As has been widely reported, Phil Goff is set to take the leadership of Labour with Annette King as deputy leader.
We’ll hear all kinds of nonsense about how this is a shift to the Right. Rubbish. We are not going to see Labour try to be National-lite.
First, while the leader of National essentially decides everything and the party trots along behind, Labour doesn’t work like that. Labour has a strongly democratic process for setting the policy direction and it learned in the 1980s that the leadership cannot abandon the ambitions of the rank and file.
Secondly, Labour doesn’t need to be National-lite. Voters did not reject Labour’s general policy programme of greater work rights, savings and investment, and greater environmental protection. Rather they responded to the ceaseless ‘time for a change’ rhetoric from the Right and Labour shot itself in the foot over what should have been minor issues. The failure of Clark and Cullen (and this is not to take away anything from their manifold achievements) was to not talk in terms of their vision for a more social-democratic New Zealand and keep the discourse focused on those big issues. It was not the policies that were the problem, it was a failure to communicate what those policies represent.
So, expect Goff, King and the rest of the caucus to keep Labour on the same policy track and promise to undo National/Act’s regressive policies like privatising ACC and slashing Kiwisaver. Hopefully, they will also be able to better articulate the principles that underlie those policies.