The challenge for a New Left Party with Hone
Matt as usual makes the only case for buying the Herald on Sunday with another astute column on the challenges confronting a New Left Party.
I thought I would add my 2cents.
The country faces a unique economic crises the like it has never seen, anyone who thinks this current calm means the recession is over are simply misinterpreting the reality that all that is passing us is the eye in the hurricane, this recession has only just started.
The reason our technocrats and political leaders keep getting it wrong is because the consumer culture fueled on ever increasing credit card limits has come to a screaming halt and the 'consumption norms' under which our country operated are not coming back for at least a decade. In such an environment, the Government of the day led by a desperately out of touch Prime Minister are clutching at privatization straws to justify their free market dogma.
That John Key has the audacity to claim those in poverty are making poor choices by needing food parcels from the comfort of his new BMW with its massaging seats, 4 air-conditioning units, 16 high performance speakers and back seat DVD players is proof eternal that Optimist Prime's vacant aspiration lives in a disconnected bubble world far from the reality of most NZers trying to cope from his failed economic policies.
In the intellectual vacuum I like to call John Key's leadership, their default mechanism is privatize and slash welfare, for the over 338 000 NZers now on a benefit in a 6.8% unemployment environment, add the 300 000 NZers living on the minimum wage and we have over 638 000 NZers who when compared to the 2 376 480 votes cast in the 2008 election, represent 26% of the electorate.
That electorate of beneficiaries and minimum wage earners are notorious to get beyond the apathy caused by the grind of poverty and hopelessness of the debt trap but as the reality of this recession coupled with deep cuts to welfare because this Government's turbo charge of the economy actually ended up causing a $2billion revenue hole start to sink in, it will mean that the beneficiary and low income electorate will have their attention will be fixated on their week to week welfare in a way that has not existed in modern political times.
Bringing the disenfranchised back to the ballot box doesn't need to cannibalize Labour Party vote or Green Party vote.
Their interests, their dreams, their aspirations should be given voice at those decision making tables and Sue Bradford's alternative welfare policy would do more in real terms at seeing that occur than merely hoping the Greens and Labour can cut a deal with NZ First.
I agree with Matt and think we need to be clear as to where we are at right now in the possibility of a New Left Party forming around Hone's electorate seat. Hone is facing expulsion from the Maori Party who have been put on notice that since National can't rely on Rodney winning Epsom, (or bringing in any extra seats as ACT implode), then they are the next in line at the great table of decision making meaning Hone has to go. Matt is writing knowing that Hone's expulsion will mean his electorate support is vital and that any New Left Party must acknowledge that his electorate are changing their voice from 100% Maori to 100% issues that impact Maori, beneficiaries and minimum wage earners. The loyalty his electorate have to the Maori Party is incredibly deep and any new Party must make Hone's Maori constituency concerns and voice clear and up front. Matt is reminding everyone involved that Hone's inclusion brings with it a responsibility not to dilute Hone.
The challenge for Hone, IF he were to agree on the formation of a New Left Party, is for him to go beyond the public perceptions of him being associated with merely representing 'race' as a Maori MP, and appeal instead to class because the very concerns he has for the welfare of Maori on the bottom of society, are the exact same concerns for all NZers on the bottom of society. The issues for minimum wage earners, beneficiaries and a large chunk of Moaridom are all the same issues. Social Justice binds us and provides more bridges to connect us than divide us, if we are serious about preventing the gap between the poor and the rich from expanding, and are serious about halting an anti-beneficiary, anti-worker, anti-environment Government, we should start working towards an end point that changes the MMP math in Parliament for this election.
If Hone's electorate agreed that he could expand his leadership from just Maori to all those who suffer from an anti-worker, anti-beneficiary, anti-environment Government, then Hone could be the first real post-race Politician in NZ history.
Matt is obviously cautious and playing his cards close to his chest and I would agree with him that there are immense difficulties in attempting to form a New Left Party with 9months to the election - my counter to that caution is that if this Government get re-elected then their 3 extra years of privatization will cripple this country. I don't want to see my whanau, my friends, my community bleed a second longer than they have to, and while pragmatic political strategy has its place, sometimes you have to fight for a better society now and simply waiting for when the time is right isn't good enough. The challenge to us all is leadership and knowing that this recession is a unique event that won't see 'consumer consumption business as usual' norms for another decade meaning we need better ideas now.
We need solutions imposed upon the political establishment this very minute, not in 3 years time. A New Left Party gaining 3% would provide 4 MP's to change the MMP math in Parliament. A New Left Party could enable the Greens AND the Maori Party to actually get Cabinet portfolios in a Cabinet that reflected the political sea change and keep Labour from appeasing the right rather than challenging the right.
I'm sick of this country going backwards when we have championed some of this planets greatest social justice leaps forward. Universal suffrage, 40 hours work for the working person and Nuclear Free are all examples of us leading, we can again at a time when the planet is looking for leadership on sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy and closing the ever widening social inequality between the haves and have nots.
If the New Left Party vehicle can't get off the ground in time, then we are left with hoping the Greens and Labour with a depleted Maori Party can somehow cut a deal with Winston Peters if he manages to get over the 5% threshold with policies designed to arouse the reactionary rump of the National Party. That seems about as viable as Michael Laws hosting a disabled athletes event.
For me ultimately it is about the leadership of our Society in the interests of all, especially the most vulnerable, and not the interests of the corporate and farming industry elites.
I again put out this challenge to the left - If not us? Who? If not now? When?