Dear Young Labour,
Remember when David Cunliffe was elected, and everyone hoped he would be a bold left wing leader? Ah, those were the days. Nowadays he seems more interested in buddying up to Winston Peters. And it makes sense to do so, since Winston will make Labour pay dearly in any negotiations. Labour can afford to take progressive issues and the Greens for granted because they have nowhere else to go.
Shane Jones is effectively co-leading your party, and his approach has been to target the mortgage belt and slam the Greens with insults from the 1970s (seriously, who says ‘mollymawk’?). Is this the Labour you thought you were getting when Cunliffe mentioned the ‘red rose of socialism‘?
Labour is not promoting the issues you care about. They have a neutral or even harmful approach to climate change. They are not campaigning for a universal student allowance, or drug law reform. And as for abortion law reform – well, if you were at the conference last year, you’ll remember how Young Labour were treated. Your allies in caucus abandoned you.
Labour is not addressing your issues because they don’t draw votes over to the left. Instead, Labour are talking about more offshore drilling, banning foreigners from living as we do, making the elderly work longer, welfare for the privileged middle class, and mortgage rates. These issues may win votes, but they are not progressive. The issues you care about are incredibly important. It should not be illegal for a woman to choose whether or not she gives birth, and you deserve a party that is committed to changing this.
You can promote these issues and still work towards a Labour-led government. You just need to do it from within the Greens. In fact, the stronger the Greens are after the election, the more likely these issues will be advanced in coalition discussions.
It is time to separate what is best from what is good. It is best that the Left grows by taking marginal votes from the right. But it is good to pursue progressive change. The Left needs a centrist party that does the dirty pragmatism, and a principled party that holds firm on progressive values.
I get that you want to be Prime Minister one day, and that you think Labour is your best hope of doing so. But does that matter more than your values? If so, stay in Labour. It has a long history of people abandoning their principles for more power. But if you really want to unashamedly pursue progressive change, you might want to join an unashamedly progressive party. And besides, it’s not like climate change will get less relevant with time. Maybe you can be the first Green PM.