Labour faces the test on prickly issues

Balaji Chandramohan 

After being out of power for nine years, the Labour Party will be tested again under the leadership of Andrew Little at the general election due be held on Saturday, September 23, 2017.

To his credit, Mr Little has been working to improve the chance for his Party to win and position himself as the Prime Ministerial candidate.

His State of the Nation address, delivered jointly with the Green Party in Auckland on January 29, 2017, he pitched his Party’s position in the electoral battle and pledged to improve the lot of New Zealanders in a number of areas.

Improving public health

In the joint State of the Nation event with the Greens Andrew Little’ propagated better health system which will work for the benefit of ordinary New Zealanders.

The event was designed to portray the ability and willingness of both parties to work together to change the government through policies and programmes in areas which they believe need immediate attention.

Mr Little said that he would reverse health cuts announced by National Party Leader and Prime Minister Bill English to the tune of $1.7 billion.

“If we vote to change the government this year, then a decade from now, every New Zealander will be able to afford a GP visit. Everyone who needs specialist treatment will get it. And Kiwis will have the most effective medicines,” he said.

Mr Little claimed that Labour built the public health system in New Zealand.

“We fixed it after National tried to tear it down in the 1990s. We will fix it again,” he told the members of the two parties attending the State of the Union address.

Positive Campaign

Some political pundits have suggested that with the sudden resignation of John Key as Prime Minister on December 12, 2016 and his decision to resign from Parliament at an appropriate time to avoid a by-election, the National Party has lost a charismatic leader, which would be difficult for his successor Bill English to emulate. However, National continues to track well in opinion polls and Mr English is rising to the occasion, coming out of his erstwhile somewhat reserved status as the Finance Minister.

We have an analysis of Mr English in another article in this Section.

The tough tasks

Whether Mr English would pose to be as formidable a threat to Labour as Mr Key was over the past nine years will be known as fresh opinion polls come out during the campaign. However, the greatest challenge that Labour faces is to correct the eroding plank of the progressive voter bank. It may be able to overcome this challenge working close with the Green Party.

Secondly, the Labour Party’s over-reliance on Trade Unions and its inability to spread its voter-base socially has been a major reason for its dismal performance in the past three elections, especially in 2011 and 2014.

Security Issues

From a global perspective, all left leaning parties are being tested and many of them have not performed well in the general elections held in recent years.

Europe, the US and Australia has seen left-centre parties have been reeling under pressure both from within and without.

Mr Andrew may begin to perform better in opinion polls with transformative policies on employment and income.

National Security would be another issue that would put Labour and its Leader under the Microscope.

In the decade since the departure of Helen Clark from the political scene, Labour has focused more on housing, health and family welfare and less on more complex matters relating to national security.

As a country in the Pacific region with a strong focus on exports of its agricultural, dairy and meat products, it should be more actively involved in the South-West Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

The above is only an outline of the challenges that Labour faces as it pitches its electoral battle. We would bring you more in-depth analyses in the future issues.

Balaji Chandramohan is a graduate in Journalism from the Waikato University. He is now based in Delhi and is our primary correspondent in India.

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Photo Caption:

Andrew Little with his fellow MP Stuart Nash and Labour’s Candidate for Maungakiekie constituency at the ‘Electionlink’ launch of Indian Newslink on February 28, 2017 in Auckland.

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