Paternity leave is a feminist issue

A while back I attended a feminist event that discussed, amongst other things, maternity leave. An audience member asked how women could be successful and have a family when they both require so much time. The respondent, an academic, suggested that there were a few options- more maternity leave, more flexible work hours, children at work, and greater use of childcare. These are all great campaigns, but the elaborations that followed were mostly focused on the latter. There was a tone of resignation, like ‘this is the choice you must make’.

As a male feminist who wants to have children and be an active father, I was a little saddened. The idea of men putting their careers aside for a year or three to care for the children was not even considered. 

I just can’t understand why we as a society (and the left-wing men particularly) do not expect men to forgo a period in THEIR careers to help raise children. It’s treated as a given that women will lose at least a year of their careers. I think men in general (and on the left especially) need to put their hands up and share the effort (and the reward) of caring for children. Not only is it fair for men for take time out of their career too, I think a lot of men would welcome the opportunity. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of gender norm policing from other men on the issue, but that makes the issue all the more important to raise. I think feminist men need to make more of an effort here.  

If we all do so, perhaps one day parental leave will be expected of ALL parents, regardless of gender. And then, hopefully, parental leave will cease to be a career disadvantage for ANYONE, and will instead become an accepted necessity. Because expecting women to take a career break, and men to barely see their children is untenable.   

ACT opts for honesty and incest.

The good people of Epsom have probably grown accustomed to the circus operating out of their leafy suburb. From dead babies passports and factional knifings to… well… John Banks. They’ve put up with a lot. And now it seems they will be asked to again hold their noses and vote for an incest fan, since Jamie Whyte has been outed as an incest advocate. 

I’m grossly distorting Jamie Whyte’s position here, and that’s my point. ACT should have seen this coming. Of course his writings would be pored over and misrepresented. Anyone with half brain (or a rational utility maximiser model of behaviour) would have seen that Whyte’s work as a philosopher and commentator would be used against him. 

To be fair, Whyte’s response was excellent. It was carefully phrased, ideologically consistent, and well-reasoned. But that is his problem. It’s the old debate between categorical and consequential, between means and ends. And in politics, that battle is all but over. Convictions are prisons, and honesty basically has no place in politics. Mr Whyte will have to learn to start petty point scoring and pitching his messages at the voters of Epsom. And I doubt they care much for incest.  

 

Whyte takes ACT back to its Labour roots

ACT has joined Labour in calling for the elderly to work longer, by arguing for raising the retirement age. Former Roger Douglas fanboy and acolyte Phil Goff must be thrilled. New ACT leader Jamie Whyte promised to take ACT back to it’s roots, but no one expected him to go all the way back to party’s roots in Labour.

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Remember when I considered joining ACT? That was hilarious. Then I led the Labour Party. lol.

It’s not surprising that the rich white men of ACT want to cut the elderly, but Labour? Raising the retirement age will hurt physical workers most of all, and Labour is supposed to represent them. This is a bread and butter issue for people nearing the end of a long hard working life, and will move votes. No wonder they like ‘that nice man Keys’.

Key has been crystal clear- He will quit before he raises the age. Labour, on the other hand, wants to raise it, but may commit to providing the current level of super to those who can’t work past 65. I’m not sure how many 55 year old working kiwis know this caveat though. And besides, Labour are awfully vague about determining the ‘can’ and ‘can’t’. Instead, all that comes across is the key message of ‘Labour wants me to work for nother two years’. Is this how Labour plans to win the centre?

When taken in it’s wider context, it’s easy to see how this pushes working people to National. That context being, of course, Labour’s shift towards identity politics. Prior generations are implicated in all of the evils of identity politics. Present generations are too, but we’re part of present generations, which means we’re also implicated. I suspect this is why we don’t talk much about the ageist expectations, disadvantages and language and how it harms older people. It’s easy not to care about the frail and isolated when you’re young and fighting for minorities. Old working class people inspire little sympathy.

This leads us to what I call the half visible elephant in the room. Winston sees it. John Key sees it. ACT see it, but just don’t care. If you are trying to win middle-aged working voters (such as those who abandoned Labour), then raising the super age isn’t very smart. It may go over well with the family trust belt, but Bob the Builder is going to choke on his soggy WeetBix. 

Simply raising the super age is also inequitable. I have heard countless young lefties argue ‘people can work past 65.’ Well, my background is working class, I can tell you for a FACT that many people working physical jobs struggle to keep working to 65. It’s all well and good if you have a desk job, but its a lot harder if you have to lift heavy things or stand all day.

I’m not saying that rising costs of superannuation are not an issue. They are. I’m not even saying Labour’s policy won’t do something about the fiscal problem. It might. I’m saying that raising the spectre of another two years working is not politically astute because it will push those who can least manage it towards National. And I am also saying that it is interesting to hear far-left people suddenly become fiscally conservative when it comes to poor old people.

And I am defintely restating that ACT are Labour’s baby, and that some of those guilty for Rogernomics are still around and in senior positions

The left needs the division of Labour

This post argues the Left needs the division of Labour to beat John Key. Socially progressive issues should be driven by the Greens, and Young Labour should embrace the shameless careerist opportunism and unprincipled positioning that has always the party’s strength. Young Labour activists who care more about issues than craven pursuit of power should migrate to the Greens for the good of the left. Those who are more interested in power should  focus on issues that matter to the soft centre. In the following post I lay out the problem for Labour, and a solution.

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Labour leadership trying to negotiate with its base

The Problem with Labour

Labour has had a range of problems over the past five years. Some of these are personal (/personnel), some are policy, some are delivery, and some are structural. But I believe the problem that underpins their drop to the low 30s is structural. I won’t discuss good leadership, robust policy and sound delivery here, since it’s a given that a party should do them well.

The Left’s structural problem is Labour’s left flank, particularly Young Labour. Their thinking is more socially advanced than middle New Zealand, which is a problem as Labour needs middle New Zealand to win the election. That’s not to say Young Labour are wrong on the issues. I agree that society is structured in a way that privileges white, western, straight, able bodied, cis men. But these are just not the kind of issues that will make Joe and Joanne Bloggs change their vote from National to Labour. These issues must be advanced, but we are fools to expect middle New Zealand to vote for us after confronting them about their privilege.

(Young) Labour can not plausibly expect the support of working class kiwis while scorning their social values. No one should be surprised that so many white men in the provinces have gone to National. (Young) Labour is effectively saying ‘we represent you, but we are embarrassed and offended by your views’.

I am not saying that the left should give up talking about privilege. Rather, the left should be strategic about WHO does the talking. The structural issue here is that we have two parties trying to span the entire left. This creates inconsistent messaging and internal tension. Obviously, we need a centre-left party and a left-left party (I’m setting aside Mana here because, for whatever reason, not many leftists are interested in them).

A Solution for Labour

So what is to be done? Well, we certainly shouldn’t run further from the majority, as Chris Trotter suggested in a recent post. Trotter claims:
“What the Left generally – and Labour in particular – needs … [is something] that signals unequivocally to the Left’s electoral base that Labour’s radicalisation project … is still real, still in earnest and … still on track.”

This is, of course, batshit crazy. Making left-wing voters ‘vote left harder’ is no way to win an election. Motivating the base is not enough. Joe and Joanne will not come with us because they don’t go in for radicalism.

We need to take votes from Key. We need to appeal to voters who are more socially conservative than we are. But to do so can be galling for a principle-driven activist.

I argue that if Labour wishes to represent New Zealand generally (and the working class specifically), it should address their concerns, not those of Young Labour and the left flank. In order for this to happen, activists need to move to a party that can authentically promote these issues without jeopardising votes from the centre. That party is the Greens. In doing so, Labour stands a better chance of pulling the apolitical, struggling, and poor away from ‘that lovely man John Keyes’.

In my view, the truly principle-driven should leave Labour, join the Greens, and allow Labour to drift back to the centre. The Principled Left’s long march through Labour’s institutions has anchored the party too far to the left. This has prevented it from placing electoral gain above principles and winning the centre. In doing so, Labour has effectively ceded the centre to National, which has seized it with relish.

I recognise this will be an anathema to Young Labour. Many Young Labour kids are torn between burning idealism, and the desire to sell this enthusiasm for a shot at being PM. If they favour idealism, they are best placed in the Greens. If they favour ambition, then they are best placed in the careerist vipers’ nest. But, either way, beating Key is looking increasingly difficult unless we face some facts and swallow some dead rats. First and foremost is a realistic and sober reflection on the issues that matter to a majority of New Zealanders.

Polygamy, quotas and LGBTQIA struggles are not in this category. These issues are best addressed from government, and the best way to get into government (I argue) is for the Greens to focus on these issues and for Labour to compete in the centre. This is not a question of what is morally right, but what is tactically effective.

The left needs division of labour, with Labour stealing votes from Key in the centre and the Greens advancing the important social issues on the left.