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Chris Ford: Andrew Little - just a little jump to the Right?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford
Andrew Little.

Labour's leadership election is finally over with the winner being Andrew Little. I just wonder though, with Little's election, as to whether (in the immortal words of the Rocky Horror Picture Show) Labour has taken a slight jump to the Right?

Several similarly left-leaning commentators have made the same call. I would join them in that. The new leader made much of the need to dump the Capital Gains Tax during the leadership election campaign. That does concern me as it was one of Labour's more clearly progressive policies and one shared in common with the party I stood for, the Greens.

However, I was pleased to note, though, that Little called for the party to discard its plans to raise the retirement age to 67. When even National is not keen on the idea, you have to wonder why they persisted for so long with it. I knew from talking to some people who didn't vote Labour this time that this was one of the policies that turned them off.

I wonder why Little is keen to get rid of the CGT? It's one of many tools that we need to use to tackle two key problems: growing inequality and house prices. Moreover, opinion polls before the election also showed that there was increasing support for the tax. What did the CGT idea some damage were National's misrepresentations of the tax and the way it was poorly communicated to voters by Labour and to some extent even my own party. I do realise that not enough emphasis was put on the fact that the family home would remain exempt from CGT. And speaking of National's misrepresentations, John Key didn't help matters through his question to former Labour leader David Cunliffe on whether or not homes owned by family trusts would be exempt from the tax. This dirty tricks question was clearly designed by Key and his strategists to both rattle Cunliffe and cast doubts among voters only a week out from the election.

Evidently, National and its wealthy supporters didn't want the tax whereas ordinary Kiwis understood it but didn't back the parties that would bring it in.

That's why I'd urge Andrew Little not to dump the CGT. Conversely, I would urge him to jettison the increased retirement age policy as that was more of a burning issue with potential Labour voters than anything else. I, for one, will be urging the Greens to keep with the CGT as well for 2017. After all, peak organisations of international capital such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and eminent economists of all persuasions have called on this country to introduce a CGT. It's the right and sensible thing to do.

Above all, I hope that Little (as the former head of the 'business oriented'  Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union) doesn't take Labour further to the Right. In my belief, parties of all persuasions should stick to their ideological positions. Labour should know this reality better than any other party given its history with Rogernomics which deviated the party from its traditional support base. I hope that Little and his new leadership team will heed this call as I would like to see a genuinely progressive Greens-Labour Government after the next election.

I do realise that this is early days for Little. He has been getting a good press this week but his big test will come when he announces his new deputy and shadow cabinet and faces Key for the first time in the House next week. Only then will we know if he has the mettle to take on Key in partnership with Greens co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei.

That's why it's important not to judge Little too harshly at this early stage. I only hope his more progressive instincts and common person touch will prevail over any tendency to turn Labour into more of a National-lite party.

Perhaps in a year's time I might be better able to judge whether Little has indeed performed a little jump to the Right.

 

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