Labour needs new mantra for rejuvenation

If the recent opinion polls are indicative of reality, then Labour Party, which has just 30% public support, is facing a crisis.

According to some polls, even younger and brighter politicians such as Stuart Nash, Carmel Sepuloni and Kelvin Davis would struggle to return to Parliament.

Unfortunately for Labour, its widely accepted policy on Capital Gains Tax has not resulted in increased rating.

Leadership and policy will continue to dominate Labour’s thinking.

There is no copyright of policy in politics. Politicians and political parties are forever keen to hijack each other’s policies to enhance their popularity with voters.

The Capital Gains Tax issue is an interesting example. Soon after Labour Leader Phil Goff announced his Party’s proposed move if elected to form the next Government, the ruling National Party somewhat changed its stance.

Finance Minister Bill English said he would not hesitate to implement some of the provisions of the proposed tax when he returns to the treasury benches after the general election on November 26.

Should Labour reinvent its policies and programmes to increase its popularity among the voting public? What is the mantra that will bring about its revival? Is a change in leadership inevitable or avoidable?

For a start, Labour must understand that the philosophy of ‘Progressive Social Democrats’ which came out after the industrial revolution in the Western countries is on its wane. The emergence of the new working class, comprising technocrats, management specialists and others has changed the concept of social welfare. They seem to prefer smaller governments with less welfare benefits and lower taxes.

The pitch of the voice has especially increased after the financial crisis with the increasing thought that tax incentives and benefits are more important than welfare measures. It would seem that the role of the state is becoming less important.

The idea of a large state with monetary policy controls was an offshoot of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It allowed Peter Fraser and Walt Nash to come to power in New Zealand under the Labour Party.

With just about eight weeks into the General Election, Labour may still be able to make an impression among voters by revisiting leadership or policy issues or perhaps both.

Balaji Chandramohan is our New Delhi correspondent. He is a graduate in Journalism from Waikato University and has a keen interest in New Zealand.

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