Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forgotten Posts from the Past : The Tribalism of New Zealand politics seen in 2008

Much has been written about how nasty mainstream politics have become in NZ It is true, but those who participate in it often believe it is simply reactionary to the other side. It is truly tribal - tribal in that the other side are devils and their own side are angels. Those of us, like myself, outside of the mainstream, watch and can say "a curse on both your houses" with little effort, as it is obvious what commonplace techniques politicians undertake - especially in election years - to undertake the marketing of lie and obfuscations.

Power is what motivates them all. Power is particularly addictive to those who would otherwise achieve relatively average lives. You need only look at local government to find screeds of less than stellar people who get a kick out of the power they can wield, pathetic it is.

Some politicians are beyond that, and when they are encouraged to dabble in it make major mistakes. Brash was one of those.

Dr Michael Bassett (like Sir Roger Douglas) is another one of those politicians less interested in the power, but more interested in the outcomes and in making a substantive difference. His recent column mentioned Helen Clark's obsession with being the longest serving Labour Prime Minister in history by staying in office beyond July 2009. Clark's lust for power is clear and obvious. Bassett wrote:

"In 1990 at the very last Labour caucus that I attended, when everyone was moping over our well-deserved trouncing, Helen Clark, then Deputy Leader, told the assembled Labour MPs something that I wrote down carefully at the time. She said she would be – and I quote from my caucus notes – “as vicious, nasty and opportunist as anyone” in the fight to return Labour to the Treasury benches. Those remarks were a forewarning. The only religious belief most modern Labourites seem to hold is their divine right to govern, to impose their views on others. "

He notes that, contrast to the Clark administration, the previous Labour government in its final year (election year) privatised Telecom - selling it for a price well above what was expected, to an American consortium. Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and Phil Goff were all in the same Cabinet that decided this, along with the corporatisation of airports, the sale of Air New Zealand and Postbank, among other state businesses. They were part of a government that was immensely unpopular because it took decisions that had short term consequences for the long term benefit. Xenophobia was not part of any of this.

So how about now? Clark won in 1999 convincingly because the Nats had sold out so much to a flotsam and jetsum of Winston through to Alamein Kopu.    In 2002, the Nats, used to winning elections from losing governments (and focusing on an absurd strategy of constituency votes first), couldn't compete against Labour which was benefiting from the fruits of the reforms it had disowned. The Nats couldn't put forward a consistent message of opposition and floundered, and was decimated.

In 2005, the story had changed. Don Brash challenged Labour on some core points. First the long running concern of many that government was willing to give preference to Maori over all others, challenging the political correctness that being Maori was "special" politically was initially dismissed as racist - until it became clear that this was mainstream. Then he advocated tax cuts and so presented a clear different approach to government from Labour - Labour's response was to spend money from central government funds to campaign, illegally -then deny it was wrong. Then to treat the Exclusive Brethren backed campaign against Labour as a grand evil conspiracy, when it was little more significant than trade union backed campaigns against National.

The Electoral Finance Act was the latest endeavour to win at all costs. Regulating electoral speech by third parties is sold to the tribe on the basis that"money politics" is evil - excluding of course that available through bureaucratic based promotion of existing policies by taxpayers, that happens to advertise the current government. This also ignores that despite enormous funding year after year, ACT has failed to be a part of ANY government under MMP.

So it has been war. Perhaps it started when Don Brash bumped National's opinion poll rating up ten points at Orewa, perhaps it started when early on election night 2005 National looked like winning, who knows. However, the tribalism that the blue and red camps now show is bitter and venal, and whoever loses in 2008 will bear the brunt of it.

Certainly Labour wont go down without a fight, and the nonsense around foreign investment is a small part of that.

Labour's support has been under attack for the past four of so years from several fronts. The schmoozing of business that was successful in the first term is largely over, partly because business is sick of continued increases in government spendin

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