Friday 17 July 2020

Is National’s Bundle of Conservative Sticks Falling Apart?

Falling To Pieces?  After 84 years, is the electoral compromise forged in 1936 – when the National Party was born – in danger of falling apart?

AFTER 84 YEARS as New Zealand’s preeminent centre-right political party, is National on the point of disintegrating? Six months ago, that question would have been dismissed as both irrelevant and absurd. In mid-February 2020 the National Party was polling strongly, and its leader, Simon Bridges, while hardly a stellar political performer, was working hard to improve his act. Any pundit predicting that by mid-July National would be poised to elect its third leader in a single year would have been laughed off the telly.

After an extraordinary week in New Zealand politics, two big questions hover over the debris of Todd Muller’s career. 1) How badly will the conservative vote fracture on 19 September? 2) Are National’s internal divisions serious enough to break the party apart?

As matters now stand, the answers to these questions are likely to be: “very badly”, and “yes”.

As conservative voters’ confidence in the National Party falters, they will begin casting about for the most effective way of serving the broader right-wing cause. National’s internal polling is already registering a dramatic surge in voter support for Act, with David Seymour’s party currently sitting on 9 percent of the Party Vote. If these numbers hold, then Act could be looking at a post-election parliamentary contingent of about a dozen MPs.

More traditional conservatives may decide that, since National cannot win the election, it is vital that the NZ First “handbrake” be returned to Parliament. If a big enough chunk of National’s 2017 support decamps to NZ First, then Jacinda Ardern may opt to keep the existing coalition arrangements intact. After all, having Winston Peters at her side to temper the radical policy ambitions of the Greens is a state-of-affairs the Prime Minister is probably perfectly happy to prolong.

Those conservative voters even further to the right may give their votes to the New Conservative Party. Deeply frustrated – and not a little alarmed – by National’s “liberal” drift under Muller, these voters may no longer see much point in remaining part of the Right’s rapidly unravelling bundle of conservative sticks.

Finally, there’s the likely effect of tens-of-thousands of conservative voters deciding to sit the 2020 general election out altogether. With no party they any longer feel comfortable voting for, these New Zealanders may simply decide not to vote at all. Any significant decline in the turn-out of right-wing voters will, of course, have the effect of boosting the impact of the left-wing vote. Expressed as a percentage of the Party Vote, National’s support may plumb depths even more abysmal than the 20.9 percent recorded in 2002.

A descent into the teens would see National transformed into an ultra-conservative rump party. Brim-full of far-right fundamentalist Christian evangelists (who would in no way have been displeased to lose their more liberal colleagues in the electoral rout) such a culturally out-of-touch National Party would have nothing to offer the well-educated, socially-liberal, metropolitan professionals whose support has played such a crucial role in keeping National a mainstream political force. After 84 years, the electoral compromise forged in 1936 – when National was born – would be in danger of breaking apart.

Most New Zealanders have no idea of the context out of which the National Party emerged. The mid-1930s were a particularly fractious time for the Right. The rural-and-provincially-based Reform Party, whose angry, protestant and deeply anti-socialist supporters (most of them farmers) were under enormous economic pressure, had become the reluctant coalition partner of the United Party (formerly the Liberals) which represented the commercial and professional urban middle-classes. These latter voters, alarmed at the political radicalisation caused by the Great Depression, had flirted in their tens-of-thousands with the profoundly undemocratic, quasi-fascist New Zealand Legion. In short, the Right was all over the place. The only thing they had in common was a visceral fear of a working-class-based socialist Labour Government.

It was that fear which, within 12 months of Labour’s 1935 election victory, drew all the squabbling factions of the Right together under the rubric of the New Zealand National Party. As an electoral foil for Labour, this eccentric amalgam of centrists, rightists and far-rightists would prove remarkably successful. While Labour remained a scary, working-class, socialist proposition, National would win election after election.

National’s problem, in July 2020, is that Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party – unlike Mickey Savage’s – is neither scary, nor working-class, nor socialist.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 17 July 2020.


Kokila Patel said...

It should worry the Labour party if they are not a party of the working class. That implies they favour a liberal elite (or chardonnay socialist) who don't use public health services, but have private insurance, send their kids to private schools and not public ones with the only thing they have in common is the roads they travel on to their second homes.

Max Ritchie said...

Judith Collins’ infrastructure announcement 45 minutes ago clearly sets out her position at centre-right. A clear statement of intent that will appeal to all to the right of far-left. Sensible, pragmatic, practical just like Collins. Labour should be a little nervous.

John Hurley said...

Hard to conceptualize politics today without taking into account the sector of the economy that has relied on flooding our country with foreigners and their money.

"White New Zealand" is considered wrong. Not something to let change slowly but to utterly annihilate. Conserving that is seen like conserving a heroin habit; advocating for it's preservation, like pedophilia.

The angry senior journalist lets it known when a citizen crosses the line: John Campbell "but many of those Asians will have been born here, Mr Brown!"

The comment that offended me more than any other in the blogosphere was "Stephieboys" "New Zealand isn't only for white people...." It is as though being white disqualifies you from belonging as a people to a place?

The dream is epitomised by Rangitoto College at the end of Nigel Latta's New New Zealand: a nation of post-ethnic cosmopolitans (apparently).

There will need to be more cultural engineering however. [Tangata Whenua] + [Migrants] "there just needs to be solidarity" - Julie Zhu/ Paul Spoonley/ RNZ

New Zealanders had a positive attachment to being a New Zealander whereas academics are obsessed by labels "ethnic food" and "white mannequins in Ballantynes" and Professor Katie Pickles just knows that the falling of the Godley Statue represents our "post colonial moment". "Racism" is standard fare for ethnic advocates when they really mean the dominance of those whose identity is the nation.

As an elder used to say "it will all come out in the wash". As it did when the Soviet Union broke up. The bond between NZ and Australia is weakening due to immigration from India and China. John Haidt says: "the conservative insight is that order is hard to achieve".

Trev1 said...

National now has a new Leader Chris who is not beholden to any faction. That is the source of her power. She is taking the fight to Labour and the shoe is now very much on the other foot. National have found momentum, Labour and its rag-tag coalition are mired in infantile identity politics and sleaze. Labour's only remaining weapon, it seems, is to try to scare us all with the threat of another Lockdown. Yeah right.

Kat said...

Recent utterances from the newly installed National leader such as "take our country back" "collectively crush the govt" "Jacinda Arden's nonsense" show the National party's remains firmly in the born to rule, lord of the manor mindset. There is no place for that type of thinking in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party is for all New Zealanders.

The Barron said...

Just a shout out to Chris Hipkins. Playing the high ground he neutered Walker, Boag, Woodhouse, Muller, Adams and Kaye. Set up a battle of the right-wing populists against Peters' nostalgic populism.Got an opposition out of step with the post-covid world, which immediately declares it will get rid of the RMA, consolidating the Greens support for Labour. Jesus was a chippy.

BlisteringAttack said...

If Jacinda was introduced to MJ Savage at a function, it's certain Savage would walk away thinking he had just been talking to Adam Hamilton.

aberfoyle said...

Possible but maybe. no.Print if you choose, was working for the Ministry of Works back when Muldoon , just became P.M. I and three others sent out to Lower Hutt, secret squirrel not allowed to where we were going to work, today what law would prevail, same as then, painting then Vogel House, the P.M.!s Government residency. So myself, how long you been in the country for almost three years, were from Glasgow. So I!m young 23, the other workers more older and all born Kiwis. Anyway morning smoko, being the youngest Tradesperson, had to make the smoko tea, this done we four sitting , enjoying the tea without the usual these poms come here and cant make, tea, in walks Mrs. Muldoon, .I stand and says hello Mrs. Muldoon, we are having our tea break, would you like a cup, Mrs. Muldoon said yes , so us five sitting drinking morning smoko, and the only egit the scot was chatting with the tuskers wife when who walks in the Tusker , these three jump up to stand the only thing missing was the right arm raised and seig. That was Muldoons, effect on the male Kiwi and some say female population of the Kiwi mindset also, and maybe crusher shall have the same.

John Hurley said...

This is what I have been trying to say: "the ideology without a name"

Jens Meder said...

So it does look like Labour will be safer for longer through leadership from the Center ?

David George said...

Interesting speculations Chris but the question remains; how much of a game changer are the recent changes and the rise of Judith Collins. Her spontaneous humour, personality and intelligence indicates a natural authenticity that most people find attractive and appealing. She is well liked.

Muller was intimidated by the Media, mind you they were very unreasonable; dragging out someone to baselessly accuse him of being a racist was real gutter stuff. His squirming, humiliating acquiescence to the mob over the cabinet makeup and the cap were a low point. I like Judith's approach and most will respect her for that even if they don't necessarily agree with the decision.

I think we will see the ACT support come back from the (surprising) 9%, a lot of that was down to Nationals leftward drift, it certainly was in my case. Likewise for N.C. National are now offering a genuine choice rather than the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum prior option. Looks more like a FPP election and further bad news for NZF and the Greens.

NZF have burned off their conservative base and the left leaning faction will see their interests better served voting labour directly. Can't see them getting off the mat. Good!

AB said...

"National’s problem, in July 2020, is that Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party – unlike Mickey Savage’s – is neither scary, nor working-class, nor socialist."

Which if true would mean that Labour has essentially stolen National's lunch (or a good portion of it). And all that remains to the right of Labour are three small pockets: the market fundamentalists in ACT, social conservatives in NZF, and the right-wing Christians attached to various odd-ball electoral vehicles.
And further - that current Labour could be correctly identified as a responsible centre-right party, one that could perform a valuable balancing and moderating role against a major green/socialist party to its left. In fact it could be seen as a sensible centre-right party that would actually be worth voting for from time to time.
This would be a highly desirable, but also improbable, leftward shift in the whole political spectrum.

greywarbler said...

They're getting dried out and brittle, the sap has solidified, and they pose a fire-sale risk.

Mike Grimshaw said...

Th real problem for Labour is that is you take away Ardern who is there that could lead them to victory? Where are the other leadership contenders? Only Robertson and many Labour voters are too conservative- or religious and conservative- to vote for a gay PM, which is a damning indictment on a modern left party.

National, as a pragmatic party of people who consider themselves leaders will ride this out.The issue for National is always an overabundance of leadership contenders, not a lack of them.

Collins has a touch of Thatcher and Muldoon- delivered with a sense of humour - and that will see her eat into the conservative Labour and NZ First vote. It is going to be a far closer than most expect.

Simon Cohen said...

John Hurley has already been removed from one website for his racist anti immigration views especially concerning Chinese and Indians and I see from his comments here that nothing has changed.I would like to think Chris that he doesn't use Bowalley Road to promulgate his abhorrent views.

greywarbler said...

Saying for the modern NZ and elsewhere: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can gather and mug me.

greywarbler said...

Too late Kath - Lord of the manor has set in in NZ. Those who aren't lords or seeking to be, can get lost. The barons have taken over the country because the proletariat took their eye off the ball while they were too busy celebrating what they thought was a victory for the common man, and reverted to the lumpenproletariat, dumbly apolitical. - George Monbiot
What came about from the 2012 activities of the 'Diggers' in England?

...At first this group of mostly young, dispossessed people, who (after the 17th century revolutionaries) call themselves Diggers 2012, camped on the old rugby pitch of Brunel University's Runnymede campus. It's a weed-choked complex of grand old buildings and modern halls of residence, whose mildewed curtains flap in the wind behind open windows, all mysteriously abandoned as if struck by a plague or a neutron bomb.

The diggers were evicted again, and moved down the hill into the woods behind the campus – pressed, as if by the ineluctable force of history, ever closer to the symbolic spot. From the meeting house they have built and their cluster of tents, you can see across the meadows to where the Magna Carta was sealed almost 800 years ago...

Through globalisation and standardisation, through unemployment and the erosion of collective bargaining and employment laws, big business now asserts a control over its workforce almost unprecedented in the age of universal suffrage.

The promise the old hold out to the young is a lifetime of rent, debt and insecurity. A rentier class holds the nation's children to ransom. Faced with these conditions, who can blame people for seeking an alternative?

But the alternatives have also been shut down: you are excluded yet you cannot opt out. The land – even disused land – is guarded as fiercely as the rest of the economy. Its ownership is scarcely less concentrated than it was when the Magna Carta was written. But today there is no Charter of the Forest (the document appended to the Magna Carta in 1217, granting the common people rights to use the royal estates). As Simon Moore, an articulate, well-read 27-year-old, explained, "those who control the land have enjoyed massive economic and political privileges. The relationship between land and democracy is a strong one, which is not widely understood."
In the feudal system of Europe, a baron was a “man” who pledged his loyalty and service to his superior in return for land that he could pass to his heirs...n England the Norman kings assembled advisory councils of the more powerful barons. ...
Barons and Nobles- The Barons and high ranking nobles ruled large areas of land called fiefs. They reported directly to the king and were very powerful. They divided up their land among Lords who ran individual manors. Their job was to maintain an army that was at the king's service.

greywarbler said...

John Hurley at 12.10
Perhaps you would find Orania in South Africa a better place to live?
But it is only for Afrikaaners I think. It excludes so much and that is so convenient when change and adaptation is the name of the game for us all.

But - 1776
“We Must All Hang Together, or Most Assuredly, We Will All Hang Separately” Benjamin Franklin made this statement at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was of course referring to the need for the signers, and the states they represented, to stick together against a common enemy, Great Britain.

Perhaps we need a common enemy to draw us together and stop the divisions in NZ and the paring away of all that positivity we had managed to build?
Who shall it be - lay the map on the table and all stick pins into countries that have taken advantage of done things we don't like! We will end up with a hedgehog.

Max Ritchie said...

I think you’re right, Mike Grimshaw, re closeness. But is there really more than a tiny %age who’d discriminate against Robertson because he’s gay? I don’t think so, surely the vast majority has moved on. Wolfenden was 50 or more years ago!

Max Ritchie said...

Actually 63 years ago. Time flies.

Nick J said...

Mike, you are correct that the election will be closer than suspected. I don't believe that Labour have less leadership aspirants however. Looking at National the whole leadership ranks appear to be aged white men and women with good upper class backgrounds, property ownership, high social status. No problem there for me, I'd match that description.

The issue for National is that they don't match the electorate. They don't appear young enough, they don't appear diverse enough. They just aren't common garden Kiwis.

greywarbler said...

John Hurley 17.7 12.10
"The bond between NZ and Australia is weakening due to immigration from India and China."
That is only part of the truth. The fact is that racism and colonial western hegemony have stayed paramount in Australia. That means anybody from a country with skin colour that isn't pink can get to feel an outsider. When I was there in the late 60's Italians felt demeaned, and 'wogs' was still a demeaning word in use. And of course the Aborigines have always been in contention through till today.

The Australians have been ready to snipe at any NZr, when it suited them, whatever colour. Any 'Indian or Chinese' going from here to Australia was just an excuse to play hardball. However I think now that we could use that response from them to our advantage, and it would be a good idea to introduce visas to keep control and surveillance on who wishes to visit us. It's time. We can't rely on them maintaining proper records of their people for a Covid-19 control, and we don't want any more of their
diseased-brain types causing mayhem. We have latent ones of our own, that's enough. And the tourists who want to come and spend here will do so and stay long enough to make good business.

Jens Meder said...

If we declare poverty as our common enemy (or what else could it be, John Hurley ?), then
what is the most effective way to overcome it ?

More wealth creation as a priority, or more wealth redistribution and consumption ?

John Hurley said...

Simon Cohen said...
John Hurley has already been removed from one website for his racist anti immigration views especially concerning Chinese and Indians and I see from his comments here that nothing has changed. I would like to think Chris that he doesn't use Bowalley Road to promulgate his abhorrent views.
Call me old fashioned but isn't it the governments job to look after it's own people first?

John Hurley said...


Congratulations on finding an alternative to the hackneyed Nazi Germany (maybe you would like to move to South Africa)?

Ethno-traditional nationalism: a variety of nationalism which seeks to protect the traditional preponderance of ethnic majorities through slower immigration and assimilation but which does not seek to close the door entirely to migration or exclude minorities from national membership.

after all:
Put simply, the government embarked on an optimistic plan of social engineering to transform New Zealand into an 'Asian' country; unfortunately, it did a poor job of publicising its intent or rationale. Under the slogan that a global economy required global citizens, an ambitious plan was hatched to restructure society around an Asian axis. But these initiatives moved too quickly for most people, ignored the need to consult or convince people of the importance of any fundamental shift, and did little to monitor the impact of immigration on public perception (Heeringa 1996).

John Hurley said...

Simon Cohen
That website

The historical record in many countries shows that when populist outsiders challenge oligarchic insiders, the oligarchs almost always win. The oligarchs may not have numbers, but they control most of the wealth, expertise, and political influence and dominate the media, universities, and nonprofit sectors. Most populist waves break and disperse on the concrete seawalls of elite privilege.
The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite (p. 86):
Michael Lind

John Hurley said...

Simon Cohen said...
John Hurley has already been removed from one website for his racist anti immigration views
What views are they I wonder. I don't say things I cant back up with an argument and I open to having my mind changed?

rouppe said...

Brim-full of far-right fundamentalist Christian evangelists

Oh come on. You believe the top 20 on National's list are far right fundamentalist Christian evangelists? That is the most absurd thing I've heard in ages...

Almost as absurd as saying labour aren't socialists. They are galloping towards government centralisation of as much as possible. Happy to trample over people's rights, remove our freedoms, and hide excesses occurring within their own party and within government house while announcing how open, honest, transparent and "kind" they are. Yeah, Sepuloni's team tearing down another party's hoarding was "just a misunderstanding".

No one believes a word coming from the government. The debt they are piling on us is criminal. The lack of organisation at the border and quarantine astonishing.

John Hurley said...

Simon Cohen you are the bigot. Humans weren't designed for multicultural society. You can see that in the way people learn their proximate language and it is very hard to learn another or loose an accent (I'm trying to teach my wife to say "trolley"). Phil Goff says he celebrates diversity and has [someone in his family who has married someone]. That isn't multiculturalism that is being absorbed. Expecting people to "celebrate" a society without common bonds is like expecting people to celebrate air pollution. Identity is subjective it cannot be imposed from above.
Demography has consequences. Chinese from the goldfield days still want their children to marry Chinese (Meng Foon was one). They go back to the family village and feel a sense of home. What's more the bond between Australia and NZ is cooling ("it was only based on a handshake). What is behind that "immigration from India and China" -wow who would have predicted it? Having said that it mainly affects the riff-raff not your average university lecturer?

Simon Cohen said...

Every comment John Hurley makes proves my point.Please remove this blatant racist from making comments.
As to his comments concerning Chinese from the goldfields still wanting their children to marry Chinese he obviously has never met any of the large number of descendants of Choie Sew Hoy.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Simon Cohen.

It has always been my practice to allow the ideas - and prejudices - of Bowalley Road's readers to be expressed freely.

Allowing every reader to read and respond to the views of others is more helpful, in my opinion, than censoring them.

Rest assured, however, if any comment contains material that violates the Race Relations Act, by inciting violence, hatred and/or contempt for any particular race or ethnicity, it will not be posted.

John Hurley said...

Chinese from the goldfield days still want their children to marry Chinese (Meng Foon was one).
I didn't mean all but so what. I was just pointing out that they have a strong cultural identity. Multiculturalism assumes a new super-ordinate national identity can be imposed over pre-existing ethinic identities in a brief time span [NZ On Air -Long White Cloud]

"My children, we encouraged them to marry Chinese people, and none of them listened, so their hearts went to other people."

Eric Kaufmann argues that populism is a reaction to [the salience of ] immigration at the National level and backs it up with data. He also points out that in-group attachment is independant of out-group derogation.

People have circles "circle of friends", "family circle" but at the national level that also applies. There has to be more meaning to "nation" than some artificial construct dreamed up by academics.

See [19:00]

I react "quite strongly and quite negatively" to that idea but NZ On Air are doing their best to knock the people who built this country off their perch.

Eric Kaufmann, a political scientist at the University of London, argues that demographic change is at the heart of contemporary politics across the West. In Kaufmann’s view, demography is not exactly destiny, but it nonetheless makes up the slow-­moving, yet unstoppable tectonic plates upon which the political architecture of nations and states is built. Following his adviser Anthony D. Smith, the eminent late scholar of nationalism, Kaufmann argues that every national society has an “ethnic core” defined by markers such as language, religion, and race. This group defines its wider society politically, socially, and culturally. If it is powerful and self-­confident, it welcomes newcomers and assimilates them into itself much as American WASPs did with ­European immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If it is weak or governed by a self-­abnegating elite, the ethnic core is wracked by “existential insecurity channeled by the lightning rod of immigration.” The result is right-wing populism.

John Hurley said...

In a debate over hate speech laws Elliot Ilkelei argues that bad ideas should be brought into the light and deconstructed. Spoonley replies: “Well, I've been around the extreme-right for a long time and knowing the people but not knowing this Christchurch shooter They're not amenable to debate”
Meanwhile Tarrant flies a drone over the Mosque.
How can you reason with them if you can’t reason with them?

The host on the Free Speech Coalition podcast comments on the debate: he thinks they want to control the agenda of what is discussed.

Keith Ng writes about the National Front:

“I want to say… don’t stereotype us.”

Sounds promising…

“National pride is not hate.”

Uh hur…

“We’re free thinking.”


Paul Spoonley asks on RNZ “what is being taken away from them” while “[He] gets to represent this tolerant New Zealand at international conferences “

Paul Spoonley
“The purpose of the [free speech crises] myth is not to secure freedom of speech…The purpose is to secure the licence to speak with impunity; not freedom of expression but rather freedom from the consequences of that expression.”
Nesrine Malik, We Need New Stories. Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent (2019)

“ the resurgence of “pop socio-biological determinism” in the work of neoliberal intellectual celebrities such as Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker, to Douglas Murray’s... Malik reveals the hysteria beneath the most pseudo-rational accounts.”

The PM quoted primatologist Robert Sapolsky at the UN. Human nature has been around a lot longer than Paul Spoonley.

John Hurley said...

Just like Trumps body guards the wrong opinions are swept from the website.

consequently, not one comment points out that A. immigration doesn't influence demographic profile much and the B. the baby boomers will die out in the next 15 years.