Tuesday 26 May 2020

National's Army Is On The Move.

Let's Roll! The easy victory over a Bridges-led National Party which the Left had every cause to anticipate just a few days ago is no longer in the offing. Our enemy’s position has changed. His numbers are swelling. A rapid thrust to the left, followed by an audacious outflanking manoeuvre can now be expected. Slap in a fresh clip, comrades. We have a fight on our hands.

THE TRICK IN POLITICS, as in war, is to know where your enemy is today – not where he was yesterday. An even more useful trick is knowing where he will be tomorrow. The Daily Blog’s editor, Martyn Bradbury, is certain that the Jacinda Ardern-led Government’s current political position is unassailable. In justification, he points to the most recent state-of-the-parties polling and (with even more emphasis) to Ipsos’s just-released polling on “the issues”. All of these surveys show Labour in a commanding political position vis-à-vis their National Party opponent. Were the General Election to be held this week, Labour would be returned by a landslide.

Unfortunately, the General Election is 120 days away.

The National Party’s new leader, Todd Muller, is similarly perceived by Martyn as representing no serious threat to Jacinda’s dominant political position. His inspired meme equating Muller’s “desperate” leadership coup with Gollum’s last-minute acquisition of “The Precious” above the all-consuming fires of Mount Doom, speaks to his conviction that regardless of who its leader might be, National’s defeat has become inevitable.

The question I would put to Martyn is simple: If defeat is inevitable, then why not let Simon Bridges carry the can? Why would the National Party caucus, along with the National Party Board, risk a player as highly regarded as Muller by committing him to a fight he cannot hope to win? Surely, if Muller represents the best interests of his party – ideologically as well as electorally – then the smart move would be to hold him in reserve for the process of rebuilding, which defeat on the scale anticipated by Martyn would necessarily entail?

Martyn may well respond that Muller’s job in 2020 is the same as Mike Moore’s in 1990: to “save the furniture” – i.e. to forestall the utter collapse of his party’s vote and keep it at least vaguely competitive for future political contests. This is not an implausible explanation, but I believe the true answer lies elsewhere. What the “save the furniture” explanation misses is the seriousness of the danger posed to National’s long-term future by Simon Bridges’ leadership.

Over the course of the 27 months Bridges led the National Opposition, the sense of unease among both party members and supporters regarding its direction of travel was palpable. Moderate conservatives across the country became convinced that the Simon Bridges-Paula Bennett-led National Party was veering further and further to the right. Concern that a far-right faction, drawing its inspiration from Donald Trump’s Republican Party, was growing in strength led first to murmurings, then to outright plotting. Reclaiming control of National became an urgent priority for those convinced that a sudden lurch towards Trumpism would make the party unelectable. Far from seeing Todd Muller as some sort of Gollum figure, National Party centrists began looking forward to his elevation as the return of the king.

The centrists win would have come a lot sooner had they not had to contend with the lingering and very sour aftertaste of 2017. Winston Peters decision – against all precedent – to spurn the party holding the largest number of parliamentary seats in favour of a “coalition of the losers” left a great many National Party members and voters feeling bitter and vengeful. They were looking for someone to inflict serious harm on Labour; someone to make Jacinda Ardern suffer; someone to drive a stake through Winston Peters’ heart. Simon Bridges was that someone and, who knows, had the Covid-19 Pandemic not come along, he might have delivered.

What the Covid-19 crisis made increasingly clear to National members and supporters, however, was that a win by Simon Bridges and his backers would deliver a lot more than the humiliation of Jacinda and her Labour Party. There was something else lurking at the back of Bridges’ policy positions – something unpleasant. The National Party he led wasn’t asking people to use their votes as tools, he was urging them to use their votes as weapons.

As the implications of this shift began to sink in, National’s numbers began to collapse. Simon Bridges was seen as hopelessly out of step with the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders’ support for Jacinda’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. With each of his tone-deaf utterances more-and-more former National voters began to contemplate the unthinkable prospect of actually voting Labour.

Which is how the electoral battlefield looked immediately prior to Todd Muller’s coup. It would be most unwise, however, to assume that it will look the same in 120 days’ time.

A week or so ago I wrote emotionally about Labour “coming home”. Grant Robertson’s Budget Speech made it clear that his party had moved beyond the neoliberal economic and social settings which have guided it since 1984. No matter how great the imaginative effort required, it behoves the Left to put itself in the shoes of the ordinary, decent National Party voter now that Simon’s gone and Todd is in charge. For a great many of them it will also seem as if their party, the party of Keith Holyoake, Jim Bolger, John Key and Bill English, has “come home” to its core values.

The chances of tens-of-thousands of erstwhile National supporters also "coming home" over the next 120 days are very high. The easy victory over a Bridges-led National Party which Martyn and the rest of the Left had every cause to anticipate just a few days ago is no longer in the offing. Our enemy’s position has changed. His numbers are swelling. A rapid thrust to the left followed by an audacious outflanking manoeuvre can now be expected.

Slap in a fresh clip, comrades. We have a fight on our hands.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 26 May 2020.


Tiger Mountain said...

After long years of our glorious leader Mr Key’s bs anyone of left intent could be forgiven projecting a win for the current Govt.

The more than slight difficulty with early triumphalism, is that long standing historical voting patterns suggest up to 40% of New Zealanders are hardwired to vote tory on a regular basis. For a number of reasons, local, such as settler descendant denial over stolen land, and general behaviours evident in other western style countries of diminishing participation and neo liberal individualism.

The other reality is that Jacinda Ardern does not appear on the ballot, unless you happen to be in Mt Albert Electorate, nor does the office of Prime Minister. Will the warranted popularity of the PM and the NZ Labour Party in “Covid polls” really translate to long time or casual blue voters ticking red? Or is it the pundits favourite–“swing voters”–that are really in the frame here? I predict as per the old metaphor, that some hands holding that black marker pen in the little cardboard booth, or over the mail in voting form, will start to shake when it comes to actually marking the box next to Labour or Green even.

The numerical rise of boomer’s replacement voting generations will likely happen in 2023 not 2020. But while more nervous than Mr Bradbury at this stage, I still hope he is right!

Trev1 said...

I don't know about ideology but it's apparent Muller is a more than capable manager with a very competent Cabinet-in-Waiting behind him. Labour has Jacinda and a $20 billion election bribes fund. By September however it's likely voters will be looking for the team in whom they can have the most confidence to rebuild the economy after COVID. Labour's shallow talent pool will be very exposed.

Kat said...

Hooton has a very big job on his hands with Muller. If Mullers performance on Q&A and in the House today is anything to go on, pop guns and water pistols should be enough. And then there is Kaye thinking Goldsmith is a Maori. If the NZ electorate were to select this lot over Jacinda Ardern then brain cell degradation would be another symptom of the nasty virus and most likely Michelle Boags Covid number 20.

greywarbler said...

Who's the National team coach? What are the strategies?

Have simple NZs got a chance to be in control of their democracy and destinies while all these cunning dingoes are round trying to steal our babies? It is interesting that a number of sneaky men keen on power and power-play come from Oz.






The Crosby Textor Group (‘the CT Group’) is an Australian campaign consultancy, founded in 2002 by Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor.12
In 2010, the firm opened a branch in London, United Kingdom (UK), known as Crosby Textor Fullbrook Partners (‘CTF Partners’), managed by Mark Fullbrook.

Liquid Times
@TryRadicalism 7h
Vote ACT, get National's policies.
Vote National, get National's policies.
Vote Labour, get National's policies.
Vote Green, get Labour's policies.

Don't ask why. It's just the way God created NZ politics. He works in mysterious ways.

Mike Grimshaw said...

As Michael Wall (Once Jim Bolger's press secretary) notes in his political thriller "Friendly Fire"(1998), "both major parties are social democrats now".(p.23)
We can see the Muller-Kay leadership coup as the return of the National party version of being social democrats...a version that was the political status quo for many years... and the status quo for many across NZ. Secondly, that Amy Adams, who was so prominent in getting the abortion law changed from the National side, will now stay on under Muller & Kay is a clear sign that a National party version of social democracy is on the rise. There will also be an increase in the 'voting booth National voter', much the same as those who, on the day, voted Conservative in the UK in the 2015 election. Finally, Muller's approach is direct from the James Carvill playbook:" It's the economy, stupid." As a keen student of American politics, this is the American lesson already evident in his statements.

John Hurley said...

All Muller had to do was put his Maga hat on and throw political correctness out the door. I suspect he doesn't want to offend the Chinese as they are in a trade war with Trump and national is the Chinese party.

petes new write said...

When did you write this Chris? Some interesting things have happened. Paul Goldsmith may have discovered his roots - but he didn't. He doesn't have Maori descent, no Ngati Porou.

sumsuch said...

Short-term politics is no good. In America via the media concentration on the most intense thing of the day they can't see the trees. Hence Trump. Even three years vison is no good. It produced modern Labour, as it did, modern Democratic Party over there. No good.

Since when have you been a scientist of what can be done? 'Politics is the art of the possible' and all that. 'Want/need' matter above 'can', y'know, for ' t'cause'. You've seen the paid Labourites who maintain you can't proffer climate change as the premier election issue cos folk don't like it, when it's all that matters.

greywarbler said...

Trev1 that's a disgraceful statement from someone taking part in a purported intelligent and informed political debate. Talking about the spending as being a $20 Billion election bribe shows that you are incapable of dispassionately considering the needs of the country which were dire before the onset of this virus. Now real work has to be done to assist the country survive the conditions post-virus.

Apparently you feel cosy in your nest and would sit there enjoying the vicissitudes of London's 1800s played out again as in Hogarth's gin advertisement - Drunk for a penny and dead drunk for tuppence. (Gin started out as a medicine – it was thought it could be a cure for gout and indigestion, but most attractive of all, it was cheap. https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Mothers-Ruin/)

We can do better if enough good NZs vote Labour or Green. With luck and a fair wind Labour will win and help us restore our decent society with opportunities for a satisfactory and enjoyable life for all.

greywarbler said...

petes new write
The thing about roots, is that if you keep dying your hair blonde, no-one knows they are there. Does that work in reverse and has Goldsmith been hiding his light under a bushel? At last he can come out of the closet, and dazzle us with his te reo and tikanga. I guess he always announces himself on the phone with a "Kia ora" now.

David George said...

Labour's alienating race baiting is electoral gold to National.

Deborah Russell's vile "a white girl comment" led to Judith Collins replying that she's "utterly sick of being demonised for my ethnicity thank you very much." Good for her.

Or the manufactured outrage on the ethnic mix of cabinet; as if having Diversity Davis at number two has been anything better than an embarrassment for Labour and the country.

Or Capital and Coast shoving anyone not Maori or PI down the surgery waiting list, apparently with the grinning approval of our dripping wet government.

Or the tacit approval of ethno nationalist activists and mobsters blocking the roads and intimidating law abiding Kiwis.

What sort of bubble do these people exist in to think any of that is acceptable to reasonable New Zealanders.

Geoff Fischer said...

One among many reasons why National might just overtake Labour before the next parliamentary election: National would never be so crass as to say to the undemanding non-voter "If you don't vote for us we will treat you with callous indifference". National will be a party "for all New Zealanders", or so they will say, and some beneficiaries, remembering the empathetic and compassionate kick-in-the-guts they received from Labour might be motivated to vote after all. But will they vote Labour?

sumsuch said...

From the 'charismatic' end of my relatives on Facebook, increasing talk about encroaching on their freedom. Via National. Alfred, Erica and Simeon. The last acclaimed for the greatest speech in a hundred years by my crazy older relative. So glad just a few of these idjiots here compared to Oz and America... but just worry about the depoliticised mass.