The New Battleground: As the struggle over the TPPA shifts from the streets to Parliament the political rules-of-engagement will change. If Jane Kelsey and her followers are to avoid the fate of Queen Boudicca and hers, then she must never accept a battle fought on her enemies' terms. That means reigniting the extra-parliamentary struggle. If the Anti-TPPA movement attempts to fight John Key on his own turf - it will lose.
AND SO IT BEGINS. The Government’s counter-offensive against the opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is slowly, but surely, gathering pace. It’s weight and relentless aggression will test the TPPA’s opponents’ fighting skills to the limit. Already, they have been found wanting. The massive protest demonstration of 4 February may have caught the TPPA’s protagonists off-guard, but it has not been followed-up. The pressure on the Government has eased. It is now John Key’s turn to demonstrate his power.
The best historical analogy I can think of is the Boudican Revolt of AD 60-61. Like Boudicca, the warrior queen of the Iceni tribe, Professor Jane Kelsey has been highly successful at rousing and mobilising her followers against the TPPA. Also like Boudicca, she has taken full advantage of the strategic opportunity her distracted opponents were foolish enough to give her.
The Roman Governor of Britain, Suetonius, having called in the Empire’s loans to the Iceni royal family and annexed their kingdom, added insult to injury by allowing his legionaries to first flog the loudly protesting Boudicca, and then rape her daughters. Convinced that the subjugation of the Iceni was now an accomplished fact, he carelessly led his legions West, to the island of Anglesey, where he exterminated what remained of the Druids.
While he was busy putting Druids to the sword and cutting down their sacred oaks, Boudicca was laying waste to the key Roman cities of Camulodunum and Londonium, and slaughtering upwards of 70,000 Romans and Romano-Britons.
The Emperor Nero momentarily considered abandoning his new province to its murderous inhabitants. But then, at the Battle of Watling Street, his loyal Governor, Suetonius, reminded the Mediterranean World why Rome was its master.
Because, truthfully, it’s not that hard to get a lot of people all rarked-up about their beloved homeland being turned into a colony of the unbelievably powerful masters of the world. The same is true of slaughtering people by the thousand. That’s not hard, either. Especially when the legions normally dedicated to their protection are on the other side of the country putting an entire religious tradition to the sword.
It’s important to face facts. While Jane Kelsey’s crusade, like Boudicca’s rebellion, has tasted victories, these have all been won on battlefields of her own choosing. What happens when her rebels are forced to fight on their enemies’ chosen ground?
Fighting On Rome's Terms: Rigorously trained and highly disciplined, Suetonius's legionaries made short work of Boudicca's wild warriors.
In Boudicca’s case the answer was a bloody massacre. Suetonius’s two legions (roughly 10,000 men) may have been faced by upwards of 100,000 Britons, but they were undaunted. Roman legionaries were professional soldiers, highly trained and superbly disciplined. Against Rome’s well-oiled war-machine, Boudicca’s ill-disciplined warriors didn’t stand a chance. They were butchered with parade-ground precision.
John Key’s MFAT officials are no less professional than those Roman legionaries. Supported by the National Party’s most seasoned MPs, they know well how to exploit the rules of engagement of committee room and parliamentary chamber, where the TPPA conflict is now being played out.
If Professor Kelsey and the anti-TPPA “It’s Our Future” movement were able to pack the galleries and corridors of Parliament Buildings in the same way they packed Queen Street on 4 February, then they might have some hope of winning this battle. Instead, like Boudicca’s outmanoeuvred warriors, they are being driven into the saw-toothed shield-wall of the Government’s legions, where, their bravery and brilliance notwithstanding, the bureaucrats and politicians will stab them to death.
Their defeat will not be made any easier to watch by the sight of Phil Goff (and possibly David Shearer) striding across the parliamentary aisle to join National, Act and United Future in voting for the TPPA.
With the legislation giving effect to the content of the TPPA enacted in New Zealand, the hopes of its opponents will shift to the United States Congress. If President Trump, or President Sanders, takes office on 20 January 2017, then the agreement will be a dead duck. Why, then, would President Obama not put the deal in front of his lame duck Congress for ratification? And why would those congressmen and women not, for once, oblige him?
Fighting Rome was easy. Beating Rome was not – as Boudicca discovered. Victory came only to those who fought Rome on their terms – not hers. If the anti-TPPA struggle is waged in Parliament, it will lose.
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, 26 February 2016.