"Forwards, not backwards!" was Helen's message to Labour Party faithfuls last weekend. Indeed, one can make a compelling case that forwards is better than backwards. I wouldn't say that backwards was without its merits, but on the whole, I agree with Helen that society should move forwards. If only there was a party that advocated upwards over forwards...
All in all, the Labour Party Congress was a whole lot of cheerleading. Basked in a creepy red glow (everything looked more blue when I walked outside...), Helen and team told everyone not to be complacent (because they all knew they were going to win). This, really, made everything rather dull: 'Opposition sucks, but have lots of cash... we need to do some good old fashioned campaigning... historical third-term led by Dear Leader...'
A lot of "Don't Changes Horses in Midstream" kind of material too: Labour is stable, competent, dependent, reliable, whereas National can't organise a piss-up at a party conference, etc.
Talking about a National government, Helen asks: "Who'd want to risk that?"
Risk? So National didn't even reach "Bad at Governing" on Labour's Tory-o-meter anymore. It's only flickering at the "Who the Hell Knows?" notch at the bottom. But does that makes Labour the "Might as Well" option?
Labour certainly seems to be worried about Wellington Central, though - there were numerous references to the race (no other race in the country was mentioned), and Cullen made the point that National's threat to cut down the civil service is effectively "ankletapping" Mark Blumsky, since Wellington is full of civil servants.
It looks like we'll see a lot of effort made to shore up Marian Hobbs' support in Wellington - which should give me more to write about.
The good Doctor Cullen also spent an awful lot of time explaining why the surplus reported in the media isn't actually a surplus, and how a cash surplus is different from an operating surplus. I got really confused when he talked about funding capital expenditures out of the operating surplus, and the student loan scheme, too. My sixth-form accounting and glasses only gets me as far as "hmmm...". One of these days I'll sit down with a few old Molesworth and Featherstons and figure it out.
Despite the fact that There-Really-is-No-Surplus, Cullen goes on to explain his Keynesian approach to fiscal management: saving a truckload when the economy is strong (which it has been), and spending it when the economy is crap (which is it expected to turn soon). But, ahem, There-Really-is-No-Surplus.
Jordan Carter explained to me that Keynesianism has never really been tried, since no government can resist the urge to spend when a good economy has given them a good surplus. So, presumably, this government won't feel the urge to spend the surplus, since it doesn't exist. The question, then, is whether this non-existent surplus will surface in two years, so Labour can rescue the economy in time for a fourth term, or whether it has just disappeared into the deep end of the books for good. (Or whether it'll surface in the form of a golden submarine with "Cullen" emblazed on the side...)
The quote of the conference goes to Conor Roberts, the newly-elected President of Young Labour, and the first openly-straight President in many years. He expressed his concern at the public perception of Auckland's Young Labour activists: "Everyone gives [the] Princes Street [Branch] shit for being a bunch of Ponsonby homosexuals. We're not all like that. Some of us are bums."
The first person to have dirt dug up on them this election, it seems, is Labour's token Asian Stephen Ching. He's 42 on the list - a pretty cushy spot - and the second highest newcomer.
The first newcoming being Shane Jones, formerly The-Next-John-Tamihere. Now, he's gone from the next best hope for a future Maori leader to the only hope, and probably doesn't fancy the Tamihere comparison too much.
(And no, Tamihere's case doesn't count as dirt digging, so much as happening to pass by a gigantic exploding mound of dirt.)
Back to Ching - Herald on Sunday's Jonathan Milne was the one who did the digging. Alongside four pages on all the other dodgy going-ons in the dark, deep underbelly of the Asian criminal underworld, Milne exposed Ching's previous run-ins with the law over illegal squid fishing.
Actually, he was just charged with obstruction of justice, and was ordered to pay $500 without conviction. The guilt for the squidding went to the captain of the boat that was chartered by Ching's company. None of the other reporters seem impressed: "Pffft. 'No conviction'...", and Labour Party President Mike Williams was doing the rounds on Sunday saying that it was the Worse Hatchet Job, Ever.
(There'll be more on Ching in a future article that I'll shamelessly self-promote as soon as I know when it'll be published. No squids, though.)