The Golden Path Mk.II: NZ First’s Quantum Superposition Of Solitude

By   /   October 12, 2017  /   20 Comments

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Many moons ago – back when the notion of replacing Andrew Little with Jacinda Ardern was the sort of pie-in-the-sky idea dismissed by almost all serious commentators as almost assuredly fatal to both her party and her person, rather than some form of titanic/cthonic masterstroke capable of apparently singlehandedly reshaping the political landscape upon a whim – I sat down to pen a piece entitled “The Golden Path”.

Many moons ago – back when the notion of replacing Andrew Little with Jacinda Ardern was the sort of pie-in-the-sky idea dismissed by almost all serious commentators as almost assuredly fatal to both her party and her person, rather than some form of titanic/cthonic masterstroke capable of apparently singlehandedly reshaping the political landscape upon a whim – I sat down to pen a piece entitled “The Golden Path”.

The focus of this article was to be what I, and a number of others inside NZF, viewed as the ‘best’ course of action for the Party if we genuinely wished to survive the 2017 and 2020 General Elections and make it on to that mythical and much-hypothesized Life After Winston … without going the way of pretty much every other ‘smaller’ party over the course of the MMP age.

Foremost among the insights amidst said invective was the concept that in fairly direct contravention of what seemingly everybody else both inside the Party and out was saying about how to ensure NZF’s long-term survivability [i.e. shack up in coalition with one or other of the ‘major’ parties, pick up a few Ministerial portfolios, show the electorate how good we could do in Government, and then hope against all available evidence that this would somehow NOT lead to us collapsing towards either the end of the Term or the Government], if New Zealand First genuinely wished to maintain its existence – and, perhaps rather more aspirationally, its then-seeming-inexorable ascent towards displacing Labour for ‘major party’ status – that it absolutely HAD to avoid the temptations of the ‘baubles of office’, and REFRAIN from forming a coalition, confidence & supply deal, or other such arrangement with ANYBODY.

Be ‘Sinn Fein’, in other words – “For Ourselves Alone”.

Now, for a number of reasons, the original “Golden Path” article lies both unfinished and unpublished. And in any event, this is not necessarily a great tragedy. Events, as they often do in politics, wound up first overtaking and then considerably outpacing my own prognostications, rendering the strategem advanced within said document functionally moot.

After all, with the results of last month’s General Election as they are, except in the most plausibly impossible scenario of the Green Party choosing to support National into a 4th term or the much-vaunted “Grand Coalition” of Labour and National finally coming to fruition in eerie echo of 1996’s torrid possibilities … there is literally no way we get a Government here in New Zealand without New Zealand First’s say-so and involvement. Whether direct or otherwise.

Attempting to ‘abstain’ from proceedings in order to bide our time and build our strength, in other words … would most likely be a rather non-viable option.

Or would it …

You see, there’s this interesting concept which half the country seems freshly to have heard of and yet to properly get their collective head around.

That of the ‘cross-benches’.

Wherein, to put it bluntly, if it’s being done *properly* [i.e. not really what NZF did in 2005], it entails the cross-bencher MPs *abstaining* on Confidence & Supply rather than entering into a C&S Agreement, and voting issue-by-issue – including, potentially, on C&S matters like particular tax increases or whathaveyou.

There are some serious risks, to be sure, inherent in such a position.

For one thing, you lose much of your ‘bargaining power’ with the larger party forming the hypothetical bedrock of the next Government [in this case, almost certainly National]. After all, all you’re effectively in a position to do is state that you’re allowing them a ‘free run’ [more or less] at being Government – and are rather limited in your ability to demand policy concessions, as well as ruling yourself almost definitely right out of contention for anything Ministerial [as while being a Minister Outside Cabinet is one thing … being a Minister Outside *Government* would uh … possibly be taking Winston’s known penchant for constitutional innovation straight out into the reality-bending. ‘Quantum’, you might say].

For another, it also carries with it many of the same foibles of actually opting to just outright support a Government of the blue stripe. In that many voters will nevertheless choose to blame you for making the government they DIDN’T want happen, regardless of the fact that you’re not *actively* supporting it in Parliament.

And for a third – presuming you elect *not* to abstain on C&S in a particular motion, in order to halt something you’re vehemently opposed to [say, the privatization of a major asset, for instance] … well, there is a very real risk, dependent upon the whims and whimsey of the Governor General of the day, that this might bring the entire Government down and force a new Election. [This literally happened in Australia in living memory]. At which point, most likely, your party finds itself broadsided from every direction as being responsible for the aforementioned early Election, and decimated at the polls both due to this reasoning and voters getting in behind the ‘big two’ to attempt to make sure that there’s more ‘sureity’ and no ‘hold-us-all-to-ransom’ ‘third party’ required for Government formation.

In other words, there runs a very real risk that such an arrangement’s likely and natural consequence would be to fundamentally damage MMP. More so than, arguably, our present four-party slash three-and-a-half-parties model suggests has happened already.

Yet at the same time, one might very feasibly argue that the risks inherent in actually SUPPORTING a Government on C&S or actively joining one in Coalition are not entirely dissimilar. NZF will still be blamed by a reasonable proportion of voters no matter WHICH way the Party sides; and runs the risk of looking even less independent and more slavishly devoted to bad ideas if it finds itself compelled by the terms of a C&S agreement to vote in favour of measures with which they fundamentally disagree [see, for instance, Winston’s support for the privatization of Auckland Airport in 1998], or if it alternatively winds up actively bringing down the Government rather than continue to support same.

With these facts in mind, it is perhaps arguable that the ‘wild card’ element opened up by not being bound to a C&S agreement’s terms – but instead having far greater freedom to stand and vote ‘issue by issue’ – affords a greater deterrent to the National Party [or whomever it might be] against their natural penchant towards putting forward avowedly neoliberal bad policy which NZF may both votally disagree with and actively vote against.

Perhaps.

Orrrrrrr, National takes the long view, effectively runs an inverse of something that happened in 2008 [wherein Winston did the full-on Dirty Harry “do you feel lucky, punk?” monologue at the Nats], sees NZF’s pistol-to-the-head-of-the-Prime Minister, and basically dares NZF to go through with it – on the implicit assumption that in the impending next early Election, they’ll be rid of that pesky Winston Peters bloke for good as his party is punished by voters for creating the entire situation through being principled. This, i suppose, we could call “taking the long view” – one of instead of fighting a raging forest-fire directly, simply waiting for it to naturally ‘burn itself out’.

An incredibly novel spin on all of this would be for NZF to agree to abstain on C&S in order to allow Labour to govern [i.e. pointedly refuse to give their backing to National via abstension or otherwise if they attempted to form a Government]… but alone, with the Greens supporting them on C&S yet remaining outside of a Coalition. It would be unlikely to work for any number of reasons, although remains a minorly intriguing thought-experiment.

Now as for why any of this matters … I still tend to believe that New Zealand First has an important and meaningful contribution to make to the future of our politics. That, in the words of that old song Winston kept quoting in earlier years – “the best is yet to come”. It is no coincidence that for a pretty broad swathe of our recent political history, NZF have been the sine qua non standard-bearers for the economic nationalism and emphasis upon self-determination which we are vitally going to need if we want to remain a viable nation-state on into the intermediate-distant future.

It is therefore arguably kinda important that NZ First not do what literally every other ‘minor’ party that has EVER gone into a coalition governance arrangement with one of the ‘big two’ [and National in particular, come to think of it] has done … and basically wind up imploding slash deliberately undermined and salami-tactics’d into the very edge of electoral oblivion very shortly forthwith.

I mean, if we look at the record – it’s pretty undeniable. How did New Zealand First faire in each of the 1999 and 2008 Elections? [Although admittedly 2008 was following a C&S agreement rather than a formal Coalition, and was arguably also the result of other confounding factors bearing the initials “OGG”] Or, for that matter, ACT in 2011, 2014, and 2017 following their 2008-2011 arrangement. Or the Maori Party in 2011, 2014, and 2017 after the same term working with National. Or United Future, whether as the United Party in 1999 after supporting National [not that there was to far for them to possibly decline – although their share of the list vote nearly halved, and it’s quite possible Dunne would not have managed to re-enter Parliament at that year’s Election had National not stood aside for him in  Ohariu]; or as United Future in 2008 after supporting Labour, and again in a progressive slide unto the Abyss in pretty much every election since thanks at least partially to their support of National.

Oh, and for that matter – The Alliance party both imploding AND collapsing as a result of its relationship with Labour and the ‘gravitational’ pressures being exerted upon and within it due to the proximity of power (as well as *ahem* personality); with a similar, albeit slightly more drawn-out effect befalling its successor-party, the Progressive Coalition. One can even make the claim that the Green Party’s MoU support arrangement with the Labour Party has played a partial role in the former’s decline in this year’s General Election [albeit, as with NZF in 2008 – subject to an array of other confounding factors which may ameliorate and obscure this trend].

The long and the short of it is … yes, sure, the “Cross-Benches” option is HELLA risky.

But then, as far as I can see, so is getting ‘too close’ to either of the ‘major’ parties. And by “too close”, I perhaps mean “directly proximate to them at all”. I’m not sure that there is too much of a meaningful distinction in the minds of voters between “Coalition” and “Confidence & Supply Agreement Only”, after all, when it comes to psephological punishment, after all.

The choice between “Cross-Benches” and a more direct relationship, then, appears to be between something that’s yet to be really given a proper go [although one can argue that the Green Party’s choice to tacitly support Labour-NZ First in the first part of the 2005-2008 Parliamentary Term in this way means that there is both SOME precedence, as well as a pre-standing example of the party doing the abstention-supporting *not* then suffering in the polls at the next impending election for so doing – in fact, quite the opposite. They went *up*] … and something that’s been tried now well over a dozen times with the same – seemingly inevitable- result in literally each and EVERY occurrence upon which it’s been attempted.

Or, in other words … even though I’m basically propounding a completely hypothetical scenario here that I have little  doubt Winston is not seriously considering for the reasons blatantly aforementioned [less power, less influence, less Office] … when stacked up against the potential [i.e. likely] alternatives and their ultimate eventual outcomes, it’s not *nearly* as irrational celestial-pastry as it might first have perhaps appeared.

Who knows how things will actually go down later this week. In a previous [never likely to see the light of day] draft of this article, I suggested that the best way to understand Winston and New Zealand First’s coalition positions was the skillful application of quantum physics. In specia, Winston as a sort of Schrodinger’s Cheshire Cat – leaving the external observer entirely unsure of what’s actually going on inside the box. [Although to quote the Cheshire Cat from the Disney production, if you’re not sure where you’re going, then it probably doesn’t matter which of the left path or the right you ultimately take…] And, for that matter, running a sort of Winstonberg Uncertainty Principle wherein one can know *either* his position on an affair or the general direction he’s taking but not both at once.

All of which, together, may already have lead to a situation wherein the regular understandings of ‘gravity’ [i.e. the relative strength of attraction between two objects – say political parties] find themselves subject to all manner of other considerations which render it no longer applicable. [Even ‘Entanglement’ perhaps being insufficient as a tool]

And which leaves us, to continue plumbing the absolute depths of what I remember from a youthful interest in certain fields of science, to a “Superposition” – that is to say, half-way between two other, otherwise arguably irreconcilable positions – as the most logical way to progress.

Will it work? Who knows.

Honestly? Who cares.

The course of New Zealand politics at this stage, is tantamount to a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and quite potentially signifying nothing.

And I’m not just meaning my writing here.

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20 Comments

  1. tony says:

    As a matter of some potential importance, does anyone have any idea of the strength of National’s ‘right-wing’ in the new caucus? The people who would do a Shipley if English concedes too much to the centre?

  2. Nick Morris says:

    The bottom line is that to do anything meaningful, apart from the veto, you have to be in government.
    Labour will not shaft the Greens again, so that shut out won’t happen.

    New Zealand First has been allowed not to announce who they will coalesce with because they trust Winston over the two main parties. And for no other reason.

    Winston, we believe, is committed to the main thrust of the NZF policies, all of which will struggle with National. So to achieve a legacy, he will have to go with Labour and the Greens.

    From that perspective, he has essentially no choice.

    That doesn’t mean he will choose that option. But let there be no mistake. When Winston leaves, there will be no one left who is trusted in the same way. So for new Zealand First to survive they will have to either announce before an election who they will go with or what their bottom lines are, or attach themselves to some identifiable issue.

    However, if I read Peters right, the legacy he wishes to leave is not NZF, particularly, it is some policy achievement that will outlast us all.

    My guess is that it will be either a Senate or a full rail link between Tauranga, Whangarei and Hamilton.

    I mean serious infrastructure, if he can’t get a permanent block on Immigration, which, in any case can’t outlast any individual administration.

    And NOT the well-being of NZF political aspirants.

    And let me make one last point.

    Labour and Labour voters are not going to settle for something that they regret as they sign it.

    Opposition is better than that.

    • mjh says:

      What leads you to say these are the major legacy items Winston (NZFirst) wants to achieve? I think the revival of economic nationalism is of far greater weight, and, as a NZF member, I trust that is what the party leadership will insist on — whatever course they take.

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        100% regards economic nationalism !

        From out of that one issue alone , springs everything else. I would like to see legislation drawn up that prevents any regression to the sort of free market ideology ( neo liberalism ) we have seen destroying our ‘ economic and social ‘ fabric for the last 33 years.

        And that is not so radical as it seems :

        After all , R.Douglas , R .Richardson both brought neo liberalism into this country by stealth and deceit . It was new back then , – and proved to be extremely unpopular. And stealth and deceit was the only way they knew it could be brought in . They knew if they explained the real ramifications to the public beforehand it would be dead in the water before they even started.

        Therefore the whole thing was conducted in a non democratic way.In real truth the neo liberals themselves are the true RADICALS.

        Peters announced on election night this :

        … ” We don’t like extremists, – we believe in laws and policy’s that support the mass majority of New Zealanders , and not just a small elite ,… who may have gotten control of the political system and the financial funding of political party’s , … shows that in this campaign ” …

        – Winston Peters.

        23/9/2017.

        And also this :

        …” The sell off of New Zealand interests to overseas buyers was the continuing story of this country’s decline since the 14th of July, 1984 “…

        And one way to start dismantling the neo liberal grip on the nation is to dismantle legislation that designed deliberately to make the Reserve Bank virtually independent from politics / govt. That would be a key bastion to attack early on.

        When we look at documentary’s such as this we see how these devious elements un-democratically twisted and perverted our social democracy for their own ends. It is a demonstration of the colossal gall of these people , – most of them , – found working in the background such as the Business Roundtable ( now known as the NZ Initiative. )

        New Zealand – In a Land of Plenty Full Doco – YouTube
        Video for New Zealand – In a Land of Plenty Full Doco▶ 1:44:13
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x04aJ_ICqYo

        Here you will see , a shady, unelected , unmandated body of individuals manipulating and perverting our social democracy through the use of large cash donations and insider deals , reports designed by them and then submitted on to the incumbent govt for their benefit , – cynically and knowingly creating mass unemployment and the destruction of industry’s in order to keep inflation under 5% with the end goal of creating downwards pressure on wages and massively increased profits for themselves.

        These scurrilous individuals were the sole benefactors of the privatization , asset sales , and restructuring of our State Owned Enterprises. Them and them only.

        THERE NEVER WAS any true intention of sharing any of the wealth they took from the NZ public , – wealth and infrastructure that was carefully built up over decades by New Zealanders taxes and the whole ‘ Trickle Down Theory ‘ was nothing more than a myth to sell to the public to deflect criticism from their treasonous plundering.

        And , – as a side benefit , – obscene salary’s being awarded to many of them such as the recent one awarded to one of the CEO’s of Fonterra.

        One of the reasons I often include the link to Hugh Prices excellent article of NZ ‘s political and economic history is because it is an educational resource to shed understanding for those new to the world of recent NZ political history or younger people who were not even born during those days that may care to read up on it in order to understand more fully the malaise we now find ourselves inder.

        New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
        http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

        If Winston Peters is dead serious about ‘changing the way this country has been run over the last 30 years both economically and socially ‘ , – there is ample to get his teeth into and take aim at.

        And if he does start to dismantle the works this cadre of treasonous networks and the individuals who comprise them , – he will be regarded as being far more than just a legacy builder , – he will undoubtedly be regarded as a hero and true champion of the people of New Zealand.

  3. Marc says:

    I am of the view that an early election, maybe as early ad mid to late next year, is definitely possible, yes perhaps even likely.

    NZ First are a party that will go up the noses of many, on both side of the spectrum, sooner or later, whether they support one of the larger parties, or not, and sit on the cross benches.

    While some of us celebrated National losing some key allies (Dunne and MP), thus being short of a majority, they will now have to try and make a deal with Winston and NZ First, who they enjoyed ridiculing or attacking during the last three and more years.

    And as Winston has at times attacked both, Nats and Labour, the Labour Party will despite of more in common with NZ First policy, also have their problems with NZ First, forget not, there is one Shane Jones in the mix now.

    Progressive minded women, minority representatives, Tangata Whenua and so, those within Labour, they will not be happy with some of the lines that have and likely still will come from Winston and his colleagues. Least happy will be the Greens, although James Shaw is bending over backwards to get a ‘change of government’.

    It is a real mess, the whole situation, and the election result was a disappointment to me, as Labour Greens were not given the vote for change, they had hoped for.

  4. Nick Morris says:

    One more thing.

    We do hope that New Zealand First have already opted to join a progressive government where their new ideas are going to be welcome. However, they may opt for some other arrangement with a conservative do-nothing party. This is their perfect right.

    However, since they hold the “casting vote” it will be the Left’s pleasure to spend as long as necessary introducing those policies New Zealand First promoted, that were also part of both the Greens’ and Labour’s policy. There are many many many. From minimum wage to TPP to immigration reform, to housing to rail and beyond. (In fact theoretically, we could see a National government which can chose to introduce the entire Left programme or resign. And we know which it will be).

    But one wonders how many dead rats the Keep-Them-Honest Party would have to swallow before they were seen as the party of Sell-Out, or alternatively, they brought down the National regime or lost half their caucus to the “baubles of office”, as we have seen before.

  5. Danyl Strype says:

    “The course of New Zealand politics at this stage, is tantamount to a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and quite potentially signifying nothing.”

    Well put. The only good thing I can say about this election is that if we did not have representative government we would potentially be engaged in a viscous civil war. There will be a vicious propaganda war whatever NZ Fist decide, we know that because it began on election night. But at least it’s unlikely to lead to armed conflict in the streets. Probably.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      There will be no ‘ armed civil war ‘ , – nor is one necessary.

      In no way shape of fashion are conditions here in NZ even REMOTELY bad enough for groups to coalesce into a united front.

      The very idea of that in NZ currently is a joke.

      True there may be a few isolated individuals or small groups who might talk about it ,… but no . Its just not going to happen. But you are VERY RIGHT about this :

      … ” The only good thing I can say about this election is that if we did not have representative government we would potentially be engaged in a viscous civil war ” … but even if we still had FFP ,… all that would happen would be what happened before , – when the public voted for MMP.

      And yes of course, …no matter which way Peters goes , there will be a propaganda war ,- more efficiently financed from the far right than the Left , – if they are spurned. Which is a high possibility.

      We already know who has been pulling the strings behind govts to carry on the neo liberal agenda in this country for the last three decades, – none other than groups such as the New Zealand Initiative. The money people. The Globalists.

      And yes they will use every dirty underhanded method and the media to collapse , undermine , and weaken a Labour led govt. That’s a guaranteed cert ! Their Empire is being threatened. These ‘ born to rule’ types will not take things lying down .

      But this is good.

      This is where we want to be. Blatantly and audaciously exposing their spurious deceitful treasonous narrative with which they have plied the NZ public for decades unchallenged.

      THIS is where the theater of war will be conducted , – in the office , in the factory’s , – in every large and small business in this land , in every home , in every public gathering. In every political debate , in every opening of parliament , in every dialogue of just what the definition really means , … by the term ‘national sovereignty ‘ as the foundation stone of our very society.

      Both economically , – AND socially .

  6. mjh says:

    Curwen, I’m a NZF member like you (met you at the 2016 convention, although you likely don’t remember it) and generally like your blog posts. This one, however, is kind of well…incoherent. The thing Winston/NZF wants to do is to undo the horrible effects of Rogernomic/neoliberal economic crap. How to do it? Siding with National is IMPOSSIBLE. Labour/Greens: what will they do? Anything? Hmm…
    But sitting on the cross benches only means stopping things from getting worse…but looking at homeless figures, suicide figures, prison figures, students starting degrees but unable to finish figures… we need to reverse this.
    NZ First can reverse this! We can use our leverage! I am waiting for the word that we are going to be involved in a great project to make NZ a country of full employment, decent wages, funded healthcare, funded education, and so much more.
    Do I see a new day dawning??

  7. Andrea says:

    OMG! If none of them holds the vaunted ‘mandate’ they’ll ALL have to co-operate! We, the people, might actually get a fair deal for the first time in ages! Woohoo! and bring on the age of active cross benches. More change than we’d bargained for after nine long years of fearful status quo. ‘Strong and stable’ – oh, the irony!

    ‘National takes the long view’ – quarterly figures, of course. Unless it’s that long rearward view to the Golden Years when the plebs knew their place. A sweet little chuckle, that one.

  8. millsy says:

    So Curwen….any inside info as to what way Winston will jump?

  9. CLEANGREEN says:

    “There will be a vicious propaganda war whatever NZ First decide”

    Yes that is why Winston want an overhaul of our MSM and the policy is enshrined in theirt policies.

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      Healthy , balanced Nationalism.

      Its been a very long time since we have seen anything like that in our country. Since the 14th of July , 1984 ,…. in fact.

  10. Sally's Husband says:

    One thing that annoys me is the msm obsession with the length of negotiations, claiming that the public is running out of patience.

    Rubbish.

    We have our own busy lives to lead and fixating on the coalition talks is the least of our concerns. The msm need to get a grip. They are delusional if they think we’re worried whether this takes two weeks or four. It is what it is.

  11. RichJ says:

    Who is kidding who here!
    This is the last hurrah for Peters.
    Forget all the weasel words and lookk at time and chances lost earlier. What does Peters want most. Time as the Prime Minister. He is down to a narrow window of opportunity so it is now or never, the train is leaving the station now.

    Whatever it takes for 12 months in the PM’s chair.
    Labour will not wear it but the Nats will and some serving arrangement will
    be cobbled together.

  12. Pat O'Dea says:

    Mr Peters has delayed announcing whether New Zealand First will do a deal with National or Labour until it’s discussed by his party’s board which is expected to meet tomorrow.
    But a politics expert said it was unlikely the New Zealand First board were the true decision-makers on who would form the next government.
    Auckland University political scientist Jennifer Curtin said she believed Mr Peters was just buying some time to think about his decision.

    http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/nz-first-board-set-to-consider-possible-coalition-deal/ar-AAttlkC?li=AAaeXZz&ocid=spartanntp

    I agree with political scientist Jennifer Curtin. The last coalition negotiation talks have been held, Winston Peters has made his decision.

    Further than that, and as I have been saying for months now, all the evidence points to it, that decision is to go with National.

    Winston is just buying time, not to think about his decision, but to browbeat and bully his board into going along with what he knows will be deeply unpopular inside his party.

    Curtin is right, the NZF board are not the true decision makers.

    In the unlikely event that the board refuses agree to Winston Peters demand that they endorse a coalition with National, they will be sidelined.