The Dim-Post

December 2, 2011

Calvinball

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:13 pm

It’s easy to over-state the degree of factionalism and related tokenism in the Labour Party. After all, National has its own factions: rural, Auckland business community, classical liberals etc, and they have to be accommodated during re-shuffles and list design. The difference is that many of Labour’s factions relate to identity politics. So people who think it’s natural to have, say, farmers well represented in a National caucus will also consider it completely absurd to see Pacifica or gay or Maori MPs promoted to represent those groups in a Labour caucus. But it’s the same thing.

26 Comments »

  1. Naturally however Labour does *seem* to have more factionalism and to the public it’s real which is what counts.

    Comment by merv — December 2, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  2. what does this have to do with Calvinball?

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 2, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  3. Maybe it’s easier to retain factional coherence when the guiding principle of you party is ‘money’?

    Comment by Gregor W — December 2, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  4. Did you just call farmers gay Pacifica Maori’s? Nicely done. They’ll love that.

    Comment by Jimmy — December 2, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  5. So people who think it’s natural to have, say, farmers well represented in a National caucus will also consider it completely absurd to see Pacifica or gay or Maori MPs promoted to represent those groups in a Labour caucus.

    Not to mention unions. What’s up with that?

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — December 2, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  6. “Other kids’ games are all such a bore!
    They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
    Calvinball is better by far!
    It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre!
    You don’t need a team or a referee!
    You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me!”

    “feel free to harmonize with Hobbes on the Rumma-Tum-Tums”.

    Comment by WH — December 2, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  7. There is another difference.

    The identity politics elements on the left tend to be absolutists – an attitude summarised today by I/S here – http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2011/12/getting-ugly.html – “…This time, we have a all-out smackdown between Labour’s progressive elements and its bigots…” And I saw one poster the other day on publicaddress accusing anyone who said the public were sick of unrepresentative identity politics taking front and centre in Labour of wanting to throw “…women, maori, and homos out, (so) we’d do so much better line”.

    The uncompromising absolutism of the language makes it crystal clear – anyone who suggests some things just now might be more important than race and gender issues isn’t just someone with another point of view in need of persuasion. they are thought criminals, bigots in need of purging or a period of reeducation followed by the abasement of self-criticism.

    It is an absurdly Manichaean world view, to my mind grounded in the baby boomer generations obsession with themselves and their personal as being the most dominant thing in the entire world. “Yes, yes, I know about child poverty and it is terrible but that doesn’t hold a candle to my struggle with being accepted as a gay firefighter, and don’t you DARE ever forget that!!!”

    Farmers and Auckland businessmen might be factions, but farmers don’t think shoring up support amongst Auckland businessmen constitutes a betrayal and rejection of farmers as a group.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 2, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  8. Yeah, but supporting Auckland businessmen doesn’t involve actively blocking the interests of farmers, nor would it involve continuing to deny farmers’ human rights.

    In principle I support calls for Labour to get back to its roots in economy and class, but these often seem to be accompanied by telling people that their rights aren’t important just now, which is never going to be acceptable. I feel some treat this as a zero sum game where either we can advance one set of policies or the other but not both, and I don’t see why this has to be so.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — December 2, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  9. Farmers and Auckland businessmen might be factions, but farmers don’t think shoring up support amongst Auckland businessmen constitutes a betrayal and rejection of farmers as a group.

    No. But white middle-aged guys seem to regard any attention paid to anyone other than them in exactly that way.

    And to point out the obvious, women are 51% of the population, Maori 15%. When Labour had a lock on the women’s vote, under Clark, it was electorally successful. The loss of that vote is a big part of their current decline. And they’re not going to get it back by pandering to misogynist creps like John “frontbums” Tamihere.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — December 2, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  10. “And they’re not going to get it back by pandering to misogynist creps like John “frontbums” Tamihere.”

    I think you just proved Sanc’s point for him.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  11. Stephen and I/S – Everyone’s rights are important, but I make no apology for thinking the right of 200,000 children to not grow up in poverty somewhat trumps gay marriage right now, and if the electoral choice is getting those 200,000 kids out of poverty or gay marriage then to my mind it is no contest. gay marriage has to get a ticket and wait it’s turn to be called.

    I think a good start all round though might be for those identity politics factions out there to dial back the language they use. If everytime a farmer criticised business the response from business was “those slope-head sister fuckers had better come round to our point of view 100% before I’ll think about letting them crawl back into my office to whimper their apology” I think the National party might just be that little bit more bitter in it’s infighting as well.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 2, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  12. The difference is that many of Labour’s factions relate to identity politics.

    Yeah, but that doesn’t explain how the odd couple of Grant Robertson* and Damien O’Connor have (apparently) become Team Shearer’s key lieutenants. Seems the main factional divide is between “hate Cunliffe” and “can tolerate Cunliffe”.

    *yes, I know Robertson is only on board until he can get the numbers for himself.

    Comment by bradluen — December 2, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  13. I’m all for hard-headed electoral paragmatism. No votes, no power, no point.

    Let’s check out the record …

    Helen Clark – 3 election wins.

    Shane Jones, John Tamihere – lost to Pita Sharples.

    Conclusion: voters are less concerned with the candidate’s red-blooded blue-collar dick, more with the fact that said candidate happens to be a dickhead.

    So Grant Robertson has a future, Shane Jones doesn’t. And factions have fuck all to do with it.

    Comment by sammy — December 2, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  14. @Sanctuary: where you may be running into trouble is framing this as being about “there are more of X, so X trumps Y!”

    That’s precisely the problem. If, even with a paltry 30-odd MPs, Labour cannot concentrate simultaneously on the pay gap, child poverty, worker’s rights and say another half-dozen key issues (many of which have similar root causes and similar solutions, e.g. visibility of people’s salaries to identify discrimination/shitty allocation of resources at the top), then I’m not surprised I don’t vote for them.

    No one’s saying “if you can’t pass gay marriage laws on day 1 then you shouldn’t be in government”. But people *are* saying “we can’t pass gay marriage, or even talk about doing so, because the Damien O’Connors of the world think that anything that doesn’t directly benefit them is part of a feminazi conspiracy and then they won’t vote for us!!!”

    Comment by QoT — December 2, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  15. nah, sanctuary is right, the Labour factions need to get over themselves and get with the program and the program is team shearer.

    Comment by merv — December 2, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  16. Sanctuary, why do you frame this as a case of the ‘progressive’ elements being hostile to the less progressive elements? The article you linked to does not back that up, and nor do other examples I have seen. What the article you linked to shows is hostility in the other direction.

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 2, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  17. It’s clear that Labour didn’t prioritise social liberal issues during the last term, and it’s clear this is one of the reasons they lost middle-class votes to the Greens. So one question Labour needs to ask itself before choosing a leader: to what extent do they care? In terms of forming a government, losing votes to the Greens is only a fraction as bad as losing votes to the Nats, or even to Winston. If Labour decides it’s enough to be the largest party on the left, and not to dominate their side of the spectrum, they might continue to downplay social issues and work on a broadly appealing economic policy. Then in 2014 they’d be aiming for something like NAT 40, LAB 35, GRE 15 and a red-green coalition government, and leave the heavy lifting on social issues to Green member’s bills.

    Or Labour might decide they still want to dominate the left (or, perish the thought, stand up for social liberalism because they believe in it). That means signalling a change to voters lost to the Greens. Damien O’Connor on the front bench would probably not be the correct signal.

    Comment by bradluen — December 2, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

  18. (Looking at the data, above should have said “it’s clear this is one of the reasons they lost middle-class *and Maori* votes to the Greens”. One under-reported story is that the Greens suddenly have a respectable support base in the Maori electorates now.)

    Comment by bradluen — December 2, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  19. Really Brad? That’s interesting, because I’ve always felt that the Greens have the most generous policy towards the Treaty of any non-explicitly Maori party, and are not rewarded for it… I guess it makes a lot of sense that Maori would eventually pick up on that even if it is still puzzling to wonder why they took so long.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  20. @Brad & Hugh:

    Metiria Turei?

    Comment by Jarvis Pink — December 2, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  21. My quick count of the party votes for the Greens in the Maori electorates:

    2008: 5401 votes, 3.9%
    2011 before specials: 11246 votes, 10.2%

    So they’ve gone from doing quite a bit worse in the Maori than the general to about the same.

    Comment by bradluen — December 2, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

  22. I wonder if the appointment of Metiria Turei as leader is significant.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

  23. I believe identity issues came to trump class issues in the Labour Party to such a degree that the social liberals accommodated the neo-liberals and socialism lost out.

    The Clark government did very little to ‘close the gaps’ between the poorest decile of people and everyone else, and the gap between them and everyone else continued to grow throughout their term. The election policy to extend WFF to beneficiaries is an admission of this failure.

    Sure, Treaty issues, gay rights, etc., are very important, but they became more important than class. The Labour Party went from being a social democratic party to being a modern liberal party that would barely tolerate the presence of social conservatives.

    It is not a zero sum game and it shouldn’t be made one, but class (and therefore increasing economic equality) needs to be the animating and guiding focus of a truly social democratic party over and above identity issues. Everyone, even the rich, benefits from more economic equality: Maori benefit, gays benefit, women benefit, men benefit, children benefit; everyone benefits.

    Without the goal of increasing economic equality to unite the Labour Party, is there any wonder that outside perceptions are that the party stands for various different narrow sectional interests against others? If the lot of the poor and working class had steadily been improved under the last Labour government, would there be such bitter resentment (however unfair) towards other groups of people who they perceived to have been the beneficiaries of special treatment (however justified that treatment may be)? If the lot of the poor and working class had been improved through growing economic equality (and the accompanying empowerment), would young low-wage workers have stayed away from the polls in their droves instead of voting a Tory government out?

    Comment by PGM — December 3, 2011 @ 12:28 am

  24. “and leave the heavy lifting on social issues to Green member’s bills.”
    But then is there a risk that “bigoted blue colar” labour supporters get a bit piss at the attention that rainbow issues get, and shift to NZF &/or Nat?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 3, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  25. Hugh: It seems like solid evidence that identity politics can win you votes, if you’re not too explicit about it. Also helped that she was pushing an anti-child poverty policy, which was pro-Maori inasmuch as child poverty is disproportionately Maori. Yet anyone who accused her of playing identity politics on that issue would have looked like the ultimate douchebag.

    Fist: Sure, there’s a risk — that’s what happened in 2008. I don’t think it’s much of an immediate risk. Hard to see socially liberal bills becoming wedges in this Parliament: there aren’t the numbers to pass them, and there’s no obvious replacement for Sue Bradford as someone to force the issue. National will no doubt introduce more mildly authoritarian legislation (under urgency of course). Labour can support it or not, but to the extent that there are votes in play, they’re the government’s to win or lose (the precedent again being Section 59, where National voted yes *and* benefitted from the backlash). If/when there’s a Labour/Green government, then the balancing act becomes much harder, but that should really be a tiny issue for all the Davids at this point.

    Comment by bradluen — December 3, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  26. Bradluen wrote: “Hard to see socially liberal bills becoming wedges in this Parliament: there aren’t the numbers to pass them, and there’s no obvious replacement for Sue Bradford as someone to force the issue.”

    I reckon the MP most likely to push such bills is Jan Logie. She’s a new Green MP, and she did her apprenticeship as Sue Bradford’s EA (by which I mean, she took a pay cut and status cut to work as Bradford’s EA in the 2005-2008 parliament, specifically because she wanted to learn from her).

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 4, 2011 @ 5:09 pm


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