From US to France and UK, election results ripple

Priyanca Radhakrishnan

The last eight months has been fascinating – and rather dramatic – for global politics.

It began with something hardly anyone foresaw – the election of Donald Trump as US President.

We then had another shock in the form of Brexit.

The French election presented a shift with the election of Emmanuel Macron instead of far-right populist candidate Marine Le Pen.

United Kingdom elections held last week will go down in British political history for a variety of reasons.

Wrong Predictions

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May called snap election in April this year, when her Party was polling exceptionally well. In contrast, the UK Labour Party was trailing by about 25 points. Polls predicted a crushing defeat ahead for the Labour Party and a landslide victory for the Conservatives.

That did not happen. Instead, the Conservatives failed to gain over-all majority, leading to a hung Parliament. The UK Labour Party, by contrast, increased their vote by about 15% in the eight-week period and won about 30 seats.

The Conservatives managed to scrape together a coalition post-Election, but the Labour Party emerged vindicated, having achieved a turn-around that most thought was impossible.

The New Zealand Connection

Over the past few days, many have asked me what that means for the New Zealand Labour Party as we go into an election of our own in slightly over three months.

The main message of the UK Labour Party in this election was that Labour stands for the many, not the few. That was also the title of their policy manifesto.

UK Labour’s policies focused on increased access to high quality education, universal healthcare coverage, an increased focus on community policing, building more houses and a redistribution of wealth from the richest five per cent of the population to those who are struggling in a bid to reduce wealth inequality.

Does that sound familiar? That is because Labour parties around the world share the same philosophy. We believe in growing the country’s economy – not as an end in itself, but as a means to improve the lives of the many.

Labour’s package

The NZ Labour Party has a similar message.

That is why we have a comprehensive policy package to fix the housing crisis.

We believe that everyone has the right to an affordable, warm and dry home.

We also have a strong focus on ensuring that our education system is world class and accessible to all.

We have already announced that we will provide three years of free post-secondary school education to increase access to quality education.

It is the philosophy of standing for the many not the few that drives us to advocate for a well-funded health system that everyone can access.

It is also that philosophy that motivated Labour to vote against the Government’s tax package offered in Budget 2017, which supports the wealthiest while a single person on a cleaner’s wage stands to benefit only one dollar more a week.

It is unfair.

Campaign strength fortifies

The other significant learning from the UK election is the power of a strong, grassroots campaign. In about two months, the UK Labour Party slashed the Conservative Party’s majority.

While it is important to have good policy solutions that will improve people’s lives, it’s also important to be able to communicate it well.

That is where a strong, grassroots campaign that engages voters on their doorsteps comes into the picture. Some analyses indicate that the campaign’s media strategy included a heavy reliance on social media, particularly given the biased mainstream media.

Finally, we see clearly that the combination of strong solutions and a people-powered grassroots campaign can successfully turn out the vote.

The message here is that nothing can be taken for granted in politics.

If you are keen to hear more about what Labour has to offer this year, or wish to express your opinion, please contact me at priyanca@labour.org.nz

Finally, to our Muslim readers, I wish you all a blessed Ramadan and at the end of the month, a very happy Eid Al Fitr.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan was born in India, educated in Singapore and New Zealand. She has been with the Labour Party for about 11 years in various capacities. She is the Party’s candidate in the Maungakiekie constituency in the general election scheduled to be held on Saturday, September 23, 2017.

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