Labour's leadership struggle is missing the point

By Chester Borrows


There is nothing quite so much fun for a Government as seeing the Opposition scrapping amongst themselves so hard they forget to engage in the art of politics.

Those who voted Labour at the last election must be thinking they have been sold short.

As much as Labour has been keen to talk about a certain 10-foot tall German called Dotcom, or whether a red shirt can be described as 'gay' or not and the certain qualities of bat droppings of late, the real issues are about the economy, education, health and community safety.

Now Labour is fighting over which David will be their leader and how they will change horses between leaders in the future.

David Shearer has been given the mark of death by being labelled a "nice bloke but ..." and David Cunliffe as being "a clever guy but ..." As I write this, Labour have just called an emergency caucus meeting, so reading this you will know the outcome.

Whichever David they chose, the infighting will be far from over.

The thing is, through all the infighting, Labour is missing the point.

The country wants an Opposition that will hold the Government to account and take on the bigger issues of the day and not the minutia.

In having all these little scraps, the Greens are eating Labour's lunch. By that I mean it is Russell Norman who is being quoted on all the environmental and financial issues of the week and not the Labour front bench.

It is the Greens who are staying up in the polls and Labour is missing out.

Despite all the talk of an annus horribilis for the Government, National remains within a percentage point or two of election night, as Labour has yet to really shake the public's belief that National has the best plan to bring us through these difficult times.

Last weekend's Labour Party Conference was supposed to see the launch of a new housing policy but nobody, except the pre-primed Salvation Army Parliamentary Unit, even noticed.

The 65 remits which promoted such things as 50 per cent females on all boards of directors, 'supergold' cards for under 21s to get discounted public transport and a minimum quota of women in Parliament, all went unreported.

There were two days of debate on the floor of the conference and not a single report of anything except the leadership contest between Cunliffe and Shearer.

In contrast, highlights from last week's efforts by the National-led Government include: hundreds of affordable homes in Auckland; progress on local government reforms; a draft transport plan for central Christchurch; two treaty bills passed; more ultra-fast broadband rolled out; the second Vulnerable Children's Team announced; and extending $15 million per year of hospice funding out two more years.

A stark contrast between a Government getting on with what matters and an Opposition concerned only with themselves.

So Labour needs to learn that there is a place for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and it is not fighting over the baubles of leadership.

It is doing the grunt work of contesting arguments and formulating policy.

If Labour is to credibly look like they could lead the four-way coalition, they will need to retake the Treasury benches, they need to at least show they can lead themselves.

They may have lost the last election, but those who remain were elected to do a job.

So far they haven't even shown up for work.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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