This week Prime Minister John Key announced the date of the next election. Predictably the NZ Labour Party led by David Cunliffe came out swinging in the belief that they are the still the main opposition party in New Zealand and have some kind of divine right to rule the country. Prepare yourself for a great leap backwards if the Labour Party is elected.
The NZ Labour Party was born out of a need to provide a voice for the working man in the bad old days and the party implemented a number of policies that we take for granted today. But the world has moved on since the party was established in 1916 and the Labour Party seems to be struggling with establishing a clear place for itself in this modern world.
While there are always exceptions, the days of big business and the rich as exploiters of the poor and the working man are almost behind us as the more enlightened leaders of business focus on engagement and treating their staff as partners rather than objects to exploit mercilessly in the pursuit of a buck. Unfortunately the last vestiges of Trade Union movement are populated with figures that perpetuate these antediluvian attitudes.
In general we are all far better educated today than our forbears were when the Labour movement was at it's height and our aspirations and expectations have changed as our lives have got richer. No longer will we stand for employers who do not treat us with dignity and respect but nor will we stand for a bunch of dogmatic Labour and Trades Union leaders telling us what is good for us when we can quite clearly see that they simply have their own self interests at heart. There are clear examples today where the sun is setting on some industries but the unions still want to maintain jobs that the rest of us would have to subsidise.
A clear sign of the identity struggle that Labour has is that the champion of the working class has elected someone as their leader who inhabits a world far removed from that of the people that he seeks to represent. Of more concern is that the political wing of the party has been highjacked by extremists from the party backrooms so if by chance the party is elected to power the country won't actually be governed by the elected members alone but by an uneasy coalition of the elected members, party members and Trade Unions.
The other challenge for Labour is that other parties have taken positions that they previously covered. The Green Party has siphoned off some of the intellectual capital that Labour has enjoyed in the past and NZFirst has become the home of the rednecks and interventionists.
Labour can't be the green champion because somebody else fills that space. National fills the space of personal and fiscal responsibility and looking after those less fortunate. All that is left for Labour is the role of leader of the Nanny State and most of use realise that, that isn't the right path for a modern progressive democracy.
Whichever way you look at it the NZ Labour Party is struggling for a clear purpose in the modern world and seems hellbent on taking us along a Great Leap backwards to the good old days because they have no clear vision of what a modern progressive democracy should look like.
Hopefully they'll kill themselves off after the next election.