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Chris Trotter
Chris Trotter
Chris Trotter is New Zealand’s leading leftwing political commentator, with 30 years of experience writing professionally about New Zealand politics. He now writes regularly for the Democracy Project, producing his column “From the Left”.

What would it take for Labour to win?

Labour Party opinion
Kieran McAnulty (L), Ginny Andersen (R).

Surveying Labour’s savagely diminished caucus, only two MPs stand out as credible future leaders: Keiran McAnulty and Ginny Andersen.

Before such a combination could accede to the leadership, however, both the Labour caucus and the Labour Party would have to undergo a profound reconfiguration.

For a start, the party membership and a clear majority of the caucus would need to have rejected neoliberalism as Labour’s economic lodestar. The malign legacy of Michael Cullen – for thirty years the party’s ruthless enforcer of neoliberal dogma – needs to be scrubbed off Labour’s escutcheon. Meaning, of course, that Grant Robertson’s legacy (such as it is) would also need to be cleared away. Robertson’s almost childlike dependence of Cullen (especially in the Sixth Labour Government’s first year) meant that new economic thinking had almost no chance of emerging under either Jacinda Ardern or Chris Hipkins.

In the absence of an ideological break-out on a par with the Fourth Labour Government’s adoption of neoliberalism between 1984-1990, there can be no solidity to the radical programme Labour will need if it is to restore its level of voter support to at least 35 per cent of the Party Vote. If Labour’s economic and fiscal policies are not being decried as dangerous lunacy by the Coalition Government, then the party and the caucus are not doing their job. Something along the lines of the US Democratic Party Left’s “Green New Deal” and/or the British Labour Party’s “For the Many, Not the Few” 2017 manifesto, would constitute a useful starting point.

Just getting that far, however, presupposes an extraordinary amount of intra-party conflict. A substantial chunk of the New Zealand Council would need to be replaced. A new and charismatic party president would need to be elected, and a new General Secretary appointed. Only once these bridgeheads were seized could the necessary reforms of Labour’s constitution be implemented. These would restore full control to the party membership over both the choice of the party leader and the formulation of party policy.

The only possible source for the political heft required to make any of this happen is the Labour Party’s affiliated trade unions – backed up by the Council of Trade Unions. Something in the form of a manifesto for organised labour, perhaps? A radical document, pointing the way towards reclaiming the Treasury Benches for ordinary working people in three years or less, might be a useful way of mobilising those elements in Labour feeling let down by the party’s parliamentarians. Such a manifesto might also serve as a back-stiffening device for caucus members not willing to wait the six-to-nine years before it could, again, be “Labour’s turn” at the crease.

Fortunately for those who see democratic government as something more than a glorified game of parliamentary beach cricket, the Coalition Government and its policies are certain to drive its victims decisively towards the Left. Even the likes of Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni will have to at least feign anger and a determination to offer New Zealanders something better than vicious austerity for the poor, and special favours for the Right’s most generous donors. What Hipkins and Sepuloni are likely to discover, however, is that, having climbed on the back of the left-wing tiger, getting off it, uneaten, can be a little tricky.

Certainly, it will not take very long for Labour’s leadership deficit to be cruelly exposed by the surfeit of political leadership to Labour’s left. Against the dynamism and inspiration on display from both the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, Hipkins and Sepuloni will need to be selling the working class and rangatahi something just a little more appetising than bread and butter. It is, arguably, the only good reason for keeping Hipkins and Sepuloni in place: to give them the time necessary to demonstrate their utter incapacity to front the sort of rejuvenated Labour Party that will be required to win in 2026.

Limiting the Coalition’s tenure to “Three Years – And Not One Day More!” is a campaign in which all three of the left-wing parties could participate eagerly. Anticipating the three-party coalitions which now (and for New Zealand’s immediate electoral future) appear unavoidable, Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori could grow comfortable with each other, and gain confidence, by demonstrating their combined political effectiveness to a public growing increasingly impatient with the Right’s policies.

It is even possible to contemplate the three left-wing parties, the trade unions, and Māori organisations coming together in a national hui dedicated to explaining the shape and purpose of the “New Aotearoa” that must now – in the face of the Right’s reactionary agenda – be the core objective of all progressive New Zealanders. Such a gathering would be a wasted exercise, however, if it was not also the opportunity for an open-ended and free-wheeling debate concerning the constitutional shape of the New Aotearoa. If Te Tiriti o Waitangi is to lie at the heart of that new nation, then its defenders must be brave enough to let it face and answer Pakeha fears, even as it carries Māori hopes aloft.

Rather than making a free discussion, even a referendum, about the principles of the Treaty something to be avoided at all costs – up to and including threats of violence if it is allowed to go ahead – wouldn’t the needs of Māori, and the Left, be best served by embracing the process and making it their own? Why not go to the country in 2026 with plans for a full constitutional convention? Why not promote the election of 120 constitutional delegates to draft Aotearoa’s first written constitution – with Te Tiriti at its heart? Where could the Right go then?

The sixth-century BC Chinese military strategist-cum-philosopher, Sun Tzu, wrote: “Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.” The Right has observed the unwillingness of Māori to engage in open debate about Te Tiriti, its principles, and the co-governance it more-or-less mandates, and they have made that unwillingness their strategic target. The harder Māori resist the call for a full debate on the Treaty, the harder the Right will push for that debate to be forced upon them. Their goal is to keep Māori on the defensive. Sun Tzu would say: “Stop doing what your enemy wants you to do. Do what he does not expect, and has not prepared for – embrace the debate, and win it.”

Flexible thinking and political courage are the qualities most needed by the New Zealand Left as it campaigns to restrict the National-Act-NZ First Coalition to a single term. For better or for worse, it is the New Zealand Labour Party that will determine whether the Left is successful, or unsuccessful, in its endeavours.

Paradoxically, the battle against the right-wing coalition can only be fought with any prospect of success after the battle against the right of the Labour Party has been successfully concluded. If Labour is not committed to progressive change, then it will not happen. Against a united and progressive Labour Party, however: a Labour Party backed by its allies on the Left, the trade unions, and the rangatahi of Aotearoa; no combination of the Right has ever, or will ever, prevail.

Chris Trotter is New Zealand’s leading leftwing political commentator, with 30 years of experience writing professionally about New Zealand politics. He now writes regularly for the Democracy Project, producing his column “From the Left”.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully, for their betrayal of NZers, the labour party never again take the treasury benches.

    Esp Keiran and Ginny, the bullies that they are. You would have to be oblivious to those traits to back those two.

  2. When the truth comes out about what they have done to the people of NZ ,most will be heading to jail. Labour will be dead thank god but are National any better ,don’t think so,need new blood in parliament people we can trust.

  3. The only way for labour to ever win in this country again would be to stop being labour and stop pushing all this globalist BS such as the s*hit from the world economic forum / UN / and others that jabcinder and almost all our other politicians including national by saying nothing have been pushing on us for decades.

    A good place to start would be demanding that Every NZder now and in the future will always have the right to carry and use physical cash because once we go cashless we will be completely screwed, what little money they allow us to have will be totally under their control and we will literally have no say in the matter.

  4. Socialism has failed and will fail everywhere it’s ever tried. One way ticket to tyranny right there, over 100 million graves in Europe and Asia are my “trusted source” on that.

    The needs of the many DO NOT outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Individual rights are more important than collective demands, the individual is the smallest minority that can possibly exist. Every tyrant who’s ever walked this earth has played the “I’m doing this for the good of the people” card.

    The entire world got a taste of worldwide communism in 2020-2021 when they were locked in their own homes, beaten by government jackboots, and threatened & coerced into taking extremely dodgy “vaccines” while their economies crashed and their businesses closed down. NOBODY wants a return to that kind of life.

    Complex economic systems function best when they are left free from the machinations of blood-sucking governments and deluded pseudo-intellectual leftist twits oblivious to the lessons of history.

    No due respect, you people are out of your tree.

  5. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of the these evil lying conniving creepy corrupt communists.

    Although sadly they’ll always be a small percentage of gullible feeble-minded indoctrinated woke dimwits who will vote for them.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. Given what happened over the last six years, I suspect the majority of Kiwis won’t be too keen on a repeat performance of Maoism-lite, no matter how may times Labour/Green/etc roll their ‘be kind’ tyrannical turd in glitter.

    Just saying.

  7. Can anyone give an example from history where socialism/communism has actually worked, and not caused an economic disaster, genocide and/or starvation.

    No thought not.

    • “tHAt wAsn’T rEAL sOciAlism” is their standard brain dead reply.

      Which is really just Mr Lefty saying, “Yes, hundreds of millions starved and died and yes, all the tyrants and “intellectuals” etc haven’t been able to get it right for over a century now, but if you’d just let ME in there I’d show you how it’s done!”

      As we all know, unmitigated arrogance is one of the sacred pillars of leftism.

      • “Unmitigated arrogance is one of the sacred pillars of leftism”

        …only paralleled by its close cousin ‘Do as I say not as I do’ which they excell in.

        Merry Christmas Sir Unquaccinated your witty and often humorous tales on the varying machinations of global politics over 2023 have been most enjoyable. Thank you

  8. Personally I won’t vote Labour ever again, primarily due to their contempt and disregard for basic fundamental inalienable human rights.

    Jab mandates, medical coercion, lockdowns, mask mandates, destroying businesses, quarantine, vaccine passports, medical and ethnic apartheid etc etc etc.

    The list is endless.

    Game over permanently for Labour as far as I’m concerned, no matter how much lipstick they stick on their new pig.

  9. Even a good George Bush waterboarding would never make me vote Labour again. There is nothing those b******s could do or offer that could ever convince me to vote for them again. A once great political party for the working class hijacked by utter w******, will now go down in history as the most destructive evil corrupt regime our country has ever seen

  10. Hmmm, an interesting insight into the perverse mindset of the sociopathic socialist/communist ars*wipes masquerading as ‘the greater good’.

    No thanks, mind your own business, and please get stuffed you ghastly evil scumbags.

    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  11. McAnulty is clearly an unhinged woke communist psycho loon, and therefore obviously an ideal future Labour leader.

    I really do wish the creepy communists would just permanently F off. Life would be so much better.

    • Very telling how he was able to bully Gaurav Sharma and others right out of the picture, only to have the media and party leadership close ranks and protect him.

      He’s clearly been earmarked for one of the top spots in the future. I’m sure there will be a quiet trip or two to Davos or Blackrock in the near future. Likely NZ’s future version of Trudeau.

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