Labour’s brightest and best?

– Don Franks

As Labour sinks deeper in the polls, political commentators speculate about the party’s future in opposition. Are there any bright spots shining among the ruins? One very promising ‘new talent’, who, according to columnist Matthew Hooton “should go straight to Labour’s front bench”, is Wellington Central candidate Grant Robertson. You can form some opinion about Grant Robertson by taking a look at his blog. Much of this journal is devoted to descriptions of Grant’s busy social life watching rugby and patronising the cafés of the capital.

Amidst all that, Grant found time to write a message “for all the workers” on May 1st, the traditional international day of workers’ struggle. He said:

A very happy May Day to one and all. It is a good day to reflect on some of the achievements of the Labour led government for working people. To name just a few;

  • four weeks annual leave, and fair entitlements and compensation for working on public holidays
  • 14 weeks paid parental leave
  • the scrapping of the ECA and the passing of the fairer, worker friendly ERA
  • annual increases to the minimum wage, now $12 per hour

This is not to mention the other worker friendly initiatives such as Working For Families, cheaper doctors visits and 20 hours free early childhood education.

And interesting to note that almost without exception the National Party voted against these initatives.

It is a day to celebrate these achievements and look to the future where Labour will continue to support safe, healthy and fair workplaces, and jobs that give all New Zealanders a stake in their future.

Or, as Fred Dagg would have put it, – we don’t know how lucky we are. This Mayday message from their Wellington Central candidate tells us a lot about Labour’s attitude to the low paid. In Grant Robertson’s comfortable little world, “all the workers” seemingly face no hardship or difficulties. No rising prices of fuel and food. No redundancies. No rent rises or repossessions. Apparently Mayday 2008 reveals nothing at all workers need to struggle for, or even complain about. In Grant Robertson’s impression of workers under Labour there is nothing but safe healthy fairness as far as the eye can see, guaranteed into the future as well.

Grant has one thing right. Mayday is a good day to reflect on some of the supposed achievements of the Labour-led government for working people. Like the paid parental leave, fought for by the Alliance and a mass movement, against Helen Clark who notoriously said it would be introduced over her dead body. Like Labour’s ERA (Employment Relations Act) which retained all National’s penalties of fines and imprisonment for illegal strike action. Like the fact that the growing army of casualised workers who are ineligible for Working for families benefits.

These problems don’t affect yuppies like Grant Robertson. Unlike thousands of hard working New Zealanders, he is not trapped in a wretched $12 an hour existence. To Grant, the minimum wage isn’t a desperately low income, it’s just another political point-scoring device. Workers battling to stay afloat in today’s increasingly hard times have precious little reason to support the smooth talking government apologist Labour offers them in Wellington Central.

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