Friday, 20 October 2017
Electons 2017: And awaaaay we go!
Its finally over, as of today we have a new government.
Twenty six days is not the longest time ever but I knew people were getting truly sick of it when I opened the Listener and saw the word "interregnum"* used to describe the state of affairs and realized that people were rapidly running out of words to describe the same situation again and again**.
And the last week in particular, it was clear that the news supply had simply dried up except to report the minutest details of peoples comings and goings. Surprisingly the worst offender was not the print media or bloggers but Radio NZ who seemed, at times, to be stuck in some sort of Mobius strip of rank reportage to which they could not escape.
Another thing which had become painfully clear by the end of last week was that Winston was tearing through his limited supply of public good will when his self imposed deadline came and went without any decision being made.
One can only imagine what kind of scenes were playing out, up there in the NZ First meeting rooms, as the mood of the public started to sour when the comments in public, and media, started to note how well things were running without politicians or parties*** and the average apolitical Kiwi began to grumble about "bloody Winston making us wait".
At that point it was painfully clear that this was not another 1996 or 2008 with the cool, calm, ever smiling Winston stringing the public along while he wheeled and dealed. Instead Peters began to look vulnerable and various apocalypse scenarios surfaced about "another election" which if designed to spur Peters into action had the desired effect of making him decide who to go with.
And the choice, which I said before the election, was Labour.
It was always going to be Labour, which is why I put down for all to see two weeks before election day. And if it was clear to me before voting day it soon became clear to others after when the media started talking about head over heart and Winstons legacy because its clear that the Old Man of NZ Politics is truly old and like all old men in power he wants to leave some lasting mark, some monument to remind future generations of his "greatness" and had he backed Bill & Co he would have obliterated any possible legacy except that of the man who denied NZ the change it needs.
Also spare a thought for Bill English in all of this. His face on election night when the polls closed, showing National well ahead of Labour, was that of a man in the throws of some magnificent, beatific, political orgasm right there on stage for all to see.
Faces like that might be common on some Ecstasy fueled dance floor but not right there with his wife and family in attendance and certainly not with the media around. Such ribald behavior is common at election time but not that stark or so positively raunchy.
Yet it was clear sometime last week that things were slipping for Bill as various hints and leaks began to nod towards Labour and away from National and some time last night Bill will have gone home to his wife and family, quietly entered the family house at some late hour, stood for a moment in the darkened hallway before turning on the light, letting his body slump momentarily under the hideous weight of knowing that his political career is now effectively over before straitening up, snapping on the hall light and making his way up to bed.
God knows what his therapy bills will add up to but one thing is clear, without the required two years in the job as PM there will be no PM pension for him.
Meanwhile over in Aro Valley, James Shaw has probably slept soundly for the first time in a fair few months, knowing that his job is safe (for now) and that with three ministerial positions (but no seat at the cabinet table) he (and by extension the Greens) are in government for real this time as long as they keep up the confidence and supply for Labour.
In the wake of his and the parties hideous screw-ups pre-election the Greens have done well and I am willing to give Shaw his dues after he stepped in to shout down what was a potentially fatal rot regarding some Blue/Green Axis of Evil but only time will tell if he actually has the brains to make it far in politics because one thing is monumentally clear and that is he only just made it this time.
Shaw was saved by the special votes, and the sickening plummet from the heights of 15% polling to 4% will go down in NZ political history as a harrowing lesson on not what to do in the run up to an election.
Had the Greens retained their 15%, or even 10%, things would have been different and Shaw's bargaining position come being in Cabinet and elsewhere, would have been much more robust.
Instead its clear that Jacinda Ardern (possibly with urging from Winston) took the tactical decision to play on the numbers realistically, ignore the urge to punish the Greens for their MOU related backstabbery before the election and cut James and Co some slack rather than settle the score now. Whats that they say about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?
As for Maori and Mana, they were wiped out and Tuku Morgan now has to face the horrid fact that his plan for electoral success was predicated on playing the same old game that Maori/Mana had played before but with a side order of Labour related vitriol which made them as extinct as the Moa. The next vehicle for Maori politics is going to have to figure out that letting the tribal elites get all the goodies at the expense of all other Maori is no longer a viable way to make it in politics.
And then there was Labour.
One person who sprung immediately to my mind when I found out that Winston had finally got off the pot was Andrew Little.
Now I bagged Little relentlessly on this blog for nearly a year as the kind of political cock-block (pardon my French but there really is no other term for it) to Jacinda Ardern (and the fortunes of Labour) and that he should just give up and go away and to his credit, he did.
Sure it was only when the pressure got so critical that you could clearly see the knives sticking out of Grant Robertson's pocket (as proxy for Jacinda) but he did and we all now know how that went. He stepped aside and in doing so ignited the fires of Jacindamania which was the main component of Labours fightback in the polls.
A lesser leader would have fought on because greed and stupidity trumps reason almost every time in politics so on that alone we can thank him for making the change possible.
And for all of those people who spent much of the campaign shouting "its the policy stupid!", well you guys now get what you want as Labours plan for the first 100 days is chock full of policy nuggets to chew over and gnaw on for many months to come.
Finally all of this would not have happened without one person, one key individual who made the right call when at the right time and has allowed for NZ to take its first steps away from the neo-liberal wasteland we were rapidly heading towards. One person whose foresight and wisdom will be a legacy that will echo down the years.
I am of course referring to John Key.
What? You were expecting me to say Winston Peters?
If Key had not made the call to exit politics in December last year none of this would have happened. Key was the champ and all contenders to the throne had to get past him and his Teflon popularity. Even Jacindamania would have been muted against him and he now gets his payoff as a crony on the ANZ board but its a small price to pay for opening the door to real and positive change.
Winstons role in this is in the end minor. He was nothing more than the hand of fate and he knew it. He fought against it but as they say desine fata deum flecti sperare preccando.
Enjoy the long weekend.
*-Which was nice in a way because my perspicacity had been flagging a bit after the election
**-And again, and again. I am looking at you in particular Stuff. What, a possible Chinese spy in the Beehive was not something you could get your head around? The NZ Herald at least gave it some lip service coverage, but you guys just ignored it, like WTF?
***-Which if I recall happens every time we get some pause between elections but a lot faster and a lot louder this time round