Friday, 19 May 2017

"Insensitiveness To Administrative Delicacies": National's Barbarians Are Well Beyond The Gates.

Not Just At The Gates - Within The Walls! Dr J.C. Beaglehole, writing in 1961, recorded with considerable disdain: “The naïve, the almost childish brutality, with which the chiefs of the National Party fell upon power may seem quite surprising, until one remembers how famished for power they were, and with what an innocency of experience they faced the world about them ..... [Their] insensitiveness to administrative delicacies was quite appalling.”
 
I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU HER NAME because, to her credit, she later repented of her bad behaviour. Given her status as a newly-elected National Party MP, that was just as well. I’m only sorry that Alfred Ngaro (a Christian pastor!) was not persuaded to make a similar act of contrition following his recent, spectacularly public, deviation from the paths of political righteousness.
 
The 2008 General Election was only just behind us when I encountered this particular National MP. To say she was in a mood of heedless triumphalism would be to seriously understate her disposition. In spite of the fact that she was the dinner guest of a respectable NGO, and oblivious to the fact that she was surrounded by a host of witnesses (one of whom was a newspaper columnist) this provincial MP gave voice to the most incautious observations.
 
In summary, she declared to all and sundry that the views of the newly-elected National Government’s opponents were not worth the effort of a single act of fornication. (To be honest, she put it a little more succinctly than that!) John Key’s government, she said, would not be diverted from its course by lefties, greenies, bureaucrats – or any other variety of pointy-headed, politically-correct enemies of “Middle New Zealand”. Her loud and utterly unapologetic pronouncements made Michael Cullen’s infamous taunt: “We won. You lost. Eat that!”, sound wimpish by comparison.
 
Over the course of the evening it became increasingly clear to me that, for our voluble dining companion and other members of the National Party, the past nine years of Labour-led government had been the purest torture. To be ruled by the likes of Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Margaret Wilson and Steve Maharey represented an inexplicable upending of the natural order of things. For a few agonising years, it really did seem as though government of farmers and businessmen, by farmers and businessmen, for farmers and businessmen – was about to perish from the earth.
 
This keen sensitivity to the travails of powerlessness was nothing new for the National Party. As Dr J.C. Beaglehole, writing in 1961, recorded with considerable disdain: “The naïve, the almost childish brutality, with which the chiefs of the National Party fell upon power may seem quite surprising, until one remembers how famished for power they were, and with what an innocency of experience they faced the world about them.”
 
While refusing to dismiss the entire National caucus as a horde of barbarians, Beaglehole was unsparing in his criticism of Prime Minister Sid Holland’s government. Its “insensitiveness to administrative delicacies” he said, “was quite appalling.”
 
“Insensitiveness to administrative delicacies” – what a lovely phrase! And how very applicable to Alfred Ngaro’s outrageous speech to the National Party’s Northern Regional Conference, in which he not-so-subtly warned state-funded NGOs against criticising government policy.
 
“We are not happy about people taking with one hand and throwing with the other,” the Minister for the Voluntary Sector told his fellow delegates. “Do not play politics with us. If you get up on the campaign trail and start bagging us, then all the things you are doing are off the table. They will not happen.”
 
Though he did not use Beaglehole’s words, the Prime Minister, Bill English, made it clear that he had only refrained from demanding Ngaro’s resignation on account of the junior minister’s “innocency of experience”.
 
The question remains, however, as to what sort of experience Ngaro is innocent of? Recalling the post-election behaviour of my voluble provincial MP, I would guess it to be the experience of exercising some discipline over one’s tongue when journalists are within earshot. Ngaro’s threats to punish critics of the National Government were, I am quite sure, well received by his fellow delegates. Less welcome, however, was the public outrage they occasioned.
 
When I encountered her a year after she had so recklessly displayed her contempt for the norms of democratic discourse, my former dinner companion was quick to disavow her errant behaviour. Obviously, some older and wiser political hand had drawn her aside after a similar episode and warned her against such expletive-laden frankness. An altogether smoother political operator, she was now very clearly headed for bigger and better things.
 
The doors to the Cabinet Room beckon this reformed backwoods Boadicea. What views she’ll give voice to behind them, I shudder to think.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 May 2017.

14 comments:

Pinger said...

Louise Upston?

Nick J said...

First I speculated about the identity of the anonymous one Chris talks about...then I gave up as I just had too many candidates who fitted the bill. Like all Tories there is a "to the manor born" quality. They know that they have pushed the rest of their world to the limits of our tolerance yet they keep doing it, fall out of power, get re-elected after a suitable interval, and the whole cycle repeats.

On the business of there being a Minister of Community of Voluntary Sector, does that not ring warning bells? A Minister demanding adherence from volunteers? A Ministry to administer voluntary efforts to pick up the pieces of broken individuals, or to put together services that other ministries fail to deliver, or that are outside of their brief. That actually rings alarm bells as it seems to me a tacit recognition of having failed to provide. Yet that is modern government post Thatcher, the lady who said their was no community or society, only individuals. The lady who like her kindred spirits globally promoted only market solutions to all ills. So volunteers from the "community" pick up the pieces.

So to the funding of "voluntary" organisations (which is where the Minister has power): much of the "service" purchased from the "voluntary" sector are pushed through a procurement model that is being utilised to bludgeon "providers" into "adherence" and lower priced contracts. The people who suffer ultimately are the people the voluntary sector support, and the people employed to provide the services. Where the hell are Labour? Where is the noise, the accusations, the policy response???????

peter petterson said...

Headed for greater things? Jeez! I want to see this National Party politically wiped off the face of the earth. I've run into the odd one over the years and can have only total contempt for them and their attitudes for the main chance.

peter petterson said...

Labour is there, but the media won't acknowledge their rise in influence.

Comorant said...

It must be someone with some actual capability, otherwise no danger. Surely, that must narrow it done to no more than a couple of individuals :p.

Richard Mayson said...

The born to rule or silver spoon syndrome is in the DNA of the National Party. Ngaro's blackmail comments re Willie Jackson are not only a contradiction of his alleged Christian faith but confirmation of this arrogant, presumptuous born to rule.
Why else would homelessness and rising poverty be ignored or blamed on the victims and the Federated Farmers who own National MPS be allowed to pollute our waterways for generations?

English won't change this by firing errant Ministers because he himself is the personification of this imperial arrogant mindset. He's also a coward in ducking for cover for inquiries over unpleasant truths such as SAS criminality in Afghanistan, child abuse in state homes and the still bleeding wound of Pike river Corporate/Govt corruption.

AB said...

"for our voluble dining companion and other members of the National Party, the past nine years of Labour-led government had been the purest torture...an inexplicable upending of the natural order of things"

Spot on Chris. They really do believe in a 'natural' social hierarchy with themselves occupying the upper positions.

greywarbler said...

[Their] insensitiveness to administrative delicacies was quite appalling.
What an exquisite use of carefully-chosen words. The brash, physical NZ farmer-type coupled with the nouveau riche industrialist-merchant mentality, mixed with the colonial quest for cheap resources and the willingness to grab, hold, and mine them, after loudly proclaiming Veni, Vedi, Vici, has led us into what and where we are now.

Right till the 1960s or later, others would remember better, politicians and leaders were muttering darkly about 'ivory tower academics' who annoyingly brought up 'unconsidered trifles' that had been glossed over, not considered because the matters were viewed as a restraint on BAU.

Have we had our heyday of trying to apply reason, science and practical emotional concern for each other and our world? Is it to be just stride ahead, but watch out for the cesspits down below, and to hell with these niggling regulations that only oppress the poor and which the better-off do not need to comply with?

Kat said...

Well she better get ready for another nine years of "pure torture" and this time it will likely be inflicted on this bereft National govt by the very "middle New Zealand" her dear leader Key and his cronies have done over and abandoned. Most political commentators realise that National are headed for a cooling out in the electoral cycle wastelands. It will take some historic divine intervention for this National govt B team to pull off a fourth term.

swordfish said...

Nick J - "then I gave up as I just had too many candidates who fitted the bill"

Wouldn't have thought so, Nick

As Comorant has suggested, there would seem to be just 2 possibilities - 1 representing a NI seat, 1 a SI electorate

jh said...

Speaking of barbarians beyond the gate, how do you feel about the Education Act saying that universities should be the CRITIC AND CONSCIENCE OF SOCIETY? Ie "varsity students R us".
Johnathon Haidt rails against that [Why Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice]
http://heterodoxacademy.org/2016/10/21/one-telos-truth-or-social-justice/

The conscience of society is to rest at the level of the highly paid academic in his/her cushy office and with that come resources to study, poll, influence and disseminate information. The rest of society become the other (the substrate)?

greywarbler said...

Here is Australian cartoonist Bruce Petty's creation giving his take on what were the main points affecting Oz in the last few decades.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opk7JaBBAlI

Jack Scrivano said...

The world has changed. In today’s uncertain environment, what the country needs is a government that can respond to uncertainty. Politicians who have never been in government and yet claim that when they are in government ‘everything will be different’ are always going to struggle to win support from beyond their immediate ‘tribe’.

Bridle as you may at John Key’s nonchalance, paint him as a friend of the rich pricks, but, in the end, a lot of people trusted him to ‘do the right thing’ when the unexpected came along’. Mr Little has some way to go. And the Greens have even further to travel.

Scouser said...

I don't understand those who can't see the other side of the political fence as human. I've seen examples from left and right heap insults on welfare beneficiaries or commercially successful people depending on their political bent. Recently, I’m starting to see similar behaviour against immigrants (of the non-Caucasian sort) and landlords. Scum seems to be the word du jour.

Are they somehow inhuman? Their motives evil? It’s obvious nonsense but express views different to one or other ideological fancy and the personal insults fly (frequently in a cloud of accompanying spittle).

I’ve met bigots and nasty pettiness both within Labour and National– it’s not limited to National. I suspect that the selection processes tend to encourage such outcomes.

Luckily, I’ve also met some fine human beings on both sides and mostly they outnumber the worst.