Expulsion from the Labour Party
Press Release 3.7.2002 – Nick Kelly
Former Chair of Rimtaka Labour Electorate Committee
Ph 04 971 4294
Cell phone 025 263 7559
Expulsion from the Labour Party
Today the Labour Party has announced their decision to suspend my membership from the Labour Party. They claim to have done this purely because I am standing against Paul Swain (the Labour candidate) in the seat of Rimutaka. However there is more to this decision that Labour claims.
I have been a member of the New Zealand Labour Party for 5 ½ years - I joined when I was only 14 years old. I joined in opposition to the New Right agenda that had been imposed upon the people of this country. Despite knowing that Labour had begun this agenda in 1984 – I like many New Zealanders believed the Labour Party had changed. Like many I believed when the far right of Labour broke away and founded Act, what would remain would be a center left Party…it seems now I was wrong.
After the 1999 election I was made the Chair of the Rimutaka LEC (Labour electorate committee). I did this job for nearly two years, before my local MP Paul Swain had me sacked for opposing Labour support of Free Trade and Globalisation – policies guided by New Right ideology that Labour had promised to stop. That was September last year. Since then I have become increasingly vocal about Labour’s drift to the right while in government. Free trade deals, wars on Afghanistan, introduction of GE against overwhelming public opinion and under paying the secondary school teachers – this government has committed betrayal after betrayal. It is fast proving itself to be fundamentally no different in government to National.
My suspension is said to be because I ‘stood as a candidate in opposition to an official Labour candidate’ – which is forbidden under the Party constitution. However there are other things in this constitution that the Labour Party hierarchy is quite happy to ignore. For example under ‘Principles of the Labour Party’ it says “Peace and social justice should be promoted throughout the world by international co-operation and mutual respect” – what peace, justice and mutual respect is there when bombs are falling on innocent people in Afghanistan? Or “Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a just distribution of wealth can be ensured” – Labour support of Free Trade and open markets flies right in the face of this principle. Likewise the Party objective like “To ensure the just distribution of the production and services of the nation for the benefit of all the people” or “To educate the public in the principles and objectives of democratic socialism and economic and social co-operation”. Frankly the Labour Party constitution is littered with rules, principles and objectives that have been put aside in favour of a Machiavellian lust for power which now dictates every decision the Party hierarchy makes. The Party constitution is recognised when useful, but otherwise ignored.
Despite this Labour still enjoys strong support – especially from low-income working class voters. This isn’t however overwhelming support for Labour, but an overwhelming rejection of the alternative National and Act provide. People support and vote for what they consider the lesser of evils. Many Labour supporters hope that Labour will become more progressive in their second and third terms than in their first. I once believed this myself, however I no longer have such optimistic hopes for the Labour Party. It’s been 18 years since the election of the 4th Labour government n 1984, it seems now that the damage of this era to the Labour Party has lasted up to 2002 – its chances of ever coming good now are slim.
I’ve spoken to current Labour MPs (mostly backbenchers) who strongly opposed the war on Afghanistan. One MP said they cried when seeing on TV the pain and suffering we were causing the people in that country. And yet all Labour MPs were forced to vote in favour of this shameful war in parliament last year. As Labour Party member we are told we have influence on Labour Party policies. As a young member I’ve often been told I could be a future MP or go even higher. It’s easy to be excited by power, especially when you’re young. But I realise now that a person is not in power when they are made to support policies they disagree with. You don’t have power when your made to support something that goes against every moral principle you have. You don’t have power when you are made to justify and defend something that sickens you inside. Labour might be in government – but their MPs and Party members are not in power.
This sad situation isn’t unique to Aotearoa. The voter apathy in many Western democracies (particularly Europe and America) have been for similar reasons. People lose faith in democracy and stop participating in the political process when the same New Right Neo-liberal polices keep being introduced regardless of who is in power. The introduction of MMP was suppose to prevent this sort of thing happening here. However the experience of the Alliance has shown that as Labour drifted to the right the Alliance got dragged with it, and fell apart on the way. The Greens are unlikely to fare much better in coalition with Labour – especially if their only bottom line is GE.
Labour claims to have suspended rather than expelled me from the Party. This means in 2 years I’ll be allowed to re-join, but only if I apologise for my past actions. I am not prepared to do this. I am not sorry for putting peoples jobs were more important than Party unity over the Hong Kong Free Trade deal. I’m not sorry for believing the lives of people in Afghanistan are more important than Helen Clark’s Party conference speech. And I am certainly not sorry for putting what I know in my heart to be right over the precious Party name. Some claim my actions are those of someone who is young and idealistic. This is true, but this doesn’t make what I’ve said and done any less valid. In 30 years time I’m not going to regret my actions when I look back at this. I may never now be a Labour Prime Minister or any of the other things I was once told I could be. But I have something worth more than that…I can sleep at night knowing I didn’t sell out my beliefs for my career.
I’m standing against Paul Swain in Rimutaka to offer voters a genuine choice in the 2002 election. I believe doing this will help to expose the moral bankruptcy of Paul Swain and the Labour Party and allow voters the chance to vote for the principles and objectives Labour is meant to stand for.
I am now the youngest person ever to be thrown out the Labour Party (and probably out of any Political Party). Part of me feels sad that it has come to this, that Labour has moved so far to the right that I had to take actions that would have me kicked out the Party. But a strong part of me also feels proud and honored to be kicked out a Party for believing in the things the Party was meant to stand for and didn’t. And I guess when I look back on this in the future I’ll be able to say “I didn’t leave the Labour Party, they threw me out”.