“Socially and economically liberal” is an old saw now but it’s one that has described the Labour party quite accurately for the last 25 years.
After all they are the party that introduced Rogernomics in the same breath as legalising homosexuality, who built the arts up and introduced civil unions but never reinstating the benefits to the levels they were at after the last National government brutally cut them , who celebrated our pacific culture while maintaining strict monetary policy.
There were some moves around the margins such as working for families but the tension between a desire to do right by New Zealanders and the fact that leaving it to the market did quite the reverse was never really addressed.
Until this week. As John Armstrong says last week’s Labour party conference was:
unquestionably the most significant in a generation and arguably one of the party’s most successful ever.
And he’s right. New Zealand’s default economic settings have been well to the right of the international and historic political spectrum for over thirty years now and the result has been low growth, growing income disparity and a steady flow of Kiwi wealth to overseas investors – many of whom bought into public assets at fire-sale prices.
While a lot of Labour’s proposals don’t satisfy an old lefty like me they are still a welcome shift to the kind of social democratic settings most other Western countries (such as Australia) never left behind.
And it looks like they are here to stay:
Labour’s new economic masterplan is far more hands-on – and makes no apology for being so. This is not some panicked response to Labour’s and Goff’s sluggish poll ratings. A year in gestation, the economic framework document released at the conference is the blueprint to guide Labour over the next decade and beyond.
There is a growing international movement to push back against free-market and finance based policies that has been given real impetus by the global recession and the failure of market economics to stop it.
It looks like Labour’s members and politicians are joining that movement. Bloody good stuff.