Sunday 31 December 2017

2017: Metiria’s Speech And Jacinda’s Wild Ride

A Two-Faced Year: The “Jacindamania” phenomenon was a very different proposition from the quasi-revolutionary call-to-arms enunciated by Metiria Turei. At no point during the suddenly enlivened 2017 election campaign did Jacinda Ardern articulate an idea so saturated with both radical conviction and righteous indignation as Turei’s magnificent repudiation of poverty as a political weapon.

IT’S METIRIA’S SPEECH wot done it. Although delivered in mid-July, Metiria Turei’s keynote address to the Green Party’s AGM neatly divides 2017 into its “No Hope” and “New Hope” halves.

This was the speech containing Turei’s dangerous confession that, 26 years earlier, she had knowingly defrauded the social welfare system for the sake of her infant child. That admission, alone, made certain New Zealanders would be listening. It also meant that the most powerful declaration of the entire election campaign: “We will not be a government that uses poverty as a weapon against its own people”, was heard.

It is rare for a single political speech to make such a difference. David Lange’s March 1985 address to the Oxford Union springs to mind – along with Don Brash’s in/famous Orewa Speech of January 2004. In Turei’s case, the speech’s impact can be explained using just one word: defiance.

By defying the rules of political survival, the speech more or less guaranteed Turei wall-to-wall media coverage. By defying the unacknowledged political consensus on welfare policy, it also signalled that the Greens were no longer playing “politics as usual”. What else could Turei’s promise to make a bonfire of the MSD’s hated “sanctions” mean? The woman who’d defied the social-welfare system in 1991, was now asking her party to defy the entire neoliberal establishment in 2017.

That Turei’s speech (and many subsequent interviews) was able to instantly and dramatically divide the country bore eloquent testimony to its potency.

Most New Zealanders were outraged by the Green co-leader’s admission of fraud, declaring her unfit to hold political office. Many called for her to be prosecuted. Overwhelmingly, this was the position adopted by the news media, which began clamouring for her resignation.

For a significant minority, however, Turei’s speech was an inspiration. Up until its delivery, New Zealand’s political system had seemed both deaf and blind to the growing evidence of widespread social distress. Many voters were feeling both estranged and alienated from those institutions tasked with registering and reacting to such manifestations of public unease. Most particularly, the political parties seemed quite unable to translate voter dissatisfaction into policy. Turei’s speech made a huge impression upon these people precisely because, for the first time in a long time, a politician had not only heard their concerns, but had also attempted to address them through bold and uncompromising reforms.

The contrast between Turei’s almost evangelical fervour and the Labour Party’s general state of torpidity could hardly have been stronger. Almost immediately, the nation’s pollsters began registering a powerful double movement in voter intention. The number of people intending to vote for the Greens rose sharply, while the number indicating their intention to vote for Labour declined ominously. Speculation mounted that the Greens were about to achieve “escape velocity”, shrugging-off their larger partner’s gravitational pull altogether. If that happened, the consequences for Labour could prove catastrophic.

Turei’s speech was the single dislodged stone which sets off a landslide. It brought home, as nothing else could have done, to Labour’s Leader, Andrew Little, the true measure of his own political ineffectiveness. Not only that, but it also made clear the likely consequences for the Labour Party should that failure not be addressed.

From that moment, matters unfolded with unprecedented speed and drama. In an act of rare political selflessness and decency, Little stood aside for the politically untested, but, equally, the politically untarnished, Jacinda Ardern. It was a decision which did several important things at once.

First, it permitted Ardern to demonstrate her exceptional political talent. Second, as Turei succumbed (as she surely must have known she would) to the media’s unrelenting inquisition, it made possible a decisive transfer of the affection and, more importantly, the sudden surge of hope, which Turei’s words had inspired, from the Greens to Labour. Third, it broke up the ideological ice-floes in which New Zealand society had been imprisoned for more than 30 years. Politics had started moving again. Overnight, the situation had become excitingly fluid.

Inevitably, the “Jacindamania” phenomenon was a very different proposition from the quasi-revolutionary call-to-arms enunciated by Metiria Turei. At no point during the suddenly enlivened election campaign did Ardern articulate an idea so saturated with both radical conviction and righteous indignation as Turei’s magnificent repudiation of poverty as a political weapon.

The impression, instead, is of Labour’s new leader surfing with extraordinary skill on a political wave she played no part in making. Mesmerised by the performance of their new Prime Minister, the people whose faith in the redemptive and transformative power of politics was rekindled by Turei’s speech, are currently giving little thought to what happens when the wave she is riding finally dissolves in froth and foam.

Politically, 2018 will be about whether “Jacinda” has what it takes to make waves of her own.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 26 December 2017.


Polly said...

There are X number of people who live in poverty now.
There are X number of people living on our streets.
Taxinda will spend a lot a lot of money, a lot more than she should be allowed to.
In 3 years time, there will be the same number of people in poverty and on the streets but the Country will be in economic dire straights.
It's jobs that are needed.
Shane Jones is right.
Labour are dumping him and his message.

Pinger said...

If I was advising Metiria on the self-disclosure thing I would suggest she leave it for another 20 years and put it in her memoir under the chapter heading: 'Arseholes I have met' 1 - WINZ.

QuinnaginO'finnigan said...

UBI(there will never be enough jobs). Grow hemp(hemp crete and numerous other products, more efficient and more enviromentally friendly than any other crop) Software (no shipping). Hi end manufacturing.(No student loans for relevant study)
Regardless, jobs will continue to decrease as more and more are automated out of existence. The only question will be whether the the wealth is shared or continues to be horded.
End of discussion.

kat said...

@Polly, according to sumsuch's reckoning you must be a function of the central computer for the National party.

But then why be positive eh, lets just be totally negative, its so easy. Lets articulate that Jacinda Ardern is going to lead us all into wrack and ruin.

My joy for 2018 will be watching the 44% rapidly dissolve.

Happy New Year.

greywarbler said...

A good summation of that amazing few months. Turei was every bit as noble as Little. Thanks to the two of them for taking on the roller-coaster.

Aaron said...

@Polly - another person who doesn't understand how money works. Government spending can be stimulatory or it can suck money out of the economy. Putting money in the hands of poor people stimulates the economy because they spend it immediately. Putting money in the hands of rich people does not since they may just bank it, spend it on overseas holidays, invest it outside the New Zealand economy (or put it into NZ real estate which is currently abosorbing a lot of the nation's wealth).

It's a lot more complicated that Tax = bad, taxcuts = good, but thanks for your contribution to the debate :-)

countryboy said...

@ 'Polly'. My God. Someone has to tell you. Your linear thinking ignorance is face reddening. And I warn you. This is the last time I'm going to be charitable with regard to your suspiciously, right wing, Troll - like opinions.

@ Chris Trotter, you write...
"...but, equally, the politically untarnished, Jacinda Ardern. It was a decision which did several important things at once. First, it permitted Ardern to demonstrate her exceptional political talent. "
I always worry when I read of 'exceptional political talent'. The way I interpret that is that' exceptional talent' is designed to deceive and manipulate for all things but for the interests of [us]. Us people who pay our politicians to act in our best interests and in our best interests only. Homeless people or people forced to be devious through desperation is not in our best interests. What 'Polly' fails to comprehend, perhaps due to a lack of dry gunpowder under his/her hat, is that we're all in this together. All of us. When a rich person walks past a homeless person, they should be stricken by sadness and motivated by a desire to help. The homeless person will feel shame, guilt and will have a sense of having lost.There's no dragging one's self up from that, usually. There needs to be a non judgemental state-funded helping hand. Otherwise? Terrible societal damage is done which reverberates through many generations perhaps for ever. In our current, hideous society we're now simply two species of human. Those who lose, and those who win. The winners are financially rich, the losers are not, BUT, and this is where it gets creepy, the winners NEED the losers to prove thier point. To feel elevated and higher up the bell curve, the sick, survival of the fittest, mental aberration that some screw ball, sociopaths thinks is the answer, and while on that subject, one must always pray that one is to never be marooned on a desert island with that lot. They will kill you and eat you then blame you for being too delicious. ( TDB/Bradbury/Kittens/Jonky. )

Metiria Turei should have been welcomed by adern as her deputy.
She was not, I don't need to point out.
peters was. Woe betide us all.

David Stone said...

To those disagreeing with Polly
Whether her predictions are right we have to wait and see. If the economy doesn't support the welfare requirements , and the government focuses on" fiscal responsibility" i.e. austerity, she will probably be correct. And in respect of jobs being what are needed she is correct. both for the well-being of the country and the individuals concerned. The first Labour government had it right, full employment should be the first priority of government.
Man does not live by bread alone.

greywarbler said...

Reading Polly reminds me of a quip from the Marx Brothers.
Groucho was commenting on the instructions that come with products which are said to be so easy that even a child of 5 can use them.
Groucho calls: "Send for a child of five'.
I say sadly: 'Send for Polly'.

Charles E said...

'... to feed her baby ...'
There is the utter lie that started it all for MT all those years ago.

But I am glad it caught up with her and the result was Labour got back from the Greens some of the ground they had nicked. In my book, Labour is necessary to keep out worse. Just as you guys should (very reluctantly of course) back National to keep out the likes of NZF & bible bashing dodgy Christians.

countryboy said...

MJS knew a thing or two. It's beginning to be clear to me that he was a bit of a visionary and perhaps even a genius of a fellow/male human.
He knew that we must all stick together to survive, flourish, evolve thus to party. He bloody knew that. Because when we don't/won't/can't/should've but didn't/could've but decided not to/ was distracted by T.V's tits, arse, booze, dick, balls, flash pap, shiny trinkets or Hiss-spit-Vroom! mating units, i.e. cars, dopy games of trying to ram ones head up another fellows arse of a cold winter evening, of Opera, of film, of books, of music. We read and write and love and hate and forgive and cry and die alone no matter how many people we're surrounded by tut tutting. We humans aye? What a strange pack of fuckers we are. Clearly, we must be protected from ourselves and who better to do that than each other? We must watch out for each other. No matter what fucking colour we are. Jesus ! What if I was stripes instead of spots? What hilarious racist would take that on?
Drunk Yob: " Ya fuckin' stripy fucker! Go home to.... where the fuck DO you come from man? Well, where ever, go home to there. Then. An' stuff... Fuck it. Wanna beer?
I can see how that'd work.
The problem is,we're being preyed upon by Monsters. Crafty little fuckers they are too. They dress funny, i.e to deceive, they talk funny, i.e to deceive, the have pretences of being loftier, more thinky-thinky i.e to deceive and what do they do...? They deceive us.
Everyday in every way, they deceive us with logical fallacies, hyper-normalised lies and do you know what we do? We.Work.Harder.For.Them. For their pleasures and for their advantages.
Without unions and public services and amenities, any job, any raise in a minimum wage is just going to go back to them fuckers.
Where is our stuff and things? Then boot out the Banksters That's what we should be demanding and doing. None of the flouncing-ninny, hand wringing, soft speak, easy does it shit. No more speak as if anaesthetised. No more bend over backwards until you can look up your own bum stuff. They’re just laughing at you, and frankly, who can blame them?

sumsuch said...

No more with rulers Countryboy, despite their straight lines. 'Flouncing-ninny' just makes our, less scrupled, more self-interested fellows laugh harder. What a fury they deserve and only solidarity can provide in this divided (atomised) age.

Sorry Kat, respect your spirit above so many in NZ politics.