The mainstream media's continued definition of the Labour Government as 'centre-left' Has always been woefully inaccurate. To describe a Labour government that continues to rigidly adhere to neo-liberal economic policies as 'left wing' is like describing Adolf Hitler as being just a 'little right wing'.
Of course Labour itself won't have itself described as right-wing. Rather, like other social democratic parties around the world, they latched on to the theoretical hocus-pocus of the 'Third Way' ; Labour's economic policies are neither free market or welfare statism -they're both!
As Steve Maharey, Labour 's 'Third Way' ideologist has shown, the 'Third Way' can be whatever you want it to be. It's a moving feast - a little like Maharey's politics. In his university days, Maharey called himself a socialist - now he's a grumpy neo-liberal in 'Third Way' drag.
But, if we want to assess the 'Third Way' in the cold light of day, its little more than Labour prostituting itself at the shrine of the free market and pretending its all for a good cause.
Labour - and its supporters - still like to believe there 'progressive', that they're building a better world. But in the end, its little more than pronouncing Maori words correctly, buying Fair Trade coffee, and supporting Bono. You can meet these types in a trendy coffee shop near you, or read anything by Russell Brown, or listen to Kim Hill.
But its basic economics - you cannot expect to bring about social justice if you do not implement major economic change. And that's something this Labour Government is not prepared to do.
Of course, Labour have got lucky. Global economic conditions have allowed Labour to follow the 'Third Way' road. But when the recession comes, as it must, then the demands of capitalism intent of maintaining its profits will become insistent - and the victims will be the working class.
It's also been to Labour's benefit that it has had the support of a docile trade union leadership. The Combined Trades Union hierarchy have cravenly accepted Labour's economic direction. This isn't a surprise - the trade union leadership have consistently failed to protect the interests of the membership ever since Rogernomics reared its ugly head. It's no surprise that Engineers Union chief Andrew Little, a man who has consistently sold out workers, is being sounded out by Labour as one of its future MP's.
However there are left wing critics of Labour. Most of them are consistently ignored by the mainstream media but one critic, John Minto (of 1981 Springbok Tour fame) has managed to get his point across.
In his Christchurch Press column (perhaps the best newspaper column in the country) he recently wrote:
'Let's try to be objective here. We have an economic direction which cripples local manufacturing and destroys quality jobs, makes Kiwi workers redundant, rewards speculators, makes outrageous profits for the banks, pushes house prices out of the reach of even middle class families, encourages irrational spending, drives families into poverty and the Prime Minister says there is no crisis.'
But its not only the Prime Minister and her colleagues who are saying this. Constantly we have media pundits telling us these are prosperous days, that we've never had it so good.
But the anecdotal evidence tells us that it while it might be prosperous times for banks, propserty speculators and well-paid media commentators, the good times are not rolling for ordinary working people. Consider this; food banks across the country report increasing demand, 12,000 state tenants are behind in their rent, there are reports of two or more families living in one house. Stories like this are commonplace but they barely rate a mention in the corporate media.
And if we look at one bare statistic, the unemployment figures, then we see the picture isn't as rosy as Labour would like us to believe.
Labour constantly congratulates itself on the supposedly low unemployment figures but the figures are deceptive.
Economist Keith Rankin has pointed out, while the actual unemployment is approximately 79,000 the same data shows that a further 83,000 people were jobless (people without a job but wanting a job) at the end of 2006.
As Rankin observes, 'the total number of jobless people - 162,000 - increased during 2006.
However no-one in the media has bothered to actually take a look at the real unemployment figures - if they had, then they might actually begin to see why state tenants aren't paying their rents and food banks are reporting a increasing demand for food parcels. No, its easier for the media to blame the victims. According to the likes of right wingers like Paul Henry and Michael Laws, the working class victims of a voracious capitalism are 'lazy' and 'irresponsible' and they make 'wrong choices' and 'spend all their money on drink, smokes and the pokies'.
On the other side of the political ledger, the Green Party, supposedly the progressive force within Parliament, has put in an abject performance.. It has failed to take Labour to task for its economic policies instead choosing meekly to abstain on economic policies it doesn't agree with. When's the last time you heard a Green MP berating the governement economic policies?
And the Green spokesperson on employment issues, Sue Bradford (who was a unemployment rights activist before arriving in parliament) has failed to expose the true picture of unemployment in this country and allowed Labour to get away with the false claim that New Zealand has the lowest rate of unemployment among all the OECD countries.
Keith Rankin notes that the New Zealand economy is 'not doing well at all' and is 'balanced on a financial knife edge, and the blade gets sharper the higher the New Zealand dollar becomes'
Standing in the wings is the John Key-led National Party.
Key, interestingly, almost has a Marxist analysis of the capitalist economy. In one recent speech he talked of the global economy going in cycles and judging from his comments, he expects a downturn.
Although peddling a brand of 'compassionate conservatism', Key's support for cuts in government spending suggests another attack on the welfare state is on National's agenda. Meanwhile his deputy, Bill English, has been talking about the need for 'labour market flexibility - which is shorthand for lowering wage levels and working conditions.
The economic storm clouds are massing on the horizon but the hard rain will not fall on our politicians, our media pundits, our conservative economists and our liberal intelligentsia - it'll be the working class who'll face the full force of the storm.