Labour’s race war?

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Above: Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford has released data showing that a number of Auckland house buyers have “Chinese-sounding” names. What else it shows is a matter for debate.

Labour’s revelation that Chinese buyers appear to be dominating the Auckland property market has been attacked as racist and xenophobic.

More than one online commentator has rightly compared the release of data showing a disproportionate number of buyers having “Chinese-sounding” names, to Hitler’s policies towards the Jews. When you think about it the parallels are obvious. Both Chinese people and Jews have from time to time to time owned real estate, so really it’s just a matter of time before Labour announces a policy of extermination towards all Asian peoples.

The most concerning thing about the data release is that it has been all too effective. People who usually berate Labour for being “too PC” seem to be generally in favour of banning foreign buyers of real estate, if the online comments sections of the main news sites are anything to go by. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of racism going on here. I’m all for screaming “racism! racism!” at every opportunity available to me. Sometimes the label is warranted, and sometimes it’s just a really effective way to shut a debate down, but it’s always good fun either way.

Accusations of racism aside, it is entirely possible that offshore buyers are indeed driving up real estate prices to the point where owning an Auckland house has become an absurd dream for most people. It’s even possible (as Labour’s data suggests) that most of this offshore speculation is coming from Asia, thanks to aggressive marketing campaigns targeting places like China, Singapore and Hong Kong, and thanks to the vast amounts of money looking to exit China. On the other hand, there may well be a perfectly innocent explanation for why people with “Chinese-sounding” names are buying up so much property. Perhaps the descendants of Labour Party legend John A. Lee really like their real estate.

Maybe Labour should have waited until there was perfect data showing a full breakdown of our real estate buyers by country of residency, before raising the issue. Like a register, for example. A register National refuses to put in place. Now Labour stands accused of fuelling racial hatred by highlighting an issue that, if left unaddressed, may well fuel racial hatred.

But spare a thought for the liberal left. We don’t like this at all. We much prefer it when Labour does something noble and principled and then gets absolutely shat on by the voters. Remember “I’m sorry for being a man”? When we heard those stirring words our hearts were filled with joy and we all swore it would be a defining moment in the 2014 election campaign. Well we were certainly right, though not in the way we intended.

But we simply couldn’t bear it if Labour did something that had an odour about it, and it ended up being ridiculously popular with the voters. No, it’s much more fun being disliked by the public, because they’re all nasty rednecks, and those peasants haven’t seen the true path towards the socialist utopia that God in his almighty wisdom has privileged us to glimpse. We who inhabit the blogosphere, the Twittersphere and the online world know all too well that if a policy is popular then there must be something wrong with it. It probably doesn’t reflect true “Labour values.”

The issue is certainly causing ructions within the Labour Party. Long-time stalwart Phil Quin has resigned his party membership in disgust over this issue. At least we think it was this issue. To be fair, there were hundreds of others he could have chosen from. Quin’s loss will be especially felt by right-wing bloggers and newspaper editors looking for copy on “what’s wrong with Labour,” but whether the departure of this colossus will shake the party to its foundations remains to be seen.

Some might argue that reasonable people could disagree on whether or not Labour’s announcement was cynical and racist. But that would be a deeply misguided view. There can be no debate on this matter, and I intend to label anyone who disagrees with me on any aspect of this issue a racist, and so should you. Please bear that in mind if you are considering submitting a comment to this post attempting to refute any of my arguments, though extraordinarily weak and badly thought-out most of them happen to be.

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6 thoughts on “Labour’s race war?

  1. Scott, I think you’re kinda missing the point of the criticism. The results of the survey are about as accurate as going through the register and picking out all names starting with ‘Mc’, and then screaming about the problem of Scottish non-residents taking homes away from regular hard-working Kiwis. Except if you did that, you’d be carted off to the funny farm. It’s therefore impossible to separate out the racist element from this, and there’s only two possible conclusions to draw: this was intentional, or it was massively incompetant.

    There were plenty of ways to start the debate about o/s investment (an extremely important and long-overdue debate), and to frame the results, without using a methodology and underlying message that essentially boils down to ‘the owner’s name sounds furrin, and that’s bad’.

    You’re basically saying that because this strategy has been successful, the ends justify the means. That’s not cool.

    • The results of the survey are about as accurate as going through the register and picking out all names starting with ‘Mc’, and then screaming about the problem of Scottish non-residents taking homes away from regular hard-working Kiwis.

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting the data is perfect, but it’s all the data there is. I’d argue that it cannot be so easily dismissed as unreliable. The guy that did the numbers claims there is some methodology behind the surname analysis, although I got bored when he started using long words.

      there’s only two possible conclusions to draw: this was intentional, or it was massively incompetantYou mean intentionally racist? I doubt that. If by incompetent you mean the release by Labour failed to avoid offending some people, then I suppose it was.

      You’re basically saying that because this strategy has been successful, the ends justify the means. That’s not cool.

      No, I don’t think that was my argument, if there was any overall argument to be had in my post. I think reasonable people can take different sides on this issue. To me (a privileged while male, so my opinion really does matter) this isn’t a clear-cut case of deliberate racism by Labour. I suspect some commentators on the left have grown so accustomed to attacking Labour over anything and everything, that they can’t help but have another crack, and as a result some (not all, some) commentary on this issue has verged on the hysterical.

      • If the data isn’t complete enough to make a decent case that can’t be torn apart with a basic fisking, then perhaps that should be taken into account when deciding how to deliver your message, no? Rather than just going ‘eh, probably mainland China capital, we’ll run with the yellow peril angle. What’s the worst that can happen?’

        I accept it probably wasn’t deliberate. But when you deliver this message, with ropey source date, without acknowledging it as such, and without reference to any other potentially relevant factors (such as potential Euro or US dollar investment in housing and other land/infrastructure)…well, what exactly DID they think the reaction was going to be?

  2. Yeah, this. It isn’t about preferring defeat. It’s about hoping we can deliver the message without shitting on our Asian comrades. (Yes, I know Chinese != Asian but anyone who looks Chinese cops the negative sentiment).

    You know, it’s not the end of the world to have said or done a racist thing. In the society we live in it’s virtually impossible not to. Cognitive dissonance of the “I’m not a bad person and racists are bad people so I can’t be racist” form is part of the problem here. Yeah, I’m angry with Phil. No, he’s not an awful person, he’s made a mistake I would like us not to have made.

    When a lot of the noise has been about the race angle, and not about non-resident foreign buying per se, I don’t think you can claim this has been effective. Effective is when it’s about what you wanted to talk about.

  3. In the absence of a register of foreign buyers/owners what else can you do to demonstrate the effect of non NZers on Ak housing.
    Come on Scott’s people. How else can you demonstrate it, how else?
    This is also about the absence of a register of foreign buyers or our finite land resource. This National Goct is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand not wanting to hear about the problem.

  4. I pretty much agree with your sentiment here, Scott. We can only laugh at how this is working, when it comes to the over-read dog-eared book of problems that Labour has. Not least is that even its friends act like its enemies. I’m just not even interested. I’m interested in what that data actually says. Looking into it, it’s really quite interesting and not as unsound as the soundbites that are hammering it. There really is something quite unusual going on there. Before, I only suspected it, and possibly for racist reasons. Now, I feel pretty sure, for reasons that are much less racist (but still probably a bit racist).

    I guess I’m disinterested in the rest because I don’t actually feel that personally invested in Labour in the first place. I already think it’s a party containing a whole lot of wankers and idiots. Rather like National, and, for that matter, any successful political party. The discussion of how the issue is “framed” is soooooo boring and subjective. I struggle to ever make sense of it, perhaps due to an innate immunity to advertising and framing. I try to train myself NOT to see that shit all the time and make it a big part of my political opinion. To me, it’s a fucked thing that such concerns are so big here, a big part of how National has maintained dominance for so long. I’m certainly not going to add to the noise about it.

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