Ardern and English: two faces of what is really one party

by Phil Duncan

Two events yesterday provided a micrcosm of the problem with the NatLabs, and yet more evidence of why workers and progressive people generally shouldn’t support either wing of this party.

One of the most obnoxious events in politics, and in elections in particular, is when capitalist politicians – people dedicated to managing the system that exploits workers- show up at workplaces.  They put on hi-viz jackets or hard hats or hair nets or whatever and walk around making absurd chit-chat with workers and posing for photo opportunities.  The more obsequious workers agree to be part of the photo opp and the most obsequious even take selfies and stick them on their facebook pages.

But, thanks to the courage of Robin Lane and several other workers, Bill English found one of these workplace walkabouts highly embarrasing.  Shortly after inspecting a tray of lemons at Kaiaponi Farms (near Gisborne), English looked like he was sucking on a sour lemon.  English told the workers that the success of the economy was helped by them and other workers.  But instead of accepting this patronising pat on the back, Robin Lane began questioning English about the minimum wage.

She told him that the increases were far from adequate for people to live on, forcing him to admit on camera that living on the minimum wage is definitely a challenge and that was why National had kept raising it.  She then pointed out what these rises had amounted to during the party’s curent three terms in government.  English simply didn’t have an answer.

But nor was he able to simply move on.

Instead,  another worker, Simon Clarke, told English how WINZ had turned away a workmate who had suffered a heart attack.  The worker and his wife were forced to live off her minimum wage.

Several other workers chimed in about the inadequacy of the minimum wage, the massive power imbalance between workers and bosses, the high cost of food, and the general struggle to simply survive.

These workers have set a good example.  This should be the response of workers every time a capitalist politician of any stripe drops by to use them for photo opps.

At the same time, we were given another example of why Labour is no alternative.

While English was getting sour lemons from the workers at Kaiaponi Farms, Labour was busy backtracking on taxation.

The new Labour position is that there will now be no capital gains tax, no increase in company tax and top income earners will not be taxed more until after the 2020 election!  The ‘rationale’ is that Labour, if elected, will have a tax working group come up with proposals and these will then be campaigned on by Labour in 2020.

The backtracking on tax is, however, clearly due to National putting pressure on Labour over the issue, with business also not being keen on any measures like higher rates of company tax.  Labour is sending a message to business: we’ll look after your interests, so please go along with us getting into government.

While progressive taxation is not in any way anti-capitalist, the fact that Labour is already backtracking on even fairly harmless measures shows just how craven and respectable the Labourites are.  If Labour end up leading the next government, there will be no sweeping changes: workers will continue to be exploited by capital and face all kind of state-imposed obstacles to being able to fight for better wages and conditions; poverty will remain; inequality will continue to grow.

About the only promise Labour is likely to seriously try to keep is cutting immigration – ie taking measures which help deepen divisions among workers as a global class.

And, of course, NZ’s armed forces will continue to be part of the imperialist machinery that occupies, invades and interferes in other people’s countries all over the globe.

Both wings of the NatLabs/LabNats stand for the global system of exploitation and oppression.  Both present the limits of capitalism as ‘natural limits’ in order to tell us – the people who create the wealth, goods and services that make the world go round – what we can’t have, while those who produce nothing (the bosses) have whatever they want.

What do we do?

First off, don’t vote for them, don’t play their game.  Do something nice on September 23 – go to the beach, visit friends or family, go for a swim or to the gym – and stay away from the polling booth.

Second, connect with other people who prefer to resist the system rather than prop it up.  We need a new political movement – one of, by and for workers.


  1. […] Phil Duncan:  What yesterday told us about National and Labour […]

  2. Andy Welch says:

    The lemon gag produced a solid chuckle here in the office. Perfect.

  3. I met our local MP recently (the Minister for trade, Todd McClay) at an outdoor market. Its close to where i live so i go nearly every weekend. The last time he made an appearance was (can you guess?) exactly three years ago. His hair, shirt and smile were all well ironed. He began by asking what he could do to get my vote. I said “nothing”. He then gave a 3mins monologue about the China/nz free trade deal which i had no chance to interrupt, he then shook my hand and said “glad ive got your vote”. He then walked off, did a 10mins lap of the market, got in his car and drove off.

    Who do these shiny drones think their fooling?!

  4. Alan Wilkinson says:

    When you believe your life depends on the Government this is where you end up.

  5. Phil F says:

    That’s a hoot Barrie. I reckon it is really difficult to satirise these folks – they’re like a send-up already. He probably practised his monologue in the mirror before he took it to market. Capitalist politicians have always been awful, but I think it has gotten even worse in the last couple of decades. The current crop have taken vacuousness and sliminess to a whole new level.

    • Totally agree with you Phil. It was like encountering a b-grade actor who had mechanically rehearsed his lines. I remember when I met McClay at the same market 3 years ago. He was wooden then as well and parted by saying haltingly “It’s a good country…it’s a good country”. The fact he needed to repeat it made me feel it was rehearsed, as if he was trying to remember how it went. The way it was presented as a ‘fact’ rather than a question made it feel patronising.

      There’s a whole bunch of them who seem manufactured in a Ken-doll-wannabe factory somewhere.

  6. frankefoxton says:

    Much truth said,Mr Duncan. More on his here:

    Greetings to D & M on th Editorial Collective from an old AIC associate.


    • Phil F says:

      D & M are away on holiday at present, and not on-line, but they’ll be back soon. In the meantime I’ll pass on your greetings. I really liked your article about Ardern/Labour (“Substance Abuse”) and recommend it!

      It’s always good to read other people saying thngs like: “A Labour victory will result in a fundamental continuation of National’s disastrous economic direction, retention of its expansive security apparatus, an additional 1,000 cops, the consolidation of sabre-rattling NATO junior partner militarism, and the entrenchment of a chauvinistic, backward anti-immigrant mindset that will make the lives of the most vulnerable even more precarious.”

      Phil F

  7. Robert Howie says:

    Nice thought, going to the beach instead of voting,especially if it’s a nice day, but that that won’t change anything. Neoliberalism is firmly entrenched here on planet earth. We can help to turn that around by getting rid of the Tory clowns,who have managed to hoodwink the less savvy NZers for some nine years. Vote Labour,don’t go to the beach or the gym,it’s a step in the right direction,

  8. Phil says:

    Robert, it was Labour that brought ‘new right’ (or ‘neoliberal’) policies to New Zealand in the first place. So voting for Labour would not be a step in the right direction.

    Moreover, neo-liberalism is the dominant policy prescription here any more anyway. Nothing done by the current National government (or, for that matter, the fifth Labour governemnt) really fits in with neo-liberalism.

    I think it’s Labour than manages “to hoodwink the less savvy NZers”. They have a chunk of people believing they are in some way fundamentally different from Nationa, when they’re really two cheeks of the same arse.

    On Labour,check out:

    On postneoliberalism in NZ, check out:


    Unite Union leader Mike Treen also noted several years ago that the Key-English government was not neoliberal (and Mike T has been fighting them for years, so not one to try to prettify them):

    Although we disagree, thanks for your comment; it’s always helpful to get responses.

  9. Alan Scott says:

    “yet more evidence of why workers and progressive people generally shouldn’t support either wing of this party.”
    “another example of why Labour is no alternative”
    But the captive news media always build them up – and the poor gullible voters fall for it, every time!

  10. Phil says:

    An important part of how the bourgeoisie rule in New Zealand is having two dominant parties and then letting the masses choose. So it all looks ‘democratic’, but the reality is that there is so little *political* difference between the two they are effectively just two factions o the same political force. Like Chomsky said, the ruling class establish a narrow set of ambits of debate and within that they let the non-alternatives duke it out.

    Leftists who play that game are essentially anti-Tory rather than anti-capitalist.