Len Brown and the left's Super City angsting
Cunliffe and co. were out West on Monday, and tonight the war drums against the Nactional government's super city plans were beating at the London Bar on Queen Street where the young activists were treated to Manukau City Mayor and great left hope, Len Brown. I had to shoot away after the main address so I can only comment on that part.
It was a let down on three points —
Firstly, Len Brown did not make a great impact. He said some solid things, but he was too freezing works for this middle class crowd. And he will be too ragged sounding (and probably prone to waffle) to achieve the cut through on television the way Banks can. I saw Brown on the Triangle TV super city debate last week and he was leading the left as its alpha male - over the skeletal and quizzical Bob Harvey. But he was not particularly articulate. He wasn't tonight either. He emphasised his PASSION!, but he needs more than that. An agenda with more definition would be helpful. Brown is still in mental flux over the super city - that was obvious. He was prefacing, and fudging and had no strong lines on some of the issues I would have expected a Mayoral contender and the leader of a bloc to have. Which brings us to:
Secondly, the trenchant claim/belief/mantra that at-large Council seats will benefit the right was given a lot of repetition by various speakers including Brown. That is only true if you accept that as a political idea and as a political machine the left will lose. It is a defeatist and fearful attitude. All the stuff about diversity with ward councillors is confused and I doubt that playing out the scenarios of even 25 councillors on a purely ward-only basis will provide any more or any less diverse representation than an at-large system; especially if there were 9 or more on a ticket basis the way they do in London (11). Rodney Hide says 8. The right are trying to talk him down on those numbers and get more ward councillors - why? Because that is how they will win. So why would the left be helping them promote that agenda!? - because they are dumb, fearful and disunited. The mandate and cohesiveness of people elected by all to serve all is disturbingly irrelevant to the left it seems. The left should be lobbying for more than 8 not less or none.
What he is saying - if you look at the statements - is that the left cannot put up a fight, does not have the activists, the money or the will, or the unity to campaign on a single ticket and best the demonised C&R Remmers crowd. It's a gutless call in many respects.
Thirdly: The left's reaction was absolute stony silence on two huge issues that Brown raised as important to him:
1. The revelation he had had that the right will crucify the left it it runs up big rates bills beyond inflation and mentioned that some sort of capping arrangement might be in order (silence, total silence on all of these things)
2. That public assets should remain in public ownership. Silence.
In the old days, the lefties would be applauding this stuff with great enthusiasm - not today. Was it because Len Brown was saying it? Was it because the left couldn't care less and does not see the dangers? A few lefty Auckland City Councillors were present as were Labourites/unionists but whether because they think it is safe or whether they think Len Brown shouldn't be the one carrying the message it bodes badly for the left for them not to be acknowledging some of Brown's better concepts.
Len Brown was fired up but the university, inner-city, Labour cliques remained uninspired. He was beyond suburban - he was provincial - in his language, presentation and with elements of his ideological pragmatism. This did not impress. They also probably would have appreciated some concrete sorts of policies - I sensed that was an expectation - and instead we got a weird sort of passionate redundancy speech as mayor of a soon to be disestablished entity.
He had so little impact that some prick near the leather couches in the Tory-looking section of the lounge successfully managed to cut him off by applauding as he was in the middle of concluding. That was enough to say he did not properly command the room. He needs a lot of work to run against Banks for the top job.
The hikoi set for 25 May to promote Maori representation was mentioned on several occasions - here's the leaflet:
IHI= Iwi Have Influence website (run by Ngati Whatua comms man Ngarimu Blair) is given as a contact point for this demonstration:
[UPDATE-- 11:30AM 30/04/2009:
Since I cannot find Michael Cullen's valedictory speech on You Tube, here is his a grainy video of an address to a Drinking Liberally in Wellington last year. On social democracy and the right.
Text of speech.--UPDATE ENDS]