Labour has always opted for racist scapegoating because it’s a nationalist party dedicated to running capitalism
by Philip Ferguson
On June 23, the DominionPost ran an opinion piece by Jim McAloon titled “Labour needs to remember why it was founded”. McAloon is a senior academic at Victoria University, one of the few academics in this country who writes seriously about class, and is currently working on a book on the 100 years of the NZ Labour Party of which he is a member.
And there’s the rub. As is the case with so many other well-meaning, good liberal people his loyalty to the Labour Party as an institution blinds him to some rather basic historical facts about this party and induces him to adopt, if his opinion piece is anything to go by, a very Pollyannish view of its history. Moreover, one which simply leaves out large parts of that history because they cut across the image of the party that he is attached to, an image which doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance with the actual history of the Labour Party.
Let’s go through his piece, bit-by-bit. His original article is in plain text, my comments are in italics:
Jim McA: In the wake of the Labour Party’s dismal election result last year, and its recent internal review, some commentators are suggesting that Labour’s in terminal decline.
Reports of the party’s death are, however, decidedly premature.
PhilF: This is probably true. Unfortunately.
No political party enjoys going backwards in Opposition, but last year was not the first time this has happened to Labour.
In 1949, the first Labour government was tossed out with 47 per cent of the popular vote. In 1954 Labour’s vote fell to 44 per cent, but the party won government in 1957 with 48 per cent.
Labour also lost ground in the 1960s, with its popular vote falling from 44 per cent to 41 per cent in 1966, the party’s first election with Norman Kirk as leader and after six years in opposition.
Six years later, Norman Kirk was prime minister.
Yes, but Labour has shown no recovery at all since its 2008 defeat. After National’s defeat in 1999, they had a disastrous performance in 2002, and then bounced right back, only being beaten by a whisker in 2005, and romping home in each election since. Labour simply can’t get traction in the polls. People believe that if they are going to have a liberal, middle-of-the-road capitalist government, it may as well be the one they’ve already got rather than the desperate try-hards in opposition.
Moreover, more workers voted National than Labour in 2014 and even more blue-collar workers voted National than Labour. National now has the party vote in a slew of largely working class constituencies.
I am not suggesting that the Labour Party should simply wait for the pendulum to swing.
While that might in due course deliver a spell in government, without a clear vision of why the party exists, there is little point in being in office.
The people who run the Labour Party do have a clear vision of why the Labour Party exists, Jim. It is you who are confused. The LP exists to Read the rest of this entry »