How the Left win in September? It’s easy – give voters a reason to hope and policy that gives real actions


Some are tying themselves in knots over how the Left wins in September.

It’s pretty simple.

Hope + real impacts in people’s day to day lives.

The right know how to do retail politics, they just cut back on welfare and hand the money over as tax cuts. Right wingers can say to themselves, ‘with this vote I will get back $10 per week in my pocket”.

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Why does NZ First do so well? That bloody gold card that gives the oldies free public transport reminds those NZ First voters every single time they use it why they will always vote Winston.

So what should the Left do?

It needs to get better at retail politics and distilling all their academic liberalism into actions which sell the values rather than holding up chunky policy that speaks over voters rather than to them.

The Left need to come up with ideas that voters could see themselves using and benefiting from. Ways to pay down student debt, ways for small business to not have to be fearful of IRD, or ways the unemployed and under employed could gain a living wage for voluntary work.

TOP are doing this by suggesting a Child UBI.

Here are 5 policies the Left are free to steal for Andrew Little’s rebuild of the Civil Society:

5: 3 month Small Business Tax Amnesty

As the article points out, many Gen Xers were forced into being small businesses on contracts, and many former unionised workers suddenly had to become small businesses. If Labour came out and talked about a new deal with the people of NZ, starting with a small business tax amnesty for 3 moths that allows small and sole business owners (who make up the vast majority of businesses in NZ) to have past debts forgiven as long as they sign up to the new automated tax services offered by IRD so that they are paying their correct tax moving forward, then Labour party would immediately look like they are on the side of small business in a meaningful way.  If you ask most small business owners what their biggest fear is, it’s the IRD. Why should grotesquely high penalty rates designed for corporations be used against small business?

4: Student Debt Civil Rebate

We have a massive problem with student debt. It’s billions and billions that cripple Gen X and Millennials. Why not construct a new way for those to pay off that debt (at a Living Wage rate) while providing a massive new resource of volunteers for the many NGOs and Community groups we have? A Student Debt Civil Rebate would allow anyone with student debt to volunteer from a set list of Community Charities and the value of that volunteering be deducted from their loan. It would allow a huge influx of volunteers into out Civil Society while allowing tens of thousands of NZers to escape the debt trap of education.

3: Welfare Debt Civil Rebate

There are tens of thousands of beneficiaries who have been trapped by the Neoliberal Welfare State into debt using fraudulent and vicious means. Allow beneficiaries to work off the debt (at a Living Wage rate) they owe by working for Community Charities.

2: Artist and Volunteer Allowance

Instead of punishing people on a job seekers allowance which is purposely difficult and punitive, why not build towards a Universal Basic Income by having an Artists Allowance or Volunteers Allowance which is paid at Living Wage levels. This would again help rebuild the social contract between the Crown and all NZers and it would provide a huge resource for those organisations that build civil society.

1: Reinstate Adult Education 

For many, adult education classes were some of the only social interactions they had. The National Government gutted Adult Education in their first term which stopped cooking classes, language classes, hobby classes and skills classes at all after hour Schools throughout NZ. In doing so, National cast aside the importance of people interacting while ups killing themselves by claiming the market could do that. Well, for the elderly, new migrants and lonely people, those Adult Education classes were the only way for them to interact. It is vital for the health of a society that lonely people have positive social interactions and leaving that to the market is just ludicrous.

The Left must do more than not offend people if they want to be the Government. They have to offer hope and vision, and while affordable housing, education/health and some tough on crime rhetoric is all fine and dandy, it does nothing to inspire those living with the grim realities of debt and everyday life.

Look at how the supposed too radical policies of Corbyn are actually accepted by the majority.

The Left need to get better at retail politics or voters won’t turn up. It’s time for some courage from the Left if they wish to lead the next Government.


  1. Good stuff Martin, there are many other practical ideas-free public transport, first say $5,000 earned tax free, GST off food and reduced on staple goods, free wifi all over the country, move to totally retire WINZ/MSD/ACC, empty the prisons of all but serious offenders, re nationalise all asset sales, send Serco packing etc. etc.

  2. YES and get the bloody trucks on rail for Christ! sake for our road safety and ability to sleep at night.

    Labour bought the rail back in 2008, now prove you want to save it before National close it all down completely.

  3. One of the things the left can do is to remind everyone who works on a public holiday that they are getting time and a half plus a day in lieu. And then remind them that this is due to Labour, and that this was opposed by National in parliament as they didn’t think NZ workers were worth it.

  4. THANK YOU MARTYN, been asking for this article from you for bloody months. “The Left must do more than not offend people” – you’re right, in that we shouldn’t be afraid of radical and progressive policy *and rhetoric* in establishing the Left. For those of us worried about the rollback of progressive values such as anti-racism, the answer I feel is to make such things a part of policies like the ones above.

    Though I have to ask about your proposal to let small business owners off tax obligations. Do you feel that small business owners are, for lack of a better term, ‘on our side’? Because my experience has been that for the most part they’re some of the meanest, most anti-worker people in the country. I certainly see a case for a tax amnesty for self-employed businesses, but do we really want to be giving a tax break to the small-time farmer who’s been screwing over his workers with an ‘accommodation cost’ weasel?

    • Kia ora AA-R, I’m pleased that we can find some common ground.

      I’m thinking about this from a ‘retail politics’ perspective. Too often I think we on the Left produce policy that explains our values and ticks our academic boxes, but it can’t be distilled into a political action for those who we are attempting to win over and if they can’t visualise and feel it in their day to day, week to week realities we aren’t winning over voters.

      Every time an older person uses their gold card on public transport, they privately thank Winston. His Gold Card managed to distill his Party’s concern for the elderly being shortchanged in society by enabling their transport autonomy. The value to the voter is in its ongoing use and it strengthens NZ First’s brand of caring for the older electorate.

      National do the same thing with tax cuts and a property bubble that is allowing the middle class to speculate their way to being paper millionaires.

      Labour in particular must come up with some creative policy that will reach out to sections of society who will see the policy as action that they will be able to budget for and directly benefit from.

      Imagine a Volunteer’s Allowance that paid the Living Wage for 40 hours work to generate volunteers to help our underfunded social infrastructure. Imagine you could be paid that to help an NGO or Community Group or Church or Marae – you then suddenly give every beneficiary and under employed person a reason to vote, you put forward policy that resonates.

      Imagine if you made some radical policy suggestions to student debt or welfare debt? You give people the opportunity to pay off their debt far faster with policy that supports students and beneficiaries rather than punish them and those voters suddenly see real merit in all the value talk about inequality and poverty.

      Putting those ideas forward to specifically pull the poor and students to Labour means you are aiming to be a 35% Party, and if you are looking at being a 35% Party then you have to also reach across further to bring more with you. The idea of a tax amnesty for self-employed small business is evidence of a Political Party who seeks to rewrite the social contract between itself and its citizens so that there is policy that benefits everyone, and not just those who vote for it.

      By offering a tax amnesty to small business owners alongside policy that would benefit the poorest amongst us while giving student debtors and welfare debtors a meaningful way to get out of their debt is an attempt to bring as many with a change of Government as possible while concreting in a socially just and compassionate new kind of Government.

      • This should go on the 1st year political study reading list. Others need to read this as well. Allowing people to access basic living conditions has to be the lowest possible benchmark for a fair society, everything after that surely is a party

    • I have a son who is a “small business owner”. He has 1 or sometimes 2 employees, and his particular challenge is to generate enough cash flow so that, after he’s paid their wages, he still has enough for himself. He has rent (he’s not a house owner) and his student debt to account for, and a child to care for.

      He doesn’t quite fit the image of the “evil boss”, that ARR seems fixated on. He would likely respond to a party that offered relief to student debtors and small business expenses. Any party that wants office needs to think beyond cloth-cap/collar-and-tie stereotypes that often don’t apply in present-day NZ.

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