A Labour Party on the back foot politically has come out swinging in a major speech with another attempt to label John Key and his Government as defenders of the privileged.
Labour insiders believe that the kind of rhetoric employed today by the leader, Andrew Little, is increasingly striking a chord with middle New Zealand.
Labour’s proposition is simple; a rich former foreign exchange dealer like John Key looks after the kind of people he knows.
Doing that, says Labour, excludes ordinary New Zealanders.
“It’s been pretty clear in the last few weeks where this government’s economic priorities lie,’ Mr Little said.
“Faced with multinational corporates who earn big revenue in New Zealand but pay little or no tax, our government says there’s nothing they can do.
“Seeing an opportunity to attract the wealth of the world’s mega-rich, the government did nothing to stop the explosion in foreign trusts that let the mega-wealthy dodge their tax obligations.”
(That last statement skates over the fact that the legislation paving the way for the trusts was passed by the last Labour Government in 2008 and since the trusts don’t earn any revenue in New Zealand they don’t pay tax here. The issue about them is about disclosure)
But all of this is a leadup to Mr Little’s core message: “And while the few at the very top got to enjoy special rules that meant they didn’t have to pay their fair share – everyone else is paying the cost.”
This is likely to be the theme of a great deal of Mr Little’s rhetoric over the next few months.
Labour will be attempting to contrast the sober, serious Mr Little against a John Key, who they will seek to portray as something of a lightweight more at home with celebrities and in rich business circles than among ordinary New Zealanders.
Mr Little does have some powerful statistics on his side.
“Under the last Labour government, the share of economic growth going to wage and salary earners was over 50%,” he said.
“Today, it’s 37%.
“The slice of the economy going to workers has fallen each year under National.”
And the housing crisis is grist to Labour’s mill and again it provides it offers an opportunity to tag National as the rich people’s party.
“When an entire generation is locked out of ever owning their own home, that is a crisis,” he said.
“Instead of owning up to that and fixing it, the government is siding with property speculators and land bankers, while everyone else misses out.”
Mr Little returned to the theme throughout the speech; the Government’s priorities were all wrong, he said.
“They’re increasingly interested in looking after the few at the very top, and forgetting about everyone else.
“We can see that in an economy where more of the gains of growth go to the mega-rich.
“We can see that in a housing market that rewards speculators while locking out first home
“In a health system where people miss out on the care they need because of a lack of funding, while our Prime Minister calls for more money to be given away to the already wealthy.
“And we can see it in a public education system where achievement is falling while more money than ever is pumped into privately run charter schools.
“That’s the plan our current government is delivering.
“Focusing on the few at the top while it gets harder for everyone else.”
But the odds are still against Labour.
POLITIK has learned that the party’s membership is now probably below that of the Greens, which would place it below 5000.
, possibly less than half that.
In contrast, National is aiming to recruit up to 35,000 members before the next election campaign.
And any thought the party might have had of assembling a three-party coalition to take power after the next election seems to have been dashed by NZ First Leader Winston Peters actively campaigning against Labour.
But the fact that the party now has a coherent plan of rhetorical attack is a start.