Last week Finance Minister Bill English delivered another predictable austerity-driven budget. But the problem for Labour and its supporters is that it has little to offer in way of an alternative that isn't beholden to 'the market'.

LAST WEEK FINANCE MINISTER Bill English delivered up another austerity driven budget and, just as predictably, it was condemned by the government's opponents.

That political opposition swirls around in the somewhat murky and incestuous Labour mileau, inhabited by Labour politicians, Labour members and supporters, Labour's cheerleaders in the media and the blogoshere,  various union officials and the politicians of potential Labour allies (eg the Green's). It's a place where everyone agrees how rotten the National Government is and how things would be so much better if Labour was in charge.

Of course, there's more than a certain ahistoricity to this claim of Labour's potential benevolence because Labour's past efforts while in government don't suggest in any way that it will be the saviour of the working class. But It's as if the past thirty years of neoliberal rule, of which Labour was an enthusiastic and loyal enforcer, never happened.

The difficulty for Labour' supporters - like those I saw on the Waatea 5th Estate Budget Special last Thursday- is that Bill English delivered a budget not dissimilar to those delivered by Michael Cullen for the Labour Government of Helen Clark. His first budget, in 2000, established the financial template for the Clark Government, which rarely deviated from. Yet some of the very same critics of the English budget last week were loyal defenders of the Clark government and its economic regime.

In 2000 Cullen delivered a budget that contained only meagre increases in spending for health, education and housing.

Labour's health spokesperson, Annette King, condemned English's budget, commenting that"only three DHB's have had an increase in funding in real terms". Yet in 2000 she, as Health minister, was criticised for not addressing "the critical shortage and underpayment of health care workers."

But in stark contrast to the criticism directed at the English budget by the CTU, in 2000 CTU president Ross Wilson praised the Cullen budget as ' fiscally responsible'. That's the language of the corporates, not of a union leader who is supposed to looking out for the interests of his members.

Of course Labour's supporters, when confronted with the party's uncomfortable past, will suggest that it was all some kind of aberration and Labour has learnt its lessons.

Which isn't true and everyone knows it. Labour isn't convincing anyone. That's why it can't win an election when a million or so voters stay away from the polling booths because they're not impressed by the so-called 'choices' on offer.

Labour remains just as committed to 'the market' as it was in 2000. While Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are at least talking about 'democratic socialism' and a 'political revolution', Labour is promising little more than business as usual. While Sanders is talking about the problem of corporate domination, Labour leader Andrew Little is having cosy business lunches with the corporate suits.

In his pre-budget speech, Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson praised the 'excellent work' of Michael Cullen for achieving 'low levels of government debt'.

Even such a rank Labour apologist as Chris Trotter concedes that Labour would not dare to implement even mild social democratic reforms because it "would instantly be identified as not only a deadly enemy of the National Party and its supporters, but also of the entire capitalist system.'

The horror of it all!


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