Wednesday 10 July 2019

Can Jacinda Give National The KISS Of Populist Death?

Let's Do Them! All Jacinda Ardern has to do to clinch the 2020 General Election is frighten the bejesus out of the electorate by describing in the most graphic terms imaginable what will happen to all the positive beginnings her government has made if National is returned to power. Paint Simon Bridges, or, Judith Collins (if National are silly enough to gift Labour “The Crusher”) as wanton toddlers, hell-bent on smashing-down what all the other children are striving to build.

AS THINGS NOW STAND, NZ First cannot surge. This is a serious problem for all the parties making up the Coalition Government. NZ First has come to rely upon the last-minute surge in popular support which its leader skilfully engenders, and which, again and again, has carried himself and his colleagues over the 5 percent MMP threshold. The problem facing the Coalition in 2020 is that, hitherto, Winston Peters’ target: the object fuelling the popular resentment behind the surge; has been the incumbent government. Peters can hardly set about organising a populist surge against himself!

Unfortunately, for the Coalition Government, it is living through what might be called “The Populist Moment”. All over the world, voters are deserting the parties of the centre-left and the centre-right for political leaders and parties eager to denounce the failed orthodoxy of the political establishment. The era of post-war optimism, founded on a rising tide of prosperity lasting thirty years, is well and truly over. All the promises to re-start the happiness machine have proved hollow. The new god of Neoliberalism, which replaced the failed god of Keynesianism, has turned out to have feet of clay. Nothing works anymore, and somebody must be to blame.

Ordinarily, it would be Peters and NZ First positioning themselves front-and-centre in the blame game. As we lurch towards election year, however, we encounter a howling void where New Zealand’s twenty-five-year-old populist party used to be. It’s not as if there’s any shortage of issues for the populists to take up: immigration, affordable housing, freedom of speech, social and cultural engineering; all are crying out for a champion.

And that’s the only question. Is there a politician out there tough enough to pick them up and run with them?

Act’s David Seymour would like to, but he simply doesn’t strike enough voters as the right sort of person for the job. National’s Simon Bridges can also see the gap in the political market which Peters’ decision to throw in his lot with Labour and the Greens has opened up. Unfortunately, he just can’t decide whether his colleagues are ready – or even willing – to hare off down the populist path. It’s that indecision, ultimately, which disqualifies him from following in the footsteps of this country’s most ruthless populist politician, Rob Muldoon.

No other New Zealand political leader has produced a surge like Muldoon’s. In just 18 months he exactly reversed Labour’s huge 23-seat majority. The only other National Party leader who’s come anywhere close is Don Brash, who took National from its worst defeat ever and turned it back into a credible contender for power. There’s no doubt that National can do populism: what else were Muldoon’s dancing Cossacks and Brash’s Iwi/Kiwi billboards? What is much more doubtful, is the National Caucus’s willingness give Judith Collins a crack at it.

Which just leaves one more contender: the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Is that even possible? Has an incumbent government ever successfully run a populist campaign?

The answer is an unequivocal “Yes.” All that’s required is an extremely popular leader (Check) and a poorly-led and vulnerable Opposition (Check). As Scott Morrison demonstrated across the Tasman: if these two prerequisites are in place; and if you have the self-discipline to stay on-message for the duration; then you can confound the pundits and snatch victory from the jaws of what everyone insisted was certain defeat.

All Jacinda has to do is frighten the bejesus out of the electorate by describing in the most graphic terms imaginable what will happen to all the positive beginnings her government has made if National is returned to power. Paint Simon Bridges, or, Judith Collins (if National are silly enough to gift Labour “The Crusher”) as wanton toddlers, hell-bent on smashing-down what all the other children are striving to build. Negative campaigning? Attack advertising? Of course! But in a noble and positive cause.

And the really exciting thing is that a huge part of the campaign need not be visible. If Labour in New Zealand is not too proud to copy the extraordinary social-media campaigning techniques perfected by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the recent European elections, then Jacinda should be able to avoid pretty much all of the blood-splatter.

If Labour can bear to eschew complexity, in favour of “Keep it simple, stupid!”, Jacinda will surge home.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 July 2019.


Shane McDowall said...

Mr Peters has not been beating on the immigration drum recently.

He should be.

There are no economic gains from immigration. It is just more and more people being supported by the same number of cows.

More people is more strain on our education and health systems and our infrastructure.

The problem is that nothing is going to be done about the immigration elephant in the room because neither main of the main parties have the balls.

Right wing politicians love cheap labour and the appearance of economic growth. Left wing politicians are diehard multiculturalists.

Either way, ordinary New Zealanders are having their birth rights sold off to the lowest bidder.

If multiculturalists are so fond of exotic people and cultures then perhaps they should put their money where their mouths are and migrate to India or China or Samoa.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"If Labour in New Zealand is not too proud to copy the extraordinary social-media campaigning techniques perfected by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the recent European elections."

Good point, but let's hope they don't learn to lie like Nigel Farage did. People resent mainstream politicians for a number of reasons, but I suspect one of the main ones as they don't feel they are being listened to. And I think this applies more to Labour than National, because they at least can be relied on to rule in the interests of their base. And I think it would take a huge upheaval for National to lose the farmer vote all the business people vote. Still, in twenty-five years time when most meat is produced on a 3D printer it might happen.:)
It also might be nice if the Labour Party actually lived up to its name and started producing policies that helped labour or for that matter the unemployed. They have a distinctly "New Labour" flavour at the moment and seem to be just nibbling at the edges. There is so much that could be done to restore the balance that used to exist between employers and employees but not a sign of it ever happening.

God help us, I never thought I'd ever agree with Shane, but something does have to be done about immigration. I never thought I'd ever agree with Matthew Hooton either and he said much the same thing, along with the very interesting statement – that governments are using immigration to artificially inflate the GDP figures. Not quite sure how this works, so if anyone knows – please post.

Jens Meder said...

But would not the centrist THIRD WAY not right nor left, but upwards by and for all towards a 100% ownership democracy without a "have nothing" proletariat -

at a more intensive rate than what Labour has initiated and achieved so far through the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver -

put NZ First still into a leading position which would fit with centristic Labour and National leanings ?

After all, has not Labour often toyed with worker cooperation through participation in ownership of the means of production ideas, and was not National founded on the belief in a "Property Owning Democracy" ?

(With 100% participating in wealth ownership creation, there are no "drones" at least in principle.)

Patricia said...

‘The new god of Neoliberalism, which replaced the failed god of Keynesianism, has turned out to have feet of clay. Nothing works anymore, and somebody must be to blame’. No Chris that new god of liberalism worked extremely well for the rich and their wannabees. Keynesianism didn’t fail. The Right worked really hard post war to turn the world economies back into, as near as they could, a feudal system. Read the 1971 Powell Manifesto to see what they wanted. They achieved all of that and are still achieving more to this day., They have turned the idea of a democracy into just ticking a box on Election Day. Everything else is reality TV and Facebook book and Instagram. The economists of today tell us that austerity is the answer, that the poor are only themselves to blame that private enterprise and borrowing from the rich is the only answer. Michael Joseph Savage would turn in his grave. Populists are the people’s reaction to all of that. A populist Leader could do it but I am not holding my breath for New Zealand. There are just too many closet neoliberals in all parties here.

Anonymous said...

Labour and the Greens are seriously compromised, and from that will flow questions around Electoral Commission compliance that will see them charging forth in quicksand.

David George said...

"all the positive beginnings her government has made if National is returned to power".
It's not obvious what you're referring to Chris but might be bit of a problem with that one. A key election plank, the housing problem, in tatters and a growing unease with so called progressive policies generally.
The large aspirational and or morally conservative immigrant population allied with the even larger traditional Kiwi values block are a formidable demographic for mainstream conservatism. Labour are not their home. The manufactured hysteria and fear-mongering over far right extremists and climate emergency is wearing a bit thin already. Come the election, in my opinion, the issues that will win the election are: a dynamic economy, credibility with housing, health and infrastructure, a decent school for the kids, free speech and a moderation (at least) of identity politics and political correctness.
Simon Bridges is not the chap to really champion those issues. I think he lacks vision and courage (plus he's got a funny look to his eyes) but Judith Collins could do it. She's courageous, bright and articulate. She'd make Jacinda look like a schoolgirl in a debate.

Nick J said...

We walk open eyed into the crisis. Too much debt, too much environment destruction. Too much wealth for too few. Too many problems. And beneath it all the energy resources that enabled it are running down, if not yet in supply though the cost and difficulty of extracting it goes up.

Here we are looking for salvation from a politician. In doing so we are asking for an individual to break the laws of physical reality, to perform impossible miracles. Hot news: prepare to be disappointed when the delivery of today's expectations fails. Jacinda can lead us kindly into a car wreck, Crusher can do it unkindly. End result the same.

To face the realities of the future first requires that we accept what the real problems are. That is unelectable.

David Stone said...

Has anyone been paying attention to Deutschebank ? Laying off 18 000 staff is serious. So all the QE that Europe has been feeding into the european banking system is not restoring profitability. It may not even save the iconic bank of Europe. What will be the downstream and where will it end?
What must be behind it is that in the end , however much money the reserve banks create and feed into the system, the banking system has to be able to lend it out at a profit to enterprises that can survive in the real world to be able to extract the money from the real economy to pay the wages of their staff. But there are fewer and fewer profitable businesses out there with the capacity to service more and more loans even at very low interest rates. Not secure enough ones for a bank loan anyway. So it might not matter if the banks can effectively create the money they lend , or re lend the QE money, they still have to extract an interest payment from it.
So perhaps the necessary environment for some real changes are not too far away. The system has to collapse under the weight of it's own debt before it can be rebuilt.
Hopefully under an enlightened and more equitable structure.
D J S I,m not impressed with having to prove I am nota robot. Has this been a problem?

greywarbler said...

Patricia I agree with largely. NickJ has been looking at reality for a while. Most would rather watch rugby or cricket. I like soccer, it is more skilful, you have to think on your feet, rely on your brain and not just charge around like a Spanish bull in the ring.

How to spoon feed reality to a slightly demented, slightly unwell citizenry. Perhaps Jacinda can keep their attention, while the nurse checks the blood pressure and changes the bandages and the doctor alters the blood-thinning prescription.

And we will totter on, having been booked into a health farm retreat where the young fitness coaches, healthy food chefs, and the musical entertainment in a scenic setting soothes and restores. We are providing work for the young ones; everything in the garden is lovely - what are they complaining about.

The immigrants have to pay hefty fees to apply to come here, so that must be good for the coffers, and they might get nothing out of it, but the money is gone. Others have special visas allowing instant admission to NZ, they fly here and hopefully spend some money part of which goes to the government and some will go to NZ business. They pay money into NZ in exchange for us selling them some of our precious land and property and businesses. That seems to be government earnings. They buy education and we entice them to do so by offering the right to work which reduces opportunities for our own students. That is part of the reason why immigration makes us money. And it brings in pleasant go-ahead people as well as some harder types, and overall it raises the IQ of the country.
Unfortunately NZ likes to sell good developments overseas; we continue with a cargo cult mentality for our economy short-term gains but others getthe profit from our innovations. So immigration is the latest stop-gap.

Nick J said...

GDP, immigration. I think GS that those ridiculous goat entrails readers, the economists really need to be stuck in the stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables.

How it works? The media and our institutions are obsessed with growth, numbers for them have meaning. More is not only better but less is disasterous. That they can't tell them difference between a thin pig or a fat pig in qualitative terms is of no consequence, it's quantitative, one pig is one pig.

So to immigration. One extra person means another mouth to feed, another roof required. It costs money. So it gets financed by debt, created against our total of dollars in the economy. That money gets brought into the present at the expense of the future. We count the total economic activity's bigger. More pigs, thinner. Because there's now less for each but the number is bigger. Remember numbers matter, they don't "mean" That's GDP growth by thinning out the present and eating the future.

Hope that helps GS.

John Hurley said...

I think Peters has been blind sided by internet culture but it is too late for him and New Zealand First. Winston has cooked his goose. Also "they are us" and the Islamic Prayer on RNZ will cost her. yes that is an exceptional circumstance but the majority ethnic group are being beaten down to fit the multicultural mould and the woke rub Christianity into the ground. Even the non religious (like myself) resent that.
There is a gap in the market for a party which understands the culture wars and the arguments. An ethno-traditional nationalist party to oppose the globalists..

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thanks Nick.

Nick J said...

I was having a hard laugh at the seeming stupidity of both the Greener end of this government and the gullibility of the public today.

Apparently we will continue our happy motoring in electric cars at some soon planned date. This will save the planet from climate changing emissions. I then looked at our hydro and geothermal power capacity. It is maxed out, no surplus in capacity or potential capacity. Then I looked at the potential for wind and solar. That is not even a fraction of the coal and oil we burn daily. So clever Green types, where's the electricity coming from to power these cars? Nuclear? More coal or gas creating more carbon?

Just to rub it in, how much embedded energy and pollution is in this switch to electric? And environmental destruction to mine lithium and rare earth elements? All just to go to the dairy for milk in a car rather than walking the dog?

Jacinda and crew represent a new generation as adept as their forebears at ostrich head in sand impressions.

Nick J said...

Pleasure GS

sumsuch said...

I'd like to see money in the pocket of those who need it after three decades, as the bloom of all this talk about it. Not a continuation of these half-wits. Or, I prefer the first to the second. Just discovered the county in America that bears my surname has the worst illiteracy rate there (39 %). Letsa get on.

Anonymous said...

I heard Jacinda say we "celebrate diversity" on Morning Report. How can she be a populist? I not sure what the polls mean that show here favourably however?

Trev1 said...

The coalition have no achievements to point to besides pork barrel handouts to their supporters. Their main programs have crashed and burned. By this time next year we will be in deep recession as a result of our own economic mismanagement and the global downturn which is rushing towards us like a freight train. New Zealand First are a busted flush, they have deeply alienated their social conservative supporters by endorsing the UN Migration Compact and doing nothing to challenge the out of control immigration that has lowered New Zealanders'wages and living standards. As for Jacinda championing free speech, I'm incredulous - her administration and its acolytes in academia and the media are trying to shut it down - there will be protests in the streets as she tries to impose restrictions on New Zealanders' hard won freedoms in the interests of multiculturalism. Year of delivery? Year of the developing nightmare.

John Hurley said...

Jacinda's Lived Experience (versus Utopian Dream)
Poor design blamed for 'depressing' Housing NZ units lacking sunlight