It will be interesting to see if Jacinda Ardern can breathe some life into Labour’s neo-liberal corpse.
Her election, alongside that of Kelvin Davis as deputy, represents a shuffle further to the right (who can forget the picture of a deeply downcast Ardern after Cunliffe’s election as leader?) but this is irrelevant in the dire circumstances the party faces less than two months before the election.
Labour has played Russian roulette with leaders so often in recent years it’s hard to recall them all.
Labour believes it has a perception problem so it keeps changing the packaging. But the packaging isn’t the problem. It’s the content of the package that leaves them in a political backwater.
Unlike the UK for example where Jeremy Corbyn has performed well as UK Labour leader, Labour in New Zealand has no bold, progressive policies. It offers a thin gruel of neoliberal social democracy in a country where a third of our children live in poverty and 40,000 people are homeless as a direct result of Labour and National economic policies since 1984.
Jeremy Corbyn has little charisma, no showy smile or flash dress sense. But what he does have is political integrity and policies to represent a decisive break from the rule of the rich. No, they didn’t win the election but they are on the move. People like the content of their policies and their message “for the many – not the few”.
Labour’s election strategy so far has been to tell people the party represents a “fresh approach” and we need to “change the government”.
Yes they have another fresh set of leaders but the content of their policies (eg. no increase in tax on the rich, building only 1000 new state houses each year etc) remains unchanged.
In a blog last year I wrote:
To put it bluntly I think Jacinda has perfected the political art of sounding good while saying nothing of substance.
My opinion of her politics took a serious dive in 2011 when in the space of a short time she attended the launch of a book by Paul Henry – yes that Paul Henry – and then attended a presentation by none other than Tony Blair at Eden Park.
I was one of the protest organisers for Blair’s visit and while we had a good crowd outside calling for Blair to be arrested and charged with war crimes, Jacinda Ardern was inside with a bunch of big noters helping give credibility to him and his visit.
I emailed her about these things and her response was to the effect that she didn’t only speak to people she agreed with and that she had asked Blair whether he had changed his mind about the decision to invade Iraq.
I thought her reasoning was weak. Henry is a populist racist and misogynist and there was no need for her to bolster his image and ego by her presence. Meanwhile Blair should have been arrested by the NZ government and sent to the war crimes tribunal as a suspect for the most appalling of war crimes after he colluded with George Bush and “sexed-up” a dossier supposedly justifying the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003.
I’m happy to accept people make mistakes (I make plenty myself) and can learn and move on. I haven’t seen any evidence of that with Jacinda.
Nothing that has happened over the past year has changed my view.