Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine: On Internal Changes Within NZ First And What It Might Mean For 2017

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To quote Galadriel, the world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.

I witnessed it capaciously at the Back Benches-styled event put on by the Auckland University Students Association last week.

But what was this change that’s gotten me sufficiently on-edge to be implicitly categorizing-by-allusion it alongside the corrupting and pernicious influence of that most hackneyed of NZ filmmaking tropes, The One Ring?

Simple.

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Some of the developments and trends in NZF’s membership which may have been awhile coming, but which I felt reached something of their zenith and apotheosis during the proceedings at the aforementioned AUSA debate some ten days ago.

Allow me to illustrate.

The evening started off reasonably well. The Young NZ First (for such we are now called) representative, newly elected Chairman Connor McFayden, didn’t do too badly for a first time outing. And, in fact, I found myself both inwardly and outwardly cheering when he railed against the “evils” of leaving important economic functions up to the vicissitudes of the free market.

But despite the few hours I’d spent training him on the Saturday afternoon immediately before the debate, the best putting across of NZ First policy on the night was done by the Young Labour and Young Greens reps.

Which caused a bit of a problem, because a not insignificant number of the ‘new recruits’ to our Youth Wing took to booing said policy, and yelling out jaundiced interjections along the lines of “COMMIE!” and the like.

“Er … guys … you *do* realize that’s our policy you’re booing?” I carefully ventured.

“But we’re *against* Big Government!” came the reply.

I riposte’d: “…did you not hear your rep railing against the evils of the market 15 minutes ago? Here in NZ First, we *are* Big Government!”

And while I could have gone on at quite some length about this theme (citing such instances as NZ First’s renationalization of Kiwirail in 2005; our proposals to bring a seriously vast section of the economy under direct governmental control in the areas of insurance, construction, electricity generation, and many other areas besides; or, for that matter the fact that many of our members are outwardly and avowedly #Muldoonist with an enthusiasm for throwing around terms like ‘Think Big’) … by this point the flow of the main debate we were there to see had moved on, so there the conversation ended.

Following on from this and some other incidents with the ‘new crowd’ that evening, another longstanding comrade who’s been with the Party almost as long as I have (the best part of a decade) turned to me and simply said “…this isn’t the Party we signed up to, mate”.

Now this might sound all a bit passe. A mere difference of opinion as to what a Party stands for in a pub-room type setting between a hoary old veteran, and some still-blinkered neophytes.

And yet, it speaks towards greater trends which are already sweeping us, and seeking – in essence – to begin to have wrought some considerable and capricious changes upon the ever-beating heart, nervous systems and twangy sinews of our mighty Part.

In short, over the last few months I and a number of others have witnessed some steadily spiraling slithers in Party demography, which are already generating some subtle – yet with the potential to be serious – shifts in Party ideology, ethos, and thus policy and political orientation.

What’s caused this, is simple and threefold.

First, as cannot have escaped anybody’s notice, New Zealand First has recently been doing incredibly well in both polling and in The House. Success is always going to attract more followers, and the prospect of a Party Caucus which might very well have doubled by this time next Electoral Cycle will no doubt act as a clarion angler-fish lure to all manner of craven opportunists. There is nothing wrong with more people in a Party – it means more warm bodies to pack halls, put up hoardings, be tapped for donations, and even hopefully vote for us come Election Day.

The issue is where these new supporters are coming from.

Historically, New Zealand First has depended in large part for our electoral success upon defecting ex-Labour voters (and a certain number of former-or-more-usually Greens) looking to cast a ‘strategic vote’ in our direction. Either because they recognize that we are the leading and loudest Opposition Party in Parliament – or because they’ve done the somewhat arcane electoral math, and worked out that the best way of denying National an easy Majority in the House is by ensuring NZ First gets over the 5% threshold, and takes some literal seats (list seats) off the larger parties. (as if we get *under 5%*, then those votes are ‘wasted’, and the seats we would have gotten are redistributed to those parties who are over the magic line – which will, predictably, favour the largest party in Parliament, which is almost invariably going to be National).

In 2011 alone, I believe up to and perhaps over 50% of our Party Votes came from exactly these sources.

The risk for New Zealand First is that any serious or significant moves in a ‘rightwards’ direction will alienate these supporters. Not merely in a “will think twice before casting a capricious ‘strategic’ vote our way” sense – but because many of these people are no longer purely “strategic” supporters of the Party, and now have some genuine semblance of loyalty towards what’s arguably the most vociferously anti-Neoliberal Party presently in the House. They fit in quite well – and like, in other words, the fact that we’ve historically run an economic policy which is decidedly and identifiably to the left of Labour. (occasionally also specifically because we have tended to focus almost myopically on core economic issues while not getting entangled in high-profile social policy stands-on-principle)

These guys aren’t the issue.

What *is*, are the new influx I was mentioning earlier. You might like to think of them as a newfound ‘conservative’ wing of the Party.

They come from two general sources.

The first one are Conservative Party refugees. As we’re all well aware, the Conservative Party messily – if not outright spectacularly – imploded about a year ago. Many Conservative Party people were in the CCCP [Colin Craig’s Conservative Party] because they didn’t fit in with National and didn’t like Winston Peters either, yet still had some core beliefs about opposition to asset sales or favourability for referendums and direct democracy which lead to some more than slight policy coterminity with NZ First.

Now that the Cons have gone, they’ve got nowhere else to really go. They can’t exactly return ‘back home’ to National, as the Nats have been perceived as ‘doubling down’ on social liberalism and economic neoliberalism … so they’re turning up in slowly growing numbers here.

But “Capital C” Conservatives aren’t the only ones presently immigrating to our political shores in droves.

“Small C” (with your choice as to the number of letters immediately following) conservatives fleeing National have also begun arriving.

Some of these guys are alright. There’s always been what you might term a “Muldoonist” ideological rump left-over in National from their ‘glory days’ pre-Rogernomics and Ruthanasia; so as it’s become increasingly impossible for these folk to deny through ever-heightened cognitive dissonance the fundamentally anti-Muldoonist inflection of their former parent party … they’ve quite naturally followed the ‘political ley-lines’, as it were, over to us. Motivated by issues such as opposition to the TPPA, asset sales, and the increasing outright arrogance of the Prime Minister … it’s not hard to see how they can assimilate to a considerable and easy degree into our number and work towards shared and mutually agreeable outcomes.

Interestingly, the Green Party is also experiencing a small but steady influx of “recovering Nats”, although presumably for rather different individual reasons (perhaps prioritizing ecological sustainability over raw Statist anti-neoliberalism, albeit with a shared egalitarian ethos between both us and the Greens which is occasionally expressed in rather different ways).

But then, there are the other ones. To continue to consciously borrow an immigration shibboleth, the ones who really don’t seem too interested in ‘assimilating’.

In fact, as one (himself ex-National) friend of mine put it … “they’re Nats who haven’t stopped being Nats. Nats who haven’t realized they’re now in the wrong Party. Nats who perhaps don’t even know they’re still Nats.”

Some of them are clearly the sorts of people who didn’t do much research into the Party they were prospecting for beyond being mildly excited by the “racist” tag we occasionally seem to get in the media. The type who’d probably very well still be in National if National weren’t the kind of party to these days send delegations to Gay Pride parades. Needless to say, they don’t tend have any actual salient interest in serious policy except insofar as it caters to and reinforces their personal prejudices. (they tend to be quite big on ‘anti-immigration’ and ‘law and order’ type issues, but draw blanks when you ask them about our Party’s serious economics)

Now, the trouble with all of this is clearly not that we’re taking votes off National. I can’t stress that enough: it’s a GOOD THING for those of us who’d quite like a change of Government that there’s a vehicle – or, if you prefer, ‘lightning rod’ – out there capable of drawing these staidly charged particles away from the great blue stormcloud that’s presently occluding our electoral horizon. As people have said time and time again … you don’t win general elections by refusing to take votes off the other side.

However, my pet worry and distaste is that if this strong surge in NZ First recruitment numbers continues at the present pace, we’re pretty soon going to have gone from a situation wherein these ill-suited (but occasionally eager) National recruits will have grown from a tiny-but-noticeable minority into a small-yet-vocal sect. Within our tent. Attempting to get us to change the way things are arranged in our tent. Up to and including taking stabs at altering the position of our tent relative to the big blue tent with the three-ring yellow-purple-Maori circus going on inside just down the road, if you get my drift.

Despite what you may have heard, NZ First is a fundamentally democratic party in many ways, so “if this goes on” (to quote my favourite biblical Old Testament prophet maxim), they might very well run the risk of actually being listened to and having some skerrick of influence. (assuming they don’t hit the Party Conventions this year and next and find themselves either scared off or beaten into line by the somewhere north of two thirds of NZF who fairly actively despise National as the neoliberal devil incarnate)

But the purpose for this piece isn’t merely to have a soap-box hurling rant bemoaning the now steadily apparent differences and dissonances between the Party I grew up in, and the Party which has itself arguably come of stirling age more recently. Electoral vehicles change, evolve, and move about the place on a continuous basis in order to thrive if not simply survive. And in any case, as the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote in his excellently poignant ‘Proverbios y cantares’, our footsteps are themselves the path – and upon glancing backwards, it is inevitably the case that we find there *was* no path (in the sense of a fixed road which we can re-traverse in the opposite direction) … just slowly dissipating foam-trails on an endlessly changing and trackless sea.

But just because we cannot, strictly speaking, go back … does not, no way and no how mean we can’t go forward. And, more particularly, forward in the right and proper way.

Which is why I’m writing this piece. To ask a favour.

We, the leftists of New Zealand First – the socialists, the social nationalists, social democrats, democratic socialists, and miscellaneously buzzword-oriented people of no fixed Internationale tendency – need your help.

If we are to counter the rising tide of slack-jawed soft-right ‘conservatism’ (or whatever you wish to call it) which is steadily (and invitedly) infiltrating our ranks here in NZF, we must fight fire with not more fire but instead its antithesis.

In short, we need principled people of all ages and backgrounds who /understand what is at stake/ to join up with NZ First, get involved internally, and help us to keep the Party at large on the straight and narrow going into 2017, 2020 and beyond.

I have every confidence that NZ First’s economic policy quite squarely and firmly aligns us with both the broadly social-democratic and anti-neoliberalist (indeed, anti-National or anti-slash-and-burn or whatever you wish to call it) agendas that have dominated left-wing and Opposition political circles for much of the last decade.

While there are some signs of fraying and changing at the fringes and in the margins (a member on a committee here, a proposed policy remit to Convention there), there is no serious signal that NZ First’s principled political orientation is yet under significant threat.

But as we move towards a progressively less-certain future, left-wingers and centrists of all stripes have but two options. Either sit on the sidelines in preparation to jeer and scream and hoot and holler “I TOLD YOU SO” as New Zealand continues to descend into Hell in a Hand Basket … or taking a stand and taking action with the only Party which, poll-in and poll-out appears to be perfectly poised to lock National out of Parliamentary political power in pulsating perpetuity.

Which is it going to be, New Zealand?

Help us, to help you. Help yourselves to ensure we have a bright, black future.

Help me to Make New Zealand First Great Again.

17 COMMENTS

  1. You sound well-meaning; if only we’d listened to Winston. You sound a hell of a lot better than the so-called “lefties” who screech “racist” at the top of their lungs to shut down anyone challenging their double speaking group think. Economic nationalism is certainly the way to go, assuming that one wants to have a country, that is. I suggest that you start preparing for the hell in the hand basket that “No” [sic] Zealand has become. Civil war is the ONLY answer, and more importantly, civil war is inevitable.

  2. Very interesting Curwen. I can’t join your party as I am a member of another one. But I have long suspected there are people around who function almost like gang prospects, for whom a scalp would be to make another small party “safe” for neoliberals. This is not a conspiracy theory, just the thought that there are people for whom an achievement of this kind would seem advantageous to their future networking. Maybe you need stronger criteria for remaining an NZ first member – after all, you would not last long in the Greens if you joined them to tout for fracking, and you would not last long in National if you were pushing to nationalise the farms and set them up as collectives.

  3. The thing that worries me, Curwen, despite your obvious good intentions, is that your leader, Winston Peters, is asking a blank cheque from us. We have no way of knowing if a vote for Peters is a vote for a National-led or Labour-led government.

    I’d rather know what *bang* I’m getting for my buck, thank you.

    • With you on that, Priss. Until Peters discloses whether he will prop up a National government or not, a Party Vote for NZFirst is a dangerous choice to make.

      At least by voting Greens or Act, you know exactly what you’re getting.

    • exactly, I’d expect him to go in to coalition with National. He needs to be pushed to rule that out by every journalist at every opportunity until the election

  4. I have a few questions for you.

    Is Winston Peters a Machevalian Confederate?

    Was he installed, by Big Business and their political, all-bought-and-paid-for mates to run as a red herring for the swindlings and tax avoidance running through the Cook Islands back in the 90’s ?

    How old were you in 1984?

    How is it that michael fay and david richwhite have a net wealth of $ 890 million each?

    What was Winston Peters and don brash talking about in that recent photograph of them having a nice cup of tea together?

    Are you aware of the events leading up to the sale of The Bank of New Zealand?

    • I have met Winston in Gisborne and Napier and he is a dyed in the wool loyalist to NZ for the little guys and girls not the corporates WK.

      Winnie is wanting NZ back not as this invasion mentality National have embarked on, and the people know this.

      That’s why when Keyster carries on selling everything under us more will turn to Winnie believe this, he wants NZ for NZ citizens not the global tourists that ferret their money all around the globe like candy as they suck blood out and leave when the carcass is dead!!!

  5. Personally feel a Labour/NZ First/Green win will bring good policy and decision making back to NZ.

    The NZ First can push back the neolibs in Labour – keep the economy stable while the economy transitions into Greener policy, that the entire world is currently implementing. (or pretending to implement).

    Neoliberal globalism is against the Green movement and with climate change here already, Green policy must be implemented – but needs to be done is a careful transitioned way with new ideas and collaboration and a nationalistic approach – recognising cultural differences but still wanting to maintain regional and cultural identity. The opposite of the neoliberal global agenda with no borders, no culture and profit to the .1% lobbyists being the driver of all decision making.

  6. NZ First can easily pick up the rural and farmer vote and elderly vote as well as voters against record immigration when there are no jobs or houses or transport in place. Now one of our biggest exports is now transnational profits under Nationals neoliberal agenda! What a joke!

  7. I do suspect Winfred went with the Bolger govt at the time for two reasons, 1)… he came from the Nats originally , 2) , he felt he could possibly work from the inside to affect change.

    There was however , antagonism between him and Ruth Richardson .

    Here are a few extracts from Wikipedia :
    ………………………………………………………………………………………..

    As leader of New Zealand First, he held the balance of power after the 1996 election and formed a coalition with National, securing the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer.

    Peters exacted a high price for allowing Bolger to stay on as prime minister. Peters became Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer (senior to the Minister of Finance), the latter post created especially for him.

    Initially, there were concerns about whether Peters would be able to work with Bolger, the National prime minister who had previously sacked him from Cabinet, but the two did not seem to have any major difficulties. Later, however, tensions began to develop between Peters and the National Party, which only worsened after Jenny Shipley staged a party room coup and became prime minister.

    After a dispute over the privatisation of Wellington International Airport, Peters was sacked from Cabinet again on 14 August 1998. He immediately broke off the coalition and led New Zealand First back into opposition.

    However, several MPs, including deputy leader Henare, opted to stay in government and leave New Zealand First. It later came out that Henare had tried to oust Peters as leader, but failed. None of the MPs who opted to stay in government retained their seats in the next election.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………..

    He appears to have had issues with neo liberalism. Particularly as he did not like Ruth Richardson …in fact… it has been a recurring theme that he has opposed it. If we look back we see that recurring them.

    Essentially he seems as a ‘nationalist’. He certainly was almost prophetic as to becoming ‘strangers in our own country ‘ regarding opening the floodgates to immigration particularly from Asia.. ie: India/ China.

    And we see that years later with the massive immigration inflow afflicting NZ in the form of the housing crisis. Along with foreign buy ups of ‘sensitive land’, downwards pressure put on wages , foreign speculation etc etc.

    The very things the Key led neo liberal National govt has now created a millstone around its own neck with – ironically , – those very things that have caused the neo liberal ideology to have become hamstrung by its own rigidity.

    It remains to be seen if a coalition between Labour, the Greens and NZ First can be made. There are strengths among all of them. However it still gets down to a co-ordinated strategy of close dialogue to avoid working at cross purposes during the 2017 elections.

    For the benefit of that coalition as well as the NZ public. If that isn’t the case, – then the public will only see division and instability and will balk.

  8. “Historically, New Zealand First has depended in large part for our electoral success upon defecting ex-Labour voters.”

    Yep, certainly over recent elections if you focus on New Zealand Election Study data. I’ve been pointing this out on the local blogosphere for quite some time.

    “In 2011 alone, I believe up to and perhaps over 50% of our party votes came from exactly these sources (Labour and Green)”

    Based on NZES data, I’d say former Labour and Green supporters comprised roughly 45% of 2011 NZF voters.

  9. The reason Winston went with National in the first MMP Election was National was the only option for NZF to be part of a coalition Government, the only other option was NZF/Labour/Alliance coalition. However the problem was Jim Anderton could not get their acts together so Winston was forced having to go with National.

    This all turned to cactus when Shipley rolled Bolger, then National coerced a number of NZF MP’s over to National and just about stuffed NZF.

    So everyone blaming Winston for playing games need to understand the facts. At the end of the day Winston will act in the best interests of the country.

  10. Most votes in the Northland by election were anti-John Key protest votes.
    Key was booed at the Auckland nines and the big day out.
    Key’s polling is in the 30% as PM (I’m sure if the wording was right in the survey), Winston would have pissed in, in the preferred PM!

    It’s great news for NZ First and Winston.

    An unpopular PM like Key won’t want the ignominy of being defeated in an election (not good for the post PM-cred on the CV), so he’ll jump ship, before he’s made to walk the plank like Brash, and English (oops) and Bolger.

    Word coming out from the back rooms at ACT allegedly is, that succession planning is already under way.

    ‘Bronagh wants more personal time,’ the Herald will say. ‘JK wants to spend more time with his family, who were pretty much neglected while he was in banking?’, Hosking will opine. Or just the generic “family reasons”. Paul Henry will give us “5 reasons why the PM should be proud of his tenure before he has to leave for personal reasons.” and then Henry will ‘piss himself laughing at his own wittiness like Muttley from the Wacky Races.

    NZ First, will be thankful for small mercies of Key leaving for “personal reasons” and bullshit National, pork-barrel promises of roads and bridges in Northland.

    But there’s always the promise of a knighthood to sweeten the sadness of Key not being a 4th term PM. Eh?

    • Yes…Keys looking sad and tired these days. Its not the big drama’s that’s grinding National down … its the smaller less headline grabbing issues.

      Things like Bennett rushing round like a chicken with its head cut off pushing the $5000 bribe for family’s to fling themselves off into some employment backwaters knowing full well the places available more than likely just aren’t suitable in the first place for low skilled workers – and whats worse – days out from the budget without English even knowing a thing about it.

      This whole housing crisis being brought about by the neo liberal ideology of ‘hands off’ unchecked immigration with an equally ‘hands off’ non existent policy on housing and infrastructure and leaving it up to blind ‘ market forces’…. as IF the ‘ market ‘ is an individual knowledgeable about planning, design or future forecasts for populations.

      And they expect us to pay them wages for what is effectively a govt in abdication.

      This is the beginning of the end for Key.

      He can piss in the shower and pull as many pony tails as he likes but this has struck at the collective conscience of the population. And anyone can see this is just going to spiral totally out of control with this govts attitude.

      So they better start turning those immigration taps right down and get spending on building houses fast or its going to walk right through to election day in 2017.

      Even spending $781,000,000 on the SIS and GSCB – with only half that spent on housing !…says it all . As does $24,000,000 on a flag change no one wanted. Not to mention all the fund cutting on social services – as IF we couldn’t all see that it was designed to bring in privatization of those services…what do they take us for?

      Key talking tax cuts of 3 billion dollars with family’s living in cars ??? and then back- pedaling when his Finance minister says no???

      Great unity and thought put into things guys – more like not being able to organize a piss up in a brewery – or worse- not giving a shit about your own citizens.

      This govt’s provided more than enough ammo for the opposition to sink a battleship. So Key is on the outer and it doesn’t matter who takes his place from that party – they will be tarred with the same brush and being counted among that number that created this absolute mess.

      Their goneburgers.

      • I stand corrected. It is actually 178.7 million dollars allocated to the SIS and GSCB.

        However an apology is cheap as opposed to the social costs of having family’s living in cars and STILL working for a minimum wage because they cannot afford the rent because of the housing crisis. For that I retract nothing.

  11. In short, we need principled people of all ages and backgrounds who /understand what is at stake/ to join up with NZ First, get involved internally, and help us to keep the Party at large on the straight and narrow going into 2017, 2020 and beyond.

    Maybe to shore up your position too?

    What I hear is that you are badly on the outer, Curwen and must be feeling very uncomfortable.

    The way to change New Zealand First, (if it can be changed) is from the outside, by challenging them on policy.

    Traditionally Winston Peters has always refused to say who he would align his party with.

    By challenging NZF on policy, voters will get an idea of where Winston will position his party after the election. With Labour and the Greens, or with National and ACT.

    Entrism is a failed policy Curwen, The experience of entrists is that instead of changing the conservative direction of the movements they enter, it is invariably the entrists who get changed.

    If entrism was an effective strategy maybe we should be advocating that Leftists join National or ACT.

  12. This isn’t change. Winston has always pandered to the right wing, not all of us have forgotten his racist spiels about the ‘yellow peril’ and being anti the treaty and what he called Maori separatism. Nor have we forgotten the Simunovich fisheries scandal he was involved in, or his links to the Vela brothers and the racing industry or the under the table donations he received from the likes of Bob Jones and then claimed he knew nothing about them….

    Winston is NZF, and Winstons political leanings are whatever way he perceives the popular wind to be blowing.

    You seem like a well meaning and eloquent young man Curwen, why you persist in following Winston is beyond me.

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