Did Labour leader Andrew Little learn anything from the defeat of the presidential candidate he described as 'a steady pair of hands'? Don't hold your breath.

AS LABOUR LEADER Andrew Little watched Donald Trump defeat the candidate who he had approvingly described as 'a steady pair of hands', did he reach any conclusions? Did he, by any chance, recognise that 'a steady pair of hands' proved not to be a quality to be admired but a flaw that should have-and could have - been avoided? Did he reflect on what this could mean for Labour's election chances next year?

To suggest that Hillary Clinton was the better candidate, who could be relied on to competently pull the right levers of the machine, was to suggest that life in America was pretty much fine and on the upswing. All that was needed was a wee bit of tinkering here and there. Nothing major.  Certainly nothing radical that might upset 'the centre'.

This was a fatal assumption of the Washington establishment because it was not shared by the American hinterland. It was certainly that way in the seemingly invincible Democratic states of the midwest. The 'rustbelt' had languished and declined under the 'steady pair of hands' of Barack Obama. There's precious little evidence of the economic good times in the depressed areas of major cities like Chicago and Detroit.

Not surprisingly they rejected Clinton's offer of Obama 2.0 and turned to Donald Trump and his alluring promise of economic salvation. That this is an empty promise is beside the point because many Americans, who  felt disrespected and ignored by the establishment, were attracted to a billionaire who claimed that he too was an outsider who understood their feelings of exclusion.

As Naomi Klein has observed : "Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it."

Klein goes on to say: "Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present."

The Labour Party's Stuart Nash, hardly a politician of left wing persuasion, has recognised that here in New Zealand too 'some voters are also disillusioned with politicians". But it is more than just a minor complaint. The fact that nearly a million people boycotted the last election suggests that disillusionment with our political system is widespread. Yet, such is the myopic view of Labour's supporters, that disillusionment has consistently been misrepresented as 'apathy'.

That disillusionment is not reflected by any of the parliamentary parties. It never has been. The onus is on the opposition parties to provide a manifesto of an alternative future but, too often, it is little more than insisting that John Key is a bad man and we would all be better off under a coalition government led by cuddly Andrew Little. Yeah, right.

Stuart Nash
So for Nash to suggest that Labour could be the beneficiary of such disillusionment - as Trump was in the United States - is wishful thinking.

Labour's determinedly conservative policies and politics has led to three election defeats in the row and to benefit from the disillusionment that Nash has glimpsed , Labour would have to be offering real change, a new vision of the economy and society that isn't beholden to the demands of 'the market'. But the word 'radical' is not in Labour's lexicon.

Unfortunately Andrew Little is no Bernie Sanders. Despite Labour's seemingly terminal low poll results Little has doubled down on his commitment to the neoliberal centre. He takes pride in being the leader of a party that, if it ever became the government, would not rock the boat but be 'a steady pair of hands'.

So in 2017 we can expect the same people  seen running away from Labour's election wreckage last time round, to return with exactly the same  loudmouthed and unconvincing arguments they used back then. Who will be the first, do you think, to claim Labour is the lesser evil? To borrow a popular expression I've heard someone using recently, they really are 'losers'.


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