Settling The Stardust: The Grim Logic Behind National’s Opposition Tactics

By   /   November 9, 2017  /   43 Comments

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WHAT WAS HE THINKING? When Simon Bridges pulled his little parliamentary stunt and extracted his procedural pound of flesh – what was he thinking? Was it no more than a spur-of-the-moment bluff? Did Labour’s Chris Hipkins give in too readily? What would have happened if the Government had been prepared to call his bluff? We’ll never know. We never do.

WHAT WAS HE THINKING? When Simon Bridges pulled his little parliamentary stunt and extracted his procedural pound of flesh – what was he thinking? Was it no more than a spur-of-the-moment bluff? Did Labour’s Chris Hipkins give in too readily? What would have happened if the Government had been prepared to call his bluff? We’ll never know. We never do. History turns on such moments. The course our political leaders end up taking is always just one of an infinite number of alternatives they could have followed. But the courses chosen: the paths followed; they matter. You can put a ring around that, they matter a lot.

What Simon Bridges was thinking, probably, was that it was a risk worth taking. As the Shadow Leader of the House, he had given the Government his word that National would support Trevor Mallard’s bid to become Speaker, providing that, in return, his colleague, Anne Tolley, would be elected Deputy-Speaker. Labour had agreed. A deal had been struck. As an “honourable” Member of Parliament, Simon’s word should have been his bond. So, yes, his bold parliamentary gambit represented a huge breach of trust. It was risky. But the potential reward was worth it.

Welching on the Speaker deal. Slapping Labour’s face in front of the whole world. Making them look weak and incompetent by turning the first sitting of the House of Representative into a shambles and a farce – and coming out of it with a concession that promised many, many more opportunities to frustrate and humiliate the Government. These were all victories – his victories – and they would transform him into National’s warrior knight.

Bridges’ actions had achieved something else. Such an open and unconscionable breach of trust made it more-or-less impossible for National’s period in opposition to be anything other than a bloody, no-holds-barred fight to the finish. Bill English had hinted that this might, indeed, be National’s plan when he told the NZ Herald that “it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government […] we have no obligation to smooth [Labour’s] path. None whatsoever.”

But like this? On the first day? Surely not.

Jacinda Ardern must now decide how her Labour-NZ First-Green government should respond to Bridges’ ambush. Like Barack Obama, she has come into office with an all-embracing programme of social, economic and cultural uplift. A programme in which she hoped the losing party would not only be willing to play the role of her government’s necessarily critical opposition, but also that of a patriotically constructive partner in the urgent task of national renewal. It is now very clear that this objective will only be achieved over the broken body of the National Party. With all hopes of collaboration and compromise dashed on the very first day, Jacinda’s new government is faced with the additional challenge of advancing its ambitious legislative programme in the face of the Opposition’s implacable and unrelenting resistance.

The most effective way for the National Opposition to resist Jacinda’s reforming government is by doing everything within its power to shatter its supporters’ faith in the political system’s capacity to deliver real change. The most terrifying sight the National Opposition has witnessed so far must surely have been the size and enthusiasm of the crowd of ordinary New Zealanders who gathered in Parliament Grounds to welcome the newly sworn-in Prime Minister and her Cabinet back from Government House. Bill English and his caucus would have observed all those expressions of hope and joy and realised that unless this new-found faith in politics – Jacinda’s “stardust” – was dispersed, and rapidly, then the new government’s lease on the Treasury Benches was likely to be a long one.

National is well aware that its own supporters’ understanding of politics is very different from that of Labour’s, the Greens’ and NZ First’s followers. National voters see politics as a purely instrumental activity: the means by which their interests and aspirations are secured and encouraged. Most of them are well aware of the fact that this can only be achieved at the expense of the less prosperous half of the New Zealand population – and most of them are quite okay with that. In their eyes, the poor and the marginalised have only themselves to blame for the multiple misfortunes which assail them. If you’re a loser in this society, it’s obviously because you haven’t tried hard enough to win!

It is this ruthlessly competitive approach to life and politics which allows them to respond to Simon Bridges parliamentary ambush with nothing but unalloyed admiration. Whatever it takes to win is fine by them. If their opponents label such tactics “dirty politics”, then they will simply shrug-off the accusation. “Dirty politics?”, they will chortle. “Is there any other kind?”

What was Simon Bridges thinking when he staged his parliamentary ambush? That it would not hurt his political career to be seen to be responding so unequivocally to the expectation of his party’s supporters that everything must be done to make politics appear tawdry and mean-spirited? That every stratagem which serves to make people despair of politics; and every act that causes them to turn away from politicians in disgust; will be heartily approved by National’s voters?

Those would certainly have been the thoughts of a young, ambitious leader-in-waiting, brashly confident that the National Opposition will retain the unwavering support of all those New Zealanders intent on recovering their lost social and economic ascendancy – no matter what it does.

Use any means necessary – just so long as that bloody stardust settles!

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43 Comments

  1. David Stone says:

    I reckon there are not so many national supporters who will be enthused by this kind of manoeuvre Chris. Most will be embarrassed. I think this will do them more harm than good in the long run.
    Cheers D J S

    • cleangreen says:

      Chris and those faces show it all dont they just.

      Bridges sneering while brownlee, Adams and co snigger!!!!!

    • Gosman says:

      Do you know many National supporters?

      I believe the National party is just doing what many left wing supporters here wanted the left leaning parties to do over the past 9 years.

    • Andrewo says:

      Oh No!

      We’re cheering him on. The next three years (if they last that long) look to be a fun time.

      Labour is folding like a cheap suit on every issue it touches:- Today it’s the TPP.

      What’s next? Charter Schools?

      • bert says:

        It’s going to be a long hard three years Andrewo, then another, then another, but at least you have the luxury of consoling yourself with Gosman.

      • Sam Sam says:

        it will take Jacinda at least 3 terms to reorganise the economy away from speculation in theoretical finance markets back to the productive economy.

      • Mike the Lefty says:

        After listening to David Bennett’s recycled and self-pitying rant about socialism in parliament in the Address and Reply debate – if this is the calibre of National Party opposition then I would weep if I was a National supporter.

    • bert says:

      “I reckon there are not so many national supporters who will be enthused”

      I read this first line without my glasses. I thought the last word read “euthanized” National supporters don’t deserve this luxury.

  2. Sanctuary says:

    Labour needs to respond in kind by coming up with any reason, however flimsy, to renege on it’s “deal” negotiated under duress. National will wail about bad faith, but the public won’t care.

    Unfortunately, Labour is more likely to behave like Obama, and spend three years trying to compromise with the implacable and appease the unappeasable.

    • Dave says:

      If the coalition does not publicly assert it’s self relating to National’s infantile obstructive grand standing behavior, they may will be seen as weak and political naive.,loss of public support may will follow.
      No quarter should be given to National, they are a bunch of self serving,short sighted arrogant arse holes.If National believes their recent behaviour in parliament is being a productive opposition, then I think they are delusional.

      • OCON says:

        If their oppositional behaviour has pissed you off Dave as well as others on the left then they are being a productive opposition.

        Or is your definition of a productive opposition one that means National makes it easy for Labour to do what ever they want without question?

  3. roy cartland says:

    Worked for Trump…. oh wait…

  4. e-clectic says:

    The National (right) and Labour (left) perspectives in a picture – http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/left-vs-right-world/

  5. cleangreen says:

    Very good article Chris thanks,

    This nasty direction that National have submitted to in the political ‘cirus’ being played out in Parliament is clearly showing us all that National are reduced to yet another wanton bitter administration that prefers to become just another ‘three years’ of being another ‘mean, hurtful, draconian, lying, dispicable as they were in government.

    But luckily this time jacinnda s in the leadership and National are just ‘the also ran’ lot now in opposition.

    Jacinda must complete in her next three years all those “all-embracing programme of social, economic and cultural uplift”.

    Programs including the important ‘regional rail transport policy upgrades her government in partnership with NZF, are already beginning with Northland, already hastily announced by Shane jones.

    We in HB/Gisborne are awaiting the same announcements for our rail restoration for our communities.

    So a lot is riding on this goodwill to have regional rail offered again to our export producers and the new jobs being offered through the increased funding for industry also.

    Chris your advise to Jacinda is correct in every way, as we need PM Jacinda to act ‘decisively’ to carry out all these social programs now!!!!!

    This is to ensure to cement them in place now, so the lying opposition do not ‘errode’ that trust we have in Jacinda.

    As we saw happen during the US election when the Democratic party have effectively now stopped President Trump from carrying out his promised changes, national are persuing the same approach here in NZ.

    Jacinda, there is no better time than today to begin those changes.

    Jacinda,-we are worried the evil oppostion are now planning other ways to trip up your new government at this very time so “lets do this” NOW PLEASE.

    I recieved this note from Jacinda today and will post it here also; – and in so doing ask you to send our communiies the message that the work to reopen the HB/Gisborne rail will start this next week also, under your committments to ‘develop our regions’ as labour/NZF/Greens promised in the next Gvernment ‘they would reopen our rail service,’ so we do need to hear this now please.

    Letter from Jacinda. 9/11/17.
    Dear ————–,
    With the opening of Parliament today, the Government began our legislative agenda. This is where the real change begins.
    I want the way this Government runs to be different. It will be a Government of transformation. We’ll put people right at the heart of our agenda ¬– every decision will be assessed on its impact on people and at every turn, our Government will be guided by kindness and compassion.
    As well as our values, we laid out our policy plans for the term today. They’re firmly focussed on making New Zealanders’ lives even better. We will fix the housing crisis, build up our education system, ensure everyone can get the healthcare they need, take action on climate change, develop our regions and raise everyone’s incomes.
    We have the plan and the policies to do all this.

    Chris wrote;
    “Jacinda Ardern must now decide how her Labour-NZ First-Green government should respond to Bridges’ ambush. Like Barack Obama, she has come into office with an all-embracing programme of social, economic and cultural uplift. A programme in which she hoped the losing party would not only be willing to play the role of her government’s necessarily critical opposition, but also that of a patriotically constructive partner in the urgent task of national renewal. It is now very clear that this objective will only be achieved over the broken body of the National Party. With all hopes of collaboration and compromise dashed on the very first day, Jacinda’s new government is faced with the additional challenge of advancing its ambitious legislative programme in the face of the Opposition’s implacable and unrelenting resistance.

    The most effective way for the National Opposition to resist Jacinda’s reforming government is by doing everything within its power to shatter its supporters’ faith in the political system’s capacity to deliver real change. The most terrifying sight the National Opposition has witnessed so far must surely have been the size and enthusiasm of the crowd of ordinary New Zealanders who gathered in Parliament Grounds to welcome the newly sworn-in Prime Minister”

  6. tauputa says:

    Partisan sanctimonious drivel Chris, Jacinda and Chris Hipkins tried the same stunt last term when trying to sneak Trevor Mallard into the speakers role over Nationals David Carter, it failed that time around as National had mastered basic arithmetic.

    Interesting how its Jacinda and Hipkins who got hoodwinked by they’re own trick – you would have thought they would have learn’t a thing or two from they’re own recent political machinations.

    Its going to be an interesting ride and National will work long and hard to make the government look like buffoons – blowing away Jacindas stardust. Maybe they will suceed maybe not.

  7. Cemetery Jones says:

    The fact that the smarmy anti-Cunliffe purger and wannabe gun-banner Chris Hipkins got outsmarted by this cue-card spouting, theatrically brylcreamed plankton Simon Bridges says so much about the means by which Labour must have been going about candidate selection for far too long.

  8. Kenneth says:

    Interesting. The inept arrogance of English, Brownley, Bridges and Joyce already have the hallmarks of a pack of roving playground bullies. It will be interesting when English’s bully boys begin disturbing a deeply rooted sense of fair play imbedded in the New Zealand electorate.

  9. Castro says:

    Yep, ruthless winner-takes-all is great in theory, until the Have Nots with their backs against the wall and nothing to lose take up arms and then the “fight” becomes a literal one, not with money, but physical violence. Watch the Natzis change their tune and start begging for their lives when this happens (and it WILL).

    • Im right says:

      FFS, still a keyboard soldier Castro and still spouting on about NZ civil unrest/war. You are like a broken record with the needle stuck on screech….you have been telling everyone ‘its coming’, care to narrow it down so we can guage your dire predictions, or would that open your bluster and fantasies up to scruitiny Castro?

    • SpaceMonkey says:

      At the rate things have been going… it’s only a matter of time, comrade!

  10. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    Thank God!

    I am very grateful for Simon Bridges’ badly thought out actions.

    It reveals to the great unwashed at a stroke, where National Party, and their supporters, values are.

    They can no longer pretend to be what they are not.

    I would love to play that spiv at poker or meet him at the local wargaming club…

    • Xtine says:

      Yes it made it really clear just how non- cooperative and petty politics can be. I was embarrassed and thought it pathetic. Government is elected to serve the needs of its people and this type of petty behaviour shows some true colours. A mans word is his being and Simon Bridges just went to the bottom of my list.

  11. Mr Tank says:

    Anyone thinking it was not going to be like this has not been paying attention for a very long time. The wake up call has been delivered now fight!

  12. debsisdead says:

    Really? Despite the fact that most of the neoliberal scumsuckers who comprise Labour’s parliamentary party will be letting out a huge sigh of relief that none of the ever so slightly red tinged ‘reforms’ are gonna see the light of day?
    Bridges pulled this off with assistance from within Labour – for sure.
    Ardern is now free to make all sorts of pretend humanist announcements knowing as she does that not only do they not have a hope of seeing daylight, she has a self appointed scapegoat, mean old Simon Bridges to blame it all on.
    Win – Win for the arseholes.

    When Jacinda comes back from the farcical mock TPP meeting with the news that Aoteroa has sold its sovereignty down the river by agreeing to the ‘investor arbitration’ rort is there any chance at all of any Jacindamaniacs waking up to realise they have been sold down the river by the usual mob of greedies – I doubt it, the determination with which fools throw good intentions after bad outcomes in the name of ‘party loyalty’ never fails to destroy this society even more.
    Forget that committment to TPP ratification has dropped to four nations Aotearoa, Singapore, Japan & Vietnam, the media giants & drug compainies are gonna collect in those former nations no matter what, and best of all since the US as the state which benefits most from the four’s arrant stupidity is gonna have their cake & eat it, since there are no reciprocal concessions having to be offered by the US any longer.

    After that it barely matters the new government will be stalemated domestically by the select committee loss of control and truly buggered internationally by the TPP.
    I can see it now – Ruger sues Aotearoa for about 3 times annual GDP because they (Ruger) had made an investment strategy which considered Aotearoa’s ongoing commitment to killing poor unwhite people in Central Asia a given. Now they see a massive loss from a drop in projected armament sales. No it won’t come to that, Jacinda will have agreed to an increase in deployment long before.

  13. Nick Morris says:

    Fool me once…

  14. patricia bremner says:

    Those hopeful people who came out to welcome their new government represent many of us who could not be there in person, but were there in spirit, heartened and with renewed belief in the system.

    We admire Jacinda’s ability to express our hopes and to let people know the intent of her government. We follow her on Facebook for her up dates, and newcomers like Tamati Coffey with his common touch.

    Bullying tactics by National, involving subterfuge and nastiness, leave large numbers of NZers cold. They see the ‘poor losers’ who used others work while not paying for it, and use inside information to try to embarrass competitors, and deny people’s rights to compensation.

    The bulk of people want to see improvements in ordinary lives, and are now not accepting the fear mongering lies and desperate behaviour of National in opposition.

    More and more examples of what could have been done and wasn’t by this lying bunch will keep them in opposition for a long time, as Jacinda and her coalition fix it.

  15. Louis says:

    Marja Lubeck Labour List MP
    Yesterday at 11:28 •
    I’ve had some questions about yesterday’s performance by National during the election of the speaker.
    It’s not really the big deal that some like to make out it is. But it does give an indication as to what kind of opposition we can expect to see.
    We believed there was agreement on the Speaker roles. But National decided not to stick by that and disrupt the process.
    We made a decision to move on from the situation, as we wanted to open Parliament in the same way we want to govern.
    Constructive, positive, collaborative.
    Opposition’s role is to hold the government to account. It’s not about disrupting process and procedures and in the end that will only be hurting the country and people of New Zealand.
    We knew we had the numbers (58-56) but as they were being contested by the Opposition, that would have meant putting the speaker selection to a vote.
    The pragmatic solution had the result that Trevor Mallard received unanimous support.
    We compromised on the number of places on select committees (109). Opposition wanted 121, we wanted 96, the number settled was 109.
    It doesn’t make that much of a difference if Select Committees are used the way they have been operating. Collegial and in the best interest of making laws for New Zealand.
    Making the process more difficult than it needs to be at Select Committee stage, just means that more work will go to the whole House spending more time there to debate the legislation.
    You have to wonder if that is how National wants to conduct themselves, undermining established process, not making the best use of taxpayers’ money.
    We’re proud of the positive approach we’re bringing. And will continue to bring well overdue change.
    State Opening is today from 10am. This is a great way to stay connected to our past. You can watch this ceremony live or on demand. The Governor General will read the Governments’ plan and at 2pm the Address in Reply debate will start.
    That means comments and questions from the floor about Governments plan.
    If you enjoyed the commotion yesterday – you might want to log in around 2pm, there may be more where that came from.
    At least now there’s no more doubt
    that National has made a choice about how they want to conduct themselves.
    But we have work to do. Until 10pm tonight. We will be passing the new law on extending parental leave late that night (Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill)
    https://www.facebook.com/MarjaLubeck/posts/289426054882389

  16. Sonja says:

    They are simply doing what a good Opposition do, and that is to oppose.
    Also, National actually won the election (simply the opportunist WP did not side with them, maybe because of notw-known court actions?).
    So National are feeling hard done by. They won ten more seats than Labour and 200,000 more votes, spin it how you will. It’s because of MMP and Winnie they are in Opposition, not because the majority of voters did not want them to be Government. So now we have the biggest Opposition since 1983, with more electorate seats and real clout on select committees. They will be all out to make this a one-term government, as this is a govt without a true mandate. Peters has seven percent support, no seat, yet now we get his unwanted policies. The NZ dollar has crashed already. The arrognce of this new got is outstanding, you would have thought they actually won the election. They did not. Winston got to choose, and in the end, he did not ‘go with the party who polls highest’.
    Go National, knock out NZ First and the Greens for 2020, you have a very good chance at this, especially NZ First. Both shed votes in this election, lost seats, they do not have a mandate to govern!!

    • Geoff Lye says:

      Oh yes they do unlike national supporters who only think in terms of FPP left voters think in terms of MMP and vote stragetically and split voted. This ensured as wide a cross section of parties were represented which were Labour NZ First and The greens.

      So you right wingers need to get used to the idea stragetic voting is here to stay and the Greens and NZ Firsts votes are going to grow, along with Labour as people who have lost hope come back and vote. Remember 22% of the population never registered or voted.

    • AB says:

      Lols – another innumerate National Party supporte

    • J says:

      Sonja, national did not win the election; only a majority of 61 plus wins an election. national never had enough. Only Labour, NZ First and Greens had a majority to govern. Stop spinning lies.

      As for Peters’ court action date; if he had gone with national and got rid of the poor excuses of that cabinet for their dirty, greedy politics, then maybe parliament would have improved, but national is beyond saving as a party even had joyce, bennett, english, bridges gone.
      Labour, NZ First and Greens as Government is a much better future for ALL New Zealanders.

      As Shane Jones described tonight in Parliament, you’re going through the 7 stages of grief. You’re still at step one – denial. Judging by your comments, it’s going to take you a while to recognise truth.

    • Louis says:

      My, those sour grapes are very sour. The new government did win the election and National that didn’t have the numbers to form government lost. That’s MMP not FPP. So none of what you wrote is true Sonja, strange how National people were fine with MMP when National formed government. The new Labour led coalition does indeed have a mandate or it wouldnt be the government, even Bill said its legitimate. Previous opposition was 58 when Nats were in power now National and Act =57 so its not the biggest opposition since 1983. Winston and NZ First gave National a fair shot, they offered him more but refused to move on line of policy. National wanted a greater concession re select committee 120 but only got 109, so the concession is not a great as you think, and the new government can always do what National did and pass more legislation by urgency thereby knocking National out of the process. the NZ$ was dropping prior the formation of the new government besides a lower dollar is good for our exporters and its exporters that make a country money. National did try and knock out NZ First and the Greens they failed and thats why National that has no friends to partner with is sitting in opposition and unless the National party renew and find some other parties to buddy up with its going to remain in opposition under the MMP system.

    • Dave says:

      If the coalition does not publicly assert it’s self relating to National’s infantile obstructive grand standing behavior, they may will be seen as weak and political naive.,loss of public support may will follow.
      No quarter should be given to National, they are a bunch of self serving,short sighted arrogant arse holes.If National believes their recent behaviour in parliament is being a productive opposition, then I think they are delusional.

    • Dave says:

      Absolute nonsense, you cannot be assured of winning an MMP election with 44.6% of the vote.
      I believe on two occasions under FPP National was elected to govern having the most seats but less votes than the Labour Party,hardly democratic.
      However Labour took it on the chin,they certainly didn’t behave like spoilt brats as National have been of late.

    • Mike the Lefty says:

      If National “won” the election, then why are they not on the government side of the house?. National supporters obviously still trying to console themselves with the myth that National never actually lost the election and they have been deprived of government only by some constitutional anomaly. Why don’t you lot admit to yourselves that you failed to convince the majority of voters that you knew better?

    • David Stone says:

      If the election had been carried out under FPP, nearly all the green vote nearly all the Maori party vote, and most of the NZF vote would have gone to labour , and the result would have then been more obvious .
      D J S

  17. silvertuatara says:

    While it was rather shambolic in parliament yesterday, it remains that the Labour lead government is in no way less empowered than the National government was for the previous nine years.

    Difficult and contentious policy was introduced under urgency by the National government to circumvent scrutiny, and by doing so National have normalised the practice which while National will complain if the new government follow National down that track, ultimately when National complain over the use of strategy that they used during their tenure they will be seen for the hollow men and women that they are appearing to be portraying themselves as as the newly appointed opposition.

  18. Sonja says:

    Even Jacinda Ardern on election night phoned Bill English, admitting that National had more votes. Can it be any clearer than that? National have ten more seats than Labour and the Greens combined. Can that be any clearer either. Labour got 36 per cent of the vote, National 44.4 per cent of the vote. Can anytihing be clearer than that? The Government is not called the Coalition of the Losers for nothing. MMP is lawful maybe, but it does represent the will of the majority, spin it as you will!!

  19. crissie says:

    This is a very dangerous road to follow. When people have nothing to lose then they become desperate and desperate people do dangerous things. Many countries have experienced rebellion when they get desperate enough. Maybe those National supports need to think long and hard before they continue on that track.

  20. crissie says:

    This is a very dangerous road to follow. When people have nothing to lose then they become desperate and desperate people do dangerous things. Many countries have experienced rebellion when they get desperate enough. Maybe those National supports need to think long and hard before they continue on that track.