WHILE I'VE ALWAYS BEEN sceptical of opinion poll politics, the latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll should have set the alarms bells ringing within the Labour Party. The poll has Labour sitting at a dismal 26 percent,down three per cent from the previous poll. But leader Andrew Little's brusque dismissal of the poll - "I don't accept it" - is evidence enough that he is clearly operating on the principle set forth by mad General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth - "If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through."
He told the media: ""Here's what the TVNZ poll requires New Zealand to believe - that two years on from the last election with their failure to deal with housing, their failure to deal with homelessness, their failure to deal with rising crime, their failure to deal with education and our declining educational performance, that their popularity is as good as ever."
But what if it is true? What if, despite a stagnant economy and growing inequality and poverty, Labour is still failing to win any traction? What if the million voters that went missing at the last election still aren't convinced that Labour would be any better than National? What if the 'missing million' are still not prepared to believe the claim of various Labour-supporting union officials that Labour is indeed "the lesser evil'?
The fact is that Labour is consistently polling at anything between 26 and 32-33 percent. It has not been able to grow its support base.
What if the real problem is that Labour, after thirty years of rigid adherence to neoliberalism and slavish loyalty to "the market", lacks any core vision other than to get elected? Under the direction of 'business friendly" Andrew Little, Labour has successfully failed to capture what Hegel described as the Zeitgeist or “spirit of the times". There has been a popular rejection of "politics and usual" but that's exactly what Andrew Little is offering. It's hardly inspiring.
In a wider context Labour's problems are symptomatic of the more pervasive deficiencies of a failed social democratic project. When new ideas and radical reforms are called for, Andrew Little is found wanting time and time again.
Before he conceded to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and his supporters had built a nationwide movement around his promise of a 'political revolution'. In stark contrast the cautious Andrew Little, suspicious of anything other than 'centrist' politics, finds himself enmeshed in a public squabble about the validity of opinion poll results.