Lack of policy ambition is Andrew Little’s main problem



I’ve met Andrew Little a few times and he’s a pleasant man who will make a reasonable job leading what the Labour Party has become in recent decades.

He will preside over a much less divided caucus and will be able to bring the party together in a way it hasn’t been since Helen Clark was leader. He won’t get into unseemly rows in the party, the caucus or in public because his personality is conflict averse. I’ve never heard him raise his voice and never heard stories of him thumping the table during wage negotiations on behalf of low-wage workers.

His personal style is thoroughly inoffensive and this is what Labour thinks it needs at the moment.

But how important is this to the progressive movement in New Zealand?

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Not much. Little will lead a Labour Party which seeks power not because it has a policy programme to make a big difference for working New Zealanders but because senior Labour MPs hope they will soon get another turn to run the free market economy and receive the baubles of power which go with it.

Little won’t cause waves outside the party either. The mainstream media have endorsed him as Labour’s best choice for leader because he is deeply conservative economically and in particular doesn’t support a capital gains tax. He hasn’t advocated any change to economic policy settings that would make a significant difference either to corporate profits or the plight of hundreds of thousands of families struggling on low incomes.

The ability to drive an ambitious policy programme to back up a big vision for working New Zealanders is simply not in Andrew Little’s genes.

The corporate sector will be particularly happy with his appointment because they know that when the tide runs out on John Key and National they can be assured Labour will continue to run the economy on their behalf.

Labour has been staunchly neo-liberal since 1984 in every area of the economy. Even after eight years of strong economic growth under Helen Clark Labour left 175,000 children living in poverty.

There’s no sign Little won’t continue following neo-liberal tradition. In fact his desire to drop the capital gains tax proposal is the best indication it will be business as usual if he gets to lead the government in three years’ time.



  1. I don’t understand why progressive activists take issue at Labour being bland or not progressive enough. I would think that for parties like MANA and the Greens this is a good thing.

    If you wish to enact policy in government I would assume the most effective way is to be IN government (I acknowledge some gains can be made by shaming National into good policy – it won’t be as effective as being in government). Now, if you want to realistically get into government you would benefit from a large party that can claim back support off National voters while still being amenable to working with progressives. Call this party Labour, or “National Lite”, it’s still better than another 3 years of National.

    • That is the moot point Adrian. there is no difference. Labour do NOT represent working people, =. Neocon lite is still a government for the market economy . i.e. poor wages, unsafe working conditions, the rich not paying their fair share the underclass continues to grow. The precariat is further entrenched. Housing remains unaffordable . Instability and environmental destruction remain the norm.There is no change. There is no progress. Just window dressing and lip service.e.g. WFF

      • Adrian has hit the nail on the head. This is surely good news for The Greens (if they decide to move further to the left) and the remains of Internet Mana. It allows a huge amount of political space for them to occupy and become the dominating parties on the left. The challenge is to do this. So far parties like Mana have been abject failures in their attempts.

        • 1% is hardly a huge amount of political space. They don’t have to move anywhere you now have the choice between Labour, Greens or NZF(unlikely for many here).

    • Labour is not amenable to working with “progressives” (I hate that word). Look what they did to Mana. They are the party of “sensible reform”, but sensible isn’t feeding kids or building state housing. It’s not upsetting the rich.

  2. We all know that your genes can be hacked. Please Mr Little, prove John Minto wrong by hacking your neo liberal genes, and emulate Gough Whitlam to drive through a transformative policy programme within 3 years or less. Prove Roger Douglas how deadly wrong he was, and reclaim the mana of the Labour Party.

    • Whitlam’s first degree was in classical studies. Then he did law. Whitlam was a scholar. A plonker with and LLB ain’t gonna change nuthin’ sadly.

    • I take it all back….After listening to Andrew Little talking to Kathryn Ryan on Nine To Noon, I’ve come to realise that the man ain’t got any cojones whatsoever… How utterly sad…

  3. Labour is going to have to earn a hell of a lot of brownie points to get over their organising against Hone Harawira in West Auckland. That is where Kunning Kelvin’s vital votes came from. Yet Labour insiders have told me that some of their own electorate organisations were not resourced well.

    The problem is class collaboration is hard wired into social democratic parties. The sections of the harder left that support united front type activity have to accommodate and tactically work with Labour people in unions and other areas. Yes some of them are nice enough people but at the end of the day most Labour MPs would sell their grans before supporting the right to strike or beneficiaries and low paid.

  4. What appalled me was the responses, on talk back ..pure anti union, and on Face book, ..anti anything not identity politics. Let’s face it.. The country needs a vision, at least Little has some awareness of class, every one else seems to be one or rather brand of identity politics.

  5. Hi,

    Labour needs two things, a vision and the courage to see it through. In the capital gains tax and pushing the the retirement age up a notch, they had the former. They had identified a problem and found solutions. Now in the wake of defeat they’ve elected a leader who doesn’t have the courage to do what is needed to be done in order to deal with the very real problems the country faces. Policy will be decided by popularity.

    In short they’ve elected the new John Key and are aiming to become National Light.

    No wonder I vote Green.

    Cheers, Greg.

  6. Hi John,

    You are incorrect. Little is not against the CGT. He stated very clearly that he think it scared voters and therefore he would not have it as a policy until Labour were in Govt.

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