[New Zealand Politics] The Art of Disappearing Up Your Own Arse.

New Zealand politics is in a bit of a ferment at the moment, a month out from a general election. The main opposition party, Labour, has seen its old leader, Andrew Little, resign and be replaced with his deputy Jacinda Ardern, while their allies the Greens have seen one of their co-leaders (Metiria Turei) quit after she revealed that she had lied to social welfare services over twenty years ago. The upshot is that a recent poll has had Labour up 13% to 37%, with the Greens dropping 11% to 4%.

I wasn’t actually going to comment on this – the Turei thing is much more complicated than the above summary would suggest. However, after running across this post on the New Zealand political blogosphere, I really felt the need to – especially because the poster in question does not allow comments on his blog, so I can’t respond over there (a tad ironic, given his rock-solid belief in his own positions).

The post is, frankly, a classic example of the tendency of some people to Disappear Up Their Own Arse when talking about politics.

Ergo, this:

The Greens’ success for the past nine years now looks like a commentary on Labour’s weakness, its succession of bland, interchangeable dead white male leaders. And now Labour has a leader worthy of the name, someone young (or “youth-adjacent”) and inspiring, who promises change rather than more of the same, they’re doing well again. 

To which I would make two points:

  • Jacinda Ardern has not promised anything Andrew Little didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: as someone of a left-leaning persuasion, I am genuinely excited by the current trajectory of the New Zealand Labour Party – Ardern’s Labour is the strongest it has been since the Clark era. It’s just that we must recognise this is less about “promising change” and more about media reception – there has been a change in leader, but no change in policy. I feel very sorry for Andrew Little in these circumstances.
  • More importantly, Idiot/Savant (the author of the blog post) has a bizarre hang-up with demographics. Clearly in his mind, one’s skin colour and gender is more important than one’s actual opinions. One wonders whether he considers the likes of Bernie Sanders (75 years old) or Jeremy Corbyn (68 years old) “dead white males”, seeing as both enjoyed strong support from younger voters (the answer is that no, he wouldn’t. But why is it fine to use someone’s ethnicity, gender, and age as an implied criticism – especially when, as pointed out above, Ardern’s Labour is no more radical and Corbynite than Little’s Labour?).

Idiot/Savant reinforces this point again:

Empirically, Labour does best when it has a woman in charge. That’s who their voters are, that’s who they represent. So they might as well embrace it rather than pretend they’re still the Labour party of the 1930’s or 1950’s in the era of “National mum and Labour dad”.

Presumably he also prefers Liz Kendall to Jeremy Corbyn, and Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.

What Idiot/Savant misses is that while the Greens or New Zealand First can afford to be niche parties, Labour is not niche. Ardern’s Labour doesn’t represent only a particular gender, any more than Little’s Labour did – a New Zealand Labour Party that is the Women’s Party would cease to be viable, because you can’t be a major political party if you ignore half the population. Labour must appeal to men and women alike, rather than doing what Idiot/Savant does so often – disappearing up its own arse in the name of some abstract dogma.

 

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