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The Carter Columns - A Left Pre-Election Viewpoint

On The Left: The Future Is In Your Hands

by Jordan Carter

I'm going to make a fairly safe prediction here. In a week from today, Helen Clark will be the Prime Minister of New Zealand - or will be pretty damned close. I say this based on the four latest polls, which put Labour, Alliance and Greens at having somewhere between 62 and 70 seats in the next Parliament.

Another prediction: National's barrage of negative publicity which I expect this week won't have any effect either. Nobody's listening to National any more. Their campaign has about as much traction as Labour's did in 1990.
Voters don't care what National is saying; they aren't listening. Even a Prime Ministerial trumpet recital, pj's included, won't swing this one.

But why should people vote for Labour on Saturday? Why should the future be with Labour?

The future is hope.

Odd comment?

Not really. Think about it for a while and the sophistication of Labour's campaign becomes apparent. The branding "The Future Is With Labour" has been around since May. Like it or loathe it, "Future" and "Labour" are inextricably linked in the public's mind, whether on a conscious or unconscious level.
(Incidentally, this makes me wonder why one of National's billboards - 'Give a kid a future - not a past' is so weird. The Future is with Labour; why is National using the same slogan and risking confusion with us?)

This focus on the future has shown in the tagline, in the mock ballot papers that some people have received in letterboxes (On November 27, the future is in your hands) and in the media message that has been pushed throughout the campaign (Labour will... In Government Labour will... and so on). Getting people seeing past the horizon of the election has been important.

Following on from this has been the print advertising and TV campaign. The only attack ads Labour has used so far in print are the "National's History" ads, which fit into the same theme.

But why is this change, this Future With Labour, resonating in the electorate?
One explanation is simply that people are sick of National. Nine long years in power have seen society become meaner, indifferent economic growth, underinvestment in infrastructure and other services like health and education, and a general fin de siecle malaise. People feel that the country is drifting, and are looking for a change in leadership.

Another explanation comes from an interesting article in the Sunday Star Times yesterday, which was talking about the New Zealand Study of Values being conducted by Alan Webster. It seems from the information he presented that the new direction Labour is offering is more in tune with the key values New Zealanders hold - those being in Labourspeak "opportunity, security and fairness."

This twin pronged attack of Labour being the party for change after nine years of drudgery, and Labour being the party whose values are closest to those of ordinary New Zealanders, should see us home on election day.

If they don't, the alternatives are most unpleasant to contemplate. I know plenty of students who are quite blunt that they will leave the country - forever - if National and their "raving looney" coalition partners (yes, that is how a commerce student friend described ACT) get into Government again.

The future is hope. Labour's intention after this election is to build on the minimal economic success that is National's legacy, and make it truly something world beating with (warning: Cullen-ism ahead!) smart, active government intervention to address market failures. Rebuild top quality social services.
Opportunities for all in the education sector, easing the debt constraint at one end, and recognising that quality costs money at the other are important stakes in the ground. So are undoing National's insane ACC reforms (which, while short term saving business some money, will in the long run cost everyone more), repealing and replacing the Employment Contracts Act, and raising taxes on people earning more than $60,000 a year (not families earning that much, as a fax attack on Wellington businesses last week proclaimed).

Of course, this week National's attempts to portray Labour as the party of the past will intensify. They don't appear to have understood that taking someone on on a campaign theme that has been implemented over months is a slightly silly thing to do. National's attacks on Labour simply aren't firing. Unions aren't what they were in the 70's, and most people, even businesses, simply don't see them as the bogey they once were. Publishing a statement about a tax commission and thinking it will scare people off Labour is simply loopy.

The future is hope and come Saturday, the future as well as the present will be with Labour. Clark's vision of a vibrant New Zealand, a knowledge based society, a buoyant economy and an inclusive and creative nation simply walks all over Shipley's poor attempts to justify the past while saying the future will be better without saying how. And people know it.

Next week a comment on Helen Clark's first 100 days' aims (if Labour wins).
Jordan Carter
carters@ihug.co.nz

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