Friday, December 02, 2016

How is this a bad thing?

The switch of failed Wellington mayoral candidate Nick Leggett from Labour to National has caused the usual flood of articles from the press gallery trying to explain it. But instead of going for the obvious explanation - self-serving ambition - they're attempting to slot it into some political meta-narrative. Here's Rachel Smalley's attempt:

Labour and National have increasingly nudged to the Left, and that’s largely the result of Labour’s deal with the Greens. I thought, some time ago, it was a good move – but it’s pulled Labour further to the left, instead of dragging the Greens further towards the centre. And Leggett has echoed the mutterings of many long-term Labour supporters, accusing the party of losing touch with working kiwis.

I suspect National’s centrist position and popularity is now very appealing to Leggett.

And look at the policies that National has effectively snatched out from under the nose of Labour. National will build more affordable homes but crucially, more social housing too. The party's essentially introduced a capital gains tax -- of sorts -- on residential properties bought and sold within two years. And in terms of social welfare, last year National upped benefits for families by $25 a week. It's easy to see why Leggett felt he could transition into a National party that's positioned itself very much in the centre.

This is presented as if its a Bad Thing for Labour. And I suppose it is if you see politics through the lens of winners and losers and who gets the baubles of office - in other words, if you're a major-party MP or a gallery reporter. But when you look at it through the lens of policy, its an entirely different story. The Greens drag Labour left, and National shifts left to fill the gap, meaning they introduce, implement and retain a pile of left-wing policies instead of the vicious austerity shite they normally give us. In other words, it gets National to cement a (weak) social democratic consensus which can be strengthened by future left-wing governments. As someone who wants such policies, I struggle to see how this can possibly be a bad thing.