Prime Minister Helen Clark has called the general election for November 8thhoping to win a fourth term . The general election date was of no real surprise as it was the much predicted date being the penultimate date with which the government could go to the country . The problem for the Labour Party is that it is well behind in the various opinion polls which give the National Party between 8% and 18% lead over the Labour Party. With such a lead in the opinion polls the Labour Party is most likely to be defeated.
This election will be fought in a rapidly declining economy, unlike the three previous ones which the Labour Party won; the last election very narrowly indeed. The reformist and pro capitalist leadership of the Labour Party won previous general elections on the basis that the capitalist economy was going forward and that their stewardship of the economy enabled the government to grant minor reforms to workers.
Fundamentally, the past boom was at the expense of New Zealand workers which led to disillusionment with Labour at the last election. Labour's narrow victory at the 2005 general election was significantly helped by the National Party's manifesto of open privatisation, attacks on workers rights, and undermining of the public service. Hence enough workers turned out to vote to stop a National government being formed which would have seen a return to the 1990's.
Quite clearly the New Zealand economy is in recession and the economic news gets bleaker by the day. As I write $1.3 billion has been wiped of the NSX: the stock markets biggest one day loss in 6 years. The soft landing and the robustness of the economy which the finance minister and the Reserve Bank were predicting earlier this year has turned into an economic nightmare for them. The Reserve Bank dropping of the Official Cash Rate (OCR) in the last two months from 8.25% to 7.5%, with more reductions in the OCR predicted, is an attempt to kick start the economy. This is a panic measure. Quite clearly the Reserve Bank seems to have forgotten its monetarist mantra of 'sound finance and low inflation'!
With this in mind the Labour Party manifesto will not be able to safeguard one job in New Zealand as the capitalists will demand that the workers pay the ultimate price of their economic downturn. Not even the promised tax cuts in early October or increases in superannuation and working for families tax credits will save the Labour party from defeat if it adopts a manifesto based on capitalist measures. Let us be quite clear about this if Labour miraculously wins the next election on a pro capitalist manifesto it will very quickly have to introduce severe counter reforms against workers. The only way forward for Labour is to adopt bold socialist policies in the interest of the working class.
The likely return of a National government in November is directly due to the bankruptcy of the Labour leadership. The right wing media as well as the National Party itself go on about the desire for change after 9 years of Labour government and that there will be no fundamental change of policy if National is elected. This is quite clearly a smoke screen as the National Party has relearned the fact that it cannot tell the electorate the truth of what it will do once in power, but what the electorate wishes to hear. Clearly the former employee of Merrill Lynch, and leader of the National Party, John Key as prime minister of New Zealand with have no qualms about carrying out vicious attacks on workers, as the leaked 'secret' policy strongly suggest.
Helen Clark and the Labour Party are going to the country on the principle of trust. They argue that they have delivered their meagre manifestos in the past and can be trusted to get the country through the bad times. The Labour Party can only win this election by trusting and having confidence in the working class and adopting socialist policies that enthuse workers to go out and vote Labour. Such policies will encourage workers to fight for socialism and change society for the better here in New Zealand and internationally. Anything less than this will simply not do..