For­lorn Labour faces iden­tity cri­sis

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The 2014 elec­tion de­liv­ered a smash­ing vic­tory for John Key and the Na­tional Party, while Labour faces an iden­tity cri­sis of ex­tra­or­di­nary proportions.

Na­tion­wide, the po­lit­i­cal land­scape looks bleak for the cen­treleft.

Even the vic­tory in Napier by Labour’s Stu­art Nash was the fluke out­come of a strong Con­ser­va­tive Party can­di­date split­ting the cen­tre-right vote.

Cur­rent MPs An­drew Lit­tle, Moana Mackey and Maryan Street have fallen vic­tim to Labour’s low party vote, and that’s in­dica­tive of a wider prob­lem.

Even where Labour stal­warts won elec­torates hand­ily – An­nette King in Ron­go­tai, Ruth Dyson in Port Hills etc – they proved in­ca­pable of con­vey­ing a ‘‘ two ticks for Labour’’ mes­sage, and came in be­hind Na­tional on the party vote.

Thus, from Auck­land to Dunedin, even where Labour won, it lost.

The same trend was no­tice­able in Wellington seats that have for­merly been Labour strongholds. On elec­tion night fig­ures, Labour lost the party vote con­tests to Na­tional heav­ily in Ron­go­tai, Wellington Cen­tral, Rimu­taka, Hutt South, and Mana even though Labour can­di­dates car­ried those elec­torates.

Hutt South was a strik­ing case in point.

On elec­tion night, Labour’s Trevor Mal­lard fin­ished ahead of Na­tional’s Chris Bishop by a slen­der 378 in the elec­torate race, yet Bishop de­liv­ered the party vote for Na­tional by a whop­ping 6372 vote majority.

In Wellington Cen­tral, even the Greens won more party votes than what Labour’s Grant Robert­son man­aged to in­spire for Labour – and that was de­spite Na­tional’s Paul Foster- Bell be­ing seen widely as a medi­ocre can­di­date. Na­tional’s party vote lead over Labour in Wellington Cen­tral was a con­vinc­ing 4655.

While some Labour elec­torate MPs still com­mand a per­sonal loy­alty, the party has com­pre­hen­sively lost the ar­gu­ment over the stew­ard­ship of the econ­omy.

Na­tion­wide, the party vote out­come has shrunk Labour’s ca­pac­ity for re­newal, by starv­ing it of new en­trants on the party list.

Es­sen­tially, the sur­vivors are the vet­er­ans of the Clark gov­ern­ment era.

What­ever now hap­pens to the Cun­liffe lead­er­ship, his party’s prob­lems ex­tend well beyond who is at the helm.

Cur­rently, Labour looks like one of those old depart­ment stores that has no core rea­son to ex­ist any longer.

That’s be­cause Labour’s so­cial con­ser­va­tives have de­camped to New Zealand First, its young lib­er­als to the Greens and its eco­nomic con­ser­va­tives to Na­tional.

Through­out 2014, Labour flirted with New Zealand First in the hope that Win­ston Peters could be re­cruited to a cen­tre-left for­ma­tion. At least that fan­tasy can now be buried, in the process of re­newal.

Usu­ally when the Labour vote re­cedes, the Greens go up. Not this time though.

In pass­ing, one can feel sym­pa­thy for the in­jus­tice done to the Con­ser­va­tives.

Thanks to the Ep­som ger­ry­man­der, the 14,510 peo­ple na­tion­wide who voted for the Act Party got one MP, while the 86,616 peo­ple who voted for the Con­ser­va­tives will have no rep­re­sen­ta­tion at all.

Na­tional will now be able to ful­fil its third- term agenda vir­tu­ally unchecked.

Its chal­lenge will be to man­age an econ­omy fore­cast to reg­is­ter lower growth amid fall­ing com­mod­ity prices, and with a weak­en­ing dol­lar rais­ing the cost of im­ports, in­clud­ing petrol.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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