It is unlikely that Andrew Little and his Labour Party will take on board the lessons to be learnt from the electoral success of Jeremy Corbyn and U.K. Labour. That's because it would mean abandoning its continuing loyalty to the neoliberal orthodoxy. But don't expect anyone to call Andrew Little out for his conservative politics.
OF COURSE THE British political establishment and its media attack dogs never gave Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party an election chance, and they were determined to ensure that he failed. The mantra, repeated ad infinitum, was that Corbyn was 'too left wing", 'too extreme", promoting policies that would never appeal to "the centre ground". It was a view, let us not forget, shared by most of his parliamentary Labour Party. They, led by deputy leader Tom Watson, wanted Jeremy Corbyn to resign and allow a more "electable "leader to take over. They will have to eat humble pie now.
It was the party membership, let us remind of ourselves of that too, who had Jeremy Corbyn's back. While Corbyn deserves all the praise he is getting right now, he only got the opportunity to fight this election because the party defended and protected him from being toppled by the Blairite MPs.
Failing to dislodge Corbyn, the Blairites did little to support Jeremy Corbyn and, in many cases, sought to undermine him. The scenario was that Corbyn would inevitably crash and burn and then 'sensible' Tom Watson and his chums would step in to pick up the pieces - and normal service would be resumed.
How delicious now to watch Tom Watson squirming on television, desperately trying to backpedal.
The antipathy and, yes, undiluted hostility directed toward Jeremy Corbyn has been evident within the New Zealand political establishment as well.
It was less than two months ago that Peter Dunne MP dismissed Corbyn as a political basket case. He wrote:
"For those who follow British politics, the prospect of the coming General Election turning into a major train wreck for the British Labour Party looms large. Barely a day passes without another set of contradictory views or comments emerging from senior members of that Party. Most of the criticism inevitably finds its way back to the Party’s veteran socialist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a man who, in a long political career has never been chosen to hold any Government office." (April 27, 2017)
Dunn's views were on par for a right wing politician, but you would have had to work hard to find anyone with anything positive to say about Corbyn in and around the Labour camp as well.
Simon Wilson, Labour sympathiser and contributing editor to the Spin Off website wrote in October last year:
"... Corbyn is also deeply unpopular with the wider public. Polls suggest Labour would be obliterated if they held an election anytime soon."
Wilson's lukewarm view of Corbyn was also expressed by Labour candidate Willie Jackson. Jackson, who always likes it to be known that he is not a socialist, said on the now-defunct Waatea Fifth Estate that Corbyn had run a poor campaign to keep Britain in the European Union. Corbyn, said Jackson, was "in trouble".
That view was shared by another guest on the show, Labour leader Andrew Little.
As I wrote at the time:
"For Willie Jackson to claim that Corbyn is 'in trouble' is simply nonsensical and betrays an assumption that politics is just a parliamentary arena where politicians battle it out, while the rest of us merely look on.
Similarly for Andrew Little to claim that Jeremy Corbyn ran a poor campaign to remain in the EU is also Blairite fiction. What Little did not say - or maybe just doesn't know - is that the Remain campaign was run by Hillary Benn, the first shadow cabinet minister to announce his lack of confidence in Corbyn's leadership and who Corbyn sacked."
Indeed the Labour Party's attitude toward Jeremy Corbyn has been lukewarm at best. As far back as former Labour leader David Shearer, Corbyn was being described as "unelectable".
And Labour's finance Grant Robertson was quick to pour cold water on any idea that Corbyn's progressive economic policies would be adopted by New Zealand Labour. Robertson is unlikely to recognise that Labour's progressive policies attracted a significant number of disaffected British folk back to the polling booths.
And even while claiming he's "delighted" by Jeremy Corbyn and U.K. Labour's "unexpected" success, Andrew Little has also been quick to dispel any flight of fancy that his Labour Party might deviate from its market-driven outlook and policies and offer a genuine alternative to the New Zealand electorate in September.
He told the NZ Herald that the political landscape in Britain "was very different to that in New Zealand and every general election campaign was different."
In fact Little ended up damning Corbyn with faint praise, declaring that the result could largely be put down to Theresa May running a poor campaign and offering nothing but "more of the same".
"An unexpected number of Britons have gone 'we want something different' and that has affected Parliament in a completely unexpected way." he said.
What Little avoided mentioning is that "something different' was an unashamedly left wing manifesto that unequivocally rejected the neoliberal consensus that has dominated British politics for more than three decades, much in the same way it has dominated New Zealand politics.
Clearly Andrew Little is on board with someone like conservative columnist Chris Trotter who not so long was counselling that New Zealand Labour needed to be 'broad church', rejecting policies that deviated from 'the centre'.
Trotter was in fact echoing the word of Peter Mandelson, the architect of Blairism, who wrote in The Guardian last year:
"Labour is a broad church, and that seeking to impose a hard-left blueprint on the party will end up disqualifying Labour from office.".
"I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn every single day", said Mandelson in February.
Such is the conservatism of Andrew Little and his Labour Party, is that it will learn little from the success of Jeremy Corbyn. Again, as at every general election of the past three decades, New Zealanders will be denied the opportunity to vote for a party that doesn't preach austerity, that isn't beholden to the market and corporate interests and that isn't scared to say that it is left wing, and proud of it.
Bernie Sanders has described U.K. Labour’s strong showing as "part of growing protest against inequality all over the world".
It doesn't look like Andrew Little and his Labour Party want to be part of this growing protest movement. Unfortunately the very people who should be calling Andrew Little out, trade union officials and Labour friendly pundits for example, will do no such thing. While they will congratulate Jeremy Corbyn, they will keep their mouths shut about NZ Labour's continued rightward march, only to open them to mumble something about Labour being "the lesser evil".