Tapu Misa has an excellent article in today’s Herald. She hopes those predicting the demise of Labour’s pre-election promise to extend Working to Families to the children of beneficiaries are wrong. So do I.
Election 2011 might seem like a long time ago, but I thought Labour’s policy for children was great. Here it is as a reminder. The only problem was that it was left till last, announced during the election campaign, and disappeared without trace.
I am concerned at the mixed signals coming from that part of Labour that backgrounds the media. As Tapu Misa indicates, this policy or that policy is said to be for discard, as Labour is said to be moving bravely to the centre of the political spectrum.
Worryingly all the policies said to be for discard are those that would have most impact on those at the bottom of the heap. No justification is offered for these moves, nor is there any evidence that they have wide support within the party. Judging from the hopes and aspirations expressed by those in the review meeting I was at this week, I don’t think that is the case.
The only evidence offered so far appears to be the door-knocking experience of the Taranaki candidate, Josie Pagani. I suspect that had she been the candidate in Mangere or Manukau East she might have drawn a different conclusion.
If all this can be called a political strategy, I think it is a bad one. Labour didn’t only lose votes at the centre in the last election, it lost them at the margin. Turnout was down to 74%, the worst result since 1887, and Labour’s share of that at 27% was the lowest percentage since before 1935. Theorising that Labour moving to the centre will leave more room for others on the left is in my view wishful thinking. The more likely result is even lower turnout as more people give up on political promise.
If any of Labour’s policies are to be up for review, I would hope that it be done in full consultation with all in the Party – we have a Policy Council for that purpose. Also if there are to be changes, they should at the same time include policies that will deliver real benefit to the children of the poor, and real hope to those whose situation is currently unequal through no fault of their own and the prospects of whose children are grim.
Labour can still be the party of social justice – it will be defined by what it does for our children. Let’s not throw out what was a very very good policy.