Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, January 10th, 2018 - 201 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, Carmel Sepuloni, david parker, helen clark, Iain Lees-Galloway, jacinda ardern, labour, phil twyford, uncategorized - Tags: aupito william sio
I wrote a week ago about this year’s prospects for National. The post was remarkably popular for this time of year and attracted 178 comments. And I thought I should do the same for Labour to give Standardnistas the ability to discuss this year’s prospects for Labour.
This was a more difficult post for me to write.
My impressions of the Labour Party up until July of last year was that it was really struggling. The Parliamentary wing was not getting cut through. The same good, decent dedicated activists were working really hard and doing what they could. The lovely magnificent Pasifeka wing of the party continued to perform their miracles, the Trade Union movement continued to play its part although some of the older ones were holding us back, and things were getting done. But there was no spark. And no resources to speak of, certainly not the resources to run a proper campaign.
Then the Metiria Turei speech hit. I will offend a few by saying this but I thought and still think the speech was ill advised and reckless. If you are going to go out on a limb with this sort of disclosure then you have to be absolutely sure that your back story is not only water tight but also cannot be spun out of shape.
I saw the effect. Left younger voters peeled off to support a party that was prepared to publicly champion beneficiaries. Centrist older voters peeled off to support a party that publicly demonised beneficiaries other than superannuants.
Labour’s support sagged and the Greens and NZ First surged. But National was rubbing its hands as the chances of a change of Government ebbed.
Andrew Little then did the utterly decent thing and stood down because he saw that the party needed a circuit breaker and that Jacinda may get the cut through that he was not getting.
Then Jacindamania hit. The rest is history. Labour surged in the election result compared to the previous election.
And unlike last time Winston Peters decided to live up to his promise to effect change although looking back on things the treatment that he had been given by National over the past few years played a huge part.
So Labour is now in power for the fourth time in 45 years. How does it handle the very important first year?
There are two aspects it needs to focus on, its Parliamentary and Governmental performance, and its relationship with the party as a whole.
As to the first the performance of some has already been outstanding. Jacinda has not put a foot wrong. Her public appearances are sharp and focussed and her grasp of the detail of Government reminds me of Helen Clark in her heyday. And she has laid out a plan for New Zealand which, at least amongst progressives, receives universal acclaim.
Who are the well performing Ministers?
Andrew Little is one. He has gone on the front foot and promised justice for the Pike River families, reversed the utterly inexcusable and miserly offer of compensation for Teina Pora made by the previous government, and announced that the ridiculous three strikes law is to go. As well as that he has fronted efforts to get the Ngāpuhi treaty settlement back on track and received praise for fronting up to meetings.
Phil Twyford is another. He has a number of important and complex portfolios to handle but has been making all the right moves. Areas such as halting the hounding of housing corporation tenants where traces of methamphetamine were found in their flats, cancelling the ridiculous east West link, starting work on light rail in the Auckland Istmus, rejigging National Land Transport Fund priorities, and the start of planning for Kiwibuild has shown that he is not going to wait around. And his destruction of the ludicrous notion that New Zealand does not have a housing crisis and his proposals for change are the most uplifting that I have seen.
Honourable mentions for Iain Lees Galloway who has moved quickly to increase the minimum wage, and Carmel Sepuloni who is overseeing the introduction of the Government’s Families Package. And the heavy workload of David Parker, who is one of the best brains in the Government should be noted.
The not so good?
The leader of the House who displayed a concerning inability to count, the Minister of Revenue who said that GST would go onto online purchases then almost immediately said it would not and the Minister in charge of Open Government who does not seem to appreciate that there is an urgent need to change the Official Information Act to stop past abuses from continuing.
With regards to the relationship with the party this is the area I think this is a critical area for work.
The rush of support that Labour enjoyed during the last couple of months of the election was palpable. But now all these new volunteers need to be wedded into the party, made to feel welcome, educated and trained in political activism. To not do so will invite a quick reversal of the good will that has been recently built up.
I have not seen any realisation of this and as a priority the party needs to work on improving activist relations. It is not easy. New Ministers suddenly find they do not have nearly as much free time as they used to. And long term relationships take time. But the work is necessary and important.
There are some MPs, such as Aupito William Sio, whose community outreach is first class. His understand of and networks into the seat of Mangere are legendary. He is someone whose quality of local work is something all other MPs should aspire to. And you just have to witness the strength and solidarity of his LEC to realise that their approach is one that should be replicated across the country.
The Trade Union movement still has an important role to play within the party in fact it is even more important than it used to be. This is why National spent the past 27 years chipping away at Union rights such as site access and making it more difficult for Unions to organise and recruit. They want to kill it off. They believe that an organized and united workforce is bad for profits and control not to mention their self declared right to rule.
And the gradual trend has been for union powers to be compromised. National attacks them mercilessly (think Employment Contracts Act) and on the last two occasions when Labour regained power it only partially repaired the damage that had been caused.
There is overwhelming evidence to show that over the past three decades the flow of wealth from most to the rich has accelerated. There is also overwhelming evidence that Trade Union power has been attacked and weakened during the same period. These two trends are linked and the second is one of the causes of the first. They are not random unrelated developments.
And I am convinced it is also an attack by the right on the left’s political strength. Throughout the world the right complain about Trade Unions backing progressive political parties. The sense of irony is palpable, after all the right relies on a small number of wealthy individuals, mostly businessmen, to fun their activities. This recent UK example shows how small the group of conservative supporters are, and how large their resource base is.
So as a priority this Labour Government needs to review and strengthen the Trade Union movement.
Other areas that the Government need to concentrate on are environmental issues, particularly climate change. This is the Nuclear Free issue of our generation. Every nation need to play their part. And I cannot think of a better issue to drive activist loyalty.
There is a thing called the golden weekend which is the weekend following an election. The theory is that the plans and decisions made during that time will determine how good the political term will be. I personally think it is a longer period but not too much longer. So far so good in terms of the politics. But it would be great for the Parliamentary Party to reach out to the membership and activist base to make sure that Labour’s new found organisational health is maintained.