The intolerance of diversity

March 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I’m probably going to regret doing this – defending a politician from her peers. The last time I did it was in the late 90s in 3.2 (Beehive Bar) as a number of Alliance supporters were weighing into the then President of Young and basically abusing her and calling her names for not being pure enough. They said she was just the smiling softer face of capitalism etc and there was little difference between her and the Nats – she wasn’t a true revolutionary etc.

I started to intercede on her behalf, pointing out that Labour needs to have a broader appeal than the Alliance etc. I thought I was doing a good job , until she punched me in the arm and hissed in my ear that on what planet do I think having someone who works in the National PM’s Office defending her actually helps her with the left. She had a fair point, and I desisted my efforts to argue on her behalf.

The old saying is that National is a broad church, and it is. You have people who would happily sell every asset that moves, and you have people who think we should ban private land sales to foreigners. You have those who support gay marriage, and those who think it is the end of civilization.  On almost every issue there will be a fairly wide range of views – even within caucus. I’m someone who is generally in the minority on both economic and social issues in the party, but never have I been made to feel unwelcome due to my political views, that views like mine have no place in National.

But it has been my observation that Labour does not tolerate much diversity of opinion. Social conservatives in Labour are despised by most activists, and almost no longer exist. If you tried to debate the accuracy of climate change models, you’d be seen as in the pay of someone, and in recent years if you express any views that are not in line with union thinking, well let’s just say you struggle to get selected.

A great example of this has come up this week, with . She stood for Rangitikei last election – a seat she had no chance of winning, and was in an unwinnable list place. Despite that, she would have spent hundreds of hours unpaid trying to increase the party vote for Labour.

Now Josie facebooked comments she made on radio, which were:

Talking about the ports. ‘Casualisation’ scares us because it sounds like short hand for bad hours, low pay and no annual leave. It sounds like life in the early industrial revolution pre-unions. In some jobs it is. The only reason we have a 40 hr week and weekends is because unions fought for us. But I’ve spent my political life as a working mum, calling for more flexibility. And flexibility has to work both ways. Sad that by the time MUNZ accepted this (why did it take them so long?), the Ports wouldn’t budge. They should have. Lesson from this – if casual labour is the future, we have to work out how to protect the advances made for working people, while accepting that future. Nurses union did it. So did the pilots in the USA.

So Josie said flexibility is not always bad, but has to work both ways. She said POAL should have accepted the eventual position of MUNZ, and says that one has to protect working people while accepting that the future is more flexiblity.

You can certainly agree or disagree with that position. But it is not a right wing or radical view. It is a moderate left view, explicitly pro-union.  A healthy party would say lets debate the proposition – they may not agree with it – some may say flexibility is not inevitable and should always be oppossed. But’s let see what happened:

Soraiya Daud – “With these kinds of sentiments the Labour rosette on your label means nothing.”

Jill Ovens – “Flexibility for them is just another form of exploitation. It is the ultimate ‘f’ word.”

Enzo Giordani – “Josie, this is a politician page that says you are a member of the Labour Party and in the profile picture you are wearing a Labour Party rosette. This is not the policy of the New Zealand Labour Party. You should either delete this or change those settings. Friendly warning before I start writing e-mails.”

Giordani is a union official. Note how he demands Pagani deletes her post, or remove any reference to her being Labour. Even worse, he threatens her that if she does not he will start writing e-mails – presumably to get her expelled, or disciplined.

Joel Walsham – You show that you are not Labour because being Labour is about standing with those, in complete solidarity, who are going without pay for them and their families in an effort to achieve better working conditions for them and all of their colleagues.

In all my years in National, I don’t think I have ever heard someone described as being “not National”. Well, maybe Winston.

But the pilloring of Josie also occurred on the Facebook page of her fellow candidate, Jordan Carter. Note Jordan himself did not comment significantly.

Joseph Randall – A hell of a lot more than Josie’s value add

Joe McCrory –  I assume Josie has resigned from the party?

The expectation that a different view on an issue is grounds for resignation. This is, in my opinion, one of the major challenges Labour has – to be an inclusive party with broad appeal, rather than one where different opinions are seen as heresy – especially when you are in opposition.

Now my blogging this has probably condemned Josie to an even worse fate within Labour. In some ways that is a good thing. I’ve seen her in action at campaign meetings in 2008. She was the only left wing candidate I’ve ever seen that actually won an elderly conservative audience over to her view in support of the anti-smacking law. She’s one of those who can actually appeal to people outside the traditional base, and they’re dangerous as they are the ones who can win votes for Labour.

18 Responses to “The intolerance of diversity”

  1. Poliwatch (337 comments) says:

    This has been a growing problem for the left. The people who make these comments like to think politically that they still live in the cloth cap world of the knitting mills but when I meet them socially they actually live and behave as members of today’s world.

    I heard that interview on RNZ and Josie was right. There has to be flexibility on both sides. We need recognise that as always commercial organisations (irrespective of their ownership) need to be competitive. At the same time we need to recognise the rights of workers. But those rights might not mean that they can keep all existing terms and conditions. Such fullhardiness will eventually lead to the employer being uncompetitive and going out of business and where are the workers terms and conditions then, let alone their “rights”. Or for the employer having to reorganise. POAL: see the writing on the wall and are doing it now, I suspect, before they will absolutley have to.

    Both sides ned to be flexible, even if that means a totally different working arrangement for both.

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  2. Kimble (4,637 comments) says:

    Stop tapping the tank!

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  3. tom hunter (7,726 comments) says:

    In my comment on the Interest Free Student Loans debacle I responded to mikenmild and pointed out that the scars of Rogernomics/Ruthanasia run deep in both National and Labour.

    But clearly they run deeper in Labour. Never again must there be even a hint of an appearance by a future Roger Douglas. In 1980 Labour were confident enough to allow Douglas to publish There’s Got to Be a Better Way – and the lesson learned by the True Believers from that episode is that any deviations must be crushed at the outset.

    Josie should have studied her own party’s history more closely.

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  4. Sam Hill (42 comments) says:

    The Left are so totally against any pragmatic policies that might force a compromise the ultra liberal-socialist agenda that many moderate center-left politicians (Goff, Pagani) are derided for their views. Now look what they’ve got. Shearer the incompetent humanitarian. What the hell does he know about the economy? Goff might have looked weak on the economy compared to Key, but at least he had a clue.

    NZ First is probably the party best positioned to expand their vote, but I wonder if they have the talent or the political wisdom to realise there are a whole heap of voters (and non-voters) that are pissed off with the Left but don’t like National.

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  5. rouppe (1,236 comments) says:

    A couple of points here:

    1) What you have described closely mirrors what was said in your <a href=""political correctness post.

    An unconfident and accidental moral system like political correctness political system can tolerate no deviance at all because it continually fears for its own continued survival.

    It is demonstrating that a strict dogmatic adherance to the doctrine is essential, which is suggesting that the dogma is weak and fragile.

    2) Didn’t I read somewhere that Judith Collins was once an ardent Labour supporter before changing to National? There is a precedent.

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  6. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    David yr point re diversity of opinion..A long time ago I would sometimes go on Red Alert have a look etc..Trevor mallard and some woman were always furiously deleting people..It seemed to get worse before the last election..They did not seem to want any discussion ..It didn’t do them any favours on election night.

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  7. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    The signs are not good for a Josie Pagani type of Labour.

    Nor for that matter for a David Shearer sort of Labour, a promotional post on him on The Standard a couple of days ago got scant support and .

    Dissent from the script is heavily jumped on by a signifcant faction that remains in Labour. If anything it’s getting worse.

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  8. Fisiani (1,185 comments) says:

    The difficulty for Labour is how to con the public in 2014 that Labour actually represents the people when they represent just a narrow collection of cliques and special interest groups.
    Their intolerance of difference of opinion will narrow their appeal even more. Why on earth would a reasonable and intelligent person stand as a Labour candidate? Reasonable and intelligent and Labour. See the odd one out?

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  9. mikenmild (23,665 comments) says:

    DPF said: “I don’t think I have ever heard someone described as being “not National”.
    How can you define National? With their support for WFF, interest-free student loans, etc, one might struggle to discern any underlying principles.

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  10. Paulus (3,569 comments) says:

    Josie is a good example of what Labour should be aspiring to.
    Regrettably Labour has turned to be a disparate group of morally sad and embittered people.
    Shearer has not the strength to do anything about it. Neither has Robertson.
    We must be careful however not to let these “people” take hold of their “aspirations” to the total detrement of moderate New Zealanders.
    Their ideas of moderation can be found in such places as the Middle East, where any middle ground is totally unacceptable.

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  11. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    To MM: National do not ‘support’ WFF or Interest Free student loans; they live with these misconceived policies because that is political reality. Realpolitik and principles are very often incompatible. MMP of course encourages compromise and dilution of principle in favour of power.

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  12. hmmokrightitis (1,919 comments) says:

    labour are in dire need of leadership, anything approximating it scares them – such as Josie’s comments – and they rail against it. There is no one with the courage within labour, or at least that I can see, to lead, inspire and take the hard nosed approach needed to transform. They will bimble along, picking up a few % points here and there, and call it success, a slow burn, whatever.

    Nationals strategy seems to be middle ground, dont scare the horses, and thats fine enough in the medium term of five years. But that so-called broad church just might not be broad enough come 2014.

    As for Shearer, he actually comes across as a well meaning yet inept dolt.

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  13. tom hunter (7,726 comments) says:

    The following link could equally belong to the very recent threads on interest-free-student loans or United Future and asset sales, but I’ve put it here since the topic is the inability and unwillingness of Labour to adapt to a new world. To be fair it probably applies almost as much to National, at least in terms of actions rather than words.

    The article follows a recent series by the author, Walter Russell Mead, on where America needs to go in changing what Mead calls the Blue Model. Incidently the “blue” comes from the colour now generally assigned to the Democrat party for use in TV electoral maps: it’s very recent in terms of general acceptance.

    The focus is on New York, but it could equally be about Greece, Spain, Britain, … New Zealand: Blue Blights Empire State. I thought the conclusion particularly accurate in terms of the arguments the Left have been running in recent years, and still are:

    The root problem is that New York elected officials lost sight years ago of the need to run the state and its cities on a businesslike basis. They made “investments” in social policy and educational spending that manifestly did not pay off in terms of enhanced productivity or economic benefits. They made pension promises that they neglected to fund.

    New York as a state has been committed to the belief that a high regulation, high cost, big government approach to state and municipal management would pay off in the long run: yes, government in New York would cost more than in Texas or Alabama or other benighted hell holes, but New Yorkers would be better educated and more productive. New York’s infrastructure might be expensive, but it would facilitate business growth. New York’s public sector labor force might be expensive, but it would be competent and motivated so that it would deliver more. New York could make a high cost, high regulation governance model work: that was the big bet.

    It has failed.

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  14. Cunningham (958 comments) says:

    National has become a more centrist party yet Labour has continued to be full of extreme left wing views. Other countries such as Australia have ‘left parties’ parties that have become alot more moderate in their views. Why does the New Zealand Labour party continue to hold extreme views? I mean look at the 90 day trial. It is implemented in many other countries with a even longer time period yet in NZ they were absolutely hysterical about it and will no doubt repeal it the first chance they get. I don’t get why the Labour party is like this in NZ when you look at other countries and their ‘left wing parties’. Any thoughts?

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  15. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    This is an inevitable response to a proportional system. MMP priveleges the two largest parties because of it’s electorates but doesn’t guarantee them. Shearer still maintains that Labour can be all things to all people – but he doesn’t sound convincing:

    Labour has for a long time held together factions of low income workers, unionists, environmentalists, social liberals and interventionist economic nationalists but is was a coalition of necessity rather than mutual admiration.

    Over time the oldies and the nationalists have gone to NZ First and the social liberals have gone to the Greens. It’s not easily reversible; NZ First and Green supporters don’t have a hell of a lot in common, it makes sense for them to be in different parties with Labour acting as the glue to hold together a coalition.

    The same is likely to happen to National in time.

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  16. Danyl Mclauchlan (986 comments) says:

    In all my years in National, I don’t think I have ever heard someone described as being “not National”.

    National does seem (a lot) more disciplined. If a National Party candidate ran around saying they were opposed to asset sales because the return on dividends was greater than the cost of borrowing then that would be a fiscally conservative, centre-right statement, yet I don’t think the party and its activists would look on them very kindly.

    But National Party candidates don’t run around disagreeing with basic party principles. Actually, neither do Green candidates. Or New Zealand First candidates. Probably ACT candidates do all the time, but no one notices.

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  17. Brian Smaller (4,332 comments) says:

    Labour only needs to get 30% of the vote and they will form the next government with a bunch of Greens and NZF and a few Maori seats. Then they will have the mandate that they claim National doesn’t have and will be able to borrow, tax and spend until we are all speaking Greek.

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  18. GConnell (20 comments) says:

    I agree that these comments against Josie were ridiculous, but all parties do it. That’s why party whips exist, and the phrase ‘party line’ is in common use. You say that the National party is more open to comment and a broad spectrum of opinions? I tried critiquing the public service cut back programme on JK’s facebook page recently, and promptly had my comments deleted, and was defriended. I cried myself to sleep that night Sniff… 🙂

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