Feb 22, 2013

Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?

We all complain Labor lacks a narrative. But what if positive narratives are now impossible to effectively communicate? Look overseas and it may well be the case.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

It’s funny, but no one in Labor is laughing: the very week the Gillard government produces its most coherent economic and political statement of the entire time Labor has been in office, it gets accused yet again of lacking a “narrative”. Waleed Aly, joining Fairfax’s new “all leadership speculation, all the time” format, says governments “thrive on narrative” and Labor ain’t got one.

Ah, the irony — Labor’s actual narrative can’t be heard over the clamour of leadership speculation and insistence it hasn’t got a narrative.

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76 thoughts on “Does the Labor narrative narrative stand up?

  1. Apollo

    One thing I find commentators over reaching in attacking Labors as “don’t know what they stand for” when they relate it to asylum seeker issue.

    The ALP is a party of the worker union movement, they were the ones who proposed the White Australia policy. One could say that it was Whitlam who did not know what Labor stand for and abolished White Australia policy.

    Menzies signed the Refugee Convention. The Liberals now walking away from it, one could say that they are the ones who don’t know what they stand for, in addition to the big socialist ideas of baby bonus and gold plated parental leave.

    Politics is so lame in this country. I want Clive Palmer to run for office, bring on someone like Berlusconi and inject some bunga bunga into the polity.

  2. Apollo

    Also, bloc voting on asylum seekers law and gay marriage. Whatever happened to the Liberal ideal of freedom and conscience vote?

  3. Holden Back

    You left out “delivered in three word sentences using words of one syllable.”

  4. Hamis Hill

    Labourers never, never, never shall be slaves!
    There’s your bloody narrative!
    Adam Smith’s “labour and capital”, economic truisms are some how so obscure in this post-modern age as to be lost altogether?
    A narrative out of context is mere gibberish, the calling -card of this post-modernity.
    It is like something out of the conversation at the Mad-Hatters Tea Party.

  5. Kinkajou

    welcome to the future….msybe the narrative is a concept past its useby date…things are no longer that simple…a government has to govern and cope with what actually happens rather than just make pictures of the bombing patterns

  6. klewso

    Indeed, how’s that narrative to be heard over the MSM (controlling those airwaves of information) static, not interested in broadcasting anything but their own version of their own “papal infallibilty”?

  7. klewso

    … maybe it’s just not the narrative the self-obsessed media wants to hear and pass on?

  8. Gavin Moodie

    I found Keane’s analysis most enlightening. I would add that modern parties need a narrative since they relinquished the class base of their policies and support.

    While the fragmentation of the media makes it harder for the big parties to deliver 1 narrative, it makes it easier for them to develop different positions for different groups. So potentially Labor could appeal to the knowledge workers thru some channels and to the aspirationals thru other channels.

  9. Mr Tank

    Cheers Bernard some good points. I too read Waleed’s piece. Found it derivative. Anyway there is a narrative, one that was not intentional perhaps but is universally known to be the case. It is one of duplicity, ambition, arrogance and vanity. It is one of power at any cost. It is a narrative based in delusion. One that says “Yep the progressive project must depend upon my personal success.” One that in reality states “I shall tear this house down around me in the name of defending it.” Why is it that the people are awaiting with cricket bats? Because we know, that even on their worst days, these folks are better than any government the Coalition can provide. We hold them to a higher standard and we despise them when they fail to be what we need them to be. You know, better than ourselves. But there is a Labour narrative for now until the election. It is based upon sacrifice for the greater good. Not hard to work it out really…

  10. Robert Brown

    Is the “lack of narrative” meme actually a reflection of the state of the media?
    As Bernard says, “positive narratives are complex and nuanced…” and therefore more difficult to sum up in a headline. A “coherent economic and political statement” needs time, research and skills to analyse. Much easier to go meta, go sensation, go with the flow.

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