Friday, September 03, 2004

The bigger picture

Predictably, JustLeft accuses me of "losing sight of the bigger picture" over my post attacking Phil Goff. I guess it depends on whether you think the "bigger picture" is all about the Labour Party - or about advancing the progressive values for which it purportedly stands.

Phil Goff's record as Minister of Justice speaks for itself. At every turn he has done his utmost to compete with National and ACT to be ever more vindictive, merciless, and "tougher" towards criminals. He has increased sentences, proposed chemical castration for sex offenders, shifted the burden of proof in asset forfeiture to "guilty until proven innocent", introduced majority verdicts on juries to make gaining a conviction easier, and repeatedly opposed any compensation for those mistreated by the state on the grounds that criminals are scumbags - even in the most egregious circumstances. These are not liberal or progressive positions, and they are not worthy of our support. And thanks to MMP, we don't have to support them.

Contrary to JustLeft's implication, you can take a principled stand on human rights without risking a National-party government. Both of Labour's "wing parties" take human rights seriously; both have repeatedly expressed their opposition to Goff's excesses. Voting for them rather than Labour will shift the balance of power within the left, and increase their ability to restrain Goff's authoritarian impulses. Because it's quite clear that his fellow Labour MPs, despite their impressive individual records on human rights issues, are unwilling or unable to do it themselves.

As for the "bigger picture": it is not about the Labour Party or its internal membership; it is about us, the voters, and how we can best advance our values. Labour is simply a vehicle for doing this, to be judged on its effectiveness, and it is not the only one. We - and they - should keep that in mind.