Not PC has pithily blogged about this rather non-event. Since I had quite a bit of coffee this morning, I thought I’d read the speech and I’m underwhelmed. How many of you get excited by this pablum? PC is right that if Jordan Carter agrees with most of it, what the hell is going on? I’ll tell you – the Nats have, once again, reverted to the ugly, whorish behaviour of outdoing the left. The speech is all very nice indeed, the Greens don't like it because they think welfare funded through threat of violence is a Gaia given right which no one should question (demanding beneficiaries work is "bashing" them, but demanding that people who work pay for them is a "social obligation").
The last time the Nats tried to outdo the left was in 1975 when, despite the dancing Cossacks commercials, Rob Muldoon completely socialised and inflated pensions with National Superannuation, a massive drag upon the economy and disincentive to saving – he then proceeded to embark on an economic policy that, with few exceptions, was about Soviet style central planning. Now John Key goes on about “The Kiwi Way” (notice the caps, rather Leninist really) to tug at heart strings about nationalism and identity, or rather largely meaningless platitudes. I shouldn';t be so negative though. Helen Clark is, after all, a statist controller of the left, so NZ badly needs an alternative, so I thought I’d identify the key points Key made:
- “the solution doesn't lie in just throwing more money at the problem” (not JUST, so he believes in throwing more of your money at the problem. I am sure Labour doesn’t believe it is just throwing money at the problem either. The Greens do, since they support increases in welfare with no accountability for it. Next!) “I'm interested in what works and what makes a difference” (yes because Labour isn’t. What rot!) So he will throw more money at the problem, your money remember, and he wants it to make a difference. Shall we give him a last chance to prove whether this can work or not??
- “Under any government I lead there will be no parole for repeat violent offenders” (Good, something substantial, but not new. Brash already said that, it's not dead yet, but the Nats love speaking tough on crime).
- “We have to ensure that Kiwis, even those with relatively low skills, are always better off working than being on a benefit. We have to insist that healthy people receiving assistance from the State have obligations, whether that be looking for work, acquiring new skills for work, or working in their community.” (This means either benefits get cut, abatement rates are cut drastically, taxes are cut drastically, or jobs are subsidised. It also means working for the dole. Nothing bad about this, but it is very modest, and no actual policy, just words).
- “A National government will challenge the business community to work with us in backing a programme of providing food in low-decile schools for kids in need.” (Are these the same kids who are obese? How about making welfare a carrot and stick for their families? How about simply cutting taxes so businesses and people can do this? Cutting GST to 10% would help reduce the costs of food. What evidence is there of serious malnutrition and if there is, why aren't the families involved being hauled up by CYFS for it?)
- “A National government will work with schools, sports clubs, businesses and community groups to ensure that more kids from deprived backgrounds get to play sport.” (“Work with” means spend your money. Kids from deprived backgrounds largely need to learn to “reed rite n spul” first, but hey throw them a rugby ball and they’ll be happy for years, until they can’t get a job. I remember playing all sorts of games without real equipment as a kid, all you needed was a park, some sort of ball and a stick. This needs little organising and no money. You improvise, but that isn’t cool anymore).
So how is that substantially different from Labour, other than maybe shifting the bureaucracy and being slightly tougher on welfare? Without much more on policy it is hard to tell, and I'm unsure why. How many beneficiaries vote National?
Not PC’s link to the latest Roy Morgan poll shows a drop in support for National, to the same level as Labour, which is telling - the "me too" politics of Key/English inspires little compared to what Brash did, and Labour knows it. After all, it is far easier to fight on your own philosophical battle ground that on someone elses.
Working a charm this strategy isn’t it?
So what can we call it? It is:
b) Socialism is inevitable. This is the unofficial strategy of the UK Conservative Party (and the NZ National Party) until 1979 (1987) respectively. In essence it declares that the state is ever destined to continue to grow, that the role of the state will grow, that the left is the intellectual strength behind government in modern liberal democracies and that all the National/Conservative Parties can do is tinker with it and stop it getting worse while in power. This means the Nats believe that less government simply isn't popular and people don't want it. Thatcher and Richardson smashed those legacies for a generation, but were stabbed in the back by colleagues who are part of …
c) Born to rule. Many National/Conservative Party politicians believe they are part of a ruling class, best positioned to “manage” the country and look after the broad masses. The philosophy behind this is largely to tinker, to tell people off (and pass laws to ban things) when they are not behaving “appropriately”, give people a few alms (tax cuts, subsidies, extra funds here and there) to keep them happy and generally do very little other than frighten people about Labour. There is a disdain for those on the left who they instinctively despise, and those on the meritorious free market right, who don’t have a sense of “social responsibility” (patronising towards those who are poor).
As Tony Milne welcomes it, and his excellent “tagcrowd” shows what little meaning there is in Key’s speech, then you have to ask yourself – what is the point of the National Party other than being a club for people from a non-union, teacher, lecturer background to run for government?
Well I can be optimistic about one thing. Key seems to understand that welfare dependency is bad and something needs to be done about it. What he doesn’t understand is that it is cultural, it is about an overwhelming culture amongst too many people that it is ok to bludge off the back of other people if you can get away with it, and those who are successful in making a go of it should be sneered at and expected to pay for everyone else.
If Key can communicate that, then he may be onto a winner – meanwhile he talks mother and apple pie, if many of you are seduced by it then it proves the point that it's far more important to be the new face and say nice things, than to have some serious thoughts and proposals. Mind you, isn't that the basis upon which almost all local body politicians are elected?