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A welcome shift to the centre

Written By: - Date published: 9:18 am, October 23rd, 2010 - 32 comments
Categories: labour, Politics - Tags:

“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.

32 comments on “A welcome shift to the centre”

  1. comedy 1

    A move to the centre of the 1970s.

  2. just saying 2

    I agree this is a move from the right to the centre. At least the direction is left.

    The next move I’d like to see for Labour is away from the authoriarian ‘police state’ position, which, lets face it, advantages and empowers the rich and already powerful ‘few’ at the expense of everyone else.

    If Labour is sincere in it’s ‘many not the few’ rhetoric, it will show in policies like this.

  3. a promising step.
    i just hope that when Labour does regain the benches it carries out a series of leftward blitzkriegs to counterbalance the half-dozen unmandated rightward blitzkriegs we’ve suffered since the 80s.
    it’ll take a lot to restore the centrepoint to where it should be.
    but a promising step all the same.

    • Rich 3.1

      Well, for one year they could just assert that the reforms were needed to rebuild Christchurch and simply proceed by edict under CERRA.

      Nationalise the banks, take control of the media, confiscate all wealth over a million dollars. All doable without parliamentary consent.

  4. Gina 4

    “The next move I’d like to see for Labour is away from the authoriarian ‘police state’ position, which, lets face it, advantages and empowers the rich and already powerful ‘few’ at the expense of everyone else.”

    I second that move. We need to raise the minimum wage and benefit levels so that poor kiwi’s are not lured into crime to pay the bills and maybe have a little fun in their lives. Inadequate benefits just mean we need to pay private companies 90000 per year per extra inmate. A lift in benefits by say $100 per week is much less than we need to pay 1800 per week to put the poor in jail.

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    Two years in Opposition and Labour is well on the way with a sheaf of daring new ideas and policies breaking with the last quarter century of neocon neo-liberalism.

    NAT got nine years there and what have we seen from them? Digging up dirt in terms of cycleways and mines, as the path to solving our economic woes?

    Time for them to cool their heels for another 9 years.

    I second that move. We need to raise the minimum wage and benefit levels so that poor kiwi’s are not lured into crime to pay the bills and maybe have a little fun in their lives.

    And we should do this at the same time as we create an economy which lifts wages up for everyone, not just those now on benefits.

    • Jim MacDonald 5.1

      At the 2011 ballot boxes, send Nats back to the opposition benches until they can come up with real new policy thinking !

      Re Labour’s recent party conference – well done! NZ can’t keep doing more of the same. Times are changing.

    • bbfloyd 5.2

      only nine years? why can’t national die a natural death and be replaced by yet another hybrid farmers/liberal party… it is how national came into being in the first place…. a complete renewal would be a healthy thing, and present an opportunity for NZ to create a political environment that actually works for the whole country,rather than just the current nats constituency versus the “reds under our beds” bullshit..

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1

        I’m still of the opinion that it would be more better if National split into it’s component three parties. That way the voter would be able to see exactly what they’re getting.

        • Jaghut 5.2.1.1

          Ok, I’ll bite. What would you consider it’s component three parties?

          • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1.1.1

            Conservative (authoritarian, keep things the same and probably the largest group), liberal (think Act, and second largest group), and libertarian (radical change).

          • DS 5.2.1.1.2

            The Nats certainly have at least two strains in them: the rural base they inherited from the old Reform Party, and the urban business elite they inherited from the old United Party. I suppose you could also make a case for arguing that they traditionally had a populist streak in them too (characterised by the likes of Muldoon, and Winston Peters back when he was still in National).

            So, if you’re going to cut the Nats up into three, it’d look something like:
            – Provincial Conservatives: Social-conservative, economically cautious (first instinct: do nothing).
            – Urban Liberals: Free-market economically (first instinct: deregulate), socially liberal or at least ambivalent.
            – Populists: Very socially conservative, more adventurous in terms of economics (first instinct: do what gets the votes).

            • Shaun 5.2.1.1.2.1

              By that same logic, you could easily divide the Labour caucus into four groups:

              – Centre (Tamihere-esque) Labour members
              – Left-libertarians
              – The Jims (Jim Anderton) – socially conservative, economically left-wing
              – Radicals (Communists, envious hard-Lefts)

    • Even the Herald today gives it the thumbs up . Im beginning to think that there is the start of a move to Left through- out the free world . France is rioting and the moves against the so called Market economies is mounting . I bet my fellow Poms are regreting electing the Tories back in . Likewise in Aotearoa the public are beginning to see the era of their ways . Am I right or am I just hoping .

      • Colonial Viper 5.3.1

        Got to keep our shoulder at the wheel. Momentum, its all about momentum. And not getting distracted but the inevitable **** the Righties will throw up.

  6. CV – by definition laissez faire means no intervention, so of course they didn’t do any thinking about what they would do in power if they achieved it. They would lie in wait until the electorate bored with Helen and then resume their master plan. That it took 9 years was bad enough.

    The only thinking they did do in that time was to work out how to gain power and then how to keep it. Empowering phrases and outright lies, just like in 1990, became the Key.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      I’m hearing you.

      The only thinking they did do in that time was to work out how to gain power and then how to keep it.

      Does this also apply to what NAT are doing right now? That would explain a lot.

  7. burt 7

    Every cloud has a silver lining eh… Hey look how cool my party are – they are lurching to the centre to pick up more votes….. wow, what great policies they have, I especially like their main one; vote for us cause we are all things to all people and John Key is nasty….

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      John Key is not ‘nasty’ per se but he does make an undeniably good photo op model. Bet his ‘My Time as NZ PM’ scrapbook already looks awesome.

    • bbfloyd 7.2

      Burt… i’m quite certain that this quote has been repeated to you throughout your life….”it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”..

      i hnow it’s disappointing to discover, at last, that invective and vitriol is not regarded as fitting political debate, but try to get a handle on it..

    • burt 7.3

      It was only last weekend Labour faithful were celebrating after the Labour conference that the Labour party were moving back toward their core values… now of course a week has passed and I guess internal polling didn’t show a boost from moving left so here we are: Wa-hoo we are returning to the centre…. Do you think it will win enough votes for Labour to govern alone?

  8. swimmer 8

    The contents of Labour’s speech do look promising. 🙂

  9. I welcome this change. It should not be described as a move “back” to anywhere and I also believe it does not represent a move back to anything.

    It is an acknowledgement that the free market is not working for the masses and has become the means by which the really wealthy have further enriched themselves. It recognises also that the free market is ill equipped to handle environmental issues that our world faces.

    This has become bleedingly obvious recently. The change in position has occurred because senior Labour Politicians realise this and recognise that we want brave principled positions, not populist wishy washy ones.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      It recognises also that the free market is ill equipped to handle environmental issues that our world faces.

      Of course it’s ill-equipped to handle environmental issues – It’s predicated upon greed which will always take everything and leave nothing.

  10. Nick C 10

    So, according to your world view, 85-90% of New Zealanders voted for right wing parties at the last election, when there were viable left wing alternatives such as the Greens?

    We must be a country rwnjs…

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      The Greens basis is not the political Left, it is environmental/sustainability consciousness.

      • Nick C 10.1.1

        I suspect that every serious political analyst in the country would disagree with you, as the Green Party clearly is based on the political left. They emphasise environmentalism, but they hold positions on non environmetal issues, which are most certainly left wing.

        But lets suppose that you are right, because it only proves my point even more. If you are right then there isnt a single truely ‘left wing’ party in parliament, except for Jim Anderton. Why is that, are the vast majority of New Zealanders ‘right wing’?

        • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1

          If you are right then there isnt a single truely ‘left wing’ party in parliament, except for Jim Anderton.

          Before the 2010 Conference, a lot of Labour supporters would have agreed wholeheartedly with you.

    • Vicky32 10.2

      Yes, sadly I would say so… or more likely a country of apathetic people who are too easily persuaded by RWNJs that their best interests lie in voting for the right!
      Deb

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