On 9 June 2017 I woke up to see the polls closing in Britain. Millions of people had just voted to give incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May a massive fright. But more than that they had shown that perhaps the leader of the U.K Labour Party is not the raving nut case he was made out to be.
What Jeremy Corbyn has done is simply brilliant. He has taken the fight straight to the Conservative Party with his daring to believe that there is a better way forward for Britain. Written off as not having a chance, the Murdoch media determined to bury him alive, made to appear as a betrayer of British principles, one might have thought Mr Corbyn never had a chance. But that memo never reached him. Bold and original policies such as removing the nuclear deterrent have captured the imagination of the left-wing of British politics. But also, Mr Corbyn was a voice of reason amongst the aggressive hard line talk about human rights being traded for progress against terrorism.
But can New Zealand Labour be inspired by Mr Corbyn?
That is a very interesting question. A party of reform, which gave New Zealand its nuclear free status, Labour have done many thing that have caught the imagination of New Zealanders in the past, and include (among many more):
- Substantial improvement of socio-economic conditions for all, with Maori life expectancy improving 15-20 years
- Statute of Westminister Adoption Act being passed to help enable New Zealand to become a realm instead of a Dominion
- Introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit for single parents
- The Treaty of Waitangi Act, 1975 was the first serious attempt at addressing Treaty issues
- Major constitutional changes – the Constitution Act (1986), Bill of Rights Act (1990) were passed and still exist today
- Homosexuality legalized in 1986
- Enacted essential local government changes that abolished catchment boards and replace them with district and regional councils
So, the question that New Zealand needs to ask of Labour is whether or not we can be inspired by a resurgent Labour Party that stops being National-lite and goes back to the core unionists, minority groups that made it powerful in the first place?
I think we can be. But is Labour up to the task? That is another question altogether.
I want a Government that does not involve National or A.C.T. I do not want a Government that appeases countries that do not care one jot for New Zealand (Saudi Arabia); that believes corporations are more important than people; gutting the social welfare system, under funding health and education and letting the market dictate housing needs. National and A.C.T. stand for all of this.
Labour can work with New Zealand First. It did so very well in 2005-2008 and I understand the Members of Parliament from both parties get on reasonably well. The Greens will also no doubt want to help even if they just strangled their own prospects by only lining up 29 candidates to challenge for 71 electorates.
But none of this is any use if Labour cannot do something inspirational enough to swing voters back to the party of Clark, Fraser and Kirk. Which is why Andrew Little would be doing well to have noted the success of Mr Corbyn and the U.K. Labour Party.