Is New Zealand caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?

By   /   May 18, 2017  /   20 Comments

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Stepping back from the politics of the moment, have we as a country become caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?

Stepping back from the politics of the moment, have we as a country become caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?

To be extremely crude, I think you have three main voting blocs in NZ.

The first are older and whiter who have property and who have benefitted from the cradle to grave subsidisation of Governments who believed they had an obligation to help build civil society upon universal provision of crucial social services. They are loosely the Boomer Generation but more important than their age bracket and left wing economic culture that nursed them is that they own assets and fit alongside the wealthiest, the property speculators, the bankers and the self-invested farmer groups. They are stakeholders in the status quo of National’s economic direction and they vote in huge numbers for their own assets interest.

Then there are millennial and Generation Xers, the renters, the teachers, the students, the nurses, the social infrastructure, the working class, the Police, the Firefighters, the council workers and pensioners who didn’t take neoliberalism’s greed to heart. Each have been failed by the current economic settings and are the ones who are demanding political change. Unfortunately while they have the most to win by a change at the ballot box, they are disorganised and too splintered to produce a clear political voice.

Then there are the poor who feel so disconnected from the political system because of the constant grind of poverty that they see no reason to participate in the political process because the desperation of their lives requires far more than $650 000 ‘affordable’ houses. Research tells us that once a person doesn’t vote twice in a row, they are near impossible to engage again.

The first pool of voters whose assets benefit from the current economic direction will vote in large numbers, the second pool of those demanding a better future than the user pays cancer of debt they’ve inherited don’t vote in numbers large enough to prevent the first group winning and the third group just opt out altogether.

Unfortunately there are more of the first group participating than then the second and the third group have walked away in disgust.

Can this change? It does post 2020 when the demographics alter and Gen Xers and Millennial voters will outnumber Boomers but by then the pressures put upon by NZs inequality will rupture the political spectrum. Currently Labour and the Greens  are putting out watered down policy that promises little change, post 2020 those parties will either start promising the second group of voters something meaningful or they will be overtaken by radical political movements that will do it for them.

Unti, then the perfect storm of self interest and political disconnection will continue to cripple progressive politics in NZ.

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  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Brilliantly correct Martyn,

    As the Nactional policy is structured and is designed to “divide & rule” as always, so SS Joyce the NATS “Propaganda Minister” should be viewed with great suspicion, when he again carts out the tired hackneyed words like “aspiration” and “resilient”

    This is truly a phoney administration using the compete power of the media to spin more lies and false narratives.
    We love the sketch of SS Joyce as the mean selfish hated “Ebenezer Scrooge” – it is very fitting.

  2. countryboy says:

    Yes. Intelligent and likely correct summation of NZ politics and the socio-economic consequences of that.

    Unfortunately there is a ‘ thing’ missing. What is that thing I hear no one in particular ask?

    I think that ‘ thing ‘ is Us. The missing link. The invisible component. The mystery within a conundrum.
    When politicians talk the pre election talk-talk they miss out one very important element. That element is ‘ Us’. The We.
    They talk money, poverty, health, the promise of wealth provided by labouring at mythical jobs, ( Ultimately for The Dark Lords that are the banksters who simply scavenge any fat on the bone by ratcheting up the cost of living. ) but never, ever about ‘ Us’.
    What politician has stood up on a soap box down town and shouted “ Fuck this ! All that you hear is time wasting wank. No good will come from you on election day, even if God him/her/it’s self was elected. The Scum have you out manoeuvred and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it by voting, griping, sniping, shouting, swearing, sulking etc. Nothing. Except direct action. “
    If there a Direct Action Party? No? Surprise, surprise.

    Direct action by the what they hope to remain the mythical ‘ Us’ is the ONLY way to augment political change. There is no other way. And chillingly, there’s not one politician espousing that philosophy. Could it be to do with their nice $6-figures plus entitlements and privileges? You fucking betcha it is.
    It’s not those scum fuckers lying down in a winters ally. It’s not those time wasting, asset selling, thieving fuckers who struggle on shit money to pay for shit food and electricity.
    Look. It’s time they’re gone. Decisively, directly, immediately gone. Asset stripped, chipped and tracked and gone. Nothing else is worth the effort of debating. It’s that plain and simple. They’ve misbehaved, they’re the authors of their own demise, it’s their fault so they must all go.
    Or we become so well organised that those same scum fuckers do a rare and unusual thing. They do what WE tell them to do and to achieve better futures for ‘ Us’.
    It all hinges on ‘ Us’ however and our resolve to act directly.

    • John W says:

      As Karl Popper observed.
      There are two sorts of Governments

      Those you can change without violence and tyranny.

      We don’t seem to be able to change ours as inequity grows under both crowds run by the same taskmasters.

  3. Mosa says:

    Perfect analysis Martyn.

    I don’t think this election is a change election for the reasons you point out.

    I think we are three years away at least before we have a huge realignment. We face the prospect of three more years of slavery and corruption.

  4. Mike in Auckland says:

    “Then there are millennial and Generation Xers, the renters, the teachers, the students, the nurses, the social infrastructure, the working class, the Police, the Firefighters, the council workers and pensioners who didn’t take neoliberalism’s greed to heart. Each have been failed by the current economic settings and are the ones who are demanding political change.”

    Yes, and now, I think there are perhaps rather four categories or voting blocs, and the second one needs to be split into two, into the upper middle class, and the lower middle class.

    And millenials are partly in the upper and partly in the lower middle class, and some are of course also in the lower class, or third category or voting bloc.

    Teachers, police officers and firemen and women are in my view not necessarily to be identified with the ‘working class’, nor will many students and renters fall into suck a voting bloc, as they have rather different realities they live in. Many simply accept the neoliberal realities, prefer more equality perhaps, but still don’t mind cheap immigrants fill their supermarket bags and serve cheap meals and petrol when they need it.

    Teachers may lament working conditions and living costs, so may some police officers, but many of them, same as self employed, and some urban professionals, they do tend to earn comparatively well enough to afford a reasonably good living standard.

    There are many working in jobs just above the minimum wage, in service jobs, there are others working in low paid manufacturing, in not always well paid trades jobs, in self employment, where they only earn well, because they work 60 or more hours a week, I mean there are real differences, among those considered middle class and so.

    Students will only manage well if they have well enough parents with secure incomes, others struggle hard, and many in Auckland are renters, some earning well, others not at all.

    Society is broken into many ‘blocs’ or categories now, and wealth is shifted to the top. It is true though that the ones at the top, and the upper middle class tend to make sure they vote, they have most to lose, most wealth that is, so they want to keep the Nats and ACT in power.

    The challenge is to get enough of the others out to vote, and the beneficiaries and working poor are the ones least likely to vote. There is your JOB, dear Labour and Greens, there is your challenge, but I hear and read damned little about those groups being mentioned, when Labour and Green spokespersons talk.

  5. Castro says:

    With more than 30% of the population born overseas, you missed out a gigantic group of voters, Bomber; the neo-colonialist foreigners who are helping to prop up this sham, puppet government; what proprtion of Transnational Capital Party voters are born overseas? Potentially half of their support base comes from neo-colonials; again, anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that, going forward, there will come a breaking point when the underclass decide to vote en masse with their fists.

    • Michal says:

      This group you talk of I think are a big part of the problem. How many immigrants do we get who are black african or poor asian, zilch zilch zilch. Only the well to do who have dosh get in and they are more interested than anyone else to keep their dosh and their type in dosh so they vote ACT or Natz.

  6. Peter Bradley says:

    I’m not so sure the second group actually understand or even care that much about politics. The ones that do are just as likely to vote against their own current interests because they are aspirational – they beleive that they will one day be extremely wealthy.
    It’s always puzzled me why voters elect center right governments which almost without fail cut back on social services and re-distribtive policies in order to lower taxes for the very wealthy. This happens across the english speaking world time and again – the middle and working classes vote against their own interests. The UK, the US, Australia and NZ.
    The Labour and Green parties in NZ have turned themselves into a Womans Weekly photo opportunity and avoid any serious polititcal challenges because many of them are the aspirant middle class and the asset holders of the future.
    The only political party that is espousing genuine center left policy at the moment is Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party in the UK and this has enraged the liberal middle class to the point of hysteria.
    Jeremy Corbyn is despised by every single media outlet in the UK from the left leaning Guardian, the impartial BBC to the rabid Sun and Telegraph – the vitriolic attacks against Corbyn have been relentless since he was elected leader.
    The culture, economics and politics has shfited right and forced the center to go with it. It is going to take a massive and protracted fight- back by those of us on the left to just shift the conversation back to wealth re-distribution and higher taxation. At the moment these are not mentioned by anyone in NZ politics a clear sign that neo-liberalism is defining the political frame of reference in this country.

    • Michal says:

      Problem is we no longer have a ‘working class’ party. This is what Labour stood for. If we did we would have more people on the scrap heap who would actually vote for the working class party providing the message could be got out to them, and providing they were promised living wages, jobs for all, especially in areas like South Auckland, which is traditionally Labour and the regions Northland etc.

  7. Adrian Thornton says:

    Nice piece there Martyn, I think your analysis is pretty self evident to anyone who follows western politics with their eyes at least partially open..
    Probably the most surprising thing to emerge over the past couple of years for me, is the (new left) neo liberals almost complete and total lack of self analysis after their many recent defeats, and therefor any correction for the long term viability of their project.
    Just witness the Democrats in the US, the Third way Labour in the UK, who have made plainly obvious that they would rather a Tory in power than a real Left Progressive such as Corbyn’s Labour, and Labour NZ.

    This is a good thing for the real progressive Left, at lest this will buy us some time to hopefully get organized before the neo liberal centre left figure out a way to sell their ideology in a new more deceptive way, which as we all know they are masters at doing.

    Turn Labour Left.

  8. Observer Tokoroa says:

    A Different View.

    The Western World changed after WW2. Young people realised that nobody was in control of the Human Species.

    Drugs became the replacement for reason and ethics.

    I, me, and my friend, – was the only thing that mattered.

    Globalisation ditched jobs and opportunities for many people. Corporations felt they owed nothing to nobody. Excpet to wealthy share holders.

    Wall Street came out with the new Prayer. “Greed is Good”. “There is no other good than Greed”.

    The Left is about the misery of those who have not a shilling to spare. Too many kids; to few resources; to few opportunities. “Greed is the way to go”.

    It will take decades before The Greed mantra dies. Votes will go to those who have money. Votes will go to those who buy off politicians.

    Liberty . Equality . Fraternity – are not winnable. Not yet. Perhaps not evermore. We are Barbarians now.

    • Michal says:

      Interesting comments, how many of the ‘poor’ actually have too many kids though, seriously. I think this is a mantra that is put to us all the time and I don’t know that it stacks up in reality.

      • Observer Tokoroa says:

        I apologise for my rushed spelling Michal. The number of children depends on parental income. I think there is considerable woe if parents cannot provide necessities and occasional treats and holidays.

        While all the time the Wealthy keep getting more and more wealthy plundering the planet as they do so.

        So what do the poor do? they chase the wealthy. And become poorer.

        Best Regards

  9. greg says:

    we are on the path to civil unrest i think we are starting to see it with the dairy attacks the social break down has started the disenfranchised have every reason to be pissed off.

  10. countryboy says:

    “Is New Zealand caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?”


  11. Zack Brando says:

    Democracy belongs to those who show up. I imagine many people don’t vote because they are uninformed. MMP is a great system for the citizenry to collectively reward and punish political parties and ministers. Forcing larger parties to cooperate with smaller parties serves to provide checks and balances, while letting large groups for society (like cannabis users) have their voices turn into legislative pressure.

    Smaller parties don’t do themselves any favors. They fail to weld the huge power they actually have or become inflexible concerning minor details. Hopefully minor parties remember/learn they can united together and demand some of their respective policies get moved to the front of the line.

    Politicians also fail to inspire people. The ‘Left’ (hate that term) have done many wonderful things they could hold up to the public – KiwiSaver, KiwiBank, prostitution reform, gay rights, conservation, parental leave, interest free student loans, etc. Repetition is the mother of memory and the citizenry haven’t been reminded so they’ve forgotten.

    Though the sun was out here in ChCh today, their has been a bitter chill in the air. Winter is coming … Kiwi’s living in cars, garages and uninsulated homes are more likely wanting to punish than support the current government. The election is to be held on the 23rd of September, the last day of winter and perhaps with the new season we’ll be on the way to a new look government.

  12. garibaldi says:

    Quite right Zak, though I think just as many are ill-informed as uninformed.The media are the culprits and need to be called out on it time and time again. Though I don’t like Winston he is about the only one who doesn’t let the media control him. I can’t think of anyone on the left who puts the media in their place (when facing all their patsy questions) and then proceeds to control the interview. Little is probably the biggest sucker of all in this regard.

  13. Mike the Lefty says:

    It goes even further than what you say Martyn.
    The world is now run by a cliche of greedy, corrupt, wasteful and short-sighted oligarchs. Whenever someone or any political party tries to offer an alternative to the greedy free-for-all the people are so dumbed down that instead of embracing the alternative, they turn on the people offering it. All around the world we are seeing the forces of liberal government overthrown by populist right-wing reactionary policies, nationalism and xenophobia.
    It used to be said that politics was about giving the people what they want, rather than what they need.
    The 21st century seems to be all about telling the people what they want to hear, promising to give it to them and and convincing them that they have given to them even when they haven’t
    You have recently seen this in the United States, Australia, France and it will shortly happen in Britain. It started happening in New Zealand over three decades ago.
    What a world!

  14. Observer Tokoroa says:

    I thank Martyn Bradbury for the opportunity to say what is really going on out in the real world. And for not banning us.

    It is as Martyn has said :

    “Is New Zealand caught in an electoral bubble that can only give the rich and powerful power?”

    It has nothing to do with Democracy, Wrong Right ala Hooten or Far Far Left.

    The citizens follow where the Money is. Like lemmings in blind vast numbers, world wide. What a stench.

    Politics is a waste of time and effort.
    So is caring for your neighbour. He doesn’t want your care.