Arguably, what we’ve had is an internal party coup followed by Jacindamania hype. And NZ Labour Party fortunes have bubbled and risen on the fuzzy warm updraught of it all. But it is a bubble. The question as to whether or not we’re seeing that bubble pop mere days out from the election seems to open to conjecture, but that will be ‘put to bed’ soon enough.
Timing aside, it will pop. And the reason it will pop is that NZ Labour is not offering any shift from the Liberal status quo that any ‘mood for change’ is demanding – if not quite articulating. Under Jacinda Ardern, NZ Labour is running on the same “tinker around the edges” policies it was running with under Andrew Little.
And that, or so it seems to me, is NZ Labour’s fundamental problem – NZ Labour politicians have been attempting to coat their fundamental Liberalism with a veneer of Progressive rhetoric; squeeze a round peg into a square hole; essentially sell a section of the NZ public a dummy, that if they’ve twigged, will be defaulting votes back into the hands of “honest” Liberalism.
By way of a short list of illustrative examples – and note! – I’m not saying there are not some good elements contained in some of the following policies, but part of what NZ Labour is proposing is …
I could go on (TPP, ETS etc) but my point is a simple one. I know there are arguments that would justify the aforementioned policies – ie, their priorities and settings. But I don’t know of any left or progressive arguments that do.
Look. Throwing up Jacinda Ardern as a totem of change instead of offering substantive change, and then pushing her as the latter has absolutely worked in the short term – albeit on a somewhat fragile and superficial level. And it could carry NZ Labour through the election. (I sincerely hope it does btw.) But the ghastly fug of disillusionment is unavoidable, and now there’s just the question of when it will descend.
What happens to NZ Labour after political reality pops the bubble of voter expectation? Well, that will be somewhat shaped by whether or not NZ Labour have managed to form government beforehand.
But regardless, the aftermath ain’t going to be pretty or easy for the party to deal with. And yes, it is just possible that it won’t survive given that caucus is empowered to act as a structural lock-down on change.