Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Third rails and political honesty

Last election, Labour threw itself on NZ politics' third rail, promising to raise the retirement age. They suffered their biggest election defeat in nearly a century. You'd think the party would have learned something from that experience, but no - last week we saw Andrew Little back for another go, promising to means-test superannuation, and angrily denouncing National's "political recklessness" in refusing to fuck over the young for the benefit of his aging Boomer cohort. In the cold light of day he appears to have realised that that was a mistake, and is now saying that he doesn't want to means-test after all - but with the usual politician's arrogance, refuses to own his own mistake:

Yes, that thing he said in front of a camera? The journalists misunderstood it, apparently. This refusal to own your own mistakes and admit you were wrong, this desire to rewrite history to pretend that you have always absolutely backed whatever policy your focus groups have told you to back this week and that you have always been at war with East Asia is one of the reasons people distrust politicians. Its fine to change your views - that's what sensible people do in response to evidence - but to deny that you ever did so? That's dishonest and petty. And it immediately raises the doubt that you'll do so again while of course denying it.

And its not as if Labour has trust to burn here. Their 2014 policy made it clear that they can no longer be trusted to protect our welfare state. While they've supposedly resiled from it, their continued vacillation and flirting with it makes it clear that they haven't. Which means that if you want a society which takes care of all its members, young and old, now and in the future, you can't trust Labour to deliver it. And given that that sort of society is supposedly the point of the Labour Party, abandoning it makes them... pointless.