John Bishop: Praising Labour Won’t Help Right Win
Praising Labour Won’t Help The Right To Win
By John Bishop
Something has to be amiss when one of the centre right’s major strategists publishes a piece in a metropolitan daily newspaper, talking up the prospects of a fourth term of government for Helen Clark.
Yes fourth term, not whether the current contrivance of a majority with Winston and Peter Dunne will last, but a real fair dinkum serious discussion about another term after this one.
What was the author, Brian Nicole, trying to tell us in his op ed piece in the DominionPost last week? He is a calm, rational and careful person by nature, so a wild rush of blood occasioned by panic is hardly a plausible explanation.
In his article Nicole says National focused too much on electorate seats rather than the party vote (correct). That it cannot win government alone (he’s right). That it needs partners (agreed), and that Labour people are astute political managers who have managed MMP better than National (again, he’s right).
In seeking to debunk the current enthusiasm for the larger and rejuvenated National Party, he makes the case for a fourth term of a Labour led government seem more inevitable than is justified by likely future events. He ignores three matters of crucial importance to the outcome of the next election.
One, the economy is heading south. How fast, how badly and who will be more hurt is open to speculation, but there are no commentators saying the economy is going to get better (Real estate salespeople don’t count here.) There must be scope for a centre-right critique based on what is going wrong and what should be done instead.
Two, there is still a deep desire among many voters for some meaningful change in the structure and rates of tax. There, you see I have avoided using the word ‘cuts’ which seems to send Dr Cullen into such lather. Surely this is a useful issue for the opposition and sector groups to continue to tax the government?
Three, there was nothing in the government’s current programme that is going to change dramatically our productivity performance. It’s agreed that improved labour productivity is the key to substantial and sustainable growth, but Labour has done stuff all about it.
Two thirds of our current growth over the last six years has come from increased labour utilization (more people in the workforce) and only one third from improved productivity. When economic conditions deteriorate and unemployment stops falling or starts rising, the growth rate will slow or stop.
What will Labour do then? Don’t know is the current answer, but surely the centre-right can produce an answer, and if it’s good enough and told well enough, it might just be the answer to take them back into government.
Mr Nicole’s warning that victory for National and its allies (whoever they may be at the next election) is timely, but his current lauding of Helen Clark will look remarkably silly if and when the right does win.
John Bishop is a commentator, professional
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