For over thirty years Labour leader Phil Goff has been a loyal and committed supporter of neoliberalism and the free market.
And he hasn't changed. He hasn't thrown up his hands and admitted that, in the light of the global economic crisis, he might have got it all wrong.
Indeed he is on record as dismissing Labour's mild social democratic heritage as some kind of historical anachronism and he argues that there is no alternative to the free market. That the free market has dismally failed to deliver seems to be entirely irrelevant to Goff.
He didn't say any of this at the Labour Party conference though. Instead he made a speech where he tried to fool people into believing that he is a man of the people and not the neoliberal zealot that the socialist left have been attacking for more years that it cares to remember.
Of course at a Labour Party conference you can fool most of the people most of the time and as long as they get a nice cup of tea and a couple of gingernuts they'll swallow just about any old garbage. They'll even forget that you introduced users pays into the education system
Labour MP Claire Curran loved Goff's speech. Like most Labourites she regards herself as 'progressive' although she is vehemently anti-socialist.
It felt as though Labour was becoming more Labour. Don’t know if that makes sense but it’s how I feel.
No, Clare - it doesn't make sense.
Blogger Martyn Bradbury appears to have been frothing at the mouth while Phil 'Che' Goff made his 'I have a dream' speech. Here's Bradbury wetting his pants in public;
Wow. I mean. Wow. I have not heard a left wing speech like that from a Political leader in my lifetime. I'd scammed a media pass and got to watch the best speech of his life. With that one performance, Phil Goff just proved that he can be the Prime Minister. He was on fire and it was an extraordinary shift to the left. National promised no more 'Labour Lite' after 2011 with the promise that we get the full bodied National Party free market privatization agenda. With this speech, Phil Goff clearly gave NZers a clear and utterly different kind of Government.
Bradbury, an inconsistent radical who has morphed into a consistent Labour cheerleader, must of been listening to a different speech to the one I've read because there's absolutely no evidence that it represents a fundamental break with neoliberalism. To further claim that it represents a return to Labour's roots is not only nonsensical -its intellectually dishonest.
Incidentally there was a lot of talk last year about Labour 'returning to its roots'. Obviously it was a false start.
A more reasoned and calmer observation about Phil 'Trotsky' Goff comes from commentator Chris Trotter. Although he supports Goff (on the grounds there's no superior replacement waiting in the wings) he is not blind to Goff's obvious political shortcomings . He writes of Phil 'Lenin' Goff:
He has had no "Greenspan Moment". No dramatic public admission (as there was by the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve) that the economic policies he and his colleagues adopted to secure the backing of big business, Treasury and the nation’s editors have now been tested to destruction.
On the contrary, Phil still believes that: "a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy".
For those on the left of New Zealand politics, indeed for all those who’ve voted Alliance, NZ First or The Greens because they simply could not bring themselves to vote for the party of Rogernomics, this is profoundly disappointing.
Trotter briefly mentions that the CTU's Alternative Economic Strategy was floating around the Labour conference.
While the media focus has been on Goff's speech the CTU's economic manifesto deserves to be widely debated and discussed.
While its not a socialist strategy it does represent a major attempt to map a way out of the neoliberal straitjacket that the country finds itself in.
I notice that while the Alliance Party has wholeheartedly endorsed the CTU's economic strategy no such endorsement has come from Phil Goff and the Labour Party.
Given Goff's continued loyalty to neoliberalism I doubt that any such endorsement can be expected.