I feel the need to contribute to the discourse. This is a new experience for me. Not having an opinion, but expressing it on a popular forum in a public sphere. That’s why I have waited till now and put in a lot of thought into this before finally typing these words. I believe there is a simple reason Labour lost.
They didn’t get enough votes.
The reason they didn’t get enough votes from the point of view of this student of politics and pundit-ism is also simple.
People didn’t like them.
Over simplified and childish you might be thinking. Yes, simple, childish and true.
People didn’t vote for Labour and of course the missing million didn’t vote at all. Maybe more of them would have voted for Labour if they liked the list of candidates better and of course that list is headed by the leader. They obviously didn’t like the policies much either. People really just didn’t like what Labour was selling.
Now there is the endless speculation and debate about whether they should sack the leader. There is also the endless discussion about whether Labour went too far left, or whether they should move further right, perhaps slightly just-off-centre-left of right; and all of this is being spoken by journalists as though the middle is an ideological destination instead of what it really is. A population. The middle isn’t a place to be claimed, it is a people.
Some of this population go to my gym. True, this evidence is not empirical. It’s definitely your qualitative not quantitive, but at my gym, the YMCA in Massey, sometimes we speak politics.
I live in Massey and my electorate MP was Phil Twyford and before that Chris Carter. Nice guys. Then they changed the boundary and now Massey is part of Upper Harbour. Paula Bennett is our new MP. The Labour candidate that ran against her was Herman. I don’t know Herman. Actually we were talking about it before last Thursday before yoga. No one had actually met him. I got a flyer in my letterbox. The Wednesday before the election some of us saw him on Triangle Road waving a sign. It had a picture of him on it. We thought he should have just waved. If he had come to my house I would have invited him in for coffee, possibly even plunger. Then I could have shown him around the neighbourhood, pointed out the bitey dogs and introduced to him to the people from my gym. Matt from spin class only voted for Paula because she knocked on his door. He said she looked just like she did on the telly.
The Y is a decile one gym, full of people that were brought up Labour and live in the largely blue collar suburbs surrounding; but they are either voting National or not voting. There are a couple of Labour supporters, hanging in, teachers and nurses, but they are almost the last of the employees. Everyone else is self employed or a sub-contractor and Labour wasn’t pitching anything that they wanted to purchase. The minimum wage and the ninety day trial period do not affect them. The very precariousness nature of their work means that unions have no influence or reach. The machine that is in power, the same machine that has been steadily eroding the definition of the proletariat since the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act is laughing all the way to the polling booths.
The ‘middle’ is not an ideological shift that requires Labour to give up left wing values, it is simply a population that requires consideration and inclusion. Perhaps Labour needs to plan for the rise of the precariate (Guy Standings term for the emerging mass class of contractors, facing a life of inequality and insecurity) and not procrastinate over the demise of the proletariat. Policy needs to benefit both.Wouldn’t that be a core Labour value? Not a shift to either polarity but embracing what I thought Labour as a party was supposed to stand for; putting people first.
But…no rush. There’s time to talk about that in strategy meetings after work and on the weekend. For the Labour MPs that did make it back, well there is a whole lot of opposing that needs to be getting on with. Now. Should Labour elect a new leader. Well that’s a given, but not now. Maybe that’s something that could happen over the Christmas holiday when parliaments not sitting. You know, when it’s closed.
There is no time to spare. Nationals announced welfare reduction targets the week before the election, followed by the announcement of targeting child poverty the week after the election. This would seem to be counterintuitive. A smoke screen. There’s some tricky shit about to go down. While Key is seen feeding some of the children of the ‘underclass’ while not, I repeat not, incentivising welfare, beneficiaries are going to take a beating.
Meanwhile, they are looking to push through changes to the RMA, more employment rights are being lost and more subbies and self employed are being disenfranchised from the Labour movement as National gallops on a favourable track. We need the opposition back, if not on form, at least not scratched by the media bookies. We don’t even really care who’s in the saddle.
Just get back on the horse and giddy the fuck up Labour. You may have been lapped but we need you still in the race.
Kate Davis is completing her B.A English & politics. Previously she has worked for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective & currently volunteers as an advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty.