Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 7. 27 May, 1970
1970 Labour Party Conference
1970 Labour Party Conference
Labour Party conferences are very like party conferences of any kind anywhere. If the issues to be debated matter, the platform intervenes when there is any threat to Party orthodoxy. If the platform does not intervene, the issues being debated are usually of no importance. The cults of loyalty and of personality win new followers and demand new allegiances; the redicals cheer pathetically the first establishment leader who offers them a concession. The conservatives keep silent, knowing that at conferences wise men, like wise children, are seen but not heard.
As you may know, time is devoted at Labour Party conferences to discussing how effectively previous conference decisions are implemented. It is a tribute to the Labour Party leadership that this time is never used. Delegates know that they can trust the Party leadership to do exactly as the rank-and-file want. These facts, well known to Party loyalists but ignored by the viciously anti-Labour press, account for Norm Kirk's report on the Parliamentary Party's implementation of 1969 Conference decisions (not actually delivered to the Conference, but included in the Party's printed version of Kirk's address) being overlooked.
In 1969 the Conference asked the Parliamentary Labour Party to formulate a policy on justice based on four remits, three of which asked for clarification and delimitation of police powers, while the fourth remit questioned the adequacy of existing police strength. The result, as Kirk indicated, was Labour's 1969 "law and order" policy which failed to place any stress on the protection of civil liberties but simply promised a bigger and better police force to "enforce the law." Some people might have thought Kirk had defied the 1969 conference of his Party. But no delegate said so, and there was no debate on the 1969 election policy on this (or any other) matter. Dr. Finlay, after all, was chairing the Conference's Justice Committee, and that was all the liberal wing of the Party has ever asked for.
If no discussion takes place on previous conferences and their relation to Labour's actual election strategy, this must prove that delegates have every confidence that Labour's leadership is doing its job. To believe anything else would be to suggest that the leadership deliberately refused the Conference time to discuss its role and function in Party decision-making-and if you believe this you shouldn't be at Conference. There are some delegates like this at Conference, and, as Mr Kirk had to tell one of them, Mike Hirschfeld, they're mainly pro-Israeli. Labour is a modern party. It spurns the tawdry tactics of old-fashioned Jew-baiting. No Labour spokesman would ever accuse a dissident of being a tool of international Jewish finance. We simply ask when Israel was fighting the Arabs which side were you on? A good question, eh, Mr Hirschfeld? Labour stands for law and order, and has no place for Zionists in its ranks.
Some people have said that Labour is an ageing party. This is not true. Once again, the Labour Party's Youth Report, radical and up-to-the-minute as usual, was received enthusiastically by the Party. None of the Youth Council's suggestions on policy were actually endorsed of course, but if the suggestions had been put up as remits they would have been rejected, it says much for the Party's tolerance and broadmindedness that it listened to them at all. We all know Mike Moore, our trusted Youth Representative on National Executive, who is so much more sober than the rest of his contemporaries that almost certainly no youth delegate voted for him. Big Norm denounced the Progressive Youth Movement for losing Labour the election, but you can be sure that now that the Youth Advisory Council of the Labour Party cannot so much as issue a press statement without the approval of national executive, there is no chance of their doing the Party any harm. We have no long-haired, unshaven louts in our Party like the kind Mr Kirk denounced in the PYM. Law-and-order, and opposition to Jews and long hair: there's a real policy for the 'seventies that the Tory party can't match.
It is good to see that once again there was no discussion of the Party's economic policy. The backyard manufacturer and small shopkeeper benefit directly from what opponents have called the handouts in our economic policy: our policies on matters like justice and youth reflect the social ideas of this group, whose support is vital in the 1972 elections. So long as there is no opposition to
Labour's electoral strategy of appealing to the lower middle class, it can be safely said there is no real opposition to the fundamentals of Party policy. Mr Kirk discussed the National Development Conference in his usual masterly way and refused to be trapped by Tory attempts to inveigle him into unstatesmanlike plain speaking. National is copying Labour's 1960 planning policies and National's policies must fail. That is Labour's policy on economic planning, and let no one complain it is not clearly stated. To win lower middle class votes, we must oppose National Party efforts at economic planning. We may, after all, have, tried economic planning in the past, but we were never effective. The kind of planning we advocate is nothing to be frightened of : it simply means more protection and more incentives-in plain words, more money-for the small businessman. And if the small businessman is prosperous, he will pay higher wages.
This was meant to be a conference about the constitution of the Labour Party; but the typists in the Labour Party office misspelt most of the long words in the university branches' remits-one of them said she'd never seen the word "radicalism" in fifteen years at the Party office-and so only one of the four days of Conference was actually spent discussing the main advertised business before the Labour Party. This may have made a mockery of any previous discussion at branch level, but the Labour Party office typists have feelings which ought to be considered, and in future anybody who wants a particular issue discussed will find it well worthwhile to bring down his own paper, typewriter and duplicating machine. It may well be that these typists will play a more important part at Labour Party conferences in future years than any other pressure group.
Delegates who have complained that there are too few women in leadership positions in the Party, have failed to give the office typists their proper due. The proposals for change in the Party constitution were all impractical, so it doesn't matter that they weren't discussed at length. That's the way well govern New Zealand: no proposal will ever be discussed until it has been vetted by six typists.
Here's the answer for several readers who have asked us why we chose the particular format that we did for the back page of the last issue of Salient. We're gratified to think that there are some people who are able to resist the charms of the Sunday Times' "journalism". The 10 May issue of that publication promised, on its front page. "Biggs, Biggs and Still More Biggs-in spite of what the wowsers think!" Next week, we look forward to the life story of a crippled prostitute, extracts from Mein Kampf, vile ravings about students . . .