25 September 2013
While there has been a lot of hype over the new Labour leadership, the reality is very little has changed. It is still the same old group, albeit a little reshuffled, with all the old rivalries and tensions simmering as ever, just below the surface.
The new leader is promising a bold, new direction, apparently an antipodean version of the pre-distribution theory currently doing the rounds in northern hemisphere left-wing circles. Pre-distribution is actually a far more interventionist policy than even left-wing governments have traditionally advocated, focusing on preventing rather than ameliorating social and economic inequality. While it might sound good the significant constraints pre-distribution would place on business and society make it impractical.
And even if Labour could win the pre-distribution argument, and persuade people it is not just another attack on success and the aspirations of the middle class, it would still have to accommodate the ever-strident Greens and probably the grumpy, terminally unreliable New Zealand First to form a government. It would never last – remember, it was the Greens who walked out of the Alliance and forced the Clark Government to an early election in 2002, and that Mr Peters has so far been fired from every government he has ever been part of.
So, despite the hype, the reality remains the same. The left-wing axis is most unlikely to be able to form coherent, stable government. All of which shifts the onus back to John Key and the National party. And that is where this week’s German election provides relevant lessons. Chancellor Merkel’s party emerged as easily the largest party, but without an overall majority, while its long-term coalition partner failed to cross the threshold to win seats in the Bundestag, leaving Ms Merkel having to negotiate a coalition with any or all of the left wing parties, if she is to be able to form a new government.
Failure by National to nurture its government partners now – and not the Labour leadership change – could yet prove to be turning point in determining the shape of the next New Zealand government.
And that is something for John Key to ponder on his flight home after his current overseas trip.