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To The Front - Why is Labour struggling in the campaign?

To The Front - Why is Labour struggling in the campaign?

Column – By John Minto.

One would think that with a global recession caused by corporate greed and stupidity and with persistent high unemployment and families struggling, a Tory government which had just increased GST and given massive tax cuts to the wealthy would be easy meat for Labour.

Especially when that government has been selling state houses, just launched a program of beneficiary bashing and announced a highly unpopular plan to privatise strategic state assets.

All the ground is in Labour's direction but instead of facing a sure bet win the party is floundering and facing a massive electoral defeat later this month.

What on earth is going on? The style of John Key may suit the mood of the country and the personal attacks on Key and less than stellar performance of Phil Goff in televised debates may have made Labour less attractive but none of these explain the more fundamental issue.

Voters may well prefer the direction of Labour policy but the differences with National are really so minor as to make the choice almost irrelevant. In fact Labour is campaigning on National-lite policies which are still grounded in Labour's 1984 economic blitzkrieg which ushered in the biggest wealth redistribution (from the poor to the rich) the country has ever seen and in the 20 years after 1984 inequality rose faster in New Zealand than in any other country in the OECD.

And even as Labour tries to distinguish itself by shuffling a little to the left of National its attacks are blunted because it's hopelessly compromised at every turn and the problem is personified in Labour leader Phil Goff.

When Goff attacks the rise in GST, the ghost of Goff reminds us it was the man himself who introduced GST at 10% in the first place and then increased it to 12.5% back in the 1980s. It was also Goff who brought in tertiary student fees and again it was Goff who sat at the Labour cabinet while it sold our key state assets for a song to the rich mates of senior Labour politicians of the time. We've been paying the price ever since.

And even now National is outflanking Labour on the left.

Take loan sharks for example. For nine years Labour could have moved to regulate loan sharking but it refused to act despite the overwhelming evidence of hugely damaging impacts on Labour's core constituency - the Pacific Island community.

National is now moving to put in place rules whereby a loan shark has to show a person is able to pay back a loan without undue hardship. It's not the whole answer but it's a good first step in an industry which is based on profits from people who default on paying back loans.

The retirement age is another example where Labour is to the right of National. Labour is happy for the hardest-working New Zealanders on low wages to work another two years before receiving national superannuation rather than rebalancing the economy so the 1% no longer dominate economic policy and political decision making.

My prediction for this election is a comprehensive win to National. Labour will dump Goff in the new year and shift significantly to the left as it tries to reposition itself as the party of the 99% rather that the party which has done more than National in the past 27 years to enrich the 1%.

But the real problem Labour faces is not defeat in this election but finding anyone in their new caucus who has an economic backbone rather than a corporate-moulded artificial brace.

John Minto is a Mana Party candidate and is campaigning in the Manukau East Electorate. He is also number 3 on the Mana Party list.

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