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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

New Zealand Politics 2017: A change is as good as a revolution

Happy New Year munchkins, I hope your holidays have been as good as mine so far.

I spent the first week of my Christmas holidays in my old hometown; the septuagenarian seaside ghetto of Timaru, more commonly known to the locals as Uramit*: catching up with family and friends or reading Dark History of the American Presidents by Michael Kerrigan**.

Timaru is one of Nationals true-blue heart lands, with Nationals first time candidate, Andrew Faloon, inheriting Jo Goodhew's comfortable electoral majority; even if that majority was cut back from 14,000 in 2014 to six thousand in 2017 in an electorate where the actual number of voters increased by several thousand, due to a clear surge towards Labour via candidate  Jo Luxton.

And like any time I am out and about, I took the time to sample the mood of the public in regards to politics in our fair nation but this time with a clear slant towards life under our new Labour overlords.

I was expecting a rather negative response regarding the regions voting habits but was somewhat surprised when most people I talked to seemed to be rather meh about the whole "communist takeover" thing and happy with what had transpired, except for one small area: house prices.

You can get a three bedroom house in Timaru for under $500,000, and even down to $300,000 if lucky, with a range of options and locations so unlike the major centers there is still a rather buoyant mood for the market.

And I know this for a fact after I spoke to several people in the real-estate business*** who were positively upbeat about the housing market there and who were rather concerned that Jacinda (and given how they phrased things it sounded like Mrs Ardern was coming for them personally) was intending to take away their livelihood and ruin the good thing they have got going in one fell swoop.

And this tone sums up much of this year (and every recent year) in NZ politics but it definitely sums up the outcome of the recent 2017 election as it does not take a rocket scientist to see that anyone who did well out of the housing hernia in the last nine years under National was going to keep on backing that party (and its policies) rather than take a gamble on Jacinda and Labour but that everyone and anyone else was braying for a real change to how things were in our fair isles.

But this time 12 months ago the country was still getting over the shock of John Key's recent departure from the PM role and trying to adjust to the idea of Bill English as a less than adequate stand in for the man who had been the ever-smiling face of the selling of NZ; the housing market was still boiling along in Auckland and Andrew Little was still grimly clinging to the tiler of the then doom struck Labour party and we were prepping for dull election followed by more of the same under National.

So between now and then what happened?

How did we go from the near inevitable certainty that it would be National for another three years to a center-Left coalition trying to give capitalism a friendly face and right some of the wrong in this country?

The answer to that question lies in the past with Labours great betrayal of 1984 and the effects of that betrayal over the 33 years that followed.

In 1984, with the election of the Fourth Labour government, the party embarked on an insane program of radical change to both the economy and the welfare state. There is no room to go into the details here butsuffice it to say that unlike the right wing free-market zealots in the US and UK who were enacting similar changes in those countries the ideological propaganda of trickle down and "letting the market take care of things" were first propagated by a supposedly left wing Labour government which literally sold the soul and spirit of New Zealand to anyone and everyone with the money to buy.

The result is the New Zealand we know today, desperately addicted to dairy farming, paying obscene prices for houses and peddling our asses for the tourist dollar. A New Zealand where the rich have gotten richer and everyone else has stagnated or gone backwards, an Aotearoa where market speak and management science infected government operations to all levels and where politicians are either actively industry lobbyists (like ex-tobacco shill Todd Barclay) or simply so connected to the parasite banking sector (like the John Key) or related concerns so prolifically that the public either does not trust them or care because the market is the new religion and we all have to kneel down and supplicate before the all mighty dollar.

In short the state of NZ today is the direct result of the Great Betrayal and its spreading stain has marked Labour ever since with an air of untrustworthiness and two-faced double talk from Labour MPs and the party mouthpieces in such a way that the real free market, "NZ for the rich only", radicals in National could simply walk into government and continue to enact Labour's "reforms" and no one could tell the difference.

Sooner or later something had to give. Sooner or later NZ had to change its course or become like Thailand or some other semi-failed state where corruption, nepotism and "connections" prevailed over democracy, equal rights and giving people and fair go. There had been attempts in the past but they had failed, mostly because the time was not right, but also because many of those trying to convince us to jump ship had blood on their hands, blood from 1984.

Thus for NZ (and 33 years counts as later rather than sooner) the 2017 election and the year that preceded it were the beginning of the end for Labours foul creation from 1984 (that later become Nationals monstrous step-child) and the dynamic of that year hinged on Labour not only removing that stain (ie talking about the people for once and not peddling its ass to big-business) but also presenting a credible alternate (via something other than letting the market take charge) to the electorate to whatever tired old (but infinitely better than Labors) story that National was peddling.

In neither of these two areas did Labour fully succeed but neither did they fail and it was not without the help of two other opposition parties (NZ First and the Greens) but also with the removal of the face of past (Andrew Little), which Labour had worn ever since the days of David Lange*4, that was promptly replaced by the face of future (via Jacinda Ardern).

And if we imagine NZ politics as a microcosm of NZ society (a sad and demented microcosm but still a sample of what NZ is) it was only a matter of time before the stunted and bitter children of 1984 would come forth in sufficient number to sweep much of the old and sleazy order away and makes their voices herd.

Of course there were a few grizzled veterans, like Winston Peters, helping things along by acting as spiritual mentors to the younger MPs but in the end the youth and energy prevailed BUT only after the stunted dwarf roadblock of Andrew Little had his greedy hands pried from the wheel of the party AND the dire realization that Labour could be in opposition forever if something radical was not done, truly sank in, as parties like the Greens started to take up the social justice and left-wing slack that Labour and lost when it sold its soul in 1984.

In summary NZ got back a true opposition party to the right wing antics of National (which then balances out the previously skewed dynamic of NZ politics) and previously failed hopes like Winston redeemed themselves by using their populist power for change rather than propping up the status quo and furthering their own greedy ends. The stain caused by the great betrayal has been washed out and a new course has been charted for Godzone.

The fact that the mood around the world echoes this is not coincidental but a change is a good as a revolution in my book and if things had not changed that was what was next via FukYoo politics enacted en-mass with increasing dissent and more physical opposition.

And that all there is to it really, scandals aside, as Labour by its words, and so far its actions also, has provided a counterweight to the right wing razzle-dazzle of National and stared to try and undone some of what it started 33 years ago. It might not get it all right but any loosening of the screws is better than none.

However, this change could not have happened without NZ First and the Greens and that's what is the one major difference between this election and all previous MMP elections, given tat MP was supposed to deliver us from the tyranny of one party-politics and the attended rabid, one sided, ideologies.

This time round was the first real MMP election in NZ history, one where the plurality of the political situation was accurately reflected in the final outcome and where enough of the FPP dinosaurs had been put out to pasture to allow MMP politics to deliver the best result.

But lets get back to those house prices for a moment before I end this because the Housing Hernia is still a thing, along with FukYoo politics.

Neither of those two dynamics have been turned off and both remain dominant forces for 2018 and its how our Left of Center government deals with both that will be the true test of how well the stain of the Great Betrayal is washed away; as inequality and dirty politics remain in NZ and if our hero's cant deliver on their promises then they will surely become villains.

My next post will be a look forward into politics in 2018  but until then I intend to get back into the garden, grow this beard some more and finish off Mr Kerrigans book.

*-Think about it?
**-does my family know me or what
***-I wont say exactly how but lets just say we are related etc
*4-Yes I know Helen Clark and the Firth Labour government existed but it was business as usual under her and Finance Minister Michael Cullen so much so that National was able to survive the near death of the party under Bill English and Don Brash and come romping back to office in 2008 under John Key


  1. "-Yes I know Helen Clark and the Firth Labour government existed but it was business as usual under her and Finance Minister Michael Cullen so much so that National was able to survive"

    So let's imagine that after the 2026 election, National survives and reassumes power. Does that mean it was "business as usual" under Arden too?

    Isn't requiring that National be totally destroyed and never win another election establishing an extremely high bar for a government to be anything other than "business as usual"?

    1. Jacinda & Co have potentially 9 years to answer that questions so short answer is "who knows" or "time will tell"

    2. OK let me put it another way.

      Have we ever had a government that wasn't "business as usual"? Given that every government, no matter how thoroughly revolutionary, has always ended up being replaced by its opposition just as Labour was by National in 2008?

  2. As usual though, loving the details about your life, the books you read, and the people you talk to - it really adds a great deal of insight into NZ politics.

  3. Glad you like it, how has your holiday been going?

    1. Sorry, I don't come here to chat about my personal life

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The "great betrayal" has the sound of "the great rebellion". An act of pure iniquity, which has been expunged by Parliament's (or more specifically Labour and Winston Peters) return to reason and decency. But we need to remember that the traditionalist Peters never colluded in the great betrayal, and the opportunist Labour Party has never renounced it. So the question of whether "a change is as good as a revolution" (which begs the questions of "What kind of change?" and "What kind of revolution?") depends on whether Peters can hold Labour to his own vision of a mid-twentieth century conservative national capitalism. I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know is that Peters won't be the only outside influence trying to dictate Labour's course. In 1984 it was, with great effectiveness, the Treasury and Reserve Bank. In 2018 it will be the darker forces of the deep state, elements who are an even more perfidious influence than Treasury.
    My sense is that Labour, which has for the past fifty years been a party struggling to find a coherent policy, as much as a party struggling to find a viable leader, will be as easily co-opted as it was under David Lange. In short, I see little ground for confidence in the new leadership, and I question your apparent assumption that 1984 was nothing more than a mad infidelity on the part of the Labour Party which has now rediscovered its moral integrity. To predict where Labour will go this time you need to look carefully at the powers at work and the circumstances in play, for Labour has no moral or political compass of its own by which to set its direction for the next three years. In that sense it may indeed be "business as usual" for Labour and there may be no obvious reason not to give National another go in 2020.

    1. It's interesting that the deep state wasn't influential in 1984. Why do you think that was? It certainly existed in 1984.

    2. Specifically, the Treasury and Reserve Bank shaped the Lange government's economic policy. The SIS and GCSB now seek to determine the Ardern government's foreign and domestic security policy. The common factors between 1984 and 2018 are Labour governments bereft of their own policy ideas and departments of state which are ready and willing to fill the vacuum. All elements of the deep state have the potential to influence and control governments. It is just a question of whether they choose to do so, and if so, whether the government is capable of seeing them off.

    3. Do you see the Treasury and Reserve Bank as elements of the deep state?

    4. And for that matter, aren't the Treasury and Reserve Bank also very influential in the Arden cabinet's decision-making?

    5. The deep state is defined as "a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy"
      I don't know if Treasury and the Reserve Bank qualify because those agencies had an open agenda. Anyone who listened to what Rod Deane and others were saying in the 1970s would have known that Treasury and the RB favoured open deregulated markets in goods, capital and labour at a global level.
      The SIS does qualify as an element of the deep state because it operates secretly and does attempt to manipulate and control government policy. The Treasury and RB are certainly influential but I have seen no evidence that they "secretly manipulate or control" government policy.

    6. Where does your quotation come from?

      I think the Treasury and RB openly manipulate and control government policy.

    7. I used the google dictionary definition of deep state. The Oxford English Dictionary has similarly defines the deep state as "A body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy. ... " The Wikipedia entry on the deep state observes that " the deep state can also take the form of entrenched unelected career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests (e.g. continuity of the state as distinct from the administration, job security, enhanced power and authority, pursuit of ideological goals and objectives, and the general growth of their agency) and in opposition to the policies of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting the policies and directives of elected officials" so by that definition Treasury and the RBNZ might qualify as part of the deep state. Frankly I am less worried by processes which are open and transparent, so if the LPNZ has no economic policy and the Treasury openly provides what Labour lacks, then that may signal a failure of democracy but it is not the perversion of democracy that will occur if the "New Zealand security chiefs" (so named by RNZ and the Financial Times) are allowed to impose their own foreign and domestic policy agenda on the Labour government through a clandestine process.

    8. Failures of democracy worry me.

    9. When democracy fails, it is because the people have failed, and when the people fail the only way out is a return to God.

    10. Nice try but your trolling is fairly obvious

  6. You might be right Geoff, you might be right.

    I don't for a minute believe that Labour will be enacting the full scale of changes, some near revolutionary, that I would like to see but as you note Labour go with the wind and while the wind was blowing in 84 for that kind of neo-liberal nonsense the intervening 33 years has made any arguments and models of that kind stand out as the ultra-rich ideological vomit they are.

    What is now filling Labours sails is the winds of change and if they decide to tack off course they will loose that wind and face the same fate as they faced 12 months ago.

    I don't expect a full spectrum of reforms but if Jacinda & Co have any brains they will know that FukYoo politics is not dead and they can still loose out if they start with the same ol same ol as National or the Clark government.

    And yes National in 2020 is a possibility but only if the current coalition lets their short term greed override their long term goals/plans.

    I have argued for many years that the only way forward, really forward for Labour was to make amends for the great betrayal and to become a real Left-wing party again, even if only a lite weight left wing party as that would be a start to making amends as any decent left wing policy would be a start to arresting the degradation of the current state that NZ is.

    However National has created such a mess in the last nine years that in some ways it may be too late as the mood around the world, as the lucky few get rich and the rest get screwed, may be overtaken by a more revolutionary mood and as such Labour may find itself having to go further left than it wishes if its wants to keep its vote base, as the Greens demonstrated by poaching theirs prior to their implosion pre-election.

    Left wing voters only vote Labour because Labour is the only real choice, but the Greens showed that there is nore than one game in town and Labour will have to watch out lest NZ First and Greens don't suck up some vote share.

    At this point I am willing to sit and wait for a bit before deciding if this government has the stones to do whats really needed.

    1. "I have argued for many years that the only way forward, really forward for Labour was to make amends for the great betrayal and to become a real Left-wing party again"

      What would that mean in practice?

    2. " the Greens showed that there is nore than one game in town"

      When did they do that? The Greens have been around since 1999, and they've always positioned themselves as a left wing alternative to Labour. What changed in 2017?