Surprising title given the discussion of here and elsewhere? Yeah, I know.
But I want to contribute two things to the discussion. First, Shearer’s speech did not signal a shift in policy to the centre. Second, Labour does not need to shift to the centre in policy.
I think assertions that Labour needs to shift to the centre mischaracterize the problem. The problem wasn’t the policy; it was the salesmanship and messaging.
Labour allowed itself to be painted by the Nats as for minorities and the vulnerable. Absolutely we are. But we are also for everyone. An overwelming majority of New Zealanders don’t earn enough to live fulfilling lives. Labour is for them also: well we should be. Did we sound like we were in the election campaign?
What needs to change is not the policies but how we sell them.
We need to talk about growing wages: of which the $15 minimum wage is part.
We need to talk about increasing secure, stable work and heading towards full employment: of which increasing the family benefit and changing employment laws is part. If we want to catch up to Australia- shouldn’t we adopt their industrial relations policy?
One set of messages is inclusive. The other, great policy, but not going to get enough people to vote for you: people who perhaps don’t reflect on politics much; or are disengaged from the process; or swing vote.
I think Shearer’s speech was more about narrative building than necessarily a policy shift. The policy wasn’t the problem. The caucus, council and membership support the policies (for the most part). Shearer just needs to sell them better. I think the speech was about constructing the basis for a shift in messaging- not a shift in policy.
Or am I young and optimistic?