Labour's demise is not just Phil Goff's fault.
In its first year, Phil Goff explained away the National Government's popularity as simply 'the honeymoon period'. Unfortunately for Goff and Labour, National's popularity remains largely undiminished. Labour are on track for a demoralising election defeat which could well see National being able to rule without the baggage of coalition partners. Labour is in danger of extinction.
It shouldn't really be this way. The economy has tanked and there are , officially, over 157,000 out of work And on top of that there are a growing number of working poor, many of whom can't get enough hours to make ends meet. And there are 240,000 children living below the poverty line.
The Government's response is to give tax cuts to the wealthy while imposing austerity measures on the rest of us. This is John Key's prescription for economic renewal and 'a brighter future'.
Yet Labour continues to plummet in the polls. The problem is that Labour is providing no alternative other than an assertion that it would be a better steward of the neoliberal economy than National. The differences between the two parties are minor and what we might 'gain' on the swings with Labour we will surely lose on the roundabouts.
There is also the problem of Phil Goff. John Minto has put it this way:
...even as Labour tries to distinguish itself by shuffling a little to the left of National its attacks are blunted because it's hopelessly compromised at every turn and the problem is personified in Labour leader Phil Goff. When Goff attacks the rise in GST, the ghost of Goff reminds us it was the man himself who introduced GST at 10% in the first place and then increased it to 12.5% back in the 1980s. It was also Goff who brought in tertiary student fees and again it was Goff who sat at the Labour cabinet while it sold our key state assets for a song to the rich mates of senior Labour politicians of the time. We've been paying the price ever since.
Of course its not all Goff's fault. It's not just Trevor Mallard or David Cunliffe's fault. It's not even just the fault of the present Labour parliamentary cabal.
Behind Labour lies a small army of trade union 'leaders, 'advisers', journalists, columnists, bloggers , academics and the like who have consistently supported and defended Labour's neoliberalism. They have all contributed to a party which, in John Minto's words 'has done more than National in the past 27 years to enrich the 1%.'
Between them and the Labour Party they have been the architects and promoters of an economic ideology that has devastated working class communities while enriching the already wealthy. Some of them still seriously regard themselves as 'progressive' but they have been consistent supporters of economic policies that have wreaked untold damage in working class communities up and down the country.
I think you probably know who some of these people are.
Asked what was the difference between the left and right, Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio replied that the left always seeks greater equality and the right always produces greater inequality. The Labour Party has created a society scarred by inequality, a society more unequal and more unjust than ever.
Of course there have been a range of rationales and excuses to justify Labour's venal politics. They have ranged from the dumb 'lesser evil argument' (National is worse than Labour) to the more sophisticated but equally dumb arguments of 'Third Way' politics.
Even today Labour's supporters are lying to us. We are being told that there are real 'points of difference between National and Labour' . We are even being told that Labour is a 'centre left' party. The intellectual dishonesty is astonishing, the political cowardice unacceptable. The Labour Party is on the point of extinction and these clowns behave as if they aren't to blame. It's easier just to blame Phil Goff.
Not surprisingly John Minto predicts a comprehensive win for National and he says Labour will dump Goff in the New Year as it tries to 'shift significantly to the left'. But he does say Labour's new caucus is going to have problems 'finding anyone in their new caucus who has an economic backbone rather than a corporate-moulded artificial brace.'
Certainly Goff will go but the Labour Party, after nearly three decades of slavish commitment to neoliberalism and the 'free market' , has nothing to do with the future of left wing politics in this country. As any kind of progressive force Labour has been dead for many years.
The debate about the future of progressive politics in this country has got nothing do with the guilty people who have pursued and defended the policies that have inflicted such misery on ordinary folk. They deserve to be swept away.