Why Eleanor Catton is half right and why Key keeps going up in the polls



So a writer can’t mix politics with other things they are better known for, but endorsements from rugby players is fine? Only in NZ.

Eleanor Catton was of course half right. She declared that we had “neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians”. That’s true, but these “neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians” were elected by neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry voters.

What the Left are still trying to grapple with is the perverse popularity of Key. NZ crucified Helen Clark for signing a painting she didn’t paint, speeding tickets and water saving shower heads and power saving lightbulbs. With Key however we have a cavalcade of some of the worst abuses of political power this country has ever witnessed from retrospective legislation allowing the Police to break the law to mass surveillance powers for our Intelligence agencies while colluding with state spies to smear political opponents. Add to that draconian policies that rob the poor while enriching the wealthy and a shell shocked opposition is left asking, ‘what the hell has happened’?

It seems a perfect storm of wilful ignorance.

The rump of the National vote loath women’s rights, Maori rights and beneficiaries. Their view is that their success is self generated and if you are poor then it’s your own fault. What the Left fail to grasp is that these voters hate us. These rump voters are joined by those sleepy hobbits of muddle Nu Zilind who simply swallow what the right wing corporate media feed them. Seeing as the right wing corporate media have been working hand in glove with the dirty politics of Cameron Slater for the last 6 years, that harvest was always going to be poisoned. The final part of the National vote are the subdivided baby boomer middle classes whose only wealth comes from an inflated and over valued house price that they refuse to let go of.

Public Broadcasting has been killed off so that citizens are warped into consumers and a vacuous youth media that is so depoliticised that Key can appear on their programs and get cheered rather than jeered.


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On the Left, we have a Labour Party with a Caucus so incensed that they had to listen to the membership with Cunliffe as leader that they actively conspired against him and did all they could to kill off any true Left wing political voice from achieving representation by knifing Hone in the back in Te Tai Tokerau.  You have a Greens who have actual policy solutions but who will get outmanoeuvred by Labour and NZ First to form a minority Government where Green aspirations will have little say and a vast swath of the poor and disaffected who see no connection between their daily grind of poverty and who sits on the Government benches in Wellington.

This perfect storm of wilful ignorance has created the very thing MMP was supposed to protect us from, the tyranny of a First Past the Post majority. National have full spectrum political dominance, hence their privatisation of State Houses, hence their gutting of environmental protections in the RMA, hence their plans to work test the sick and disabled.

Labour’s approach to date is to give none judgemental hugs to the middle and try and woo them back, the Greens are trying to be more critical and NZ First is blaming Indian students.

I think a new media is the most important part of a rebuild for progressives because the old one has failed its obligations as the Fourth Estate to hold the powerful to account, but the idea of turning those who have a vested interest in the current inequality to vote left seems optimistic.

The reality is the economy must get worse before people demand enough. The question at this time is will there be a media vehicle that can direct that anger if it comes and will there be a political party that can articulate polices that empower that momentum.



  1. “It seems a perfect storm of willful ignorance.” That just about sums it up. After being a big believer in ‘people are basically good’ for as long as I can remember ………. It appears I am wrong ……. People are basically greedy hence you have ‘Greed-O-Nomics’ spreading around the world. I left the UK because of Thatcher and Oz because of Howard …. Now Key and more Key……….

    This time I’m not leaving I’m moving to a part of the country that is into COMMUNITY and People looking after People.

    We can turn the tide of this madness when people realize Greed leads to Unhappiness – How long will this take? All depends when we start to push back………!!!

  2. The Herald are loving John Key today, Audrey Young and John Armstrong giving Key an 8/10 all round for his State of the Nation, Little a 4 out of 10. Clearly neither questioned Keys motives for State House sales or this new social housing problem that must be solved with market forces and tax payer money.

    So it’s the same old same old.

    But Auckland’s housing market must be a worry for National at the moment and maybe because its on thin ice. I know that there are bugger all houses for sale, desperate estate agents can’t even offer up another place to one person I know who is looking at selling and the reason is it’s too damned risky selling because unless you leave NZ or relocate to Hokitika you likely to be unable to buy what you want and most importantly what you can afford.

    In short rents have to match incomes, like it or not for investors, but those aren’t matching purchase prices so the whole house of cards model is teetering. If it goes bang so does NZ. So Key is clearly trying to poke fingers in the fast increasing holes in the dyke with tax payer cheques to speculators to prop up their investments with market driven rent, I mean the money has to come from somewhere and it ain’t from our low wage economy.

    This mega short-term “social housing policy” is social welfare policy for the speculators to keep this badly run economy from tanking but times running out!

    • @ XRAY – the Key love fest doesn’t solely belong to the NZH.

      The broadcasting cartoon caricature TV3’s Paddy Gower, was all but making lovey-dovey overtures towards “sell, sell, sell” man John Key last night, while at the same time putting down Andrew Little for his first state of the nation address. It was totally expected, but quite sickening at the same time!

      Media obviously unable to get any dirt to smear on Little, so they resort to belittling him (no pun intended there)!

      • In your last few words you capture the overall attitude of the MSM, particularly television. One wonders when they will grow up and cut out the now entirely tiresome Stuart Little jokes and puns. On their track record, probably never. They still persist in calling any so-called scandal some name with the suffix -gate and making news stories into juvenile puns. The “news makers” apparently think the viewing audience has a mental age of six because that is their own mental age.

    • There’s a vindictive part of me that actually wants the housing bubble to implode, simply so that all these speculators, developers and “Oh look, Felicity, another property to add to our already bloated portfolio!” opportunists start shitting themselves and get to experience a little of the misery and uncertainty the rest of the country has been living for the past six years.

    • One of the main reasons for the housing price situation is low interest rates. Brought about by the GFC. The reserve bank walks a tightrope on this issue. Would you suggest the govt intervene and make them put rates up?. They would cop a lot of flack for that. Comment this morning was the official cash rate may actually decrease. Will not help. Obviously one solution is to try and move some govt departments and other businesses to outside Auckland. It is mainly an Auckland and Christchurch problem.

    • For a while there, IMP had some of the sense of that newness, freshness. It was snuffed out but could do with a revival.

  3. This is a very insightful astute summary of where we are at and how we got there.
    It’s as plain as the nose on one’s face once you see it , but unfortunately not enough people are seeing it.
    Both susceptibility to bullshit , ignorance and greed all play a part.
    We now have a high number of psychopaths appointed by psychopaths in key media positions who are constantly reinforcing the status quo.
    The only way to take theses people our, is through head on confrontation.
    Psychopaths are used to doing the bullying and become impotent when their weights are put up.
    Softly, softly catchy monkey doesn’t work!!!

  4. We’re in an environment where the narratives and arguments are framed in such a way that the populace soaks up the spoon-fed pap.
    We have to start creating the context, setting the frames.
    Heaven forbid, but it might have to start with us spending less time commenting here and more time on talkback radio – take it to them directly.
    As a marker, Dirty Politics should have had a much bigger impact.

  5. They are not ‘sleepy hobbits’. This is what they voted for. This is what they want. That’s why Key has their approval. He Understands and speaks to their most basic nasty instincts.

    ‘If we can’t have freebies and mates’ rates like we used to, then no dole bludging bennie can have even the basics. We have to stand on your two feet to get a hike up the greasy pole – stop squealing.’

    Martyn, they are NOT ‘sleepy’. That mean, miserable lemon-in-the-mouth attitude did not depart with walk-socks and sandals for summer. That’s ‘aspirational NZ’ – dead ignorant and demanding the same toys as the big kids – without having to do the hard yards. ‘Ring the bell, Jack! I’m on the bus! To hell with the debt load I’m carrying!’

    There is no mystery to Key’s popularity. Look at him and – that’s Us! And the rot is firmly embedded in the working strugglers, too. Petty, stingy spite.

    Don’t expect any Greek-style resurgences here. All’s well in the fine state of Taxus.

  6. Good deep insight you showed there Martyn, very reminiscent of when you had Jason Ede by the tail.

    Now we need to get this Greedy Carpetbagger emperor exposed for what he is simply a opportunist with no moral fibre who is spreading his cancer of greed among us all.

    As things begin to tighten up and the economy shrinks we will find his weakness to change will be his downfall and his Achilles heel for our boot him out ouf the country.

  7. I’m getting so sick of the media in this country. The blokey, anti-intellectual, All-Black worshipping, anti-balanced debate, sensational stories seeking mainstream media – exactly what Mr oil and his cronies have cultivated. We’ve had 6 years of this govt, largely due to the partisan media. They’ve had evidence handed to them on a plate by Nicky Hagar, yet they stubbornly refuse to investigate further.
    It’s not a democracy

  8. A word of caution to all of us who wish to see a return to a society dedicated to the advancement of all not just a few. The use of extreme terms such as greedy and hate will cause many who will be persuaded by reasoned / ethical argument to become defensive and deaf.
    Better to use a term such as “self-interest”. While this may appear hair splitting it is not as it defines a scientific, rational and evolutionary sound driver of behaviour whereas greed and hate are human abstractions that are ultimately destructive both to the self and community. Most (all?) species are driven firstly by a need to secure resources for existence and then the need to propagate – very generally speaking these are what underlie self-interest and they are by necessity generally dominant in our behaviour. Social species improve the outcomes of self-interested behaviour by congregating and to varying degrees assisting each other – this is arguably (certainly for this atheistic secular humanist) the source of altruism, ethics, love and the other non-material things that enrich existence. Humans are complex in that the degree of socialisation is extreme indeed it is a primary and necessary factor of our species success. While denial of the effectiveness of higher rewards for effort and creativity has been clearly shown to be destructive the denial of the gains from social inclusiveness and a community effort to mitigate disadvantage no matter what its form is equally so.
    The scientific and historical evidence (anthropological, behavioural, and etcetera) contradicts the ill thought out propaganda / drivel of the neoliberals and right libertarians. The success of the neoliberals has been largely due to a prolonged period of appealing to stronger self-interest drivers, manipulating the human defence mechanism to external threats, casting the disadvantaged as a threat to prosperity, the excesses of unions and other well intentioned groups that undermined effectiveness / efficiency. The call for counter attack by way of independent media is an important step in redressing the “Newspeak” manipulation of facts and history by the Minister of Truth (John Key and fellow travellers) while not alienating many well meaning people.

    • You are right in essence, Thinkaboutit, but your observations can be put far more simply, and less like someone staring down a microscope. If you want people to elect a Left-leaning government, you must persuade many of them to vote in the first place or change their vote. To achieve that you had better start by understanding the mechanisms and drivers that direct human, ALL human behaviour in this area, (including your own).

      Why do people vote for a particular party and how might they be persuaded to change their vote? Is it more likely to be an attack of altruism or maybe some form of self-interest, informed or otherwise? The most probable is the perception on the part of the voter that a change of government will contribute to the creation of a society and a country more in tune with the goals and desires of that voter. And that is always likely to be a trade off for the more thoughtful, while quite simple for the easily led on either side of the political spectrum.

      This means understanding that those voters who did not vote your way are not necessarily evil or sleepy. Rather they did not find enough in the vision projected by your side, (slightly blurry and garbled as it sometimes was,) that matched their preferred future. That is their perfect right. Next time our green ideas had better dream more furiously.

      I think we have established that no matter how effectively it is demonstrated that the current leader is a selfie-obsessed, Machiavellian wanker, that is still insufficient to deter the voters from electing him, while he calms their fears and feeds their profound hope that all is still well with our Rock-star economy. (A few slackers may be suffering, but while all is still well for you, the country is in good heart…). This knowledge is at least something to build on. The next building block for the heavy lifters on the Left, and notably within this Blog-site, will be to genuinely try to understand the voters. The best way to start this process might be to treat them with a modicum of respect or the cause will be done (further) disservice, without anyone becoming any the wiser.

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