Salmond on why the Labour activists are wrong and the Leader is right

August 14th, 2012 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

writes at Pundit:

Since 1996, the NZES has asked people to rate themselves ideologically on a scale from 0 (left) to 10 right). The results are public up to 2008, and have been pretty consistent. There is never an absolute majority of either left wingers or right wingers, usually not even close, and the proportion of people who say they are perfectly centrist (5 on the scale), is around 25-30%. That is a huge bloc of voters perched right in the middle. Ideology in New Zealand is a bell curve, and a steep one at that.

We await the 2011 NZES results with interest.

Given this distribution of voter ideologies, it does not take a statistician to figure out that the left needs to do well with centrist voters in order to win. Same for the right. And, when you look at the NZES figures, that is what you find. In the three MMP elections where took office, the left scored its three best results with centrists. In the two elections with public data where lost – 1996 and 2008 – it had its two worst results with centrists. The difference – best to worst – in that period is over ten points.

This suggests there is real benefit to the left in trying to win the support of people to the right of Labour and the left of National, and that this benefit cannot be gained any other way. Without those people, getting the left enough seats to govern becomes virtually impossible.

Salmond is of course absolutely right. Elections are won in the centre. Of course one can sometimes redefine the centre, but this is very challenging.

Of course, there are different ways to woo those folk. Labour can moderate its own policy, alter which policies it emphasizes in the political debate, try to alter voters’ perceptions of National, or try to convince centrists to change their issue opinions and even their ideology.  The last strategy, of convincing voters they are flat out wrong, is a favorite among activists of all stripes, because it requires change by others but no compromise or change on their own part. 

That was a gentle slapdown to many of the Labour activists. It also applies to activists on the right who whine constantly that John Key has not scrapped Working for Families overnight.

So what do centrist voters want? One issue that has come up recently is welfare, with David Shearer giving a speech that included an anecdote about a person who was, officially, too sick to work but, in fact, not too sick to paint his roof. That, Shearer said, was not good enough.

In 2008, the last publicly available survey, the NZES asked voters about many issues, including welfare. 61% of centrists thought welfare “made people lazy” while only 18% disagreed. Even left-leaning voters were evenly split on this issue (39% agree vs 38% disagree). Moreover, clear majorities of both centrists and lefties also supported work for the dole. Again, this is unlikely to have changed much since 2008.

Of course, anyone expecting Labour to give in to every reactionary impulse among centrists and start proposing work for the dole schemes and a return to capital punishment (66% centrist support in 2008) is in for a long wait. But these results suggest that voters of all ideological hues want something less severe than that, too – parties should emphasize what they will do to make sure the welfare system is a hand up rather than a hand out, and is not open to abuse. That is what David Shearer did.

Would anyone actually suggest that Shearer was wrong on the facts? That our welfare system is never abused at all? Or that people who can work should work? Or that people who are capable of painting their own roof are probably also capable of, say, painting someone else’s roof?

As I have said, i think many on the left were being far too precious with their trenchant criticism of Shearer over that part of his speech.

Josie Pagani said that, in her experience, Labour is seen as “the party for beneficiaries;” Shearer was reminding everyone that Labour supports people who pay taxes, too.

Well that last sentence is debatable :-)

As Rob slaps down some activists, slaps down some of the caucus:

I have spent the better part of 17 years  – eight  of those as a paid organiser for the Labour Party – practicing the ancient art of alchemy; turning supporters into volunteers, volunteers into members and members into activists. …

I make this point because I am deeply concerned about what’s going on with some members of the Labour caucus and the long term effects their behaviour  will have on Party members and supporters leading into the 2014 general election. …

I can only hope David Shearer was misquoted on Newstalk ZB when asked if he was happy with the behaviour of his caucus.  Labour Partymembers deserve better.

MPs  just can’t  indulge in this sort of disloyal, backstabbing, bitchy and  frankly unkind behaviour .  It will affect supporters and activists (not to mention the general voting public).

Jenny concludes:

Labour, get it together.

You’re letting us all down.

d

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25 Responses to “Salmond on why the Labour activists are wrong and the Leader is right”

  1. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    There is of course the other problem of far to many passed their used by date MP’s.

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  2. swan (651 comments) says:

    Ah the median voter. The bane of democracy world wide.

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  3. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,684 comments) says:

    I wonder how long it will take Ms Michie and her comrades to do what they all really know they should do and deselect Mallard?

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  4. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Most of those at The Standard are activists who hate the idea of the centre being more important than their extreme positions way out left. I found they particularly seem to hate centrists, they just can’t get their heads around how you could be that way (it’s a lot easier than being bitter and powerless on the fringe).

    And they hate being ignored and left out of the loop by the Labour strategists. There are party angers with this – they are fomenting and fermenting and fizzing at the bung, and having harassed away any moderates so they only have themselves to fight with. And with their caucus trying to win the centre.

    But they should be able to recover and become a strong political force, all critics are inexperienced imbeciles and lprent knows so much about everything he will sort it all out blogwise, while Trev wins the strategic battle.

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  5. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Adolf, the comrades on the blog are too afraid to even mention his name. He knows who is behind the pseudonyms.

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  6. joe bloggs (126 comments) says:

    Careful Pete, else you’ll have the Nelson Muntz of blogging moderators across here again whining at you, like he was last week.

    That permaban he handed out yesterday was pretty much par for the course for what Labour has become, it so typifies the high-handed arrogance of a party that’s lost its way yet still thinks its shit smells better than everyone else’s – lying, backstabbing, manipulative, bitchy bunch of jealous misfits and deadwood. And those are the good ones…

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  7. berend (1,602 comments) says:

    DPF: It also applies to activists on the right who whine constantly that John Key has not scrapped Working for Families overnight.

    I don’t think we have to worry about John scrapping any socialist policy at all. He’s just too fond of them. Big government, big spending, big borrowing, and big social engineering, all tick, tick, tick and tick.

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  8. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Berend – once policies like WFF are locked in they are very difficult to undo wothout causing major problems. If National had cut WFF last term – or if they cut it now – it would not only impact on the very strained recovery, it would have stuffed a lot of families who have adjusted their financial commitments to their new nett incomes.

    About the only practical way of dealing to WFF is to cut it in better financial times and largely compensate with tax rate adjustments – preferably in conjunction with a major simplification of our whole tax and benefit system.

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  9. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    You are not going to like this then Berend.

    Apparantly as contrition for having a swipe at beneficiaries, David Shearer is being forced by the caucus into announcing their new policy WfLC (working for lazy cunts).

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  10. Sam Buchanan (499 comments) says:

    What is ‘left’ ‘right’ and ‘centrist’ changes all the time. I’m sure a lot of people like to say they are in the centre, but its pretty meaningless unless we know what they actually mean by that.

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  11. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Sam, for me being ‘centre’ is really just an idealistic starting. Likely to be moderate on many policies, but judge each on it’s merits. I tend more left than most on social policy here, and tend more right on economic/business policy than at The Standard.

    I don’t think of myself as left, or right. Just call things as I see them.

    I get accused of fence sitting but I usually make decisions, some very strong positions, I just usually take longer than some to arrive at them.

    Those who are staunch left or right are like the religious, they start all their decisions based on their belief in god/socialism/capitalism/liberalism, usually make their decisions quickly and are unlikely to change them.

    I’m more of a political atheist, will try and learn and guage the merits of any issue, and may change positiion if evidence changes.

    Hard left and hard right see politics more as black and white. I see far more complexity, and look for the best patterns in a kaleidoscope.

    The open minded and flexible approach seems to annoy the hell out of the the black and white brigades.

    I think in reality most MPs who achieve much are more centre than left/right most of the time. To succeed, no matter what your personal position, you have to accommodate other views as well.

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  12. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    What Pete said.

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  13. graham (2,211 comments) says:

    Shame that Pete had to drag religion into it.

    Those who are staunch left or right are like the religious, they start all their decisions based on their belief in god/socialism/capitalism/liberalism, usually make their decisions quickly and are unlikely to change them.

    I can’t speak for others Pete, but as someone who is a Christian (does that make me religious?), I do not ‘start all my decisions based on their belief in god/socialism/capitalism/liberalism, usually make my decisions quickly and am unlikely to change them.’

    Just one example is the question of abortion. I won’t bore you with my beliefs – I’ve written about them before – but suffice to say that I am still struggling after several decades to decide how I feel about abortion. Yes, part of my attitude is based on my religious beliefs, but I refuse to say that abortion is NEVER acceptable – a teenager who is pregnant as the result of rape is the example that springs to mind.

    FFS leave religion out of it.

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  14. eszett (2,272 comments) says:

    Since 1996, the NZES has asked people to rate themselves ideologically on a scale from 0 (left) to 10 right).

    I wonder where Red would rate himself on that chart.

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  15. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    Red favours social engineering – using the state to discriminate in ways he approves of, such as against gay marriages.

    He’s a lefty.

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  16. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    Sorry, he’s a MARXIST.

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  17. Than (376 comments) says:

    He’s more a textbook example of why a one-axis description of political views is too simple.

    On a more useful (but still simplified) two-axis model, with economic views on the horizontal, social views on the vertical, conservatives rank highly on the economic but low on the social. Put another way, they want no laws or taxes impeding businesses, but lots of laws dictating how people can behave.

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  18. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Graham – I should have been more specific, fundamental religious like fundamental politics.

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  19. tom hunter (4,012 comments) says:

    This is an interesting follow-up to McCarten’s article the other day. Unfortunately what it suggests is the same degree of surface skimming and no desire to think about the problems our society – and especially our state institutions – face. The focus of Salmond’s discussion being a classic example:

    So what do centrist voters want? One issue that has come up recently is welfare,

    National figured this out a while ago and have been pursuing it in government also. By pursuing I mean they’ve been making lots of noise about aspects of welfare that annoy most of us (“the centre”) – such as the roof painter in Shearer’s story – which garner headlines and warm fuzzies. What follows however is not demonstrably effective, and the real point is that even if the measures were effective it would represent a marginal (even if desirable) improvement.

    Shearer appears to have figured this out as well. He can make the same noises, garner the same publicity, pry away the same voters from National – and it will cost little or nothing, either politically or fiscally.

    Best of all, the approach means that Shearer – like Key – can avoid tackling the really big welfare question that’s going to kill us – the welfare beloved of the very group that forms the other part of this conversation, the “5 on the scale” crowd whose votes are so desired – and for whom welfare is an issue they want something done about.

    In any other context it would be considered black comedy. Well done Mr Shearer!

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  20. tom hunter (4,012 comments) says:

    Since we’re also on the topic of “moderation” as the juicy core that is supposed to entice these perfectly centrist votes, I thought the following article would be of interest, Washington fairy tale of ‘responsible’ moderates. The writer points to David Brooks, one of the “right-wing” who survive at the NYT, and his recent article about extremism in politics:

    Brooks complained about the descent from moderate Republicanism to mainstream conservatism and then to Tea Party-style “protester” conservatism.

    By Brooks’ account, “protesters don’t believe in governance. They have zero tolerance for the compromises needed to get legislation passed.”

    And just to make sure his readers grasped the treachery of these protesters, Brooks ended his column by invoking Martin Niemoeller’s famous quote about the passivity of intellectuals as the Nazis gained power in Hitler’s Germany. “First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans. …”

    I must admit that I was surprised to hear that there actually were Rockefeller Republicans still alive as of 2010: the Reagan Revolution was supposed to have made them extinct eons ago. In any case, the writer of this article is at odds with Mr Brooks:

    Like most folklore, this narrative bears no relationship to reality.

    In the real world, Republican members of Congress who scoffed at ideology spent decades cutting corrupt deals, buying votes with pork barrel spending, and expanding government to unsustainable levels while sweeping our nation’s long-term problems under the rug.

    Traditionally, Republicans would complain about big government while collaborating with Democrats to augment its size and scope.

    Does this ring any bells? Why blame the dreaded Yankee system of checks and balances when our beloved unicameral system has produced much the same thing, and has done so before. I’ve often said that people like Peter Dunn would have made very good ministers in some 1960′s National government, with the constant emphasis on tweaking legislation, waging vast, interdepartmental wars to yield some change in the rules and regulations (or better yet, new rules and regulations: such joy!). The triumph of the non-ideological, centrist moderate – wearer of Sensible Shoes!

    Except of course that that wonderful age of the Quarter Acre, Pavlova Paradise – the age where everybody agreed on all the basic stuff and Common Sense Kiwis viewed people with any other “ideas” with the same squinty look that Colin Meads might have given a man with eyeliner – produced a moribund, exhausted economy and a succession of governments with no ideas as to how to fix it beyond trumpeting the management genius of Muldoon or Rowling.

    And of course when one has no new ideas and is deeply suspicious of those who do, the result is not just the desired stasis, but a revolution when the tipping point is reached. I’d prefer to avoid that the next time around, but perhaps that’s just not how democracy works – especially when the “5 on the scale” moderate centrists are also sucking from so many government teats!

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  21. Pete George (21,830 comments) says:

    Being centrish-ish doesn’t mean having to be moderate on everything. For example I’d like to see a radical overhaul of tax/welfare, aiming at a much simplified well balanced (centrerish) system. Best done in prosperous times, but needs advance preparation.

    And I’d also like to see parties radically overhaul their way of doing democracy. Any system is only as good as how it is used/abused. My ultimate aim is a more communicative and responsive system still based on representative democracy. It requires little if any structural/legal changes, just a change of attitude from politicians and voters.

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  22. Scott (1,614 comments) says:

    “Red favours social engineering – using the state to discriminate in ways he approves of, such as against gay marriages.
    He’s a lefty.”

    Can’t agree wat. Progressives are asking the government to radically redefine marriage. The government to say marriage is what we say it is-which is the essence of leftist praxis. The left believes Government is supreme and can define any social institution the way it wants. Unfettered by religion or tradition or any transcendent moral compass.

    This is state power at its most naked. The state decrees marriage is now this. Once you lose transcendent morality you are really under the sway of whatever elite group holds power. In NZ’s case it is secular progressives who are running the show and continue to dismantle western civilization. They are in my opinion cultural vandals.

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  23. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    ‘This general election!” I think Salmond has missed the boat by two elections already.

    The concerns that Salmond displays are shared by many. I’m not speaking as a Labour Party member or activist – but I gotta say this.
    If you go to The Standard, you can see, unedited, all the rituals and displays of the kinds of ‘activists’ Salmond describes.

    These are the kinds of people who would describe ‘centrist’ as representing the ‘Tyranny of the Majority’ (look it up under De Tocqueville if you haven’t already) and therefore unworthy of a voice in this democracy. How many of us have visited in the spirit of enquiry and have departed, appaled at what they see going on there?

    If I were a possible volunteer or wished to get involved in a real ‘grass-roots’ Labour party – you know, the old-school type for ‘working class’ people – about values relating to hard work, aspiration, pride in oneself and feeling like the ‘little guy’ had a place in the democratic process, those ‘activists’ would send me running a mile in the opposite direction. They come across arrogant, vain, full of their own importance and most-tellingly – intellectually snobbish.

    In short, they are probably The National Party’s staunchest allies – they literally ridicule, demonise and censor thus sending people away for daring to have differing opinions. The weirdest thing is they don’t even have the reflective ability to acknowledge this, rather, if I wrote this there, it would be shot down in flames. They would probably think I’m writing this, not because I think it but because I’m part of a Right Wing Conspiracy to ‘shut them down’. (Or they would snigger at teh tipos).

    Anyway my point here is, those people are killing Labour, like a malignant tumour from the inside, and unfortunately will not release the host organism until it is in the ground. Labour has no place for people like me – a centre right-with some socialist-leanings kinda guy. So that’s one less person, one less vote, one less voice, one less balanced opinion one less dissent.

    Which is just how neo- bullies like it.

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  24. Paulus (2,299 comments) says:

    Leave it, the Standard is a laugh, and easy to bait. Full of self serving pricks and prickesses.
    Still fun to know ones enemy’s so called thinking.

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  25. EAD (324 comments) says:

    There is no such thing as left and right – they’re just differing degrees of socialisim to keep the masses believing they have a choice. In the entire history of mankind, there may have been a left/right paradigm in France around the time of Louis XVI but that is about it. The real issue is liberty vs. totalitarianism. Even a supposedly “free” NZ, the government deems it right and proper to interfere on how we discipline our children, how much we should drink, smoke and even to an extent into our sex lives. The growth of the state is incrementally takes away our ability to lead free lives through an ever increasing amount of laws. By enabling banks to create money out of thin air and charge interest on it (fractional reserve banking), it incrementally reduces the ability of individuals to live free and independent lives. How many kiwis would understand that all of our currency we use is backed by nothing but debt?
    We are on the road to serfdom and we don’t even know it.
    “Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom” – Friedrich August von Hayek

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