Labor’s lessons for Labour

Political leaders almost always get the blame for their poll woes but Luke Malpass points out there is a lot more to Labor’s problems than its former leader.

. . .  it’s often overlooked that Mr Rudd was dumped in large part because many of his policies were either poor quality or unpopular and his administration inept.

Many “policies” were either mismanaged, or simply never materialised.

Climate change topped the list of Rudd policy failures. Despite bloviating that it was “the greatest economic, moral and social challenge of our time”, Mr Rudd quickly abandoned doing anything when it became unpopular.

An ineffective fiscal stimulus was still being spent in school halls years after the global financial crisis had passed, while a home-insulation disaster came complete with house fires, deaths, and a ruined industry.

He presided over an abandoned laptops-in-schools programme. He introduced an unworkable and punitive mining-super-profits tax.

He legislated the Fair Work Act, taking industrial relations back to the 1970s. He dismantled the “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers, helping restart the odious people-smuggling trade, and 100 boat people are now arriving daily.

For this reason Mr Rudd’s elevation will probably make little difference. The policies are the same, and are still unpopular.

The basic conceit, under which Labor has operated since 2009, is that it is no good at “selling its message” – the notion that people might just not like the policies is never countenanced.

The policy failures, political ineptitude, blatant spin and deceit under both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have been staggering. . .

There are lessons in the Australian Labor Party’s mistakes for the New Zealand labour Party.

The inability for its leader to gain traction is part of its problem.

But that is compounded by its chasing the Green Party to the left and obvious internal instability.

David Shearer’s leadership has never been secure and gets less so with every bad poll.

But just as a change of leader for Labor didn’t improve its policies, dumping Shearer won’t make Labour’s prescription any more palatable.

It has criticised every move National has made to rein in public spending, make the public service more efficient, reduce the burden of the state, encourage people from welfare to work, and other policies which have helped the country weather economic storms and track back to surplus.

Criticism is one role for an opposition. But it also needs to come up with compelling alternatives that make it look like a government in waiting.

Labour has failed to do this and like Labor, failed to see that people simply don’t like its policies.

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