I wasn’t surprised to see hundreds of Labour Party activists cheering and clapping for Jacinda Ardern on Sunday night when she announced their Auckland transport policy. After nine years in the doldrums they sense momentum behind Ardern and the chance for Labour to get on the front foot at last.
They were chanting Ardern’s new slogan “Let’s do it”.
I’m sure most of them think she will make big, bold changes if she becomes PM next month. I’d like to think they are right but the weight of Labour’s unreconstructed history, and her personal political history, is against it.
Ardern grew up in the shadow of the Labour Party of Roger Douglas and after university worked for Phil Goff and Helen Clark in “research” roles. Goff, who will be remembered as a particularly right-wing MP, brought in tertiary student fees and fronted the introduction of GST – two policies which hammered the poor. Clark, after nine years as Prime Minister in times of strong economic growth, left a legacy of 175,000 children living in poverty.
After working for Labour here Ardern left New Zealand to work as a “senior policy advisor” to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Here is the Wikipedia entry:
“After graduating from Waikato University, she spent time working in the offices of Phil Goff and of Helen Clark as a researcher. She later spent time in London, working as a senior policy advisor to Tony Blair.[5”
There are two important points here:
Firstly, she worked for Blair after he led the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on lies about an imminent threat to the UK from Iraq and non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”. She was happy to associate herself as a policy advisor to someone who should have been on trial for war crimes.
It explains why she attended a gathering for Tony Blair at Eden Park in 2011 while a protest went on outside calling for Blair’s arrest for trial as a war criminal.
It’s no wonder African countries are refusing to co-operate with the World Court. White war criminals like Blair, George Bush and John Howard are on the loose while only African war criminals have gone on trial for war crimes.
Secondly, Ardern associated herself with a government committed to Blair’s so-called “third way” of economic development. This “third way” abandons the government running public services in favour of the state “partnering” with the private sector in so-called public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build essential public infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals. The reality of PPPs everywhere in the world has been the private sector gains big profits from their “investment” while the public sector bears the risks.
PPPs are a boil on the backside of humanity but I’ve not heard Ardern speak out against this model which she has seen at work first hand in the UK and now New Zealand.
In short I’m sceptical we will see any significant policy differences from a Jacinda Ardern-led Labour Party compared to what we have seen in the past 30 years. Will it be about beneficiaries, the working poor, eradicating child poverty, the living wage and housing for all? I don’t think so.
Underling the problem was her decision on Friday to throw Green Party leader Metiria Turei under the Labour Party bus for a minor infringement of electoral law (the electoral equivalent of a parking ticket) 20 years ago.
Metiria’s “crime” was to be honest and truthful and admit her mistake.
Jacinda, her face earnest and frowning, said what a tragic set of circumstances it was (Jacinda is second to none when it comes to exuding empathy and angst) but she would never have Metiria in the cabinet of a Labour-led government.
I think it was a particularly unprincipled, unjust and gutless stance on the part of the new Labour leader. She washed her hands.
Like the Nike slogan “Just do it”, Jacinda’s new slogan “Let’s do it” does not include political courage.