John Armstrong writes:
What is really going on inside the Labour Party caucus? The show of unity following Tuesday’s discussion on the negative fall-out from Phil Goff’s “nationhood” speech did not quite square with some rather odd happenings the next day.
For starters, there was Goff’s opting out of Wednesday’s question time in Parliament. The Labour leader delegated his usual role of questioning the Prime Minister to his deputy, Annette King. That may not seem a big deal. But the ritual nature of parliamentary warfare dictates that party leader take on party leader.
I presume it was because they knew Goff would get so many hassles about delivering a speech neither he nor his Caucus believes in.
Amid all this, Parliament’s finance and expenditure select committee was treated to some extraordinary theatrics from Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe at its meeting on Wednesday. Cunliffe’s attempted interrogation of Finance Minister Bill English was Perry Mason mixed with Basil Fawlty – cringe-making and hugely embarrassing.
Hmmn had not heard about this. Will be great if the Office of the Clerk can arrange for Parliament TV to also cover select committees.
Trevor Mallard, Labour’s education spokesman, may find Education Minister Anne Tolley easy meat. But the end-game here should be the huge segment of middle-of-the-road voters worried about what kind of education their children are getting – not the teacher unions whose opposition to national testing is driven by self-interest.
The unions’ supposed concern that schools in poor areas will be stigmatised by failing to meet standards is a cynical cover for their real worry – that teachers’ inadequacies will be exposed by league tables which will show exactly which schools in richer areas are failing to deliver for their pupils.
The smart, though admittedly brave, move for Goff would have been to endorse national standards and even raise the benchmarks for satisfactory performance. In one swoop, that would have outflanked National and nullified Labour’s image of political correctness.
Mallard’s onslaught on Tolley means that opportunity has passed.
I think education could be a real battleground issues next election, and that parents will overwhelmingly be on the side of the party wanting them to know how their kids are doing.
Labour this year has only caused National any grief on three issues – emissions trading, ACC and cutbacks to night-class education.
I don’t quite agree here.
National has taken some hits on emissions trading I believe – but from its own supporters for doing anything at all, rather than from the left for not doing more.
There has been some grief around ACC relating to specific stuff like motorcyclists, but Labour has totally lost the argument over the unsustainable nature of the status quo. In 2011 I think ACC will be a negative for Labour as people will be reminded of the mess they left.
And on night-class education, those protesting have been the providers and a few others. I think the vast majority of NZers have been appalled to find out that they had been paying taxes to subsidise silk scarf painting courses and the like.
National’s Tony Ryall summed it up on Wednesday when he said Labour was suffering from RDS – “relevance deprivation syndrome”.
The term may have been coined by Australia’s former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, but the Health Minister’s diagnosis was spot-on.
In short, Labour is desperately hunting for relevance and hurting badly in not finding it.
To be fair to Labour, most parties in opposition can struggle with that for some time.Tags: John Armstrong, Labour