Is Labour morphing into the Green Party?
The leaders' debate this week was kaleidoscopic compared to the 50 shades of beige effort before.
I was in the audience and saw first-hand the best and the worst of each leader. Jacinda Ardern is a star at retail politics, taking selfies with the audience and sharing jokes. She sounded like a Prime Minister rather than a Prime Minister in waiting.
But her efforts to take the politics out of politics by not revealing her position on the cannabis referendum was cynical. She doesn't want to risk being on the side of a losing referendum even if she supports it.
Judith Collins channelled her inner Jack Nicholson with just the right amount of glee, arch eyebrow and warmth, but let herself down with a shout-out to Donald Trump.
Why, though, is Labour morphing into the Green Party? It was an extraordinary moment to hear a Labour leader support handing over $12 million to a private green school that teaches the children of the 1 per cent to grow crystals and "activate their DNA", whatever that means. You can't be against inequality and poverty, then promise more money for the most affluent Greens. Truth is, the Labour leader is most animated in these debates when promising to declare a climate-change emergency, or spend its proposed tax increase on a hydro energy project in Lake Onslow, instead of on struggling schools and health.
It's hard to distinguish the Greens from Labour in this election. I know I'll get attacked by my Labour colleagues for saying this. But loyalty to the party line should not be conflated with proof of progressive principles. A Labour Party that doesn't make a fairer deal for the working poor its nuclear-free moment is not being true to its historic mission. Especially as we face a continuing pandemic and a global recession. If ever we needed a Labour Party it's now. How ironic then, to hear a National Party leader call out the big corporates for not paying back the wage subsidy. This was a naked play for Labour votes.
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If Labour morphs into the Green Party, it might work for this election but ultimately it'll lose the exhausted middle struggling to get by. That's how the United States got Trump and the UK got Brexit.
Gestures to deal with climate change come at the expense of funding poor schools and a struggling health system — and leave you doing neither very well. Even the Government's own Climate Change Commission agrees the gestures aren't worth the cost. It might feel good, but politics is about doing good.
• Josie Pagani is executive director of the Council for International Development.