According to former Labour Party staffer Lamia Imam, New Zealand did not vote for a right-wing government.
IT WAS THE British socialist Perry Anderson who wrote that 'Defeat, is a hard experience to master: the temptation is always to sublimate it.' By that he meant that unflinchingly confronting the ugly reality of defeat is sometimes so truly awful, it's tempting to avoid confronting it altogether. Instead, it's best to focus on other, more consoling, things instead.
Some of that appears to be occurring right now among Labour Party supporters as they continue to wrestle with a hard election defeat. Although Labour attracted only 31 percent of the total vote, some Labour supporters, like former Labour Party staffer Lamia Imam, have decided that it wasn't really Labour's fault that it lost.
In a recent Guardian column, Imam blames MMP for not allowing Labour to govern for a third term. She writes '... New Zealanders did not vote for a lurch to the right. The difference in the seats tell us that story – 59 v 55 on the left when New Zealand First seats are not taken into account.'
Unfortunately for Imam, this same argument can also be applied to other elections. The 2017 election, which resulted in Labour taking power, could also be said to not represent a lurch to the left either. The National Party, after all, won more seats than Labour. It was only kept out of office by New Zealand First opting to form a minority coalition government with Labour, with the Green Party signing a confidence and supply agreement with Labour.
And if we're going to play with figures Imam should reflect on the fact that some 602, 816 people were not interested in what was offer and didn't vote at all. The non-vote for the Abstentionist Party (as commentator Bryce Edwards has described it) beat Labour into second place.
Such are the vagaries of our MMP system. But they are vagaries that lead to the same conclusion; the election of a government that will defend and enforce the political and economic status quo. Neoliberalism and the interests of the ruling class win again. And again.
But that's not how Imam sees it. Since she's a former Labour Party apparatchik, she views the six years of the Labour Government rather more fondly than a lot of us do. She thinks that a progressive Labour Government was kneecapped by an MMP system that delivered up a National-led coalition government that ' is merely taking us backwards to where we were six years ago. We don’t have a government that has a vision for the future, but one that is relying on nostalgia to regain power and ministerial titles.'
But the six years of a Labour Government was not the political and economic nirvana that Imam seems to think it was. She can only make such big claims for Labour's political and economic 'progressive vision' if she studiously avoids talking about such issues as growing poverty and inequality under Labour. She can only stake a claim for Labour's progressive credentials if she avoids talking about issues such as the seemingly permanent housing crisis under Labour.
And these are the issues that matter to ordinary people. It's things like the crippling cost of living that press hard on the minds of most people, not whether government departments are called by their English or Maori titles or whether there is too much or too little te reo on TVNZ and RNZ.
But blaming everything and everyone else for Labour's obvious failings only ensures that Labour will continue to be bound to the same fallings that it exhibited in government, and which ultimately led to its downfall.
Labour and its supporters might take the new National-led coalition government to task for having little to say on issues like child poverty and climate change, but the Labour Government, loyally defended by the Green's, had no credible answers to these issues either. It had the historic opportunity to be a government 'of the many, not the few', but declined to take it. And that's why it now finds itself in opposition.