Out in the electorate this morning, the rising tide of anger about the cuts to Adult and Community Education shows no sign of abating . . . I think Anne Tolley will have to do something as the campaign is not going to let up. In the meantime here is an extract from one of the letters I received this week that sums up a lot of the feelings out there.
I have been involved in adult learning as a student on and off for nearly ten years and would like to tell you how much these programmes mean to me. Over the years I have learnt how to make a mosaic, I’ve dyed silk scarves, built pots out of clay, extended my knowledge of French and been taught the skills to run a small business. These courses have enabled me to learn new things and meet lots of people but they also offer me so much more. Although these things may just be considered hobbies, to me they give me a greater sense of self-esteem and a feeling of connection to my community.
Danyl points out:
Can’t you just see Bill English standing up in the house and sneering about how Labour’s answer to the recession is to borrow money to pay for silk scarf dying classes? Don’t get me wrong, I think adult education is a great thing, and if we were a really rich country with no economic or financial problems then I think people should have access to all the french and scarf-dying classes they want, but they’re also some of the first things I’d cut when things went south: if these things are truly important to people then they’ll pay for them out of their own pocket. I’m generalising here but Robertson represents one of the wealthiest, best educated electorates in the country and I kind of doubt that a constituent of his taking classes to ‘extend their knowledge of French’ is going to be hard up for cash.
The key point here is that Labour do not seem to have caught on the surpluses are gone. We face a decade of deficits and they are whining about silk scarf dying classes. Their answer to everything is to borrow and spend more.
Labour won the 2005 election on a platform of extending the welfare state to the middle class and I wonder if they still think that’s the road to success; if so they’re wrong. A narrative is forming around the party that their solution to everything is to borrow more money and fritter it away on trivialities, seen in that light making the case for silk-scarf dying night classes is simply crazy.
What it paints to me is how out of touch Labour are with normal New Zealanders. If you regularly got out into provincal cities and towns, you would not be thinking that NZers want their taxes to go on such luxuries when we are in a global recession.
I think part of the problem is they have lost so many electorate seats. They have only 19 general seats left. With only a couple of exceptions they are now a party that only holds electorates in South-West Auckland, Wellington, parts of Christchurch and Dunedin. When you lose contact with so many NZers, you lose your perspective on what is important.