For as long as I have been around the Labour party conferences there has been a steadily greying of the members as the slow influx of younger members was outweighed by the aging of the stalwarts. That seems to have finally changed.
As David Cunliffe pointed out in his speech yesterday, the Labour party membership has doubled over the last year. 75% of that has happened since December. When I’m looking around the delegates here, that is obvious.
For years I was one of the very few people in my generation at Labour conferences and congresses. That was because I finally joined the party when I was 30 in 1989. Most of the delegates who were in their 30s and 40s in Labour left to go to NewLabour and eventually to the Alliance. Of course this hardly surprising. From memory, the first conference that I went to was the disastrous conference that resulted in the formation of New Labour party. All that I remember of that conference was the shouting.
Younger than I throughout the 90’s was the ever changing group of Young Labour, few of whom appeared for more than a few years. And a very few stalwart 30 year olds growing out of Young Labour or joining the party.
But now – well it is hard to describe how different the membership is. Grey Labour has pretty well disappeared as the vast majority amongst delegates. Being a grey headed and in the hands of
quacks medical professionals is now just one smallish group amongst a younger and active group. I’d expect this renewal in the Labour membership and delegates to continue. It is a fundamental shift in how the thinking of the Labour party operates.
The party members are becoming more active as they can use the net to talk to each other, passing and highlighting the posts and articles that they like between themselves. This has been opening up changes in the way that people think after decades of being conditioned to the commercial pap from the parliamentary press gallery. Even on a completely political site like The Standard, it took the intervention of IrishBill to point out to our audience of centre-rightists (like myself) to the more anarchistic socialists that they could simply join the Labour party and affect the outcomes that they wanted.
The current Labour caucus most of whom who were selected, elected, and re-elected in the days of the generational black holes now seem to be accepting of that change in reality. Indeed many of them seem to actively being embracing it. This really isn’t surprising after the realisation of how divergent that the party membership and associated union members were to their views that have been steeped inside the Thordon bubble this year. If a party cannot convince their own membership, then it is hard to see how they can convince the wider public to vote for them and their policies.
However not all of the more staid amongst our political commentators are happy with this. Some really haven’t caught up with the changing nature of either the electorate or the Labour party. It isn’t the “leftists” who have been changing the direction of the Labour party. It is the “activists”. It doesn’t matter if they are from the business side, the service sectors, left or right. What we recognize is that business as usual in the way that the National party continues to want to play it is a negative sum game. This is the way that the population looking at the ever diminishing job prospects of their kids are viewing it. They would prefer to see their grandkids living in NZ rather than offshore.
In the end letting National or Labour run with a “business as usual” crony capitalism depending on mainly raw or lightly processed food and forestry exports winds up with us exporting our best and brightest people offshore. Just as National have managed to do in with losing 200 thousand offshore in the last 5 years. This isn’t getting better. As we lose manufacturing jobs and the value-add chain that is associated with it, our economy gets less resilient and elderly. It also requires more and more medication to survive – just like me.
It is good to know that, as I attend Labour conferences and congresses in the future that I will be in a aged minority…