March 12, 2013

Horse 1448 - Labor's Long Road To Ruin

I'm going to make a prediction now, although somewhat begrudgingly and that is that on September 15, Australia will wake up with Anthony Abbott as Prime Minister and a fairly handy majority in both houses of parliament (98-49 seems like a good sort of spread*).
The thing is though, this prediction doesn't necessarily just apply for Election '13, if applies generally for Election '16, '19, '22 and in broad terms until '43.
People might talk about the Obeids, the powerbroking of the NSW Labor left and right but the simple fact is that what the Labor Party represents is dead.

The Labor Party traditionally not only represented workers but its basis of power coalesced around trade unions and the power which they could wield. Largely because corporations over the past 30 years, have found new and cheaper sources of labour, without the shackles of working conditions imposed in western countries, the sorts of people who would have organised themselves into trade unions are no longer within our borders but overseas. Thanks to the move from a manufacturing to a service based economy, the unions themselves have either deliberately voluntarily or chosen to ignore newer classes of workers which have formed.
What's especially strange about this is that the situation which exists in Australia now, is roughly the same as in Britain in the late 1970s (even with a twice elected Labor government). The manufacturing sector has been white-anted and although we don't have the series of strikes which existed in 70s Britain, the more conservative alternative hasn't really worked that hard to impress the public. The Labour Party in Britain in 1979 was dumped out because it found that its former base no longer was behind it.
The ironic thing is that Thatcher brought a dynamism to politics whereas Abbott does not. Just like the Conservative Party in Britain in 1978, the Liberal Party's biggest asset in Australia in 2013 is that the vast majority of members and potential members of parliament who will likely form government, have kept their fool mouth shut. Sometimes saying nothing is the best policy, for a politician it may even give you employment.

Basically the unions are gone, power is dissipated and the party which was made up of a loose federation of those organisations, now finds itself sitting atop a structure where all the supports have been shipped out of the building and the only thing holding up the ceiling is the wallpaper - such a structure must invariably collapse.
What we're left with is a Labor Party which fails to represent the kinds of labour which most people currently provide. A party which fails to represent potential voters, whatever the colour of the politics it peddles, quickly finds that people tend to take their votes elsewhere. Criticism which exists about the Greens taking votes away from Labor is perhaps apt but helped along by Labor volunteering those votes through inactivity.

Especially during the decade of the 00s, politics in Australia shifted away from grand policy and ideology to a situation where both sides now argue over who will be the best administrators of the economy. Politics has now become about who will be the best managers of what already exists rather than who is best at setting targets to aim at.
In this respect, the factionalism which is publicly displayed by Labor hurts their cause. I'm 100% sure that factionalism exists in the Liberal Party but because they haven't aired their grievances in public, the voting masses haven't judged them for it. Mind you, the media in this country willingly stirs up angst if it can because both print media companies and three of five television networks are broadly right of centre.

The real thing that bothers me and will do for the next 30 or so years (because I think that in that period there will be 24 years of LNP governments and 6 years of Labor governments) is not so much that the Liberal Party will be in power but that Labor will slowly shift further to the right and morph into a clone of the US Democratic Party. Politics in Australia will be fought over 'social' issues and what to do about the aging population and the growing class of under waged people as though they were not in the room.
I don't know where, or even if the intelligentsia of the left even exists any more. Maybe it will take the reemergence of squalor and dire poverty for the left to finally find its voice but until then, I just don't see it happening. There just aren't the big issues like the extension of the franchise to deal with anymore; so the movements which would have given the left reason to write and enter the body politic simply won't exist. Without Labor's left doing anything, the right squabbles with the Liberals into irrelevancy.

*Based on a 5.5% swing to the LNP which I think would be reasonable

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