This is Jessica Williams, she is the RadioLIVE Political Editor. Her blog on Radio Live is a stock standard narrative being pushed by pundits that David Cunliffe’s recent road to the left is nothing more than clever posturing by Cunliffe and that if he wins he will quickly reassert himself back to the center, no need to get excited by promises of actual left wing politics being espoused.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Now while it certainly is a truism that Primaries see candidates singing to the converted, there are a number of unique features of Cunliffe’s win that mean his left wing direction is strategically far more serious than pretense.
The first thing is that Cunliffe has the ABCs to deal with. If Cunliffe doesn’t win the 2014 election, they will knife him. That so many ware prepared to vote against the majority wishes of their affiliates and members suggests a tribalism of warped proportions. The only weapon against that type of mindset is the cudgel of success. Cunliffe must win 2014, or else. That pressure means it’s an election campaign starting Tuesday.
That threat also means Cunliffe must study and contemplate every possible strategy to win which means he’s going to need to step outside the box.
Cunliffe identifies the reason many previous Labour voters didn’t vote Labour is because Labour isn’t actually offering a left wing economic alternative to the failed free market Milton Friedman dogma. Cynics will claim the 800 000 NZers who were enrolled but who decided not to vote in the last election really want a centrist Government. If that were true, why didn’t those 800 000 voters vote for Key or United Future?
They didn’t vote because beyond Helen Clark’s decade long cautious management within the 2 party mutually agreed free market paradigm, Labour didn’t actually stand for much more than a paler shade of blue.
With inequality soaring and 800 000 NZers living in poverty, the hegemonic structure is the problem. NZers want to hear what Government can do for them, not what it can’t and the vast numbers Cunliffe gained from the Unions and the membership gives him a clear mandate to articulate a political vision that is authentically left wing.
Those who didn’t vote want an actual alternative to Key, not just a less odious version. With that level of expectation and no life line beyond a win in 2014, Cunliffe has no option but to put his best left foot forward.
70% of National Party voters don’t know someone unemployed, appealing to them for social justice to an inequality that is invisible to their experience is like trying to sell Eskimos on the need for ice makers.
The need to win in 2014 also forces Cunliffe as a leader to consider what are the best tactics for defeating National and its allies using MMP. Labour need to sit down with the Greens and MANA to look at seeing where both could mutually work together instead of against each other in certain electorates.
The Greens strength shouldn’t be seen as a threat, it should be seen as a strength and if the level of co-operation necessary to function in Government is going to work, some give and take from both Labour & the Greens when looking at which electorates they could work together in would be a trust building exercise.
Cunliffe also has the pressure of the right wing going mental at him and that fear mongering amplified by the corporate media. Even if Cunliffe is tepid in an unconvincing way to the electorate by gingerly stepping to the left, the msm are going to portray him as the living embodiment of Marx. There’s no fear going left because the forces against him are going to attack him regardless, so he best make it count by making it authentic.
The manner in which TV3 news and ZB and the Wellington Press Gallery have behaved highlights the need for Labour to talk directly to their supporters via social media rather than rely on Patrick, Guyon and Duncan’s brand of Old Spice bromance bloke-o-vision.
Eliminating National’s possible coalition partners while attracting the 2011 none voters with left wing policy passionately argued are the goals for Cunliffe if he is to win 2014 and have a political life beyond 2015.
Tomorrow – Cunliffe’s first 100 days.