One of the main observations and complaints made about the Opposition National Party in recent months has been that it is not releasing policy and is incredibly vague about what it will do if it comes into government this year. These are fair questions and challenges to National, but... [Read more below]
But is National any different to Labour in this regard?
I note that even David Farrar is complaining today about in National’s ACC policy they only promise to ‘investigate opening the Work Account to competition’ – see Farrar’s new regular online NBR column Dispatch from Helengrad.
It’s true that National’s favourite new word seems to be “investigate”. This vagueness in policy strategy is of course nothing new, but is actually incredibly reminiscent of Labour in 1999 prior to coming into government. People seem to have forgotten – especially the Labour Party hacks, such as can found at The Standard – that one of the new trends pioneered by the Labour Party in the late 1990s was to avoid releasing actual policy.
Labour under Clark moved towards a definite political vagueness. For instance, in the late 1990s Clark made a practice of refusing to recite manifesto policy. While in opposition, the need to retain party unity led Labour to postpone its key policy debates. After nine years in opposition, therefore, Labour had been unable to come up with much in the way of new policy. Often, instead of outlining an alternative to that of the National Government, Labour displayed its technocratic character in merely promising a post-election inquiry into whatever policy area was too contentious to develop and release a clear policy on.
In 1999 Labour announced inquiries into telecommunications, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Education Review Office, police procedures for dealing with fraud, as well as 22 other inquiries. According to National’s count at the time, Labour promised 126 reviews, 58 investigations, and 13 ‘explorations’. Sadly, National now appears to be copying Labour’s late-90s approach.