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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

NSW: where to for the ALP? « Previous | |Next »
March 25, 2011

A core question that will arise from the certain defeat---nay massacre---of the corrupt, incompetent NSW Labor government is what next for Labor. The ALP faces a rout, their Sussex St style of bullying politics is utterly discredited, their progressive base has deserted them for the Greens, and their traditional blue collar base has decamped to the Liberals en mass. Labor is going to be left with minimal political representation.


The answer to what next for Labor is that the ALP will have to renew and reinvent itself. At the moment NSW Labor merely stands for a political machine winning elections for its own sake and staying in power---the NSW right's cult of 'whatever it takes'. They will have plenty of time to renew and reinvent in opposition. Reinvent themselves into what though?

If the political landscape is changing with the slow but steady decay of the two party system, then what is the identity of the ALP in a multiparty system? How does the ALP differentiate itself from the Liberals and the Greens now that Australia is committed to becoming an open market economy? If the old identity of the working class party is decaying, what is Labor's emergent political identity?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I do know that though they will be pressing questions to NSW Labor after it has become a shadow of its former self, it is also applies to Gillard Labor. The latter's style of politics looks to be increasing managerialist in orientation with a set of platitudes and talking points designed for marketing the Labor brand to the ever shrinking political base.

People suspect that like NSW Labor the political core of Gillard Labor is hollow. At the ABC's Unleashed Malcolm Farnsworth gives expression to this judgement:

This, then, is the concern about Gillard: she revels in the political game but seems to lack any deeply-held or coherent philosophy, beyond a handful of platitudes and snippets of management-speak. Give her a brief, a new set of lines to deliver, and she learns them off by heart and trots them out when the political situation requires. And then there’s her tin ear. For someone so intensely political, she seems oddly out of sync with political sentiment....[Gillard] she battles a perception that her government lacks something at its core.

Does this matter? Surely politics is now inhabited by the hollow men and women engaged in professional politics.

It was a massacre for a scandal-ridden NSW Labor, as was expected.The swing was around 17 per cent and Labor will hold around 20 seats. It appears that The Greens failed to win the inner city seats of Marrickville and Balmain; the Independents have been reduced by the resurgence of the Nationals; the Legislative Council has swung to the right.

The ALP heartland in western Sydney has gone. NSW Labor now resides in a political graveyard---its primary vote is at 25 per cent. The Liberals have taken a giant step into areas where their political brand had barely ever registered respectable support.

Alex Mitchell in the SMH states that the rebuilding starts to reconnect it with its traditional base among blue- and white-collar voters. It will need to do more than that.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:31 AM | | Comments (11)


Malcolm Farnsworth gets to the disquieting core of Gillard's education revolution in his How do you solve a problem like Julia?

does anyone seriously believe MySchool will be used to redress the gross disparities in public and private school funding? Don’t hold your breath.As Education Minister, Gillard must take some responsibility for frogmarching Australian schools down the path of constant testing. Teachers know where this leads: not to more accountability and improvements in literacy, but to teaching to the test, to drilling and rorting. Science, literature and the arts all suffer in this regime and with them the competitive advantage we really need.

Gillard has embraced educational conservatism. She speaks like a conservative.

And populism, Nan. Let's not forget the over-riding populism.

Where to for the ALP...?

Personally... as far as NSW is concerned, I no longer give a rat's arse.

Although (by current standards) I'm frightfully leftist, or maybe BECAUSE of it, I hope the Sussex St clowns just blow away like dried dog poo.

They have dumped the PEOPLE of this state into a very, very bad place.

They bar has been set so low O'Farrel's mob are going to be able to get away with murder. All manner of nasty reforms are going to be trotted out under the guise of getting the state back on track. And the electorate will be told that life would have undoubtedly been worse under Labor.

As always, we get the government we deserve.

All that be left of the NSW ALP will be the cancer that destroyed it and most of the people responsible for that will move on, replete with with superannuation and whatever else they gleaned on the way.
Those that that remain will be largely of the same ilk, though. I agree with Gary, it looks terminal.
With Labor are we not seeing an example of political Alzheimers; they remember neither who they are or what they stand for and have no sense of what to do about it or do in response? So the chances of recovery are negligible this time.
That's despite the fact that OFarrell looks very Cameronish, from where I stand.
Will it take him one term or two, before the people hate him as much as they hate Labor at the moment, even to the point of turning back to it if it hasn't reformed?

especially if the Right capture the Legislative Council as is expected.

In his Labor must decide what it stands for in The Australian Mike Steketee says that the NSW ALP:

is squeezed between an outer-suburban working class peeling off to the Liberals and inner-city voters defecting to the Greens ....Labor's long-term survival depends on how it adapts to changed circumstances. The classic strategy to staunch the flow of votes to minor parties is to take over their policies and usher them off the stage, as John Howard did with One Nation. It is harder for Labor to do the same with the Greens, who are more disciplined and whose support runs deeper.

He adds that Labor could start by making a better fist of showing that it actually believes in something, apart from being in office.

Is NSW Labor capable of conviction apart from wanting power for its own sake?

The Australian'sadvice to NSW Labor is to return to the workers:

The world has changed since Chifley's day, and so has the spelling of the party's name. The phrases "working man" and "the working class" are out of fashion, but the values of those they describe are not. They are Howard's battlers, Kevin Rudd's working families and Julia Gillard's hard-working Australians.For Labor, as for Labour, success depends, as it always has done, on the people who work.

That means the ALP embraces social conservatism, doesn't it?

O'Farrell's biggest challenge in his first term will be dealing with the backbench of his own internally divided party.

As Christian Kerrpoints out in The Australian what you get with a great big majority like that is an opposition within your party. The party becomes so big, the opposition so irrelevant that the opposition to the executive government comes from within the party.

The trouble will come from the hard edged religious right because O'Farrell will try and represent middle-class Australians in the Menzies tradition.

"That means the ALP embraces social conservatism, doesn't it?"

Not to mention middle-class victimhood and a rampant sense of entitlement, eh?

"He who rides the tiger can never dismount."

That's the ludicrous thing about the current state of affairs. Many of those who are not REALLY battlers struggling to survivie, are the ones who whine the most. And they are the one who are pandered to by the self-serving pollies. Which, in turn, reinforces the illusion (in their minds) that they're doing it tough. So they whine some more....

Has the Labor Right's view of politics--- a style that obsesses about the short term, a reliance on focus-group research, eschews hard decisions in favour of populism and favours intrigue for its own sake--- been given a burial in NSW?

The NSW Right lives on in Canberra.

Labor will arise renewed in NSW says Bruce Hawker. That's the lesson of history.

Re: 'The NSW Right lives on in Canberra."

Yep, the party machine problems penetrate party culture, structure and beliefs to varying degrees across the ALP. NSW is merely the most public expression.