by Josie Pagani

The loudest message went to National. The loudest clap was for Winston (not NZ First). But each party can take fortune cookies from the result in Northland this weekend.

First National. The secret of John Key's Teflon popularity;  'don’t be what we know you really are - Tories.' When National inhabits the centre ground, and behaves like a Labour-lite government, they're hard to beat. 
After the 2008 election Key’s government kept Labour’s Working for Families tax break and interest-free student loans. After 2011 it introduced free doctors visits for kids under the age of thirteen and extended Paid Parental Leave, a policy they fought to kill fifteen years before. 

Matthew Hooton’s jihad against Imam Steven Joyce and his pork-barrel Muldonism is legendary. 

But in his desperation to find National party flag-bearers to fight the pork-pushers, he’s picked the wrong martyr. 

Simon Bridges is a card carrying porker from way back.

Here’s what Matthew Hooton said this week in his NBR column:

John Key hasn’t made the case for military intervention, which doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Making the case means understanding what drives people to join ISIS and resisting the temptation to retro-fit our own causes onto theirs. 

It means staring at the consequences of intervening  - and not intervening.

It requires communicating clearly to New Zealanders, the legal premise for intervention, and telling us what peace looks like.

There are a few myths to debunk first.

The fight against Islamic State is not the fight of the oppressor against the disposed and the poor. Its leaders and disciples are mostly educated and middle class, if not wealthy. It’s the victims in Iraq and Syria who are the poor.

There is no transferring blame away from the perpetrators of this crime. 

Moderate muslims are not to blame.

It is not the disastrous invasion of Iraq, even if this gave jihadists a foothold. France, like New Zealand, didn’t support that war.

 

It was not France’s intervention in Mali in 2012. That was a legal intervention, sanctioned by the United Nations Security council. It was an African-led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president.

How many times have we seen shots of Labour party leaders declaring unity while standing in front of caucus members, smiling the kind of smile you produce by sucking air through your teeth? 

Labour doesn't need more protests of unity. It needs more open debate.

People used to join the Labour party for the policy fights. A contest of ideas was how you sorted  good ideas from bad. Achievements like paid parental leave and the nuclear free policy were achieved only after advocates won the argument; Unity was earned by debate, not by shutting debate down and pretending there was no diversity of opinion on these issues.

The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace. 

Stare at that for a moment.

 

The international community didn’t intervene to stop Bashar-al Assad dropping chemical bombs on civilians in Syria. I argued they should.

The labour reforms this week reveal a government that has given up on any hope for a competitive economy and is willing to engage in class warfare on behalf of its 'Judith Collins wing'

Last week, evidence was again made plain of a shocking, unacceptable safety record in ports and forests. The Government responded by passing a new law to remove the right to a tea break.

Panic has gone viral quicker than the Ebola virus, thanks to social media.

Not that there isn't something to worry about. Part of an entire continent is presently at risk - that's Africa not America.

It's not just that Ebola sounds like a modern day black plague and probably originated from blood sucking bats living in dark caves - reason enough for people here in the United States to react like there's a Zombie-Vampire apocalypse on its way.

I know this will make me even more unpopular on The Standard and The Daily Blog. Being Catholic will probably be seen as another reason to question my right to represent the Left; which is odd, given that there is a proud tradition of social justice in the Catholic church.

There’s a lot wrong with the church, but the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and compassion make it not dissimilate to the principles that built the Labour party over a hundred years ago (apologies to National party Catholics, Bill English and Jim Bolger!)

Susan St John accuses me of “visionless pro-work rhetoric” for writing in my blog about Labour’s position on extending the Working For Families tax credit to families not in work.

I’m not sure if Susan St John thinks it would be more visionary to be ‘anti-work’. I’m proud to support the core Labour value of work. The best way out of poverty is a well-paid job. The Labour movement is founded on the entitlement of working people to dignity through work and security when we can’t.