Labour’s message is ‘Labour – Let’s keep doing this’.
Really, and what is ‘this’ that we are doing? Incremental glacial change?
Labour’s ‘transformative’ Government has been everything but. Sure there have been some policy wins, but scratch below the surface and those wins look very shallow.
We have more NZers killing themselves than ever before, more people waiting for social housing, entrenched child poverty, historically low home ownership, beneficiaries queuing at 2am, and many still struggling to make ends meet.
More NZers are just surviving than thriving.
The misses have been large. No Kiwibuild, no CGT and no real structural change to the inequality that has blighted NZ under neoliberalism combined with an alarming sense within Māoridom over mental health censorship, public health failures and Oranga Tamariki uplifts that their trust has been terribly misplaced.
Even the wins have looked like misses. Promising to maybe do something about climate change in 31 years is not a response to the crisis of climate change, it’s a joke looking for a punchline and the watered down and toothless worker rights provisions will have little impact in giving Unions muscle to force up wages.
The excruciating navel-gazing over the Summer School ‘sex’ scandal (the young man was discharged without conviction, so maybe not the greatest crime of the early 21st century) and the endless drawn out claims of a sexual assault cover up are the results of frightened MPs and staffers responding to twitter outrages than evidence that Labour are a rape culture exacerbater.
Less time worrying about what the latest woke outrage is and far more time on actually running the Government might be a tad wiser.
But we can’t allow the perfect to defeat the good, while the pickings have been slim and the wins few, there have been some enormous symbolic moments like banning future oil permits, demanding a halt to development at Ihumatao and Jacinda’s extraordinary response to the Christchurch atrocity.
Without a doubt, New Zealand is a better place for having this Government.
Jacinda exploded onto the political stage with an energy and excitement that propelled her into a position to form a Government, but we also need to acknowledge that Labour’s energy was spent on winning and with little executive oversight, with no plans to reform the neoliberal public service who stymied any direct application of services and an inexperienced front bench, Jacinda has not been able to be transformative in the way her rhetoric was.
If Jacinda wants to win a second term, she needs to articulate her vision of the first 100 days of a next Government. She now knows what is possible and what isn’t, she now sees the hopelessness of public services that are management heavy and service lite. She has the room to sideline underperforming Ministers.
With those ingredients she must now be able to construct her vision of what needs to be done and what she can promise.
The Budget Responsibility straight jacket Grant Robertson signed her Government into must be dumped for a wholesale mass investment into transformative infrastructure, a mass state housing build and real work to get peoples wages higher while giving business huge tax rebates into R&D.
Grants announcement today that he was thinking of unbuttoning that Budget Responsibility straight jacket was his political version of the dance of the seven veils, but vastly less erotic.
Jacinda has to sell us a vision and give us the time scale of the first 100 days to create the perception of momentum.
She has to be bold, confident and authentically credible in providing hope to NZers that there can be a better way forward. She must do something that makes life directly better each week for her electorate. From a sizeable increase in welfare payments; to the first $20 000 being tax free; to GST being removed from fresh fruit and vegetables – she has to implement an idea that people can feel in their pocket each week.
If she cannot sell us her vision in the first 100 days, voters she warmed with the power of hope in 2017 will turn away cold in 2020 like the bitter frost of winter.