The resignation of Pansy Wong for her corrupt misuse of taxpayers' money to pay for her husband to embark on a trip for his own business purposes was always right, but to hold a by-election a matter of months out from a General Election is quite absurd. It was inappropriate for her to remain in Parliament, but remarkably wasteful to hold a by-election for such a short period. A bit like Chris Laidlaw's hilarious winning of the 1992 Wellington Central by-election following Fran Wilde being elected Mayor of Wellington City, only to be turfed out in 1993 when Labour nearly won the General Election (but Pauline Gardiner won for the Nats in Wellington Central).
So a by-election it is, in a seat where Wong won around 56% of the vote in 2008, and National 61% of the party vote, it would appear that it is a sure thing for the National candidate Jami-Lee Ross (no, not a Vegas porn star).
This young man just about embodies the National Party in 2011. Young, looks presentable (as a real estate agent), obsessed with running other people's lives and without a principle worth taping to a twig. To him, contributing to his community means being a politician. He has no background in business, either starting one or even working in one. His whole adult life has spent deciding how to spend other people's money and how to regulate their lives.
In the Press it was reported that his great achievement was this:
"The local athletics club really wanted a new athletics track and that was a big deal for them because they have got one of the best clubs in Auckland. So, together with my council colleagues, we built them an all weather athletics track."
What he should say is "together with my council colleagues, we co-opted some money forcibly taken from ratepayers to spend on the group that got my attention, and paid some people to build it for us". Now he didn't build anything, didn't put his own money into it, but takes the credit for it. How grateful people should be that he was there to choose the lobby group to benefit from money taken by force!
He thinks election is about the economy, crime and infrastructure, not that he expressed any ideas on any of it. In fact his campaign website is bereft of anything of substance beyond a basic profile. He is keen on there being a budget surplus, to be spent on the "services Kiwis expect and deserve", not to cut debt or taxes.
Of course he is following the script of National, say nothing, do little more and show no ambition for serious reform or change. Maybe he has something more to offer, but a lifestyle politician is not someone who has learnt anything useful about the world - except a desire to tell people what to do.
You'd think ACT might take a chance by putting forward a candidate who embraces the old ACT policies of abolishing income tax, allowing people to buy private education and healthcare, set up their own superannuation accounts, and radical reform. No, it chose Lyn Murphy, possibly its wettest candidate yet who puts herself to the left of Jami-Lee Ross. She has championed a few environmental causes and to get some cables buried, achievements that rival those of Ross! She is a senior lecturer in management, and a member of the Counties-Manukau DHB, an entity that ought to be abolished. She is campaigning on cutting government waste, zero tolerance on burglaries and ending Maori separatism. Lots new going on there then.
Such a complete waste. ACT knows it has no chance of winning this seat, it could have stamped free market and small government principles and policies all over this by-election. Given Kenneth Wang got a credible 15% of the electorate vote in 2008, you might have thought it could have chosen someone who believed in something.
No. National showed itself to be the conservative party of do nothing that selects career politicians with no experience of business (or even private sector employment). ACT showed itself to be devoid of principle and devoid of anything left in a brand that can't even stand up for Sir Roger Douglas when the Prime Minister criticises him.
Labour naturally is standing someone to soak up the "give me something for nothing vote", although it has fierce competition from National and ACT candidates with similar views. Then the wacky dimension is rounded off with the pro-Intellectual Property theft Pirate Party, the Asian immigrant New Citizen Party, the Join Australia Party and the foaming at the mouth rabid leftwing nutcase conspiracy theorist Penny Bright (I know this from a single phone conversation I had with her). Other independents are just having some fun I suspect.
The only candidate a libertarian or even a small government classical liberal (or anyone who actually believes in the principles of National or ACT) could endorse is Leo Biggs from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. Why? He's the only candidate standing on a platform that actually explicitly endorses less government, in one area (although I suspect he personally has little else going for him, if all he does is vote on this issue, then it is something).
Standing back from this you can see the stark options for those who want less government in this year's general election. In 2008, thousands voted National to oust Clark and bring an end to Helengrad, but Keynesia is Helengrad-lite, with more smiles and less principles. Thousands voted ACT to give some backbone to a Key led government, and got a Minister for Local Government who adopted and implemented most of Labour's local government policy, creating Australasia's largest local bureaucracy. ACT voters elected Sir Roger Douglas, the man who did more than any politician in the last 30 years to stop the rot of New Zealand being the most socialist free-world economy, only to find ACT's leader wouldn't back him when he was telling the truth. Now ACT is the party that brought you nothing.
Libertarianz on the other hand may not get anyone elected, but if 1-2% of voters who would have voted ACT or National tick Libertarianz, it will be a right shock to both parties. Why? Because it will deny them seats, show that there are quite a few New Zealanders who want less government, and may shock ACT in particular into actually reforming and becoming a proper party that advocates less government. Given current polling nobody who would prefer to keep Labour out is likely to fear a change of government, but it would change politics and the political discourse in ACT and National. It would show that there are enough people, who are not purist libertarians, who want governments committed to less tax, less government, one law for all and private property rights.
If not, are you that enamoured by John Key after nine years of Helen Clark that you can't wait for another three years of it?