Nothing should be exempt from scrutiny. Not even that most delicate of subjects – the role of the party’s trade union affiliates.
Will any of the leadership contenders have the courage to say that Labour should be a party of one person, one vote?
The party kidded itself – as it had done since losing power – that voters would come “home” to Labour once they came to their senses and realised the overwhelming superiority of its policies and that John Key is not quite what the media cracked him up to be.
This toxic combination of false hope and unfathomable arrogance was shattered last Saturday.
The arrogance is unbelievable. How many times have you heard from a Labour MP that Labour won the campaign? I don’t recall anyone in National in 2002 claiming National won the campaign. Quite the opposite – National did an independent review of what went wrong.
Labour’s overall vote shrank by 15 per cent at the 2008 election. That was not unusual for a party that had been in power for nine years. But Saturday night’s result saw Labour’s vote shrink again, this time by 23 per cent on the 2008 provisional result.
All up, nearly 300,000 voters deserted Labour between 2005 and 2011 – that amounts to 35 per cent of the party’s 2005 election night tally.
That reminds me of Darien Fenton’s reaction to someone suggesting that Labour should try to win back the votes of former supporters such as the Mad Butcher. Her response was “Why?”. It sums it up.
Take welfare reform. These are tough times. People who are working cannot fathom why those on benefits – including sole parents – should not be obliged to look for work. Labour’s response that there are no jobs misses the point. Worse, Labour promised to make beneficiaries eligible for the in-work payment – a device which was designed by the last Labour Government to reward those finding work. Labour would have turned what was a hand-up into a handout.
That was one of their worst policies – $70 a week more for a parent not in work and $10 a week for a parent in work.
Perhaps the best example where Labour is wrongly positioned is national education standards. Parents want them – plus league tables rating schools’ performance to boot.
Labour predictably sided with the teacher unions. That may have produced a warm glow of solidarity. Siding with parents – as the Australian Labor Party did on the issue – would have sent a powerful message about Labour’s readiness to adapt and modernise.
Australian Labor is far far more moderate than NZ Labour.