It has been an interesting week in politics. Even if the rest of the country probably didn't notice too much, the chickens came home to roost after a few weeks of protests and scrapping.

The Labour and Greens parties stood by the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement protesters and the disorder - stopping the traffic in central Auckland and throwing the "squeaky sex toy" at Steven Joyce. And it was the Green activists and Labour stalwarts who sought to justify the offending.

It looks like throwing things will be the continuing preferred protest - T-shirts, dung, fish, toys ... now brown muck.

The same old faces front the marches and made media comment and the public of New Zealand pretty much thought to themselves that if these guys were against it, they'd be for it.


It isn't so much their stance against the TPP, but their stance alongside the protesters that has turned the public against Labour and the Greens. Winston Peters has taken a firm stand against the agreement and his poll ratings have gone up - Greens down; Labour stayed the same.

Labour not having a clearly defined position other than to say they are against bits of it but wouldn't pull out of it in government looks nothing like leadership or alternative government and much like dithering and opportunism. And this seems to be the current diet Andrew Little would feed us on. Anti a flag referendum, fair enough, but such a referendum was in the Labour Party manifesto at the last election - to run a referendum in the period celebrating 100 years since Gallipoli and in these economic times and at the same cost pretty much.

They agreed with a postal ballot which soaks up most of the money because they wanted a democratic process. Most of them are in favour of changing the flag from the current one sporting the Union Jack. A pre-emptive yes/no vote would not have achieved what they wanted and they would probably have gone with the official advice to run a two question referendum just like the current government has.

The biggest challenge Labour has at the moment if it hopes to win the next election is getting into the middle ground of politics. They are afraid, following the last election, that they will lose core voters so they stick firmly to the left and are saying nothing that would turn a middle-ground, swinging voter their way. No policy alternatives which throw new light on an old predicament - just rock throwing.

I remember a newly-selected leader of the National opposition before the 2008 election telling us very clearly that there was no way of winning through trying to justify all the failed policies of the 1990s. There was even less point in trying to justify voting against the policies of Helen Clark's Labour Government around employment relations, student loans, health policy, working for families, the holidays act, etc, etc.

The opposition were tasked to look for new policies that could be offered as an alternative and actually fixed problems.

And it worked - the people in the middle of the political spectrum started nodding their heads and we roundly won the next election and have won the next two with increased majorities.

The lessons for Labour to learn are clear. Thankfully for us, Whanganui, New Zealand, and so the National Party, they are not learning them.