If he was alive today, former Labour leader Bill Rowling would be viewed as a left wing radical.
HIS SUPPORTERS say that David Cunliffe is the man to lead Labour away from neoliberalism. According to The Daily Blog's Martyn Bradbury, for instance, 'the establishment have gone romper stomper on Cunliffe’s desire to break with 30 years of neoliberalism.'
And, like Bradbury, blogger and columnist Chris Trotter is of the opinion that 'left wing' Cunliffe is a target of right wing conspiratorial forces within Labour. Bradbury calls them the ABC's (Anyone But Cunliffe).
The problem for Bradbury and Trotter though is two fold. First of all they have actually have no concrete evidence there is a conspiracy and are seemingly hell bent in engaging in endless speculation where the facts are few and far between.
The second problem with this view is that David Cunliffe isn't the left wing politician that Bradbury and Trotter keep on insisting that he is.
The reality is that David Cunliffe is not so much the 'change' candidate, but a politician who will deliver more of the same neoliberal policies that both National and Labour governments have followed over the past 30 years.
Genuinely left-wing politicians talk about dismantling capitalism or at least radically reforming it. Cunliffe instead says that Labour won't interfere with the primacy of the market and that socialism is not a word that he uses.
Genuine socialists believe in public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. Cunliffe and Labour don't even advocate renationalising the electricity industry and operating it as a non-profit social utility - a move that I suspect would be favoured by the majority of ordinary New Zealanders faced with escalating power bills.
If Cunliffe were a committed leftist, he would surely have been proud to have been labelled a socialist. Instead he thinks it something that shouldn't be mentioned in polite company.
The fact that Cunliffe can be labelled 'left-wing' at all is a sign of how far to the right New Zealand has travelled in the past 30 years.
It is also a sign of just how nonsensical the views of so-called 'left wing' bloggers like Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury have become. It is also indicative of the increasingly conservative politics of some left wing groups who still argue, even now, that Labour is the 'lesser evil'.
I was reading a few days ago a socialist critique of Bill Rowling's Labour Party of the 1970s. Yet, Rowling's pro-mixed-economy, social democratic views would today position him well to the left of the political spectrum.
Rowling fell out with the Lange government over its neoliberal economic policies, accusing it of causing unnecessary pain and suffering. In 1993 he said:' The lives of New Zealanders have been sacrificed on the spurious grounds that their suffering will bring prosperity to those who follow'.
With his pro market views, 'left wing' David Cunliffe is certainly no Bill Rowling.