Monday, September 01, 2008

What's wrong with Labour

The ex-expat nails Labour's biggest problem in this election: the lack of a positive vision to inspire its core voters:

I have confession to make, I don't want to vote this election. You have no idea how much it pains me to make that admission not only because I have a number of friends who will contest this election under the Labour banner and I want them to do well, but because I genuinely believe that the best chance New Zealand has to succeed as a nation is through the re-election of a centre-left government. It's just right now there doesn't seem to be a party out there articulating a centre-left vision for the country.

And that's what is missing from your constant bluster about 'slippery' John Key and his band of evil Hollow men with no policy, a vision for me and other left wing voters to vote for rather than a dystopia to vote against. Because the attacks, while fun and politically necessary on occasion, are hardly rousing stuff when that's all you talk about...

I'm not a Labour voter (last election I voted Green, and probably will again), but I feel this problem keenly because Labour will form the core of any centre-left government, and so their success matters to me (just as the Greens' success should matter ot Labour supporters). And as a three-term government looking for a fourth, they will have an uphill battle to overcome people's perception of staleness and sense of fair play. Simply attacking National and trying to scare people with Roger Douglas won't do. Neither will lame slogans about not putting it all at risk or changing horses in midstream. In order to win this election, they will actually need to inspire people - and that means articulating a positive vision for the future.

From its record and what it has done in government, it is clear that Labour does have a vision buried somewhere under there - one centred on reducing inequality, restoring government services, and making sure the fruits of growth are spread more evenly. But it doesn't talk about it, because of a conviction on the part of its leadership that "visions" are what mad people have. In 1999 Labour ran on a platform of "no more revolutions", and they have kept that essentially negative focus ever since, defining themselves by what they are not rather than by what they are. This is safe politics, but you don't win a fourth term by being safe. You win it by making people think you deserve it.

So Labour, please: talk about your vision. Give people a reason to vote for you. How about it?