Tuesday, 11 December 2012

More musings on the left and such like

Over on The Standard, a poster called Karol has suggested that “Currently, to govern in NZ the Left requires a strong , democratic and solidly left wing Labour Party”.

I’m not sure I agree with this idea.

To govern, you need to win the left and the centre. For a ‘solidly leftwing Labour Party’ to do that would take a leader of uncommon talent and probably a special moment in history. With all due respect to Shearer and Cunliffe, neither of them is a leader of uncommon talent.

Under MMP, the extreme left is always going to be flaky – eternally squabbling about obscure points of doctrine, protesting about too much ground being given to the centre (and overlooking the fact that they have the ground to give in the first place). Look how many leftwing minor parties have come and gone already – the Alliance and the various parties that constituted it originally, the Progressives, Mana …

Now the Greens seem to be colonising that space, which is brave, or perhaps foolhardy. How long before the environmentalist core and the anarchist faction start to get uncomfortable with all this neo-statist policy?

If the Greens can keep their disparate elements happy, then there is no need for Labour to move left – they will only be taking votes off the Greens, while losing votes in the centre.

Look at the differences in the housing policy. They both want to build the same amount of houses, but the Greens want to do them as state houses and Labour wants to do them to sell. Both policies have something to recommend them, and both will deliver a massive economic boost and help get working class people working again. The Green policy appeals to me more because it delivers a socially just solution. The Labour policy appeals to middle class voters because it seems more fiscally responsible and it will relieve pressure (slightly) on house prices.

(Don’t dismiss or mock middle class concerns, by the way – they are legitimate and stem from real issues. If you want to win, you need to carry these people, not alienate them.)

What I imagine would happen if the Greens and Labour were negotiating their coalition housing policy is that they’d agree to build 300,000 houses, with a mix of social and private ownership – which also makes sense on street level, as a mixture of state and private housing makes for a healthier community.

So everyone wins, or loses just a little (which amounts to the same thing) – apart from National.

I dunno. Sometimes I wake up and I really want Labour to lurch to the far left and to Hell with the centre.

Most of the time, I imagine the view from that moral high ground would look remarkably similar to the view from the opposition benches.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Another relative point is that as New Zealand has a population of about 4.4 million, it is too small to have a solid left (or right for that matter) block that is big enough to make a difference. Therefore most parties must lean towards the centre to get enough votes. I think the Irish republic is in a similar situation. 4519