Little’s resignation: Labour Must Change Course

Andrew Little’s resignation as Leader at Labour’s caucus meeting on Tuesday morning (1 August) has shocked the political world. We can accept Little’s reason at face value. He cited opinion polls: Sunday’s One News Colmar Brunton poll, Monday’s Newshub Reid poll and Labour’s private polling. These polls showed Labour’s support down to 24 percent, below their 2014 general election result.

The ISO welcomes Little’s resignation. Little’s rightwing and conservative leadership was a disaster. He followed bourgeois commentariat opinion that Labour must pander to imagined right-wing prejudices of workers and appear moderate in order to appeal to the political centre ground. One issue more than any other encapsulated Labour’s approach under Little: its long-running unprincipled campaign against immigrants. For this Little has got a deserved come-uppance. As an opportunist ploy for racist votes, it did Labour no good at all. While Bill English presides over the highest rates of homelessness and youth suicide in the OECD, Labour has misdirected its fire to let National off the hook and give a boost to Winston Peters.

Labour’s conservatism has been shown up by the Green Party. Labour’s neglect of the treatment of beneficiaries allowed the Greens to move to the left on this issue and take over what should be Labour ground. The results of Labour’s political cowardice are clear. While Labour’s poll ratings dropped to record lows, the Greens’ championing of beneficiaries has seen their support strengthen.

An article on this website in May called on Labour to turn left, stop blaming immigrants, drop its conservative Budget Responsibility Rules pact with the Greens and emulate Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing election campaign. In the weeks since then the contrast between what our side needs and what Labour’s leadership has been delivering has become starker. It is not too late for Labour to radically change course, stand up for the working class and the oppressed, and reap a surge of support up until 23 September.

Labour’s popularity with the electorate matters. We want National kicked out and we don’t want Winston Peters dictating the terms of the next government. But is Labour likely to move to the left under Jacinda Ardern? Neither Ardern, nor any of the Labour caucus, rebelled against the right-wing conservatism of Andrew Little. Ardern is no left-winger. Just last week she chose to attack Metiria Turei at the very moment the Greens’ stance on ending punitive sanctions on beneficiaries was re-injecting some much-needed solidarity into mainstream political discussion. We live in hope that Labour might learn some obvious lessons from Little’s failure. But we’re not holding our breath.

Our slogan in this election is “Kick National out – build a socialist alternative”. If Ardern’s leadership helps get some momentum – any momentum – into Labour kicking National out then so much the better. But we’re going to need movements from below regardless of what’s happening in the parliamentary arena.