Martyn Bradbury, Mike Treen and Chris Trotter: Continuing to support Labour and opposing new initiatives on the left.
The 2018 Budget provides yet more evidence that the Labour Party, even as a minimally progressive force, is long dead. But that won't stop some people from continuing to support it.

FOR LABOUR PARTY supporters who cherished a fantasy of a 'progressive' Labour-led government and actually believed Jacinda Ardern's claim that any government she led would be transformative, then the dour and fiscally conservative first budget of Fnance Minister Grant Robertson would of a been somewhat of a rude shock.

They only have themselves to blame. There were plenty of billboard-sized warning signals that this government was going to be anything but 'transformative'. If the fiscally conservative Budget Responsibility Rules, which the Green Party happily signed up to in March 2017, didn't shatter a few liberal illusions then Labour rapidly retreating from plans to increase taxes on the wealthy should of done the trick. And then, of course, there was Labour embracing the neoliberal Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement - after campaigning against it in opposition.

None of this seemed to matter because Jacinda Ardern was the new leader of the Labour Party. A thousand tweets and a thousand Facebook posts boosted her as a left wing saviour, even though a pedestrian track record as a career politician revealed a conspicuous lack of evidence for such a big claim. Those of us who warned of the dangers were summarily dismissed as party poopers, who needed to 'get with the program'.

Nevertheless the term 'Jacindamania' came into being and a 'left wing' commentator like Martyn Bradbury,editor of The Daily Blog, excitedly declared that the selection of Ardern as leader meant that “everything has changed for this election.” You may recall that Martyn Bradbury also promoted David Cunliffe as Labour's 'left wing saviour'.

Just a few months later Bradbury has been trying to explain why the budget is such a letdown and why, in fact, nothing much has changed. It is business as usual. But since he himself is deeply implicated in misrepresenting the Labour Party as 'progressive' his analysis stops short of blaming the Labour Party itself. Instead he writes:

"Because the Left have intellectually been decimated by neoliberal identity politics that erodes solidarity, there is no actual intellect on our side who can counter argue the impact of neoliberal economics, and if there were someone who could, the chances are they would be a white cis-male and that wouldn’t be acceptable to the current progressive diaspora. So we are adrift working under the hegemonic structures of the free market with no intellectual economic counter punch the way Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn have managed.'

If you managed to wade through this turgid paragraph, what Bradbury is trying to say is that left itself is to blame for Labour's reactionary politics because it has failed to put forward a counter narrative to neoliberalism and has no Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn figure in which to organise around.

There is so much wrong with this one statement it would require an entire article to refute it. I'm not going to do that here. Let's just say that it is a deep insult to everyone who has, through the years, put in the hard work to analyse and dissect neoliberalism and the role that the Labour Party has played in implementing and defending the policies of neoliberalism. It is also insulting to everyone who has campaigned against the reactionary politics of the Labour Party and put forward political alternatives.

The difficulty with Labour Party supporters like Bradbury, who ostensibly profess to progressive beliefs, is that they will not acknowledge, even now, that the issues facing left wing politics in the twenty first century have nothing to do with the Labour Party, in or out of government. Even as a much reduced progressive force it has long been deceased. But people like Bradbury keep on trying to revive the corpse.

Similarly while commentators like blogger Chris Trotter and Unite Union national secretary Mike Treen criticise the conservative character of the budget they still offer no alternatives to supporting Labour. 

This might well be called the politics of despair but at the same time both Trotter and Treen - and Bradbury - are more than willing to discourage any new initiatives on the left. This can only help to hinder the development of a homegrown socialist politics. After over three decades of continuous neoliberal governments it is a travesty that someone like Mike Treen can continue to baldly claim that Labour is somehow the 'lesser evil'.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has tried to claim that this first budget is just one of a trilogy of budgets and better times lie ahead. There might  be no jam today but there will be jam tomorrow. We've heard this before from another Labour finance minister. In the 1980s there was also no jam today but we were told there would be jam 'in the medium term'. But, as we all know too well, 'the medium term' never arrived. The Minister of Finance then was Roger Douglas and it looks like Grant Robertson is following in his footsteps. Messrs Bradbury, Treen and Trotter will be there to hold his hand.


  1. Three white males telling us all what we should think. Interesting.


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