It’s a salient feature of New Zealand politics that personalities – and personal issues – soon overtake actual politics. Depressingly, this fact doesn’t seem limited to New Zealand but let’s not go there (Australia’s Labor pains have been embarrassing as well as divisive). Regardless, as John Key’s incipient nastiness increasingly emerges, so does a little desperation. They are, of course, related.
The National Party has been gambling on increasing it’s majority to it can govern alone, so has been steadily eroding and emasculating the Māori Party. Actively or not, it has also presided over the decline and fall of United.
Meanwhile, National has been implementing it’s standard Tory-style policies of privatisation and of further elevating the elevated classes (of which Key is a salient member, having clawed his way to wealth via the immoral and counterproductive route of currency trading). Everything is up for privatisation. Mines, transport, primary industries sure – that’s standard stuff for the right. It doesn’t work, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that when you privatise, the wealthy make more money, and then when it fails, the burden is carried by the rest of the population, then baled out by government using the tax money paid by what’s left of the besieged middle class. And since the very rich pay bugger-all tax and have loads of money, it doesn’t effect them. It’s actually another oppressive measure disguised as ‘economic necessity’ that further erodes the middle class while doing no good whatsoever to the underclass.
But privatising education, and even enquiries into domestic abuse? That strikes me as a new plateau of disdainful cynicism. Fortunately the Glenn inquiry is collapsing under its own weight, making National look as bad as, oh, say an underhand deal with a casino. Which in itself is an unspoken poverty and stupidity tax.
Anyway, as the Maori Party grinds itself into an impossible position, and Dunn reaps the rewards of his own lack of a clear position (which has, till now, always allowed him to deal with anyone who’ll have him), National needs to pull some dramatic moves to ensure it can win the next election.
Hence the u-turn (an apt metaphor) on Auckland’s transport woes. This is quite a desperate act, but it acknowledges the power of Auckland. Previously the government was diametrically opposed to the left-leaning council helmed by Len Brown. The mayor must applaud the shift, because he gets what he wants, but it also puts him in the invidious position of being in bed with Key. Let’s just wait and see how this all pans out. Personally, I think Len Brown is just a populist jerk who enjoys the limelight, but I guess the jury is out till the next local election.
However, the real worry is that Key’s ploy may just work. Aucklanders are rightly pissed off at the sorry state of transport, and it’s expensive to fix, but it has to be done. If Key looks like he’s behind it, it will bring back his wavering middle supporters.
Meanwhile, in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, Labour retained its majority but the most important fact is that, while Mana (avowedly left-wing) trumped the Maori Party, together they got more votes than Labour. The by-election was both a triumph for the left and a clear signal of where NZ Maori sympathies still lie.
Can you see the two Māori parties coalescing? I can’t. If Pita Sharples sorts himself out and steps down and Tariana Turia also goes, Tu Ururoa Flavell takes the (co-?) helm. He still needs to sort out his differences with Harawira, which may not be possible. If anything, the two Māori-focused have become more opposed philosophically: one of collaborationist versus one embracing resurgence of the distinctive Māori culture. An accord between the two Māori-representative parties would make them a force to be reckoned with once again, but it may also be a blind alley. There’s a distinct place in our culture for the political and cultural values of Hone Harawera’s party, but the Māori Party’s aims have become far from distinct. And it’s hard for lap dogs to change their ways.
Mana leans more towards Labour (which has been, of course, traditionally more affiliated to Māori, and which has certainly done Māori a lot more good over the decades than National). National will have to move to shore up the Māori Party’s position – and this will go down like a cup of cold sick with many of its remaining supporters and make them look even worse. Key’s only option is to try and further demonise Mana.
So wait and see what Key does in this space.
But does Labour deserve our support? My own support is never available unconditionally. Labour has done some unforgivable things in the past, including the Foreshore and Seabed act that created the completely unnecessary rift between the left and Maori in the first place. And there were lots of personal issues involved in that process as well.
But sure, we can move on. I’ve said it before: Labour is nowhere near left wing enough for me but I’d rather live under Labour (and/or the Greens) than anyone else.
But Labour with who at the top? Shearer is on notice, apparently. I think he’s a nice bloke. So? In the spin when he was running for Labour’s top job, we heard he ‘stood up to warlords’ in African climes. There’s little evidence of that mettle back here in New Zealand. And he’s still getting really basic things completely wrong.
News bytes, David. I paraphrase but fairly recently, John Key accused the Labour Green joint announcements as wacky evidence of the extreme left.
This is the kind of thing National supporters will gleefully seize on and brandish at every opportunity. So what do we get in return?
Shearer said ‘that’s just a line’. Blah.
So National supporters can yell at me ‘wacky extreme left’ (quite truthfully) and I get … Nothing. I know this kind of thing is rubbish, but it’s important rubbish – especially in the age of instant social media.
It reminds me of my criticisms of Phil Goff. I conceded he may have been a very intelligent and worthwhile leader (and indeed, he proved this in his vigorous, if frighteningly solo, election campaign) but wrote that his advisors patently needed firing.
It seems they haven’t lost their jobs.
Increasingly, the next election looks like National’s to lose. But I’d rather have it Labour, Greens and Mana’s to win.