|Walking On Sunshine: National’s Sam Uffindell cantered home in the Tauranga By-Election, but the Outdoors & Freedom Party’s Sue Grey attracted an ominous level of support.|
THE RIGHT’S gadfly commentator, Matthew Hooton, summed up the Tauranga by-election in his usual pithy fashion. “Tonight’s result is poor for the National Party, catastrophic for Labour, very good for the Act Party and brilliant for the far-right nutter fringe. The last bit makes it terrible for New Zealand.” About National and Labour, Hooton is simply being provocative. But his assessment of “the far-right nutter fringe’s” impact on the by-election is spot-on.
The 2020 election result in Tauranga, which saw the gap between National and Labour shrink dramatically, was – as every political commentator should know (but apparently doesn’t) aberrant. Hell, the entire General Election was aberrant – as National’s loss of seats like Rangitata and Ilam made clear. For Jacinda Ardern and her party to have held onto the roughly 400,000 “Thank-you for saving us from Covid-19” votes that pushed Labour up-and-over 50 percent of the Party Vote, would have required her to shift New Zealand into some sort of weird parallel universe, where the absence of success goes unreproved, and political failure is rewarded.
Much as she might like to be living in such a universe, the Prime Minister knows that she is not. Which is why she and her advisers would have been looking at the results of 2017 for guidance – not 2020. On that basis, the Tauranga By-Election was very far from being a catastrophe.
As Greg Presland, lawyer and regular contributor to the Labour-leaning website “The Standard” tweeted shortly after the result was announced: “Election night Tauranga result is Uffindell 56% Tinetti 25%. 2017 election result was Bridges 54% Tinetti 26%. Beware of claim this is a bad result for Labour. Looks like business as usual without the anti-Government bounce that opposition parties hope for in by-elections.”
Equally untrue is the claim that the Tauranga result represents a poor showing for National. To easily restore the status-quo-ante-Covid was all anyone could reasonably have asked of Sam Uffindell. This was especially true of a contest precipitated by an incumbent National MP in circumstances entirely lacking in political drama, whose outcome was never in doubt. Uffindell was always going to win, and win he did in a commendably boring campaign. (Exciting campaigns in safe seats are generally regarded as unhelpful – even dangerous!)
In these circumstances the risible 40 percent turnout was as predictable as the result itself. With the outcome a foregone conclusion and the rain bucketing down, only the most faithful of party stalwarts were ever going to make it to the polling booths. That they did so in almost exactly the same percentages as the 2017 contest should be enough for any sensible commentator to conclude that normal electoral transmission in Tauranga has been resumed.
Although Act’s candidate, Cameron Luxton, should have felt extremely pleased with his 10.26 percent of the votes cast, he could be forgiven for feeling that he had earned a much bigger share. Most observers of the by-election campaign concur that Luxton was by far the most dynamic candidate.
Once again positing a parallel political universe, this one featuring publicly-owned local broadcasters committed to bringing fulsome coverage of electoral contests to their viewers (don’t guffaw, New Zealand once boasted such broadcasters!) Luxton would have ended his campaign with an embarrassingly large number of traditional National voters in his column.
Those Tauranga electors who tuned into the debates on the weekend political shows can hardly have avoided drawing unfavourable comparisons between Luxton and Uffindell. Not that he really needs to, given the result, but if Sam could arrange for a generous injection, or two, of political passion, his value to Team National would undoubtedly be boosted. Languid-and-Aristocratic is not the Kiwi way – not in politics.
But, if the Tauranga candidates with the best chances appeared to lack all conviction, then at least one of those written off as belonging to the worst was definitely not lacking in passionate intensity. Sue Grey, candidate for the New Zealand Outdoors & Freedom Party, managed an impressive 4.72 percent of the votes cast.
Just how impressive is immediately apparent when one considers that the nationwide support for the Outdoors Party in 2020 was a miniscule 0.1 percent. (3,256 Party Votes.) On Saturday, another 53 votes would have put Grey over 5 percent. Replicated across the country in 2023, that would put at least six NZOF MPs in the House of Representatives.
It is important to acknowledge that Grey’s result was achieved in a by-election with a very low turnout (40.6 percent) and in which the Greens, NZ First, and the Māori Party opted not to field candidates. Nevertheless, the 47-fold increase in the NZOF Party’s support is so dramatic that it merits serious political scrutiny.
The Outdoors Party’s beginnings are nothing if not firmly rooted in the “heartland”. It was founded to represent the huntin’, shootin’ fishin’ community: rugged, authority-scorning, Kiwi blokes and sheilas entirely lacking in affinity for the vegan “Greenies” of the big cities, who wouldn’t know one end of a hunting rifle or fishing rod from the other. On the other hand, the sort of hippies who hare off into the bush to live off-the-grid, and who decry the use of 1080 poison by DoC, are a different story. Like them, these outdoorsmen and women also favour the legalisation of cannabis and would like the state to FRO out of their lives.
If that description rings a bell, then it’s because a great many of these characters could be found camping in Parliament Grounds earlier this year. Begin with a general pre-disposition towards believing the absolute worst of the Powers That Be, mix-in the uncompromising government demands of the Covid-19 Emergency, and then allow the resulting anti-vaccination fury to be articulated by a personable online spokeswoman – who just happens to be a lawyer and scientist – and hey-presto! Sue Grey gets 917 votes in Tauranga.
It is also important to note that Grey’s co-leader is fellow lawyer Donna Pokere-Phillips. This bi-cultural aspect of the NZOF Party is important. Though harbouring a strong anti-immigrant element within its ranks, there is very little evidence of the anti-Māori sentiment that disfigures so many far-right groups. If this is fascism, then it is of a quintessentially Kiwi, backwoods libertarian, variety. Not so much brown shirts as black singlets.
Unsurprisingly, the evangelical Christian leader of the Freedoms & Rights Coalition, Brian Tamaki, has been working hard to draw together all the parties of the far-right into a single electoral proposition – an “Alliance”-style coalition of the Dark Side, if you will. So far unsuccessful, Tamaki is likely to remain so. Too much of his message bears a “Made in the USA” stamp. New Zealand, one of the world’s most secular nations, marches to the beat of a very different drummer to Donald Trump and Q-Anon.
The NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party, while far too angry and conspiratorial for most New Zealanders, has, nevertheless, clearly shown itself to have something going for it. Good keen fascism, perhaps? Something that was always there, just below the surface of New Zealand progressivism. The New Zealand poet, James K. Baxter, saw it and wrote about it in his “Pig Island Letters” series.
Lines that could have been written for Sue Grey and her comrades:
Her son is moodier, has seen
An angel with a sword
Standing above the clumps of old man manuka
Just waiting for the word
To overturn the cities and the rivers
And split the house like a rotten totara log.
Quite unconcerned he sets his traps for possums
And whistles to his dog.
This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 20 June 2022.
>>>It is also important to note that Grey’s co-leader is fellow lawyer Donna Pokere-Phillips. This bi-cultural aspect of the NZOF Party is important. Though harbouring a strong anti-immigrant element within its ranks, there is very little evidence of the anti-Māori sentiment that disfigures so many far-right groups. If this is fascism, then it is of a quintessentially Kiwi, backwoods libertarian, variety. Not so much brown shirts as black singlets.<<<
New Zealand's far-right is disproportionately Maori. It's an oddity that goes little noted.
While Labour may take comfort from the fact that the by-election result mirrored that of the 2017 General Election, in 2017 Labour received only 36.89 percent of the national vote which is about where they are currently polling. And Act received less than one per cent. As we all know, it was New Zealand First who put Ardern into government. They are now irrelevant. If I was a Labour strategist I would be very worried that Jacinda appears to have lost the 400,000 crossover votes from 2020. They have only Mahuta and Jackson to blame.
Or perhaps the answer has nothing to do with your dreams of fascism. Instead it is a by-election and and people are tired of the bullshit from the two main parties. One puts up a typical staid candidate. The other puts up a minister with nothing to lose so puts in no effort. Then the Maori Party claims the place is unsafe for a candidate, despite it's record of voting for Maoris.
Shitty weather, a shitty choice, so some go for the outlier. Then it is all about NZ's underlying fascism.
Fair enough but The Outdoors Party as "far right"? If they are then that gives the right (including New Conservative) a very substantial 70% + of the vote. Perhaps Sue Grey & Co are attracting a lot of their support from ex Greens voters, I know a lot of former Green voters that are decidedly unimpressed with the Green's support for vaccine mandates and their weird gender and racial obsessions. Who, in their right minds, would want to be governed by people that are mad enough to be able to convince themselves that men can give birth?
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
W B Yeats. 1865-1939
DS: "New Zealand's far right is disproportionately Maori."
Indeed. I was also intending to point this out. The protesters at Parliament have been characterised as far right, and not just in this post. That being so, it was notable just how many Maori were there.
Ethno-nationalism and ethnic chauvinism are aspects of fascism. Both perspectives heavily influence Maori views, as we've seen in recent times. Any doubters, read He Puapua, along with its predecessor Matike Mai, for confirmation.
Trying to justify a poor percentage of the vote at 26% for Labour by saying it mirrors 2017 with just a brief mention that the Green's didn't field a candidate is disingenuous at the least. Labour were polling at 35% less than a week before the day of voting and the Greens managed 4% of the vote in 2017. For a Prime Minister who claims that climate change is the 'nuclear free moment of their generation' and for a party who, in conjunction with a Green Minister for Climate Change have just released a major plan on that very issue less than a month ago, to not pick up that 4% to get over 30 is a disaster. Trying to spin it away by saying its the same is 2017 smacks of desperation.
DÉsterre is correct. I would go further and suggest fascism is simply socialism with ethnonationalist characteristics. Both are collectivist ideologies. It is no accident that Mussolini for example was a socialist before he founded Italy's National Fascist Party. He PuaPua is a blueprint for tribal fascism in New Zealand which is now being implemented in the control of water and the health system.
Anonymous 16.01 Your comment 'smacks of desperation' too. That you think that just running down somebody else's suggestions amounts to a reasoned opinion is sufficient to be useful as part of a discussion, then you haven't much to offer. Chris may be right, half-right, or making a poor comparison, but just boorishly denigrating his opinions doesn't add anything to the stew pot of thoughts. The facts you give are interesting, but please just give us the facts man, don't take pot shots at him in this way; 'Trying to spin it away by saying its the same is 2017 smacks of desperation.' That's superfluous.
'The protesters at Parliament have been characterised as far right, and not just in this post. That being so, it was notable just how many Maori were there.'
I think that the moving spirit amongst those Maoris is that they are people with vigour and a grievance that their jobs or settled lives and opportunities to improve their situations seem to be retreating further away with every year that passes. We have had decades of
neo-lib and sackings, retrenchment and imported labour and high-handedness from PTB. Though there are more Maori in higher positions all the time, they seem to be coming from a middle-class perspective, not always an understanding, practical grassroots one. I think some answers might come from reading Alan Duff's books, beyond those about Jake. His 'Out of the Mist and Steam' (1999) and others.
There is a firm lid on the pot of boiling younger generations it seems. The steam will break through. We can just hope that it doesn't develop into the strength of a pressure cooker. I come from a middle class background, probably lower mc or upper lower, and I am dissatisfied at the treatment of low income people, the lack of jobs, the withdrawal of real concern and support of welfare that has followed the demolishment of the NZ economy from foreign competition and invasion of the job-snatchers at high management and low strugglers. Worsened by the resiling to computer algorithms of people asking or, needing help.
Apparently so-called farmers )often multiple owners) now think it adequate for the job to press buttons on computers to open and close gates, and direct and manage from a swivel chair using electronics. This swivel-eyed approach to what requires real hands-on work and heart, and commitment to the task, is what now is being applied to more and more citizens as well as animals, in NZ. No wonder people demonstrate, and if they are inarticulate often it is because everything they can say has been said before, and ignored. It's enough to mess your head.
"I would go further and suggest fascism is simply socialism with ethnonationalist characteristics. Both are collectivist ideologies."
What nonsense. If Nazism was collectivist, it was only in the communitarian sense, not in the economic sense. In other words in the sense that the individual was supposed to subordinate their individual interests for the common good. Pretty much every political system requires some of this, except perhaps for libertarianism.
Nazism was so collectivist as to completely abolish collective bargaining for workers, and while business profits rose markedly, wages were pretty much stuck from 1933 to 45.
The Nazis were not only against communism, but also social democracy – which was I must confess a little further to the left than we regard it today, but even so.
Unfortunately the idea that Nazis socialists has gained ground amongst conservatives today in an effort to remove the taint of Nazism from their extreme right adherents. It's like defining anything you don't like about the history syllabus as critical race theory. Cynical falsehood.
"Nazism was so collectivist as to completely abolish collective bargaining for workers,".
There was certainly no collective bargaining in the Soviet Union, nor were wages anything to write home about. An old saying under Soviet Socialism before it collapsed was "they (the government) pretend to pay us and we pretend to work". The National Socialists (Nazis) kept business in line with the ever-present threat of nationalization, and supplied it with slave labour from occupied Europe.
The Left-Right axis has lost any meaning these days. The real distinction now is between those who believe in individual liberty and the proponents of a new "unified capital-socialism" (as Cardinal Gerhard Muller has described it) where large corporates exploit the masses who are held in socialist societies, controlled and suppressed by the State. This is also known as the WEF-Davos "Great Reset".
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