Blue Labor: rightwing identity politics

I’ve started writing a regular column for Independent Australia (every two weeks), and my first column has just gone up. It’s a response to Nick Dyrenfurth and David Furse-Roberts, Australian advocates of Maurice’s Glasman’s Blue Labour ideas in the UK (apparently Glasman visited here for a few months. The central point is that, far from offering a policy alternative to the political right, Blue Labor is all about a specific kind of identity politics, focused on stereotypical male manual workers. These workers assumed to be socially conservative and economically aspirational, but to vote for Labor because they don;t like the silvertails on the other side, despite sharing all of their views.

It took me a while to write this, and several other people came out with very similar analyses in the meantime, notably including Jeff Sparrow. Dyrenfurth responded, complaining “I doubt Jeff Sparrow has read my book instead of relying upon selective media reports and a book extract comprising less than 3% of the book’s contents”

I have (almost) zero sympathy for this. If you can’t summarize your book in 700 words without giving readers a radically wrong impression of your central idea, you shouldn’t publish a summary at all. The only criticism of an extract I would regard as unfair is of the type “Quiggin doesn’t mention topic X or qualify the argument with reference to Y”. In this case, it’s perfectly legitimate to point to the fact that these topics are in fact covered in the book, but not in the extract/summary.

Almost invariably, this rhetorical move involves backing away from the core message presented sharply in the extract/summary, and pointing to the more nuanced presentation in the full length version. On this score, I can only appeal to my Crooked Timber co-blogger Kieran Healy (NSFW title)

52 thoughts on “Blue Labor: rightwing identity politics

  1. I was at a conference recently and noticed, not for the first time, a variation on the nuance argument: at least I think it is (I’m trying to be nuanced). Namely, definitional hair-splitting or contestation. Constantly heard that ‘financialisation’ and ‘neoliberalism’ are ‘buzzwords’ with no ‘real meaning’ (financialisation? Really?) ‘Work’ and ‘labour’ were also laboured, definitionally speaking. This, in a context where people were asked to give 10-minute overviews, so, by definition, big picture. I get that there are such arguments to be had, but it increasingly seems to me like a way to sound profound without really grasping what Healy talks about, ‘the abstraction on which good theory depends.’ Or even just the essence of the bloody argument someone is making.

  2. In the linked column, you implicitly reject the argument “that blue-collar workers are “aspirational” and therefore oppose class warfare and redistributive policies.” The rejection is implicit because you don’t say why the argument is false.

    So, what’s the evidence that is false?

    The strategy favoured by Nick Dyrenfurth and David Furse-Roberts might indeed not be a recipe for success for the Labor Party. Until and unless it’s adopted, we won’t know. What we do know is the strategies the Labor Party has adopted have failed. Since 1993, it’s won a majority at one election, so one majority between 1993 and at least 2022. This is a failure comparable to Labor’s long period in opposition in the Menzies and post-Menzies years, and arguably worse, since that was caused in large part by the mid 50s split an its aftermath which created a huge structural electoral disadvantage – former Labor voters, mostly Catholic, voting DLP and giving their preferences to the Coalition.

  3. You’ve missed the point. As I observed repeatedly, aspirational (that is, rightwing) voters, whatever their collar will rationally vote for the right as they have done ever since the Labor party was established.

  4. The ALP has done much better in state elections, so it isn’t all doom and gloom. I’m particularly impressed with the way the Libs in South Australia picked up the batton on renewable energy and climate change.

    The 2PP at the 2019 Fed election was Coalition 51.53 ALP 48.47%. Only two voters in 100 have to switch sides for the ALP to win. I don’t see that as a reason for the ALP to tack right.

  5. Most people aspire to do better, whether it be by education, sports, making money or any other endeavour. It should be second nature for an aspiring politician to tap into that sentiment. Appealing to the less fortunate isn’t going to win much support from anyone as nobody wants to be seen as a loser.

    As George Orwell observed;

    “The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t.”

  6. Say what?

    From the linked article:
    “An even bigger problem with adopting the UK Blue Labour model relates to migration. The UK version is straightforwardly anti-immigration. Maurice Glasman has called for a freeze on migration and cosied up to the racist English Defence League.

    In the UK context, such a stance, however repugnant, has a certain political logic. Less than 14% of the UK population is foreign-born, so appeals to anti-immigrant prejudice can work. But the 28.5% of Australians who are foreign-born outweigh the 10% or so willing to vote for Pauline Hanson.”

    Migration? 28.5%? 10%? Pauline Hanson?
    Contexts? Logic? Evidence?
    Say What?

    Immigration, population growth and voters: who
    cares, and why?
    The October/November 2018 TAPRI survey
    Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell

    Click to access Tapri-survey-2018-final-report-April.pdf

    “Figure 17 shows that, as of October/November 2018, more voters in the sample of all
    birthplace groupings bar one intended to vote for the Coalition than for any other party. It
    was only among those born in Europe (excluding the UK and Ireland) where a larger
    proportion intended to vote Labor.
    Though this does not apply to migrants from Asia, we conclude that first- and second generation
    European and ESB-born migrants have been absorbed into the ranks of voters
    concerned about migration. These migrants have become an important part of voter base
    worried about immigration.

    Which major party would be most affected by an attempt by a faction within their ranks to
    mobilise voters on the immigration issue or by a new populist party? The answer is that
    both would be affected. As noted above, both contain significant numbers of voters who
    might change their allegiance if immigration became a major focus of the forthcoming or
    subsequent elections.” -p18

    The Australian Population Research Institute, Research Report,
    October 2017
    Australian voters’ views on immigration policy
    Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell
    tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/TAPRI-survey-19-Oct-2017-final-3.pdf

    “Attitudes to immigration numbers
    The survey found that 54 per cent of voters wanted immigration to be reduced a little or a lot, including 57 per cent of Liberal voters and 46 per cent of Labor voters (Figure 1). This support for reducing immigration numbers is way above the 34 per cent level indicated in the 2016 Scanlon report.” -p3

    The Australian Population Research Institute,
    research paper, December 2015
    Voters’ attitudes to population growth in Australia
    Results of a survey conducted for Sustainable Population Australia, November 2015
    Katharine Betts
    tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SPA-survey-2015-finalV2.pdf
    “Main findings
    Most voters do not want high population growth. Fifty one per cent think Australia
    does not need more people (Table 1), and 67 per cent do not want the population to
    grow above 30 million (while only five per cent think 40 million plus is a good idea)
    (Table 2).” -p1

    No, it doesn’t wash, this ruling class Big Australia song line.

  7. Liblab have their protocols for Big Australia similar to that precluding mention of climate destruction as the country burns. Protocols and talking points set by fat cat masters.

  8. Blue Labor sounds pretty good. ….. for the 1950s.

    But surely aspirationals can be convinced to vote Labor. Otherwise Labor wouldn’t hold any suburban seats at all.

    And what’s wrong with being anti-immigration? The Big Australia model is good for business and home owners, not so good for poor people.

  9. Because these ordinary people get bigger cells in the prison and better food than some of the other prisoners. Such ordinary people would rather not live in reality anyways as that would require excercizing discipline, and responsiblity.

  10. Ordinary people dont follow politics ,or anything related ,very closely or even at all. It is simply not possible to make good decisions without all the information .Ordinary people are not dumb ,they are just applying their mind to other things .According to the Guardian only 15 % follow politics closely – and I think half of those would do it only in an attempt to justify their selfishness. I was very surprised to find that the ordinary guy who lives opposite me voted Liberal ,he said ‘what have the unions ever done for me ?,all politicians are corrupt, Labor cant manage money’ , he blames immigrants and the less fortunate ,punches downward ,etc – Murdoch talking points .He is a good person but is too busy and distracted to follow politics beyond what the MSM tells him. This chap is about 60 and near the bottom of the employment ladder. He has very little to show for his lifetime of hard work and almost died in an accident at work about 4 years ago . Late at night ,working alone and illegally, he put his head through a glass door and fell unconscious bleeding until the next morning- 90 stitches in head. Another friend , an engineer , rang me on the way to the polling booth and asked me who to vote for. My new Australian Indian neighbors asked me who to vote for too.
    Labor must stand its ground and resist the Right-wing-ratchet ,our masters are panicking – they can only just scrape over the line with the help of the extreme Right now .Almost all people are natural socialists.

  11. To advocate for policies on the basis (or alleged basis) that ‘this is what the party needs to do to win support’, while avoiding any discussion of their merits as independently assessed, is a form of dishonesty that deserves only contempt. The people who do it are behaving like slimy weasels, too chickensh** to nail their own colours to the mast.

    If you are advocating for policies which you yourself favour, you should have the honesty to make your case in favour of those policies on their merits as you assess them, without hiding your views behind a smokescreen of arguments about their electoral popularity, or supposed electoral popularity; if you are advocating, as a regrettable necessity in the quest for electoral popularity, for policies which you yourself disfavour, on the basis of your own assessment of their merits, the honest course is to acknowledge that you are doing so.

  12. As George Orwell observed;
    The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots.

    He was dead wrong about that. Concentration camp prisoners chose (not without exception, but in the main) to live on diets even less appetising than brown bread and raw carrots sooner than starve. I don’t know how close George Orwell ever got to literal starvation (sometimes going hungry is not the same thing), but ordinary human beings on the brink of starvation have been known to chew on many things less edible than brown bread and raw carrots in desperate attempts to stay their hunger pangs.

  13. What we do know is the strategies the Labor Party has adopted have failed. Since 1993, it’s won a majority at one election, so one majority between 1993 and at least 2022.

    Statistically, that’s too few instances to draw any reliable conclusions.

  14. With a title like “Fuck Nuance”, and a high regard for Kieren, I expected to like his paper

    Alas I found it reminiscent of Pinker or Dawkins

    Not an enlightening exploration of the issues at all but a tendentious hatchet job on what may he may well be right in finding irritating. But no real preparedness to explore the issue in an enlightening way.

  15. J-D, yes, we should wait until the Labor Party is in opposition for the next 100 years before concluding they are doing anything wrong. In fact no one should ever do anything without a suitably low P value as back up.

  16. The thread starter and comments jogged my memory as to this piece I read at the ABC site last weegend that has a curious intersection with JQ here.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-24/10-years-of-climate-change-inertiaand-the-role-of-andrew-robb/11726072

    I think this Annabel Crabb essay is interesting and above most of much writing that occurs in msm, but in the end fails slightly to truly establish whether Rudd’s plan was effective enough; It identified the major culprit In Robb, but remained sceptical of the Greens position back a decade ago. Their ambitious rejection of the Rudd plan seems the concluding event as to the destructive politics of the LNP Right and the resulting stasis in our politics since, as neoliberalism continued to sabotage, then took over the processes for opposite goals togenuine reform as a cuckoo in the nest. The ideology served the autocratic interests of a kind of illiteracy-based (sad when so few comment here on always critical stuff, and the best JQ can get here is the likes of someone like this writer at this stage in a conversation) feudalism that has the nation in stasis, as with the rest of the West.

    Ok, so this seems digressive, but it hints at the forces that have induced worsening, perhaps permanent log-jamming and demoralised apathy within an ill informed public, which is to do with JQ’s comments.

    Also Dyrenfurth.. it looked nice, but we see from Blair as well as what has gone here for a long time, that the Right faction particularly is a difficult unit to trust, understand and support over the last generation, in Britain, “Blue Dog” Democrat America, or here.

    Blighs, Obeids, Arbibs and Palaszczuks ?

    Too much of submissive, even palm-greased, complicity, not enough commitment to necessary, meaningful but very hard change, considering the structure of modern neolib homogenisation/hegemony.

    But perhaps Crabb’s idea that the system is beyond repair and a tawdry sort of sacrosanct beyond severe questioning itself, so we retreat to minutiae of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, seems to hit home, when you think of the decade since Keven Rudd’s downfall. Crabbe, rock solid, cites Rudd but I wonder what CSIRO and the Greens might have said if asked for comment re science if asked.

    For further food for thought, this too.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/18/crisis-in-liberalism-katrina-forrester

  17. J-D, yes, we should wait until the Labor Party is in opposition for the next 100 years before concluding they are doing anything wrong.

    We can be confident, by default, that any person or any organisation is doing something wrong. Humans are fallible. We can be confident that at the 2019 election Labor did some things wrong and some things right: the problem is, how do we tell which is which?

    Labor did not pursue the same strategy at every election from 1996 to 2019. Should we therefore conclude that its mistake was to change strategies and that the way to win elections is to find one winning strategy and always stick to it?

    Labor did win government in 2007. Should we therefore conclude that the way for Labor to win elections is to repeat its 2007 strategy?

    Labor did get more votes than the Coalition (but not more seats) in 1998. Does that tell us anything? Which is a better guide to future Labor election strategy, 1998 or 2010, when the opposite happened?

    One thing we can know for sure is that there’s no certain strategy for electoral success: if there were, Labor and the Coalition could both adopt it, in which case they’d both have to win the election, which is impossible, demonstrating that the assumption is false.

  18. “In the UK context, such a stance, however repugnant, has a certain political logic. Less than 14% of the UK population is foreign-born, so appeals to anti-immigrant prejudice can work. But the 28.5% of Australians who are foreign-born outweigh the 10% or so willing to vote for Pauline Hanson.”

    These points no doubt have the right ring about them to satisfy IA editorial policy, yet today within the rag’s usual ALP rusted-on party line commentary only allowed below the line it is rather surprising to see comments expressing any substantial disagreement still remaining undeleted after a day.

    AFAIK to date in fact 69% of Australians still would also disagree. Ross Gittins had something to say on that:

    Wednesday, November 27, 2019
    High immigration is changing the Aussie way of life

    The nation’s economic elite – politicians of all colours, businesspeople and economists – long ago decided we need to grow our population as fast as we can. To them, their reasons for believing this are so blindingly obvious they don’t need to be discussed.

    Unfortunately, however, it’s doubtful most ordinary Australians agree. A survey last year by researchers at the Australian National University found that more than 69 per cent of respondents felt we didn’t need more people, well up on a similar poll in 2010.

    …The growth in our economy has been so weak over the past year that they’ve had to stop saying it, but for years our politicians boasted about how much faster our economy was growing than the other economies.

    What they invariably failed to mention was that most of our faster growth was explained by our faster-growing population, not our increasing prosperity. Over the year to June, for instance, real gross domestic product grew by (a pathetic) 1.4 per cent, whereas GDP per person actually fell by 0.2 per cent.

    That’s telling us that, despite the growth in the economy, on average our material standard of living is stagnant. All that immigration isn’t making the rest of us any better off in monetary terms.

    Of course, that’s just a crude average. You can be sure some people are better off as a result of all the migration. Our business people have always demanded high migration because of their confidence that a bigger market allows them to make bigger profits.

    Economists, on the other hand, are supposed to believe in economic growth because it makes all of us better off. They’re not supposed to believe in growth for its own sake.

    This week one of the few interest groups devoted to opposing high migration, Sustainable Population Australia, issued a discussion paper that’s worth discussing. It reminds us that many of the problems we complain about are symptoms of migration…

    Sustainable Population Australia Inc.
    Population growth and infrastructure in Australia: the catch-up illusion – Summary
    ***population.org.au/sites/default/files/SPA_DiscussionPaper_Infrastructure_Nov2019_Summary.pdf

    Foreword
    ..Polls are repeatedly showing Australians are
    increasingly averse to this continuing growth;
    a 2018 ANU opinion survey found 69.6 per cent of
    Australians felt Australia did not need more people,
    a substantial increase from a similar survey in 2010.

    ..The growth lobby – vested interests including property
    developers and now, regrettably, the university
    sector which has become dependent on revenue from
    overseas students – is determined to steer all conversations
    about population into how growth can be ‘managed’,
    rather than questioning whether the growth is
    either necessary or desirable in the first place.

    Key Points …
    6 Increasing infrastructure costs have created increasing
    costs for residents, such as tolls and user-pays
    charges and other costs which may be hidden.
    Household water bills are projected to more than
    quadruple in real terms in the next 50 years because
    of population growth and climate change.

    7 In future, only the wealthiest residents in our major
    cities will be able to afford a detached house with
    a backyard, while the majority will have to live
    in cramped higher-density accommodation of
    questionable build quality and with little or no
    access to green space.

  19. “Should we therefore conclude that the way for Labor to win elections is to repeat its 2007 strategy?”

    There were specific circumstances in 2007 that are unlikely be repeated. But in 2007, as in 1983, the previous time Labor won from opposition, it had a popular leader and a policy program that enabled it to win seats in Queensland.

    Queenslanders seem happy enough to regularly elect Labor state governments so it’s not as though Queensland is a naturally anti-Labor state (unlike WA, which is a naturally anti-Labor state). But until and unless they can be convinced to vote Labor in federal elections, the ALP will be the permanent party of opposition, nationally. Having a leader that Queenslanders can warm to would be a good start.

  20. “Labor did win government in 2007.”

    No. It was Rudd the dud what won it.

    Or Work Choices lost to Work Choices-lite.

    No real ALP insider light on the hill given a proper chance internally to be seen for ages. A glimmer as some observers occasionally claim to see turns out to be just repeated photopsia of sorts.

  21. Mathematically it’s possible to win a Federal election while doing poorly in Queensland and historically it has been done, more than once, by the Coalition as well as by Labor; still, obviously it would be an advantage to have a leader who was popular in Queensland, just as it would be an advantage to have a leader who was popular in Sydney or Melbourne, so long as that popularity in one part of the country didn’t go along with similar unpopularity in the rest of the country.

    All that said, how can anybody tell who will be popular as a leader in Queensland (while not similarly unpopular in the rest of the country)? Labor has had, over the course of its history, three leaders who came from Queensland (while the Liberals have had none), but somebody who comes from Queensland can still be unpopular there. Labor had exactly the same leader in 2013 as it did in 2007, but without the same effect on Queensland results.

    Saying that what you need to win an election is a popular leader with a popular policy program is about like telling people that what they need to do to win a game is score a lot of points: true, but not actually useful advice.

  22. And what’s wrong with being anti-immigration?

    One effect of expressing opposition to immigration is to inflame social tensions and hostility.

  23. The point about Queensland is that it has more potential to swing and cause seats to change than other states where there just aren’t many seats in play. In eastern suburbs of Melbourne, for instance, there’s a bunch of seats that the Liberals have always held by slim margins, but for whatever reason they never change hands. Labor could in theory pick up enough seats elsewhere to make up for very poor performance in Queensland, but it is highly unlikely, which is why it’s never happened. Queensland is disproportionately important.

    You can say now that it’s trite that Labor should have a popular leader. But Labor went into the 2019 election with a leader who was demonstrably unpopular. Up until and including election day, this was thought not to matter, because the leader approval/disapproval and preferred PM polls were said to be irrelevant to how people voted. It turned out, and admitted by the ALP in its post mortem, that it did matter.

  24. One effect of expressing opposition to immigration is to inflame social tensions and hostility.

    I don’t believe that has to be the case. Many of our current immigrants live in suburbs that are jam packed with people and getting more crowded each year as new immigrants arrive. Quite a few immigrants that I speak to would be happy to see a major cut in immigration. It shouldn’t be hard to sell such a policy in a way that does not “inflame social tensions and hostility”.

  25. And what’s wrong with being anti-immigration?

    One effect of expressing opposition to immigration is to inflame social tensions and hostility.

    One effect of expressing Big Australia party line fake facts and spurious arguments in support of continuing sky-high rates of immigration is to inflame social tensions and hostility.

  26. I think there is too little examination of the link between taxpayer funded government supported activities in maintaining and creating business opportunities.

    Healthy, educated people are good for businesses, as employees and customers. People getting decent pay are good for business demand. People getting welfare reduce the load on police, courts, prisons and avoid a burden of costs from social disruptions from an underclass of desperate people – and I suggest the avoided costs of social disruptions have significant economic value that could be made more explicit.

    The notion that “keeping more of your own money” is unarguably better than paying taxes to support health, education and welfare is simplistic short term thinking and I think it is wrong. I don’t think it is impossible for social democratic ideas to be presented effectively, in ways that emphasise how they enhance free enterprise business prospects.

  27. Mr. Ken Fabian,
    keeping more of your own money thinking is simplistic and wrong.
    It seems to work as an arguement for conservative politicians in the US though.
    This is why I think that it works. If your are a lower middle class person, especially a lower middle class white person a society which attempts to solve social problems is a society in which all of the poor people are perfectly capable of becoming lower middle class people. In a stratified society, which is the only kind of society lower middle class people can imagine. Because they have been trained that way, the lower middle class can not hold all of the people that are there now plus all of the poor people who would like to be there. If they are all present at the same time on this step of the economic ladder this step would no longer count as lower middle class. It would now count as the poor class. Socio economic class in the US (and else where?) is not defined in absolute terms. It is defined in relative terms. Furthermore when 85% or 90% of the population has more purchasing power than you do you will be forced out of the market for many goods and services that other people have.
    Now I suppose that one could say that appeals to support a capitalist state with good social services should give those in the lower middle class hope that they can reach the middle of the middle class.
    But for the most part such people have been trained to believe one of two things, that they will reach the middle class anyways with out the support of a social welfare state, or that they do not deserve to be any better off than they are because they are somehow defective.
    Another reason that this arguement works is because socialist socities up until now have not managed to entirely eliminate social stratification either. There is a good reason for that. In a technological society it is impossible. In fact even in a society in which everyone earned the same income no one would recognize it as a society that had eliminated social stratification due to differences inthe way people spend their income. And that even ignores the fact that due to the nature of work different pay for different jobs is perfectly justifiable.
    For some people it is a strong arguement for socialism that it flattens the economic outcomes because these people do not think that there is any contribution to society that a person could make that would justify a 7 figure yearly income. In addition everyone is deserving of some kind of minimal income, especially when they are children, or are still raising children.
    But some people are tragically optomistic by nature. They think that in a socialist system their natural talents will take them a long way and a socialist system will hold them back. Such people do not want to admit how important the society that they live in was responsible for the developement of their natural talents. They tend to think that either they pulled themselves up by their own boot straps or that they are in the process of doing that.
    Policemen and the officers of military police units are the ones that have to be cured of these popular delusions. A private in the military police has the authority to arrest a General if he observes the General driving while intoxicated. There is not a damned thing that the General can do about it. At least not initally. A private can arrest a General for breaking the law even if he did not see the General break the law if he has recieved an order from his sargent or captain to carry out the arrest. The entire military politcal system has been driven by intoxicated drivers for decades if not centuries.

  28. I don’t believe that has to be the case. Many of our current immigrants live in suburbs that are jam packed with people and getting more crowded each year as new immigrants arrive. Quite a few immigrants that I speak to would be happy to see a major cut in immigration. It shouldn’t be hard to sell such a policy in a way that does not “inflame social tensions and hostility”.

    It has never yet been done anywhere in the world, so I’m not sure what the basis for your confidence is.

  29. Smith9

    We know for sure which seats have swung in the past, but this is an imperfect (although still useful) guide to which seats are likely to swing in the future. Over time the pattern changes. In 1910, Fremantle and Wannon were marginal seats while Herbert and Richmond were safe seats; a century later, the other way around. I think it’s probably still going to be the case for the next few elections (at least) that there’ll be a lot of seats up for grabs in Queensland, but it’s important to avoid the trap of placing too much emphasis on that kind of projection.

    Labor could in theory pick up enough seats elsewhere to make up for very poor performance in Queensland, but it is highly unlikely, which is why it’s never happened.

    I mentioned before that this isn’t true.

    This is not true.

    It has often been a challenge for a party doing poorly in Queensland to pick up enough seats elsewhere to offset the effect, but it has been done. Labor did it in 1974; the Coalition did it in 1961; the original Liberals did it in 1913. So it’s wrong to use the word ‘never’.

    Anyway, even granting agreement that Queensland is disproportionately important, what are the strategic implications? Is there some special requirement for gaining popularity in Queensland which is different from the requirements for gaining popularity anywhere else? Without that information, it’s not clear what difference it makes to identify Queensland as disproportionately important.

    You can say now that it’s trite that Labor should have a popular leader. But Labor went into the 2019 election with a leader who was demonstrably unpopular. Up until and including election day, this was thought not to matter, because the leader approval/disapproval and preferred PM polls were said to be irrelevant to how people voted. It turned out, and admitted by the ALP in its post mortem, that it did matter.

    The people who conducted the post mortem are (being human) fallible, so it’s possible they were wrong about this, but even supposing they were right, how is the information useful for making future decisions? I haven’t checked to find out how Shorten’s popularity (or unpopularity) as leader compared with the popularity (or unpopularity) of other leaders, but even if he was far less popular than other leaders, or at least far less popular than those who were electorally successful, what are the implications? One problem is that there is no way to know how popular somebody will be as leader until after that person has already been chosen as leader. If Labor had chosen somebody else as leader in 2013, that person might have been more popular as leader than Shorten, but also might have been even less popular; if Labor had replaced Shorten with somebody else as leader at some point between 2013 and 2019, that person might have been more popular as leader than Shorten, but might also have been even less popular. I remember distinctly the choice being made between Shorten and Albanese in 2013: I remember thinking that I wanted Labor to choose the leader who would give a better chance of defeating the Coalition, but thinking also that I had no idea how anybody could figure out which of the two that would be. I suppose the party could adopt a future practice (it wouldn’t have to be an official rule, it could be a tacit understanding) of replacing any leader who fell below an acceptable standard of opinion poll performance over a reasonable period of time: do you think that would help the party’s chances?

  30. “So it’s wrong to use the word ‘never’.”

    OK, replace ‘never’ with ‘not in the past 45 years’.

    “do you think that would help the party’s chances?”

    Yes. By way of historical example, the Labor Party was all set to lose the 1983 election under Bill Hayden, an election it should have waltzed in, replaced Hayden with the popular Hawke and waltzed in, including winning a swag of Queensland seats.

    But these days it would be hard to do. In a classic case of fighting the last war, the Labor Party over-reacted to Rudd-Gillard-Rudd by putting in place rules that is make it very difficult to remove the leader. Stability is generally good, but too much stability is stasis.

    The Liberals, on the other hand, disposed of Tony Abbott and won the subsequent election and then disposed of Malcolm Turnbull and won the subsequent election. As astute observers have pointed out, the much mocked photo of Morrison waving his arms about in his Pentecostal Christian Church in Cronulla (or wherever it is) was designed to show the fundamentalist Christians in the outer Brisbane and peri-urban marginal seats, where these people exist in spades, that he is one of them. It worked a treat.

    Labor needs a leader who can appeal to Queenslanders. Maybe Albo can, but I doubt it. The ambitious Jim Chalmers thinks he can, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he leads Labor at the next election.

  31. Those doughty defenders of white male working class identity, Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts and Jacquie Lambie, were responsible for sinking the government’s bill to neuter the union movement, or at least the militant part of it.

    Just sayin’.

  32. Smith9

    ‘Did it help Labor’s chances to replace Hayden with Hawke in 1983?’ is one question and ‘Would it help Labor’s chances if it replaced the leader every time the leader was doing badly in the opinion polls?’ is another, different question. They are not the same question, so the answer to one is not necessarily also the answer to the other.

    I can find examples of parties which changed leaders and then went on to do well in the next election, but I can also find examples of parties which changed leaders and then went on to do badly in the next election (if you don’t accept this, let me know, and I’ll offer you some)..

    I’m not saying that it would hurt Labor’s chances to change leaders more frequently. I don’t know that. I don’t know that it would help, either. What I do know is that it’s a more difficult question than you’re treating it as being.

    Labor needs a leader who can appeal to Queenslanders. Maybe Albo can, but I doubt it. The ambitious Jim Chalmers thinks he can, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he leads Labor at the next election.

    So you’re not sure whether Albanese can appeal to Queenslanders (you doubt it, but you’re not sure–maybe he can, you admit). You’re not sure whether Chalmers can, either (you write that he thinks he can, not that you think he can). Well, you’re right not to be sure. I’m not sure, either. I don’t think there’s any way to be sure. Without some way of telling who is most likely (as leader) to appeal to Queenslanders, the advice that the party should choose a leader who will appeal to Queenslanders has no practical value.

  33. On the contrary, the advice has immense practical value even if all it does it make the ALP think about whether its leader is popular in the most important swing state. Of course, it can never be certain, but just thinking about it would be an advance. Having thought about it, acting on the results of that thinking would be even better.

  34. JD:

    It has never yet been done anywhere in the world, so I’m not sure what the basis for your confidence is.

    I think you’re being a tad hysterical. We’ve already had a major cut in permanent visa migration over the past seven years, from 190K to a projected 150K for 2019/2020, without ““inflam[ing] social tensions and hostility”.

  35. On the contrary, the advice has immense practical value even if all it does it make the ALP think about whether its leader is popular in the most important swing state. Of course, it can never be certain, but just thinking about it would be an advance. Having thought about it, acting on the results of that thinking would be even better.

    For all you know, and for all I know, they have thought about it. Maybe back in 2013 people in the ALP did think about which out of Albanese and Shorten was likely to be more popular in Queensland before they decided which of the two to vote for. I don’t say they did; I don’t know that; but I don’t know that they didn’t. Do you?

  36. I’m going to finish with the point I started with. Whatever it is the ALP has been doing over the past quarter of a century or so, it hasn’t worked. Ipso facto, they should try something different. Whether that’s Blue Labor, Blues Brothers, Yellow Submarine, Red Bull, Green Lantern, Pink Panther, White Album, Black Sabbath, Purple Haze, Brownian Motion, or a strategy unrelated to colour, it’s got to to be better than what they’ve served up since Keating. It can scarcely be worse.

    Avagoodweekend.

  37. … it’s got to to be better than what they’ve served up since Keating. It can scarcely be worse.

    You’re wrong there, though. The last quarter-century hasn’t been Labor’s best, but it could easily have been worse. It could have been as bad as the quarter-century Labor had from 1916 to 1941, or Labour in the UK from 1969 to 1994, or the Tories in Canada from 1926 to 1951, or the opponents of the Social Democrats in Sweden from 1948 to 1973, for example.

  38. It has never yet been done anywhere in the world, so I’m not sure what the basis for your confidence is.

    I think you’re being a tad hysterical. We’ve already had a major cut in permanent visa migration over the past seven years, from 190K to a projected 150K for 2019/2020, without ““inflam[ing] social tensions and hostility”.

    How sure can you be?
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-18/muslim-women-enduring-most-islamophobia-in-australia/11708376

  39. By 2022 Labor will have won one federal election in 29 years (with one other minority government win). That is 1 out of 9 elections. And yet in all but 1996 and 2013 these haven’t been bad losses. Labor has come reasonably close but has not managed to win.

    To me that indicates there is something systematic in play. I am not sure what, although inadequate leadership seems a strong factor, along with Tory wedging.

    However, the ALP was definitely out campaigned in 1996, 2001, 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2019. So that’s one factor that may be correctable in itself.

    I don’t think Blue Labor is a serious prospect for modern Labor given its membership and support base. But a little less moralising and demonisation of socially conservative views would be helpful.

  40. By 2022 Labor will have won one federal election in 29 years (with one other minority government win). That is 1 out of 9 elections. And yet in all but 1996 and 2013 these haven’t been bad losses. Labor has come reasonably close but has not managed to win.

    To me that indicates there is something systematic in play.

    If there are regular contests between two sides and most of them are won by wide margins by the same side, that’s an indicator that the side that usually wins by wide margins probably has a continuing structural advantage in the contest.

    If there are regular contests between two sides and most of them are decided by narrow margins, then even if the narrow wins usually go to the same side then it’s a much less strong indicator. Those wins might be the result of a continuing structural advantage but they could also be the result of second-order or third-order factors affecting individual contests.

    For example, if you and I play some game regularly and about 85% of the time you beat me by a hundred points or more, then it’s most likely that you’re a better player than I am. But if about 85% of the time the margin in the final scores is three points or less, with you winning most of those, it could be that you’re a slightly better player than I am, but it could also be that we’re equally good players and that you’ve won more games than I have just by a little luck, or by a few minor lapses of concentration on my part.

  41. JD, I clicked on your link but there was absolutely nothing in the article that suggested that the major cut in permanent immigration that Australia has experienced was responsible for the attacks on Muslims that were detailed. You have an unfortunate habit of making things up.

    On the other hand, I can easily find articles about “inflamed social tensions and hostility” from the European countries that experienced a massive increase in immigration during the European migrant crisis.

    I can also find plenty of evidence of migrants from particular backgrounds “inflam[ing] social tensions and hostility”:

  42. I think Blue Labor (ie, working class, socially reactionary but not keen on voting for the Coalition because they represent the big end of town) now has two equally important components:

    1/ poorly educated reactionary old white farts who vote for, or at least think about voting for, One Nation; and
    2/ the reactionary migrants of particular ethno-religious backgrounds, and their offspring, who were responsible for the working class migrant seat of Blaxland in Sydney voting 73.9% against gay marriage.

    I certainly do not want the ALP reaching out to either group. The first group will eventually die off in any case and the second is a ticking time bomb (no pun intended) that thankfully is rather small by comparison with many European countries.

  43. JD, I clicked on your link but there was absolutely nothing in the article that suggested that the major cut in permanent immigration that Australia has experienced was responsible for the attacks on Muslims that were detailed.

    Correct.

    The question ‘Has there been an increase in social tension?’ and ‘What has caused any increase in social tension there has been?’ are two different questions, requiring different kinds of answer.

    You asserted that the answer to the first question was ‘No’. I asked you what makes you so sure that answer is ‘No’ and offered you some evidence that it might be ‘Yes’.

    The second question, about causes, doesn’t really arise unless the answer to the first question is ‘Yes’; so, since you asserted that the answer to the first question is ‘No’, it makes sense to deal with that first.

    Meanwhile, here’s some evidence from a different country:
    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tasneemnashrulla/racist-incidents-after-trumps-victory
    What sort of conclusions do you think are suggested by that evidence?

  44. Wrong,JD. I didn’t offer a view on whether there has been an increase in social tensions on Oz.

    You on the hand made the bold and unsubstantiated claim that every time a country has made a major cut in immigration, the cut has inflamed social tensions and hostility.

    You haven’t provided any evidence in support of your claim and I imagine none will be forthcoming.

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