I know this free condoms idea is just a remit, not Labour Party policy, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that the right has used to drive a wedge between Labour and it’s working-class base. It is a liberal idea that conservatives on the left and right will be repelled by and it creates the impression Labour is still focused on social engineering at a time when the focus must be on the economy.
I’m not saying it’s not a good idea but the place for such decisions is surely with Pharmac. All associating Labour with such a policy does is give ammunition to the Farrar/Hooton/McCroskie-branch of the right.
The Kiwiblog Right have followed in the very successful model of the American Right. They do not want to argue economic issues because the populace rejects rightwing economics. Instead, they want to fight the ‘culture wars’ by dogwhistling social conservatives. Given an opening, they will obviously try to make these kind of policies defining aspects of Labour in minds: ‘Do you want a government that’s true to traditional Kiwi values or a government that gives out free condoms to your teenager?’
It’s a fight that Labour can only lose. So they shouldn’t be buying into it.
Take Barack Obama. He has recentred the American political debate on economic fundamentals and equitable redistribution of wealth (eg health reform). He has refused, largely, to be drawn into the culture wars. That’s what Labour needs to do. Concentrate on the economics – jobs, wages, the divide between rich and poor, public services – where the people are with you. Not liberal (and relatively trivial) social issues where they are not.
Don’t get drawn into the battle your enemy wants t0 fight. Rather, fight to your strengths.