A reader emails some thoughts on what he thinks is Labour’s fundamental problem.
TL;DR¬† Labour cannot campaign effectively on centrist policy because National haven’t undone their policies from the Clark era.
As a political party, Labour have more than their fair share of¬†people problems¬†at present;¬† Musical Chairs in the leaders office, a savagely divided caucus, clumsy efforts to hide or downplay their individual wealth, overwhelming Union influence, etc.¬† As frustrating and damaging as these are for Labour, none of these amount to such a serious threat to the party’s credibility and viability as their¬†policy problem¬†does.
Labour’s policy record has been abysmal since John Key’s National Party took power.¬† It has become so bad that it’s now at the point where Labour probably goes¬†up¬†in the polls if they¬†don’t¬†release any policy in the preceding weeks!¬† Of late, Labour policy seems to be either;
- Lifted directly from Chairman Mao’s Red Book (NZPower)
- Heroically bungled in its delivery. (Baby Bonus, “Show Me The Money”, Dead fish, etc.)
- A retraction of something that was previously heralded as a game-changer.¬† (GST free fruit & veges, Tax-free $5k)
I suspect that one of the big reasons for this is that Labour has a fundamental problem in the policy space.
Despite the Clark government‚Äôs “Scorched Earth” gambits to leave the cupboard bare for John Key’s incoming caucus, National has not rescinded a single one¬†¬†of Labour‚Äôs “fiscally dubious” election bribes.¬† We still have Working for (other people’s) Families.¬† We still have¬†Taxpayer Funded¬†Interest Free Student Loans.¬† And so on.¬† The net result of this is that Labour are left with no room to manoeuvre¬†anywhere near¬†the political centre.¬† National have persisted with Labour’s most generous of socialist programmes and by doing so, neatly tied up the $8-10b of revenue that an opposition would traditionally consider “available” to fund new ideas to differentiate them from the incumbent.
In addition, Labour can’t whole-heartedly oppose the status quo because most of it was their policy in the first place.¬† This has resulted in policy debacles such as ‚ÄúWorking for Beneficiaries Too!‚ÄĚ
As a result, Labour now finds itself occupying the same political ground as the Green and Mana parties.¬† It is faced with either a 3-way fight for the far left vote against two smaller players, or a duel for the centre against a superior opponent that is wielding Labour‚Äôs own weapons against them.
Labour has been snookered.
¬†OK, they did axe the 39% envy tax.¬† Look what is at the top of Cunliffe’s policy to-do list?