The other explanation for Labour’s curious submission is considerably less lofty.
Despite enormous effort by scores of tireless volunteers, tens of thousands of likely Labour voters failed to enrol in time for last year’s election. Though technically in breach of the Electoral Act, these citizens will probably not be prosecuted. Receiving no disincentive to repeating the offence, there’s every chance their names will not appear on the roll again in 2017.
If, however, tens of thousands of social welfare beneficiaries – people who, most experts agree, are much more inclined to vote for political parties of the Left than the Right – were required (ably assisted by Work and Income staff) to fulfil their legal obligations as electors before receiving their benefits, then the Labour Party would be saved a huge amount of hard political slog.
First make it no benefit if they don’t enrol. Then no benefit if they don’t vote. And finally an increased benefit if they vote Labour!
When viewed from this perspective, Labour’s submission not only appears organisationally self-serving, but it could also be construed as a subtle thrust against the emerging strategic preference (among Andrew Little’s principal advisers) for Labour’s effort to be directed at “soft” National Party voters. Many on the left of the Labour Party are convinced that the tens of thousands of unregistered voters constitute a more wholesome electoral target than some 21st century version of “Rob’s Mob”.
That Labour’s submission ended up attracting so much (presumably unwanted) media attention more than bears out the observation with which this discussion began. That one of the best ways of telling whether or not things are going well for a political party is how invisible its organisational wing is willing to become, and how anonymous its leadership.
The question for the Labour caucus should be why did none of the three Labour caucus reps on the NZ Council vote against the submission or stop it?