... a prominent leftist blogger declared this the last straw, saying he was finished with the Labour Party.At least I'm pretty sure that was me, even if I never said I was finished with Labour. What I wrote was:
I'm not renouncing my membership, or anything as dramatic as that, nor do I mean this post to sound like a prolonged flounce. I'm just going to stop helping for a while. I have many other uses for the energy that party activism requires me to expend.This caused me to dump on the party, and gave rose to various posts attacking the party's direction, and pondering the party's apparent move to the right. I'm sure I thought I was being dreadfully clever when I disclosed to the world for the first time Labour's new brand.
Since writing these posts I have spoken to a few people within the party who are also frustrated at the way things have gone for Labour in recent times. These conversations have convinced me that, while things are not great, they are not as bad as I may have thought. Serious work needs to be done around getting consistent and coherent messages out to voters, and in making sure that everyone in Labour's caucus understands those message and is disciplined. The same goes for people on the fringes of caucus and the Labour leadership team. Someone like Josie Pagani may not have huge influence within the party, but many people believe that she does, so when Josie Pagani discusses party strategy online or in the media she needs to be careful. Better still, she just shouldn't.
But the policies being worked on by Labour look like the right ones and, contrary to what I may have written in a few of my posts, I don't actually believe Labour is shifting to the right. I like some of the work being done by David Parker around finance and economic development, but the challenge for Labour is to explain to voters what difference any of this will make. It's all very well making speeches about the various economic levers a Labour government would pull, but it has to be explained in language that beneficiaries, low-paid workers and other traditional Labour voters will understand. Labour hasn't managed to get this right.
I'm not one of those people in Jane Clifton's column demanding a change of leader, but I do want to see some evidence that David Shearer is stepping up and taking control, and that the people within Labour in charge of important portfolios (Health, Education, Social Development etc.) are taking the attack to National. If the people in those roles aren't capable of landing hits on the government, then they need to be replaced, and Labour's leader cannot afford to be timid.
Shearer also needs to think more carefully about what he says. His beneficiary-on-the-roof anecdote was clumsy and unconvincing, and sent the wrong message to the party faithful. Few in the party would argue that we should give those who cheat the system a free ride, but starting an important speech with an attack on the type of person who would traditionally vote Labour wasn't smart. I now think this was a cock-up, rather than cynicism on the part of Shearer and his strategy team, and I'm hopeful that we won't hear any more about that bloke on the roof.
When I wrote my "I'm Out" post, I wasn't walking out on the party: I was just "out" with activism. Since then I've had time to think and to reflect. I'm now no longer as "out" as I was, but without being entirely "in". In Phil Twyford I have a great local MP, and I will do what I reasonably can to help him, and if Labour can get its communications sorted and can manage to gag a few undisciplined people and show some consistency in its messages, I might be even more "in".
I don't expect any of this will convince people who think that Labour's problems run deeper than just communications and discipline. I'm sure, though, that a large number of the people now pissed off with Labour would be happier if those things were sorted.