HOME
        TheInfoList






New Zealand Labour Party

Rōpū Reipa o Aotearoa
AbbreviationNZLP
PresidentClaire Szabó
General SecretaryRob Salmond[1]
LeaderJacinda Ardern
Deputy LeaderKelvin Davis
Founded7 July 1916; 104 years ago (1916-07-07)
Merger ofSocial Democratic Party
United Labour Party
HeadquartersFraser House, 160–162 Willis St, Wellington 6011
Youth wingYoung Labour
LGBT+ wingRainbow Labour
IdeologySocial democracy[2][3]
Democratic socialism[4]
Third way[5][6][7]
Political positionCentre-left[8][9][10]
International affiliationProgressive Alliance[11]
Colours  Red
Slogan"Let's Keep Moving"[12]
MPs in the House of Representatives
65 / 120
Website
labour.org.nz
  • Politics of New Zealand
  • Māori: Rōpū Reipa o Aotearoa),[13] or simply Labour (Māori: Reipa), is a centre-left political party in New Zealand.[8] The party's platform programme describes its founding principle as democratic socialism,[14][15] while observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice.[2][3] The party participates in the international Progressive Alliance.[11]

    The New Zealand Labour Party formed in 1916 out of various socialist parties and trade unions. It is the country's oldest political party still in existence.[16] Alongside its main rival, the New Zealand National Party, Labour has dominated New Zealand governments since the 1930s.[17] As of 2020, there have been six periods of Labour government under ten Labour prime ministers.

    The party first came to power under prime ministers Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser from 1935 to 1949, when it established New Zealand's welfare state. It governed from 1957 to 1960, and again from 1972 to 1975 (a single term each time). In 1974, the prime minister Norman Kirk died in office, which contributed to a decline in party support. Up to the 1980s, the party advocated a strong role for governments in economic and social matters. When it governed from 1984 to 1990, Labour instead privatised state assets and reduced the role of the state in the economy; Labour prime minister David Lange also introduced New Zealand's nuclear-free policy. Labour again became the largest party from 1999 to 2008, when it governed in coalition with, or based on negotiated support from, several minor parties; Helen Clark became the first Labour prime minister to lead her government through the third term in office.

    Following the 2008 general election, Labour comprised the second-largest caucus represented in the House of Representatives. In the 2017 general election the party, under Jacinda Ardern, returned to prominence with its best showing since the 2005 general election, winning 36.9% of the party vote and 46 seats.[18] On 19 October 2017, Labour formed a minority coalition government with New Zealand First, with confidence and supply from the Green Party. In the 2020 general election, Labour won in a landslide, winning an overall majority of 10 and 50.01% of the vote. Jacinda Ardern currently serves as the party leader and prime minister, while Kelvin Davis is the deputy leader. Grant Robertson serves as Deputy Prime Minister.

    History

    The New Zealand Labour Party was established on 7 July 1916 in Wellington,[16] bringing together socialist groups advocating proportional representation; the abolition of the country quota; the recall of members of Parliament; as well as the nationalisation of production and of exchange.[19] Despite its Wellington origins, the West Coast town of Blackball is often regarded as the birthplace of the party,[20] as it was the location of the founding of one of the main political organisations which became part of the nascent Labour Party. The party was created by, and has always been influenced by, the trade unions, and in practice Labour Party politicians regard themselves as part of a broader labour movement and tradition.[21]

    Formation (1901–1916)

    Socialist
    Party

    (1901)
    Independent
    Political
    Labour
    League

    (1905)
    (independents)Labour Party
    (original)

    (1910)
    socialist parties and trade unions. It is the country's oldest political party still in existence.[16] Alongside its main rival, the New Zealand National Party, Labour has dominated New Zealand governments since the 1930s.[17] As of 2020, there have been six periods of Labour government under ten Labour prime ministers.

    The party first came to power under prime ministers Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser from 1935 to 1949, when it established New Zealand's welfare state. It governed from 1957 to 1960, and again from 1972 to 1975 (a single term each time). In 1974, the prime minister Norman Kirk died in office, which contributed to a decline in party support. Up to the 1980s, the party advocated a strong role for governments in economic and social matters. When it governed from 1984 to 1990, Labour instead privatised state assets and reduced the role of the state in the economy; Labour prime minister David Lange also introduced New Zealand's nuclear-free policy. Labour again became the largest party from 1999 to 2008, when it governed in coalition with, or based on negotiated support from, several minor parties; Helen Clark became the first Labour prime minister to lead her government through the third term in office.

    Following the 2008 general election, Labour comprised the second-largest caucus represented in the House of Representatives. In the 2017 general election the party, under Jacinda Ardern, returned to prominence with its best showing since the 2005 general election, winning 36.9% of the party vote and 46 seats.[18] On 19 October 2017, Labour formed a minority coalition government with New Zealand First, with confidence and supply from the Green Party. In the 2020 general election, Labour won in a landslide, winning an overall majority of 10 and 50.01% of the vote. Jacinda Ardern currently serves as the party leader and prime minister, while Kelvin Davis is the deputy leader. Grant Robertson serves as Deputy Prime Minister.

    The New Zealand Labour Party was established on 7 July 1916 in Wellington,[16] bringing together socialist groups advocating proportional representation; the abolition of the country quota; the recall of members of Parliament; as well as the nationalisation of production and of exchange.[19] Despite its Wellington origins, the West Coast town of Blackball is often regarded as the birthplace of the party,[20] as it was the location of the founding of one of the main political organisations which became part of the nascent Labour Party. The party was created by, and has always been influenced by, the trade unions, and in practice Labour Party politicians regard themselves as part of a broader labour movement and tradition.[21]

    Formation (1901–1916)

    [22]

    At the turn of the century, the radical side of New Zealand working class politics was represented by the Socialist Party, founded in 1901. The more moderate leftists were generally supporters of the Liberal Party.[23] In 1905, a group of working-class politicians who were dissatisfied with the Liberal approach established the Independent Political Labour League,[24] which managed to win a seat in Parliament in the 1908 election.[25][26] This established the basic dividing line in New Zealand's left-wing politics – the Socialists tended to be revolutionary and militant, while the moderates focused instead on progressive reform.[27]

    In 1910, the Independent Political Labour League was relaunched as an organisation called the Labour Party, distinct from the modern party. Soon, however, the leaders of the new organisation decided the additional effort was needed to promote left-wing cooperation, and organised a "Unity Conference". The Socialists refused to attend, but several independent labour activists agreed. The United Labour Party was born.[27]

    Soon afterward, the labour movement was hit by the Waihi miners' strike, a major industrial disturbance prompted by radicals in the union movement.[28] The movement was split between supporting and opposing the radicals, and in the end, the conservative government of William Massey suppressed the strike by force. In the strike's aftermath, there was a major drive to end the divisions in the movement and establish a united front. Therefore, another Unity Conference was called, and this time the Socialists attended.[28] The resulting group was named the Social Democratic Party.

    Not all members of the United Labour Party accepted the new organisation, however, and some continued under their own banner. Gradually, however, the differences between the Social Democrats and the ULP Remnant broke down, and in 1915 they formed a unified caucus both to oppose Reform better and to differentiate themselves from the Liberals.[29] A year later yet another gathering was held. This time, all major factions of the labour movement agreed to unite, establishing the modern Labour Party.[30]

    Electoral record of constituent parties pre-1916 Labour

    Socialist
    Party

    (1901)
    Independent
    Political
    Labour
    League

    (1905)
    (independents)Labour Party
    (original)

    (1910)
    United Labour
    Party

    (1912)
    Social Democratic
    Party

    (1913)
    (remnants)
    Term Electorate Party Elected MPs
    1908–1910 17th Wellington East Ind. Labour League David McLaren
    1910–1911 Changed allegiance to: Labour
    1911–1912 18th Wellington South Labour Alfred Hindmarsh
    1912–1914 Changed allegiance to: United Labour
    1914–1916 19th Wellington South United Labour
    1911–1914 18th Grey Lynn working class politics was represented by the Socialist Party, founded in 1901. The more moderate leftists were generally supporters of the Liberal Party.[23] In 1905, a group of working-class politicians who were dissatisfied with the Liberal approach established the Independent Political Labour League,[24] which managed to win a seat in Parliament in the 1908 election.[25][26] This established the basic dividing line in New Zealand's left-wing politics – the Socialists tended to be revolutionary and militant, while the moderates focused instead on progressive reform.[27]

    In 1910, the Independent Political Labour League was relaunched as an organisation called the Labour Party, distinct from the modern party. Soon, however, the leaders of the new organisation decided the additional effort was needed to promote left-wing cooperation, and organised a "Unity Conference". The Socialists refused to attend, but several independent labour activists agreed. The United Labour Party was born.[27]

    Soon afterward, the labour movement was hit by the Waihi miners' strike, a major industrial disturbance prompted by radicals in the union movement.[28] The movement was split between supporting and opposing the radicals, and in the end, the conservative government of William Massey suppressed the strike by force. In the strike's aftermath, there was a major drive to end the divisions in the movement and establish a united front. Therefore, another Unity Conference was called, and this time the Socialists attended.[28] The resulting group was named the Social Democratic Party.

    Not all members of the United Labour Party accepted the new organisation, however, and some continued under their own banner. Gradually, however, the differences between the Social Democrats and the ULP Remnant broke down, and in 1915 they formed a unified caucus both to oppose Reform better and to differentiate themselves from the Liberals.[29] A year later yet another gathering was held. This time, all major factions of the labour movement agreed to unite, establishing the modern Labour Party.[30]

    Almost immediately, the new Labour Party became involved in the acrimonious debate about conscription, which arose during World War I – the Labour Party strongly opposed conscription,[31] several leading members were jailed and expelled from Parliament for their stand against the war: Peter Fraser, Harry Holland, Bob Semple and Paddy Webb.[32] The loss of leadership threatened to seriously destabilise the party, but the party survived.[32] Fraser, Semple and Webb later supported conscription in World War II.[32]

    In its first real electoral test as a united party, the 1919 election, Labour won eight seats – the party's quick success shocked many conservatives.[33] This compared with 47 for the governing Reform Party and 21 for the Liberal Party.[34]

    Although Labour had split with its more militant faction (who went on to form various socialist parties), it maintained what were at the time radical socialist policies. Labour's 'Usehold' policy on land was, in essence, the replacement of freehold tenure by a system of perpetual lease from the state, with all land transfer conducted through the state (the full nationalisation of farmland). This policy was unpopular with voters and was dropped by Labour, along with other more radical policies, throughout the 1920s.[27]

    Members of the Labour parliamentary caucus, 1922. Prominent members are Harry Holland (seated, left of centre), Peter Fraser (seated, right of centre) and Michael Joseph Savage (back row, rightmost).

    In the 1922 election, Labour more than doubled its number of seats, winning seventeen. In the 1925 election, it declined somewhat but had the consolation of soon overtaking the Liberals as the second-largest party. Labour leader Harry Holland became the official Leader of the Opposition on 16 June 1926, after the Eden by-election on 15 April elected Rex Mason (Labour) to replace James Parr (Reform) who had resigned. After the 1928 election, however, the party was left in an advantageous position – the Reform Party and the new United Party (a revival of the Liberals) were tied on 27 seats each, and neither could govern without Labour support. Labour chose to back United, the party closest to its own views – this put an end to five terms of Reform Party government.[35]

    The rigours of the Great Depression brought Labour considerable popularity, but also caused tension between Labour and the United Party. In 1931, United passed a number of economic measures which Labour deemed hostile to workers, and the agreement between the two parties collapsed. United then formed a coalition government with Reform, making Labour the Opposition. The coalition retained power in the 1931 election, but gradually, the public became highly dissatisfied with its failure to resolve the country's economic problems. Harry Holland died in 1933 and was replaced by his deputy Michael Joseph Savage as party leader. In the 1935 election, the Labour Party gained a significant majority, gaining 53 seats to the coalition's 19, and returned to government.

    Several of the early Labour Party stalwarts were Australian-born: Alfred Hindmarsh, Harry Holland, Michael Joseph Savage, Bob Semple, Paddy Webb, Bill Parry and later Jerry Skinner, Mabel Howard, Hugh Watt and Dorothy Jelicich.

    First Government (1935–1949)

    Michael Joseph Savage, the first Prime Minister from the Labour Party

    Party leader Michael Joseph Savage became Prime Minister on 6 December 1935, marking the beginning of Labour's first term in office. The new government quickly set about implementing a number of significant reforms, including a reorganisation of the social welfare system and the creation of the state housing scheme.[36] Workers also benefited from the introduction of the forty-hour week, and legislation making it easier for unions to negotiate on their behalf.[37] Savage himself was highly popular with the working classes, and his portrait could be found on the walls of many houses around the country.[38] At this time the Labour Party pursued an alliance with the Māori Rātana movement.[39]

    The opposition, meanwhile, attacked the Labour Party's more left-wing policies and accused it of undermining free enterprise and hard work. The year after Labour's first win, the Reform Party and the United Party took their coalition to the next step, agreeing to merge with each other. The combined organisation was named the National Party, and would be Labour's main rival in future years.[40]

    Members of the First Labour Government on the steps of the Parliamentary Library in Wellington, 1935

    Labour also faced opposition from within it

    In its first real electoral test as a united party, the 1919 election, Labour won eight seats – the party's quick success shocked many conservatives.[33] This compared with 47 for the governing Reform Party and 21 for the Liberal Party.[34]

    Although Labour had split with its more militant faction (who went on to form various socialist parties), it maintained what were at the time radical socialist policies. Labour's 'Usehold' policy on land was, in essence, the replacement of freehold tenure by a system of perpetual lease from the state, with all land transfer conducted through the state (the full nationalisation of farmland). This policy was unpopular with voters and was dropped by Labour, along with other more radical policies, throughout the 1920s.[27]

    In the 1922 election, Labour more than doubled its number of seats, winning seventeen. In the 1925 election, it declined somewhat but had the consolation of soon overtaking the Liberals as the second-largest party. Labour leader Harry Holland became the official Leader of the Opposition on 16 June 1926, after the Eden by-election on 15 April elected Rex Mason (Labour) to replace James Parr (Reform) who had resigned. After the 1928 election, however, the party was left in an advantageous position – the Reform Party and the new United Party (a revival of the Liberals) were tied on 27 seats each, and neither could govern without Labour support. Labour chose to back United, the party closest to its own views – this put an end to five terms of Reform Party government.[35]

    The rigours of the Great Depression brought Labour considerable popularity, but also caused tension between Labour and the United Party. In 1931, United passed a number of economic measures which Labour deemed hostile to workers, and the agreement between the two parties collapsed. United then formed a coalition government with Reform, making Labour the Opposition. The coalition retained power in the 1931 election, but gradually, the public became highly dissatisfied with its failure to resolve the country's economic problems. Harry Holland died in 1933 and was replaced by his deputy Michael Joseph Savage as party leader. In the 1935 election, the Labour Party gained a significant majority, gaining 53 seats to the coalition's 19, and returned to government.

    Several of the early Labour Party stalwarts were Australian-born: Alfred Hindmarsh, Harry Holland, The rigours of the Great Depression brought Labour considerable popularity, but also caused tension between Labour and the United Party. In 1931, United passed a number of economic measures which Labour deemed hostile to workers, and the agreement between the two parties collapsed. United then formed a coalition government with Reform, making Labour the Opposition. The coalition retained power in the 1931 election, but gradually, the public became highly dissatisfied with its failure to resolve the country's economic problems. Harry Holland died in 1933 and was replaced by his deputy Michael Joseph Savage as party leader. In the 1935 election, the Labour Party gained a significant majority, gaining 53 seats to the coalition's 19, and returned to government.

    Several of the early Labour Party stalwarts were Australian-born: Alfred Hindmarsh, Harry Holland, Michael Joseph Savage, Bob Semple, Paddy Webb, Bill Parry and later Jerry Skinner, Mabel Howard, Hugh Watt and Dorothy Jelicich.

    Party leader Michael Joseph Savage became Prime Minister on 6 December 1935, marking the beginning of Labour's first term in office. The new government quickly set about implementing a number of significant reforms, including a reorganisation of the social welfare system and the creation of the state housing scheme.[36] Workers also benefited from the introduction of the forty-hour week, and legislation making it easier for unions to negotiate on their behalf.[37] Savage himself was highly popular with the working classes, and his portrait could be found on the walls of many houses around the country.[38] At this time the Labour Party pursued an alliance with the Māori Rātana movement.[39]

    The opposition, meanwhile, attacked the Labour Party's more left-wing policies and accused it of undermining free enterprise and hard work. The year after Labour's first win, the Reform Party and the United Party took their coalition to the next step, agreeing to merge with each other. The combined organisation was named the National Party, and would be Labour's main rival in future years.[40]

    Members of the First Labour

    The opposition, meanwhile, attacked the Labour Party's more left-wing policies and accused it of undermining free enterprise and hard work. The year after Labour's first win, the Reform Party and the United Party took their coalition to the next step, agreeing to merge with each other. The combined organisation was named the National Party, and would be Labour's main rival in future years.[40]

    Labour also faced opposition from within its ranks. While the Labour Party had been explicitly socialist at its inception, it had been gradually drifting away from its earlier radicalism. The death of the party's former leader, the "doctrinaire" Harry Holland, had marked a significant turning point in the party's history. Some within the party, however, were displeased about the changing focus of the party, most notably John A. Lee. Lee, whose views were a mixture of socialism and social credit theory, emerged as a vocal critic of the party's leadership, accusing it of behaving autocratically and of betraying the party's rank and file. After a long and bitter dispute, Lee was expelled from the party, establishing his own breakaway Democratic Labour Party.[41]

    Savage died in 1940 and was replaced by Peter Fraser, who became Labour's longest-serving prime minister. Fraser is best known as New Zealand's leader for most of World War II. In the post-war period, however, ongoing shortages and industrial problems cost Labour considerable popularity, and the National Party, under Sidney Holland, gained ground although Labour was able to win the 1943 and 1946 elections. Eventually, in the 1949 election, Labour was defeated.[42]

    Fraser died shortly afterward, and was replaced by Walter Nash, the long-serving Peter Fraser, who became Labour's longest-serving prime minister. Fraser is best known as New Zealand's leader for most of World War II. In the post-war period, however, ongoing shortages and industrial problems cost Labour considerable popularity, and the National Party, under Sidney Holland, gained ground although Labour was able to win the 1943 and 1946 elections. Eventually, in the 1949 election, Labour was defeated.[42]

    Fraser died shortly afterward, and was replaced by Walter Nash, the long-serving Minister of Finance.[43] It would be some time before Labour would return to power; however – Nash lacked the charisma of his predecessors, and National won considerable support for opposing the "industrial anarchy" of the 1951 waterfront dispute. In the 1957 election, however, Labour had a narrow majority of two seats, and returned to office.

    Nash, Labour's third prime minister, took office in late 1957. Upon coming to power, Labour decided that drastic measures were needed to address balance of payments concerns.[44] This resulted in the highly unpopular "Black Budget" of Arnold Nordmeyer, the new Minister of Finance, which raised taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, cars, and petrol.[45] It is widely thought to have doomed the party to defeat despite the economy having rejuvenated less than a year after the Black Budget was adopted.[45] In the 1960 election, the National Party returned to power.

    The elderly Nash retired in 1963, suffering from ill health.[46] He was replaced by Nordmeyer, but the taint of the Black Budget ensured that Nordmeyer did not have any appreciable success in reversing the party's fortunes. In 1965, the leadership was assumed by the younger Norman Kirk, who many believed would revitalise the party. Labour was defeated again in the next two elections, but in the 1972 election, the party gained a significant majority over its rival.

    Third Government (1972–1975)

    Kirk proved to be an energetic Prime Minister and introduced a number of new policies. His foreign policy stances included strong criticism of nuclear weapons testing and of South Africa's nuclear weapons testing and of South Africa's apartheid system. Kirk's health was poor, however, and was worsened by his refusal to slow the pace of his work. In 1974, Kirk was taken ill and died. He was replaced by Bill Rowling, who did not have the same appeal – in the 1975 election, Labour was defeated by National, which was led by Robert Muldoon.[47]

    Party logo from the mid-1960s until the early 1990s

    Rowling remained the leader of the Labour Party for some time after his defeat. In the Rowling remained the leader of the Labour Party for some time after his defeat. In the 1978 election and the 1981 election Labour won a larger share of the vote than National but failed to win an equivalent number of seats. Rowling himself was compared unfavourably to Muldoon, and did not cope well with Muldoon's aggressive style. Rowling was eventually replaced by David Lange, who the caucus perceived as more charismatic.[48] In the snap election of 1984, Labour defeated the National party.

    Fourth Government (1984–1990)