Paul Holmes wrote yesterday: “While Labour moves to the Opposition benches, it does so weirdly unmolested by the election defeat, weirdly undefeated”
Damn right, the Left seems undefeated, and so it should. The Right has only won power by masquerading as the Left; Key’s mandate is only to maintain the legacy of the Fifth Labour Government (and, somehow, solve every problem going at the same time).
The Left was not rejected in a landslide – the Labour/Progressive/Green vote was 41.1% (will be 42% once specials are counted) compared to 47.2% in 2005. Those few percent who moved from Left to Right want a continuation of the policies of the last nine years, they just wanted a change of leadership for change’s sake.
It was a close race, a 2.5% shift from National to Labour (about what Labour lost in the closing two weeks of the campaign) would have been enough for a LPG+Maori government to be formed*. Despite nine years of government wearing away at support, despite a constant negative campaign for four years straight from National, despite a year-long campaign from the media, particularly the Herald, that recalls the vitriolic anti-Labour press of the 1930s, they only just got enough, the people did not abandon the Left in droves and they want to see the policies of the Left continued.
And, while many great policies are now on hold or under threat, we have a lot to look forward to. Being in opposition is a poor substitute for being in power, rather than racking up achievements the goal is to protect those that have been made form destruction, but at least now it will be Key and his mates having to answer the hard questions. Labour will be chomping at the bit, waiting for the first question time. For the activist too, having the Right in power is invigorating. In reality, we are always in opposition to the ruling capitalist class. Now that the capitalists’ parties are in power again, the heat comes back into the conflict. We can build and extend our networks as the Right’s policies increase consciousness and militancy in the Left.
Key has over-promised and simply has no policy plan which can deliver. Even though the media will continue to give him a free ride, the Left knows there will be plenty of opportunities to hammer his failures as time goes on.
Sure, the Left has lost the Treasury benches but they are just one tool with which we fight for what we believe in; we keep going without them. Yes we are undefeated, and we will soon start clocking up the victories again.
*(I know the Maori Party just went with National but the clear first preference of Maori Party voters and its membership was Labour – that’s the deal that would have been done if the Moari Party were kingmaker. Indeed, I’m hearing reports that many Maori Party supporters are fuming at Turia over the ‘consultation’ that took place before the deal with National was signed).