A reader emails some thoughts on what he thinks is Labour’s fundamental problem.
TL;DRÂ 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 ofÂ people problemsÂ at present;Â Musical Chairs in the leaders office, a savagely divided caucus, clumsy efforts to hide or downplay their individual wealth, overwhelming Union influence, etc.Â 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 theirÂ policy problemÂ does.
Labour’s policy record has been abysmal since John Key’s National Party took power.Â It has become so bad that it’s now at the point where Labour probably goesÂ upÂ in the polls if theyÂ don’tÂ release any policy in the preceding weeks!Â 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.Â (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 governmentâ€™s “Scorched Earth” gambits to leave the cupboard bare for John Key’s incoming caucus, National has not rescinded a single oneÂ Â of Labourâ€™s “fiscally dubious” election bribes.Â We still have Working for (other people’s) Families.Â We still haveÂ Taxpayer FundedÂ Interest Free Student Loans.Â And so on.Â The net result of this is that Labour are left with no room to manoeuvreÂ anywhere nearÂ the political centre.Â 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.Â This has resulted in policy debacles such as â€śWorking for Beneficiaries Too!â€ť
As a result, Labour now finds itself occupying the same political ground as the Green and Mana parties.Â 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 Labourâ€™s own weapons against them.
Labour has been snookered.
Â OK, they did axe the 39% envy tax.Â Look what is at the top of Cunliffe’s policy to-do list?