Defanging Misapprehensions: Labour List MP, Shane Jones', recent foray into Taranaki served as a forceful reminder of Labour's role as the party which, in order to serve its electoral base, must govern for capitalism as a whole - unlike its National Party rival which can and does govern narrowly for favoured capitalists - like Sky City Casinos and Warner Bros.
“THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN the two main parties,” said the late Bruce Jesson, “is that National governs for capitalists, and Labour governs for Capitalism.”
In the course of a provocative foray into the energy-rich province of Taranaki, earlier this week, the Labour List MP, Shane Jones’, offered a neat demonstration of Bruce’s point.
“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview”, he told Fairfax NZ News.
“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task.”
A great deal of very important information is packed into Mr Jones’ typically pithy statement.
First and foremost, Taranaki’s business leaders are being assured that, so long as he retains the Regional Development spokesperson’s role, they have nothing to fear from a future Labour-led government.
Mr Jones’ decision to offer that assurance in the form of a personal commitment: “I am up for the task”; was not, however, accidental. He was warning the Taranaki business community that, in Labour’s bitterly factionalised caucus, very few others are able to say as much.
Further decoded, Mr Jones’ message to the business leaders of Taranaki (most especially its powerful energy sector) may be read as an appeal for their support against those within his own party who have become reconciled to the centre-left vote being forever split between Labour and the Greens.
When Mr Jones talks about “the centrality of jobs” and “the importance of industry”, he is inviting his business audience to mentally complete the sentence Labour cannot utter for fear of alienating its most likely coalition partner.
“Labour wishes to reinforce the centrality of jobs and the importance of industry … ahead of the environment.”
The business community would be wise to take Mr Jones’ assurances very seriously.
When the National Party attempts to justify its current assault on the environment by talking up the likely expansion of employment opportunities, they are much less likely to be believed than when Labour talks about “the centrality of jobs”.
Voters look at the Government’s pokies-for-a-convention-centre deal with Sky City Casinos and all their prejudices about National governing on behalf of its “rich mates” are confirmed.
With Labour it’s different. The voters know that the bulk of the party’s electoral support is drawn from New Zealand’s wage and salary earners. Only a Labour Party whose priorities are “jobs, jobs, jobs” has the slightest chance of mobilising and sustaining that support.
This is what Bruce Jesson meant when he said Labour governs for Capitalism – rather than capitalists. To go on winning elections the party needs to foster job creation on a system-wide scale. It’s why Labour’s economic development policies have always been geared to promoting growth across entire industries – rather than just assisting individual firms like Sky City Casinos or Warner Bros.
When Helen Clark stated over and over again: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”, she wasn’t simply talking about the workers’ wages, she was also referring to the profitability of the bosses’ enterprises!
Unlike a great many of his colleagues, Mr Jones is far from convinced that, when it comes to promoting employment and protecting the environment, Labour can have its cake and eat it too. His response to the Greens plans for a new, “sustainable”, economic system: a variant they’re calling “Green Capitalism”; is brutal:
“Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter’s frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people.”
It’s difficult to think of a sharper contrast between Labour’s view of the environment and the Greens’. When Mr Jones’ uses the word he is not thinking of the unspoilt sands of the East Coast or the dense bush of Northland. In his mind he sees the bleak urban environments of Tamaki Makaurau and Porirua: a world without decent housing; without steady employment; without hope.
Labour makes capitalism work not in the interests of capitalists – but for the sake of their victims.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 26 July 2013.