Can Labour be trusted?


Why the NZ Labour Party fails to punctuate my equilibrium in 2017.

The problem with the Labour Party is fabianism, and its belief that it can be a "natural party of government" in New Zealand.

Consider New Zealand politics for most of the 20th Century: we had long periods of National Party government, doing what conservative governments do - very little, other than looking after their own interests and dealing with what comes along.

The need for change would build up over time, then we would elect a Labour government to shake things up.  Which it would.  And then we would settle down to the self-serving somnolescence of another National Party government for a few more terms.

And so on. It was a pattern we could rely on, until Helen Clark's government came into power. She was determined to show that the Labour Party could also provide stable, trustworthy, long-term government and thereby render the National Party irrelevant.

And for three terms in power, that approach almost succeeded.  But it upset our understanding of the Labour Party's role and our expectation that the Labour Party could, and would, lead economic and social change when change was needed.

We approach the election in 2017 needing, and wanting, to see dramatic changes. Including:
  • Taking serious steps to address climate change and reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 - as we have committed to under the Paris Accord.
  • Transforming New Zealand's relationship with property investment, ownership and tenant's rights to ensure the property sector meets people's fundamental need for safe, secure, healthy  accommodation.
  • Shifting domestic and foreign investment away from property speculation and into productive enterprise that lifts productivity, adds value to our export products, and creates new jobs.
  • Addressing fundamental flaws in our democratic system, including the lack of a written constitution, proper recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, and some significant flaws in our electoral system.

There's a list of such issues, and the policies needed to address them, on The Opportunities Party website.

The Labour Party has plenty of published policy. But it's not transformational.  It lacks depth.  It's not going to deliver the changes New Zealand needs at this juncture in its development.

Punctuated equilibrium is a term derived from evolutionary biology. In the 1970's biologists observed that species tended to appear and disappear quite abuptly.  The fossil record shows that evolution consists of long periods of stability, "punctuated" by periods of relatively rapid change. Before that they had thought of it as a smooth, continuous, process.

Fabianism belongs to a school of marxist historicist thought which predicts that capitalism will eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and the emergence of a socialist paradise is inevitable. You just have to wait long enough. Hence the wee tortoise that illustrates this post, beautifully symbolising the pathos and impotence of fabian government.

Like the traditional approach to evolutionary biology, fabianism is an outdated and insufficient concept. It's not how society in New Zealand has progressed, and more fabianism is not what New Zealand wants, or needs, from a Labour government in 2017.

With the ascendance of Jacinda Arden to the leadership of the Labour Party we have a fresh new face, with great popular appeal, and the ability to sell Labour's policies to the electorate.  

We know she is Helen Clark's protege. But does that mean is she another fabian, in Clark's mould? Or is she willing, and able, to lead Labour party in taking the bold steps forward that will punctuate New Zealand's current, stagnant, equilibrium?

I am not convinced she can, or that the Labour Party will.  

I think New Zealand needs The Opportunities Party to partner the Labour Party in government and push it into being the party of change New Zealand so desperately needs in 2017.

Gareth Morgan's has described Jacinda Adern as "lipstick on a pig".  There is a time and place for such colourful and pithy metaphors, if they are well chosen. Perhaps this was not the time and place, nor the right choice.

But I do agree, wholeheartedly, with the point he was trying to make.  New Zealand needs more, much more, than a popular "feel good" government in 2017.  

We need a government that we can trust to take bold steps, and bring about real change, so we will make real progress. And in 2017 I don't trust that the Labour Party, governing alone, can do that.

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