SUMMER IS OVER and the editor has urged me back to work with a piece on National’s wooing of NZ First and Peter Dunne. The latter political courtesan is of course already successfully wooed and has been bestowed the “baubles of office” as Minister of Internal Affairs.
I had in mind the class struggle raging in Thailand and the Key plan to “save” failing secondary schools but both can wait until the next issues, important as they are. Because New Zealand politics has come down to this shameful horse trading by the largest parties for suitable support parties.
Dunne’s present position with National is where he belongs. He was part of the class hoisted into Parliament in 1984 on a policy platform that looked very much like that of the Alliance in 1996 only to surrender to, or rather throw himself at, Rogernomics. Mr Common Sense (which is usually shared prejudice) was born. He realised that he could sell himself then to the highest bidder and his political career could flourish with whoever was in power. By assuming an air of false modesty and proclaiming himself as a man not to be bound by the extremes of left or right ( I wonder what we should call crash privatisation of which he was and is a fervent adherent) he put himself in a position to sell himself to Labour or National as needs ( his) may be. His mentor is Marx (Groucho) and if a suitor does not like his current principles there is always another set to be taken out of his briefcase.
Courage and principles are not synonymous with Dunne. His many political betrayals are covered up with fine words. He could not even openly oppose National’s GSCB legislation and admit the methods he chose to undermine it. He does not openly oppose or endorse privatisation initiatives but waits to see which way the political wind is blowing. If you want the Man for All Seasons here you have him.
But it says something about Labour, past and present that it keeps the lines open to this political changeling. Rather than stake out a clear policy position based on social democratic principles and win support that way , uppermost is the thought that we must become government no matter if we enter that government crippled by unprincipled alliances with characters like Dunne whose every instinct is to preserve the status quo. That brings me to the other player Labour kowtows to.
I have wondered at the surprise evinced by so many that National and New Zealand First are sounding each other out. At the 1996 election New Zealand First thundered that it would never enter government with the arch Satan National. It garnered thousands of votes this way. National without the guarantee of Act and the Maori Party , another party that surprised all and sundry by throwing in its lot with National, needs Peters and vice versa. Any decent analysis of the track record of Tariana Turia rather than relying on her rhetoric would have shown that this was on the cards.
Peters can see that if he enters government with Labour and the Greens he is in a weaker position than if he is the sole reason that National can stay in power. Furthermore, Peters apart from braying that he is against privatisation, is a reactionary politician who in all aspects fits in comfortably with National. It should be remembered that the elite is not always hell-bent on following neo-liberal policies. The 2008 financial crisis showed that when needs be that neo-Keynesian policies can also be re-introduced – anything to save the system. And his foreign policy utterings over his long political career not just the “baubles of office “period, make Jonathan Coleman look like Hugo Chavez.
So why would Labour put its neck into the Peter’s noose rather than say good riddance to this most untrustworthy and reactionary politician? In 2005 Peters having largely at that time exhausted the votes to be mined by scare mongering about Asians, had turned to categorising all Muslim New Zealanders as terrorists or potential terrorists. One vicious and slanderous campaign was against 2 unsuspecting engineers who had emigrated from Iraq and were quietly, with their families, going about their productive lives as engineers contributing their much-needed skills to New Zealand. Peters under using Parliamentary Privilege slanderously claimed they were agents of Saddam Hussein and that one had served as his Police Chief. Not a word of apology for the hurt and suffering to the two accused and their families when the claims were shown to be groundless and indeed fabricated in their entirety. He had got his headlines.
I asked Labour’s Ethnic Affairs Minister to speak out. He nervously told me he couldn’t. Labour might need Peters, as it did, after the election. And of course at that time Peters was a valuable ally in the frame up of Ahmed Zaoui as he demanded incessantly that he be returned to his Algerian executioners and be denied due process in New Zealand. Carter said the directive came from the top.
It is noticeable at present how quiet and uncritical Labour and the Greens are of NZ First as they eye cabinet seats. No MP breaks ranks. Thus the scene is set to try and form a government with a man who refuses to tell the public who he would work with and on what policy grounds , launched his Party in 1992 with a savage attacks on Asian immigrants and continued this as his trademark and supplemented it with anti-Muslim tirades , coalesced with National in 1996 despite promises to the contrary, privatised with the best of them in that government and has continued his reprehensible political methods ever since. Oh and of course he voted for the Employment Contracts Act as a National Minister.
Labour, and the Greens, should view the miserable fate of the Dutch Labour Party presently in coalition with the majority Liberal party and shudder. They are hostages, even if willingly so, to neo-liberal policies. Their support is at rock bottom. Labour in New Zealand should set its social democratic policies out clearly, demand of possible partners what policies are agreed to and those that are not and for each possible partner to name its coalition partner so the public can vote for what it wants. The present course of kowtowing to Peters will end in tears well before the 2014 election.