IN THE SEASON of Matariki, it is fitting to look both backwards and forwards. Like the mid-winter festivals of the northern hemisphere, Matariki marks the pivot-point between death and re-birth. It is a time for taking stock and gathering strength before setting forth on the next stage of our human journey.
Something to take away from the twelve months just passed, is that this country has a huge capacity for solidarity and national unity. A recent survey conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that 75 percent of New Zealanders considered their country to be more united as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic than it was before the virus struck. Those who described it as more divided represented just 23 percent. Only Singapore reported a more united population than New Zealand’s.
The comparison with other Western nations is stark. Only 10 percent of Americans believe their country has emerged more united as a result of Covid-19. Fully 88 percent of them believe the virus has left the United States more divided. In the United Kingdom the divided/united breakdown was 54:42. Considerably more positive were our Australian cousins. Across the Tasman, 59 percent felt more united, and 39 percent more divided. The median result of the nations polled was: More Divided, 61 percent; More United, 34 percent.
Given New Zealand’s high degree of national unity, the Labour Party’s spectacular election victory in 2020 was entirely predictable. Clearly, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “Team of Five Million” metaphor resonated loudly with an electorate that had, indeed, come together to fight a common foe. The WHO poll should also serve as a timely reminder to all those who sneered at the PM’s messages of kindness and unity that it is they who are out-of-step with the popular mood – radically out-of-step.
Placed alongside the Colmar Brunton and Reid Research poll results, the WHO survey’s numbers, might also be telling us something else. It is just possible that the resilience of Labour-Green support, and the Opposition parties’ failure to fire, is a reflection of just how good the experience of striving together collectively makes New Zealanders feel.
Good enough, apparently, for the many failures of the Sixth Labour Government to be forgiven. With tens-of-thousands on the waiting-list for a state house, and one-in-five Kiwi children being raised in poverty, many political observers were anticipating a steady decline in the Government’s poll numbers once the euphoria of the 2020 election began to wear off. In reality, Labour’s support is only marginally lower today than it was eight months ago. Nearly half of the electorate is not yet willing to shake off “Jacinda’s” political spell.
The implications of Labour’s unprecedented (at least under MMP) levels of popular support are intriguing. Could it be that Labour has found the same electoral sweet-spot that kept John Key’s National Party in the mid-to-high 40s for the best part of a decade? Not on the basis of the same policies, of course, but on the basis of Labour finding itself in the rare position of being able to satisfy “Middle New Zealand” that it possesses both a political leader, and a political programme, equal to the needs of the moment. What’s more, those “needs” may encompass ideas and issues which, hitherto, have been regarded as far too radical for mainstream political parties to adopt.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the initial surge of national unity under Labour came, not with the onset of the pandemic, but earlier, in the wake of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings.
Let’s further say that Ardern’s handling of that tragedy – especially her inspired formulation “They Are Us” – had the effect of sensitising a majority of New Zealanders to the racially charged character of the “lone wolf” terrorist’s attacks; and to the need for New Zealanders to unite against the evils of racism and white supremacy.
Throw into the mix the extraordinary contrast (which did not go unnoticed by the rest of the world) between the conduct of the New Zealand Prime Minister, and the wink-wink, nudge-nudge tolerance displayed by the US President, Donald Trump, towards America’s racists and white supremacists. There’s nothing Kiwis enjoy more than looking down on Americans from the high moral ground.
If this is what happened, then Ardern’s formidable “Team of Five Million” was already gathering itself in 2019. Her subsequent handling of the Covid-19 crisis further knitted it together into an electorally unbeatable cultural and political force.
For conservative New Zealand politicians this bodes very ill indeed. Their assumption has been that the Labour Government’s moves towards a bi-cultural Aotearoa, and their willingness to introduce draconian “Hate Speech” legislation, will alarm the roughly 440,000 centrist voters who switched sides electorally in order to reward Jacinda and her government for keeping them safe from Covid. Slap these political errors hard up against Labour’s failures in the fields of housing affordability, homelessness, climate change and child poverty, the conservatives argue, and Labour’s chances of winning in 2023 are slim to nil.
But what if “Middle New Zealand” actually feels proud of the moves the Ardern Government is making in relation to Maori and te Tiriti? What if it is right behind curbing the ability of racists and white supremacists to inflict harm on vulnerable communities? What if Jacinda has entered the same magical zone that John Key occupied for nearly ten years? Where, no matter how bad things get, the electorate steadfastly refuses to blame her, or her party, and elects Labour over and over and over again?
That would mean that, instead of going up in the polls, National will continue (just like Labour between 2008 and 2017) to plumb new electoral depths. It would also mean that NZ First, far from riding back into power on a wave of public anxiety over Maori separatism and the antics of “Ngati Woke”, will remain well below the MMP threshold. Moreover, as National’s numbers dwindle, Act’s support (just like the Greens’ between 2008 and 2017) will continue to grow. Assuming David Seymour manages to avoid his own “Metiria Turei Moment”, and National fails to find its own “Jacinda”, life on the Right could get very interesting indeed.
The rising of the Matariki star-cluster should remind us all that life, like the Koru, is an expanding spiral. Though every year we pass the same point, we never return to the same place. In continuity there is also change. The heavens tell us where we are, but they cannot tell us what to do. The successes and failures of human-beings are their own to make. The National Party would be most unwise to assume that yesterday’s defeats and tomorrow’s victories are made of the same stuff.
This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website of Monday, 28 June 2021.
It's all a confusing landscape, but one thing is for sure: Labour didn't get to where it is without an institutionalised layer.
Jacinda has found a sweet spot as a proxy for what nationhood is about: "us". People want to look at a leader and see themselves in the persons eyes. I bet that is phony.
You simply cannot ask Jacinda questions that would associate her with (eg) Guyon Espiner's comment about "pushing the uglies". That is what hegemony is all about.
We have a situation where Jacinda is Queen and the journalists are the Knights of the Round Table
I have never thought of myself as a swinging voter, but the evidence would suggest otherwise. In the past 50-plus years, I have voted Labour, National, Green, and, as a resident of Epsom, Act. Sooner or later, most governments (whether I voted for them or not) have disappointed. But by far the most disappointing that I can recall has been the current mob. Almost anyone would be an improvement on Ms Ardern and her over-promise, under-deliver bunch.
Chris, I'd suggest that for the country to be behind Jacinda Ardern's radical agenda, they need to be informed about it first.
For instance, not many Kiwis know that the organizations that submitted to the Justice Committee on the need for hate speech laws - the Law Foundation, ActionStation, the Workshop, and the Helen Clark / Aspen Institute - all received specific, targeted funding to lobby for hate speech laws from Pierre Omidyar.
The Labour Goverment appointed the Digital Council, which exists to implement Omidyar's Open Government Partnership - a total, all of government and society digital plan.
The organizations that have been set up to monitor online speech are part of the OGP program. It says so on their websites.
In addition, few would are aware that the anti-racist group Paparoa was set up by firm friend of Pyongyang, communist Peter Hall-Jones, who also runs "Medical Passport Limited" and Toucan Media, which consults for Pfizer and the WHO.
These sorts of facts need to be aired so they can be processed, and checked. Ideally, that fact-checking is not done by New Zealand's official election fact-checker, which was run by the Poynter Institute, which is funded by... Pierre Omidyar. The man who funded a fascist uprising in Ukraine in 2014.
I would say Jacinda Ardern has united median voters behind her leadership but that most are neither aware or don't very much care about Labour's radical agenda in the context of their busy lives while being sedated by the elite's soothing words and nothing to see here narratives. The main thing is that they trust Jacinda Ardern and have committed themselves to her leadership. So it will take significant cognitive dissonance between what they believe Ardern stands for and what is actually happening to shake that commitment. Possibly Ardern will have moved on before they do. So the question for me is how much of this agenda becomes entrenced?
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus spoke these words to Mark Anthony. They tolk the tide and lost everything. Jacinda sits in the same position. She may take the tide on the good ship Woke, but if her accompanying ships Housing, Economy and Health founder she will fall to Caesar.
Yes, New Zealanders came together to try to eliminate COVID 19 and it was our achievement, not the government's. Of course Ardern took full advantage and exploited the public's fears, while at the same time the National party was imploding in a pointless and destructive leadership fiasco.
But there are too many internal contradictions for the government's support base to remain stable. This is a government that has actually achieved very little apart from an economy propped up by massive borrowings of over $117 billion and counting. That bubble is going to burst within the coming year as interest rates and inflation pick up. Power prices are set to go through the roof imminently. The increasing racial division promoted by the government is fuelling resentment and poisoning the well of mutual goodwill. Ardern's performances are becoming more ludicrous. Her attempt to defend her appalling hate speech legislation on Newshub this morning was a bizarre cameo of theatre of the absurd full of arm-waving and untruths and she is finally being called out by the media. This looks like a government on the brink of disintegration.
Your comparison of the Key years to Jacinda Ardern finding the electoral sweet spot appears to ignore the possibility that middle NZ may have, at long last, matured politically, and perhaps by some hefty percentage points.
Key's appeal to middle NZ was all about individual aspirations and partying on at the expense of the least fortunate. The only thing magical about the Key years was his promise of a brighter future, but its a sure bet he wasn't referring to Jacinda Ardern at the time.
Would not the evils of "racism" and "white supremacy" just melt into irrelevancy if faced by an overwhelming unity against the "evil of poverty" ?
With universal unity on that overcoming the divisive sectional interests of the extreme Right and Left, world leading results on overcoming poverty are achievable, as has been achieved already by Singapore.
Of course, with a majority of poor in Singapore after WW 2, unity to tackle poverty was more easily achievable than here, where the poor are still only a minority.
And for clarification and debate (if necessary) let it be repeated here, that there is no other way of wealth ownership creation (i.e. not wealth redistribution, which cannot happen without wealth creation) -
than through savings or sacrifices for security reserves and profitable investments at the expense of immediate "hand to mouth" consumption potential -
unless someone can prove that there is another way.
John Key had his faults but he didn't start proposing legislation to put people in jail for 3 years for stirring up 'hate' against political opinions.
I've voted Labour almost every election since Kirk, including the last 2. Jacinda offered a youthful energetic vision of a meaningful difference to NZdrs & has performed exceptional crises competence yet delivered so much incompetence in what she was elected to fix (housing, homelessness, incomes, education, Health).
But, the reason I will be voting ACT or NZF until Labour is out is because of her exceptional deceit & propaganda in undertaking fundamental constitutional change without a specific electoral mandate via He Puapua. Listening to my own contact framework (vast majority long Labour voters who are even more enraged than myself) I am hopeful that the voter backlash from the Govts lies of omission (still = lies) ultimately ensures the end of the racist selection of electoral seats permanently so those involved learn their lesson.
Fool me once, shame on you: fool me twice shame on me.
"For conservative New Zealand politicians this bodes very ill indeed"
Or perhaps Ardern is what modern conservatism looks like? The latest and by far the best of the 3rd-way leaders - radiating a compassionate sense of shared humanity, while doing little about an economic system that is structurally hardwired to undermine it? A contradiction held together by force of personality and through non-threatening change that always skirts the perimeters of that contradiction? It could easily last a decade, or longer.
"Has Jacinda Ardern United The Country Behind Her Radical Agenda?"
You will find at the next, Covid free election (which gave her a huge boost), no she has not. Listening to talk back and reading letters to the editor daily, peeps are having buyer's remorse. She is doing things she didn't even campaign on. The vaccine rollout reality does not meet the brainwashing propaganda at all, and the Maorification of NZ was never ever discussed pre 2020. Not to mention zero action on housing, poverty and nursing pay rises, to name a few. Covid gave her the last election, not anything she had actually done. It was a cheat's election really, National did not have a Covid to milk. And btw, they have found their Jacinda, but unlike the actual Jacinda, they don't have a bought paid for and utterly biased media on side. But even that is changing, the media can't cover for her forever. In my job I deal with farmers all the time, and the majority are indeed regretting ever dreaming of voting red! Time and time, Chris, time and tide. Why do you think it's even right that she be able to roll out a radical and unmandated agenda onto to sweet and trusting Kiwis? So she said 'they are us' ffs, actions speak louder than words. Evil hate speech laws, anyone??
I do enjoy your articles, btw, very upfront and sensible. Wish there were social media platform tweeter buttons, so could share them etc.
This puts hate speech in context
Kia ora Chris
Putting aside the specific policies and programmes of Jacinda Ardern's government, which will quite properly be the subject of on-going debate, it is good to see a post in which a spirit of optimism prevails. That optimism may owe something to your faith in the Labour government, but more fundamentally it must arise from a faith in our people - their basic decency, openness and whakaaro pai ki nga tangata katoa. There are bleaker scenarios that could be drawn, but while they may serve as a salutary warning, they also risk becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
Irrespective of who does what in government, we should never lose sight of our capacity as individuals and communities to shape the kind of nation we live in. We may oppose but should not be in fear of unwarranted privilege as we have lived with the same for generations, in respect of both wealth and power. We may oppose but should not fear state censorship because over the decades we have seen its ebb and flow and we have continued throughout to speak our truth.
May Ms Ardern make wise decisions that build her a solid and enduring reputation as a kaitiaki of the state. But if not, ka pai.
The white-lash that has been anticipated by many of the contributors to this blog has been misdirected speculation. The view of Jacinda trapping New Zealanders into a socially progressive nation is misleading. When Labour and the Greens put forward their lists and electorate candidates, it was clear that diversity was going to be thematic in an incoming Government. Electorates traditionally seen mono-cultural and conservative voted in MPs that were ethnic minorities or had diverse sexual identity.
This was not because all NZ was bewitched by the Government's Covid response, but evidence that our society have become more inclusive than any time previous. Should anyone be surprised that this was followed through with legislation that promotes and protects the rights of diversity? The mandate was given.
We should be aware that the demographics in NZ have changed. Those voting for the first time have the views that have developed as our communities have developed. The sense of historical justice is different than those misled by the school journal of the 1950s, 60s & 70s (indeed one of the contributors suggested Maori committed genocide to the non-existent Maoriori on the NZ mainland a century after it was totally discredited as an historical myth). New generations want accurate history and want the next generation to be aware of the evolution of New Zealand and the development of all communities.
I have quoted this previously in this blog, Pakeha NZ is no longer a majority in Auckland primary schools, rather it is the largest minority.
Is the Government following its mandate, caucus and social demands? or is it subject to coven meetings under the full moon while they conspire to change NZ? Given many of the contributors, this could be seen as an open question.
"Given many of the contributors, this could be seen as an open question....."
These contributors are the diminishing percentage and soon to be swallowed up by their own fear and loathing.
Riffing off UN discussion documents then coming smack right up against reality. Lunacy.
Why was NZ on Air a "fanatical supporter of NZ Wars Documentary Series? Ans. Is all based on Critical Theory.
and on that note it is in every secondary school but..... why do we need this new second (more thorough) vaccination?
because once people take on an identity they bounce back. So what identity are Jacinda's crowd offering. It may satisfy a couple of commenters above but they aren't us. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
The other thing is an awakening (as we saw in Juliet Moses speech) there is an awakening as to what Critical Theory is all about (Maori sailing to Antarctica).
Also the ant-racist society is one where everyone is the same and difference is materialistically superficial; the journalist takes on an intermediary role, which explains why Espiner can say "you've got to keep pushing the uglies". Once people understand all this they will refocus perhaps?
Barron, nice description but heres the real numbers on ethnicity.
The reality there seems to me that the Asian proportion of our population will outstrip Pasifica and Maori combined. Meanwhile Pakeha will remain a large majority. There are plenty of them to create a "white lash". Im not in favour of this as I dont agree with ethnic / cultural exceptionalism from any group. What that does is create politicised resentment, and Maori no doubt could tell you how that feels after a couple of centuries.
The real issue is how we as a nation accept our multiple cultures as equal as we rub along together on a few small islands. There are more than enough good bits in each culture here to cook a good cake.
"Whitelash" is racist hate speech
Oh dear Kat, the diminishing percentage will be swallowed up and your Utopia will come. Yeah right, if only it were so easy.
This is a very neat summation by AB of where NZ stands politically led by Ardern.
The latest and by far the best of the 3rd-way leaders - radiating a compassionate sense of shared humanity, while doing little about an economic system that is structurally hardwired to undermine it?
So far, through the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaving, Labour is the unchallenged leader of "middle New Zealanders' Third Way" upwards for all.
But National could become progressive and competitive again by working out a systematic universal effort to achieve property ownership potential by 100% of citizens, including those who might not desire it for themselves.
When I did my "OE" in London, i had numerous friendships with members of the Afro-Caribbean community, I know of none who did not delight in the 'backwash headlines when the West Indies defeated England 5-0 in 1984.
Hate speech? Well, the English hated the pace attack, and were left speechless by the batsmen.
Unless you can refute this by a personal encounter I can't but help intuit shallowness is the base foundation of Jace/Grant. And you know as well as anyone that is often a/the strength for politicians. And why not, they reflect us.
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