What values are NZ political parties appealing to? Party two: Labour

It is less than a month before the general election in New Zealand, so I decided to take a look at the websites of the three main political parties and analyse the extent to which they are appealing to infinite and finite values.  I looked only at the messages that were instantly visible on the homepage of each party. This blog extends over three days. Today, it features the Labour Party, currently 26% in the polls. (Note: I worked from screenshots taken on August 19, 2014).

Labour’s page is headed our values and is divided into three sections, families, work and home. Under the family heading it states: We’ll make sure all Kiwi kids get the best start in life. Our policies will give parents more time to be parents and will empower young people to succeed at school and out in our communities. This has an infinite feel to it in my view. It speaks directly to that which we care about, children’s and young people’s welfare. The use of “empower” and “communities” also takes us into the infinite sphere by implying an ability to contribute to a collective context.   You may recall that National’s webpage referred to young people gaining higher qualifications. Perhaps this is the equivalent of succeeding at school, but Labour has gone for a more open-ended concept that is less precise, and implies a greater diversity of positive paths through school.

 Moving on, the next heading is work.  Labour’s Economic Upgrade policy package will deliver better jobs and higher incomes for all New Zealanders - as we move to a cleaner, smarter, and higher-value economy. This is more mixed. It refers to a package which is likely to be at least as obscure to many readers as National’s Better Public Service policy, and is clearly of finite value.  However, it does go on to explain what it will do in more fundamental terms, such as providing “better jobs”. The appeal to “higher incomes” and a “higher-value economy” keeps us in the finite sphere. It is as if, whenever we talk about money, we are supposed to just know that means a better life, because money has become a universal stand-in for actually talking about what matters. I am a little suspicious of a “smarter” economy as well. I can’t quite imagine what that is, more computers and fewer cows perhaps?

Finally, we have home with the text:  Everyone should have the chance to own their own home but home ownership rates are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years. We’ll restore this Kiwi dream by making home ownership and rent more affordable. Now this talks about “ownership” which has a finite ring to it, but it is also about inviting others in, a core principle of the infinite game. So it can be read in two ways, as an attempt to provide “everyone” with an opportunity to be part of a dominant social game (the home ownership game) or as an attempt to shore-up the system of private ownership and personal debt. On balance, I think this is an attempt to evoke infinite values, primarily the value of giving all people a share of the resources controlled by society.

 So, in my reading, Labour has chosen to frame itself largely in the infinite sphere. It uses aspirational messages, and as I read them, I feel myself expanding towards the hope that we are a community that cares for each other. Do people vote Labour because they are attracted to these values? Does Labour stand behind its inspiring talk?

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