Just a few days of hustings to go, and next Monday we’ll have a new Labour leader. David Cunliffe looks home and hosed: the polls show he’s favoured by Labour supporters and, importantly, the wider public; the only unions to declare a preference have backed him; and there’s a steady trickle of MPs swapping to get themselves on the right side of history. He’s done it by offering what Labour’s lacked: vision.
There’s a lot of nonsense being talked about a shift to the ‘hard-Left’ under Cunliffe. But the facts don’t support that. The ideas he’s put forward are mainstream policies that have worked here in the past and work now overseas. What’s different is that Cunliffe doesn’t and won’t put them forward in a tepid, half-ashamed manner.
And what else is different is is unashamed focus on the economic causes of inequality. For quarter of a century, after being stung by Rogernomics, the Parliamentary Labour Party has been dominated by middle-class liberals and has predominately pursued liberal issues. It has failed to have a credible vision and plan around the economy, the small-s socialist side of things has withered, and Labour has largely bought the neoliberal consensus (including, to be fair, Cunliffe himself although the GFC was a wake up call and, to his credit, he responded where many haven’t). The working class has abandoned a Labour that only considers them as an after-thought. That will change with Cunliffe.
Cunliffe has the nous and the economic literacy (something our last visionary leader, Lange, never had) to go out there and promise a fair deal for New Zealand. He can cast Key as the guy who’s writing cheques with taxpayers’ money for foreign corporates and ignoring the working man and women. I reckon Cunliffe’s fair deal will say ‘yup, if you want higher wages, you need to let workers bargain together, you need a government that is a good employer, you need a good minimum wage’ and ‘if you want affordable housing, if you want good jobs, in a country like New Zealand it’s up to Government to lead the way by building those houses, by buying Kiwi-made, and by not leaving everything to an uncaring, inefficient market’.
Is that ‘hard-Left’? It’s hardly the collectivisation of the means of production, is it? It’s just sensible policy that works, for all of us, not just the elite.