Archives for September 2023 | Josie Pagani



The case Labour needs to make

Last week in Montreal I talked to the UK’s Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre.

Both believe the left globally is losing the social licence to act on climate, because climate policy has become a proxy for class conflict.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, whose popularity has receded after nine years in government, opened the event arguing that progressive politicians have to prove that their concerns and policy prescriptions are relevant to the lives of working people.

“He’s right about that,” Starmer told me. “In the UK, I have long thought we drifted too far from working people.”

He talks about “economic change”, not “climate change”. When you say “green jobs” people hear “I’m going to lose my job”. Voters’ biggest issue everywhere, not just here, is cost of living and inflation. They’re worried about climate too, so Starmer talks about the “axes of insecurity”: cost of living, employment insecurity, defence insecurity with the war in Ukraine, migration, and climate insecurity.

Focusing on working people’s security is a contrast to what these centre-left leaders see as the moralising approach on the left, that focuses on “reforming the immoral carbon practices of the masses”.

Josie's column is here.

The Hoon this week

Josie joined Bernard Hickey and Peter Bale on the Hoon, to discuss Labour going for the urban Green vote, and why that's costing it electrically.

Listen here.

Grand causes? Have a biscuit

A quick test of an effective pledge is to pose the opposite: If it is something no-one would support, then it is meaningless. The opposite of a pledge to ‘’lower inflation and grow the economy’’ would be a promise to ‘’increase prices and crush the economy’’.

In 2017, luminous billboards of Jacinda Ardern promised Grand Causes: To deal to child poverty, build 100,000 new houses, and practise a new politics of kindness. No-one in this election is running on child poverty. You would need a team of archaeologists to find the word 'KiwiBuild'. Kindness has had its own elimination strategy. We have gone from ‘Hope and Change’ to ‘Perhaps Just a Biscuit’.

Progressive politics has become a home for urban miserabalism. Being depressed about climate change is a sign of political commitment. If you were treating voters on a therapist's couch, you would resist this catastrophising in favour of calmly dealing with problems you have control over, wrote US political commentator Matthew Yglesias.

Josie's latest Post column is here.

All hole, no donut

I have doubts about the political brilliance of Labour’s strategy. If you miraculously find $4 billion in loose change, that doesn’t suggest you’ve suddenly become careful financial managers. Voters will ask why you weren’t being Scrooge enough in the first place.

So Chris Hipkins told us last weekend that National, ACT and NZ First would be a “coalition of cuts”. Seemed like a solid line of attack until the very next day, less than 24 hours later, when Labour announced its own cuts. Have the team in charge of Sunday’s announcements never met the people in charge of Monday’s? If Labour thinks it can go from calling the other side a “Coalition of Cuts” one day, to announcing it has made swinging cuts of its own the next, I would like to introduce them to their own backbench, who were still criticising a #coalitionofcuts a day after Labour’s own cuts were announced. You can make cuts. You can criticise cuts. You can claim spending is not funded. But attempting all three at once is Blackadder-grade cunning.

Some of the bad news is not of Labour’s making. But did it have to time stinging mortgage interest rates, soaring petrol prices, inflation, a slowing economy, heart attack fiscal and current account deficits, all to coincide, exactly, to the very week, with the general election and the All Blacks going out of the World Cup?

This perennial cliché, where each party chucks fiscal holes at each other, has as much credibility as the hole in Treasury’s doughnut economics. These “cuts” and “holes” depend on a forecast that three months ago, in the May Budget, was “more than $2 billion behind where Treasury had forecast it to be”, Grant Robertson said this week. Another $2 billion worse in three months is all hole, no donut.

Josie's column on election fiscal issues is here.

The Hoon this week

Josie joined Bernard Hickey and Peter Bale to discuss the paucity of Great Ideas in the election campaign.

She talks about the view that, 'if parties don't do the things that the voters say are the things, then the populists will" and whether there is a valid debate to be had about co-governance and allocation of resources.

Listen here.

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