Welcome Comrade, to glorious October revolution of Democratic People’s Republic of New Zealand!
Here, we have smashed chains which shackle us to oppressive capitalist system and freed our brothers and sisters from servitude to decadent bankers and corrupt real-estate agents.
Now is time of glorious worker utopia where housing cheap and Kiwi can be free forever.
In Democratic People’s Republic of New Zealand running dog capitalists and their puppet forces have been driven into the sea by power of people, never to return*.
Of course the above four sentences are probably causing confusion among some at this time.
Firstly because I am off my meds (doctors’ orders) and as such I have lapsed back into my political junkie habits, like a National party member at a Chinese buffet stuffed with Renminbi, so what better way to sum up the recent election outcome than with some sort of over the top screed which is clearly not true but fun to write.
Secondly, because more astute readers will have noted that those first four sentences are complete gibberish as they have not happened, yet; and the third group will be confused why I am unable to recognise the danger such a revolution poses and have not joined them mounting a counter revolution.
And depending on which one of those confusions you have will be how you view the outcome of the 2017 election.
This is also the last post in the Elections 2017 series and as such it’s time to turn from the how and why of the election to considering the future of this government, and by proxy New Zealand.
What, you didn’t see this coming?
Last month in October Winston Peters finally got off the pot and decided that he was going to back Labour and announced this by saying that “capitalism needed to regain its human face”.
On the face of things it was an extraordinary statement to make in this day and age, let alone at a press conference announcing a new government, as many people only know capitalism in the same way that a fish knows water and by extension could not even conceive of or criticize the very element in which they swim or even more heretical consider that there might be some sort of alternative (which for a fish would be developing lungs and legs and walking on dry land while for capitalists it would be effective regulation and not prioritizing economics over people).
I was almost expecting him to rip open his trademark double-breasted suit to reveal a Che Guevara T-shirt underneath and then don a red beret, mirrored sunglasses and a bullet belt while strutting about the stage pointing out how the CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs** invasion force had been stopped at the beach head.
Of course he had signaled the same no less than a few months prior by shooting down the “irresponsible capitalism” of other political parties but no one was taking him seriously then, at least not in that context.
No, the only thing which mattered then was which way would Winston jump come the election and nobody (myself included) was thinking that we were going to have to factor some ideological component into what has always been the highly capricious decision making of Winston Peters.
Yet there he was, making it clear that he had been a socialist all along and as such would be siding with his brothers and sisters in Labour (and the Greens) in forming the new government.
I suppose that after letting his populist mojo run itself out in the last 15 years, Winston has found it again, with a vengeance.
Ve came second!
It was of course at that moment that some reported the faint but audible sound of screaming coming from the offices of Bill English as the political rug was pulled out from under his feet and he fell (still screaming) into the political abyss, because up to that moment Peters had been playing his cards very very close to his chest, leaving both public and the media guessing, in all but the most obtuse and opaque ways.
So National was pipped at the post and for a few days there were some rather pissy comments from them; rumblings of a stolen election and how “they had won the most votes” along with some moaning from the public about MMP before the shock wore off and the next stage in the grieving process began.
And to be fair National had a point to complain…oh now wait a minute NO they didn’t!
National (or anyone else) moaning about the election outcome based on them getting the most single vote share would be perfectly acceptable in a FPP system. However we are not in a FPP system and have not been for 21 years so Bill and the B Team griping about their 44% not being enough sounds like Germany refusing to accept losing in WW2 by saying “Ve came second.”
But more seriously, what really killed Nationals chances were far more personal than Winston turning out to be a card carrying member of the Fourth International, as his recent serving of legal papers on the party and others shows.
Nationals following the advice of right wing political consultants Crosby Textor to hurl as many dead cats on the table as possible in the final weeks of the election turned out to be the kind of low rent brainless stunt that loses you the election because it did not thing but piss him off, get his blood up and drive him straight into the arms of Labour.
It might have worked in a highly partisan political climate and a FPP system but in NZ the targeting of Winston, via his superannuation underpayments (as well as idiotic moves like Steven Joyce claiming he had all the economic facts when every other economist in NZ was saying he did not know what orifice he was speaking out of) were clearly the kind of motivation Peters needed to make up his mind and showed that National had no idea of what the inevitable logic of targeting the king maker with muck was.
As Omar Little from The Wire says, “You come at the King, you best not miss”.
National and English have made a brave front of things by saying they will hold the new government to account and that English will lead the party into the 2020 election but not even the most hard core party member would be hard pressed to believe that English will be fronting the party in 2020***.
Radical or Sensible Left?
The late Rodney Bickerstaffe was once asked what kind of Leftist he was (with the assumption being that he was a radical leftist because he was a Prominent Union Leader who had fought for fairer wages and denounced inequality). His reply was that he was “Sensible Left” which summed up his (and his unions) position perfectly.
Sensible Left could also be used to apply to apply to the current Labour/Greens/NZ First government as its clear that despite the potential for personality clashes there has been a rather pragmatic understanding all round of the reality facing them, not just politically but socially and economically.
And the core of this understanding is that it’s not just enough to form a government and rest on ones laurels but rather there was more ideological common ground than there was not and that if egos could be put aside (or at least toned down) then this troika of political parties not only had more in common than not but that they were all closer to each other than to National.
But in an election process where the loyalty and scruples of James Shaw and the Greens to the leftist cause was brought into question while Winston and NZ First has walked out of the teargas like a Greek riot-dog nothing could be taken for granted so it was an unexpected surprise that not only did Winston go with Jacinda but that the Greens were not cut out of government (like had been feared); proof if ever there can be that miracles can occur.
However it’s the next three years that will reveal the real flavor of this rather unusual political Ice-Kachang and I don’t expect that time to pass without incident or issue but as long as the core ideals behind the union of those three parties remains then this government can work.
Thus despite reported strains of freak-out, both before and after the election, that Jacinda was a “communist” or that “a Labour/NZ First government will be bad for business” because of their “smash the market” ideals the reality is that there is a strong narrative behind what they are doing as Winstons re-introduction of “capitalism” back into the NZ political lexicon shows.
So for the immediate future The Road to Serfdom is off the political book shelf and replaced with a new copy of The Great Transformation which for those who are CBB:DNR means that the narrative of an unfettered market and deregulated government is over while market regulation and interventionist government are back on the agenda.
And as V from Vendetta so eloquently explains there is more beneath the mask than just flesh, there is an idea and “ideas are bulletproof”; so for members of the John Key fan club (previously known as the ANZ Board) the biggest threat to them is not an angry mob breaking into the winter palace and dragging them out to the street (although it would be nice to see for once) but the ideas that provide the words which are the fire of revolution and resistance and with Winston declaring that capitalism needs a face-lift the revolution in little old NZ has begun.
The Empire strikes back!
Yet for every successful revolution there is always a potential counter-revolution in the works. We have not woken up from Smiths Dream just yet and I expect both National and members of the business community to keep on hurling deceased felines onto the table in an effort to shock the public into a backlash that can be milked for a political comeback in 2020.
But for that game to work the current government arrangement has to not only fail but also not be seen to try and deliver on its promises and so far (granted it is early days) Jacinda, Winston and James seem to want to continue as they have started with a raft of new policy ideas which are all clearly aimed at rectifying the previous imbalances in NZ society brought about by National and Neo-Liberalism, at as soon as possible and not by 2040.
If there was some sort of ideological schism that National could exploit then it would be even odds of National in 2020**** but so far there is no schism and the language and syntax of the three parties are mostly in alignment (if having their own distinct core issues and overlapping side interests) due to their harmonious articulation of Nationalist vs Internationalist sentiments.
I am sure that Bill English, when not prying the made in China knives out of his back, will be doing his best to attack this new government but all this beautiful three headed creature has to do (and as Jacinda has already done) is point out that the problems that they are solving were created by National and their nine years of mismanagement and Bills words will turn to ashes in his mouth.
So Sensible Left it is and the only radicals in sight are National and ACT still trying to pretend like its 1993.
Back to life, back to reality, back to the future!
However you want it or need it the mood of the nation is not one of Trump like dissent or Brexit discord in the wake of the 2017 election, nor is it like the Arab Spring with the heady rush of democratic blood to a post authoritarian head followed by reactionary spasms of the body politic (such as in Egypt or Syria).
Instead what has happened is the pendulum has finally swung back from its rather violent shift in 1984. NZ is not going to return to the past of being a highly socialist democracy but rather steer into the future of a democratic sovereign state which is willing to address its own issues and illness by reducing inequality and market dominance and ironically protecting the very people and things (the market and New Zealand’s elites) that would be most affected should revolution actually occur.
Populism did rear its head in NZ but as we have sufficient democratic buffering (via MMP) to prevent the results triggering partisan feuding or violence in the streets we got political pragmatism and the courage to do what is needed instead.
So the revolution did occur and it was televised and Elections 2017 has been a long strange trip to write with all the drama one could ask for (not that I did). I had my ups and downs and very nearly lost my marbles as I delved as deep into politics as I did with the US election in 2000 and the coronation of King George Bush the Younger but I made it through and am genuinely happy with the outcome despite still not trusting politicians or noting that incoming PM Jacinda Ardern gets paid more than any other leader in the free world (at $500,000 plus a year).
NZ politics gets a break for the next few posts while I honour my promises to write what I was requested to write and get back to some of my other ideas for things to blog about.
Until then I leave you with little song to remind you it’s good morning for Aotearoa and springtime for Democracy.
*-For full effect watch this video, keep the accent in mind and then reread those four sentences again.
**-Or should that be the Bay of Plenty
***-As the NZ Herald notes (see ****)
****-If it can sort out its leadership issue/crisis
NOTE: title for this post stolen/plagiarized/copyright infringed from a 2008 article in the Telegraph