Normally after an electoral drubbing such as the Labour Government received last year one can safely assume that in another two or three election cycles there will be a path back to power. Voters will simply tire of the current lot and therefore there will be an appetite for change. Maybe a John Key or, God forbid, a Jacinda Ardern turns up to virtually single-handedly propel their party to victory.

If the present coalition Government hits its straps and gets the desired results it is hard to see either of the aforementioned scenarios coming to pass. At that point Labour has its work cut out, hamstrung by its potential coalition partners.

Thomas Coughlan headlined his column in a Weekend Herald article a few weeks ago as ‘Labour must find path to avoid irrelevancy’. He starts his article with the absurd observation that, until the election, everything Hipkins did mattered a great deal. We agonised over his choice of snacks and soft drinks. Did we? I certainly didn’t. Who would waste time agonising over a sausage roll or a meat pie? Evidently, we agonised over his wearing full work attire when giving a press conference on holiday. Again, I didn’t. It amazes me that the NZ Herald pays people to write such drivel.

Coughlan says Labour allowed the Maori Party to be the arbiter of the ideal Maori policy, the price-maker. He also says the Labour Party seemed not to understand that any party that got into a bidding war with Te Pati Maori on Maori-related policies would lose. Coughlan says if that happens again the 2023 result will be repeated, losing both Maori and non-Maori alike. That I can agree on. He also states that Labour cannot, and should not, back down from its position as the political vanguard when it comes to championing Maori. He claims that doing so would shatter the party.

Right there is a conundrum for Labour. What Coughlan is saying in essence is that Labour mustn’t let the Maori Party rule the roost while trying to honour Maori needs and wants.

I think Coughlan needs to remember it wasn’t so much the Maori Party that ran things relating to Maori in the last Government but, rather, Labour was held to ransom by its own Maori caucus.

Led by the nose. Photoshopped image credit Boondecker. Concept credit Juana. The BFD.

The problem Labour now faces is that any government they form in the future will no doubt have to include the Maori Party and they’ll have a hard job selling that to voters.

Their other partner in crime will undoubtedly be the Greens. The problem Labour has in selling that as a palatable option has just intensified with the impending departure of James Shaw. The only one that could possibly be described as level-headed will not be in the frame. Without Shaw’s pacifying influence, the Greens are at risk of losing any semblance of an environmental party and morphing into nothing more than a radical left-wing bunch of political outliers. Chloe is not the answer but who is?

Then we come to Labour itself. Michael Wood while identifying his many self-rated claims to fame has failed to mention his biggest one, losing Mt Roskill. He says Labour have to start listening to what the people want. In that statement, he reveals conundrum number two for Labour. In the election last year people voted in no uncertain terms for what they wanted and it wasn’t what Michael and his party were offering. Michael can listen all he wants but what was voted for were policies he and his party don’t agree with. Ironically, he’s on the committee formulating party policy.

This is where Labour comes up against its own ideological agenda. To win an election in the future that has to change. As I pointed out in a previous article their ideology is too embedded to change. Further, it puts them even more at odds with their coalition partners. Even further, it puts them at greater odds with their paymasters in the unions. Labour is not just between a rock and a hard place but between several rocks and hard places. Their future looks bleak indeed.

Image credit The BFD. Labour is not just between a rock and a hard place but between several rocks and hard places.

I’ll stick my neck out and say it is a good bet Winston and Shane will never go with them again. Once bitten, twice shy. I must say I have little sympathy for people who emerge with self-inflicted bites. However, it must be said, in terms of upcoming Treaty issues, we are very lucky that have these two plus David on our side. Shane made some very pertinent comments recently in relation to the Waitangi Tribunal. He wanted it “substantially redirected and its writ changed”. “They cannot and must not have the authority to write a new constitution for New Zealand”.

He went on to say that was a job for politicians. These sorts of comments will be music to the majority of voters’ ears, particularly coming from a well-respected Maori. I’m not sure Labour is cognisant of the position it now finds itself in. Concerning Maoridom the moderates, whom most Maori support, are now on the right and Labour are seen as being in bed with the radical left in terms of both the Maori Party and the Greens. Labour will not be electable on that basis.

Labour now finds itself with both hands tied behind its back courtesy of their coalition partners. It’s all very well for Carmel Sepuloni to parrot in her pre-Christmas speech that they were “up for the fight” when she and her party have been handed effectively a TKO from their own side of the House. It would appear from their demeanour and behaviour that they are blissfully unaware that this is the case. They certainly appear not to be reading Thomas Coughlan.

A right-wing crusader. Reached an age that embodies the dictum only the good die young. Country music buff. Ardent Anglophile. Hates hypocrisy and by association left-wing politics.