by Phil Duncan

Tonight’s Newshub Reid Research poll contained yet more bad news for the ‘B’ team of the NZ ruling class.  Labour has slipped even further behind National, dropping to just 26.4% support three months out from the 2017 general election.  National, meanwhile, is sitting on 47.4% support.

Labour leader Andrew Little is on 7% support in the preferred prime minister stakes, less than a third of current National Party prime minister Bill English’s score.  Little has also fallen behind NZ First leader Winston Peters (9.7%).  He has, however, managed to overtake his deputy, Jacinda Ardern – but only because her support level fell even more than his!

It looks as if more of Labour’s support has drifted to the Greens (up 1.3 points to 12.5%) and NZ First (up 1.8 points to 9.4%).

Labour is in a real bind because any attempts to present National as austerity Tories simply fall flat – National has delivered yet another budget which provides some small improvements for workers and the poorest sections of the population.

For instance the lowest tax threshold has risen from just $14,000 to $22,000 and the next level from $48,000 to $52,000.  This means a chunk of workers will be paying less tax.  Indeed, people with incomes of up to $22,000 will gain more per week than people with incomes over $127,000.

The accommodation supplement for people on social welfare benefits has been increased significantly.

Compare this to the miserableness of the last Labour government.  That regime presided over nine years of budget surpluses, but never increased social welfare benefits.  Wages, too, were every bit as suppressed under Labour as under National.  Moreover, the last Labour government happily presided over zero-hours contracts, without lifting a finger, while legislation introduced by National has substantially curtailed these especially odious contracts.

While many on the left point out that this legislation was the result of union campaigning, the reality is that it didn’t take much of a heave on the door for National to change the law.  They were very open to such a change.

Because so much of the left here don’t really understand what National and Labour represent, preferring a vulgar anti-Nat politics to rigorous analysis of the two parties of NZ capital, they end up exaggerating the extent and power of stuff like the campaign around zero hours contracts, demonising the Nats and being soft on Labour.

The latest poll was conducted before Labour’s most recent bit of immigrant-scapegoating and their declaration that a future Labour-led government would slash immigration by 20-30,000.  It’s possible they may get a bit of a ‘bounce’ from the xenophobe community in New Zealand but if they do it is unlikely to change much.  After all,  they worked their xenophobic, anti-Chinese line for month after month last year without getting a boost.

In addition, NZ First has got something of a monopoly on anti-immigrant policies.  Given that Winston Peters and his party are also rather to the left of Labour on economic issues, it’s not surprising that Peters and co. are taking votes from Labour rather than losing votes to the Labourite racists.

Labour here is running out of options.  They can’t out-left or out-liberal National because the Nats are somewhat to the left of Labour on some economic issues that are rather important to the working class.  They can’t out-liberal the Nats because, like Labour, most National MPs are urban liberals.  They can’t get momentum by playing to the xenophobe community because it just isn’t big enough and NZ First has that ground fairly sown up.

And they don’t have what we might call the ‘Corbyn option’.  That is, there are no left Labour MPs of the Corbyn variety in this country.  They are all a bunch of total bourgeois arse-lickers.  Every single one of them.

For all these reasons, Labour  can’t move politically – they are stuck in the middle, a middle already more convincingly occupied by National.

It would be nice to think that Labour’s decline is terminal.  However, the ruling class in NZ, as in any imperialist country, always needs a ‘B’ team.  At some point in the future, the current National Party parliamentarians will become exhausted and be even more bereft of ideas than they are today.

Some new form of low horizons politics – maybe even some form of ruthless attack on the working class – will then be needed.  So the ruling class will swing behind Labour again.

In the meantime, anti-capitalists here – as opposed to vulgar anti-Nat ‘leftists’ – can take some comfort from Labour’s richly-deserved agony.

At the same time, we need to work on an alternative.  In this election that clearly means calling on people to abstain from voting for any of the parties that want to manage capitalism and, instead, get political, get active, in struggles that point to a new type of society.  One based on human freedom and material abundance.

Further reading: Redline on the Labour Party


  1. Alan Scott says:

    “the ‘B’ team of the NZ ruling class” – You’re right there! Forget the Labour Party. Don’t be conned again when they come up with a Corbyn or a Bernie Sanders equivalent. Remember David Lange, and harden your heart!