When the Nation went to polls on November 8 2008, the mood for change was evident, as National Party, led by John Key lifted itself to the Beehive with a convincing majority, just short of four seats to govern on its own.
Labour Party, humbled by the electoral defeat, went into introspection mode, experiencing changes in its leadership and outlook.
In unanimously electing Phil Goff as their leader, the Labour Caucus did itself, the Party and the people a favour; for, it is not easy to lead a political group on the face of a humiliating defeat. That is the nature of the beast called politics.
But sailing has not been easy. With the mainstream media continuing to remain hostile, failing to wear its moral fabric of fair and unbiased reporting, Labour has been consigned to turbulent waters. The Party has not rebound in opinion polls, at least not to the extent expected of its supporters.
Unfortunately for Labour, the hawks of inflation, unemployment, rise in GST, the Emission Trading Scheme and even the ‘Credit Card Scandals’ involving a couple of ministers did not create a dent on the popularity of National. Mr Key continues to remain the preferred Prime Minister, much to the chagrin of his main adversary.
Bad tidings sweep
On the contrary, the past few weeks have not been good for Labour. The new wave of transparency puts all public servants, notably Ministers and Mayors, under the microscope, exposing their eating, drinking and even entertainment habits. At least two former Ministers of Labour and a Mayor have came to grief last month, one of them with the most embarrassing habit of watching sleazy movies in the confines of hotel rooms. His moral rectitude became an issue of public debate. The rising star went down even before it could show its sheen.
Labour had a good record of governance for nine years, and the New Zealand economy had never had it as good as it was, leading up to the general election in November 2008. But the wind of goodwill appeared to have been blown away by the tempest of public will.
Now, the New Zealand economy is under pressure, so is the New Zealand Dollar.
The former will continue to experience stress, orchestrated by heavy borrowings, the challenge of servicing external debt, inflation and other associated problems.
The latter, fluctuating as it does in times of good and bad, will influence international trade, currency exchange and eventually the country’s balance of payments.
Mr Goff is credited with strong leadership like his predecessor and having been a senior minister in the Labour Government for nine consecutive years, understands the challenges faced by the Nation as well as his Party. His colleagues and advisers are confident of handling the existing problems with tact and firmness.
The need of the hour is not only discipline but also unity. Labour and its leader can hope to move forward with greater thrust, provided the Party’s hierarchy and rank and file demonstrate their solidarity and ability to weather the storm.
It is also imperative for Mr Goff to strengthen the lineage of command and put in place people with the ability to share his ambitions and vision and articulate with the people across the country.
But much would depend on policies and programmes that he and his caucus colleagues would be able to place before the public to earn their attention and support.
So far, there has been none.
The Labour Party appears to be too immersed in attacking the Government and holding it to account (which indubitably is its job) but elections are not won on tongue bashing.
If people are tired of the incumbent government and need a change, they must be given adequate reasons for exercising their franchise in favour of the Labour Party.
More, the Party would have to provide opportunities for members with the intellectual and moral caliber to write, define, defend and foster strategies and programmes.
Policy changes on the core sectors should reflect public opinion. Indian Newslink-Radio Tarana polls, conducted through the last election, had indicated that health, education, law and order, taxation and immigration were the issues of immediate concern to readers of this newspaper and listeners of the radio station.
True, they represented a minority group, but the final poll predictions were close to the actual election results.
Businesses could do better with added incentives, foreign investment needs to be perked up and the working class would be pleased with tax cuts.
Given the fact that the next general election is one budget and several policies and programmes away, there is time for the Labour Party to repair some of its recently damaged image, including its stand on Fiji, which has disappointed the Fiji-Indian community here.
Mr Goff will lead his party into the next general election keeping such factors in perspective and believing as he does that the challenges are many but so are opportunities to overcome them.
Opposition and Labour Party Leader Phil Goff launching this page of Electionlink at the office of Indian Newslink on June 25, 2010. Among those present were several MPs and Party members and supporters. Picture by Narendra Bedekar ©