Edwards on Labour

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I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Party whose philosophical and moral values are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition.

Strong words from a (I suspect) lifetime Labour supporter.

I’m a socialist at heart and, whatever it is, New Zealand Labour is not a socialist party. It wasn’t just Rogernomics that scotched that idea; Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, a significant influence on the Fifth Labour Government, was really just a watered down version of Douglas’s ‘trickle-down’ economics. The ‘third way’ was, by definition, a ‘middle-way’, neither one thing nor the other and ill-suited to political idealism of any stripe – a Clayton’s political philosophy.  

I read that Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, wants to move the party to that ideological no-man’s-land that is ‘the centre’. National already occupies that space but, as the distinctions between Key and Shearer lose focus – both promising to deliver ‘a brighter future’ and the Labour leader ditching policies specifically directed at putting more money into the pockets of the poor – I’ve no doubt that an accommodation can be reached between centre-right and centre-left.

Personally I am glad Labour is (mainly) not a socialist party. Socialism doesn’t work. It has been tried in dozens of countries, and nationalising the means of production etc is a failed experiment.

I’m a firm believer in progressive taxation – ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,’ as Marx  so neatly put it. You can call that Communism or Socialism or pure Christianity.  It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the core principle that the strong should support the weak. So it’s good that Labour’s new leader is at least intent on keeping a Capital Gains Tax as Labour policy. The earnings of the rich should be taxed to support the poor.

They are. Families below $50,000 income effectively pay no net tax at all.  We have a massively progressive tax system. If Brian feels it is not progressive enough, well Treasury does accept donations 🙂

But I’m not comfortable with Mr Shearer’s reported intention to move the party ‘to the centre’. It’s a misnomer for one thing. Labour is already in the centre. It has already lost its working-class constituency. Any move ‘to the centre’ will merely be, as the share-brokers say, ‘a technical correction’, not as extreme as in ‘84 but a move to the right nonetheless.

What Labour politics now seem to be about is finding ‘sellable’ policies and a ‘sellable’ leader in order to regain power. (For National read ‘retain power’.) What Green politics seem to be about is persuading people to come across to policies not obviously or immediately founded in self-interest, but in the long-term interests of all of us and (there’s no avoiding it) of the planet. No doubt they’d like to be in government too. But it doesn’t seem to be their primary motivation.

So I find myself wondering…

The harsh reality is that Labour has a better chance of gaining power if they do lose left-wing voters to the Greens, so long as they pick up some centrist voters from National.

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