Post election carnage.
Up until very recently and the suspicious Hager sweep, the talk has been all about the failed Labour Party. We were bombarded with a media obsession on Labour’s in-fighting and blood letting.
The analysis, though, was primarily personality driven. It focused on the ability to work with certain factions within the caucus. There was no real robust assessment of policy, direction or values. The blood letting at times seemed to see the media as the leeches.
The term “Orwellian” was even thrown around (albeit borrowed from a disgruntled Labour Party member), despite the term more aptly applying to our increasing security state and the additional steps being taken by this government to bring you under its control. Analysis of that Orwellian construct remains paper thin, but perhaps is too complex for our media to thoroughly engage with.
The critique of Labour is, of course, not wrong. There are significant issues for the Party to face and confront. Some of us might actually see this as a good thing. The Labour Party has a moment now to confront its direction and whether it deserves the title reflective of the traditional labour movement in this time of the growing precariat.
Out of crisis comes opportunity – the ability to re-orient the Labour Party around progressive values. These values exist explicitly in the Policy Platform, yet have been marginalised by personal ambition cloaked in feigned Party loyalty unwilling to abandon the misguided religion of neo-liberalism. So, rather than voyeuristically claim the decline of the Party, perhaps this should be celebrated as a re-birth and a reckoning towards a more united, cohesive movement.
Let’s not forget that National faced its own bottom of the barrel moment. In response, National went to the right with Don Brash nearly pulling off victory. Building on that, John Key’s first move as leader of the National Party was to firmly entrench his leadership with the Crosby Textor spin doctors. The result? The Dirty Politics that we have seen exposed in all its despicable glory.
So, I prefer to see this as an opportunity. As the chance to build a genuine movement grounded in equity, compassion, ethics (in direct contrast to Dirty Politics) while promoting the financial and social wealth of all New Zealanders. I guess it is up to Labour as to whether it wants to take this moment and build something stronger, more compelling, and ultimately more reflective of our collective values.
But, the progressive movement in Aotearoa is far more than one Party. It is more than the Greens, or IMP, or any other political party. Pulling back the layers, it is actually not about political parties. In truth, it is about civil society and New Zealanders being engaged in our country, seeking out accountability for the use of power in which we endow our representatives.
Make no mistake, we have our work cut out for us. The election result, rather than perceive it as a depressing reality of the acceptance of inequality in our society, is more properly characterised as a call to arms. The “cause” is now more urgent than before. The goal, a society built on ethics, equity and opportunity, remains. It is up to you to take it on.
Already we are seeing signs of a regressive agenda. The Resource Management Act is under attack, but that attack is not driven by our housing crisis, rather motivated by excel spreadsheets. Our genuine housing problems are often talked about, but the solutions coming from Wellington elusive.
Beneficiaries remain a constant target – not only with the removal of social security but with significant access to justice issues. Child poverty persists as a stain on our country and while the PM seems to now acknowledge it, we are yet to see any tangible steps to address it.
Meanwhile, our environment continues to suffer at the hands of the current short-term thinking. It is embarrassing that in a country such as our’s, with such a heavy reliance on our primary industries, at how cavalier our attitude is towards our greatest resource. Given our size, I really see in this area the opportunities for us to heavily invest in green jobs and technology to be the niche developer for the world.
Education? The conservative hatred of teachers knows no bounds.
Key’s flagging of a major speech on counter terrorism reveals a proven strategy to chip away at our civil liberties. While chilling in this direct attack on our individual freedoms, it is equally disappointing in its lack of originality directly aping our fellow Five Eye partners. I would at least have expected something more creative, but perhaps the PM’s office is struggling now with the departure of that creative soul, Jason Ede.
In all seriousness, though, this use of terrorism to justify the further narrowing of our private space is of genuine concern. The term “national security” must be viewed critically. It cannot be simply pulled out to suit the agenda of the powerful. The stated policy goal must be in the legitimate best interests of the public, and the steps to address it must be the least invasive possible. This essential proportionality exercise must be part of the discussion, but instead we will see inflammatory language focused on the barbaric actions of the so-called Islamic State, rather than a focused discussion on the real dangers to this country and the legitimate steps to address any danger. The cloak of terrorism to reduce our liberties will loom large throughout this term.
In sum, then, the progressive movement needs more members. It is up to us to join together in movements, through our communities and our formal civil society organisations to champion the values we espouse. Action Station is an exciting example of Kiwis coming together to push for a fairer society. The courts can play a role and I would like to see more government decisions held accountable through litigation. Using the law as a tool for social change is powerful. It’s why I went to law school.
Rally the troops. The election hangover is finished. Accountability is in, and it starts with each of us.