Leftwing journalist Nicky Hager has reviewed fellow leftwing journalist Chris Trotter's No Left Turn and concludes that it's 'an excellent, readable, thought-provoking book'. This review published in the Listener - see Power & the people - concentrates on how No Left Turn is a history book with great relevance for understanding modern New Zealand politics. [Read more below]
Hager states that he initially found the 'dogmatic-sounding subtitle The distortion of New Zealand’s history by greed, bigotry and right-wing politics' put him off - especially due to it being on the cover in 'a melodramatic red splash of blood', but by the time he had finished the book he agreed that the subtitle was indeed 'reasonable'.
The review is incredibly positive - reflected in a further statement that the book is 'refreshing, intelligent and enjoyable'. Its major strength, according to Hager, is that No Left Turn 'is interesting for understanding the roots of modern-day politics'. The book 'focuses on issues of undemocratic power and influence that are still at the heart of many political problems today' - with Hager citing its discussion of the 'dishonourable origins of the National Party', and in particular, the early use of manipulative electioneering techniques - which Hager implicitly sees as linked to his own exposure in The Hollow Men. Hager retells Trotter's story of how in the 1920s and 1930s Albert Ernest Davy was a hired PR gun for and then against Gordon Coates.
Hager draws attention to Trotter's 'unexpected and original' defence of the First Labour Government against leftwing criticisms that it sold out its socialist beliefs. Trotter's argument that the Savage's Labour Government was simply unable to implement a more socialist society because it was unable to confront the 'enormous powers still reposed in the state bureaucracy' and industry. Hager also sounds sympathetic to this.
The only criticism that Hager makes of the book - although he alludes to having more - is that Trotter gets Labour's mid-80s unclear dispute wrong - which Hager puts down to the author 'unwisely using Michael Bassett as his main source'.
Over all, the theme of No Left Turn is, according to the reviewer, is the 'struggle between egalitarian values and private wealth'. Hager says we need more of such writing.