In the run and rush of the election campaign, you sometimes lose focus on why we're doing all this work and what it is all for. Which is pretty silly when you think about it: the purpose of progressive politics is change and growth, and that is what we stand for and what should be in our minds all the time.
I thought I'd take a little time to explain to you, dear reader, whatever your age and stage and sort of politics, why it is that I want to see a Labour government after 8 November.
On one level it is very simple. I start from the premise that everyone is equal: that in all our amazing difference and diversity, with our different aims, talents, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, fears and hopes, there is a thread of moral equality that joins us all as citizens. It's axiomatic: you either believe this is the case or you do not.
The second axiom is that a "Good Society" is one which gives each of us the chance to make the best of ourselves. It does so by ensuring that by working together, we extend to each other opportunities that we would only otherwise enjoy by good fortune or if we came from families who had more than the usual amount of wealth and power. So decent housing, good education, affordable health care, accessible transport: all these should be equally available to everyone and should be provided in such a way that they are not necessarily part of market relationships: their access is not a matter of money or debt or anything else, but part of the common stuff of our citizenship. This will often but not always mean public provision of such services, outside the market, either because that's the most efficient way of providing everyone with access to the service (e.g. ACC, health), or because we have decided that our common ownership and control of it is in the public interest (e.g. railways).
Note carefully: none of this is about telling people how they should live their lives. It is about providing them with opportunities to make the most of themselves, security from the price of failure being so high as to discourage risk and daring, and a simple measure of fairness in making sure everyone has at least a basic standard of living as of right. That is the key difference between social democracy and communitairianism, or Green politics, or more authoritarian left wing politics: our vision of the Good Society is one that treats people as individuals, being as it is a fusion between liberal democracy and socialism.
The third axiom is that our society, based as it is on the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, does not provide everyone with that equal access to the necessaries of a good life. It is not yet a Good Society. And so it needs to change: more wealth needs to be built, it needs to be more fairly distributed, public services need to be upgraded, the ethic of a caring society needs to be more vigorously argued for and defended.
That change is the business of Labour governments. The current Labour government, a minority coalition as all those of this decade have been, has done a pretty good job of proceeding down this path of building what I see as a Good Society. We are possessed of a leader who is one of the great Prime Ministers of New Zealand's short history, and who has so much more to offer in the service of the public. We have tackled the hard issues: of partnership under the Treaty, of dynamic economic growth, of the needed but sometimes dismissed tolerance and acceptance among all our peoples, of holding our heads up high in the world and standing for the values that define us as a nation.
The last thing New Zealand needs is to sit back and stop that task. Every single period of National government in our history has followed the same pattern: New Zealand moves away from the good society. Rights are diminished for minorities. Economic life gets harder for the poor, nothing changes for the middle class, and the rich get what they want. New Zealand cowers at the feet of "Traditional Allies" like the good little colony we should be.
That is the past. That is not building a society where everyone matters as much as anyone else, and where each one of us can life the life we're capable of. It ignores what we could be, and focuses only on what we are or what we have been. It is a defensive, small minded, selfish approach that leaves New Zealand less than it could become. Tories stand for the past: they stand in opposition to the project I have outlined above.
They stand for less fairness, less opportunity, aged values, and a vision of our country that is firmly looking over its shoulder.
I don't want any of those things. I want New Zealand to keep progressing, to build the Good Society I've sketched above.
That's I want a Labour government after 8 November.