[As published in July/August BayBuzz magazine.]
National are presenting themselves as the government-in-waiting and any credible alternative to Labour should win at a canter. To date the public seems unconvinced. Luxon is a corporate high-flier, but seems almost entirely devoid of political nous.
“New Zealand voters are very angry with the two main parties,” said Matthew Hooton in a recent Newshub Nation interview. “New Zealand people, voters, perceive they have been fed a whole lot of bullshit, by Jacinda Ardern … by John Key.”That’s what I’m hearing too. Ardern had to go because ‘let’s do this’ and ‘kindness’ are great slogans, but did nothing for performance in key portfolios. Similarly, Chris Luxon appears to be branding himself as John Key II, which was brilliant in 2008 but is now well short of our expectations.
The upcoming 2023 election is compelling, as here and around the world the public have lost confidence in the centrist parties to actually deliver competent government. I’ve never come across so many people who are unsure of who to vote for. So let’s consider the options.
National are presenting themselves as the government-in-waiting and any credible alternative to Labour should win at a canter. To date the public seems unconvinced. Luxon is a corporate high-flier, but seems almost entirely devoid of political nous. When he speaks it sounds like he’s been schooled in corporate ‘nothing to see here’ PR.
Politicians are expected to be fast on their feet and incisive with their rhetoric. Most of all the public want to sense a genuine passion for the task at hand. Over the last 40 years the master of this art has been Winston Peters. Love him or loath him, he’s the most talented politician of our generation.
National’s other key failing has been policy. ‘Just wait until closer to the election’ we’re told, and I have waited with much expectation. When they have been announced they’ve often been terrible policies. I’ll give you three.• The doubling of the RSE numbers by 2025 – we don’t need double, just the right amount and that will depend on unemployment and the needs of various industries. • Any new regulation will require the removal of two previous regulations – what we need is good regulation, not arbitrary nonsense.• An increase in judicial sentences where the defendant has gang affiliations – these aspects can already be considered by the sentencing judge. It’s another vacuous political soundbite.National are the worst political party out there. I can see how Labour are repositioning themselves and I know exactly what I’ll get from Te Pati Māori, the Greens, ACT and NZ First. I don’t need to read their manifesto as I understand their DNA. With National I’m not sure what I’ll get.
In Luxon’s defence, he’s a first term MP, up against career politicians. It should also be noted that getting to the top of the corporate ladder is brutally competitive. You need to be very smart, hard working, durable and able to build a team around you – a good skillset for a PM.
We’ve even seen some surprisingly edgy policies of late. The change in approach to genetic modification is courageous. Right or wrong we need to have the discussion. The gene-editing CRISPR technology is untraceable. If there is no pathway for legal use in NZ, there will be illegal use. GM was once the exclusive province of elite laboratories, but as technology advances, it becomes accessible.
My word limit prevents an adequate shredding of the current Labour Government.
Let’s forget for a moment that Education, Healthcare, Transport and Law and Order have deteriorated markedly over the past six years. Let’s also put aside their failure to meaningfully address the housing crisis, child poverty, wealth inequality and the other social factors on which they talked big. Let’s overlook the litany of ministerial incompetence we’ve seen of late. Here are three more minor failings:
Labour have betrayed their working class supporters. Teachers, nurses and the police are cornerstone Labour voters and they all feel royally screwed over by this government while it pranced about with race, gender and other matters of social engineering.
I’m not dismissing those issues. But in his song, ‘Ideology’, lifelong socialist Billy Bragg distilled the expectations of ordinary citizens as ‘school books, beds in hospital and peace in our bloody time’. Labour voters are working class battlers for whom I have a lot of sympathy – not the academic idealogues and champagne socialists this lot seem beholden to.
Secondly, I was infuriated by the goings on around the tangi of a local Mongrel Mob leader in Opotiki recently. Chris Hipkins talks tough on gangs, but his administration seems very accommodating in practice. I can assure you that the police wouldn’t tolerate you driving on both sides of the road, doing burnouts, hanging out the window of moving vehicles and offering a finger or a ‘sieg heil’ to all and sundry. On the next occasion you wish to attend a funeral, they would also not inconvenience the law abiding public by shutting down a state highway, public transport and schools based on ‘safety concerns’.
The truth is that it’s likely there are more gang members now than police. If you look around our community there are a lot of young men with freshly minted patches. Likely they didn’t get much of an education and very probably had some troubles at home.
They had a choice between being a ‘loser with a nowhere job’ or having money, power and respect by joining a gang. That’s money from crime, and power and respect through fear. Many of these young men are riding nice new Harley Davidsons and look pretty cool to their peers. Who wouldn’t take that deal? It’s not until we make gang membership really unattractive that this trend will change. In the meantime, they’ll by trying to recruit your son or sell P to your daughter.
Finally, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Labour have pushed forward an agenda well beyond their mandate – because they could. A recent example came into force on 15 June 2023 allowing gender to be self-selected for the purpose of updating your birth certificate. The problem in society currently is that we’re delivered these types of changes without much public discourse. I’m open to the discussion and think it’s vital that it occurs.
Curia Research undertook a poll asking the question: Do you approve of the law change (known as sex self-ID) to allow anyone to change the sex on their birth certificate with no medical or surgical changes?
The results were: Approve – 20%, Disapprove – 56%, and Unsure – 24%. Now, only 20% support doesn’t mean the policy is wrong, just that they haven’t taken the public with them. I am reminded of Ardern’s Covid comment that they are the ‘single source of truth’ and I think that view is widely held in this Government. They know best and we should just leave the decisions to them. It’s a good reminder of why we adopted MMP, where a range of views result in discussion and compromise both inside and outside of parliament.
Which brings us to the minor parties who will decide the next government. One curious development is the tension building between Labour and Te Pati Māori as they fight it out for the Māori electorates. They will be friends after election day, but there will be some battle scars.
Similarly, National is aware that ACT is stealing their base. This isn’t surprising as ACT have their ideological position, their policies and their PR running better than any other political party. If National were this organised they would have won already. Those at most risk for National are those who are relying on party list seats.
My pick is that there will be a change of government. The interesting thing will be how ACT perform with actual power, rather than just ideas. They have a very smart, young team but the hubris of the campaign trail is a poor indication of competent government. If we are to have a National government then ACT could be helpful in making actual change, rather than just talking about it.
Like many, I can feel my radical-self emerging. I just don’t believe in Labour or National as they currently are.So vote, for a minor party if you fancy and let’s bring back MMP.
Paul Paynter is our resident iconoclast and cider maker. Weather permitting, he grows stuff at Yummyfruit.