Chris Trotter paints a very dark picture of the political health of the Labour Party in his From the Left column today. Not only has the Auckland Labour Party membership plummeted below 2,000, but the party is also now a ‘democracy-free-zone’ that is ‘at serious risk of imploding under the weight of its own extraordinary timidity’. In his column, entitled, 'Labour: Political Party or Cosy Club?', Trotter pays particular attention to the political nature of the new party president, Andrew Little, who he characterizes as a friend of business who is ‘as exciting as a wet week in August’. [Read more below]
Comparing the current Labour Party to that of the old participatory mass membership party, Chris Trotter suggest that the current version appears to have become ‘some sort of cosy club for parliamentary aspirants’. The old party was a ‘indisputably living thing’ which ‘was alive with ideas, and roiling with policies as vociferously challenged as they were passionately defended’. He says ‘that party no longer exists’. Replacing the ‘fervent, fractious’ organization is one where back-room deals are done amongst the parliamentary elite. Trotter says, ‘Just consider the sequence of crucial leadership changes in the Labour Party since the General Election. There have been no elections, no contests, no debates – just a series of "orderly transitions". And this week ‘the positions of party president and vice-president had both been filled unopposed’.
It’s the (non) election of party president Andrew Little that has really irked Trotter. Regardless of the way he’s been handed the position, Trotter says that Little is essentially a business collaborationist. Trotter’s understandably nervous about ‘a union leader who receives loud plaudits from the business community’. He suggest that the reason that Little is ‘well liked by the business community’ is because employers probably come out of contract negotiations with the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) of which Little is the head, saying:
Trotter therefore predicts that ‘if Andrew Little manages Labour’s recovery in the same sober fashion as he’s managed New Zealand’s largest private sector union, I think it’s safe to say that his popularity among the nation’s capitalists will remain undiminished’.
For more on the rightist influence that the EPMU have had over Labour, see my earlier blog post: EPMU and Labour.