I’ve been thinking and saying for years that Labour needs a full renewal. Over here on the left, we’ve been grasping hopefully at whatever straws National hands us, praying that one after another failure, misstep and gaffe will be the long awaited key to a right collapse. Time after time it has led to nothing as National’s caucus unity and spin machine gloatingly triumphs.
Now we’re in mid 2015, however, National has never seemed so jaded. Key has become so uncaring and arrogant, he can no longer be bothered learning even basic facts for his news appearances, and besides, most of his public appearances these days revolve around making excuses for mistakes by his MPs. Spin supremo the maleficent Steven Joyce completely wrong-footed the entire northland by-election campaign from beginning to end, giving National’s veteran enemy Winston Peters a grand campaign platform while even managing to make Peters come across as a working class hero, as unlikely as that is. (In this entire by -election, Labour was only notable, if at all, by its absence.) Nick Smith increasingly comes across, even to his own supporters, as a blithering twit, and even Bill English appears as if he doesn’t care and isn’t paying attention. Meanwhile the prospect that Judith Collins is seething in the wings salivating over what she considers her inevitable ascent must be shaking even the bluest of loyalists: she’s pure poison. Even her own colleagues and staff are afraid of and unsettled by her.
But so what? There’s no viable alternative. When Labour had the chance to reinvent itself with the leadership process, offer a purpose, decide on its future and image, present a new voice and emerge as a credible, new-left voice for the twenty-teens, instead we ended up with old school Andrew Little, there only by dint of what’s left of the unions voting him in against the wishes of his caucus and members. This is Old Labour at its worst – the union stump is holding back the party, refusing to engage in the future, still jealous and possessive of its loss of decades-old working man’s power, still refusing to believe, against all evidence, that those days are long gone.
I know many in Labour, including people I respect, fought hard to stop Labour collapsing in the last leadership process, and perhaps even to prevent Labour sintering into conservative and progressive factions.
But that’s what I wanted. Because what would have emerged would have been something worth voting for.
The old, scarred party staggers on, unable to let go, unable to capitalise beyond a few cheap shots here and there, its factions still treacherously leaking things to the press, back stabbing, arse covering, unhappy with the leader they didn’t vote for, unable to form a cohesive world view they can sell to the swing voters.
Sad, sad, sad – because now National can fail as much as it wants and still win the next election.