The nature of Labour

December 11th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

writes in his politics summary about the cyber-bullying allegations with and notes:

The Labour Party has long been drifting towards an organisational and political style that political scientists call ‘electoral-professional’. This is a modus operandi in which a party no longer acts a bottom-up mass membership party but is instead an elite of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff who have almost total control over the image, policy, ideologies and activities of the party.

Party membership in this model is simply not necessary. In fact members and activists are at best tolerated instead of encouraged. Therefore such parties tend to have very low membership numbers, and the members have little real incentive to join unless they want to rise up the ranks to become MPs or parliamentary staff. Instead of relying on the fundraising of party members or their activism, instead such parties rely on backdoor state funding through parliament which pays for the bulk of their activities.

I’ve written in much more detail about this in blog posts such as The professionalisation of party campaigning and The Electoral-Professional party

The upshot is that, if Curran is indeed involved in the suppression of party members’ activism and speech as alleged, then she is hardly acting out of sync with the spirit or operations of the modern Labour Party. Instead she is simply reinforcing and playing the usual role required under the model of the modern electoral-professional style party.

The way to get ahead in the Labour Party is to become a parliamentary staffer. Look at their caucus. The former parliamentary staffers include:

  • The Leader
  • The Deputy Leader
  • The No 4
  • The House Leader
  • The Chief Whip

As far as I know only one MP in National used to be a parliamentary staffer. The Greens also have a fast-track for parliamentary staffers with three MPs having worked for the Greens in Parliament. But at least their selections are not so centrally controlled.

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25 Responses to “The nature of Labour”

  1. iMP (2,458 comments) says:

    This is starting to happen in the National party. Membership is shrinking because the reason for belonging just isn’t there anymore. I note the South is. Nats cancelled their Christmas function this year because, apparently, JK couldn’t come (yeah right). So Christmas isn’t Christmas if JK ain’t there? The week before Nats were pleading with people to buy tickets…read between lines.

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  2. iMP (2,458 comments) says:

    Goldsmith. Several Nat Party staffers, though (Joyce, Tisch, etc).

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  3. RRM (10,104 comments) says:

    I would say the coming to the fore of political blogs (like this one, and in a different way Red Alert) have devalued major party membership bigtime in this day and age.

    If I joined Labour or National as one of the no-name rank & file members, my influence would be five-eighths of not very much. But I know plenty of the big people read Kiwiblog & Red Alert. So if I say the right thing at the right time on here, who knows who might be listening and might pick it up?

    I can’t really see a problem with Parties picking parliamentary staffers to become list MPs – the voters will decide in the normal way whether they like what a particular party is offering.

    It’s tribal voters who know they always vote Labour or National, but can’t really say why, that do themselves and the country more of a disservice IMHO…

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  4. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    On the whole, politics in this country is becoming more of a career option than a genuine service. That is a bad thing on the whole. Mine host – as a creature of the self-styled ‘beltway’ is hardly innocent in this regard.

    Term limits or reducing membership of the House to a part-time job while increasing the numbers of members (as in New Hampshire or Texas) would be a good idea.

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  5. iMP (2,458 comments) says:

    Voters pick List MPs? Yeah Right.

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  6. RRM (10,104 comments) says:

    Voters pick the party they are going to party vote for iMP. (Unless they are one of those loyal born & bred tribal voters I mentioned.)

    If you vote National because you’ve always voted National, even though you dislike a lot of their list MPs, then YOU are the problem as much as the party’s process of selecting list MPs is :-P

    The days of electing a local champion to send off to fight for the interests of your neighbourhood in far away Wellington are long gone. The whole country’s one city. You vote for National because you prefer National’s policy platform to the alternatives.

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  7. Lee C (2,720 comments) says:

    This is a corporate, neo liberal model. It happens in other areas of life, increasingly a small clique discovers what it can get away with, and exploits the fact.

    We have only ourselves to blame, for being silently complicit.

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  8. SPC (5,682 comments) says:

    The irony is that this is an issue now because the “Labour Party” wanted to become a mass membership party (like the Greens) – but their own ruling class is running a reactionary counter-revolution.

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  9. Harriet (5,201 comments) says:

    “……elite of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff who have almost total control over the image, policy, ideologies and activities of the party….”

    Labour understands one thing about the will of the people: it wasn’t that long ago that they were all swept away by the Macarena…..but labour haven’t yet realised that they are the fucken monkees! :cool:

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  10. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,705 comments) says:

    RRM

    “You vote for National because you prefer National’s policy platform to the alternatives.”

    I think you’ll find a large sector of the voting public vote according to their perception of the relative good character / moral turpitude of the respective parties. In my view this is largely why Clark was thrown out. She was presiding over a pretty sleazy mob. I heard lifetime Labour supporters describing her as ‘totalitarian.’ Their perception was accurate.

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  11. Harriet (5,201 comments) says:

    Ah…yes…out comes the ALP handbook…..stay on today’s message…shift blame….’feel’ ‘offended’ at every opportunity……blame Key for everything…….monkee see the ALP…. NZ monkee do! :cool:

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  12. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    Cato>On the whole, politics in this country is becoming more of a career option than a genuine service.

    If we could still up-vote comments, I’d give Cato a good thumbing. These people who leave university, get a parliamentary staff job, then progress to an elected position in their late 20s or early 30s really leave a bad taste in my mouth. People who think they were born to rule aren’t.

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  13. RRM (10,104 comments) says:

    Adolf: Yes; or as you say you are voting for the team that seems least dodgy & dishonest. Either way, the voter’s imperative to think about who & what you are voting for is still there.

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  14. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Why the surprise at this?

    The fact is there is no party, let alone labour, out there that represents the law abiding labourer who wants a good education for his children so they don’t have to work 15 hours a day “down pits”. The labour party my parents supported does not exist. There is no one in the labour party that would know what it was like to HAVE to go to work at 14 like my father or even know anyone like my father.

    The NLP represents everything that is totally loathsome about politicians, they don’t even like each other so how could they possible repect the citizens of New Zealand.

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  15. Johnboy (17,051 comments) says:

    PEB’s Father and his mates! :) :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

    You’ve done well Paul lad! :)

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  16. David Garrett (7,704 comments) says:

    PEB: Totally agree. I used to get particular pleasure out of baiting them with “worker” type questions (how many shovels of builders mix to a shovel of cement for foundations?) when they were stupid enough to talk about “workers” in the debating chamber…I can’t think of a single one of them who has ever done any “work” as your father and mine would know it…and boy, does it show..

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  17. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    DG

    and because as a constituency mum and dad ,or mater and pater as we referred to them in our state house, drift off to charlatans like the drunken dwarf who take disaffection from another party as a mandate.

    The party that can gain the PI vote in our cities will have alot of power. The PI community is very very conservative , presently they are rolled out on election day and have some lip service paid to them but after that they are all treated as “fresh’ and no one wants to know them. This community is the law abiding labourer who wants only the best for their kids that is the trad labour voter.

    This community will be getting turned off big time, Chavel and co will accept the fine mats and drink out of communal bowls if they have to because they are whores , but they have no more time for the ‘traditional labourer voter” than I have for them.

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  18. BlairM (2,340 comments) says:

    Parties simply can’t function long term by being top-down. I think there has to be some sort of limited Head Office ability to veto things they don’t like, but in general parties should be driven by their members. Why join anything if your only purpose in the organisation is to be milked for money and asked to deliver flyers? People join to participate and have a say, and if they don’t get that, they won’t renew.

    That’s why ACT is now a hollow shell, and Labour will eventually follow if they don’t do something about it. From the infighting going on with them now, even with a good chance of being government in 2014, you can tell that it is already happening.

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  19. bhudson (4,741 comments) says:

    If I joined…National as one of the no-name rank & file members, my influence would be five-eighths of not very much.

    RRM,

    My take on that is that your membership will have as much influence as you want it to have. If you join thinking the party will naturally gravitate around you and adopt your ideas as gospel, then you are bound to be disappointed. If you get active at an electorate management and/or policy advisory group level then you are much more likely to develop real influence across both party and parliamentary groups.

    I think this is pretty much the same for any volunteer-based association.

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  20. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    BlairM

    Agree with you but they will renew ( the stupid ones anyway) My experience with joining any “club” has always been the same. You get the “committee men who want to run the whole show ( Electoral MP’s) – the ones who join because they like the sport and the club enables them to participate (List MP’s)
    the ones who sell the raffle tickets (local committee) and the ones who are desperate to belong to something and membership gives their life a purpose ( the pamphlet droppers).

    Now no matter what the club is the pamphlet droppers are the ones that even though they do the donkey work, they are ones that are treated with destain by the hierarchy and thats what we are seeing at the moment, a couple of pamphlet droppers are getting a bit uppity and the committee men feel the need to put them in their place

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  21. peterwn (3,341 comments) says:

    One aspect omitted is the role of the unions in Labour. Their involvement is ‘professional’ – they bring money into the party and provide manpower at needed times eg elections. In return they want their pound of flesh in having a say in candidate selection, party administration etc. They provide a nominal membership for the party, but the members count for zilch except their card votes.

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  22. Komata (1,224 comments) says:

    One of the saddest sights I have come across over the years, is the aging Labour-supporter (invariably retired) who is still fixed into the whole ‘Class War ‘ Tory, Capitalist-bad, brotherhood of the proliteriat ideal that they were part of, ‘buck ‘ome’. They simply cannot comprehend that their beloved party no longer exists, and if one is ever foolish enough to point this out, the results can best be politely described as a rage. Sad really, yet it is these people which continue to be the ‘party’s most avid and vociferous supporters. Wilfull blindness? I have no idea.

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  23. bhudson (4,741 comments) says:

    One of the saddest sights I have come across over the years, is the aging Labour-supporter…who is still fixed into the whole ‘Class War ‘ Tory, Capitalist-bad, brotherhood of the proliteriat ideal…

    Clare?

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  24. Mark Unsworth (41 comments) says:

    Hi David the Nat parliamentary staffers list is longer than you noted.Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith both were political staff.John Hayes worked in Mike Moores office and Hekia Parata also worked for a Labour Minister ( the PM ) in DPMC

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  25. Lee C (2,720 comments) says:

    However, it is fair to say that many of our political elite (and lets’s face it we describe them as ‘an elite’ without self-consciousness) are so similar. Even if they are ‘down to earth’ when they arrive into power, it is a safe bet that in a brief space of time they will soon be preaching to the masses about how they, too, could achieve similar heights if only they were to ‘work hard’.

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