Labour stalwart Brian Edwards says the party’s move to the political centre, which was further hinted at in new leader David Shearer’s speech last week, is driving him away from the party and into the arms of the Greens.
Writing on his blogsite, Dr Edwards, who was former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark’s media trainer, biographer and friend, said Labour’s philosophical and moral values “are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition”.
“I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party.”
Dr Edwards said Rogernomics and the influence of former British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “third way” on Ms Clark’s Government had moved Labour from its socialist roots.
In one of his first interviews, Shearer told Vernon Small that he was reading Phillip Gould’s The Unfinished Revolution, the unintentionally hilarious autobiography of Blair’s pollster and strategist.
(Unintentionally hilarious because it’s written in the language of high drama: the heroes – Gould, Mandelson, Blair – are resolute, bold, decisive, always taking courageous, principled stands against weak, ashen-faced leaders like Kinnock, over grave ethical and strategic issues like – and I’m not kidding here – how long to make the stem on the rose on the logo of the binders that delegates will carry around at the party conference. And it contains sentences like ‘We (Gould and Mandy) ran the best campaign ever by any political party in any modern election. But we still lost to the Conservatives by a huge margin.’)
Anyway, whenever UK Labour moved to the center on an issue like defense, taking a stand against the Soviet Union, say – the militant Communist organisations would denounce the Labour Party, and Gould et al would (rightly) see this as a victory, because the majority of the population hated communism. And I think that’s what Shearer and his advisors want to happen with some of these speeches: if the left denounce them it will give Shearer more attention and send a signal to the center that he’s been rejected by people they don’t like. So when he talks about welfare the idea will be to get Sue Bradford to kick up a huge fuss.
But I have a notion that people like Brian Edwards rather more than they liked the Soviet Union. It’s hard to know if he’s a signifier: does he represent a cohort of older traditional Labour voters moving towards the Greens, or is he an individual motivated by his personal relationship with the party?
There’s another sense in which this is ‘bad for Labour’. Gould, Blair and Mandelson were huge believers in using the mass media to influence the electorate. I’ve written before about how NZ Labour don’t have many champions in the media. National have a small army of political commentators out there who will advocate for the cause and endorse any inanity uttered by English and Key. The only commentator Labour had of any substance was Brian Edwards. (Tapu Misa – the Herald’s leading (only?) left-wing columnist – also seems cool towards Shearer.)