Sunday 29 May 2022

Let’s Keep New Zealand A Boofhead-Free-Zone.

Class Act: Watching Jacinda Ardern’s performance on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, it was striking just how extraordinarily good she can be when the wind is in her sails. While there’s no disputing that her confidence took a pummeling during the inevitable transition from lockdown to living with the Coronavirus, and that a downcast Jacinda Ardern is no bloody fun at all, there’s equally no disputing the fact that, as we have seen, prime ministers’ moods can change.

RICHARD PREBBLE reckons the Aussie election should be read as a harbinger of doom for this Labour Government. The next general election will be all about the cost of living, Prebble says, and that is only going to get worse between now and election day. So, its ‘Game Over’ for Jacinda Ardern, he reckons, just like it was for Scott Morrison a week ago.


If Prebs’ analysis is correct, then the complexion of an incumbent government simply doesn’t matter anymore. Left or Right – it makes no difference. The highest rate of inflation in 40 years is bound to evict incumbents from office. They’re gone-burgers.

Which means, according to Prebble’s gospel, that Boris Johnson and his Tories must also be considered gone-burgers. After all, the UK inflation rate to April 2022 was a staggering 9 percent. That is actually a record for the Brits’ statistical series going all the way back to 1989. Given the sheer awfulness of their inflation performance, we should be rubbishing any prospect of the Conservatives being re-elected at the next UK general election in 2024.

Oh, really? Leaving aside the obvious point that a hell of a lot can happen in two years, and ignoring the Tories’ 80-seat majority (that’s right – 80 effing seats!), the state of the parties in the latest round of the UK opinion polls shows the Conservatives positioned an entirely competitive six percentage points behind the Labour Party.

If Boris Johnson can’t reclaim that ground from a constipated prat like Sir Keir Starmer, then he’s not the tousled Teflon toff the Brits seem determined to forgive over and over and over again.

No, the Aussie election result wasn’t driven by the cost-of-living stats, it was driven by the widespread assessment of Australian voters that Scott Morrison was a boofhead – and a pretty sorry specimen of boofhead at that. They certainly weren’t all that impressed by the Labor leader Anthony Albanese – who, by outward appearances, had also been manufactured by Stepford Industries Pty Ltd. It was just that the thought of another three years of Liberal-National boofheadism was just too much to bear. Painful though it may be for a Kiwi to admit, Australians just aren’t that dumb.

Which pretty much puts the skids under Prebs’ vulgar Marxist analysis that everything is driven by economics. Most Kiwis know that the inflationary pressures pushing up their living costs are practically all sourced offshore. That being the case, there’s bugger-all Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson can do about the price of oil; or the Russian blockade of Odesa, Ukraine’s wheat exporting port on the Black Sea; or the disruption of Chinese supply-chains due to Omicron; or the ever more serious effects of Climate Change. No. When it comes to deciding who to vote for, Kiwis’ preferences will be driven by factors that have very little to do with Prebble’s dialectical-materialism.

Watching Jacinda Ardern’s performance on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, I was struck by just how extraordinarily good she can be when the wind is in her sails. While there’s no disputing that her confidence took a pummeling during the inevitable transition from lockdown to living with the Coronavirus, and that a downcast Jacinda Ardern is no bloody fun at all, there’s equally no disputing the fact that, as we have seen, prime ministers’ moods can change.

What may not be all that easy to change, however, is the growing perception that Christopher Luxon is just another tory boofhead, and that his National Party has long since crossed the line separating rational conservatism from the same sort of boofheadism that brought down the Liberal-National government of Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce. I mean Simeon Brown? Mark Mitchell? Are we really supposed to take these characters seriously?

And while we’re on the subject of ineptitude, who the hell was it who talked-up Nicola Willis as some sort of economic whizz-kid? Her recent performances as National’s shadow finance minister have been woeful. Pitted against Grant Robertson, she risks being exposed as just another empty National vessel.

Similarly, I have no doubt that when the election debates roll around next year, Jacinda Ardern will easily outclass Christopher Luxon. Providing she holds onto the poise and confidence of her Late Show performance, she has every chance of demonstrating to New Zealanders the foolishness of changing political horses in midstream.

She’ll need something to say, of course. Something over and above simply sounding like a credible and competent prime minister. It’s what made her time on the Late Show so productive. She had something positive and progressive – gun control – to hold up to an American audience horrified by yet another massacre of innocents. Something that the Republicans she didn’t name, but who were clearly in her mind, could never hope to match.

The most effective “over and above” policy constellation, IMHO, would be a bold and unapologetic pledge to reform the way the New Zealand state operates. If Jacinda Ardern and her ministers were to explain how ineffective the state has become under the administrative protocols of the past thirty-five years – offering up its pitiful outputs on health, education, housing, social-welfare, transport and Climate Change as evidence – her government’s collective failure to deliver would, at least, be explained. Blend into that narrative the need to improve the delivery of services to Māori and Pasifika, and then top it off with a promise to comprehensively rejig our electoral laws. That would give the PM plenty to talk about: plenty of opportunities to display her hallmark idealism and empathy.

Of course Prebs would dismiss all this with a derisory snort. Constitutional reform butters no parsnips, he’d say – especially with Anchor butter at $8.00 for 500 gms!

Except, a halfway competent Finance Minister would explain that if Anchor butter’s at that price it’s only because Fonterra and our dairy farmers are creaming it on the international market – and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

What voters want more than anything else is the sense that the incumbent government remains a work-in-progress: that it’s still got plenty of things it wants to do before its through – changes that promise to make their world a better place.

Voters want to know that their leaders aren’t just thinking about them: they want to know that they are thinking, full stop. In sharp contrast to American voters, the electors of Australia and New Zealand still possess fully operational crap detectors. They will not vote for boofheads – or, at least, not indefinitely.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 27 May 2022.


Anonymous said...

And now lets see if we can all vote for someone who tells the truth... That interview was a bit of a truth free zone.

Brendan McNeill said...

boofhead | ˈbʊfhɛd |
noun Australian informal:
"a fool".

Unfortunately for all New Zealanders, Boofheads are not the unique preserve of a single political party, they have metastasised over recent years, and now appear to dominate our political landscape.

It would be unkind to single out individuals, but typically they self identify. The gift of MMP ensures they are sheltered from the public's ire by means of the Party List, where ideology and loyalty rather than ability appears to be the necessary qualification. MMP has probably done more than any other single contributing factor to lower the average IQ of parliamentarians. We face the ridiculous situation where none of the Green candidates could win an electorate seat on their individual merits, but they still occupy 10 of the 120 seat parliament.

There is no perfect electoral system but it would appear MMP has delivered more Boofheads to Parliament than FPP by a considerable margin.

Max Ritchie said...

Those who know something about economics say that excessive government expenditure makes an important contribution to inflation. I fear, Chris, that you’ll be disappointed next election - the gloss has worn off Jacinda Ardern and Labour does not have enough runs on the board. Too many projects not completed, many not even started. Over promise and under perform is not the right recipe.

greywarbler said...

About your paragraph - well worded!:
Except, a halfway competent Finance Minister would explain that if Anchor butter’s at that price it’s only because Fonterra and our dairy farmers are creaming it on the international market – and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

But that Finance Min. would be hesitant, resile from, explaining that a lot of those returns on butter and dairy is going to overseas investors who have entered our market and are using our business channels, land and resources, and good standing environmentally 'hah' to take all the profit from butter at high prices so that we get little apart from the trickle-down drip rather than stream.

Soon, as the Mr and Ms Creosotes in the world see us as a desirable emerald mine, we will be left with the gleanings in any enterprise, if we are still Christian enough and if any. We'll be sold out by collaborators; our government is already acting a bit like the Vichy-in-waiting as surfaced in France in 1940 when the country was overwhelmed by invaders.

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. It is a practice described in the Hebrew Bible that became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.
Gleaning - Wikipedia › wiki › Gleaning
... On 10 July[1940]the Third Republic was effectively dissolved as [Marshall] Pétain was granted dictatorial powers by the National Assembly.
At Vichy, Pétain established an authoritarian government that reversed many liberal policies and began tight supervision of the economy. Conservative Catholics became prominent, and Paris lost its avant-garde status in European art and culture. The media were tightly controlled and promoted anti-Semitism and, after Operation Barbarossa started in June 1941, anti-Bolshevism.

greywarbler said...

The future will be less enjoyable than today which is presently filled with various demands and stresses that should have been foreseen and planned for by a 'proper' government intent on organising matters in all its departments in the most beneficial way that enabled us to handle our present and future and improve on the past. A big task, a dirty job but joke 'someone has to do it' but there are plenty lining up to do it, and why is that perchance? As has become obvious it is a place where the ordinary person can get extraordinary payment and power, and also it has no commitment to do all the things referred to above as its duties.

This stressful situation will impact on the poorer class who will be increasingly described as 'feral', who will be left to their own devices some of which will be devilish. The idea of being socially mobile and working hard to provide good housing and living for one self will not be common. As the under-nourished brains of the educated and upper class addicted to technological devices, efficiency, speed and profit result in jobs being done using machines rather than hands, robots rather than people, causing jobs to be scarce and poorly paid, the underclass will grow. The authorities will look with distaste on these people who don't fit the fancy tastes of the pernickety upper class. We are nearly there and have looked away from the situation for years; have we no spirit, no values behind the facades of modernism, style and appearance, and the worship of the latest ism. How Brave New World. The poor can look forward to a judgmental attitude from the advantaged when they ask for some sort of consideration as in this:

I found on google this specious homily with the imprimatur of a university -
Why you shouldn't give money to beggars?
First, for every dollar that we give to a beggar, the more lucrative we make begging and, comparatively, the less lucrative we make working. This is bad, for we want people to work, not beg. Working is productive; begging is at best neutral and often a burden and a nuisance.22/09/2012
Don't Give Money to Beggars - Practical Ethics - University of ... › 2012/09 › dont-gi..

That's the advice from someone comfortably off at University of Oxford; many will say that I bet there are many students there on short commons, but I say they have possibly wealthy futures - some economic future anyway - so comparison doesn't apply. (See book Posh Boys.)

Anonymous said...

How is it that Prebble has any outlets for his brand of malevolent cynicism any more? Its crowded in Oscar the Grouch territory with Leighton Smith and Mike Hosking's witterings. The Roger Douglas gang just keep getting oxygen.

Archduke Piccolo said...

It is high time, I think, for this Government to take its goolies in hand, and drive for real reform in the areas it has made such a noise about in the last few years, with little to show for it. Take the fight to the pro-right news media (who generally know diddly squat anyhow). If they HAVE to lose an election, let it be for doing the right thing - or just doing - rather than having done nothing much at all. I for one am sick and tired of having to vote 'against' instead of voting 'for' something. And bear in mind: voting for a 'lesser evil' is still voting for evil.
I was amused by the association of Richard Prebble with Marxism. As economic determinists go, I would hardly have called Prebble even a 'vulgar Marxist' (of the type of historian Christopher Hill et al). He's just another Milton Friedmanite twonk who, along with too many of the Fourth Labour administration, divorced himself not only from Labour's grassroots support, but from the real world entirely. That he's still around comes as a surprise.

Ion A. Dowman