I have been reviewing some of my political predictions over the last 12 months or so, and if you discount some of the outlier results (i.e. predictions so terribly wrong they were off the planet), I did pretty well.
I predicted that either National or Labour would win the election, and I turned out to be right. I also predicted that Hone Harawira would hold the balance of power after the election, and if you change “the balance of” with “no”, then I got that one right too. It’s a minor change, so you have to give me that one.
I usually charge for my advice, but the left is in such disarray that I’m willing to offer my services for free. I’m willing to step up and provide the spiritual guidance Labour so desperately needs.
So here is a list of things the Labour Party can and must do.
Policy: More please! Big, bold, complex policies that we can all get our teeth into. The public will love the fact that our policies are so clever and nuanced that our own leaders cannot articulate them clearly.
Take your medicine: We should also push Labour to advocate policies of a medicinal nature. You know the sort: they taste awful and leave a horrible feeling in your tummy, but you know they’re good for you. Recent examples are Labour’s complex capital gains tax policy, and plans to raise the retirement age.
But Labour can probably come up with any number of new taxes to introduce or fun things to regulate or ban. The voters won’t like it, but they’ll take their medicine. Or they won’t vote for us, and we’ll be able to blame them for being stupid and selfish, and it won’t be our fault.
Telling it how it is: There’s nothing the voters love more than a political party that airs its dirty laundry in public. Sniping, moaning, whingeing and whining: they love it! Sorry, did I say voters? I meant Patrick Gower.
Some people might regard it as indiscipline or egomania, but I love it when an MP goes off the rails and attacks his own. I say “his” because it’s almost always a man. It’s good to see such passion in politics, even though that passion usually ends up causing considerable trouble for everyone concerned.
We should be grateful for any MP who talks to journalists about how terrible their colleagues are, and if there’s one thing Labour has plenty of, it’s MPs who don’t like each other. This open squabbling needs to be facilitated and encouraged. They say that the best disinfectant is sunlight, although I’ve always thought it odd how those hot tropical countries that get lots of sun also seem to be full of nasty diseases. Excessive exposure to sunlight can also cause dehydration and skin cancer.
Identity politics: A perception exists that Labour is obsessed with issues of ethnicity, sexuality, feminism and minority rights, to the exclusion of “real” issues. It’s not really true, and it probably isn’t fair that Labour gets pigeon-holed as a party obsessed with identity politics, because I don’t believe it is. But then politics isn’t fair, and Labour hasn’t exactly helped itself by letting its enemies define it. Sorry for being a man? Jesus wept!
So what should Labour do? Admit there’s a problem with the public perception of Labour, and try to keep the conversation about things like jobs, education and housing? No! That’s what our enemies would expect us to do after suffering three electoral defeats in a row, two of them crushing ones. They would expect us to finally learn some lessons. But why would we want to be that predictable?
What if we instead talked about issues of ethnicity, sexuality, feminism and minority rights to the exclusion of every other thing? How about gender quotas? Man-bans? A Maori deputy leader? A front bench that comprises 25% rainbow MPs? Let’s talk about these things, people!
This strategy is not without its risks. It is all very well engaging in tactics so stupid that our opponents will be blindsided and confused. But what if it turns out that our opponents fully expect us to continue to behave in unbelievably stupid ways?
Move left: Labour lost the election because it wasn’t left-wing enough. Most people voted for centre-right parties, and the parties to the left of Labour also did badly, but that’s only because right-wingers are such meanies, and they took all our votes away from us. A proper left-wing party wouldn’t have let John Key and his bullies kick sand in our faces.
Purge: We need a cleanout of all the people within the party who have ever disagreed with me. They say that Labour needs to be a broad church, but how can we run any sort of organisation while people continue to have different views on things? What we must do is identify the people who we don’t agree with 100% of the time, and drum them out of the party. This will ultimately be for the good of the party, even if it results in a few more election losses. We’ll eventually have a small but ideologically sound political party to work with.
To facilitate this process, I have commenced a list of problem people, and I look forward to these poisonous traitors all being expelled.
Review of reviews: We need to conduct a number of reviews of the party and its election loss in order to be told the things we already know, or the things that ought to be blindingly obvious to anyone with any sense. Those of us who don’t like the review findings will then have the opportunity to attack the people conducting those reviews, accusing them of bias or partisan loyalties, or of being neoliberal stooges.
This review process will lead to further reviews, in order to review whether the initial reviews were fair and balanced. This process of constant review will keep a number of unruly and unreasonable political activists, commentators and armchair pundits gainfully occupied for many months, thus providing a valuable mental health service to those marginalised and embittered members of society who don’t cope well with other people but are desperate to be noticed.
Party visionary: Labour is a party that seems to lack a clear direction and purpose. Nobody seems to be clear on what or who it stands for any more. It could also do with some inspired and visionary leadership. Labour needs to start by following the Internet Party’s lead and appointing a “party visionary.” This person needs to be an inspirational and motivational figure, and who better than Kim Dotcom? Look how many people he inspired and motivated to vote National. Maybe he could work the same magic for Labour.
If Kim’s not available, let’s ask my good friend Martyn Bradbury.
Blame the media: If Labour got more favourable media attention, it would do better. Now why is it that our main opposition party fares so badly with the press? Is it because Labour is a disorganised, dysfunctional rabble at war with itself, and with too many people within its caucus unable to comprehend the concepts of party discipline or loyalty?
Or are the media all bad people?
It’s a trick question. Of course the media are to blame. We need to continue to attack key figures within the news media, because there’s no better way to make political journalists see your point of view than to call them biased, incompetent or corrupt. And if that doesn’t work, at least we’ll drive them off Twitter.
Attack their strengths: John Key is National’s strength. He’s generally well-liked by most people, and is regarded as affable and competent. So let’s destroy him! We’ll start by accusing him of being crooked and corrupt, dishonest and evil, and then we’ll accuse him of being uncaring and greedy, and then we’ll mock his occasional garbled language in order to make anyone else who doesn’t have perfect enunciation feel worthless.
To provide a sharp contrast to John Key’s despicable behaviour, we will put up against him a Labour Party leader who has led a moral and blameless life of public service. Someone who has served with courage and selflessness in war zones overseas. Places like Somalia, Iraq, Palestine, and Rwanda. How could this approach possibly fail?
I can’t guarantee that if Labour does all of these things it will win the 2017 election. But what I can guarantee is that it will remain in Parliament for a few more terms at least. And that’s got to count for something.