If Jacinda Ardern baulked at implementing a plan of real change then why should we expect it from someone regarded as more conservative than Ardern? Despite media talk of 'a tectonic shift in the political centre of gravity' Hipkins represents the continuation of the status quo.

THE PREDICTABLE bounce that Labour has received in the polls after electing a new leader was met with the equally predictable over-reaction from Labour supporters and from some media commentators who should know better but never are.

On the basis of two polls conducted some nine months from the general election, Labour supporters think their party now has fighting chance of securing a third term. They have quickly forgotten Saint Jacinda Ardern and moved on to their potential new Saviour, the improbable Christopher Hipkins. 

Even the mainstream media seem excited about him. TV1's Jessica Mutch-Mckay declared that 'Anyone who thought this was going to be an easy ride for National and for ACT, this changes things.' While she unfortunately likened the election campaign to a horse race (probably unintentionally) she was positively restrained in her assessment compared to Three's Jenna Lynch. She gushed that there had been 'a tectonic shift in the political centre of gravity.' Did you feel the earth move? I didn't.

There has never been such political hyperbole since, oh, Jacinda Arden was appointed Labour leader in 2017.

But this is the froth of opinion poll politics and there's not a lot of substance under all that froth. There has been little assessment of the new Prime Minister's declaration that he will be concentrating on the 'bread and butter issues' like the steeply rising cost of living and the housing crisis.  

But he's going to have to do a whole lot more than supposedly skewer Labour's middle class liberalism and rearrange cabinet positions. And he's going to have to do a lot more than put Three Waters and co-governance on the backbumer in a bid to prevent them becoming defining election issues. This is an election strategy, not a new plan for running the country. 

The elephant in the room is the conservative politics of Chris Hipkins. He's generally regarded as being to the right of Ardern. If she shrank from implementing a plan of economic transformation, it's even less likely Hipkins will overturn the status quo. He'll stick to the neoliberal orthodoxy and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson won't budge from his fiscal conservatism. That Robertson retains the finance portfolio doesn't suggest Labour under Hipkins is about to move in a different economic direction anytime soon. 

What was the point of Jacinda Ardern? That was the question Tom Chodor asked. If Chris Hipkins is Labour's last best chance of getting re-elected but represents the continuation of the economic status quo, then what is the point of Chris Hipkins? 

In a three part series examining Labour's transition, Elliot Crossan concludes: 

'Ultimately, the left in Aotearoa cannot trust the Labour Party to bring about the change we need. Labour has been committed to the Third Way since they ditched their full-scale neoliberal policies in 1993. They are not going to change. Every defeat is interpreted by the Labour hierarchy as a reason why they need to “move back to the centre ground” – and every victory is read as a victory for their milquetoast, uninspiring policies. Hipkins is a symptom of this problem, not the solution.'

Crossan concludes - like the 600,000 plus folk who no longer vote - that its well past time for a new political party of the left. Unfortunately, the liberal left is deeply embedded within the political establishment and it will continue supporting Labour regardless. 

But forty years of neoliberal rule has taught us that the more things supposedly change, the more they remain the same. A circuit breaker is required and it isn't Chris Hipkins. 


  1. A party to the left of Labour would be ferociously attacked by Labour. They don't secretly harbour a desire to live up to their title and jaded buzz phrases. They wouldn't therefore welcome a leftist party that could provide cover in living up to their (pretend) aspirations.

    Labour is not prevented from moving into a somewhat left position. They are where they want to be and prefer to just imagine that position as being left. (Just for self- delusionary and marketing reasons, certainly not out of actual conviction).

    How long can Labour continue to block the space that we so badly need to be occupied by a genuine left?

    Ardern was National's greatest asset in winning the next election. Labour loathes the working class. But at least they are realising their wailing and lashing-out over our not adoring their pop-star was really pissing us off.

    National will likely win, anyway. Tweddle Dee will enter and take the places marked on the stage. The only satisfaction is that now they might have to undertake some work- actually practice and audition for starring roles in the never-ending farce.

    Compulsory Hell.

  2. If Hipkins is conservative what does that make religious conservative Christopher Luxon. His Social Investment policy is punative and hostile to the young. He has little idea of politics, reads his speeches offers a caveat to most news interviews post interview. Hipkins knows the electorate and middle NZ


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