The left has already won this election.

John Key's National Party is still high in the polls, not because the values of the right are popular, but because National's pitch is essentially, "Trust us to implement Labour policy. We'll spend a bit less than them doing it, and if you're lucky we'll give you a tax cut from the savings -- maybe."

The left won the contest of ideas a long time ago, and National has completely capitulated. It wouldn't dare reverse Labour policies such as state-funded education and health care, Working for Families tax credits, interest-free student loans or KiwiSaver.

Almost everyone working for wages today owes something to the Labour movement, including the trade unions, from the 40-hour week to public holidays.


The right fought these attempts to improve working conditions. But change was popular. The left won.

It would be electoral suicide for National to sound like National right now.

Take Tony Ryall, who is exiting to applause not because he imposed National's policy vision on the health system but because he assiduously avoided doing anything of the sort; his success as Health Minister lay in his mimicry of Labour predecessors.

Steven Joyce is rolling out a five-year plan for growth and has created a behemoth government department to intervene in the economy. Ironic, really. The right usually wants smaller government.

National has rolled over and accepted the left's analysis that markets are there to service communities, not the other way around. Turns out the market can't fix everything. National held its nose and intervened to rebuild Christchurch and fix the failing housing market.

Winston Peters might complain that Colin Craig has nicked his policies. National is attempting to bodysnatch the look and feel of Labour. Except that it's a poor copy. There is no economic vision to match the nation-building projects from Labour in the 1930s and 1940s.

Labour's electoral message is aimed at the parts National won't fix: National's refusal to reduce economic inequality, or to actively manage the economy in favour of exporters and producers; low wages caused in part because working people have little negotiating power; the excessive market power of energy companies and the supermarket duopoly which increase the cost of living.

National has given up the ideological ghost, promising only to administer the policy wins of the left.


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