I HAD WANTED THIS BLOG to examine migrant workers and their exploitation in New Zealand and the GSCB Act in light of the detention of David Miranda by Britain’s spies. But then came news of the beheading of David Shearer to give Labour even more the look of a headless chook.
It is not just a failure of the Leader that has had Labour lagging in the polls but a failure of leadership by the Parliamentary Party as a whole. And why should the public vote for a Party with pallid neo-liberal policies when it can have the full red-blooded version with National?
Why should it vote for a Party whose MPs have a history of loyalty to a leader only if that leader is guaranteed to give them the easy life in Parliament and they don’t have to go back to union offices, the paid professions or some other means of actually earning a living?
Napoleon is famously quoted as saying that in the knapsack of every French soldier was a Marshall’s baton. In every briefcase of a Labour MP it seems are their Koru Club membership cards, airpoint records, shares in the privatised industries and invitations to corporate boxes for the next All Black match.
Clearly Labour MPs have been very busy in the last weeks pushing the Leader whom they chose to be the Saviour not so very long ago, to commit the ritual disembowelling .For a group of people bound not by ties of comradeship to work for a sensible alternative to capitalism but to their own self-advancement they have been unusually active.
John Armstrong has written that they will be so busy this weekend lobbying each other that their taxpayer paid phones will be running white hot.
Oh that they could be so busy campaigning 24/7 , with whoever was the Party Leader, on all of the key issues that a genuine social democratic party should be focussed on. But if you have MPs who have never bothered to study economic and political theory developed by all the great thinkers dedicated to the well-being of the mass of people , or even bothered to actually read a liberal economist like Keynes, then your politics will be the type of hotchpotch of dishes that Labour has been serving up. The policies are not cohesive and are not linked to a fundamental transformation of the neo-liberal policies that have made New Zealand a leader in inequality within the OECD.
The last great search for a charismatic leader to lead Labour to an electoral victory gave them David Lange over the serious Bill Rowling. The fact that a drover’s dog, to use Bill Hayden’s famous quote about Hawke toppling him to face the doomed Malcolm Fraser, could have beaten Muldoon in 1984, didn’t stop the self-interested Labour MPs of the time (with such worthies as the principled Peter Dunne in their midst) putting the Lange-Douglas clique intro a position where they could foist Chicago school economics onto an unsuspecting New Zealand public.
David Shearer clearly struggled to be a convincing leader. But where was the strong leadership team buttressed by a solid phalanx of MPs to work with him ( not just attend stunts) throughout the country advocating economic, social and international policies that would capture the imagination of young and old? Policies that would end the constant casualization of the workforce, the sale of public assets into private hands, introduce ( at last ) the smaller class sizes enjoyed by John Key’s children at private schools, end the cutbacks of essential social services and public service redundancies ,renew the transformative regional and economic policy introduced by the Alliance, expand the role of the Kiwibank in the financial sector , bring the spy agencies under democratic control and repeal the GSCB Act , promote effective climate change measures and once again give us an independent foreign policy.
The Party has never analysed what allowed its MPs, with a few (very) well-known notable exceptions, to collapse in such a cowardly fashion into the arms of Roger Douglas not with a bang but with a whimper and introduce the catastrophe that was Rogernomics. Nor how its MPs could stand by and allow the security forces to fabricate evidence and imprison for two years without charge a political refugee declared innocent by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. Such political and moral failures suggest a sickness that goes deep.
The solution is not a revolving door of leaders until the Saviour appears. The solution is a Party that rids itself of political opportunism and gains public respect by selecting MPs who work for and advocate a set of social democratic principles that set them apart from the selfish neo-liberal policies of National and its allies.