Bassett: ‘Modern Labour has become a religion based on inadequate reading and thinking and wishful thinking’

Michael Bassett is one of the best brains in New Zealand politics. I love chatting with him for his insights.

He has given an interview to The Listener where he rates the government: Quote:

How do you rate the new Government?s performance so far?

The sorts of issues that have faced this Government haven?t been extraordinary, but what exacerbates its problems is that it is a jerry-built government: the three groupings make it hard to manage. The Greens and New Zealand First are not able to sit in Cabinet together, but they sustain the Government, all the while watching the polls to check their standing, which isn?t improving. That?s hard enough, but add to it Jacinda Ardern, the youngest and least-experienced leader of a government we have ever had, and this Government may not even last one term.??

That?s a harsh call, isn?t it?

Yes, but as I?ve just said, it isn?t just Jacinda. She has considerable talents, but she has a knowledge deficit. It shows in foreign policy. Jacinda doesn?t know much about international affairs and doesn?t understand the historical relationships between New Zealand and the Pacific. She certainly doesn?t understand Russia, which is emerging as the next best thing to an international rogue state. Put her alongside Helen Clark, the last Labour Prime Minister, and Jacinda looks like a rank amateur. She desperately needs to know more, but when you are Prime Minister you don?t have time to go out and learn: you are meant to have done that already. A bachelor in communications from Waikato University is not quite the same as a first-class honours degree in politics and history, which is what Clark had, plus the better part of a PhD.

Do you give her points at least for saving the Labour Party?

She took over the party at 37; that shows you how desperate Labour was. She certainly gave the party a lift. She took them up to 36%, not an inconsiderable feat. Winston [Peters, NZ First Leader] was going around this time a year ago with expectations that New Zealand First might supplant Labour as the second party. That would then have been the point where New Zealand First and the Greens would have jointly gobbled up what remained of Labour. So, yes, she plucked them back from oblivion, but does it look like it is going to be a roaring success? No. This Government is in deep trouble.


It has over-stoked public expectations. [Phil Twyford, Minister of Transport and of Housing] is an accident in slow motion. The extraordinary phrase he used this morning in the?Herald,along the lines of ?we are changing the world? regarding transport and then a whole series of wishes and hopes about transport ? that is fantasy stuff. Cycling as the future for Auckland? Gimme a break ? they?ve taken away road space and poured resources into cycling that no one uses other than on Saturday mornings. I can see that cycle path heading out west from my apartment and there?s usually no one using it. They are social engineers without any sense. Whenever Labour shows that tendency, the voters deal with them in short order. They should read?Public Spending in the 20th Century: A Global Perspective?by Vito Tanzi and Ludger Schuknecht. It would help inject some sense into their thinking and policies.

Do you have anything relevant to say to the party you belonged to for 35 years?

What I say is relevant, but [the Labour Party] doesn?t like me at all; it regards me as a holdover from the wicked Fourth Labour Government. It has created a savage view of that Government but neither it nor any other government has dismantled the reforms of that time. Modern Labour has become a religion based on inadequate reading and thinking and wishful thinking. Sometimes I say pleasant things about it and sometimes unpleasant, so it dances around me a little apprehensively. End quote.

No damning with faint praise from Michael Bassett, just damning… and not without good reason.

It is a shame that Labour ostracise great thinkers like him and ignore their advice.