Nasty right winger Nick Leggett on Labour’s issues

Guyon Espiner has an interesting piece at The Listener about Nick Leggett:

The Labour people in this room see themselves as more electable than the ones in the caucus room. They think Little has veered too far left, are scathing of the relationship with the Greens and think Labour is heading over the cliff for a fourth consecutive defeat.

As the evening wears on and the beer and wine loosen the lips, it becomes more and more obvious: they see themselves as the Mainstream Labour Party in Exile and, tonight at least, their champion is Nick Leggett. He may be standing for mayor of Wellington, but having resigned from Labour, he?s also sending his old party a message: this is what Labour might look like if it actually wanted to win.

I’m not sure they do want to win.

The Utopian Strand, Leggett says with a sigh. It sounds like a young-adult dystopian novel, but according to Leggett, it?s the dominant faction of the Labour Party right now. It?s May when we first meet for this story and Leggett has recently announced his departure from Labour after 20 years of membership.

?There?s the Utopian Strand and the Pragmatists. I fit into the Pragmatists, but it?s a much smaller group now,? he explains. ?The Utopians are quite happy to sit in Opposition and have their positions validated by a small echo chamber on social media and in activist groups. They don?t really seem interested in the much harder task of actually building a plank for government.?

He identifies another closely related strand. ?The Hate John Key Movement. They have failed to impress for eight years. They need to say why they are better than John Key and why they have got ideas that are more compelling.? He sees Labour?s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a classic example of caving in to bloggers and tweeters rather than preparing for government. ?If you are arguing from a perspective that says, ?Yep, we are thinking about when we are in government?, their stance was wrong. I think that we should be a free-trading nation.?

Key Derangement Syndrome is a serious affliction. Just go to?the?comments at The Standard or The Daily blog to witness it. Actually don’t, it’s bad for your mental well being. The point is though that these are people who now populate the Labour party activist classes and organisation.

Leggett says these kinds of positions have led to the exit of almost all of the business-friendly MPs, including Shane Jones, Phil Goff and Clayton Cosgrove. Others have been marginalised, such as David Shearer, who was sanctioned by Little for his support of the TPP, and Nash, who has been refused permission to speak at Leggett?s dinner.

The treatment of Nash ? who scored a rare Labour win in the provinces in 2014 ? particularly alarms him. ?Labour is dead outside the main centres now. It?s just not on the radar of provincial areas,? he says. ?Labour dropped to 25% last election and Stuart Nash won Napier, but he?s not held up as a champion. In fact, you are viewed with suspicion if you win votes.?

Sacre bleu! Winning votes! How dare they.

Leggett says that mentality leads to an unrealistic election strategy. ?These are people who think they can get into government with 32% of the vote. When Helen Clark lost, Labour got 34%, so they are not even close. I want to be part of a movement that says: we are a 40%-plus party and we are taking New Zealand with us. We don?t want to be part of a two- or three-headed coalition. We want to be the leader.?

I’m not sure the next Labour Prime Minister is even in parliament. Our own exclusive INCITE polling show that Andrew Little has yet to make a positive score in his favourability?ratings. You can’t win an election when your leader is deeply unpopular.

Leggett says Labour is trying to ?show unity at all costs?, but in doing so is getting out of touch with the electorate. ?The Utopian Strand represents a smaller and smaller part of the electorate but a bigger and bigger chunk of the party.?

And they are all drinking the union supplied and mixed Kool Aid.


– The Listener