Put the Kettle On

The centre right won again. What’s new? The centre right have won every election since 2004 no matter what party is in power – give or take a bit of tinkering here and there. The post election analysis overheard from a couple of petrol station attendants the morning after probably makes the most sense of any put forward so far. “It doesn’t make any difference. They all say one thing and do another when they get in anyway.”

Barring outrageous gaffes, the New Zealand voter always gives a party three terms. Next election will likely see a change of faces in power. Whether that will translate to a change of direction for the country is entirely another matter.

The left lost the plot, quite literally, in 1984. The neoliberals took control of the narrative in both National and Labour, and the left has not been able to regain it since. The battle against austerity measures and trickle down economics has been all but won in the realm of economic and political theorists; even former World Bank economists and IMF advisors now admit they got it wrong. But the same story is still told every election.

Increasing wages will bankrupt the economy. Increasing benefits will bankrupt the economy. Free education will bankrupt the economy. Healthcare must be rationed or it will bankrupt the country. Making very high income earners and very profitable businesses pay more taxes will see them packing their bags and moving overseas. And we will all end up jobless and broke. It works every time, understandably, even amongst those who are already jobless and broke. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

The left has three years to get our act together (no pun intended). To take control of the narrative and put together a coherent and convincing case for our policies. To convince people that it is possible to have a liveable income for everyone, free healthcare and education, and a decent home. That implementing any or all of these will not bankrupt the economy and we will all end up better off, not jobless and broke.

It’s time to stop blaming the media, the voters/non-voters, party leaders, each other, or whatever. The left in all its shades and nuances has find a way to return New Zealand to a true democracy, to work together for a socially just New Zealand that works for everyone. This means accepting some differences in attitudes and policies. Embracing MMP. Accepting the need for minor parties and finding ways to facilitate this. Being transparent and putting policies in the public arena well before the election campaign so that voters have time to absorb them and there can be informed public debate.

Cup of tea, anyone?

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