The intolerance of diversity

I’m probably going to regret doing this – defending a Labour 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 Labour 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 Josie Pagani. 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.

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