Over the weekend just gone the New Zealand Labour Party had its Annual General Meeting. It was a chance to rally the Labour faithful, a chance for leader Andrew Little to show just how much Labour has improved since the 2014 election thrashing that saw National get handed a third term in office. It was also a chance for the voting public to judge just how progress Labour have really made, coming up to the midway point in the third term of Prime Minister John Key’s Government.
So, how are Labour getting on nearly fourteen months after that disastrous night in September 2014?
Thus far there have definitely been some positives. To Labours credit, it is the most disciplined Caucus that they have had in the last seven years, though there are still some rogue elements determined to keep the infighting that characterized previous Caucus’ alive. They have a person who looks the best approximation of a leader in Andrew Little that Labour have managed since former Prime Minister Helen Clark stepped down at the 2008 election.
Also to be fair to Labour in the polls, they are struggling no worse than the other opposition parties, whose performance is marginalized by biased pollsters. I imagine that if an election were held today they would get somewhere around 42 seats. With New Zealand First and the Greens holding steady, that would be sufficient to govern. I further imagine that there is probably a significant portion of Labour who now understand even if they do not want to admit it, that some sort of arrangement needs to be made with the Greens about long term co-operation.
BUT…. Labour have one huge problem that seems to be getting worse rather than better. AND unless they solve it, they stand a very good chance of spending a fourth term on the Opposition benches. Their policy platform is the pits. It is abysmal and they are too scared to show any truly centre-left initiatives other than reduce the amount of sugar in our drinks. For lack of better wording and analysis on this, I defer to the column posted by Curwen Rolinson from New Zealand First Youth.