My dream choice for leader and deputy
There are times when I think of an idea for a posting and I say to myself: Let the dust settle a bit. And after it has, I think: Thank goodness I did. This posting in retrospect might end up in that category, but I feel impelled. What I write should be read in conjunction with my last posting. https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/labour-got-the-campaign-horribly-wrong/
I am going to resort to what my university lecturers in marking my essays used to criticise me for – circling the matter rather than going straight to it. However, in some deference to their no doubt sound judgement, I will circle in broad pronouncement so I can get to the matter that much more quickly.
We are in New Zealand moving to a kind of democracy that needs another name. The overwhelming idea I gained from reading Dirty Politics was that a network is in place, only slightly disturbed by Hager’s revelation, that will mean we are in for a generation of government for the wealthy. I believe that in the state services, public organisations, company connections, contracted services, legal functions, and the media – advocacy and protection for the wealthy is already in place and strengthening all the time. And where covert and overt support hasn’t been established, or been difficult to establish – fear is being used as a control agent. When allied with charismatic leadership there is posed a great danger to true democratic values.
Beyond single three-year hiccups, I believe the Labour Party will be largely out of power. As a result it should organise itself for that occasional hiccup of success; work to ensure the National Party never again has an absolute majority; and defend with huge energy our democratic rights.
Even financial disaster is unlikely to bring a true democratic party to power. The National Party would simply use the occasion to act even more ruthlessly protect the wealthy by using its established techniques of corrupt numbers, scapegoating, propaganda, fear, patronage, and surveillance.
Take recent events: Anne Tolley grossly lies about the extent of the gang problem. When the error is pointed out, Tolley denies it, and David Farrar rushes to support Tolley – in the process slandering the academic who pointed out the error. That academic will never again get a government contract. The message to other academics would have been clear – don’t challenge the government on its numbers. The Gambling Foundation loses most of its contract because it advocated against gambling. The message to other contact holders would have been clear – don’t challenge vested interests. Katherine Rich employed by grocery manufacturers uses a right-wing blogger to fight against restrictions on sugary drinks, alcohol, fatty foods, tobacco, and breastfeeding. For her efforts, she is promoted to a government health promotion organisation. The message is clear, to get ahead, support vested interests.
What has been happening in education is a microcosm of what has been happening in wider society and is set to move on at a pace. National standards and now the Investment in Educational Success (IES) are promoted as the way to lift education achievement of children affected by poverty and from there as the basis for employment – thus solving the problem of poverty. They won’t, of course, they are just a cheap way of doing nothing. For a while, their failure will be obscured by propaganda (upbeat reports of how well things are going), corrupt numbers, regulatory control, fear, straight out lies, and public scapegoating of teachers. Meanwhile, teachers will lose their right to speak out publically through legislation soon to be passed in the implementation of EDUCANZ. All the time academics will be increasingly silenced through government pressure on university administration to control their staff. On the other hand, pro-government academics or naïve ones will find themselves on advisory committees, winning contracts, getting mentioned in honours – the full panoply of patronage.
As the less wealthy become more so, and the more wealthy more so, and the neoliberal dynamic becomes more erratic – the charismatic leader will throw himself even more enthusiastically into the role of everyman, and those in power positions will act even more deviously against the already shredded forces of fairness and decency. The overall aim to convince the less wealthy that it is in their interests to become less so.
Does this ring a bell?
We have banks being rescued by printing money, thus enriching their shareholders and we have a number of countries printing even more money for banks (euphemistically called quantitative easing) to protect the status quo of the wealthy while the poor, vulnerable, and the middle classes face cycles of austerity. (In times of austerity, printing money works as long as that money goes directly into lifting GNP.) Following some distant dystopia, the penny may drop, but in the meantime, the Labour Party has a tightly bounded neoliberal context to function within.
My question is with all this in mind is which leadership pairing best meets this dire situation.
Labour needs a leadership pairing with charisma, that is smart and quick-witted, and encompasses the Labour Party in its makeup.
For that to be tested, I strongly advocate employing the full caucus and membership selection process.
I don’t believe Grant Robertson will be acceptable to certain sections of the Labour Party – though I accept he is smart, quick-witted, and articulates an inspirational social democratic vision. He said he was taken aback by the membership response to him last time and is now better prepared to handle that. Fine – let him put that to the test, if he gets through, well done – I will support him.
I like David Parker, his quiet, stealthy, well informed way of handling things, might be just what is needed. He is also courageous in policy matters. If Labour decides that the best way forward is a courageous grind, he could be the one. He might be able to soak up all that wa-wa-wa from Key in the parliament, and gain brownie points as a result.
It would be fighting fire with regular dousings of cold water – and might work politically.
My support, though, is for Stuart Nash, with Kelvin Davis as deputy. I’m not put off by Nash’s centrist blather. I invite readers to go to YouTube and listen to his maiden speech. He’s Labour to the bone. When I listen to him, I don’t hear centrism, I hear provincial pragmatism. What better person, coming from the Napier heartland as he does, to understand and lead regional regeneration, amongst other things.
Nash is a brilliant speaker, has loads of charisma, is intelligent, humorous, and dashingly good-looking (it does matter). I don’t consider him a gamble, or a reflex action because of despair about Key – I consider him a good bet. He is forty-seven – yes, the great-grandson of – has Masters degrees and was director at Auckland University of Technology before moving back to Napier. In 2005 he stood for Labour in Remuera and has been in-and-around Labour ever since. He was in parliament 2008-11 and for a few months was Shearer’s chief-of-staff. He is no wet behind the ears neophyte. He is a seasoned campaigner.
It would fighting fire with fire – and promises to work politically.
And then there’s Davis as deputy. My goodness – he’s within an ace of Nash’s good looks. He had a successful career as a principal and education administrator, is from a highly respected family, and what courage and steely determination he displayed in his Northern campaign. His promotion to deputy would be a great fillip to Maori and Pasifika representation and morale. They have stood behind Labour – Labour needs to actively acknowledge that. And if Nash is too centrist in education, well, Davis would be there to haul him back.
Whether in power or out, I think those two could mobilise significant sections of the New Zealand population and slow down the degradation of democracy presently occurring. In contemplating the years ahead, when I ran the various leadership possibilities through my mind – this political pairing was the one I intuitively felt most excited about, most comfortable with, most reassured about. I think Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis when confronted by issues have the instincts to do the right thing, have the philosophy to do the right thing, and the background.
I haven’t had the slightest whisper about Nash and Davis as having any plans to lead the Labour Party together; Nash being interested in the leadership – yes; but not a word about Davis’s aspirations. But the idea came to me and so I decided put it out there. Whatever happens, though, the selection must not happen behind closed caucus doors. The candidates must be tested in the volatile pressures of the full selection process.
There! I got to the matter eventually, didn’t I? Will I regret it, feel a bit foolish? Who knows but feels OK at the minute.