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”.
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.
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.
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.