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Chris Trotter argues that although democratic socialism is Labour’s official ideology, New Zealand politics lacks traditional left-wing champions like Bernie Sanders & Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Chris Trotter argues that although democratic socialism is Labour’s official ideology, New Zealand politics lacks traditional left-wing champions like Bernie Sanders & Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Photo: The Independent.

By Chris Trotter*

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Queens, thousands of young New Yorkers celebrated Bernie Sanders return to the campaign trail. His “Bernie’s Back” rally, the first since the 78-year-old senator’s recent heart attack, included two powerful personal endorsements. To loud cheers, Michael Moore, the left-wing documentary film-maker, threw his weight behind the self-described “democratic-socialist” contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. What made them roar, however, was the endorsement speech of the 30-year-old congresswoman from the Bronx – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 Watching all this from New Zealand is thoroughly disconcerting. New Zealand progressives are in the historically rare position of finding themselves outflanked on the left by, of all people, the Americans! Sure, in Nicky Hager we have a left-wing journalist considerably more effective, in raw political terms, than Michael Moore. But that is where it stops. Where is our equivalent of Bernie Sanders? Where is our AOC? Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern may resemble this duo on our television screens – but only with the sound turned way down!

 There is no one in our Parliament; no one in our largest progressive party; remotely like Bernie Sanders. According to the party’s constitution, Democratic Socialism is Labour’s official ideology, but when was the last time any significant player within its ranks loudly sang its praises? Even Labour’s erstwhile “left-wing” standard-bearer, David Cunliffe, only dared use the word “socialism” ironically. With his departure, Labour is without a single champion for the principles upon which the party was founded in 1916.

 That is as unusual as it is unhealthy. Rogernomics may have thrown Labour into ideological confusion and organisational turmoil, but through it all the figure of Jim Anderton remained as the bulwark of traditional Labour values. Helen Clark may not have been prepared to “go down in a hail of bullets with Jim Anderton”, but up until the party split in 1989, around half of the party remained at his side, with roughly a third of the membership following him out and into the genuinely democratic-socialist NewLabour.

 Therein lies most of the explanation for Labour’s ideological vacuity. Its left-wing broke away, leaving behind a party whose most avid ideologues were all on the Right. With the coming of MMP, however, even they were lost – to ACT and the United New Zealand Party. Eventually, this intellectually inert Labour Party was able to attach itself to the “Third Way” doctrines of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. These provided them with the ex post facto justification they needed for their consistent unwillingness to challenge the fundamental reforms of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.

 This gaping hole where Labour’s left-wing principles and policies should have been was fortuitously masked by the wave of prosperity that surged across the Western world from the early 1990s – and only ended with the onset of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. The glittering array of technological wonders which both fuelled and reflected that prosperity allowed “Centre-Left’ leaders like Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and Clark to present themselves and their parties as the bearers and exemplars of a new, twenty-first century version of progressivism. More importantly, it allowed them to paint their traditional socialist rivals as throwbacks to a bygone age. In Blairspeak: as “dinosaurs” who just didn’t “get it”.

 That this is still the attitude of Labour’s leading politicians and advisers goes to the heart of the Coalition Government’s current difficulties. So long as Late Capitalism continued to come up with the shiny toys and ever-rising property values persuasive of its triumph over the now defunct Soviet Union, Labour had no need to do anything more than keep the prosperity machine ticking-over. Proof of its progressive chops now lay in transacting the still unfinished business of social liberalism: paid paternity leave; civil unions; anti-smacking legislation.

 The GFC put an end to all that. Not suddenly and viciously, by way of austerity measures – as happened in the UK and the US. Here in New Zealand the consequences of the catastrophic failure of the neoliberal model were far from sudden. They appeared, instead, like rising damp; slow and easy to ignore at first, but growing steadily worse until its effects became inescapable. Labour could see the rot, but was at a loss to know how to get rid of it. Such energy as remained in Labour’s ranks, following the departure of Helen Clark, Heather Simpson and Michael Cullen, was devoted almost entirely to thwarting every attempt to reinvigorate the party’s democratic-socialist principles and policies. It remained an article of faith among Labour’s new leaders that anyone promoting such solutions still didn’t “get it”.

 Labour’s ideological paralysis should have been mana from heaven for the Greens. But here, too, the urge to come across as a party that “gets it” proved stronger than the desire to become the party that can fix it. The departure of Sue Bradford and the rise of James Shaw reflected this shift away from the Green Party’s transformative mission. And, as happened with Labour – only more so – the Greens’ refusal to confront economic liberalism has been compensated for by the ever-more-fervent embrace of “woke” social liberalism.

 Hence Golriz Ghahraman. The similarities between this thirty-something and America’s AOC are disappointingly few. Tellingly, her desire for radical change appears to fade away at about the point it runs into the gritty business of specifying which parts of the neoliberal edifice her party is most committed to deconstructing. An anti-colonialist, pro-immigrant regulator of free speech, Ghahraman may be. A democratic-socialist she ain’t.

This lack of a traditional left-wing champion in New Zealand politics could prove electorally fatal for Jacinda Ardern’s government. In sharp contrast to the US, where the strong presence of left-wing political champions like Sanders and AOC has empowered less radical progressives like Elizabeth Warren to embrace policies well outside the Democratic Party’s comfort-zone; the gravitational pull in New Zealand is all coming from the opposite direction. We, too, have a septuagenarian political figure who is happy to stand alongside a charismatic young female political leader. What we don’t have, is what she so desperately needs. A mentor willing to stay the course proudly: not at his prime-minister’s right hand; but at her left.

*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at He writes a fortnightly column for

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Jacinda gone pretty limp in office and no one else articulates anything Left Wing. As in, moving power back towards bottom 50-60% of population. Look at th fuss over the employment relations act. Anything leftie Winston bashes it into long grass. Luke warm does not convince. Too concerned to look "responsible". national could sneak in if NZF fall below 5%

Best start, healthy homes, ring-fenced losses are some of the rebalancing policies that have been completed.

Healthy homes ? c'mon !

And the changes to the tax treatment of losses on investment in residential property will lead to a shortage of housing rental stock and increased rents .......... and there is evidence of this already , more people living in cars and motel rooms than ever before

Healthy Homes is a great policy, do you not think so? And obviously rentals should not be favoured form a tax perspective. If rentals are sold to homeowners there is a slight decrease in stock per person but its small as rentals are only a bit more crowded on average than homeowners. But yes the housing crisis is a major issue and its needs to be solved, labour simply doesn't have the competency to do so and tax advantages are not the appropriate solution as it will drive the wealth gap wider.


Labour has deserted its roots which were workers. They bring in the winter fuel allowance and one year of free tertiary education so pensioners and students looked after but these benefits are paid for by workers. Tweaking the minimum wage only makes the influx of low-wage immigrants more attractive to employers because they are so easy to exploit.

But those roots, so to speak, have thinned out. The cloth cap voting blocs are no longer present. Think, how many wharfies, how many meat workers nowadays compared to even the Lange/Douglas government. As for Sanders, or Warren for that matter, in the US it is very easy work to label them as socialists, and that sinks that. A very good percentage of Americans consider Obama as a socialist. That is very dirty word to the majority of Americans I do believe!

There are as many low paid jobs as ever. But they are in fast food and supermarkets and of course many female.

True enough but you cannot compare that to the sheer bulk of the shed meetings of over 1200 or so workers in 40 or so freezing works up and down the country, and coupled to that all their like minded family & the associated sub contractors and supply. That is what a bloc was and it was collectively, a powerful body and voice too, and quite rightly so. But at the end of the day it has been the upward movement of the population generally, lifting the percentage of the upper part of middle class, that has thinned those out that old rank and file.


The issue that dominates NZ society is housing. Both lack of it and cost of it. Compared to say mental health or drug addiction it is easy to fix. If Labour doesn't tackle it then there is room for a populist party that does. How about making all immigrants buy a new house; massive stamp duty on property over $500k; land taxes.
Soon non-home owners will be a majority. Most home owners have children who find house unaffordable. Only owners of investment properties would object - a minority of voters but maybe a majority of MPs?

Only owners of investment properties would object
JA's government had a chance to bring some equity back into our broken system by introducing levies on speculative activities, but utterly failed to do so. I have little faith on our ability to bridge our widening productivity gap in the years to come without first and foremost getting rid of the incentives for capital misallocation.

Isn't the five year bright line test a policy with the intention of curbing speculative activity? What kind of levy would you have hoped for?

@advisor , you seem to not understand that speculators are part of any functioning free market , and they are a symptom rather than the cause of market distortions .

With all the will in the world , levying them would simply not address the problem .

What would a housing solution look like if we excluded punitive incentives (i.e., taxes/levies on investment property) in the policy equation - yet still allow for individuals/private investors to participate in the residential housing market?

We would ban the ability for individual/private investors and/or business/corporate entities to purchase/invest in single, detached residential dwellings, but allow them to invest in multi-unit/multi-story residential dwellings. Give the legislative ban a 5 to 10-year horizon for implementation.

Exemptions could be made for individual/private ownership of a second dwelling as a bach/ holiday home, and that could be rented for short term (i.e., ArBNB, Bookabach) purposes and for a second dwelling that is within a multi-unit, multi-story residential dwelling. Another exemption could be made for the purchase of adjacent single detached residential properties for the purpose of amalgamation of titles in order to build multi-unit, multi-story residential dwellings.

And we'd need to blanket amend planning rule height restrictions in residential zones, and also review view shaft planning restrictions as well.

It is difficult to separate owner occupied from investment property. They try to in UK and France but there are always round it - maybe not for large scale developments by reputable firms but always for individuals. For example my son in France is looking to change jobs to advance his career - if he moves more than 75km he can rent out or sell his recently bought newly built apartment otherwise he has to refund various govt subsidies. Arbitrary. So best solution is to hit house prices for all owners resident or non-resident. The only downside would be implementing a change that dropped house prices back to non speculative levels for owners who have been tempted into the market by govt policies over the last 15 years. That could be handled by guaranteeing a sale price of say 25% less than purchase.

You want to make housing more affordable by increasing demand and cost?

A more sensible approach would be less market intervention. Free up more land, streamline the consent process and simplify the building codes to reduce costs. Reduce immigration to control demand, until the market is meeting current demand.


If Labour truly want to take a strong stance for the good of NZ citizens, as they did before with the Foreign Buyers Ban which helped to get them elected. Then the need to actively reverse the damage that was inflicted for 9 years by National's false economy. We know that NZ has become far too dependent on our property market performance to boost GDP. That has put most of our real economies in to decline.
So how to reverse Auckland's false economy - Easy! Tax the by product! Create $460,898,100 in revenue in one year!
Almost 40,000 empty homes are now situated in the central and main commuter districts of Auckland. If we were to adopt the very successful Vancouver Empty Homes Tax model this could generate $460,000,000 in tax revenue each year and probably at lot more! This is based on the average unoccupied home value being $1,170,000 due to most of these homes being in the more expensive parts of Auckland according the the latest census figures, - 1% tax on home value = average yearly tax of $11,700 per vacant property x that by 39,393 unoccupied homes = $460,898,100 in tax revenue. Main advantages: -

1) Huge tax revenue generated that can be used to build homes and improve services for NZ.
2) You are mostly taxing Speculative Overseas Investors vacant property who can't vote in this country.
3) Reduces the overall cost of living in Auckland by freeing up more rental property.
4) Helps business to thrive since they can attract and retain staff more easily with reduce cost of living in AKL.
5) Deters money laundering.

More info on the Vancouver's empty homes tax : Opinion: What Vancouver’s impressive Empty Homes Tax revenue tells us:

Yep they should be running a deficit of at least 3% of GDP to mitigate the housing slowdown, fiscal stimulus is needed now. They could offer generous research tax rebates to business to increase labour productivity. They could reduce the price of tobacco to alleviate poverty. They could invest in infrastructure. They could have offered student loan rebates to high GPA engineering students who stay in NZ instead of giving it to everyone.

"reduce the price of tobacco to alleviate poverty"
Your assertion that all poor people smoke and reducing the tax on that will solve poverty.....
I think you must be channelling AOC !
We need to build bridges over the world oceans and ban all air travel.....

According to a recent Ernst & Young report 53% of NZ smokers have zero price elasticity in regard to tobacco. My contention is that an even greater proportion from the lower socioeconomic class have zero price elasticity regard to tobacco. An extreme example are people with schizophrenia (that's 0.3-0.7% of NZs population) whom studies show smoke at much higher rates that the general population. We've all seen anecdotal evidence of this, Here's Joe Wilks interviewing a homeless man in Auckland last year who, despite being in a state of abject poverty, has a packet of tobacco in his hands (13.5 min). Why is the price of tobacco in NZ 800% more expensive than in Germany? Is it because the Germans are stupid and don't think about the consequences of their policy decisions? If you create policy based on how people ought to behave rather that how they actually behave then you'll get a bad outcome. In this case NZ is creating poverty with extremely high tobacco tax.

I think you need to re read the article and do your sums again, but to quote the author:

'But the initial aim set out by former Mayor Robertson, to encourage owners of those supposed 10,800 vacant homes to put them into the long-term rental pool, doesn’t seem to have worked. The City of Vancouver’s vacancy rate has shrunk again, to 0.8 per cent, despite this tax and despite the short-term rental restrictions that Robertson also put in place during his tenure.

As I predict will happen with the B.C. speculation and vacancy tax, it’s ultimately all about a revenue grab, despite the noble long-term rental intentions attached.'

... as sad as it seems to have houses lying vacant ... surely that is the owners prerogative ....

Yes you are 100% correct.

It seems that the proponents of another tax are more mad about the houses being vacant, more mad than they are about dealing with the real reasons for a supply shortage of affordable homes in the first place.

Their solution is to add another cost on the backend, rather than decrease costs at the front end. It also has to be remembered that one person's cost is another person's revenue, and so the bureaucratic organisation grows.

So Dale are you saying taxing Overseas Investors who can't vote and making huge amounts of revenue is a bad idea? Are you a National party member by any chance. ;) Also remember that in Auckland we officially have 15 times more empty homes 39,393 then Vancouver had at just 2,538 empty properties before they introduced the Empty Homes Tax which is bring in huge amounts of revenue for new homes. I think it's long over due. :)

It is, for sure. It's also the prerogative of the people of a city to raise required revenue for infrastructure and or other outcomes in the way they choose.

Yes of course, but Auckland doesn't operate in a vacuum. But the justification this time is not even user pays, as these are foreign non domiciled owners, or domestic NZers that either are not in Auckland or are in Auckland in such small numbers that the loss of their vote doesn't count. The main prequirics seem to be tax those that can't vote.

But if the 'people' are really that much in control, it's a strange prerogative to choose a system that has given them one of the most unaffordable housing capital costs in the world.

Dale I think you're missing the point regarding Vancouver's empty homes and increasing rental vacancy. Did you read this bit from the article " For anyone doing the math, a $38 million take from 2,538 vacant homes averages out at just shy of $15,000 tax paid per vacant home. Which is about what you’d pay on an empty home valued at $1.5 million, as the tax is one per cent of assessed value. Another factor to consider is what $38 million will get the city. Most of the revenue will be used for affordable housing initiatives". Remember it's the Foreign Investors that are the ones mostly being tax. And they can't vote!

No I think you have missed the point, they introduced the tax and things got worse, even though they had the extra revenue for another 280 houses.

The report also says that the number of vacancies was about 8,000 but 5,300 where exempt? It also says that owners only had to say it was occupied (did not have to show proof) for it to be seen as occupied. How did they work out the empty bed stats. for Auckland?

Vancouver also introduced restrictions on Airbnb. If Auckland council were really serious about this, then they would hit the Airbnb as well on a matter of principle, as that would free up far more housing city wide, but of course that would upset many voters, let's forget about making more cheaper housing stock available and happier renters, which is what it is meant to be about.

And of course restricting use of Airbnb does not bring in revenue like an empty house tax does.

So what are the stats that it is MOSTLY Foreign Investors? But regardless what it means that other NZers are getting taxed, who do vote. If the stats are that good, only hit the foreign buyers.

The point that you and RS seem to miss totally is why are you keen to create a council revenue generating scheme at the back end, when the obvious solution (but less tax revenue) is to have a housing market that does not allows rentier capital gains speculation to happen in the first place? A vast majority of these foreign or domestic people wouldn't own these properties and leave them empty if they couldn't make more money by leaving them empty than if they were rented.

It is high inefficient to allow a system the causes a housing shortage and then try to remedy it with a bureaucratically administered tax at the other end.

Have you not worked out why houses are so unaffordable to begin with? That's where the solution lies.

And no I did not vote National, but it is obvious you voted for a party that likes to spend more of other people's money than is required.

Really Dale you should read more. And yes you have missed the point. Facts: 1) The Vancouver Empty Homes Tax has actually brought in revenue that far exceed their expectations so much so that they're looking to increase it as Overseas Investors are happy to pay extra for their bolt holes it turns out. And you're still reading the figure even in the article that I provide INCORRECTLY.

The actual number of empty homes in Vancouver is 2,538 as I pointed out to you. 5,385 were exempt due to various reason, building work etc. 2) Under the empty homes tax program, which was approved in late 2016, owners are required to rent out their empty or under-utilized, non-principal properties for at least six months of the year. The six months don’t have to be consecutive, but must be in periods of 30 or more consecutive days.
3) Airbnb properties in NZ are taxed in the same ways as holiday homes/short term lets.
4) And yes and Empty Homes Tax is on Labours consideration points considering that in Auckland we officially have 15 times more empty homes 39,393 then Vancouver had at just 2,538 empty properties before they introduced the Empty Homes Tax which is bring in huge amounts of revenue for new homes. I think it's long over due. :)

The Gross vacancy rate (which is what the NZ figures are) of Vancouver is 4.2%. The Gross Auckland figure is 7.3% and NZ lowest figure is Nelson at 5.8% which is still 28% higher than Vancouver so for starters a higher Gross vacancy rate would seem to be a NZ thing.

But of course what is included in the Gross figure. According to the census Gross vacancy rates include dwellings like: baches, holiday homes, ordinary homes from which the usual residents are away, investment properties in which nobody lives at all, and homes that are being renovated where nobody is living.

Does a high Gross rate indicate high foreign ownership where they are being left vacant, which you would also show up as a higher net vacancy rate?

The West Coast has a Gross vacancy rate of 18.69% which has been put down to high unemployment and people leaving the area. ie house is being sold as vacant possession, or owners looking to return at some stage and don't want to rent it in the meantime. It would be hard to imagine this high rate was caused by foreign investors.

Thus to estimate the net vacancy rate is not easy because no hard data is collected (but it doesn't stop them implementing policy because of it).

However my estimate below is far better than you comparing Gross Auckland with Net Vancouver.

To quote the Vancouver article:

'It’s interesting to note that out of the total 186,043 homes that issued a declaration (99 per cent of all Vancouver homes), 178,120 were occupied (owner-occupied or tenanted), 5,385 were exempt and 2,538 were vacant. So all that money comes from just 2,538 properties.'

This means after taking in exemptions to give a net vacancy figure approx 1 in 73 houses in Vancouver is vacant.

Auckland has 540,000 dwellings and the 39,000 vacancy rate figure is Gross. If you assume that its exemption rate would be similar to Vancouver this would leave a net figure of 12,480 vacant houses, ie a net vacancy rate figure of 1 in 43 houses in Auckland is vacant.

At best it could be said that Auckland has twice the vacancy rate as Vancouver, not 39x. And it would seem we have nearly twice the vacancy rate as Vancouver, both at an Auckland and then at a national level as a 'NZ thing,' and given that this extra nationally won't be due to there being more foreign owners, it could be argued that we are far closer in parity with the number of foreign investors than the numbers indicate.

But it still does not tell us why these houses are empty long term and who owns them.

And if I am not reading the article correctly it could that bit where you say the owners are happy to pay the extra tax. I missed that bit.

The quickest way to see off all non value-added rentier speculators, foreign or domestic, is to enable policies that make housing more affordable, and take away speculative capital growth gains. But there would be no money in this for council.

As GBH said, this is just a revenue grab, - against those that can't vote, or their small number of votes don't matter.


Ardern and Labour exhibit a trend (in many ways, a crisis) growing throughout much of the West - in which feeling has primacy over thought, empathy over action, emotion over intellect, and, in which, ultimately reality is whatever you feel it is. The party is the intellectual equivalent of a fifth-form gender-studies class. But what choice? National is merely a different kind of disgrace.

Too true. So much so that for the first time I might not vote in the next election - I will however still go to the polling station and use the voting form to express my dismay at the state of politics.

We need politicians who want to contribute to a better society, Not the current lot who either serve the interests of the wealthy, or are just using it as a stepping stone to a converted UN post (I swear JA is just HC version 2.0 - but at least HC was good at politics).

I voted National last time but that was a vote for Bill English, who despite being an ardent capitalist was still a good man.

... Coveted...

I liked William too.

Doesn't matter that he might have been a nice man - he had 6 children and advocated growth.

Makes him inappropriate, going forward at this point in time

and National is just the same if not worse....

Interesting viewpoint.

I have to say that I was hoping for Sanders to get the democratic nod last time, although my rationale may not be in line with the author of this article. My rationale was that having Sanders as the D nominee would have guaranteed that there would be an outsider as president... Sadly the DNC eliminated this as a possibility.

I'm still of the opinion that US politics is seriously broken. A third of a billion people, and Hillary and Donald were the best two candidates you put forward??? I'd be very cautious about ascribing much positive about US politics or politicians.

A contract pilot I know that flies extremely wealthy people around in biz jets has said to me via his observations that the US Gov is the best that money can buy... not sure that we should look at emulating them.

Interesting. I too know a contract pilot in the US working for NetJets (Berkshire Hathaway). He'd agree and sees the only hope for US democracy as getting big money out of politics.

Except money does not win elections - just as Hillary who far outspent Donald ..
That "get the money out of politics" battle cry is just tilting at windmills.
It is easy to agree that US politics are truly a mess at present - but money is not the issue.

The Hillary example supports my point. Were it not for the Clinton's fundraising ability, she would not have been the Democratic nominee.

Hillary also tried to ride and win on the coat tails of Barrack. They didn't realise that 8 years of Barrack and Hillary alienated more people at home and abroad than they expected. Money was not going to repair that damage. Biden might have been a better candidate, but Obama chose Hillary. Democrats will take many years to recover.

Biden was aback with his family tragedy. Clinton was thought to be unbeatable. But she was perceived as a stalwart of the political system, hooked in with a husband, even more deeply entrenched. The elephants voted for Trump and so too did the country finally, but most of that was a vote against the old system. Same motivation as Brexit in many many ways.

Labour would want to protect the working man and woman by restricting the importation of cheap labour. Failure by Labour to do this would suggest that they are actually globalistic socialists who believe neither in nation states nor in the protection of the local workers.

A new party that says 'kindness is for wimps'; hard on beneficaries; hard on wealth; tough on cheap immigration; but rewards whoever creates jobs or builds houses. This party for the workers needs a name so I looked up synonyms of 'Labour' and got "donkeywork, drudge, drudgery, fatigue, grind, moil, slavery, sweat, toil, travail" and none seemed as if they would get voter's interest. Can anyone improve on "The Employment party"?

The Sensible Party would be a good name ? Too much to expect...

Not bad but I'd find it easier to say "I'm Labour" or "I'm a Nat" than to claim "I'm sensible" in public.


Wow. You have to be a real communist to think this way. And you have to forget that we live in a democracy.
You really want parties to go to the extreme like the Democrats are doing? All they need to do to beat Trump is not do anything outlandish. But they have decided to go full extreme left wing.

Communism is a perverted Utopia. A we know they are or were run by Mafias like and far from the ideal. I do believe in the Nordic Socialism country style, where people are looked after and business thrive also. Not just farmers, well off peoples and big businesses like here. Not only the poor but middle classes and small businesses should be looked after.

You point to a major issue right there...people throw the term Socialism around when oftentimes actually mean social democracy - a system with such supports as our pension scheme. Thus we get folk arguing against socialism (government owning the means of production) when that's not what the colloquial usage in many cases was actually people end up once more talking past each other.

Well said rick

It's because politicians and media believe the twitter-centric world they focus upon, heavily dominated by journalists (who overwhelmingly self identify as left wing) and far left, is representative of the general population. They are being proven wrong by the fact that all the left wing media companies (cnn, huffpo and others) are failing as their centrist and right wing competitors (fox, breitbart etc) grow, and western politics has been and is moving towards right over last 10 years.

The future of western style "democracy" is doomed.

My predication is that in merely a decade the current election process will no longer be able to deliver functioning government.

Xingmowang, then you can know nothing of history, politics, culture or psychology. Free societies have been able constantly to reinvent themselves. The world's tyrannies have all tended, in time, to turn to dust and rubble, landscapes of abandoned prisons and decaying torture chambers, and vast cemeteries of people and ideas. The funny thing is, people and ideas always prevail. Fortunate, aren't we, to live in such a renewing environment...

Yeah, we could be run by a brutal faceless committee like communist China. This blog would have been shut down promptly and the owners and journalists put in labour camps.
If xingmowang doesn't like our "democracy" he or she should live in China. Real democracy will always look like a mess, that is the nature of it; but I would prefer our mess to brutal regimentation.

.. if that is so , why do you claim to be establishing the New Zealand United Peoples Party to run in the 2020 general election ?

Just wait a decade for the fall of western style democracy , as you put it .... then roll into Cathedral Square in your armoured tanks ....

In HK it's the other way round, the armoured might is being applied because the thoughts of WSD refuse to die.

That is not much of a prediction, western style democracy is designed for changing governments as part of a changing society. It is not geared to delivery high degrees of functionality, instead it changes its priorities all the time.

This causes deep frustration all the insanely deluded fools with bright ideas to achieve a functioning society and it always will.

Why do you bother commenting? You never seen to engage in an exchange with others who reply to your comments

You may be right but I hope you are wrong.

Here is a question, and I've asked it before - why does someone have to be Left Wing or Right Wing? Why can't political leaders pick policies that serve the public best from what ever spectrum they come from? Or perhaps the biggest question - why don't politicians, where ever they are, just recognise that they in office to serve the people, all the people and especially the most vulnerable of them? Sometimes socialist policies are the right thing to do, such as being the safety net when life goes bad, or sometimes they are not such as saying you don't have to work for a living when there are opportunities out there and you are capable of working. Why do we have to be polarised?

You cannot choose policies ad hoc. You must first have a set of values and a vision, and your policies then should align with that. You don't have to necessarily be left or right wing, you can be centrist, or centre-right or centre-left etc. But this comes from your values, not the other way around.
This was the problem with the TOP party - just a bunch of random policies with no clear values or vision that people could align to.
And as for just giving people what they want, that is weak. A good politician will strike a balance between recognising the will of the people, and being a leader that shows people their vision, not just an order taker.

Or more like you can choose policies ad hoc, after you have been elected into power. Politicians on the campaign trail differentiate themselves from the incompetent buffoons/dangerous simpletons of the other side. Once elected it is generally difficult to find big substantive differences between the buffoons/simpletons, as all politicians seemingly adhere to close to the same core values of - "Gee this is great. I have got it made here. Better not screw it up or I'll have to get a real job."

Agree with the values statement, that is fair and any politician should be able to expound on their values at length, but I did not say give the people what they want. Their are many in society who want what is patently not good for them or society, but overall I would argue the majority will of the people would be that the vulnerable are properly protected, that there are jobs available for all at decent pay rates to enable a good life style and tax payers are not seen as a bottomless pit of money, that putting a roof over your head should not break the bank, that politicians are accountable to the people (not just at the end of an electoral cycle), and that laws do not seek out single groups but seek to make society as fair and equitable for all as is possible.

Sure, but you can want those things from anywhere on the political spectrum. The difference is how you think that ought to be or could be achieved. People who believe in high individual freedom (and therefore responsibility) think that is best achieved without too much govt interference. On the other side you have people that think the only way to achieve all of that is to have govt directly allocate resources. Then you have anywhere in the middle of that.

Largely agree. Although people are generally instinctively predatory and that is why we need laws and therefore a Government. History is riddled with examples of why 'less Government' is fundamentally a failure, just as much as 'too much' is. Finding that balance is the trick!

It's a good question. I think the answer is - political parties are tribes, that survive and thrive on ideology.

Twyford had a nice mix of left and right in his policies. Unfortunately the delivery has been awful.

Can the Nationdl Policy Statement - Urban Development restore some credibility?


Good grief, how willfully blind do you need to be to not see the human devastation caused by going further left? Venzuela!!! Cuba!! Argentina!! North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, The old Eastern Bloc and the positive transformation in average wealth freedom and standard of living that has happened since they ditched that awful failed experiment. In the face of such overwhelming evidence of it's failings and harms everywhere it has been tried how can anyone be so naive as to believe its deluded/ignorant western cheerleaders? Twitter is a left wing echo chamber disconnected from reality and sadly convincing it's small number of politcal and media followers that the extreme left has major pull with the population - but it is clear from the way the left has languished electorally for the last 10 years that it does not!

How about Scandanavia? Sure, not as left as they used to be, but well to the left of NZ

. . true , but each of the Scandanavian countries is a parliamentary representative democracy.... meaning , the population have the power to boot out a government they stop liking .... not a prospect available to North Koreans or Cubans ...

There's probably too much distrust in NZ in terms of people taking the piss, otherwise we'd already have a similar government system.

The likes of Doyle will never mention Scandinavia or anywhere else that has large elements of socialism in it's political makeup as he might have to modify his views

When you group together dictatorships, decomcratic countries and communist countries as being "the same", it doe not bode well for a western democracy "left vs right" argument. North Korea is a left wing democracy? Uhhh... no. As such the rest of the argument is completely irrelevant as it is based on faulty logic.

If the right wing has been so successful over the past 10 years, we must be really close to living in a utopia? Because from where most people stand, things have gone backwards over the last decade and only a tiny minority is winning.

Left wing is all about centralizing and growing bureaucratic powers and control as that is the only way to compel the expropriation of wealth from productive workers, who don't find it at all fair, to give to the unproductive. That means cutting rights/freedoms and increasingly authoritarian (backed ultimately by violence) governance - which (humans being human) ALWAYS leads to despotism as power attracts the corruptible. If ever you start down that road then authoritarian hell-hole is where it inevitably leads as all the examples of history and current times show. Only the young/naive and historically ignorant fail to see this.

No extreme works well, me mixed economies are the best

I agree. But sine qua non you have to preserve the ability to change by limiting the powers of government, holding fast to democratic ideals and preserving freedom of speech. Any moves to restrict or abridge freedoms by left or right have to be vigorously opposed, it is truly a slippery slope, and sadly the worst authoritarian initiatives in 2019 NZ appear to be coming from the left.

Why do you think people all around the world, especially younger people are rising up in protest? It is not because of the inequalities that have arisen from leftist policies anywhere. I think we are reaching a tipping point where inequality around the world goes. Just now watching such unrest in Lebanon then straight after that, Chile. I think it is foolish to try to make out it is simply an ideological battle, it isn't, young people are not seeing such a great future for themselves.
Things are getting very bad around the world and it is going to get worse. Problem is, it might have been fairly easy to storm the Bastille, it is going to be far more difficult to storm the Cayman Islands.
As far as whatever authoritarianism you might be seeing, I am sure it comes from whatever govt is around and depends on which side of the fence you stand.

They are rising up in protest because the propagandists of our era, enabled by deficient education in history and compliant media have entirely failed to educate them about the tools and application of propaganda, the old sickness of millenialist narratives (scare profiteering) used by the few to exploit the many, and the history of children's revolutions and crusades where naive and easily led children were employed as cannon fodder by self interested aristocrats and aristocratic wannabes as a means to power. If the half trillion a year wasted on Climate Change virtue signalling was directed to doing effective things like building PV, researching better batteries and building nuclear power plants then CO2 production would rapidly drop. The climate change industry of politicians, academics and NGOs don't want to fx the problem, they want to exploit it as a means to power and wealth.

Oh for crying out loud. Climate change is only a part of it, fact of the matter is that too few control far too much and it is now being deeply felt and change is being sought. I have to say my sympathies lie with them.

But its the middle class kids (generally) protesting about climate change.
Sadly, the oppressed have given up, or just don't give a #$%^ .
The environment has a strong voice, the oppressed don't.
Some might say climate change is a convenient distraction...

It isn't just climate change that people are taking to the streets over, in Chile it started with the govt announcing it was going to raise fares for public transport, though, no doubt, other issues have been simmering away as well.
Sadly, it probably boils down to people wanting something as simple as being able to afford to house themselves, bugger nuclear power as Foyle suggests, that will make little difference to those shut out of housing.
I think we are heading quite possibly for another large conflict in the world, and the only thing stopping us at the moment is that the enemy is very hard to get at, likely to be found in an underground bunker somewhere just out of Queenstown.

Good rant, but pretty far off.

Looks like it's easier to argue against the idea people are wanting communism or socialism in the sense of government ownership of the means of production. Easier than addressing the actual arguments people are making around changing elements of society toward successful examples of social democracies.

"Neoliberalism caused the GFC" - is that a fact? Often asserted by communists but never proven and for good reason.Most of the blame can be laid at the door of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These two institutions provided an effective Federal Government guarantee to home loans issued by banks. That sounds more like good old fashion central planning that a free market. Not to mention regulating the supply of housing (another communist favourite) that causes house prices to rise.

The reason NZ does not have any communists anymore is because NZers can read and write. A good number of NZers remember when NZ was run as a "Albanian Shipyard" - the so called good old days that Mr. Trotter longs for. The free market has delivered more proposperity than any centrally plan economy. And I thank God that we don't have idiots like AOC in our House.

[ We are prepared to tolerate robust debate, even some complete rubbish like the rest of this comment. But the part we have removed is well over the line. It is not 'argument' to smear. Calling others ideas "communists" or "nazis" when clearly you have no idea about these things is just unacceptable. Some silly comment we don't mind as it reflects very badly on the thinking processes of the commenter, but there is a line. Ed. ]

[ This account has been disabled, but only because it does not have a valid email address associated. It will enabled when fixed. Ed. ]

Yes and no. Over-regulation can contribute to crises as well as under-regulation, eg. The pre GFC mezzanine finance crisis in NZ was to a large extent about under-regulation.
Again I don't think it's helpful to talk about 'too much regulation' or 'too little regulation'. It will always be case by case in terms of the overall costs and benefits of regulation.

Watered-down political ideologies are not such a bad thing. CoL are being 'Winstoned' into a centrally themed government which is actually making watching this lot bearable. I can see how the purists are pissed about the hard-left option missing in action, but I think that's actually a good thing. It's the same for the hard-right, some of that stuff is pretty gruesome to read about as are most extremes in most subjects.
Sure, Jacinda & co are embarrassing to watch - bumbling, fumbling & stumbling their way through this term, but what do you expect from the children of parents (boomers) brought up in an era of relative peace, prosperity & welfare. They are doubly spoiled.

What NZ needs is a government that focuses on increasing the welfare (well being) of NZ.

Treasury has a framework for social cost benefit analysis to be applied to government spending & it should be done so. This was something Bill English was pursuing.

Social cost benefit analysis covers the far wider range of benefits than a pure focus on gdp does.

Government should also legislate to require all local government spending to go through the same process.

Yes National did a good job on trying to improve the safety net and lift outcomes using an analysis driven approach rather than feelz, ill-thought-through reactions to issues of the day and pandering to special interests. Sad that an ostensibly left(er) wing Coalition, trumpeting 'well being' as their priority, is leading to worse outcomes in KPIs like health care waiting times, child poverty (worse on 7 out of 9 measures), increasing beneficiary numbers, significantly increasing crime.... Voters need to see past rhetoric and judge on results, not good intentions.

Yes National did a good job on trying to improve the safety net and lift outcomes using an analysis driven approach rather than feelz,

Oh, come on. They talked the talk on being data driven, but little was actually done or achieved. Simply talking about how one aspires to be data driven is not a "good job". Nevermind the fact that much was also lumped in the "too hard to measure" basket.

Need to see past the rhetoric and judge on results.

I'm not a fan of words like 'well being' as they are not measurable, or at best are not indicative of what is best long term.

Also coming up with these new terms allows peoples focus to be diverted away from the real issues.

For example, we seem to have given up on making houses truly affordable, ie 3x median multiple (got to hold up the high house prices to make us feel good) and that are build to be warm, dry and healthy, but if we can get into a house by some cross subsidization for both new homes owners or renters, then we 'feel good' and our well being goes up.

It's a little like being relieved to find your death sentences has been commuted to life in prison.

9 years of National rule corrupted Labour to give up the idealogies it cherised for a short time. Today both parties have moved to the Centre, thanks to Winston Peters. May be it is more practical to say what the public wants to hear and remain/regain power. In America the emergence of unpredictable Trump with no fixed policies or targets which the opposition can aim at, except his personality is a new development. Not so here in New Zealand. We still have likeable and lovable politicians. The people here, except the academics and some in media are not bothered about labels. We are too practical for that. We need a good life, whoever and whichever policies can give that, with minimum drama.

Labour foundered for 9 years as they kept chasing further and further left with their policy announcements and hiring/promoting less and less moderate leftists for the top jobs and thinking that Greens taking votes off them mattered. Goff-Shearer-Cunliffe-Little (and Matt McCarten as a strategist!!) is a gob-smackingly stupid progression when the polls are telling you that middle NZ is centrist.

A lot of these so called "extreme" proposals are actually quite reasonable

For example, A 70% tax on any income earned over $10 million a year? Considering that someone on the average income of around $50k a year would have to work 200 years to earn that much it seems quite reasonable.

The USA used to have top tax rates of >90% in the 1950s and the economy was booming.
Heck, up until the late 80s, New Zealand used to have a 66% tax rate that kicked in at a much lower level of income.

any thoughts on why raising taxes on higher income seems anathema to Labour????

It does not work. Learn about Laffer curves for a start. Those super-productive high earners find one of many many available schemes for avoiding the tax using the experts they have at their disposal. Alternatively they just move to less foolish regimes and take their valuable job creating income with them as has happened in France a few years back. A lot of those high earners are highly entrepreneurial types that grow industry and create a lot of jobs and tax revenue - if they leave it goes with them. Do you want Peter Jackson to leave? Net result is less tax collected. High earners and their capital are very mobile and many countries are actively trying to court them.

2@fleur , in the 1980's we had inflation , exchange control, you could not buy a car unless you had foreign funds , and Government excess ( like 66% income tax ) in every aspect of our daily lives , no thinking person would even tolerate today

Most contributors seemed to have ignored Chris Trotters main point..."why haven't we got a true socialist like Bernie Sanders in NZ politics?" I think Chris may have missed the point of history when NZ Labour rolled their then leader Holland in favour of Savage who promptly lost most of the truely core socialist policies in favour of getting elected, (in 1935.) And we have been under the thrall of parliamentarians who see politics as a simple career choice ever since, and whose main aim is simply to spout bumper sticker labels, balanced by an equal care to not upset too many punters.
(Obviously there have exceptions but we really have seen no substantial socialism, or capitalism either)
I somehow doubt Bernie Sanders, despite claims he would happily pay more tax to help the poor, is any different. Campaign promises of "soaking the fat cats" is surely just a device to gain votes from the undertrodden masses, and is not a serious promise to bring in any socialist utopia.
I fear Chris, we are stuck with politicians primarily interested in a comfortable career, allied to a civil service keen to be seen to be ..."doing something"...but provided it doesn't jeopidise careers or the progress of their department. A system that certainly doesn't "represent" the person in the street, but perhaps has the virtue of "muddling through" and avoiding any extremes.

Xingmowang - The future of western style "democracy" is doomed.

My predication is that in merely a decade the current election process will no longer be able to deliver functioning government.

It's funny how many people were offended by this statement and then also complain about our poorly functioning government and go on to suggest the imposition of harsh socialist diktats and even call for revolution.

We are already seeing barely functioning government in the West. The Brexit debacle in the UK, government instability in Australia, in the US Trump constantly being threatened with impeachment and unable to do anything he promised and in NZ Peters holding the country to ransom.

If it was anyone other than xingmowang most would have likely nodded in agreement. However"barely functioning" may not be such a bad thing when you think about it. Reading many of the comments and suggestions here I think it is a good thing that things are so hard to change.

"We are already seeing barely functioning government in the West. The Brexit debacle in the UK, government instability in Australia, in the US Trump constantly being threatened with impeachment and unable to do anything he promised and in NZ Peters holding the country to ransom."

We have always had barely functioning government in the West and it is the feature, not the bug. There is always had some sort of ongoing crisis, today's iteration is new and different from yesterday's only in the particular.

Your last paragraph is spot on. NZ does not need the sort of highly functional and ideas driven governments that most people seemingly want.

Things are no where near as bad as people are making out. Please stop imagining you are in the boots of the ne'er-do-wells in society who appear to have done all that is possible to sabotage their success. These people must be given very little say in how our society is run. One worthless vote that they rarely use would seem more than adequate. It's quite a beautiful system we have really.

On the whole we are very well off, the fifth richest country in the world on a per-adult basis with quite a reasonable wealth distribution.

Feeling wealthy? You should be - New Zealand is world's fifth-richest country, report shows

Totally agree, after my champagne breakfast, I'm having a champagne lunch before I jet off to attend another climate rally where hopefully I can get arrested and put it on my instagram!

Yes it's all about 'feelings', que 'well beings.'

On a GDP PPP basis we are 32, we used to be number 1.

Oh for goodness sake , we have our fair share of Lunatic left-wing rabble rousers .............John Minto , Sue Bradford , Matt Mc Carten , Catherine DeLaHunty ........... to name just a few . And they are more than enough for us to even stomach with their nonsense

Then of course we have a number of other crazies like Hone Harawira and Tame Iti who shot the New Zealand flag .............WTF?

He should have been charged with discharging a firearm in public

And thankfully we don't have to many more of these crazies.

Then we have RWNJs who don't know the difference between a New Zealand flag and an Australian one, the latter is what Tame Iti put a few pellets through.
You might do well to actually listen to some of what these people have to say, I am not even asking you to listen to it all, they do have pertinent things to say.

I would say you are 100% wrong.

The comparison with the USA holds little water in NZ. Bernie Sanders etc are arguably to the right of the present CoL. Second what would such a "leftie" accomplish? nothing, except maybe make the CoL un-electable for a long time. Labour's paralysis is down to the voter block who en-mass voted for one political party, to the right of centre. So Labour's issue is not that it doesnt want to go more left its that since Helen Clarke its strategists recognise spending multiple election cycles in opposition does no one in need any good what so ever. So a case of pragmatism or even desperation rather than wish. What needs to occur is a change in the voter and not change in the party.

"What needs to occur is a change in the voter" - cue Brecht: 'The Solution'

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

The change in the voter will occur when enough voters are losing "too much" until then too many of us will carry on profiting from house price rises.....oh wait.

So Jacinda desperately needs a mentor? Why?

Chris Trotter - "What we don’t have, is what she so desperately needs. A mentor willing to stay the course proudly: not at his prime-minister’s right hand; but at her left."

Chris Trotter is not a young man by any stretch of the imagination, but he is proudly left wing.

She doesnt or certainly not a far left one, and without any far left party in Parliament no evidence voters want an un-elected one either. Pragmatically since the disaster that was Michael Foot (UK Labour in the 70s/80s) and the subsequent election successes of Tony Blair and Helen Clarke Labour have learned that you have to hug the middle pretty close or spend multiple election cycles in the wilderness. If that happens the only party left can safely inch to the right knowing full well the vast majority of voters dont want "commies" until they go too far also (Margret Thatcher ). I mean I am a bit of a leftie and even I voted Margret Thatcher and John Major FFS.