5 Nov 2022

'It's all at stake' at Election 2023 - Labour's outgoing president Claire Szabó

5:44 pm on 5 November 2022
Labour Party president Claire Szabo and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Claire Szabó and Jacinda Ardern (file picture). Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Labour's outgoing president Claire Szabó has taken the stage at the party's annual conference to warn "it's all at stake" at next year's general election.

She spoke to a crowd of several hundred party members and MPs at Labour's annual conference in Manukau, Auckland, this morning.

She used her last speech as president to praise Jacinda Ardern's leadership and thank the party faithful for their campaign and fundraising work throughout the pandemic.

Szabó said "it's all at stake" at next year's election and forewarned the changing nature of political campaigns.

"The campaign next year is going to have some elements we'd rather not see. I'm not just talking about Chris Bishop.

"I'm talking about those things that increasingly creep into our politics as unwelcome guests: attacks, vandalism, harassment, unlawful behaviour, and insidious trolling."

Wellington City Councillor Jill Day

Jill Day. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Former Wellington deputy mayor Jill Day will be confirmed as Labour's new party president over the weekend.

Speaking at the conference today, Day attacked National, saying the party was focused on the "koru lounge", while the Labour government was focused on the "smoko room".

"For our opponents VIP treatment for the already-wealthy, the already-powerful, the already-well connected isn't just a case of airline hospitality; it's an entire political ideology."

Labour's finance spokesperson Grant Robertson also used his speech to attack the opposition, telling delegates they could be proud the party had worked to pass the legislation like fair pay agreements.

He criticised National for not supporting this specific policy saying the opposition was "out of touch and out of ideas".

"Be it Nicola Willis reheating Bill English's leftovers on social investment or Paul Goldsmith invoking the political ghost of Ruth Richardson in the Fair Pay debate," he said.

"The tune has never changed for National. The band used to be called Ruth Richardson and The Knights of the Round Table, now it's called Chris Luxon and the Trickle-Downers."

Incoming Labour Party president Jill Day and Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson on the podium at the Labour Party's 2022 annual conference.

Incoming Labour Party president Jill Day and Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson on the podium at the Labour Party's 2022 annual conference. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Council of Trade Unions secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges told the conference the upcoming general election would be the most significant in living memory for working people in New Zealand.

"We have to fight to keep these hard won victories, because they will be taken away from us if we don't."

Robertson also had a dig at National leader Christopher Luxon for putting forward tax cuts for the wealthiest.

"Or should that be Liz Luxon? Even the UK Conservatives worked out that tax cuts for the wealthiest were a mistake but here, National are sticking to it.

"Christopher Luxon is trying to out-Truss Liz Truss. Economic credibility be damned, there is an ideology to serve."

Speaking after the speech, Robertson was asked if these comments reflected a nervousness about the upcoming election, given recent polling predicts it will be a tight race.

"No, it speaks to what's at stake next year, 2023 is an election where the progress that we've made as a Labour government is at risk if National gets in."

National hits back at criticisms

National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis said it was disappointing to see Robertson resort to name calling and petty political attacks.

Robertson should stop talking about National and focus on delivering for struggling New Zealanders, she said.

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