a gear. The clunking fist is finished. Watching Harperson and two jags try and excuse the idiot is comedy gold. Two jags especially. “A plot by the murdoch media” Twat.

    The parallels to here are amazing. Nothing in common with everyday kiwis. Shane Jones and Winston Peters to Save Labour?
    Pffft. The two of them have more skeletons rattling around than Highgate cemetery. Anybody pinnning their hopes on Peters coming to save the party workers party is deluded, he is too old and too tainted to help now.
    he is carving himself a niche as an oddity to be wheeled out whenever a juicy soundbite is needed. Like a telegenic version of uncle fester (mike moore).

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — April 29, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  6. Are you drunk Barnsley? If so, nice.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — April 29, 2010 @ 8:21 am

  7. Sanctuary:

    Chris Trotter has been “excoriated by the People’s Republic of Grey Lynn” for charmingly dick moves like comparing critics of Winston Peters to pack rapists and racist lynch mobs, chiding uppity women for being fake feminists with false consciousness and… oh, I just don’t give a shit about his cranky class war ballocks any more.

    But back on topic, if “bigoted” is Brown’s code for “anyone who asks me unpleasant questions in a public place” he deserves to lose. Perhaps I’ve not heard all of the exchange, but “grumpy” and “somewhat incoherent” are the strongest words I’d apply to the woman.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — April 29, 2010 @ 8:27 am

  8. I think as soon as she said the word ‘immigrant’ Brown’s bigot detector went off.

    Trotter wants to turn back the clock to a 1950s Labour movement run by fat white men in cloth caps. Probably not a goer.

    Comment by danylmc — April 29, 2010 @ 8:33 am

  9. Surely comments #7 and #8 are satirical confirmations of the Gordon Brown syndrome….?

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 29, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  10. I’m trying to work out why he was wearing a lapel mic.

    Comment by Neil — April 29, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  11. Neil:

    Because without them, the pearls of wit and wisdom from Messers Brown, Cameron and Clegg would be lost to posterity in the ambient din. Strange but true.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — April 29, 2010 @ 8:58 am

  12. Sanctuary:

    Difference is that Dimpost commenters aren’t in the middle of an election campaign. And I’m confused by the sneery “Public address man” stuff… I’m a left wing person who happens to be gay and I’m supposed to applaud a strategy by which the only credible (although labour’s credibility is current an open issue) left wing party in NZ returns to a 1950s ideal of what the working class want and need? Regardless of whether its a vote-winner, I’d be stupid to support that.

    Comment by Eddie C — April 29, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  13. I don’t see what the problem is if you look at the electoral data.

    NZ Labour still holds almost all its working class suburbs (South Auckland, most of West Auckland, Porirua, Eastern Hutt, Christchurch East). With regards to Waitakere (Bennett’s electorate) this has swung to National in its various forms over past changes to National Government (1975 as Waitemata, 1990 as Te Atatu).

    Labour still has a strong brand with working people – it just needs to reconnect with swinging voters again.(youngish working families etc). How it does that? It’s time and events which change these things.

    Needing someone who can talk to Wiatakere Man? I don’t think he and Helen Clark had any natural rapport yet she took his votes for 3 terms (and maybe 1996).

    I think it’s crazy to expect Labour to make serious dents when a one term government hasn’t yet happened in the modern (post 1975) Westminster world (Australia, NZ, UK, Canada).

    Comment by nfpsheppard — April 29, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  14. Those damn social liberal policies pursued by Clark’s out-of-touch Labour Party.

    So out-of-touch, that National couldn’t get elected until they decided to keep them all. And despite poll ratings most governments would kill for, they still haven’t reversed a single one. Whatever happened to their Political Correctness Eradicator? Oh, I remember – it was the very first thing Key got rid of. Wonder why?

    Wasn’t “Waitakere Man” supposed to be livid about not being allowed to smoke in pubs, just 5 years ago? He’ll be marching on Parliament this morning, then. Or not.

    But then, commentators like Trotter just need to fill a column. Stereotypes will suffice. Evidence is for wimps.

    Comment by sammy — April 29, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  15. On a related point, I genuinely think that a libdem (or Canadian Liberal party) style economically centrist, socially liberal party would do well in New Zealand these days.
    Well I’d certainly support it. But I have the sinking feeling that while you and I like to think it would do well it would actually bomb and show how few people really think that way. And then I’d be sad.

    Comment by garethw — April 29, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  16. Brand? I’m one of these naive old whoopsies who thinks government is slightly different from pimping washing powder. Then again, I’m apparently wrong in my belief that “working class” doesn’t equal “fag-baiting racist who mourns the day the bitches were ever unchained from the oven”, so what do I know?

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — April 29, 2010 @ 11:34 am

  17. I’ve been listening a bit to Shane Jones – he has some robustly put views that appeal to Waitakere man and he can say things that might upset Public Address man </i?

    It gets a bit dull being used as a proxy for someone else's strawman, but go ahead …

    FWIW, I've got a lot of time for Shane Jones — he has the intellectual grunt to be party leader and PM, needs to work on his discipline, etc — but I think Trotter is almost always wrong about the Labour Party. He still seems to be fighting the same old war against identity politics, over and over and over. To most people it's dull and irrelevant.

    Comment by Russell Brown — April 29, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  18. Bollocks – munged my tag there. Try again …

    I’ve been listening a bit to Shane Jones – he has some robustly put views that appeal to Waitakere man and he can say things that might upset Public Address man

    It gets a bit dull being used as a proxy for someone else’s strawman, but go ahead …

    FWIW, I’ve got a lot of time for Shane Jones — he has the intellectual grunt to be party leader and PM, needs to work on his discipline, etc — but I think Trotter is almost always wrong about the Labour Party. He still seems to be fighting the same old war against identity politics, over and over and over. To most people it’s dull and irrelevant.

    Comment by Russell Brown — April 29, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  19. Because without them…

    I think they might have been the victim of their own over-management. It’s not normal in those situations for news crews to use radio lapel mics. Labour must have arranged especially for one of the crews to use one to get the best sound quality in some set-up meeting people.

    But when the unexpected turned up they all got flustered and no-moved fast enough to retrieve the mic.

    Comment by Neil — April 29, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  20. “…culturally they have nothing in common with Labour and everything in common with the Conservatives: fear of youth and immigrants…”

    From the UK Labour policy page titled, ahem, “Crime, Justice and Immigration”:

    “We are delivering the biggest changes to our immigration, citizenship and border security systems for decades – we are bringing in a new Australian-style points-based immigration system which allows us to be more selective so that only those with the skills that we need to build a stronger economy can come here, and to ensure that as growth returns, we will see rising levels of employment, skills and wages not more immigration. We have brought in 100 per cent biometric visas, are rolling out ID cards for foreign nationals with 170,000 already issued, and electronic border controls will count people in and out of the country by the end of 2010.”

    subtext of Brown’s outburst: “we’ve pandering to you people so much, locking up foreigners without charges, taking DNA samples from people who’ve never committed a crime, and this is the thanks we get?”

    Comment by bradluen — April 29, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  21. What nfpsheppard said. I’m open to correction but my understanding is that those from lower income groups who vote still tend to vote left in NZ. Quite possibly a bigger issue is simply low turnouts from people in those groups – which is where the organised labour thing might be important.

    Comment by terence — April 29, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  22. Stairway to Re-election

    The Trevor Mallard “I’m indigenous” and the John Tamihere “I’m a bloke” speeches have been dubbed as Labour’s bid to reconnect with its old blue collar voting base.
    It has escaped the notice of many political commentators that most blue collar jobs went to China the best part of a decade ago. More accurately, this group should be called the black tee-shirt vote. Mostly male, in their thirties, skilled in something practical such as auto electronics or another technical job. He’ll have a mortgage, so he doesn’t like high interest rates; his other half will be working, and he probably has a kid or two. He’s instinctively conservative in that he doesn’t like change, he probably wants to run his own business one day, and he doesn’t like free loaders or showboaters.
    He probably listens to Led Zeppelin. And he may be the key to the next election.
    That’s because, although he puts a lot of emphasis on fairness, he doesn’t much like political correctness. He feels patronised by the tone of the well-to-do, well-off elect of the PC brigade, and marginalised by their policies in practice.
    But he doesn’t have a whole lotta love for Don Brash either. Impressed he may be by Brash’s leadership qualities, he suspects Brash is really on the side of the very well off. This voter doesn’t much like that.
    Winston Peters has played his version of the Immigrant Song to this group; with some success. And the next election will see the Battle for Evermore over this key part of the vote.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  23. Damn. Finger trouble.

    The last ocmemnt was meant to be in quites…its from a piece I did for TransTasman in August 2004. It was a little stereotypical but no more so than ‘Waitakere Man’.

    Of course since that time several other policies emerged to attract that segement of the vote, the most important being Working for Families.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  24. Shite. “comment”, not ocmemnt; meant to be in “quotes”, not quites. Whatever quites are.

    Three nights with 4 hours selep. Yoy can tell, rihgt???

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  25. Uncanny how similar Trotter’s Waitakere Man hypothesis is to yours. I love the way Labour keep sneering about ‘slippery John Key’, the evil capitalist class traitor, on the assumption that this will win over lower income workers like this: Key is basically the embodiment of all their dreams and aspirations for themselves or their kids.

    Comment by danylmc — April 29, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

  26. Yeah…only mine was four years earlier. He though picked up on the regional importance of Auckland, which, although it can be over-stated, is pretty crucial.

    I just picked it up from talking to people I’d known at school.

    I do enjoy Trotter’s stuff. Even when he’s being utterly wrongheaded (and I often find myself muttering “uh, this isn’t 1927. Or Merseyside”) he’s still worth a look, though perhaps not for insight into what’s wrong with Labour.

    If you want that, read the Standard. They **embody** what’s wrong with Labour,

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  27. I wouldn’t mind knowing what the Greens have taken from Labour’s treatment of the Maori Party. It would be ironic if Labour got to be the last cab off the rank.

    Comment by Neil — April 29, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  28. “Waitakere Man” as described is important to winning elections. However I think some of the observations regarding him aren’t quite there.

    (1) He is not exclusively from the outer suburbs, Labour still holds these seats and wins the party vote in them. He (and the missus) are in the provincial towns – see New Plymouth, Whanganui, Napier, Hamilton, Aorkai (Timaru), Invercargill – all seats that Labour lost in 2005 or 2008 along with the party vote.

    (2) He was always a swinging voter, think of Rob’s Mob in the late 1970s (or Howard’s battlers in Australia) – the provinces have always been the key to winning elections in NZ – no paty has won government without a win here.

    The trade-offs in his voting decision as Rob described are those of a swinging voter. Let’s not get confused and think that Labour’s losing its working class base – it’s not.

    Comment by nfpsheppard — April 29, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  29. Labour’s supposed working class base will get severely tested if National manage to get Inga and/or Michael Jones to stand for them.

    Comment by Pat — April 29, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  30. Let me see, John Key is more Labour than Labour and the world is therefore ending??

    Comment by Berend de Boer — April 29, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  31. (and I often find myself muttering “uh, this isn’t 1927. Or Merseyside”)

    Rob Hosking

    I’m from Merseyside, and can safely say that it’s nothing like 1927. Not even 1927 on Merseyside.

    And not even like any Tory fantasy that makes-believe that every part of the North West is riddled with Stasi-like union officials standing on every street corner, seeking out Thatcherisms wherever they may rear their ugly heads and squashing them down with the Might of the People.

    Comment by dontsurf — April 29, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  32. Let’s face it, at another time Key and Goff would be happily sitting together at the front of the same bus.

    Comment by Pat — April 29, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  33. @don’t surf: I meant Merseyside in 1927. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  34. Well, Rob, let’s get a few other things straight while we’re here – first, Merseyside didn’t exist in 1927. Merseyside was created in 1947 out of the southern part of Lancashire and the north western part of Cheshire that extended up the Wirral peninsula.

    Secondly, Merseyside in the 1920s – or indeed, pre-war – was an industrial capital, but it wasn’t particularly marked by union activity because it wasn’t a mining area and it wasn’t an area of great technological advancement. The working class population of Liverpool at that time – and remembering that it was a great mercantile city – was largely unskilled and transient and not the kind of people that were wont to join unions. Generally, the population was made up of richer merchants, poorer dockworkers and the transient seafarers. It was very similar to New York at that time – a place of mass unemployment and growing slums, poverty and disease.

    The unionisation of the city you’re looking for emerged post-war, after Liverpool sealed its reputation as a manufacturing city and vital port during the war.

    In the UK in general, it wasn’t until the 1930s and the second Labour government that unions finally started to receive legislative recognition. During the post-war Labour years, unionisation really took hold in Britain, but Liverpool wasn’t anything particularly special out of the northern towns – they all have their Labour histories, which is why they still vote Labour.

    Ordinary people don’t really pay much attention to politics, let alone changes that take place within the party structure. I doubt many Labour voters could tell you what Clause IV was, and why its removal was so important to Tony Blair.

    Comment by dontsurf — April 29, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  35. Good to know.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — April 29, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  36. Are those Beetles fullahs still running that mersey ferry?

    Comment by insider — April 29, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  37. Returning to the theme of the lapel mic, it belonged to Sky News. Their technicians heard the comments immediately and they fed them to their journos at the scene who were able to relay them to Gillian Duffy before Brown’s limousine had even left the street.

    Danyl @ point 8 is probably right – in a wide-ranging discussion that on balance Brown seemed to acquit himself fairly well in, Duffy mentioned Eastern European immigration once as a concern, and this set off Brown’s ‘bigot radar’. By far the majority of her concerns were about specifics of social services and the economy, and Brown managed to answer her queries pretty well. (Today’s print edition of the Independent has a full transcript).

    The Independent also has this pertinent comment from Andy McSmith:

    ‘Characters in Armando Iannucci’s farce In The Thick of It live in constant fear that the mass media will catch them out – a fear that so dominates their lives that it induces irrational behaviour and causes them to bring about the very disaster they are striving to avoid’

    Comment by Ethan Tucker — April 29, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

  38. Eeeee, Rob, that’ll teach yon to mention Merseyside round ‘ere.

    *runs and hides*

    Comment by Helenalex — April 30, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  39. Having seen parts of the final debate this morning, it occurs to me that David Cameron would make a damn fine Leader for the Labour Party here. If the result doesn’t go his way on Thursday, maybe we can get him to come over for an OE?

    Comment by Phil — April 30, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  40. Bradluen @ 20, I’ve made the corrections to that piece:
    “We are delivering the biggest changes to our immigration, citizenship and border security systems for decades [although it will not apply to Eastern Europeans, indeed nor to ANY citizen of the European Union]– we are bringing in a new Australian-style points-based immigration system which allows us to be more selective so that only those [non-Europeans] with the skills that we need to build a stronger economy can come here, and to ensure that as growth returns, we will see rising levels of employment, skills and wages not more [non-European] immigration. We have brought in 100 per cent biometric visas [a breakthrough unique only to all first-world and developing nations as well as a large number of third world countries, too], are rolling out ID cards for [non-European and non-Commonwealth] foreign nationals with 170,000 already issued, and electronic border controls will count people in and out of the country by the end of 2010 [subject to challenge in the European Courts].”

    Ethan Tucker @ 37 says “the majority of her concerns were about specifics of… the economy, and Brown managed to answer her queries pretty well.”
    She asked him what he was doing about debt. He replied that he had a 4-year plan to “halve the deficit”. So that is another 4 years of deficits adding to the current debt. That’s not an answer, that’s spin that relies on (an understandable) ignorance of the definitions used in economic s.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — April 30, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  41. Surely comments #7 and #8 are satirical confirmations of the Gordon Brown syndrome….?

    The bit about flat caps was probably satirical. Apart from that, it’s really hard to take the piss out of Christopher Bargearse Trotter, as he’s pretty much done it for you.

    Comment by joe W — April 30, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  42. Personally, I think Molesworth is offering the most insightful view of the UK campaign.

    On the final UK leaders debate:

    CLEGG also want govt to come clene on the dimensions of the BLACK HOLE. it hav 1 dimension it is a singularite as any fule kno

    He’s at:

    http://twitter.com/reelmolesworth

    Comment by Richard C. — May 3, 2010 @ 9:41 am


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