Friday 23 March 2018

Labour And NZ First: Partners In Populism - Or Not?

Kindred Spirits? The only way the coalition between Labour and NZ First can ever be made to work is if Jacinda Ardern, beneath the necessary veneer of “responsible government”, is actually every bit as populist as Winston Peters.

POPULISM VERSUS RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. The Regions versus Metropolitan New Zealand. NZ First versus Labour. Shane Jones versus Grant Robertson. “Oh yes, Ladies and gentlemen, there’s Trouble: Trouble with a capital ‘T’; and it’s brewing right here in Political City!”

The only way the coalition between Labour and NZ First can ever be made to work is if Jacinda Ardern, beneath the necessary veneer of “responsible government”, is actually every bit as populist as Winston Peters.

No other political modus vivendi offers the slightest chance of success. In no time at all, an ideologically “responsible” Labour-led government would be placing a whole platter-full of dead rats before its coalition partners and expecting them to smack their lips with delight. How many of these delicacies NZ First could consume before its remaining followers threw up their hands in horror and disgust is uncertain – but it’s highly unlikely to be a lot.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if Labour’s junior coalition partner possessed a solid buffer of popular support to keep it safely above the 5 percent MMP threshold. Enough to sanction a little tactical erosion. But this is not the case. By opting to put Labour on the Treasury Benches, Winston Peters instantly burned-off that part of his electoral base which had been expecting him to turn right. The 7.2 percent support NZ First attracted at the General Election was halved in the first of the big post-election opinion polls. A steady diet of dead rats is hardly likely to improve the party’s position!

The biggest of those rats – the CPTPP – was, perhaps, unavoidable. To take on the combined forces of MFAT, MPI, Treasury, Business NZ and Federated Farmers in the first crucial weeks of the coalition’s life was simply too big an ask. Even the most radical of NZ First’s populist followers could see that. Likewise, the need to cry ‘Tai Hoa!’ on the free-trade agreement with the Russian Federation. If Teresa May’s “sexed-up” accusations are proved to be as false as Tony Blair’s WMDs – as a great many of NZ First’s members expect – then Albion’s perfidy will soon be made clear and negotiations can resume with gusto.

The consumption of rat carcases must, however, end right there. Labour cannot afford to set any more before Winston Peters and his caucus colleagues. They have allowed Jacinda to take what she absolutely had to have – now it’s her turn to give NZ First what it needs.

But can she? Will her “Kitchen Cabinet” – David Parker, Grant Robertson, Phil Twyford – let her? The answer would appear to be ‘No’. Not if the Labour Party leadership’s reaction to Shane Jones’ full-scale populist assault on Air New Zealand’s treatment of the provinces is anything to go by.

Jones’ attack was perfectly pitched to the pissed-off provincial voters NZ First needs to win back. It was excoriatingly anti-corporate and anti-elitist: directed with pin-point populist accuracy at the Big End of Town. All that Labour had to do in response was avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as a reproof of Jones’ rhetorical axe-swinging.

After the arrogant telling-off directed at Finance Minister Robertson by Air New Zealand’s management, saying nothing should have been a no-brainer. No government can afford to let itself be lectured to by a corporation in which the people of New Zealand hold a 51 percent stake.  Certainly, a brief media release from Robertson (confirming that he would be carefully considering the composition of the Air New Zealand board in September) would have popped a cherry on the top of Jones’ populist sundae – but it wasn’t essential. Labour’s silence would have spoken loudly enough.

Significantly, neither Jacinda Ardern nor Grant Robertson were willing to keep silent on the subject of Jones’ populist broadside against the management of Air New Zealand. The Prime Minister felt compelled to tell the news media that: “Calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and I have told Shane Jones that.” Robertson, according to the NZ Herald, “said he disagreed with Jones and the board and chief executive were doing a good job.”

It is impossible to argue that Robertson’s comment was not also directed with pin-point accuracy at the Big End of Town. The problem is, instead of informing the corporate elite that Labour was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with its coalition partner, he let them know, in terms that could not possibly be misconstrued: “We’re with you guys.”

All of which leaves Winston Peters with some very serious thinking to do. Because the party in which he opted to place his trust in October 2017: the party he still believed capable of belting out Mickey Savage’s and Norman Kirk’s “Hallelujah Song”; is steadily demonstrating, both to NZ First and the New Zealand electorate, that the only songs it remembers how to sing are the ones it learned from Roger Douglas back in the 1980s.

And that won’t do – not at all. Thirty-nine working-parties and policy reviews are no substitute for NZ First’s plain and simple promises to put things right. Those promises were a big part of the reason why Labour, NZ First and the Greens won enough seats to form a government.  If they are not kept or, worse still, they are shown – by Labour – to be “just the sort of thing you say when you’re in Opposition and then forget about when you’re in Government”, then NZ First will simply have no to say “fuck it” – and walk away.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 23 March 2018.


Polly said...

Well said,
We have a NZ First, Green and Labour government.
In that order.
Winston is King.
Shane is his consort.
Labour is floundering.
God save NZ.

David Stone said...

Nothing to do with the case Chris; but this must have implications for our water resources we are giving away.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Fuck it and walk away." Couldn't have put it better myself. I've often wondered why "populism" gets such a bad press. Although I suppose there's populism and populism. But I think we can be populist and not go down the Trump route. Bernie Sanders after all is populist. And it's often used in the US with a certain sense of appreciation. Might be a fine line though. And I think there is genuine and actually deserved resentment against the CEOs and Mandarins who never seem to pay any attention to the people they are actually responsible to. :)

BlisteringAttack said...

A few years back the Wanaka - Christchurch Air NZ route was canned.

I would of thought enough tourists and locals could have filled those planes.

If Air NZ wanted to show that they were that national flag carrier.

greywarbler said...

You have been concerned Chris that this would happen. We have all been wondering if the plump-comfortable, herd-following business guy image of Grant Robertson was the true one, or if there was intelligence, steel, craftiness, and a new map for NZ to follow with re-routing from the main highways to longer, safer routes (that wound through the provinces). But that winding has not eventuated. The hope is wounded, perhaps dead.
As Polly says (for once I can agree) - God save NZ.

We are sick, our hospitals are infected with dangerous fungi, but safe unless the walls are breached. We are in siege mentality against the environment, trying to control it from invading and killing us. And everyone goes on listening to the stock exchange results - something like the Nastac is up to .. points, something down the NZ$ is at 90c to the Australian blah blah. In NZ housing is falling to a 5 year low, properties are being sold so there aren't enough rentals for the high demand, but immigration is constant with 50,000 people each month coming here etc. And Trump in the USA so admired by us, has said, done.... and there has been one school killing per month on average this year. I have just been catching up with China's one-child policy now two since 2015.
The HongKong representative of

Labour Coalition's Master of Finance Robertson should have a look at what innovative citizens are doing about helping with student and other debt in Britain. They still have ideas even though crushed by a two-party political system that slides ever more towards Fascism while holding up the democracy banner.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Off topic a little. But I just found this out about Sweden. And a tip of the hat to Mats Andersson. I think we could do with a healthy dose of this. After all, we were promised open government. Several times.

"Every single piece of paper produced by the authorities is public record, and you are free to wander in and demand a copy. (Military installations excluded, but just barely: they are not allowed to say it’s secret by default, every item that’s classified has to be judged individually.) They are not allowed to ask why you want it, they are not allowed to ask your name, they are allowed to ask for the cost of the photocopies. The politicians are my employees, and I have an unconditional right to inspect their work."

jh said...

The biggest of those rats – the CPTPP
The what....?

The biggest rat is this. A new and radical agenda which may in future be looked back on and revised in the same way we now see a Soviet command led economy):

The immigration policy review in 1986 was part of a much larger agenda for change in New Zealand (Bedford 1996).
It was a deliberate strategy, based on a premise that the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future” (Burke 1986:330).
This process of population replacement is occurring at a time when natural increase amongst all components of the New Zealand resident population is falling. International migration is thus playing an increasingly important role in changing the ethnic and cultural composition of the population

The modern left is too stupid and deranged to understand that (1) ethnic nationalism must be the basis of progressive liberalism, old-fashioned Social Democracy, or democratic socialism, and that (2) the Cult of Diversity is, ultimately, a death sentence for economic and social progressivism or socialism that many on the Left support.

The cat is out of the box [academia, MSM, beaurocracy] thanks to digital media.

On RNZ I hear Michael Barnett on the Labour Unitec site. Barnet talks infrastructure which "you represent" [Ryan]. Labours solution is density. The goal is some dense urbanised society where children play soccer in the streets. But they are still waiting for a boat to arrive (you are supposed to have one foot for the wharf and one for the boat). When supply is equal to demand what happens? -Unemployment. Paul Spoonley runs around telling us migrants have essential skills, ideas and connections we don't [Napier Pine was a poor example - they paid their welders $3/hour].
What future have we left the younger generation when (if) we have completely misread the landscape (hard-nosed reality. Labour took us into a misguided virtual moral-space.)

jh said...

I get that accuracy in broadcasting may apply to a narrow set of facts. After all the law relies on words and words can be rubbery. However should Radio New Zealand engage in spin when we reach a sensitive moment in our history (described as a tipping point)?