Kiss me, I'm a non voter

facts about low paid workers voting incentives

In his September 24th post "the election that left one third of us behind", Bryan Gould put some basic questions:

"We have a pretty good idea of who the non-voters were. They were poor, often unemployed, poorly educated, with worse health than the rest of us, often brown-skinned, living in sub-standard housing and bringing up their children in poverty."

"Why did they not do at least something to ward off the changes promised by a re-elected National government? Are they really content with the prospect of a next three years that will see their rights at work severely curtailed, that will mean their being “moved off benefits”, that will produce further cuts in the public services on which they especially depend?"

"How is it that the Labour party has failed to engage with what many would see as their natural constituency?"

Here's how.

As members of a liberal capitalist party, Labour candidates were concerned to get elected and govern in the interests of people like themselves, those with a stake in the system.

Labour policies reflected this kaupapa

Labour’s core election finance policy was to return greater budget surpluses than National, requiring further cuts to social spending.
Labour ruled out removing GST - an anti working class tax which Labour imposed in the first place.
Labour promised a beggarly $2 increase in the minimum wage. Not enough to dent poverty - just a big enough crumb to keep faith with the union bureaucracy. This while increasing the pension age from 65 to 67 and forcing workers to pay more for their own retirement through a compulsory savings scheme.
Labour cut hundreds of millions of dollars from its alternative budget in response to the Treasury downgrading the country’s growth forecast. Speaking recently to the Australian Financial Review,Cunliffe promised "An economic upgrade, based on investment, innovation and industry development" .He emphasised that Labour would focus on paying off National’s debt and returning budget surpluses, which will inevitably mean further cuts to spending on social programs.
So the best that could be said about Labour's intended governing policy is that it might improve the economy, after which some benefits might possibly trickle down to the poor.
Where have we heard that before?

In the middle of his post, Bryan Gould answered his own question.

Low paid workers:

" had no confidence that the political process took any account of their interests. They had ceased to believe anything that politicians said. They felt disengaged and confused, and convinced that there was nothing they could do to improve matters"

When National and Labour talk seriously about voting demographics, all their talk is of how to win "the centre".
National and Labour have no interest in the marginalised poor, they don’t need their votes, so they don't seek them.
No party standing in the election seriously sought votes from the very poor - except Mana. But despite constant complaint about inequality, Mana had no radical internationalist programe for social change.
Creating such a programe and winning active workers support for it is the task crying out to be done.


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