There’s something sadly inevitable about Labour self-sabotaging on issues of genuine and serious national importance. We saw it several times over the last two electoral cycles with a succession of frankly bizarre policy decisions on the campaign-trail that helped to keep Labour (and, for that matter, a presumably Labour-led left-wing coalition government) out of office.
It should therefore come as little surprise that the two men who presided over these defeats, former Labour leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer – men who, if we’d listened to Labour may very well have been Prime Minister – have come out and done exactly the same thing on the TPPA.
And yet somehow, it still rankles.
Labour activists can take to social media to claim (with some legitimacy) that these two men’s personal stances do not represent the Labour Party as a whole; and Bomber can mount a valiant rearguard action for Phil Goff’s Mayoralty campaign by pointing out Goff remains the presumptive left-wing option for Auckland’s top job.
But any way you choose to slice it, the fairly public spiking of the Party Line by these two former leaders represents fairly incontrovertible evidence that there remains a prominent and powerfully represented Neoliberal wing to the Labour Party.
Matters grow somewhat worse when we consider Andrew Little’s defence/contextualization for his renegade MP’s remarks.
The justification for Phil Goff being able to take an overtly pro-TPPA and anti-sovereignty stance, according to Andrew Little, is that it’s allowable on the basis of Goff’s previous involvement in kicking off the TPPA in the first place. As you may recall, he was the Labour Party Trade Minister under whose watch this whole abomination got off the ground in the first place.
Goff himself goes further. He’s explicitly fine with a loss of sovereignty for New Zealand as part of this trade deal, and points out that Labour’s record includes other instances of sacrificing our sovereignty for somewhat nominal trade-deal gain.
So why’s Little allowing this? It’s not just because Goff is not long for Parliament due to his local body career ambitions. It’s because Goff is free-and-frankly stating and defending Labour’s record when it comes to endorsing pernicious trade deals.
I also have little doubt that there are other not-so-closet neoliberals in Labour’s upper echelons who are having their views on this matter represented by Goff and Shearer. By allowing one MP the freedom to speak his mind on the issue, Little is therefore creating a ‘safety-valve’ for any more-than-residual neoliberal opinion still hankering around his Caucus.
In any case, even though I’ve been quite hard on Labour both in the past and in this post, I should like to warmly congratulate a large chunk of the Labour Party – including its *present* leader, if not two of his immediate predecessors – for taking a stand against the loss of sovereignty represented by the TPPA.
It may have taken them quite some time to decide what on earth they were actually going to do, and which side of the fence they’d line up on … but they have, eventually and for the most part, made the right decision.
But with highly public outbursts from prominent and high-powered MPs undermining and undercutting Labour’s announced stance on this issue, it’s not hard to see why many voters are asking questions about whether they can actually trust Labour to genuinely represent their views and play a vital role in stopping the loss of our sovereignty – as well as other neoliberal shenanigans – dead in their tracks.
There’s only two parties in Parliament which have been dead set against this kind of thing right fro the beginning: New Zealand First and The Greens.