NEW ZEALAND'S Tories were booted out of office at the weekend as voters rejected 15 years of free market madness. In 1984 the country's Labour government let the market rip. It sold off public services, passed vicious anti-union laws and doled out tax cuts to the rich. The nine year National (Tory) government that followed carried on in Labour's footsteps. The gap between rich and poor increased more in New Zealand than in any other Western country. Today one in ten households are forced to ask for food handouts.
Final votes in a proportional representation system were still being counted as Socialist Worker went to press, but it seemed clear that Labour and the left wing Alliance Party had enough seats to make up a coalition government. Grant Morgan from Socialist Worker's sister paper in New Zealand says, 'There is such a thirst for change in this country. People were really sick of the free market experiment. National's leader, Jenny Shipley, couldn't speak anywhere without being barracked by protesters. But many people are also to the left of Labour, who weren't offering much.'
As with Blair in Britain's 1997 general election, New Zealand Labour were happy to ride the anti-Tory mood into office. The real question is what the Alliance Party will do now it is in office. Alliance was a left wing split off from the Labour Party. It was formed in 1992 by some Labour MPs horrified by their party's right wing policies. Trade union activists and Greens joined them. But recently Alliance has been moving back to Labour type policies. Alliance got around 8 percent of the vote in this election. That means it will get seats in the cabinet.
There are signs that Alliance is tailoring its policies to keep in with Labour. Labour has assured big business that it will lock the Alliance into government and 'castrate' its left wing policies. One of the first tests for Alliance will be over student fees. It has a policy of scrapping fees and reintroducing free education for all. Alliance now faces a choice. Will it fight for free education and risk upsetting its coalition with Labour, or cave in and ditch its policies?