The Dim-Post

May 15, 2014

Winning

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:12 pm

Lew has a post up at KiwiPolitico describing this budget as a failure for Labour due to their poor political positioning which is, I think, totally the wrong conclusion to draw here. Lew writes:

When your enemies move to occupy your ideological ground, it is an opportunity to extend that ground, replacing what they claim from you with more advantageous ground deeper within your ideological territory. The trouble for Labour is that National has moved towards them, and Labour are still trying to fight them for the same ground rather than staking out more ground of their own. Six years after the “Labour lite” campaign that saw them ousted in the first place, they haven’t learned.

Back in 2011 National campaigned on asset sales. This year they’ll be running on the extension of paid parental leave and free GP visits for kids. Trust me, the majority of National MPs and activists do NOT want to be introducing those policies. I suspect that’s why Key is floating the vague notion of tax cuts at some distant future date – to placate parts of his base, who will be livid about all this communism and wealth transfer and additional welfare dependency.

This is what an election year budget looks like when the opposition is winning the ideological debate. What are National’s big ideas for their third term? There aren’t any. There isn’t anything to address the housing bubble in this budget so there might be a ‘big idea’ campaign policy around that but I doubt it’ll be a free market solution. Whatever they come up with is probably going to look like a watered-down Labour or Green policy.

People like to say Labour’s problem is ideological – partly, I think, because that’s something that can be fixed pretty easily. I think Labour’s problem is managerial. They don’t perform well as an organisation and that’s going to be really hard to fix (although I think it’s getting better. During the Goff/Shearer years Labour struggled to get into news stories when they broke. Goff never wanted to comment and Shearer’s comments never made any sense. At least Cunliffe has a presence).

I have this theory that Key’s great skill as a leader is that he’s very good at managing his team. Running a high-performance organisation is what earned him $50 million at Merrill-Lynch, after all. Journalists and pundits don’t really rate management as a leadership quality since they work in newsrooms – institutions which are legendary for their lack of competent management – so they attribute Key’s success to various magical qualities: his vision, wealth-creation abilities, connection with middle-New Zealand. But ‘ordinary people’ understand that good management is important and they vote for it.

So no, Labour aren’t winning in the sense that they’re convincing people to put them into government – but they’re winning the ideological battle. The government are implementing their policies because they’re afraid they’ll lose the election if they don’t.

24 Comments »

  1. Thank GOD you’ve finally returned to satire. This is the funniest post you’ve produced in months! “…the opposition is winning the ideological debate.” Gold.

    Comment by Andy M — May 15, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

  2. Seriously tho, could you please cite these “National MP’s and activists” who are opposed to the extn of paid parental leave, etc? Otherwise, the cynics among your readership (not me though, obv) might think this is just a total bullshit strawman. I mean, your social & professional circle is probably bursting at the seams with right-wingers who are all “LULZ JOHN KEY IS A COMMUNIST” amirite?

    Comment by Andy M — May 15, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

  3. I agree.

    National know that 2-3% is all that is in it. And they know that a lot of their support is soft, and vulnerable to appeals to family, self-interest (of the kind that a cutting Government is never able to deliver), and will dissolve if they continue to be painted as a party of the donors.

    This is not the budget National wanted and is their most defensive yet. It has careful elements of selective generosity designed to appeal to groups of supporters they are weak among. They won by staunching their persistent lack of support among women, and they will lose if it emerges again. While there is plenty of cutting by allowing population growth and inflation to decrease real spending, there are no concentrated cuts – and thus no large targets for the opposition, and nothing to enrage any population group. They can’t afford volatility like that in an election year.

    The large package of roading debt they’ve announced for Auckland seems to be among the misfires, and comes across as deaf when compared to the actual need and stated preferences of Aucklanders. Housing and Christchurch are the two other largely neglected areas in this budget which leave them at risk, and which the opposition will continue to come down hard on.

    Comment by George — May 15, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

  4. Seriously tho, could you please cite these “National MP’s and activists” who are opposed to the extn of paid parental leave, etc?

    https://twitter.com/JordanMcCluskey/status/466828825427312640

    Comment by George — May 15, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

  5. “these “National MP’s and activists” who are opposed to the extn of paid parental leave …”

    – would be the ones who voted against it even coming out of a select committee. Until they were told to change their minds, presumably.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — May 15, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

  6. One Young Nat, not even born when Muldoon was PM, disapproves. I withdraw and apologise. *eyeroll*

    Comment by Andy M — May 15, 2014 @ 8:37 pm

  7. If poorly targetted universal spending is Labours ideological territory then I guess you are right. I don’t really see why middle class welfare is left wing policy though. It is populist, lazy policy.

    Comment by Swan — May 15, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

  8. @Swan: Because neoliberalism has become the consensus to the degree that advocating for the working class against the middle class is seen as illegitimate.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 15, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

  9. Because neoliberalism has become the consensus to the degree that advocating for the working class against the middle class is seen as illegitimate.

    Nah, cause the best way to make something stick is to make it near universal (see WFF, super, education, etc.) and the “middle class” have the basics covered and a little discretionary spending, but not that much.

    Comment by George — May 15, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  10. ” and the “middle class” have the basics covered and a little discretionary spending, but not that much.”

    Do you think this stuff is coming out of thin air? The point is – they are paying for their own welfare. It’s paternalistic, regressive, and inefficient.

    I was talking to my wife about free doctors visits. She was saying how the general philosophy in her group of mothers is: you might as well just go hit up the doc even if you are at all unsure, because it’s free! If a middle class worrier mum isn’t prepared to spent $50 to take their kid to the doc, but will do if it is free, you can be assured this is low value government spending.

    Comment by Swan — May 15, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

  11. Actually Andy the Taxpayers Union aren’t very happy with this budget, and I think we can all agree they are a National proxy organisation.

    Comment by Alex Braae — May 15, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

  12. If a middle class worrier mum isn’t prepared to spent $50 to take their kid to the doc, but will do if it is free, you can be assured this is low value government spending.

    Or perhaps it indicates that $50 is quite a bit of money to spend on a maybe? Especially if they have more than one kid (Which means it could easily be $150 in a week if they all catch it), and it’s probably nothing (but maybe it isn’t). Most of the poverty related diseases in New Zealand are either a result of poverty directly, or things that escalate because they can’t afford the initial treatment. Having a healthy population means being able to have the Dr take a quick look even if it’s probably nothing, rather than only going to the doctor when you’re absolutely, absolutely sure you’re dying.

    Comment by Flynn — May 15, 2014 @ 10:19 pm

  13. My argument isn’t that National is winning the ideological battle — it’s that they’re winning, and when you’re winning, ideological purity doesn’t matter that much. I still sort of do think Labour’s problem is managerial — my default position has been that it’s reasonably sane for them to run on a sensible-but-not-so-evil platform, if only they could do it. The data is in: they can’t. So maybe they should do something else. I’m not much more optimistic about that, to be honest, but something’s gotta give.

    First and foremost, National’s activists want to win.* If nothing else, losing is opportunity cost: if Labour and the Greens get in, the gig is up, so modest increases in spending to look after mums and kids is winning pretty cheap.

    Strategically, if the Nats win the election and Cunlffe is rolled by Robertson, they’ve done for three leaders and Shane Jones in six years, and after that the bench is extremely thin. Heading into better economic times, with an even-weaker opposition which still doesn;t know what it believes, the Greens ascendant, probably ACT and possibly the Conservatives around for support, things only look like getting easier for Key.

    L

    * The Taxpayer’s Union aside. They would be happy enough if the Labour/Greens won because they reckon it will give them enormous relevance.

    Comment by Lew (@LewSOS) — May 15, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

  14. John Key is a Manchurian candidate. His mission is to destroy the National Party by purging it of those who value its founding principles and replacing them with Neo-Liberal Progressives. Dan is right. The left are winning the ideological war because John Key is winning it for them.

    Comment by Redbaiter — May 15, 2014 @ 11:38 pm

  15. Lew, we get that.* But from where I stand this isn’t so much immunisation as a course of antibiotics. This isn’t pre-emptive defense, it’s a government holding on in the face of electoral weakness, doing what it can to shut down the 3-5% migration that puts it all at risk.

    *I get that you think that Labour are far weaker and less powerful than they actually are.

    Comment by George — May 15, 2014 @ 11:43 pm

  16. @ Andy M

    For the sake of your own credibility, if not for maintaing the pedigree of this haven of (mostly) informed discussion can you please refrain from ejaculating your poorly formed quips all over the place like a 14 year old alone for the night with his new laptop and unsecured neighbours Wi-Fi.

    Take a deep breath and reflect before you hastly hammer ‘Post comment’ – there’s no prize here for “First, shame bitchez!!!! Andy M FTW!!!!! LULLLZz”

    My condolences to the poor beast who suffers the inadequate invasion of your poxy yard.

    Comment by Luke. — May 16, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  17. It’s like Lew’s been away for a year and hasn’t noticed that the slag off Labour meme aint quite the default any longer. One or two good stories about Labour have sneaked through into the pages of the Herald and the like…

    Comment by sheesh — May 16, 2014 @ 12:33 am

  18. @ Luke, thanks for the dadsplain, but I’m pretty sure I get how the blog works. For the sake of YOUR credibility, lazy ad hominem trolling is probably not the best way of fostering civil debate. YMMV, of course.

    I agree with Lew’s argument. Whether you’re in Govt or Opposition, winning is more important than ideological purity to all except those on the fringes – the TPU on one side, the CTU on t’other. I’m sure nearly all National MP’s would gladly cede the “ideological argument” to Labour if it meant they stay in Govt.

    Comment by Andy M — May 16, 2014 @ 8:46 am

  19. Seriously tho, could you please cite these “National MP’s and activists” who are opposed to the extn of paid parental leave, etc?

    You seriously think National wants to extend paid parental leave? Only last year the government said it would veto Labour’s proposed 26 weeks of paid parental leave, notwithstanding that many of its supporters want it. Furthermore, the select committee said that 99..6% of submissions it received on the Bill supported the proposed law change. So if many National supporters support the policy and the wider community overwhelming supports the policy, why is National so vehemently opposed? Must be all about ideology.

    http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/key-rules-extending-paid-parental-leave-5420393

    Comment by Ross — May 16, 2014 @ 9:36 am

  20. “There’ll be a time I’m sure one day when paid parental leave will be expanded but it has to be when we can afford it and not when we’re running up bill on the credit card,” said Key.

    That was only 12 months ago. Despite government debt having ballooned from about $10 billion to $60 billion, we can now apparently afford to extend paid parental leave. It’s amazing how an election focuses the mind of sitting MPs.

    Comment by Ross — May 16, 2014 @ 9:39 am

  21. Can the opposition win the ideological debate without having a cohesive and coherent ideology?

    Comment by rsmsingers — May 16, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  22. Can the opposition win the ideological debate without having a cohesive and coherent ideology?

    It can when the government implements the Opposition’s policies despite being ideologically opposed to those policies.

    Comment by Ross — May 16, 2014 @ 10:48 am

  23. @Andy: “I’m sure nearly all National MP’s would gladly cede the “ideological argument” to Labour if it meant they stay in Govt.”

    Well, yes. Which seems to suggest that said National MPs are exactly the sorts of craven fools that we, the voters, should want nowhere near government.

    Comment by RJL — May 16, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  24. “National MPs are exactly the sorts of craven fools that we, the voters, should want nowhere near government.”

    I have been saying that for some time.

    Comment by Redbaiter — May 16, 2014 @ 12:41 pm


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