I’ve covered Labour Party conferences since 1995 and Andrew Little’s blunt, no frills home-brand meat and 3 veg speech is one of the smartest and most clever I’ve heard.
Gone is the poisoned chalice of identity politics, gone are the issues that infuriate activists but bore the wider electorate, gone were the petty personal attacks, gone is the uncertainty of what Labour actually stands for.
It’s jobs, jobs, jobs.
Little’s speech is a clever crafting of working class language that reaches beyond the bubble worlds of Labour’s urban coffee support club and reaches back into the heartland that Labour have lost touch with but does so without upsetting one drop of soy latte. It cleverly quells middle class concerns that their 24% untaxed property valuation illusion of wealth is under threat and it repositions Labour on the side of the democratic majority by focusing on jobs and demanding an end to poverty as a matter of morality and values not politics.
Little has rallied the base, reached out to the middle and appealed to the disenfranchised. No easy feat for his first speech.
This speech follows excellent speeches by Annette King and Grant Robertson and this was the only Conference I can remember where the vicious infighting that has always plagued Labour was no where to be seen. Perhaps the horror of what they collectively wrought last year has scared them into working together.
The new Presidents call for less amateurism at the beginning of the Conference could be seen everywhere. From the Conference co-ordination to the removal of policy that makes them easy targets. This inoculation agenda is the exact same one Key used before he came to power.
Matt McCarten has quietly rebuilt an organisation that was on suicide watch.
That’s not to suggest there will be a change of Government come 2017, but it does mean that Key’s sleep walk to a fourth term is seriously being challenged.
Poverty activists – Labour’s clear goal to not tolerate poverty leaves no wriggle room. Each budget will need to be audited for how it impacts child poverty, that’s one hell of an undertaking.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs – As unemployment looks set to hit 7%, the demand for jobs with dignity will be more important than ever before. Using the $40billion in Government procurement on NZ small business and companies will help start that.
Aspiration – Little’s speech was so different from previous leaders speeches. He didn’t mention Key, didn’t mention Dirty Politics, didn’t mention Cameron Slater – he talked about values and hopes and dreams. National Party voters may aspire to a new giant flatscreen TV and holiday home in Bali, Labour voters will aspire to basic decency.
Caucus – They weren’t trying to kill each other. Inconceivable!
Annette King – Her speech proved why she is such a pocket battleship and so needed on the front bench.
Grant Robertson – His future of work is the most intellectually challenging political idea to come out of any party for a very long time. The discussion is fascinating and it makes the National Party look like dinosaurs with keyboards.
The property speculating middle classes – look at the election results and the once liberal conscience of NZ – the middle classes – walked away from Labour to National to keep their untaxed capital gains. By removing the Capital Gains Tax policy, Labour cleverly end the issue that spooked the middle classes the most. National have already put in place a capital gains tax and all Labour need to do once in power is simply extend that 2 years to 5, or 10, 0r 20. So Labour get a capital gains tax without having to actually campaign for one.
Identity Politics – the inability for identity politic activists to debate the issues in a way that doesn’t cause allies to become enemies and alienate the broader electorate has seen identity politics put on the naughty step for some time out. It gives the Greens some room to move on those issues but that could also erode the strategic edge the Greens have by pretending to work with National.
NZ First – A strong Labour Party ain’t no friend of NZ First. NZ First will either have to make more Ron Mark type race baiting comments to win rump National voters or get on board with Labour and admit they’ll enter a political menage a trois with the Greens and Labour.
Yes I appreciate that mental image isn’t pleasant, but this is politics.
Twitteratti – Andrew Little’s swipe at the cynical twitteratti in his speech shows he isn’t going to get conned into think that tiny echo chamber has anything to do with the wider political electorate.
Media – Gower & Sabin’s desperation to try and find something to attack seemed driven by their networks ratings meltdown and the other members of the Press Gallery had to give begrudging respect.
Big Sugar – The sugar pimps and dealers will have a harder time making their profits as Labour force the issue of removing sugar from processed foods while cleverly avoiding the ‘sugar tax’ label.
National Party – National thought the lull in activity over at the Labour Party was a sign that their fourth term was in the bag. ‘Angry’ Andy was a mocking term they tagged him with, but his speech and his redirection of Labour should alert them that they’ve missed the threat Little really is.