Monday, 10 November 2008

Trotter struts, frets - part two

Congratulations to Chris Trotter, who managed to make it all the way through his first post-election column without saying "I told you so," or using the word "infelicitous," at all (1).

Trotter ascribes the failure of the left to the reactionary tendency of New Zealand voters:
So, what was it in the end? What led a majority of the New Zealand electorate to reject a government that has not only done it no great harm (as National-led governments are historically prone to do), but might even be said to have done it some good? Why did voters reject a prime minister with nine years of hard-won experience in government, for a chap who's barely spent six years in parliament?

Last night's result was manufactured out of the besetting sin of the last 150 years of western history - the crisis of masculinity. What, exactly, is a man in a world of corporate and public bureaucracies? A world of tin-pot bosses, impossible schedules, and unrealistic expectations? A world where to show your feelings is to reveal your weakness? A world where girls can do anything, but boys make a virtue out of boorish stupidity? A world where cynicism trumps heroism, and where simple human decency is dismissed as political correctness?

It was these: the men who just couldn't cope with the idea of being led by an intelligent, idealistic, free-spirited woman; the gutless, witless, passionless creatures of the barbecue-pit and the sports bar (and the feckless females who put up with them); who voted Helen Clark out of office. (2)

First of all - I have to say it - how he can describe Helen Clark as 'idealistic,' is beyond me. For the last time, she signed a free trade agreement with the Communist despots of the P.R.C. There was nothing iidealistic in that, just pragmatic economically motivated hypocrisy. Which exposes Trotter's column as the ideological ideal-illogical exercise it is.

(For record, the voting system isn't there to "save us from ourselves" as Trotter puts it (3) - it is there to reflect the will of the people. MMP is not perfect, as the bump in the wasted vote this year showed - but it is better than many. If Trotter wants a system where the good and the wise get to decide what is good for everyone else, I suggest he visit Helen's friends in Beijing.)

He can't be honest and attribute Labour's defeat to its true source - a rudderless party who on;ly purpose had become to maintan its position in power, on the benighted principle that' "We might be slightly better at mismanaging things than the other team." There was nothing fundamentally distinctive about Labour in 2008. The fact John Key was able to "Mee, too!" almost every policy of Labour's showed that. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why they lost - because there was no reason for them to win. No compelling reason why people would vote for them. No Big Idea to excite people.

Admitting that, however, would mean Trotter and Labour have to admit that they failed, and they don't have the courage for that - the same lack of courage that cost them the election. SO it is easier to blame the electorate, in a singular display of graceless disgruntlement.
1 - "The night MMP couldn't save us from ourselves," by Chris Trotter, published in the Sunday Star Times, 9th of November, 2008. Reproduced on (
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.


Anonymous said...

Failed? After three election victories? If only the parties you support could boast of such failure!

lurgee said...

I didn't support any party in the election, as described in tiresome detail below. I'm disillusionewd Labour. I didn't vote for them because they FAILED to live up to the moral standards I expect of a socialist party and they FAILED to offer any motivating reason for other people (most of whom couldn't give a stuff about Tibet or the Uighirs as long as they keep getting their cheap DVD players) to vote for them. SO Trotter is wrong in his contention is was New Zealand reactionaries baulking at Labour. It was people voting for the other lot because they had become pretty interchangeable, and he had nicer wrapping paper. So Labour FAILED when it really mattered.

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