The Labour-led Government has been in power for more than two years now and, as it heads into its annual conference this weekend, will no doubt be trumpeting its successes.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour leader and Prime Minister, will point to the Government's work on child poverty and wellbeing while Finance Minister Grant Robertson will hammer home his economic wins.

As hundreds of Labour faithful gather in Whanganui this weekend many will be in high spirits.

Although National crept ahead of Labour in the latest 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll, Labour is still well ahead of where it was on election night 2017.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards said a lot of members will be toasting the party's success at the end of the conference this weekend.

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But, he added that there will also be many – particularly from the more left-wing factions – who are quietly concerned that the party has not done enough in Government.

The failure of KiwiBuild and the inability to get a capital gains tax over the line are both major areas of shame for Labour, Edwards said.

"That's embarrassing for a lot of Labour party members and activists."

Political commentator Ben Thomas went as far as saying the "complete and utter failure of KiwiBuild" will be one of the biggest disappointments for Labour members.

"That was something they staked their policy reputation on."

When campaigning before the 2017 election, Ardern – then Labour leader – consistently talked about a Government she led being one of transformational change.

And in some areas, there is no denying the Government has performed well.

Average household income is up, as is GDP per capita.

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But many voices from the left have criticised the Government being anything but transformational.

Although not a Labour member, Green MP Gareth Hughes recently announced his retirement from politics and said the Government was not moving fast enough and was not transformational as it could be.

And he's not alone in thinking this.

Left-wing advocacy groups, such as Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP), have been critical of this Government's lack of action in key areas.

Its spokesman Ricardo Menéndez said the Government is not doing enough for people on low incomes, for example.

"Benefit levels remain below the poverty line and while average incomes may be increasing, more people are needing to queue at Work and Income for a food grant in order to cover basic expenses."

Menéndez, who stood as a Green Party candidate last election, is one of many people calling for the Government to loosen its purse strings to fund critical areas which they say have been neglected for years.

One of the main hand brake for the Government is its Budget Responsibility Rules (BRRs) which limit both Crown spending and borrowing.

Prominent economists, such as Shamubeel Eaqub, have called such rules a "fiscal straightjacket".

Even the banks have questioned the rules – ANZ senior economist Sharon Zollner called the 20 per cent debt target "arbitrary".

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will hammer home his economic wins at Labour's conference this weekend. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson will hammer home his economic wins at Labour's conference this weekend. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Despite the fact Robertson did change that target to a band earlier this year, it is understood Labour are facing increasing pressure from it's based to revamp its BRRs altogether and scrap the debt and spending limits.

On Saturday afternoon, Robertson will take the stage to speak to members in a much-anticipated speech – he is likely to face pressure to signal Labour's intention to ditch the rules ahead of next year's election.

This will be enough to appease some members, and is unlikely to upset many economists – the Reserve Bank has been calling on the Government to spend more money for months.
But the Government is still grappling with its relationship with businesses.

There is no doubt it's been on a charm offensive to counter the low-levels of business confidence – which are at the lowest levels since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Ardern and Robertson have launched a plethora of small business groups and advisory panels, as well as a number of small business-based policies.

But it hasn't shifted the dial.

Robertson has argued that businesses traditionally have a bias against Labour Governments.

But National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the Government is creating too much uncertainty.

National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the Government is creating too much uncertainty for business. Photo / Michael Craig
National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the Government is creating too much uncertainty for business. Photo / Michael Craig

"People talk about the Prime Minister having great empathy; well she has got zero empathy for the realities of small businesses.

"I think there is a widespread sense of trepidation among that group," he said.

He said there was also concerned with the way the Government made its decisions with apparently little thought for the business community.

"The oil and gas ban decision for example – they made such a major decision without any prior analysis."

He said that sort of behaviour contributes to a "deep anxiety around" how high-level decisions are made.

Robertson declined to be interviewed.

Both Thomas and Edwards say one man is responsible for many of Labour's woes: NZ First leader, and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters.

Edwards said Peters had been a hand brake on this Labour-led Government.
"He has made this Government less left-wing."

He said Peters is a convenient "inner villain" Labour members can wheel out and blame for the Government's inaction is some areas.

But he said that doesn't always ring true.

"This is often a convenient justification when Labour are going down areas they think is going to lose votes."