With its 2017 Budget, National have fired its first big shot of its election campaign - and it threatens to leave Labour lying dead in the water. Unwilling to abandon the neoliberal orthodoxy, Labour runs the risk of being rendered politically irrelevant.
THE 2017 Budget is pitched fairly and squarely at getting National re-elected for a fourth term. The Minister of Finance, Stephen Joyce, might try to spin it as letting New Zealanders enjoy the benefits of a growing economy - which is an empty and dishonest statement in itself - but this is National firing its first big shot of its election campaign. With four months still to go, it has the potential to leave Andrew Little's Labour Party lying dead in the water, struggling for relevancy. Shouting from the sinking ship that Labour is 'the lesser evil' just won't cut it anymore, if it ever did.
Elsewhere around the media and the blogopshere you will read much about what this Budget doesn't address - the housing crisis, the growing level of poverty and inequality, the chronic underfunding of health and education. Or the derisory amount of money that has been earmarked for the issue of climate change. But much of this will get buried under corporate media headlines like "Roll up, roll up: Budget 2017 delivers cash for workers.' (NZ Herald).
I heard a Labour supporter on the radio describe Budget 2017 as a 'Labour lite budget'. This was meant as a compliment for Labour, but it actually encapsulates Labour's real problems. Unwilling to wrench itself away from the neoliberal orthodoxy, which has failed to bring it success for three elections in a row, it is going to struggle to present itself as a credible alternative to the present government.
My advice to Labour, which I'm hundred percent sure will go unheard, is that Labour would do itself a favour by looking to the 2017 election manifesto of UK Labour for inspiration. While we can argue about the details, it does unequivocally represent a break with the past. It says that politics and government do not have to be continued to be done in the same way they have been done for the past three decades. By reintroducing what are essentially basic social democratic policies to the political arena, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour represent a real and credible alternative to the Tory government.
But Andrew Little and co long ago rejected any idea of Labour turning left, even going as far as suggesting such social democratic policies would be unpopular in New Zealand. Such are the depths that Labour has sunk to that it is has played no small part in marginalising arguments that were once the bread and butter of mainstream politics.
And now, here Labour are, staring at the very real probability of another election defeat.