Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Labor is losing; and what it means for the NZLP.

We were out and about yesterday, after our business meetings ended.We even met a Liberal Party candidate for one of the local electorates doing some good, old-fashioned street corner campaigning; good luck Kevin!

But we haven't seen hide nor hair of anyone from the Labor Party; they seem to be keeping a low profile. And this opinion-piece from Paul Strangio in the Sydney Morning Herald may help to explain why:

In the near half-century since the dawn of the ''modern'' epoch of Australian politics - a milestone conventionally associated with Gough Whitlam's ascension to the Labor leadership in the late 1960s - Australia has witnessed five changes of federal government (1972, 1975, 1983, 1996 and 2007).
Two of those transitions involved the ALP losing office: Whitlam was defeated in 1975 and Paul Keating's government was beaten in 1996. When compared with those occasions, a notable difference about the mood in 2013 is the seeming lack of passion among Labor partisans as they contemplate the likely demise of the Rudd government.
Labor has traditionally been the party capable of stirring followers to emotional pitch, and those passions have commonly been intense when the ALP is bracing itself against defeat. It has been a catalyst for party faithful to metaphorically mount the barricades.
1975, of course, had its own exceptional circumstances, with Labor partisans animated by a potent mixture of rage at Whitlam's dismissal by governor-general Sir John Kerr, and adoration of their cruelly felled prime minister. Whitlam's rallies during the campaign were even more charged and messianic than the exultant ''It's Time'' campaign meetings of 1972. Such was the fervency of the Labor crowds that the Whitlam entourage was seduced into believing that the party might defy expectations and prevail at the ballot box.
Passions were more subdued in 1996. Labor had expended much of its emotional energy three years earlier rallying behind Keating as he fended off the challenge of John Hewson and his fundamentalist free-market manifesto, ''Fightback''. There was little hope of another salvation in 1996 and the dominant mood among Labor followers was one of sombre foreboding that matched the demeanour of the elegiac Keating. Yet the ''true believers'' still drew inspiration from Keating's ''big picture'' and felt sick at heart that the public was poised to spurn his vision in favour of the provincialism of John Howard's promise of a ''comfortable and relaxed'' Australia.
By contrast, in 2013 Labor faithful appear devoid of emotion - dare I suggest there is even a smidge of indifference about what is coming. Yes, there is apprehension at the spectre of a Tony Abbott-led Coalition government and spasms of anger at the anti-Labor assault of the News Ltd press, but the fate of the Rudd government is failing to generate much anguish.
Why the dearth of passion? Part of the answer is that the leadership civil war of the past three years has left the ALP emotionally wrung out. I suspect some Labor loyalists remain numb at the pitiless internal destabilisation and ultimate cutting down of Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard.
Furthermore, as the campaign has progressed, it has become evident that by not daring to speak Gillard's name, Labor's re-election pitch has been left with a significant hole. Notwithstanding the flaws of her incumbency, Gillard established a reform record that felt like it was worth fighting for - most notably, the disability insurance scheme and education funding reform. Yet, intent on erasing Gillard's prime ministership from public consciousness, Rudd has appeared reluctant to fully own those measures for Labor. In turn, the campaign has spotlighted how comparatively thin and uninspiring are his reform credentials.

We are relatively recent converts to the niceties of Australian Federal politics. It's only really been since the John Howard years that we have taken more than a passing interest.

But the machinations within the ALP since 2007 have been fascinating to watch, and even moreso at the moment because they are mirrored in the bitterly divided New Zealand Labour Party. 

Labor and Kevin Rudd are headed for a crushing defeat next Saturday if the pundits here and the bookies are to be believed. You can still get a bet on the Coalition; at $1.02 back for your dollar. Labour is paying $11 to be reelected.

Surely, this is going to lead to wholesale change at the top of the ALP. But the question we have is this; what is needed for there to be wholesale change at the top of the New Zealand Labour Party? Will any of Messrs Cunliffe, Robertson or Jones be the catalyst for significant change, or will it just be more of the same?

1 comment:

Marc said...

My prediction for the new Labour leader was Andrew Little, but there's a reason why I don't get rich at the races - poor predictions. However, why I thought that Little would be a good choice was because it would be the only hope for Labour to focus on their underlying philosophy, and bring all the various factions within the party together to focus on being in Government in 4 years. (Next year is already lost IMHO.) But no, it seems that they went for the style over substance option again, and now we have the spectacle of the pork barrel being emptied in a race to see who can out promise the other, and a prospect of all the various factions again competing for their share of the power trip - that is until we get another Alliance or similar offshoot in 2015. And Labour will be diluted once again, so that even 2020 looks unattainable.