It’s a label that Labour can’t seem to shake off, but that’s because nobody knows what Labour really stands for, says Dr Jon Johansson, a leadership expert at Victoria University. “The real weakness of Clark is that there is no over-arching explanation as to what the purpose of her government is. We’ve seen this right through the three terms.
“It never mattered for the first two terms, when National was in disarray,” says Johansson. “One year it’s economic transformation, then it’s environmental sustainability. In the absence of some over-arching narrative about purpose, people end up thinking, ‘Well, all these people want is to stay in power’. Clark has always abhorred rhetoric, and now she’s paying the price for that.”
It is true that Labour has almost swapped goals every few months, and with none of them really being achieved. If National gains office and wants to retain office it is going to have to have a couple of simple goals which it can measure progress against at every election.
Johansson thinks that Clark needs to explain the purpose of her government, and in particular, front up over its most unpopular positions: the Electoral Finance Act and why it took so long to give tax cuts.
I think it is too late on both those fronts. The basic truth is the motives behind the EFA were a crude attempt to fuck over National and critics of the Government, and help gain a permament grasp on power.
The tax cuts issues may once have been redeemable for them, but they mishandled the Budget even though it did deliver tax cuts. Instead of the public seeing a Government talking about how pleased they were to let peopel keep more of their own money, they just saw a gloating Dr Cullen boast about how he had prevented National from offering bigger tax cuts.