The centre cannot hold … this country (and, OK, many others to be sure) has developed into a fight for the centre over the last few decades in a race to who can be the most mediocre. Awesome, right? Fighting for the centre? I mean, once it was a battle to drag the country, then the rest of the world, into a future in which women were allowed to take an equal role in society, workers had rights as well as their exploiters, in which all people were cared for … we had the 40 hour week, the first real Welfare State, New Zealand mandated and ensured minority representation in parliament, at least for Māori… I do dare say it: all that made New Zealand a great nation was firmly on the left.
And now the hardest fought battle is for the centre.
And yes, John Key has won that battle. Repeatedly.
But the world is changing and the centre is no longer holding. The battle for power in the United States may devolve to Trump on the far, crazy right and Sanders very distinctly on the left. In Britain, avowedly left-wing Corbyn took the top job in the Labour Party, much to the chagrin of the Labour Party’s ‘leadership’. What is the appeal? Both are not scared to say they’re left, for a start. Something both Labour Parties have found difficult for decades.
Neither are centrist.
That’s what you get after years of battling for the centre. Over here, Labour ‘likes’ Sanders but is worried by Corbyn, who has created a groundswell of voter support and who has already been responsible for a massive rise in grass roots Labour Party membership. NZ Labour’s attitude here reflects connections to Labour UK’s leadership more than anything else. We bought Tony Blair’s popularity contest off the back of our own terrible neo-liberal dalliance and we’ve been stuck there since, despite John Key doing it so much better.
Of course, Labour here could actually grow some convictions and come from a similar stance to Sanders and Corbyn. Actually, you don’t even need to grow some – just resuscitate the ones the party was founded on.
Too scary? Then you really don’t deserve votes.
Because National is currently staggering, Labour – what are you going to do? Never before has ennui so dogged this party of the moneyed and the glib. Key catastrophically mishandled Waitangi Day, then got booed at the League. That would have been unthinkable even a few months ago. Meanwhile, up north where the running-scared Key should have been, Stephen Joyce went from looking like an imperturbable manager to just another suited dickhead thanks to a very deftly-pitched toy penis.
The ‘new flag’ looks awful – want proof? Even many National MPs think that. John Key’s personal vanity project to foist his corporate conservative logo onto the nation’s masthead is faltering badly, meaning they have to turn up the heat to bring even their own people in line. Once again, this would have been unthinkable a short time ago, when National’s caucus was as tight as Judith Collins’ pursed lips. Meanwhile people like me, who have long hated the Union Jack being part of ‘our’ flag long after England turned its back on New Zealand (a process which has accelerated recently, with punitive measures against Kiwis who want to work and live there) finds myself about to vote to keep the damn thing, both to spite John Key and because, frankly, the alternative sucks and the process to come to this design sucks more.
Two million dollars was promised to ameliorate emergency housing months ago and … surprise! Not a cent has been spent. Meanwhile, 27 million has been squandered on the ‘new’ flag. How much of that has been spent? How many people made tidy profits from that process while other kids go hungry and while people have to live in cars, garages and on the street?
State house evictions have accelerated. And concurrently, National has cut funding for mental health in Canterbury coz – who cares? Clearly not the National Government, which has failed to rebuild the city, failed the traumatised citizens of quake-ridden Christchurch and clearly couldn’t actually give a shit apart from keeping its insurance cronies sweet and crowing about a little building work – much of which has been mishandled.
As for dairy, are we crying foul yet? We should be – how have all the eggs in that basket actually worked out for this short sighted ‘governance’?
Gareth Hughes absolutely skewered Key in a speech in Parliament in an excoriating and painfully-accurate dissection of our Prime Minister’s current state of affairs … oh for someone like Lange in Labour who could do this so well! Now it’s the Greens we have to turn to for in-depth socio-cultural commentary.
Meanwhile, National has its Trump in waiting, in the form of Judith Collins champing at the bit to muscle in and erect her police state. Her alternative is ‘bite the hand that feeds’ Bennett.
Who has Labour got?
This is your chance. Like never before.