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John Bishop on why Labour lost

  • November 12th, 2008

Whale Oil invited Peter Mckeefry to list the reasons, and yesterday had another go, citing Labour’s lack of policy. 

I like John  Bishop’s summation from his soon-to-expire email newsletter. He dismisses "time for a change" as the explanation.

"So why did Clark and Labour lose? Well try these reasons. People say that Labour couldn’t be trusted to handle the economy. They interfered with our lives too much and we got sick of that. They wasted the opportunity to transform our economy.  Having started in 1999 with the worthy ambition to restore NZ to the top half of the OECD the goal was quietly abandoned and in the last three years it has hardly been mentioned. They failed to stop the exodus to Australia, a diaspora now running at record levels. They took too much of our money, didn’t give it back when the surpluses were large, and had to be bludgeoned into any tax changes at all. They bribed students with an overly generous interest free loans scheme, while confiscating the foreshore and seabed.

They ran a welfare system that doesn’t provide enough welfare for those who need it, costs too much and doesn’t deliver people from poverty, or protect the very vulnerable.   The development of an underclass has gone unnoticed and unchecked. Nia Glassie and the Kahui twins are the visible victims of a system that doesn’t foster responsibility, or punish neglect – except by way of criminal penalties after a child is dead, and even then not always.

Our standard of living have slipped relatively over the last nine years, even though our economy has grown and unemployment has dropped. Other countries have done better and we all know that. Our carbon emissions have gone up over the last decade, despite the government’s bragging about our leading the world on the issue. Kyoto is going to cost us a fortune, and our streets aren’t seen as safe. There’s more, but surely that’s enough. There is substance in voters’ various disaffections, not just a fickle desire to switch. That’s superficial and shallow thinking.

None of this is necessarily to argue that Key and National have got the answers. To change a government two things have to happen. One is that there has to be disaffection and opposition to the government. Secondly there has to be an acceptable alternative. In 2005 the first condition was fulfilled but not the second (and there is plenty of room to argue about why and how that was so). But in 2008, both conditions were fulfilled. We didn’t want the Labour prescription any more. It just didn’t give us the policies, the outcomes, the values, or the people we wanted anymore. Enough voters were prepared to give the other lot a go instead. National’s party vote is up 6.4% and Labour’s down by 7.3% compared to 2005.

So when Labour and their defenders and propagandists talk of time for a change, it is worth remembering the failures that prompted that sentiment in the public mind. It is far too glib to say it was some naturalist phenomenon that occurs after nine years in office.  It is more accurate to say that voters did not believe that Labour had made this economy and society better, stronger and safer, and enough of them voted to change the government as a result."

John says blogging is too time consuming to take up instead of his email newsletter, and he wants to be paid for his quality writing.

I’ll miss his emails.


  • Bob Green
  • November 12th, 2008
  • 10:38 am

Do people really think national have the ‘key’ to all New Zealand’s problems. The only key they have is John, John Key.

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