I remember being lectured at University that to understand New Zealand politics one had to appreciate that Labour was too hide-bound by its principles and its past, and consequently too often unelectable. National, on the other hand, stood for nothing other than not being Labour, and beat them more often than not at election time as a consequence. Harsh, perhaps, but certainly true.
So when I heard the current Labour leader berating the former Labour Mayor of Porirua as not “true Labour” for allegedly contemplating standing for the National Party, I felt I was back in the time warp. “My party, right or wrong” thinking has returned with a vengeance under the current Labour leadership. The focus seems to be more on building a cadre of proper-thinking members, rather than a broad based organisation, capable of accommodating many different voices, but coalescing around some common broad goals to present to the electorate. No, the primary goal now seems to be to ensure the ideological purity of those who represent the Party, which narrows its base considerably. The test for advancement is no longer merit based, but on whether one is “true” Labour or not, however vaguely that is defined. Labour’s leaders used to proclaim it was a “broad church”, but now it has become a “narrow sect”.
In my darker moments, I think of the Labour Party I joined and how it has changed over the years. I feel sad, not bitter, that it has moved away from so many people like me, who used to be its advocates, and has written off people of independence and aspiration as not fitting its core values. Yet, we still have a burning social conscience, and still believe there is a place for a major Party of compassion that can balance the accounts, and preserve the environment. Today, National has well and truly outflanked Labour on those scores, and only Labour seems not to realise it.
The whole column is worth a read – includes why Peter joined Labour.