THERE IS A growing sense of unease even among his supporters that David Cunliffe is failing to deliver for Labour. Hyped as the solution to Labour's deadening conservative politics by people like Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury, questions are now being raised about just how exactly Cunilffe is different from his supposedly more centrist predecessor, David Shearer.
It is an issue that John Minto has addressed in a new column. He asks why Labour, under Cunliffe, has 'no vision for a more equal society and, more importantly, no policy programme to turn from vision to reality? Why is it just more rhetoric without any substance?'
But Minto's answer - to questions that have been answered many times before by the socialist left I might add - is hardly satisfactory. It is as if Minto's usual critical acumen has been sucked out of him the closer he has got to Labour. Perhaps this has got something to do with him standing as a Mana Party candidate and with the Mana leadership intent of shackling Mana's political fortunes to that of Labour's. A fatal compromise on Minto's part it could be reasonably argued.
According to Minto Cunliffe's progressive aspirations are being held back 'by a sea-anchor of MPs from the 1980s who are fiercely resistant to any challenge to the rule of the markets. They built their political careers on the back of rogernomics and they know no other way.'
Minto goes on to say that Labour's worst offenders are Phil Goff, Trevor Mallard and Annette King. But why stop there? Why not chuck out the entire Labour parliamentary cabal because none of them have ever actually stood up and declared their opposition to the rule of the markets. Here's an idea. Why not just dump the Labour Party altogether?
The implication of Minto's argument is that Cunliffe isn't the right wing market politician that many of us think he is, but that he harbours progressive beliefs.
This is a hard argument to swallow given that Cunliffe himself is 'fiercely resistant to any challenge to the rule of the markets.' His already stated position that a Labour government would not upset the neoliberal consensus is, I would of thought, clear evidence of that.
The man who is uncomfortable with the word 'socialism' but likes to highlight his business acumen, made his business friendly views abundantly clear when he appointed market technocrat David Parker to the position of finance spokesperson.
Labour was never a socialist party and you can go back, for instance, to 1937 for evidence of that. It was then that Peter Fraser warned Labour Party conference delegates that it would be 'dishonest 'of him to let delegates think that 'any resolution passed compelled the government to do anything regardless of the consequences'.
In 1987, well known 'socialist' Steve Maharey announced that 'socialists will need to work within mass institutions such as the labour Party' and that it was 'possible for the Labour Party to be socialist and to be the government'.
Maharey's version of a 'socialist government' was the right wing neoliberal Helen Clark government, in which Maharey served as a loyal minister.
From the point of view of representing the working class and promoting progressive advance, Labour is a political corpse.
John Minto doesn't agree. He says 'Labour’s biggest challenge is to get rid of this corporate-loving deadwood from its caucus. Until then any move to the left will be stymied'
But continuing to peddle hopeless fantasies about reconquering the Labour Party is what will stymie the development of a genuinely left wing movement, and a genuinely left wing party, in this country.