Title: Pragmatic Conservatism? Why Colin James is Wrong Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 1st September 2005 - 12:00pm1125532800 Article: 888 Rights
Like the NBR, Herald columnist Colin James seems to think that Labour is in trouble with its traditional constituencies over 'political correctness.' Huh? Like Tony Blair's British Labour Party, the Clark administration is a pragmatic, pluralist 'Third Way' social democratic/centre-left government. It embraces multiple constituencies, including working-class, Maori, South Asian and LGBT communities. More recently, some have suggested that these constituencies may not be all that compatible. James names transgender and cannabis law reform as future sticking points. Really? I'm sorry, but working-class voters sure as hell aren't social conservatives when it comes to pot, especially not younger working-class males. Or sex work, judging from one interesting poll taken at the time that the Prostitution Law Reform Act was being debated. And Tim, Chris and Georgina have been repeatedly re-elected as constituency MPs, principally because they are able to resolve problems for their primarily working class electorate. Colin mate, no. Most working-class Labour voters regard "Tory" as an obscene four letter word, particularly after the benefit and social service cuts of last decade. As long as Labour is intent on rebuilding social services, the centre-left will remain in government. If LGBT MPs get stuck in and assist their working class constituents, they'll be re-elected. And who said we don't have common interests, particularly when it comes to preservation of our public health system? As for Maori voters, look at the Maori Party responses on In some cases, they seem quite aware that some whanau do have takatapui and whakawahine as carers for tamariki whose parents are having problems, because they're seen as whanau themselves. Of course they should be allowed to formally adopt, and of course whakawahine should be included within gender identity anti-discrimination laws. Pot? What about P? And much the same would apply to Pasifika and South Asian voters. To many, National is associated with either the dawn raids of the seventies, or likely to go into coalition with Muslim-bashing Winston Peters. Oops. In each case, National isn't seen as a logical home for these groups. Social conservatism isn't strong enough to override those loyalties. As for Destiny New Zealand, James must be joking. Tamaki's puppet party is polling one percent, and Maori media specialist opinion polls are no exception. Apart from Tariana Turia, nor is the Maori Party unequivocally socially conservative. Added to which, there are two forms of social conservatism. One is obsessed with attacking consensual adult sex, feminism, liberal childrearing, religious pluralism and multiculturalism, while the other is more narrowly focused on hard drugs, law and order and more tangible sources of harm and risk to others. Call this alternative version 'pragmatic conservatism.' It doesn't exclude LGBT participants, and the Clark administration has proven quite adept at it, particularly Justice Minister Phil Goff. For example? Apart from wholesale libertarians, I suspect that few of us would have any disagreement about government prohibition of pure or crystal methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals, given its damaging track record in the United States. We certainly wouldn't have objected when the Sensible Sentencing Trust called for a lengthened sentence for Graham Capill, and non-parole sentencing seems eminently sensible for paedophiles like him. Is pragmatic conservatism why the Christian Right seems to be howling in the wind? Probably. Colin James is making inferential jumps all over the place, most of them leading nowhere, and founded on questionable premises. Craig Young - 1st September 2005    
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