Colin Espiner on Labour’s nanny state apology
by Jake Quinn
This piece by Colin Espiner was in the Waikato Times tonight (and The Press today). The rest can be found here. Whilst I agree with much of Colin’s thinking here, I think that backing away from the ‘nanny-statisms’ (ie the apology) is key to Labour’s strategy for taking back the blue collar working man “and his mrs” who abandoned Labour on mass at the last election.
Labour, however, appears frantic to discover the reason for its rejection by voters last November, as if there is some magic elixir which, once unveiled, will ensure its return to the Beehive in 2011. The current strategy seems twofold: apologise for everything, and show the public how nice that Mr Goff really is. And so Labour is sorry. It’s sorry for the Electoral Finance Act, for the child- discipline legislation, for low-flow shower heads, for energy-efficient light bulbs, for Winston Peters. “We were voted out because they [the public] thought we were getting distracted by sideshows,” Goff told Labour’s conference at the weekend. “On occasion, we got it wrong and I am sorry for that. We weren’t listening enough.”
This, of course, is bunk. Labour lost the election because voters were bored with the government and wanted a change. And because Key presented a non-threatening and more personable alternative to Helen Clark. It’s that simple, and the sooner Labour realises this, and accepts the nature of political cycles, the sooner it will begin the journey it must undertake to prepare for government once again – though in all likelihood, not for another five years.
Saying sorry actually makes things worse, because it sends the signal that somehow Labour now regrets its achievements in office, which were considerable. Labour should be reminding voters that virtually every major policy of this National administration was its own – from Working for Families and interest- free student loans to an independent foreign policy, nuclear-free ports, KiwiSaver, and four weeks’ annual leave. Labour has also started flagellating itself for being too “nanny state” in the past, which simply reinforces the myth perpetrated so successfully by National.
Even Goff seems to have forgotten that the so-called anti-smacking legislation was passed by National as well, and that Key is currently refusing to change the law in spite of the demands of a majority of New Zealanders.
National is no less “nanny state” than Labour was. Had it not been for the efforts of the Food and Grocery Council we’d all be eating folic acid in our bread from next month.
National is entertaining pleas from the Maori Party to massively increase the price of cigarettes. The Government’s chief wowser, Steven Joyce, is banning hand-held cellphones in cars, and proposing to cut the drink-drive limit. None of these fit with National’s core philosophy of individual responsibility, and most are ideas rejected by Labour as too interfering.
Sure, Labour made mistakes in government, but probably no more than any other long-term administration.
While in mea culpa mode it should remember that the fifth Labour government was amongst the most electorally successful of any in our history.
The only thing Labour ought to be sorry about is that it is in opposition.