Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What has Labour done for the very poor?

Last month, Labour Party president Mike Williams revealed his party's key election strategy: a nationwide repeat of their 2005 South Auckland get out the vote program. In the Independent today, Chris Trotter points out the fatal flaw in that plan: the strong correlation between low socioeconomic status and voting. Labour's primary target for this strategy are the very poor, those on benefits. Unfortunately Labour hasn't given them much of a reason to vote for them.

Make no mistake, Labour has done wonders for the working poor. Nine years of increases to the minimum wage, an engineered labour shortage to boost employment, and working for families have all combined to boost the living standards of those in the lower half of the heap. But all of those policies have completely ignored those at the very bottom. What does boosting the minimum wage do for someone on a sickness benefit and unable to work? nothing. What does a booming employment market do for a solo mother on the DBP who has done the cruel maths of childcare costs and calculated that the best way she can help her children is with time? Nothing. What does an "in work" payment do for children in poverty? Nothing. While it has helped everyone else, Labour has completely abandoned those in the greatest need. And now it expects them to turn out and vote for them? Why on earth would they do that?

The only reason I can think of is because National will be worse. But after nine years of being shat on by those who are supposed to care, people might be willing to take that risk. At least that way they'll know who their enemies are. But beyond that, "keeping the other bastards out" is hardly an inspiring election slogan, and I doubt it'll motivate people much. It's certainly not motivating me...