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Bryce Edwards Analysis: Labour calls off the search for the missing million
[caption id="attachment_13635" align="alignleft" width="150"] Dr Bryce Edwards.[/caption] Labour’s Campaign for Change has gone horribly wrong. As with the other scandal of the week, it’s a saga that appears to involve political deception, incompetence, and hypocrisy. But it also goes to prove just how fraught it is to try to mobilise the “missing million”.
Labour’s foreign youth internship scheme was meant to help foster a “youthquake”, or at least somehow mobilise a good part of the so-called “missing million” non-voters.
It was a smart objective – any success in such an endeavour could make a huge difference in getting Labour into government in three months’ time. But one of the many lessons from the debacle that sprung up yesterday is to reinforce the difficulty of that project. Alienated and youthful non-voters aren’t simply going to clamour aboard the Labour Party train just because 100 foreign students have come into the country to campaign. And given the apparent inadequate resourcing of this project – as well as a fair dose of deception – it was probably inevitably doomed.
The result was the expose published yesterday by Richard Harman – see: Labour Party volunteer workers rebel over living conditions.
[caption id="attachment_14757" align="aligncenter" width="360"] Matt McCarten in happier days photographed with then Labour leader David Cunliffe.[/caption]
According to Harman, “The students rebelled over their accommodation and their disappointment with what was supposed to be a high powered learning programme but which appears to be not much more than political campaign drudge work. Now party heavyweights have had to step in to rescue the programme and deal with the complaints from the students. The scheme, which required the students to work for free, was to involve lectures from Labour party heavyweights such as Helen Clark and Andrew Little.”
Exploitation and poor organisation
Labour’s programme has been widely condemned as exploitative and dishonest. Of course, many of those condemning it are Labour’s political opponents. Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox was fierce in her comments on Labour’s scheme: “That is slave labour, not free labour, and they should be ashamed of themselves” – see Sam Sachdeva’s Labour under fire over foreign student volunteer scheme.
Fox is also quoted saying that Labour had “duped” the foreign students: “We all need volunteers, we all need people to come and work on our campaigns, but we don’t do it by misleading them and putting them up in poor substandard accommodation”.
National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce has said: “If the allegations are correct, Labour has brought international students to New Zealand on false pretences, failed to look after them, and failed to meet their obligations to the students in the most basic way, while at the same time campaigning against exploitation of migrants.”
Labour’s apparent hypocrisy
All of this bad press is particularly harmful to Labour because it makes the party look hypocritical. And in particular, the message it sends to the public appears to be strongly at variance with some of the party’s core values and campaign policies.
Toby Manhire says: “It’s all made much worse by the way it so gruesomely dovetails with Labour’s recent chest thumping rhetoric on immigration, student visas, and shonky educational opportunities, not to mention the commitment to workers’ rights embedded in the party’s founding ideals, its philosophical DNA, that sort of thing” – see: ‘The whole team went rogue’: the gruesome political reality of Labour’s campaign for change.
Rightwing political commentator Matthew Hooton goes much further than this, saying the scandal contradicts Labour’s policy messages: “You have a major political party promising to offer people better houses, to cut down on immigration, to introduce higher minimum wages and to get rid of dodgy education courses and their own party is undermining all four of those by bringing in unpaid interns to substandard accommodation with the promise of courses that don’t even exist” – see Jason Walls’ Labour called out over ‘hypocritical’ student volunteer situation (paywalled).
In case you think that’s simply the view from the political right, see the No Right Turn blog post: The latest Labour muppetry. He says, “using foreign student volunteers to campaign against foreign students is simply hypocritical. And failing to treat your volunteers properly? That’s stupid as well as wrong.”
And, of course, the timing of the scandal is particularly unfortunate for Labour. Barry Soper explains: “Labour never lets the opportunity to shoot itself in the foot to be lost. Just when it had the National Party on the ropes over the Todd Barclay debacle, it jumps into the ring to self-flagellate” – see: Labour’s opponents are rubbing their hands with glee.
Another side to the story
Of course, there are always two sides to any story, and the Herald has published an account that paints a very different picture of life inside the Campaign for Change – see: US intern defends Labour’s ‘fellowship’ campaign programme from ‘sweatshop’ claims.
This article reports on the views of an anonymous American student: “She believed the complaints and leaks to the media were driven by one or two interns who had a beef with the programme. She claimed one was dropped from a leadership position on the programme after allegedly taking bottles of wine from Labour MP Jenny Salesa’s house after Salesa hosted a meal for them.” According to this account, the media had inaccurately portrayed what had gone on, and she disagreed with any notion of “sweatshop” conditions and “slave labour”.
And, one of the US students has blogged about their experience here, and it’s fairly positive – see: Jordan Pawlicki’s Extravagant Week One For the International Newbie.
Another very interesting account can be read in Auckland University student radio station bFM’s Exclusive transcript with Labour student intern.
Labour’s damage control appears dishonest
One of the most deceptive elements of both the Campaign for Change, and subsequent attempts by Labour at damage control, is the claim this wasn’t a Labour Party campaign. Matt McCarten had sold it publicly as “non-partisan”, which was scarcely believable given his roles at the top of the Labour Party in recent times. And other Labour figures continue to argue that Labour is simply coming in to clean up someone else’s mess, when it is clear this has been a Labour project from the start.
The involvement of Labour Party staffers is made apparent in the above bFM interview with one of the interns – who points to the various Labour people running the Labour camp. And in a blog post, David Farrar elaborates on who these staffers and officials are – see: Of course this was Labour’s scheme. Farrar says: “To argue this scheme was independent of Labour when it was called a Labour fellowship, and run by staff from the Leader’s Office and Labour field offices, plus a member of Labour’s National Council is beyond credibility.”
And today Newshub has revealed further internal organising details from the campaign, which suggest that, not only was Labour centrally involved, a number of trade unions were being asked to contribute funding – see: Union money behind Labour’s botched intern scheme.
In fact, could the Labour Party be even more responsible for the fiasco than they are leading us to believe? That seems to be the argument made by leftwing blogger and activist Martyn Bradbury, who had been involved with the campaign. He suggests it was actually the Labour Party leadership that killed off the campaign, because they feared it was too leftwing – see: Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear.
Here’s Bradbury’s argument: “The campaigns focus was engagement and it had Labour Party sign off and Union buy in. What happened however was Labour Party HQ Wellington had become panicked by how big the Campaign had become and despite green lighting it started dragging their feet until the thing fell over. A whispering campaign targeting the funders of this campaign strangled off money because Labour Party HQ Wellington’s preference is to win over voters who are existing voters because the policy platform doesn’t have to be particularly radical for that. What Labour didn’t want was a huge campaign to the Left of Labour pressuring them for a Corbyn or Sanders platform.”
Bradbury concludes that “the real story is Labour’s fear of a courageous left wing platform. Blaming Matt McCarten and leaving him to twist in the wind is expected but it certainly isn’t honourable.”
Futile campaigning for the youthquake
Martyn Bradbury’s blog post explains how the Campaign for Change was an attempt to emulate some of the youth politics success recently seen in the US and UK: “The plan to use international students who had worked on campaigns like Jeremy Corbyn’s and Bernie Sander’s were going to be matched by domestic volunteers who were going to target 60 000 Aucklander’s who had enrolled to vote but hadn’t voted and 60 000 Aucklander’s who hadn’t enrolled at all.”
Essentially the whole project has constituted a short-cut attempt to mobilise a dormant part of the electorate. The problem is that party officials cannot simply artificially engineer such phenomena. You can’t just use your will and some simple tricks to magic up an exciting wave of enthusiasm for the parties of the left.
The British election youthquake – and other popular mobilisations – have been more organic. They’ve been genuine responses by the public to what they see as exciting and authentic leadership and bold programmes for change. And, here in New Zealand, that key ingredient is currently missing. So, yes, Labour is trying to emulate what British Labour succeeded in doing, but without the same conditions here, such an endeavour is always going to be more fraught.
This is the point I made last Friday evening when I went on TV3’s The Project. arguing that we’re unlikely to see a youthquake here – see: Academic predicts a ‘youth yawn’ in New Zealand election.
Unless there is some sort of local version of Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, the New Zealand Labour Party can run as many gimmicks, tricks or engineered campaigns as it wants, but it’s unlikely to create the buzz that comes from a real movement. And in lieu of that, any attempts to create one will probably lead to perverse outcomes, such as seen this week.
As leftwing blogger Steven Cowan has said, “The fact that Labour had to recruit workers from overseas, namely unsuspecting students, to work for it only goes to highlight the lack of local enthusiasm for Andrew Little’s dull and cautious Labour Party” – see: Labour exposed exploiting overseas students.
Finally, to see what the various partisans across the political spectrum are saying about this scandal on the twittersphere, see my blog post, Top tweets about Labour’s foreign student intern scandal.
All items are contained in the attached PDF. Below are the links to the items online.
Mike Roke (Radiolive): Politicians like Todd Barclay are why Donald Trump won
David Fisher (Herald): Analysis: Five questions unanswered in the Todd Barclay affair
Bronwyn Hayward (Stuff): Truth, lies, and democracy
Rob Hosking (NBR): Lessons from the Barclay boilover (paywalled)
Rob Hosking (RNZ): Nats’ internal scars could bite worse than Barclay
Toby Manhire (Herald): Rumble from the Gore jungle
Matthew Hooton (NBR): The first snowflake melts (paywalled)
John Edens and Katie Kenny (Stuff): Prime Minister Bill English’s police statement meant a search warrant was possible, lawyer says
Michael Wright (Stuff): Former National staffer Glenys Dickson says MP Todd Barclay should have resigned immediately
Nicholas Jones (Herald): Nobody realised Todd Barclay recording of secretary might be a crime: Bill English
Nicholas Jones (Herald): ‘He’s got to go’: Winston Peters calls for Prime Minister to resign
Patrick Gower (Newshub): Bill English accused of misleading Parliament
TVNZ: Bill English’s dramatic memory recall over Todd Barclay saga – ‘My advice to him was that wasn’t good behaviour’
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the fallout from the Barclay tape
Mike Smith (Standard): Follow the money
Jack Tame (Herald): Don’t blame Todd Barclay’s demise on his age
Stacey Kirk and Henry Cooke (Stuff): Police look to make decision on Todd Barclay next week
Demelza Leslie (RNZ): National aims to put Barclay affair behind them
The Standard: So English lied to Parliament too
Greg Presland (The Standard): Bill English is no John Key
Pete George (Your NZ): Peters versus English on Barclay
Branko Marcetic (Spinoff): Remembering ‘paintergate’, and what Bill English had to say about it
Pete Burdon (Media Training): Barclay issue could dilute Labour message
KiwiFirewalker: You had one job Andrew, just one job!
Labour’s campaign for change
Toby Manhire (The Spinoff): ‘The whole team went rogue’: the gruesome political reality of Labour’s campaign for change
Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Labour under fire over foreign student volunteer scheme
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Of course this was Labour’s scheme
Barry Soper (Herald): Labour’s opponents are rubbing their hands with glee
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear
Mihingarangi Forbes (RNZ): Labour intern scheme: Awataha Marae rejects ‘substandard’ housing claim
Mei Heron (RNZ): Little says Labour Party interns situation ’embarrassing’
Emma Hurley (Newshub):Intern scheme got ‘wildly out of control’ – Little
Henry Cooke (Stuff): Unpaid student says scheme not Labour’s fault, describes squalid conditions
Nicholas Jones (Herald): McCarten hands over control of ‘sweat shop’ programme to Labour Party
Nicholas Jones (Herald): ‘It’s the wrong thing to do’: Little on ‘sweat shop’ complaints over Labour-linked scheme
Henry Cooke (Stuff): Labour Party brings in unpaid overseas students
Mei Heron (RNZ): Labour Party officials step in to help disgruntled interns
Jason Walls (NBR): Labour called out over ‘hypocritical’ student volunteer situation (paywalled)
Dan Satherley (Newshub): Labour under fire for ‘sweat shop’ student scheme
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Labour in damage control over volunteer worker reports
Alex Tarrant (Interest): The Barclay Affair and Labour’s international student migrant sweat-shops
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Has Labour committed mass immigration fraud?
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour’s foreign campaign workers put up in sub-standard accommodation
No Right Turn: The latest Labour muppetry
Steven Cowan (Against the current): Labour exposed exploiting overseas students
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Labour are slumlords, ratbag employers and immigration scamsters themselves
Pete George (Your NZ): Labour campaign exposed as foreign workers rebel
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): What about the workers?
Pete George (Your NZ): Funding of Labour’s intern scheme
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Labour chucks McCarten under the proverbial train
Rebecca Howard (NBR): PM’s science adviser Gluckman says health sector should do more research
Nicholas McBride (Stuff): Community services cards are pointless, say critics
Catherine Groenestein (Taranaki Daily News): Funding changes leave health boards scrambling to reconfigure budgets
Cate Broughton (Stuff): ‘Bring it on’ – Canterbury health board member responds to Health Minister’s attack
Jamie Small (Press): Labour would reverse tax cuts to pay for mental health plan: Little
Susan Edmunds (Stuff): Ombudsman warns of confusion over trauma policies
Farming and environment
Gerard Hutching (Stuff): Winston Peters makes a pitch for farmer vote
Gerard Hutching (Stuff): Labour abandons water and nutrient charging policy for farming
No Right Turn: Labour grovels to the almighty cow
Jono Galuszka (Stuff): Green Party puts housing, farming on the agenda during Palmerston North visit
Charlie Mitchell (Stuff): Canterbury may have hit ‘peak cow’ with incoming rules
No Right Turn: Boo hoo
Gerard Hutching (Stuff): West Coast woman becomes first national president for Federated Farmers in 118 years
Jamie Gray (Herald): Katie Milne voted Federated Farmers president
Justice and police
Sam Sherwood (Stuff): Holding youths in police cells a ‘continued embarrassment’ for NZ – Children’s Commissioner
Philip Matthews (Press): Kids in cells reflect a ‘surge’ in youth crime
Aaryn Niuapu (Stuff): Maori prison proposition an oxymoron
Shane Cowlishaw (Newsroom): Too many guns, not enough cops
Matt Stewart (Stuff): Police union warns politicians how close to breaking point police came in 2016
Foreign affairs and trade
Dominion Post Editorial: Spies should not help a politician’s bid for a job at the WTO
Richard Harman (Politik): How about a bit of naive Kiwi optimism
Gerald McGhie (Dominion Post): Engage over North Korea, don’t dismiss
Jim Rolfe (Politik): Anxiety in the Gulf – why is New Zealand concerned
Nathan Smith (NBR): NZ’s foreign policy needs tweaking, says US academic (paywalled)
Jenna Lynch (Newshub): State of the Parties: Green party report card
Ben Peterson (Daily Blog): Ideas arent enough
Tim Murphy (Newsroom): The Sure Things: Chris Penk
Amber-Leigh Woolf (Stuff): Greens urge people to be part of a culture change in Invercargill
Dene Mackenzie (ODT): Morgan impresses Dunedin audience
John Drinnan (Herald): A big future for small stories?
Patrick Hatch (Stuff): Aussie companies in dispute over dodgy raincoats sold to NZ Defence Force
The Listener: Could the Grenfell Tower fire happen here?
Rosemary McLeod (Dominion Post): London’s fire sprang from landlord logic
Alexia Russell (Newsroom): A plan to plug the gaps in shoddy building work
Pattrick Smellie (Stuff): A dry winter reminder that electricity is at a crossroads
Raymond Huo (Herald): Student visas have become a backdoor to citizenship
Aimee Shaw (Herald): Cost of living in New Zealand cities rises significantly in just a year
Jason Walls (NBR): Court action back on for Andrew Little
Hamish McNeilly (Stuff): Mondelez promises not to destroy Dunedin Cadbury factory’s chocolate-making machines
Julie Cupples (Newsroom): Tame Iti’s media journey flips notion of violence
Jamie Morton (Herald): Royal Society admits failings in male-dominated anniversary programme
Liz Minchin and Veronika Meduna (The Conversation): New Zealand joins a growing global Conversation
Nathan Smith (NBR): Is that free bottle of wine worth it? Corruption survey says no (paywalled)
The Standard: Oil and Water Mix