Labour: Failing to offer an alternative to neoliberalism.
We’re sleepwalking to another general election in September. The absence of a socialist or labourite mass party offering an alternative to the neoliberal narrative means another low turnout will be the likely result.

SOME FOUR MONTHS before the general election, there’s a certain dreary familiarity and predictability about it all. Without the energy, vision and defiance of a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbyn figure, the country is sleepwalking to an election where the choice will again be limited to what brand of neoliberal government you want in charge for the next three years. Such is the moribund state of New Zealand’s representative democracy that the conservative nationalism of Winston Peters and the New Zealand Party is regarded as ‘the wild card’ while The Opportunities Party, the party of multi-millionaire Gareth Morgan, is regarded as the most innovative. And with some policies, it is indeed thinking ‘outside the square'.

Which can't be said for most of left. It is still entangled, despite everything, with the politically bankrupt Labour Party.

The Labour Party’s bizarre response to its massive defeat in 2014 is to go into the 2017 election promoting exactly the same kind of conservative and market-driven policies that were so completely rejected three years ago. And, having signed what is basically an austerity agreement with the Green Party, this Labour Party has swung even further to the right.

Andrew Little and his supporters seem to think they can achieve success this time round based largely on the belief that Bill English is far more beatable than smilin’ John Key.

But the opinion polls don’t indicate that.

In September last year Andrew Little vehemently disputed a TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll that had his party languishing at just 26 percent, down three percent from the previous poll.

“I don’t accept, it,” was Little’s brusque response.

He went on to say: ""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 an April 27 Roy Morgan poll showed Labour was sitting at just 29.5%, which appears to be about Labour's level. People might be concerned about the issues that Andrew Little mentioned - and more besides - but they obviously don’t believe that Labour, clinging to the neoliberal orthodoxy, has any answers.

Certainly Labour’s cautious ‘business as usual’ approach won't convince the some 740,000 people who no longer vote that it might well be worth participating this time round. The massively low turnout at the last two by-elections should of been a warning to Labour but it seems to be too busy talking to the corporate sector to notice the frustration and, yes, anger out in the community. There just isn’t any enthusiasm for Labour and it’ll be up to the marketing boys and girls and the party’s cheerleaders in the media and the blogosphere to try to drum up some interest in Andrew Little and co. Good luck with that.

Even some of Labour’s most loyal supporters seem to be having doubts.

Last week The Daily Blog editor, Martyn Bradbury, praised Andrew Little for his performance on TVNZ’s Q+A. The Labour leader looked ‘Prime Ministerial’, gushed Bradbury.

The day before Bradbury declared that Labour’s little election strategy soiree over the weekend was ‘a triumph” It was, announced Bradbury “ a celebration of “core Labour Party values, core election beef.”

This is the same Martin Bradbury who only a fortnight or so earlier had declared that Labour and the Greens’s had done little more than “outneoliberal the neoliberals.” Bradbury concluded that the best ‘we’ could hope for was “ a change of Government, it won’t be a changed Government.”

Bradbury has carried on with this theme this weekend, writing "...Currently Labour and the Greens  are putting out watered down policy that promises little change."

CTU Secretary Sam Huggard.
His regular readers may find it hard to understand Bradbury’s political inconsistency. But, unable to conceive or support a progressive politics that is unencumbered by the heavy baggage of the Labour Party, he thrashes around within a political prison of his own making, wildly gravitating between completely opposite politcal positions Either Labour is a defender of ‘core Labour values’ or it remains a vehicle for neoliberal policies and politics. But It can’t be both.

Meanwhile this week Annie Newman, who is the National Director of Campaigning for E tū, and Sam Huggard, who was elected CTU Secretary in October 2014, spoke at the Fabian Society in Auckland. They outlined the union movement’s approach to the election.

I don’t have to go into much detail here because its exactly the same strategy they employed in 2014 - with dismal results. According to Huggard and Newman union officials will be out “to mobilise their members to win this in 2017.” Like good little automatons, union members will apparently docilely trot off to the polling booths and vote for a right wing Labour Party or its equally conservative ally, the Green Party.

it was Karl Marx, who was paraphrasing his friend Friedrich Engels, who said “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”.

 In New Zealand at least, we seem to have moved beyond farce. Farce is generally considered to be comedic, absurd or ridiculous. New Zealand politics is none of these things. There is nothing comedic, absurd or ridiculous about the crisis of our representative democracy. We, the people, have severely limited impact on policy decisions and have been effectively excluded from any meaningful input into the political system. And none of our so-called ‘representatives are giving voice to this crisis, rather they continue to do the bidding of the political elite - “the one percent.” As a consequence, we can fully expect another low turnout at the polling booths in September. 


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