This week anti-vaxxers were out on the streets demonstrating against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government. But why, in stark contrast, has the left given the Labour Government a free pass on the very issues that it holds dear?
THIS LABOUR GOVERNMENT has been able to preside over and defend the market economy without too much trouble. It certainly has not faced any sustained and organised opposition to its continued loyalty to neoliberalism. While Labour's defence of the status quo has resulted in further poverty and inequality, a deepening housing crisis and the continued tearing of the social ties that are supposed to bind us, it has largely got away with it.
Indeed the last major demonstration against the policies of the Labour Government was in September 2018 when some 180,000 folk demonstrated throughout the land, demanding urgent action on climate change. While the Minister of Climate Change James Shaw claimed the Government was 'listening' it ended up doing next to nothing - certainly not enough to disturb the neoliberal applecart.
We have seen nothing like the demonstrations we have seen in other parts of the world. In Chile, massive protests sparked by a rise in Metro fares expanded into protests against growing inequality as well as the privatisation of basic services.
In Lebanon, hundreds of thousands people mobilised around the demand that the government must resign because of the escalating cost of living and widespread corruption.
In this country though the union leadership continues to play footsy with the Labour Government while Labour 'progressives' insist that their brand of neoliberalism is somehow better than National's. The insidious virus of 'lesser evilism' runs deep within the liberal left and even among some people who consider themselves to be socialists.
The overriding concern of union officials and Labour liberals is all about who rules the clubhouse not the state of the clubhouse itself. So Labour liberals display an absence of any real concern even as the homeless figures mount and the lines at the food banks continue to lengthen. Instead, they spin what they consider to be the Government's 'achievements' and attack those who have the temerity not be as enthusiastic about Jacinda Ardern as they are.
Normally Ardern gets good PR mileage when she appears among the public. This week though she had to deal, for the first time as Prime Minister, with noisy demonstrators not as enamoured with her as the liberal intelligentsia.
On Tuesday she abruptly closed down a press conference when a couple of ant-vaxxers started heckling her. I can think of some previous Prime Minister's who would of responded in kind, but Ardern doesn't like confrontation of any description - so she left. Then on Wednesday she cancelled a visit to a vaccination clinic after hundreds of anti-vaccine protesters gathered outside. The woman who routinely repeats the mantra of 'the team of five million' looked visibly strained.
While the demonstrations were largely driven by opposition to vaccination they also attracted those who have other grievances against the Labour Government. I saw one placard that declared that the Labour Government was 'communist.' Which only goes to demonstrate just how far to the right a lot of these demonstrators were. Or they were just politically illiterate. But political ignorance is not the preserve of the right either - as liberal commentators demonstrate everyday.
That said, we should be asking - but aren't - why is it that the right is out there protesting while the left can do little but defend Labour? It claims to champion the interests of the working class but, at every election, it tells folk to vote against their best interests and vote Labour or the Green's. Little wonder that some 700,000 folk no longer vote because they refuse to be conned by a liberal elite who claim that everyone will benefit from Labour's continued adherence to market-led policies.
Of course rage on the streets doesn't always result in clear victories and the decisive advance of popular demands. But it is a start. And it does expose that the political establishment- of which Labour liberals are very much a part - have no plan B. They have no alternative to a neoliberalism that has enriched the one percent at the expense of everyone else.
One of the fundamental difficulties with Labour liberals is that there is never a breaking point. There is a never a position that won't be surrendered. There is never a red line that can't be crossed. You don’t want to disturb Jacinda Ardern because Judith Collins would supposedly be worse. And every three years both parties - and their parliamentary allies - do get worse. It could also get a whole lot worse if those fed up with not being listened by the present parliamentary parties decide to throw in their lot with forces on the right who seem prepared to take on a self-serving political establishment.