Dunne versus Little and Labour

Peter Dunne started in politics and in Parliament with Labour. He split off and helped form United New Zealand in 1995, merging and becoming United Future in 2002.

Dunne and UF worked in coalition with Helen Clark’s Labour government, and then with John Key’s National government in which he is still a minister.

It sounds like Dunne’s chances of working with Labour again are slim, going by a post from him this week.

I spent more than 22 years as a member of the Labour Party – possibly a longer time in the Party than many of its current Caucus, and virtually all of the fly-by-night candidates dragged together for this election.

However, the Labour Party today is vastly different from the Party I joined as a university student, or even that which UnitedFuture supported on confidence and supply matters during the Helen Clark years. The sense of optimism and enthusiasm for New Zealand that pervaded Labour previously in even the darkest of times now seems to have deserted it completely.

Labour appears these days to be against everything, and for nothing. Maybe it is the permanently grim, dark disposition of its current leader, or maybe it is the length of time the Party has spent in Opposition.

Whatever, the effect is that Labour and its image seem more and more out of time and irrelevant.

Irrelevant to Dunne’s future coalition options perhaps but to survive Dunne will have to beat a concerted effort by Labour to oust him from Ohariu.

The reaction to the recent Budget was but the latest example of this. Labour was the only Party to oppose outright the tax and benefit changes in the Budget. Other Parties certainly expressed their misgivings and offered alternative ways by which families could be uplifted, but, at the same time, supported the Budget legislation because they recognised the incongruity of opposing outright a set of measures from which many New Zealand families will benefit.

By its blanket opposition, Labour simply revealed its sourness and churlishness, and the fact that under its current leadership, at least, it has lost the capacity to appreciate that other Parties can have good ideas too.

It seems to think that only it can do things to assist the less well-off, and it is unreasonably affronted when others make what it sees as a raid on its traditional territory.

This bitter, graceless approach smacks of the worst of envy politics (even the CTU welcomed aspects of the Family Assistance Package!) and is a pathetic throwback to the cloth-cap politics of a bygone era.

For its part, Labour still seems trapped by having a singular view of the world which they believe voters will come to accept, then embrace, once they hear more of it. In this world, compromise and pragmatism are unwelcome dirty words, lest they dilute the “true” message.

Labour’s “we know best” attitude stands defiantly and forlornly all by itself. Labour – for so long the party of reform – is now but a hollow shadow of itself.

Saddening to some, but surprising to few.

I think it is sad to see how negative Labour is, and how badly they have done since Clark lost the 2008 election.

A strong democracy needs at least two strongly competing major parties, and Labour seems to have resigned itself to being a second tier party.

While Labour could come through to cobble together a multi party coalition out of the election in September they could also (or instead) emerge as a depleted force with either or both the Greens and NZ First competing with them for the role of second biggest party.

It’s quite feasible that NZ First + Greens will be bigger than Labour.

It seems obvious that Dunne won’t be welcome by Labour in any coalition  considerations. His latest post is unlikely to go down well – Labourites hate being told what they are doing wrong.

Labour still have time to rise from the doldrums, especially if National look too tired and/or arrogant. But they are also at risk of fading away.

Currently Andrew Little seems to be an appropriate face for Labour – negative, dour and unable to think on their feet. They may find a way of connecting with voters over the next few months but they are running out of time.

Dunne has come out swinging against his old party, but unless Labour wakes up they are their own worst enemy.


  1. PDB

     /  2nd June 2017

    It appears Ardern has also given up – after all the fanfare of her appointment as Labour deputy (even though in a coalition govt she wouldn’t be deputy PM with the Greens/NZL First needing representation) she appears to have been quickly forgotten & Labour continues to struggle in the polls.

  1. Dunne versus Little and Labour – NZ Conservative Coalition