Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972
Creaming the Losers
Creaming the Losers
But the cream of the joke is that Labour's policy does not win it elections, because there is only majority electoral support for one political party in this country, and that support is currently in the possession of Gentlemanly Jack Marshall and the lads and lasses of the National Party caucus. Possession, as we know, is nine tenths of the law. If I were one of your average white collar workers and voted National I could see no earthly reason for changing my vote to a party which on the face of it is no different from the party for which I already vote, and beneath the surface talks about things I don't want to know. That is unless my party had made such a mess of things that I couldn't bring myself to vote for them without vomiting. And that is precisely what appears to be happening despite the polls. National supporters are browned off. The farming community has been doing a rerun of the Peasant's Revolt, there will be a low poll and I predict that National is going to lose in November Labour is not going to win because Labour has never won an election in its life, it has simply hung about until the other side has lost, and then stepped in and claimed that it can run things the same only better, which it probably can. Which leaves the odd person here and there wondering if perhaps things could be run not only better but different, in short, that it's time for a real change. And there, God help us, the matter rests.page 5
Four days of political intrigue, electioneering and dull remits dully debated, (a dissatisfying experience for all but the party die-hards), make a Labour Party Conference. At the end of it all the delegates trudge back home to prepare for November, not, it seems, nearly as convinced about the inevitability of victory as the party leaders.
The message of the leadership was clear: We must win this election. No matter what the cost. The message began at the Youth Conference, when Rowling, Bennett and Wybrow addressed the young members. 'We must not espouse any cause which will help us lose the election' said Uncle Tom Bennett, a thought enthusiastically endorsed by Rowling.
As the Press coverage showed, at least some delegates refused to accept this ruling, and spluttering against the hierarchy were heard throughout the week.
Party President Bill Rowling began the conference, calling for an attempt to 'rekindle a spirit of national pride' in order to prevent us becoming a 'nation of confrontation.' His was a speech which, true to his temperament, was conciliatory, the reasonable man speaking straight from his heart. The usual tired attacks on the National Party, the monotony of which caused a delegate on the final day to say, 'Lets stop telling the country what is wrong with the National Party, and start telling them what is right with democratic socialism.' Rowling is full of smiles and bullshit, even accusing the National Government of 'abdicating to an army of committees, commissions, and authorities'. (Not bad for the leader of a Party which itself proposed 6 Councils of various types in its 1969 election manifesto).
The first day also saw an attempt by David Shand to question the constitutional arrangement of the Party He attacked the fact that the Policy Committee was not elected by Conference, and tended to be dominated by the Parliamentary Party. No-one spoke in support of him and the protest dies, but apart from the fact that his complaints were justified, the incidents revealed two things of interest. First, the general docility of the delegates, and second, Shand's complete lack of political know-how in getting up to speak on such an issue without arranging following speakers.
As if to underline the object lack of ideas amongst the leadership, Bob Harvey, the head of their public relations firm, addressed the conference. Harvey underlined the crucial political significance of getting advertisements on the right-hand side of the page, and of beginning messages in classified columns with a letter early in the alphabet. It was this type of brilliant analysis which made the 1969 campaign the tremendous success Harvey assured them it had been. Conveniently forgetting that the Party had in fact lost the election, Harvey promised them more of the same.
Public relations appear to be headache for the Party. Peter Debreceny, their P.R.O. runs around looking after the Press, with occasional pats on the head from Bill Rowling, but rumour has it that Big Norm is not so keen. He spent an hour attacking Debreceny and the general P.R.O. situation in a recent caucus meeting. Perhaps this is just another example of the Kirk-Rowling split which is starting to show. Kirk is well in control of the party, though he stayed fairly much in the background most of the time.
Uncle Tom Bennett was easily re-elected Vice-President and played the tame Maori role to perfection. 'I accept this honour with humility and gratitude. An honour bestowed on the Maori people as a whole'. Bennett chaired some of the Conference, but it was noticeable that whenever anything which was even slightly controversial came up, Rowling would elbow him out of the chair.
Piss-up on Monday night at John Hunt's office. Mostly attended by Youth delegates, who relished the free piss and the chance to talk with an M.P. They are human though, as one delegate found when he surprised one Auckland M.P. in his office with a young girl. Music playing and the lights out, and the wife 400 miles away. Politics can be fun.
Brian Edwards seems to be sticking his neck out. A good speech attacking Kirk on law and order just before the Conference, and a strong pro-abortion speech at Conference. He has had a firm rap over the knuckles from Kirk already, who confided in an N.Z.B.C. man recently that he didn't think Edwards would 'make it to the post' in the election. He seems now even more determined to make it, though he is very dissillusioned with the party. He is not liked much by the rank and file, who treat him with some distrust.
Edwards delivered an informative and intelligent speech on abortion, before Big Norm sat on the proceedings. Kirk's anti-abortion reform speech illustrates beautifully the complete lack of integrity in Labour Party policy making. After all, Kirk has confided privately on occasions that he is in fact in favour of such reform. But we musn't lose the Catholic vote we got over private schools though, must we?
All the bally-hoo in the daily press over "radical" Mike Hirschfeild getting the heave-ho was just bullshit. He certainly was pushed rather than falling, but there's little evidence that it was his "outspokeness" that got him. After all, last year Mike represented the Seaman's Union at Conference, but what did he have to say when they were deregistered? Nothing at all. The Seamen were not present this year, and without their support Hirschfeild was arsed out by radicals who didn't like his purpleshirt socialism, and some old unionists who liked it even less but for different reasons. Mike still claims he represents the youth voice, but there is no evidence of youth support. President of the Youth Advisory Council Garth Houltham is in fact issuing a statement denouncing Hirschfield. The family money is all in importing, which no doubt has something to do with Mike's antipathy towards import controls.
The careful media managed "revolt of the youthful masses" has probably done little in the long run to hurt the party bosses. Rowling and Kirk both smiled indulgently while the young idealists ranted before them. On all counts the radicals were outmanaged by the old tricks Leaving all the controversial events till the end, Kirk's beautifully timed speech on abortion which no-one interrupted though it lasted five times the three minute limit.
The debate on the censorship further illustrated the inability of the young radicals to cope with Rowling's stage management. His claim that the appendix was cut because it contained motions" as a round about way of getting discussed", was never countered by the observations that the Women's Report also contained such motions. In the end, of course, the goodies won, spearheaded by young hopeful David Caygill, who announced that, "the only significant act we can take this year is to elect a Labour Government". It may well be Time for a Real Change, but the Labour Party cannot provide it.