Saturday, 21 June 2014

But, really, why would you?

There is a post over on The Standard by 'Blue,' calling on people to get out and vote National out on the 20th of September.  Though not explicitly couched as a call for people to vote for Labour, it effectively is.  I doubt Blue would be too cheered by the idea of the missing million showing up and casting their vote for John Key.  So it is calling for people to vote for a Labour lead government.  I massively support the goal, but find the substance of the message dis-spiriting.

The poster blames pretty much everything for Labour's malaise and voter's lack on interest, from the police to "a triple whammy of dodgy polls, Government-manufactured ‘scandal’ and hysterical opinion pieces."

But I think that is all missing the point. Part of the problem is (unintentionally) summarised in the title of the post - people might be inclined to vote National out, but they sure as Hell can't think why they might want to vote Labour in.

They might not trust John Key any more, but they sure as Hell don't trust Cunliffe. They might not like where New Zealand is going, but Labours alternative is not winning much support. It isn't registering. It isn't making people's ears prick up and think, "Yeah, we need some of that!"

As for the 'dodgy polls,' spare us the excuses. If Labour are tanking in the polls it is because the electorate Just Don't Want To Vote For Them. It might not be as dire as 23%, but it certainly isn't much better. Labour have managed to move backwards from the glory days of David Shearer. No policy, no unity, no leadership, no vision, no message, just a weak bunch of time serving vacillators who are thinking they'll be back no matter what, so why bother trying?

New Zealanders are still voting for John Key because they think he is better than the alternative. That's a bitter truth but one the Labour party will need to face up to.

Until Labour can actually put together a coherent series of arresting, exciting policies that stand up to scrutiny and don't sound intimidating or confusing ("They're going to force me into Kiwisaver? Then put up the rate?") they haven't a hope. And they won't d that until about half the MPs in caucus have been ejected and replaced by real people, not political professionals and nonentities. And that's only the first step.

It's pathetic that two defeats and another in the offing have not percolated through to the senile brain of Labour. It isn't working, to borrow from Saatchi & Saatchi. It might be unfixable. We might be looking at a new, post-Labour left. Which is a shame, as it will take a couple of electoral cycles at least for that to work itself out. And that means another couple of years of Key and then a term and a bit of Bill, at least.

Maybe Labour really needs to be hammered in September. National experienced that in 2002. Maybe Cunliffe will be Labour's Bill English, who failed because he couldn't win the support and trust of the radical right fringe of his party. It was brutal, and it nearly ushered in the now unthinkable idea of Don Brash as Prime Minister. But it lead to the formation of a new, disciplined, focused and united party, Hell bent on winning power. Unfortunately.

Perhaps Labour needs that sort of near-death experience, so it finds the will to re-invent itself. Or maybe it just needs to be put out of our misery.

Even if Labour manages some sort of victory in September, it will be nothing to celebrate about. The party of the working class, the party that is supposed to champion the 99% of New Zealanders who aren't stinking rich and who don't own gold speedboats, polling 30% and jobbed into power by the Greens and Winston Peters?

It's an indictment of the uselessness of the Labour Party that it has come to this.

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