A popular politician

February 5th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

blogs at Pundit:

The most popular politician in is Manuel Valls, the interior minister in Francois Hollande’s Socialist government.  While the President has an approval rating around 40 per cent, Monsieur Valls’ rating tops 75 per cent. Three quarters of the country loves him…and the other quarter are from his own party: Only 6% of his Socialist party like him. His own party call him a ‘Sarkozy of the left’ and a French Tony Blair. He could be the next Socialist president. The tangle has some resonance for left parties in every developed liberal democracy. The ideological cul de sac always results from asking working people for their vote but not their values. Monsieur Valls’ insight is that, when voters express concern about crime in the banlieue (suburbs), or support French military intervention against jihadist terrorists in Mali, they are actually motivated by left wing values – and the left should not abandon these topics to the right, as if only the right had a monopoly on what’s popular. He argues he is motivated by principle. Being tough on crime is consistent with left ideology. He once wrote in a book, ‘far from being illiberal, a hard stance on order and authority is the best guarantor of individual freedom.’ He’s not rejecting socialist principle, he is acting on it, he says.

And the lessons for NZ:

So consider left doctrine about crime, tax and welfare in New Zealand. Orthodoxy says the left should try to avoid these issues and stick to asking ‘but where are the jobs?’ To do otherwise, goes the doctrine, is to buy in to right wing ‘framing’ and ‘narrative’ as if potential left votes might be lured into a dreamworld of false consciousness from which the left’s only options are to persuade them they are wrong, or be less than frank about our real intentions.  Spotters of doctrinal error label any attempt to deviate from this line, ‘selling out’ and flirting with ‘Rogernomics’ or ‘Blairism’, as if opposing crime also implies you want to invade Iraq and hock off public assets.  The trouble with doctrine is it makes policy debate stale. It prevents the left from presenting the solutions of the future by locking it into the debates of the past.Fear of debate, and attempts to marginalise and demonise anyone who questions the doctrine, are actually revealing of a crisis of confidence in the left’s own principles

I don’t think we need to think hard about where those comments could be directed.

When the left is out of tune with voters on welfare or crime, or terrorism, it is policy and not the left’s values that are out of tune with the public. And that means having the courage to reform policy, make it practical and relevant, even when the choices are hard. What keeps parties in opposition is when absolutism gets confused with principle.  Ironically, US commentators have pointed out this same error is keeping the Republican Party in opposition. Speakers at a Republican conference recently were told not to talk about rape after the disasters during last year’s election when candidates like Todd Akin talked about ‘legitimate rape’. How can a conservatively moralising party get itself into a position where it can’t stand up and say clearly ‘we are against rape no matter who does it or how it occurs?’  It’s as absurd as the parties that invented welfare feeling unable to talk about reform and improvement of it.

Sensible food for thought for the left.

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6 Responses to “A popular politician”

  1. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    The leadershipof the modern left is not about the working classes.

    It is now led by middle class intellectuals ,academics and homosexual activists who wouldn’t know shit about the people (workers) they pretend to represent.

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  2. willtruth (243 comments) says:

    Personally I am pleased if the left are not being drawn into a debate about crime and welfare. The most important problems facing NZ are economic. It’s the economy stupid. But National wants to talk about crime and welfare because it can’t figure out what to do about the stagnating economy

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  3. Ed Snack (1,872 comments) says:

    Well, in Atkin’s case question was in relation to abortion, and Atkins got somewhat tangled upon his response. It was indeed a thorough political disaster, but also a trap setup by the media who asked a loaded question and then spun the answer, hard.

    The other reason I suspect that the left in general prefers not to be hard on crime is that they recognise that the criminal class is growing and that they almost inevitably vote left. They voteless of course because the left validates and basically approves of their life choices.

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  4. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    What she’s really asking is for them to give up being left wing. I think that’s a mistake. I think they should just give up period.

    The old way of politics, where it was in some part about ideas, is dead. Politics is now mostly carping about inanities, and a kind of American Idol, but for ugly, old people. The left can’t function in such an atmosphere, so they might as well admit that and go home and do something useful with their lives. Blairism is just a way of avoiding the reality so that the Paganis and Mallards of this world can keep their jobs.

    Interestingly, the perpetual moaning machines at The Standard were complaining about those who no longer vote being responsible for Labour’s poor showing in the polls. They’re right about that, but wrong to think they can do anything, because there’s no prospect of anything for these people to vote for. Hence the risible nature of he schemes being hatched at The Standard to “fix” the left.

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  5. RRM (9,917 comments) says:

    NZ Labour Party’s wheels really fell off in this left voter’s eyes when they coined that ridiculous “Own Our Future” slogan and started campaigning on asset sales.

    I had heard no-one in the public voicing concern about asset sales, before Labour decided it was an issue.

    And I find it quite disturbing the way “OWN OUR FUTURE!” and other variants on “STOP ASSET SALES!” have filtered down from the top of Labour to their activist base and then their voting pool… when it’s clear just by listening to them talk that few in the Labour hierarchy let alone the Labour voting pool understand the economics of the Key Govt’s proposed sales.

    It is just a chant.. not at all unlike FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD. It astonishes me that so many people seem willing to be told what to think like this, but there you have it.

    And then there was the Darien Fenton vs the Mad Butcher thing… :roll:

    Basically Labour are doing many things badly, and the one thing they have done well (energise their base over the asset sales) is somewhat scary IMHO.

    Meanwhile, The Key govt talk to us like grown-ups, they look and sound like competent business people, and they are doing anything but have a bonfire of everything the previous Labour govt built (as Clark feared in her 2008 concession speech.) As someone who’s historically been a relatively centreist Labour voter, I find I have more in common with the Nats now, maybe that’s why Labour just can’t get anywhere?

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  6. AspieLawyer (2 comments) says:

    I really like this article. I think that left wing does not have to mean crazy left. The way to support the workers in New Zealand is to also ensure that businesses are able to thrive. This has been a bit of an anathema to the left, but if business thrives whilst acting ethically, the workers are assured jobs with the appropriate support mechanisms. Income to Government via taxation is stable or grows, allowing more expenditure on the populous.

    The Unions have failed to realise for years that the ideal is not to grab bigger slices of the pie by getting more members in the companies to join the Union, but to make the pie bigger by ensuring the success of the companies for which their members work. Unions should be ensuring fair and egalitarian contracts rather than trying to get the best deals to the detriment of businesses. Basically, a partnership.

    I wish to stand for Parliament in the future, and I am pleased that Labour seem to be taking the ethical high ground. Asset sales are terrible. I maintain that all strategic resources (water, power, telecommunications, transport etc) should be in the public sector so that unethical companies cannot hold us to ransom. Asset sales are selling off profitable businesses, thus denying a significant income from the ownership of these assets. We have moved away from the moribund SOEs that used to cost a fortune, and now most SOEs are lean, profitable and successful. Having got here, to sell them off only benefits the speculators and the rich in society. I want all to benefit.

    As for welfare, there are many other ways to organise those without work to ensure that they retain their dignity, do not rely on handouts, yet have enough to not just survive, but to live. I used to live in Jersey in the Channel Islands. If you were unemployed tehre, the States of Jersey would step in and give you a job. Ideally it would be in the area in which you are trained, but even if it was picking up rubbish from the verges, it ensured a neat, tidy country and zero unemployment. If we did that for 3 days a week on a basic wage, we would have zero unemployment, a motivated workforce geared at self improvement, and a tidy country. Also, people would not have to be shamed that they do not have a job, but proud that they are earning their living fairly. They have 2 extra days to seek alternative work, and we would not need WINZ offices or to assess people to ensure that they are looking for a job. If someone was not looking for a job, so what? They are working, and so it would be a non issue.

    What I am saying is that we can have ideas that break the mold and think laterally. It is a good socialist principle to think around the issue and come up with different ideas. If the workforce and corporate world were on the same page, perhaps as Henry Ford put it, to make as much profit with as few costs whilst paying the workers the maximum possible wage, we would have a successful country.

    What I like about Labour is that these ideas are not necessarily rejected, but are beginning to be considered from a socialist perspective to see how we best can serve not just the poor, but also the wealthy, to ensure a truly democratic and unified New Zealand is the result.

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