John Armstrong is at his insightful best today. He’s hit on the emerging change in the political discourse – the economy is going to crap and that’s what really matters, not the meltdowns of minor MPs and racist TV monkeys. And this do nothing government doesn’t care and has no solutions. This is Labour’s chance to offer a real alternative:
Labour sees the debate over economic management starting to shift in its favour. While the international economy remains in flux, the time when National could also lay blame for the domestic economic downturn at Labour’s door is fast receding.
John Key’s prediction that the recovery would be “reasonably aggressive” has backfired. National is starting to look like it does not have the answers. English’s talk of “rebalancing” may be sound economic theory. But the average punter has little interest in that. English is consequently sounding out of touch. National is starting to look very vulnerable.
Accordingly, Phil Goff will stress economic matters in his keynote speech to this weekend’s Labour Party conference. .
He will blast Key for failing to deliver on the “Brighter Future” promised by National, while accusing him of making no progress in closing the income gap with Australia.
Labour strategists see it as crucial that Goff persuade voters that Key raised their expectations and then failed to meet them.
Rather than indulge in shoddy smear campaigns which either backfire or Key simply ignores, Labour has finally worked out that it might be able to break the Prime Minister’s spell on voters by showing his success as a merchant banker has not transferred to his Government’s handling of the economy.
Labour believes growing public frustration over the rising cost of living, worries keeping jobs, the perceived unfairness of National’s tax cuts and New Zealand’s less than stellar economic performance provide the means by which the party can reconnect with voters.
Labour’s new policy taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables is the first such gesture in a deliberate strategy to show Labour cares.
The party is rapidly discarding the shibboleths of purity that argued such a move was economic heresy.
Having stuck a foot back in the waters of economic intervention in the Clark-Cullen years, Labour is now plunging in much deeper and unashamedly in the belief that the secrets of the success of economies like Singapore and South Korea lie in the state taking a far more active role in planning, assisting and co-ordinating industry development in the various sectors of the economy.
Last year’s conference drew a line under the past. This year’s is being described as “direction-rich”, rather than “policy-rich”. Goff, however, will give a clear steer on Labour’s revised policy on foreign investment. That is likely to result in even tougher conditions on land sales to foreigners than National’s revised position, possibly by imposing a ban on sales above a set number of hectares.
Again, Goff, with finance spokesman David Cunliffe, are showing no scruples about breaking from the past and adopting a New Zealand First hard-sell under the patriotic-sounding banner of “owning our future”.
All of this happening against the backdrop of the latest Roy Morgan poll which for the first time puts the Opposition parties within reasonable striking distance of National and its allies. More tangible was the near nationwide swing to the left in last week’s local government elections. Of particular note was the political rehabilitation of former Labour MPs who were crushed at the ballot box less than two years ago.