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Labor's shrinking base « Previous | |Next »
November 21, 2011

With the mainstream media backing off from their negative campaign against the Gillard Government we can begin to assess Labor's woes. Many argue for party reform by which they mean party renewal by which is meant both the recommendations of the review carried out after the last federal election by John Faulkner, Bob Carr and Steve Bracks; a reduction in union power so as to end union control of Labor; a significant effort to empower ordinary party members; better leadership; and opposing a close relationship with the Greens. The ALP can then rediscover its proper identity as the sole political party on the left/progressive side of politics

This is an insider's perspective, as it focuses on internal dynamics. This argument is structured around the loss of its intrinsic culture of strong, bold, and innovative leadership; and an identity crisis that has emerged because Labor has failed to refresh its values, philosophy, and purpose for the modern era. Consequently, Labor is seen to be beholden to The Green's political agenda.

This argument fails to address the demise of Labor's unionised blue-collar base or core from the decline in manufacturing industry. Paul Rodan puts it thus:

This loss of an ideologically committed, “rusted-on” element does not stop Labor winning elections, but it does mean that a larger proportion of its vote is conditional, liable to be withdrawn once people start to have doubts about the competence of Labor in government, or when it fails to present as a credible opposition....Put simply, the core has shrunk – not just because of a conscious reaction by individuals aggrieved at the party’s perceived loss of principle, but also because of the disappearance of those sections of manufacturing industry that delivered Labor-voting unionists in large numbers. Optimistic speculation that Labor would develop a replacement support base in the newer industries has proved fanciful. Boilermakers were always a better bet than IT nerds.

As Labor's core has shrunk the Greens have emerged as a viable party on the progressive side of politics. That means Labor increasingly needs and alliance with the Greens to gain, or to retain, power.

For many in the ALP such an alliance causes an identity crisis. What does Labor stand for? What are its core principles? They say that Gillard is a leader in name only as she is incapable of setting the political agenda, and lacks the respect of much of the ALP's most ardent support base.

Yet the political reality is that the vote of the left has been split, it will remain so, and Labor will be very dependent on Green preferences for the forseeable future.Labor's coherence as a political party will require it forming some sort of coalition with the Greens.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:18 AM | | Comments (5)
Comments

Comments

Labor in moving away from its core blue collar workers party ethos is its major reform. Australia is a diverse nation and they must represent all. Business, mining, environment, workers etc etc. Basically Labor is growing up and getting a real job.

Gee Les I wonder if there will ever be a day when the COALition deigns to represent any other than the business and associated rich classes?
You know, someone else besides the 1%.
Those whose interests are in conflict with the vast majority of Australians.

We can only wish upon a star.

Labor's way forward from here is to be seen as a mediator. Seen as a business that will negotiate for you. Seen as a Government that is prepared to make hard decisions for the right reasons. Seen as Australians working for Australia.
Julia's popularity will rise and drag Labor's with her because she can get back the womens vote where Abbott can't. Thats the key.

The rust belting, de-unionising and consequent dumbing down of western countries has swung power big capital's way, which is what I think Les was groping toward saying, without quite finding the right words.

Labor is scoring points and you guys still aint happy. Take a pill.