Election results 2020: Josie Pagani – Time for Labour to bank Jacinda Ardern’s popularity and take risks


If not now, when?

Covid brought politics into people’s lives, and Jacinda Ardern has reaped the benefits. The last time Labour did this well was in 1938 when Michael Joseph Savage was re-elected.

But I bet they wish they’d been a bit more ambitious.

Instead, they have boxed themselves in with water-tight commitments – no wealth tax,no capital gains tax, no increase in the age of eligibility for Super.

The only new revenue will come from a small tax increase for top income earners, raising just $500 million a year. All of which will be sucked up into the $4 billion Lake Onslow hydro project (with dubious returns for the climate or the economy).

That’s $500 million that won’t go to child poverty, health or schools.

They must now bank some of Jacinda’s extraordinary popularity, and take risks. If not now, when? They have ruled out a wealth tax, but they haven’t ruled out a fairer tax system.

National deserve to lose. What was the point of them in this election? They failed to make an offer.

Instead, they attacked – the wealth tax and, bizarrely in the last week, obese people. 2023 is not looking good either. It’s hard to come back this far, this fast.

When Labour introduced the welfare state in the 1930s, National took 15 years to accept it. They can’t take that long again to have something meaningful to say about inequality and housing.

But Parliament will be a awash with ideas. Pressure on the government will increase, with two opposition parties (maybe three, depending on the Greens). Labour could end up getting swiped from the left and the right.

The Māori Party’s win on the night in Waiariki is extraordinary in a red wave. They have a beachhead now, and a chance to amplify the voices of working class, predominantly Māori New Zealanders.

That could be a major problem for Labour – unless they reset the party’s direction. Having even more support should give the Prime Minister permission to be far more ambitious.

The danger is that increased caution kicks in when you have even more to lose.

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