Increasingly, figures from the Left are looking outside political parties to bring about political change. This is unsurprising when we look at the state of our parties: one was destroyed (MANA), one is deeply structurally damaged (Labour), and the other can’t achieve much with Labour (Greens). But hey, political parties were always an imperfect means to progressive ends.
The next election is years away, so it’s time to turn our attention to governance processes and civil society action. Here, we can bring about good change (or at least block bad change).
The Government is pretty much always consulting or seeking submissions on something, including a lot of issues that concern the Left.
Compared to the hurly-burly of the hustings and the theatre of the House, the actual machinery of government is pretty boring. Cabinet papers, Select Committees, and consultation periods are not very sexy, but they are important. Political power hides in a thicket of arcane processes, but if we are willing to cut a path then we march through the institutions.
If you think dry policy documents don’t matter, then take a look at the Treasury briefings for the incoming government in the Rogernomics era. Immense power hid behind tepid phrases like “Greater flexibility may mean that the real wage for some groups in the labour market will fall“. Roger Douglas might have been a believer, but he was nothing without those papers from Treasury.
The bureaucracy has always had a lot of power. In a sense, elections are fought for control of the public service and their boring papers. The executive can’t do much without the skills, networks, and knowledge of the bureaucracy.
Let me repeat, bureaucracy is boring. But don’t let that stop you from weighing in. Select Committees will open soon, and there are currently a few consultations of interest to leftists, especially greens:
1- Standards New Zealand, an autonomous crown entity, is consulting on ‘a standard for gender and sexual diversity in employment‘ until 17 November.
2- Wellington City Council is consulting on its natural resources plan until 30 November.
3- The Productivity Commission is consulting on provision of social services until 18 November.
4- Land Information New Zealand is consulting on changing place names in New Zealand until 17 November. From what it looks like, they are shifting to more accurate te reo place names, which will likely draw submissions from cranky racists.
The Left needs to be active outside party politics. Partly because Labour (and maybe the whole electoral left) is in trouble on a deep structural level. But also because there’s opportunity for us to bring about good change.
We on the Left have immense energy and good social media mobilisation. National has a majority, but they still need to consult and take submissions at Select Committees. Let’s make sure our voices are heard wherever we can.