Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A surfeit of caution

When Louisa Wall put up her marriage equality bill, senior figures in Labour denounced it as a "distraction" and a "sideshow" and wanted her to drop it. The bill went on to be a great success, exciting people, inspiring people, showing them that Parliamentary politics mattered, and that Labour was relevant and could lead.

Naturally, Labour's dinosaurs haven't learned that lesson:

Labour MP Maryan Street is under pressure to drop a member's bill which would legalise euthanasia because her party is concerned it could be a negative distraction in the lead-up to the general election next year.

If Ms Street's End of Life Choice Bill was pulled from the ballot, the debate could extend into election year, and some Labour MPs felt this could hurt the party's run for Government by distracting from its main policies and deterring more conservative voters.

Euthanasia is not as sexy an issue as marriage equality, nor as morally clear-cut. But like marriage equality, it is one whose support has been building for years and whose time has come. Its also one which reaches across traditional political lines - lest anyone forget, both Michael Laws (then a National MP) and Peter Brown (NZ First) have put up bills on the issue. While religious conservatives will fight it tooth and nail, there aren't very many of them anymore, and marriage equality has burned them. For everyone else - including the elderly, who have watched their friends and family die slowly and painfully, stripped of their dignity - it is largely a matter of getting the safeguards right.

Labour could lead on this issue. Or it could abdicate that leadership to others. But if it does the latter, then it is basicly saying that all it offers is management. And if that's the case, there is simply no reason to care about them.