Wednesday 11 October 2017

The Hallelujah Song.

The Only Question That Counts: Have Labour and the Greens got Winston singing that Hallelujah Song?

WHAT’S WINSTON LOOKING FOR in a Labour-Green-NZ First Government? What must he be convinced of before he tells Bill English and the 44.4 percent of New Zealanders who voted for the National Party that, this time, he and his party are signing-up with the Left? 

First and foremost, he needs to be convinced that such a government will be a success. Between now and 2020, Winston is looking to secure an enduring political and historical legacy. That can’t happen if the government he imposes on New Zealand turns out to be a fractious shambles – disaster is not the legacy he’s looking for.

So, as he receives Labour’s offers and makes his counter-offers, he will be watching closely and listening carefully for the slightest sign, the faintest note, of the Hallelujah Song. Winston needs to know that Labour’s reach continues to exceed its grasp: that its MPs strive for something beyond mere political power; that it is still a party of nation-builders.

He will be studying Jacinda Ardern especially closely. Does she fully appreciate the sheer weight of the hopes and dreams New Zealanders have heaped upon her? Is she ready, truly ready, to fulfil them? And, does she show even the slightest sign of knowing how? Is hers the principal voice among Labour’s team of negotiators? Or, does she constantly defer to her friend and ally, Grant Robertson? And does Grant, in turn, look to his mentor and patron, Sir Michael Cullen, for the right words at the right time? And has Sir Michael ever known how to sing the Hallelujah Song?

Objection will be raised that Winston’s a hard-nosed old bugger; and that he’s much more likely to be found singing along with Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”, than attempting to join in some airy-fairy Hallelujah Song. That will certainly be the case when he’s sitting down with Bill English and his wise-guys. With National, everything will be hard-nosed and zero-sum. He is, when all is said and done, of National’s tribe: they know him, and he knows them.

Winston is fluent in the transactional languages of the Right. When he’s with National it will all be about things given, things taken; advantages secured, potential gains foregone. Like Kenny Rogers’ Gambler, he’ll tote-up his winnings and calculate his losses – but never at the table. NZ First’s and National’s negotiations will be conducted according to the bloodless protocols of businessmen exercising due diligence on a proposition their principals will be asked to either endorse or reject.

But National is Winston’s fall-back position. It is the party he’ll turn to if, in spite of his best efforts, he can find no trace of the Hallelujah Song. He knows full-well that a Labour-Green-NZ First Government will only work if it is animated by a unifying determination to roll-back thirty years of ignorance, cruelty and greed. He will be looking for the unmistakable signs of a political army getting ready to march. Not only must he find evidence of solidarity, but also of that fierce delight which people display when they find themselves in the company of like minds and kindred spirits.

You Got Me Singing - Leonard Cohen.

If that’s present in the room when he meets with Labour’s negotiators, then he really has no need to meet with the Greens. If he encounters a Labour Party charged with the thrill of solidarity and primed for action, then the Greens will be too – only more so. In a room like that there’s no need for the brute diction of win and lose, profit and loss. He and his team will know that NZ First, Labour and the Greens can do this in a way that will allow him to leave politics as an honoured and beloved statesman.

But, if all he hears in that room is the language of caution and denial. If all he’s given are countless reasons why things cannot be done. If all he senses on the other side of the table is a supercilious disdain for himself and his party, and open contempt for the Greens. Well then, he will listen politely and walk back sadly to the barren realism of Bill and his buddies.

In the absence of the Left’s uplifted voices, Winston will take what he can get from the Right. Better to deal with people who have never known that such transformational music exists, than be disappointed by Labour-Green politicians who no longer consider the Hallelujah Song worth singing.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 10 October 2017.


Polly said...

Chris, yes,
but they also may be singing " Christmas is a coming and the taxpayer is getting fat please put your wealth in my big hat".

Paulus said...

Understand Michael Cullen is now overseas and Annette King has taken his place.

Victor said...

"If all he senses on the other side of the table is a supercilious disdain for himself and his party, and open contempt for the Greens."

And there was me thinking that Labour's surest path to Winston's heart was to join him in bad-mouthing the Greens. Now where did I get that impression?

peteswriteplace said...

To go with National will be the end of NZF as a political party. Is that the legacy he wants to leave behind? Destroy his own party for political whim? Most of his front benches appear to be Labour people, not Tories.

Richard said...

Asking the impossible I would suggest for Mr Peters to now cobble together any semblance of a legacy. The macinations of recent days will bot produce any lasting legacy or progress.

Cobbling together a "Heath- Robinson" grab-bag of new initiatives is nothing but a re-run of "Think-big" a la Muldoon, and the spectre of Peters purporting to suggest we should now have to embrace whatever is cobbled together is arrogant. But that is Peters. He is playing the same old tune...that is well past its use by date.

Jens Meder said...

With the steady, long term (permanently?) increased national (retirement) wealth ownership and prosperity and security creative NZ Super Fund contributions being resumed, we can now heartily hallelujah and be grateful to common sense having prevailed through the MMP system, regardless of which parties will form the government.

sumsuch said...

Just about the only music I've ever bought is Cohen. Tape cassette from the Invercargill Dump. Listened to the grandiose gent over and over back then, in a breeze block flat with the only insects around, wetas. But I can't remember the lyrics of that song, as opposed to the always joyfully received sarcasm of 'you take Manhatten, I'll take Berliiiiin'.

The Greens with their 3 -year-MP leader James Shaw are as conservative and thankful as possible.

Think you are right.

Richard said...

It does not really matter what Peters does. The problem will be the same. As in the firsr go round with Bolger it is his way or the highway.That is going to emerge shortly welll before any issue with the Greens turn up. THE central problem is in the end unchanged and reminiscent of his mentor one R.D Muldoon.

It is as the late Norman Kirk is reported to have said of Robert Muldoon: " ljustwant to be Prime Minister, Muldoon wants to be the government. .."

Richard Mayson said...

A timely and sagacious article and were Michael Cullen to be still involved with this background of establishment expediency and conservatism, then Labour would be on a hiding to nothing. If Annette King has replaced him we can sigh with relief.

The central problem however still remains and you encapsulated it in your last sentence with the Muldoon metaphor of wanting not just to be PM but the Govt.And like the latter day Trump where a hugely inflated ego hiding inadequacy gets in the way of everything, so to does it with Peters.

Loathe though I am to say it I think Jacinda and her team should let Peter's go and say clearly that the Trump personality of Peters doesn't fit with them or the Greens, and that he and National deserve each other in the economic/environmental neo liberal callous mess that will continue. Hard for NZ,let alone the Labour/Greens, but it will then firmly put National & NZ First in the political desert for several terms, which is where they belong, if in fact they last even three years.

Len said...

As lyrical as ever Chris. An optimist might think Winstone would see the Left, no matter how timid and equivocal, as a better bet than the Right to get his more radical proposals enacted. I don't think he would be expecting to be dealing with revolutionaries - mild reformists would do.

Anonymous said...

So, it's okay for Winston to ignore the fact that National have a superior party vote and more seats alone than Labour and the Greens combined? If that was the case, the election itself was pointless. The backlash would be huge against NZ First, Kiwis have a sense of fairness, and I think many would be appalled if Winnie puts the losing bloc into power. The regions especially, would be really furious. People like their prime ministers to have the people's mandate. This lies with Bill, obviously. I would be very surprised if the conservative Winston Peters actually goes against the unspoken rule - largest party deserves to be the government!

Charles E said...

Nobody wants him so let's have another election.
I'm up for it and will start a new party called the True Greens. It will be expressly centre in it's non green policies, and the green ones will all have to be science based and economically positive. These policies will appeal to the majority of NZers but especially the young who these days are mostly apolitical and seek harmony more than division.
It's group division they hear from the left these days, so it's a turn off. From the right they just get bored. That is the nature of good government, it's boring. So add some green to it and the young will feel it includes their interests, even though it already does.
But it probably will not get to be needed, as National will get about 55%.

Charles E said...

And another wild thought since all are permissible right now on what the great leader will do.
Perhaps he'll be left screaming 'traitors!' soon.

How about the idea that huge spanner has been thrown into his master plans by secret talks between National and Labour on forming a grand coalition, inc Greens.
I have heard a whisper this has occurred. The talks that is, not yet a deal. Yet.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"So, it's okay for Winston to ignore the fact that National have a superior party vote and more seats alone than Labour and the Greens combined? "

Yes it is. I'm sort of sick and tired of giving lessons on MMP to people, but it's the numbers that count there is no legal or moral obligation to give the biggest party the chance to form a government.

Bushbaptist said...

@ Charles E; If what you say is correct about a Grand Coalition it should show you what so many of us have been saying namely: two branches of one party.

Actually I call bullshizen on that although it is the wet dream of conservatives. Ideologically the two parties are still too far apart.