Two blows were delivered this week to Labour's chances in this year’s general election. The big news came from the shock resignation of Shane Jones. This overshadowed the equally damaging, in my view, assessment of Labour in power from retiring Maori Party MP Tariana Turia.
Both MPs command respect whether or not one agreed with their politics. I have written a couple of blogs in the last three months warming to Shane Jones for his forthright approach and Turia I have long admired for her determined, but always dignified, fight to better the lot of Maori and Pacific Islanders.
The Thursday editorial in the Herald makes these comments about Shane Jones.
He is a no-nonsense believer in industry and jobs, not the environmental causes, gender balances and diverse identity politics of Labour today.
No wonder I was liking him more and more. In a nutshell he was non-PC and couldn’t put up with the PC nonsense that passes for policy now, in all the main political parties I might add, but more so in Labour and the Greens.
It is a body blow for Labour so close to an election. If the party cannot excite one of its own, an MP who could count on being in its Cabinet if it becomes the government, how can it excite the voters on September 20?
Labour has not only lost an effective MP but has also lost one of the few who could reach into the male, blue-collar enclaves Labour used to command. It has lost a dimension.
The editor might have added that he is one of the few who can reach across the growing racial divide in New Zealand because, being Maori, he could be critical of aspects of the Treaty of Waitangi process without being labelled a racist.
As I see it the long term problem for Labour is it has lost its power base, the ‘working’ class, because the working class itself has disappeared having been replaced by robots on the assembly lines long ago.
It was trying to morph itself into the sort of responsible middle ground party with policies that had appeal across the political divide, directed by Blair in the UK and Clark in NZ. Alas, it has chosen instead to lurch to the left and join forces with the barely concealed Communism that is the political philosophy of the Greens.
This was unacceptable to Jones. He knows it’s a recipe for ruin and he couldn’t, hand on heart, go along with it. He was a political talent and will be a great loss to Labour.
Meanwhile Turia had this to say
"I think that our people have to ask themselves that for all the years that Labour were in government, the nine years of plenty, what is it that changed in their lives? What is it that Labour did that made them feel that things had changed for them, and have made a difference? And I want to say that when I look at kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, all the health services, all the social services, did any one of these things come out of the Labour Party? And the answer's no.''
The Greens, being to the far left of Labour and dragging them further in that direction, will be no friends to Maori either no matter how much greenstone they hang round their necks. Jones knows this, Turia knows this. The Labour Party has lost its way and I suspect will not be able to find its way back into the heart of NZ politics until it ditches the Green millstone around its neck.