It’s not too early to begin the blame game. All indications are the election result is set in stone with Labour going, in just three years, from the first party able to govern alone under MMP to a crushing defeat on 14 October which halves their number of MPs.
People who have been paying attention won’t regret the loss. Labour hasn’t had the desire or the ability to bring meaningful change in all but a couple of cases. The task has been beyond it.
Even where Labour has brought significant change, such as with Fair Pay Agreements, it took six years and the policy has been so poorly communicated it will be dashed away in the blink of an eye by National/Act with barely a public murmur.
Labour knows it’s up for a hiding so it is now trying to save its base electorates. It’s begun announcing policies it hopes will be popular with its base such as taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. It did much the same before the 2011 election, knowing it wouldn’t be able to implement the policy. Next year it will also repeat what it did after the 2011 election and recant on the policy saying “there are better ways to help those on low incomes than changes to GST”. But, as in 2011, those “better ways” will never materialise.
I’m sure someone somewhere has produced a list of Labour’s announced intentions to introduce policies which they have failed to follow through with. It will be long and embarrassing.
Two examples from the last week highlight Labour’s astonishing political inertia.
Firstly Chris Hipkins had to apologise for claiming during the first leaders’ debate that Labour had removed fizzy drinks from primary schools when it emerged the government had thought about it but never followed through.
Secondly we all remember the weeping and gnashing of teeth two years ago over the appalling dawn raids of the 1970s – which included a formal government apology. But following the apology it was found that immigration officials continued with the practice and only this week Immigration Minister Andrew Little has announced the intention to legislate to restrict the practice. But not till after the election – goodbye to that idea.
When you can’t protect children from the most basic of corporate predation and you don’t follow though on protecting families from what amounts to practices of state terror then you have forfeited any right to public respect.
At the moment hope for progressive change rest solely with Te Pāti Māori and the Greens.