No Laughing Matter: Simon Bridges and his National Party team are all too aware of the voters’ disinclination to confront too much in the way of political and economic reality. It is why, presumably, they are not only expecting them, like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen, to believe in six impossible things before breakfast, but to perform the same feat before lunch, dinner and supper as well!
POLISH PATRIOTS will tell you that, while fighting the Germans became a grim necessity, fighting the Russians was always a guilty pleasure. Old fashioned leftists feel much the same way about Labour and National. Upbraiding Labour-led governments is something the Left engages in not because it wants to, but because it has to. How else can these hopeless social democrats be shown the error of their ways? The National Party is a different proposition altogether. Demolishing its arguments is something the Left enters into with genuine relish. There is about the entire political exercise an inescapable element of fun.
National’s biggest hurdle, electorally, has always been how to present policies designed to advantage a fortunate few as being, somehow, to the advantage of everyone. The party achieves this by convincing people that managing the economy is something only the Nats are qualified to do. Handing over the job to people with no real experience of operating successfully in the marketplace, say National politicians, is bound to end in tears. Best to leave that sort of thing to people who know what they’re doing.
Why does this argument work so well? Anyone who’s studied the economic history of the last forty years (and that’s all of us who remember Maggie Thatcher’s historic electoral victory in 1979) cannot reasonably confirm the assertion that right-wing politicians are better economic managers than all the others. The political chaos gripping the United Kingdom, and the economic chaos poised to emerge from it, is traceable directly to Maggie Thatcher’s project.
Closer to home, the six year period between 1984 and 1990, when a tiny cabal of Labour Party politicians decided to embrace the policies of Thatcherism, is distinguished only by the enormous damage which their radical right-wing agenda inflicted on their fellow New Zealanders. So much of what disfigures this country in 2019: beggars on the footpaths; the crippling lack of affordable housing; a crumbling social infrastructure; daily living costs which far outstrip the incomes of ordinary working-class families; is the legacy of Roger Douglas’s “revolution”.
Ultimately, the Right’s argument works because, in a society comprised of a small number of winners and a large number of losers, the creation and maintenance of a strict social hierarchy is indispensable to its rulers’ survival. Accordingly, we are taught to believe that the brutal struggle to seize and hold the summit of the socio-economic pyramid produces an elite group of rulers characterised not by a ruthless will to power, but by wisdom, tolerance and love for their fellow human-beings.
Believing in this fairy tale is, in many ways, a psychological necessity for the put-upon majority. Accepting that our rulers are cruel and exploitative ogres, but obeying them anyway, engenders more cognitive dissonance than most of us can handle. Rather than look this petrifying Gorgon in the eye, we turn away. Distraction is the sine qua non of modern politics – and in the distraction department, at least, we’re spoilt for choice!
Simon Bridges and his National Party team are all too aware of the voters’ disinclination to confront too much in the way of political and economic reality. It is why, presumably, they are not only expecting them, like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen, to believe in six impossible things before breakfast, but to perform the same feat before lunch, dinner and supper as well!
Like: their promise to simultaneously reduce taxes and improve the quality of our health and education services.
Like: their pledge to improve the productivity of New Zealand labour while stripping New Zealand workers of their rights.
Like: increasing housing affordability while reducing the “bright line” test for property speculators from five years to two.
Like: promising to mitigate the effects of Climate Change while inviting the energy exploration companies to: “Drill, baby, drill!”
My favourite promise, though, the promise that reveals how convinced so many voters have become that National knows best; is its promise to eliminate 100 regulations in the first 100 days after regaining office and, after that, to abolish two old regulations for every new regulation introduced.
Do we really think this is a good idea? Can we really have forgotten the Leaky Homes Saga, Pike River and the CTV Building Collapse so soon?
That last question has forced this old left-winger to concede that fighting the Nats isn’t a guilty pleasure after all.
It’s a grim necessity.