Helen Kelly made a point on the Nation the other day when asked what went wrong with Labour this election. She pointed out that whereas in the 1930s the labour campaign spoke directly to people and their immediate concerns, this campaign was too abstract.
She was almost correct. In actual fact there were two policies that most definitely spoke directly to people and their immediate issues.
Raising the retirement age spoke directly to voters. Reaction. I don’t want to work extra years.
Compulsory savings spoke directly to their pockets. Reaction. I don’t have enough to go around as it is.
Those two right wing policies together – first you want me to work longer and then you want to take money from my pay packet – were akin to a prize fighter stepping into the ring and giving himself a body blow followed by an uppercut.
No other policies spoke so inclusively and directly to anything like so many people and their concerns.
Add in months worth of leaks and puerile distractions from caucus, that acting in conjunction, most assuredly undermined the leader of the party in the eyes of the public as well as diminishing the appeal of the party as a whole, and the result is National getting a free ride. Or, if you prefer, not having to rise from their ringside stool to take on their already vanquished opposition.
An aside. I don’t mean to leave the Greens out of this in terms of opposition. But I’m using the analogy of boxing and tag teams only work in wrestling…and Labour, as we know, refused to work with the Green Party, preferring to enter into whatever arena it envisaged, alone.
And then the one issue that might have made all the difference – ‘dirty politics’ hit the ground. There it was! The ‘magic sponge’ that could have put Labour back on its feet and swinging. And Labour pushed it way – capitulated. I didn’t hear anyone from Labour make the simple distinction between the systemic abuses of power that dirty politics spoke to, and the less than glorious behaviour expected of politicians in general. Is it any surprise then, given Labour’s lacklustre response to the revelations in ‘Dirty Politics’, allied with the bullshit that had been coming from within caucus for months, that people reckoned dirty politics was just a description of politics in general? (“Labour do it too.”)
And those leakers and those purveyors of neo-liberal tosh (and I do believe that what they have done is absolutely deliberate) only had only to hit their electorates seeking re-election – with the proviso that they were careful not to help the party vote, the one they’d successfully dragged down, rebound.
Mission accomplished. Big fish, small and secure pond beckoning; career secured. Almost.
Post election, no endorsement of the leader and no vote of no confidence either. Get the leader, and any talk of Labour being Labour once again, ushered quietly out stage left with no affiliate or membership input. Now, it’s true that the final act has become a bit messy. And I note a sudden and predictable end to leaking, presumably as the leakers all get behind and shove hard.
Anyway. I wonder if any such analysis of motivations (on the mark, or off beam as it may be) will play a part in the extensive review being undertaken by Labour.