In an attempt to allay growing concerns that her government is rudderless and without vision, Jacinda Ardern has announced a 12 point plan of 'a shared vision and priorities' that Labour, NZ First and the Green's have all, apparently, bought into. It reads like a public relations puff piece and is as equally as convincing. There's nothing in the plan that even hints that this government is at all interested at breaking with neoliberalism in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party intends to do once it becomes government.
JACINDA ARDERN'S intractable problem is that she is a political leader who promised more than she was ever prepared to deliver. She talked 'transformation', talked about the failure of neoliberalism, pointed in the direction of a general election, and cried 'Let's Do it' - and everyone ignored that it was uncomfortably similar to the corporate slogan of sweatshop culprit Nike.
The stark fact though is that Jacinda Ardern had sat on the opposition benches for nine years and demonstrated the kind of equanimity toward the political and economic status quo one who would not expect from someone who cast herself as a champion of the working class during the 2017 election campaign. But these kind of inconvenient facts were duly ignored by her followers who were too busy queuing for a selfie with Ardern or waxing lyrical about her 'magic' in nonsensical blog posts. Jacinda Ardern was both Mother Theresa and Britney Spears rolled into one media-friendly package.
So it has come as somewhat of a rude shock to many of the Ardenites that a routinely centrist politician is leading, wait for it, a routinely centrist government. It has proven, unsurprisingly, not be a 'transformative' government but a government big on market liberalism and social liberalism combined. Labour supporters are mostly on board as far as the social issues are concerned but rather less diligent when it comes to the economic issues. While a large swathe of New Zealand continues to live under the poverty line , Labour supporters are obsessing about alt right speakers visiting New Zealand and wondering aloud about the political implications of the 'c' word.
|Socialist politics is thriving - over there.|
But unfortunately for them, its the economy that generates inequality, poverty and general stagnation. It's neoliberalism, the failed creed that Labour still holds dear, that has also generated the anger and resentment that has given risen to Donald Trump in the United States and the far right in Europe. Away from the Labour-lovin' urban liberals, who knows what is stirring in New Zealand's hinterland?
Even now, this Labour-led government doesn't recognise that neoliberalism has failed. The 12 point plan that aims to convince voters that the three coalition parties have a common vision and purpose avoids repudiating neoliberalism and opts for building 'a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy" instead - a phrase borrowed from Grant Robertson's budget speech. Robertson's first budget was a firm restatement of neoliberal creed - the same budget that the 'progressive' co-leader of the Green Party, Marama Davidson, described as 'a good start'.
These policies stem from an ideology that, over the past three decades, has destroyed communities and impoverished workers. Jacinda Ardern might wave a glossy brochure about and declare she has a cunning plan, but that doesn't alter the fact that she and her government continue to support failed neoliberal policies. There's nothing 'transformative' about that.
We don't need self-serving 'plans' but we do need an independent political party that unequivocally rejects neoliberalism and presents a clear alternative. In countries such as Britain and the United States that alternative is called socialism. We need that alternative here too.