Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Role of the Alliance in the early 1990s: A response to Jordan

I thought I would repost a comment I made in response to Jordan on his blog.

Jordan said
"Imagine, if you will, a situation where the Labour Party and the Alliance re-united in 1994, rather than not, and that as a result the Labour Party of today was a much more left wing creature than it is. (Practically this was never going to happen for a huge range of reasons, but bear with me). Imagine that this more left wing Labour party, with a wider activist base and a more radical policy and caucus, had taken power in 1999, aided by the Greens as a coalition partner."

Jordan then lists a reasonably moderate left wing programme with uncanny similarity to the programme the Alliance would have liked to have implemented in 1999, if we had not faced so much opposition to such a programme from within the parliamentary Labour Party.

Such a programme would have had more chance in 1999 if Labour party activists had not stuck slashes on electoral billboards with the poe faced lie 'Only a party vote for Labour can change the Government', costing the Alliance 2-3% of our party vote.

In any case, this is my response to Jordan's rather hopeful little scenario.
"I think it is pretty well established that Labour have drifted right again over the three terms they have been in government. Perhaps you should not be so ready to blame others for the Labour party lacking vision.

The direction of the programme you outlined would have been more likely if the Alliance had replaced the Labour party as the major party of the left in 1994. It nearly happened. If a few more people had based their party membership on policy and what they actually believed in, rather than party branding, we may have got there.

Without the existence of the Alliance in the first half of the 1990s the time the Labour party would be even more right wing than it is now (the Act people may have stayed and Goff might be the leader). Without the Alliance Labour would have had no reason to change. You can see this by comparing the policy of the Labour party in 1993 and 1996.

Not that I am saying Labour has changed enough to even contemplate the programe you outlined - it hasn't. It may have lost the neo-liberal crusading zeal in some areas (it retains it in trade policy), but this didn't equate to a desire to undo anything the forth Labour Governemnt did. While Labour reversed some of National's policies - they hardly touched their own.

Nor I do not believe it is fair for you to blame the left for failing to advocate an alternative. The Labour party need to take some responsibility for this too - since 1984* Labour have attempted to sell NZ a very limited version of social democracy - if you could even call it that. Labour party ministers regularly defend the neoliberal economy.

The fact that Government spending as a percentage of GDP is now lower than it was under National is not a record any self described social democratic government should be proud of. Perhaps if people had seen more significant increases into health eduction and housing people now would not be so ready to ask for tax cuts."

* On second thoughts can I change this date to 1981.

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