Winston Peters and Northland workers

Posted: March 27, 2015 by Admin in Labour Party NZ, Migration, National Party NZ, New Zealand politics, Poverty & Inequality, Racism and anti-racism

circus-300x225by Don Franks

Yes, it will be nice to see the smirk wiped off John Key’s face if, as seems likely, Winston Peters wins tomorrow’s Northland by-election.  The capture of a seat held and taken for granted by National for most of the last seventy years, what a poke in the eye for teflon John!

Even if it takes a rogue former National cabinet minister to effect the poke, any stick will do, won’t it?

Nothing much else seems to have rattled Key’s cage in quite such a way. Onya Winnie, the old guy’s doing it again. The whole crazy scenario has the feel of a last quick triple scotch sculled just before the pub shuts, away we go and bugger the hangover tomorrow.

And there will be a hangover.

Northland may be just another political snooker ball for the dinner table politicos, but it’s one of the most shit-poor parts of New Zealand. In 2013, Northland was assessed as having the lowest electorate proportion of wage and salary earners. Earning stuff all, Northland was also assessed as having the second lowest median family income – just $51,400.

There is big money in parts of Northland, such as the Bay of Islands. But the lower-paid and unemployed workers of the region are divided. Many are on the Maori roll in the Te Tai Tokerau seat. Many more workers have long since ceased to participate in any parliamentary voting, because it has delivered them absolutely nothing.

The non-voting workers of Northland are just one clear example of the increasing irrelevance of parliament to the working class. The Labour Party is another example.

A cringe-making TV clip showed Labour leader Andrew Little wandering aimlessly through a Northland fair beside his party’s candidate, a candidate Little will not endorse, because he wants workers to vote for Winston. Labour’s candidate is not allowed to ask voters to support her. She is limited to abstract mouthings about jobs and economic growth, in the same wording as all the other candidates.

The parties standing in this by-election have not one single, solid radical idea between them.

National promise more bridges and broadband for the region. Their opportunism is probably too late and in any case not offering what’s required.

Labour offer hope of a Winston victory.

Winston will “send a message”. Not a hard promise to make – another mouthful of hot air will see it kept.

What Northland workers need is more money and power. They need secure, safe-conditioned, well-rewarded work. Any advance in this area can only come by one means: mass workers organisation. Which happens to be one of the very things Winston Peters has always been squarely opposed to.

His NZ First party will on occasion mouth phrases about low wages, but they are not and will never be friends of militant unionism or socialist ideas. Understandably. If workers got organised and moved forward, the last thing they would want would be a populist saviour like Peters. Especially a populist whose speciality is dividing the working class by racist anti-Asian agitation

Some among the left cheer Peters on, just because he is not John Key.

They have short memories. In the early 1980s we thought Muldoon the devil incarnate and that nothing could be worse. Then, Rogernomics smote us. Then, as now, we cared too much about parliament and not enough about the workings of capitalism and organising worker resistance.

Yes, if John Key gets a flick, enjoy the moment. And then, let’s please try and look at the hard economic driving realities beyond the painted circus.


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