Guest Post – Thoughts on Labour

A reader and new commenter emails:

Dear Team,

I posted my first comment recently after a long time reading and enjoying the blog (as ‘Reasoned and Rational’). Slowly getting drawn into the vortex 😉

Some time ago I seem to recall an article which indicated that submissions from readers might be considered if of a suitable standard. I wonder if you’d read through my thoughts below and consider if it meets that standard? If so, please feel free to use it at some time when you have space. If you choose not to, no worries, it’s been fun getting it down in writing.

Best regards,

Reasoned and Rational

I grew up in home with a photo of Michael Joseph Savage on the mantel above the fireplace. My Dad was a working man, and the party ‘we’ supported looked after the interests of the workers, ensured a fair deal from ‘the bosses’, was interested monitoring the terms and conditions of employment, and made sure that there was a safety net in the form of social welfare if something went wrong. Social welfare was to catch you if you fell, and support you until you were back on your feet again. You took personal responsibility for finding work and getting back into it as quickly as possible if circumstances changed.

In the house I grew up in there was a pride in working. My Dad was very unhappy when once I mentioned University as an idea. “That’s just for those that can’t work, boffins and the sons of the bosses” I recall him saying. That certainly didn’t mean that education wasn’t valued, and teachers were respected as providing the route to a better job for me than he’d managed.

Times were different. Unemployment was low. Rob Muldoon once half joked he knew all 70 odd registered unemployed by name. Yes, there were only 70! When I got my first job upon leaving school I was employed not because I was the best man for the job, but for the simple reason I was the only one to reply to the ad.

It was easy to change jobs. Give the boss the two fingered salute on a Friday night, read the ‘Sits Vac’ in Saturday’s Herald and there was a good chance by Tuesday or Wednesday you were starting a new gig. Management trainee jobs were good to get all round experience and were plentiful at the time and amongst many other things I got experience at the Otahuhu freezing works with Hellabys and a timber yard with Henderson and Pollard.

My first five elections were all votes cast for Labour, as much out of habit and conditioning as anything else. I was more interested in what was happening on Saturday night than the long term future of the country.

By the end of that fifth election though, I was out the other end of an apprenticeship, married and watching the sense of disbelief and betrayal that the Lange/Douglas Labour government wrought on my father. He never cast another vote for Labour as long as he lived. He could never vote National so he became one of Winston’s supporters.    

From my side I thought the deconstruction of the protected market was something overdue, positive and of advantage to the country. I was working for a multinational company at that stage, travelling regularly overseas and realised that many countries were looking with envy at the brave new society and economy we were creating for ourselves. When Lange got cold feet and decided he wanted a cup of tea, I switched on to National to try and keep the momentum going.

Since then I’ve given 1 vote to NZ First (an aberration, I cannot for the life of me think why now, but it made sense at the time) and 1 to ACT.

I ran my own company throughout the Helen Clark years and have to say we did alright despite the Government, but they never once again got my vote. There were many hurdles put in our way by bureaucrats but we succeeded in spite of them. We sold our business in July 2007, 1 month before the GFC took hold. I shudder to think what today would be like if the left had been in control of the economy at that time.

So if Labour want to review where they are going they should think of the voters as customers and remember the old adage that it is easiest and cheapest to keep an existing customer than recruit a new one.

The Lange/Douglas government was not a Labour government in the traditional understanding of the term. They may well have done what needed to be done, but that is the topic of another conversation. What they did was supervise the breaking down of a multitude of established platforms that represented the core values of those that voted them into power. A betrayal like that can never be repaired. It would be interesting to find out how many of Winston’s followers come from Labour roots. If you refer to David Farrar’s chart plotting the falling vote of the Labour party the two terms 84-90 will have contributed greatly to this. There is absolutely nothing they can do to regain this vote and all they can do is wait until time negates this memory.

Helen Clark’s 3 terms represented a strengthening of fringe and special interest groups. The Labour party drifted even further from their roots of representing  ‘working people’ and seemed to want to get larger and larger numbers receiving state benefits in one form or another. The furore over the volume of water a shower head could use, or what wattage bulbs could be used in a home are prime examples of how the last Labour government lost the plot.

2 Labour governments, 2 complete betrayals of different groups of their core supporters.

So it seems to me that the Labour party is no longer a party of the working man, but one for beneficiaries and social engineers. The battle for a 40 hour week has been won, and lost again by choice as people chase the consumer society dream. Weekend trading means more hours of work available to more people and from the looks of the crowds at Mitre 10, Pak n Save and the Warehouse on the weekend, the consumers are enthusiastically looking to consume.

Part of Labour hasn’t got the fact that society has changed. Most companies now see their employees as an asset to be nurtured and grown, not as in the past a consumable material. The flat capped unionists calling “Right brothers, all out!” are a caricature of a time past. The rest of the Labour fringe groups have no relevance to the working man, and as mentioned by other commentators the value of those fringe groups to Labour does not add up to the sum of the parts.

There is no shame in achieving your goals and deciding that the course has been run. The few ‘bastard bosses’ left in NZ – those that exploit workers with poor pay or conditions – can be effectively dealt with under existing employment law. We do live in an egalitarian society. Yes, there are injustices, but there are services which can and should be picking those up and dealing with them. If they are not being used it is through ignorance of what is available on the part of those that need help or inefficiencies on the part of those agencies that should help. Either can be addressed with an intent to do so.

Labour should have retired at the end of the Lange/Douglas years, because what it has morphed into is no longer the party of the workers. What they are arguing over now is which group has the rights to the branding.

It all comes back to ‘personal responsibility’. Labour doesn’t see that and wants to control the nations thoughts, words and deeds. Michael Joseph Savage has the best resting place in the country, but I fear the current turmoil within Labour will have him turning in his grave. Which is a shame, because I still have a soft spot for how they helped New Zealand develop. The rift is too wide to ever heal now. It is time to say goodbye to the Labour party.

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