MUST READ: Democracy “A Bit Bonkers” – thoughts on Lizzie Marvelly & friends


THE EXPRESSIONS of stunned horror that greeted the news that Donald Trump had won the 2016 Presidential Election spoke volumes. Almost none of the people gathered to celebrate the election of the USA’s first female president believed a Trump victory was even remotely possible. On display that fateful November night was a lethal mixture of social isolation and social ignorance. The shocked and horrified young Democrats who turned their grief-stricken faces from the television screens clearly knew next to nothing about the America that had just dashed their hopes.

In New Zealand, the world’s most “woke” country, the risk of something very similar to Trump’s upset 2016 victory grows stronger by the day. The 2020 General Election may deliver New Zealanders their first one-term government in 45 years. If that is the outcome, then it will likely be produced by exactly the same combination of forces that toppled the Kirk-Rowling Labour Government in 1975. An angry cocktail of resentments and denials; of ordinary people feeling abandoned by the decision-makers; of core values and cherished traditions perceived as being under threat. A dark tsunami of voter anger: barely perceptible in its approach, but rearing-up to terrifying heights as, finally, it comes ashore.

And, of course, like Hillary supporters, the partisans of Labour and Green haven’t a clue. They just don’t see it: the anger and resentment; the alienation and bewilderment. Or, if they do, they simply don’t rate it. In the eyes of the decision-makers and their opinion-former allies, “ordinary people” simply aren’t up to it.

Consider the latest contribution from NZ Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly. The fact that New Zealand’s District Health Boards contain a majority of elected members strikes her as a serious design fault. “Democratic elections for District health Boards have always seemed bizarre to me”, she writes. “Though it’s important to listen to the views of the community when designing services to serve them, the idea that anyone, regardless of their experience, qualifications and skill set (or lack thereof) could be elected to a position where they are tasked with effectively running the health system in their region seems a bit bonkers.”

In these two chilling sentences, we can identify all the ingredients of the looming political disaster. Of these, it is Marvelly’s careless disdain for the capabilities of her fellow citizens that is the most telling. That such people might possess insights and understandings of which the “experts” she so clearly prefers are entirely innocent, does not appear to have occurred to her. Neither, apparently, has the thought that democracy itself is predicated on the notion that the views of ordinary people, as expressed through the ballot-box, constitute the beating heart of political sovereignty.

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No, “government of the people, by the people, for the people” cuts little ice with Marvelly. The word she offers up in preference to “government” is “governance”: something best left to professionals.

“Making a difference in an organisational setting, providing quality services for clients and ensuring at the very least that the bills are paid and the doors stay open, is a challenge that requires good governance,” opines Marvelly. Such work, she goes on to say, with all the breathless confidence of the recent convert, must be “conducted by directors who have the right mix of skills, experience and foresight to plan for worst and best case scenarios, pivot quickly when things aren’t quite right, and steer an organisation through times of both trouble and success.”

That working-class mums and dads, struggling to make their meagre wages stretch to housing, feeding and clothing their families might also have the skills, experience and foresight to plan for both the best and the worst, pivot quickly when things go wrong, and so steer themselves and their loved ones through good times and bad, is apparently an idea that has never crossed her mind.

Which is why, presumably, she felt compelled to suggest that “at least half of each health board around the country should be appointed experts, or even better, 60 percent.” With astonishing condescension, all the more objectionable for being unconscious, Marvelly concludes: “Retaining a minority of elected board members would allow DHBs to stay connected with their local communities, without giving the balance of power to people who may not have the skills to wield it properly.”

I have quoted Marvelly at some length because such a clear example of anti-democratic thinking is encountered only rarely on the pages of the daily press. Which is not to say that the elitism which lies at the heart of such social disparagement goes unnoticed by the people who are its principal targets. Just as Hillary Clinton’s description of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” only strengthened her opponent’s hand, the “progressives” all-to-obvious disdain for the competence of ordinary people will inevitably rebound to the Right’s electoral advantage.

The thousands of West Coasters who gathered in Greymouth last weekend to demonstrate their opposition to the Coalition Government’s policies will no doubt be dismissed as feral rednecks. Even worse epithets will be reserved for the 200+ women who attended the Speak Up For Women conference hosted by David Seymour in the Beehive’s banqueting hall.  Sticks and stones. The Act Party leader’s gesture, prompted by the failure of Massey University to defend the free speech rights of radical feminists, has significantly boosted Act’s chances of adding two – maybe three – new members to its parliamentary caucus.

There was a time when progressives and conservatives could both agree that 2+2=4. As next year’s election draws near, however, the confidence that there are still some propositions to which all politicians can sign-up – such as freedom of speech – diminishes. When young newspaper columnists openly disparage the notion that ordinary people can be trusted with the reins of government; when the same “experts” who led the world into its current condition are held up as the only persons capable of leading it out; then those still capable of grasping basic political arithmetic should not expect next year’s election to have a happy ending.

So long as ordinary people retain the right to vote; so long will pissing them off remain the very worst political strategy.



  1. “A dark tsunami of voter anger: barely perceptible in its approach, but rearing-up to terrifying heights as, finally, it comes ashore.” Love that turn of phrase!

    Maybe Lizzie would prefer health boards to be stacked with experts in “period poverty” and “decolonization” of the health system.

    • As a right winger I can only smile at these winds of good fortune. You would think the Left wokes would attempt to hide how much they despise the working class, but apparently lot. All power to them I say !

      • There is an entirely different code of honour that separates wokeness from vulnerable groups. Being woke in the traditional sense is mainly anti establishment and more about governance and self reliance. Every woke foot solider is supposed to take care of themselves and supply themselves with food and what ever else they need. This carries into protest actions there is generally no hierarchy and the experienced generally leads the inexperienced. That’s the nature of leaderless movements. Generally the woke form up organically and generally lack oversight apart from a few words from Greta Thunberg. Most woke foot soldiers to abandon there societal links just follow some code of honour.

      • I should be a left leaning voter. I’m totally working class, but I look at Labour, and I look at the Greens and they’re full of middle class wankers. I bet there wouldn’t be a calloused hand amongst them. And as a white male, they seem to think I’m responsible for every misdeed on the planet, and seem to have no interest in winning back my vote… So I won’t vote for them in their current reincarnation

    • Chruskl: “Maybe Lizzie would prefer health boards to be stacked with experts in “period poverty” and “decolonization” of the health system.”

      Heh! However: Marvelly would, I suspect, take this comment seriously. At the time of the Bob Jones bashathon, I remarked that she seemed very earnest: by that I meant humourless. I think that she’s also had a satire bypass.

      I perceive her the same way that I do all of the woke left: they’re middle class, living in a bubble, earnestly believing that Twitter reflects what the rest of us think about everything, and having pretty much zip idea how the rest of us must live.

  2. I’m really glad you wrote this Chris because I too was astounded at what she was trying to argue.

    TDBs own Dave Macpherson, who suffered the tragedy of his son dying in state ‘care’ incompetence ran on the DHB board to hold the pricks to account. Suggesting he doesn’t know what he’s talking about seems grotesque.

    It’s not the first time Lizzie’s authoritarian nature has shone through, she once wanted to punish those who didn’t vote…

    …bless the Woke, but sweet Jesus if they ever won power, it would make the Cultural Revolution look mild.

  3. This strain of Chris writing goes back at least to his infamous “Waitakere Man” of the BBQ pit–similar but different to Tony Blair’s “Ford Sierra Man”. Such composite creatures are generally “hard working”, “aspirational” and most importantly “ignored and misunderstood”.

    Do you pander to the reactionaries, or the 50% of New Zealanders, according to a recent survey, that do not know the names of the world’s seven Continents, or that the Earth travels around the Sun and takes 365 days to do so?

    This current Govt. has done its fair share and more of pandering to the dark New Zealanders, and the one’s who saw a Capital Gains Tax as a major affront to their individualist dreams, stoked by 30 years of neo liberal hegemony.

    As for DHBs, they are usually loaded to the gunwales with tin pot tory time servers out to top up their super. Yes there are exceptions to that, but rarely in the provinces. I would like to see the Public Sector full of ordinary people–Robert Reid in charge of WINZ/MSD (or overseeing its retirement on route to UBIs etc more like), Mike Treen at Treasury, Bomber Bradbury at RNZ…

  4. The last election was an accident. Labour did better than expected because they changed leaders and the National Party had no time to retool its campaign to counter. They won’t make that mistake again: the campaign to remove NZ First has already started in the media, with a constant drip feed of microscandals. The government is also useless. The fact that National is also equally useless doesn’t seem to have registered.

    All democracy means to me, and all it has ever meant to me, is vast numbers of old people making me pay for their tax cuts and benefits. It’s not that people like me love authoritarianism, but that we have always been at the mercy of the tyranny of the majority (in this case old people at the trough). It’s rational to want non-democratic appointees, because they have at least some chance of doing a decent job.

    • A – “The fact that National is also equally useless doesn’t seem to have registered.” I think it might have registered, but Labour pussyfooting around, abandoning CGT, the Greens’ patronising offensiveness, and now child poverty known to be just as bad as it ever was, has had me thinking that we may as well have the Nats – as a punishment to the Coalition. I’ve not thought that way before.

      I have never voted National. I once voted Values, quit Labour for the Greens, and quit the Greens for nobody. Marvelly just sounds like another idiotic mosquito – assume she’s green.

      • Applewood: “…the Greens’ patronising offensiveness…”

        And amen to that! God, they’re irritating. Unelectable, in my view.

        “….has had me thinking that we may as well have the Nats – as a punishment to the Coalition.”

        I’m inching towards this way of thinking myself. The poor likely won’t be any worse off under the Natz. But they’re certainly no better off under the Coalition.

        The only thing over which I’d cut Labour some slack is the CGT. Some time after the decision, I read this:
        And I realised that they were right not to implement it.

        “Marvelly just sounds like another idiotic mosquito – assume she’s green.”

        Haha, very good! A green mosquito: sounds awful…..not sure the Greens would want one of those in their membership list.

        • I think we may be being duped here d’estette. It’s all very well to give percentages of what proportion the rich pay of the total tax take (which is quite debatable), but without giving us what percentage that is of their total income makes it quite misleading. The article itself makes it clear it reflects income disparities. Even Obama pointed out the immorality of the cleaner paying proportionally more tax than the CEO. Trump bragged he hasn’t tax in 18 years. Transnational corporations pay as little as 4% here and Google and Microsoft just about nothing. Sorry I smell a rat.

  5. Some of those public sector people started out as ordinary people (and ended up as c…ts) who did best from the creation of the welfare state mostly pakeha (middle class capture) as they did the hiring and firing and they employed people just like themselves keeping the brown people down the bottom. And the latter is still happening. If we go through the welfare state and look the facts and figures are all there to see.

  6. Lizzies comments say more about the newspaper that is prepared too publish this than her idiotic ramblings.

    She needs too put herself in the position of having too deal like Dave Macpherson and many others who have had the nightmare of seeing the effects of in this case the DHBs and the callous way they deal with human life where all they have too do is apologize for their own massive failings then move on too the next victim.

    It is her ” professionals ” who are the ones who pose the greatest danger of all and only believe democracy should apply too the ruling classes of the Neo liberal system as no one else can be trusted.

    I have felt for some time that Jacinda and her colleagues would only govern for one term because despite the window dressing and slogans they have not realised that it is not the words but lack of real action in the lives of so many ravaged by the economic system that they are doomed too failure.

    The saddest part of all is that their collapse will deliver another National led government and more misery for those who genuinely thought Jacinda was the miracle on the horizon.

    With Bridges what you see is unfortunately what we will get and it maybe the last roll of the dice for all of the neo liberal parties and their members.

    Sooner rather than later a realignment like in the 30s and the 80s will take place.

    Generational change and subservience too the ruling classes and the resentment that comes with that always leads revolutions.

  7. I’m amazed how many provincial people are intending to vote ACT next time, because of these woke issues plus the perceived anti-farming bias, and police state mentality on firearms, free speech moderation, etc. These are not ‘natural’ right-wingers, but political refugees from mindless woke crap incorrectly described as “left”.

  8. I have to say that there will be a significant sense of schaudenfraude if Adern et al were turfed from office after a single term as it would no doubt burn the woke brigade like a thousand suns.
    Unfortunately just like the Democrats in the US, the woke brigade would learn nothing from the experience.
    Most people left or right detest these imbeciles and the longer Labour allows them so much influence the longer the periods between Labour Governments will become and the shorter their tenure.

  9. The smell of such right wing thinking has been around before. When I was growing up (not in NZ) both my parents told me how it came about in the 30s and what had to be done to counter it and survive. It’s a world wide zeitgeist. Only this time around there are no island nations ready to call the authoritarians’ bluff.

    Goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus…

    Oh wait. This IS the circus…

  10. “The thousands of West Coasters who gathered in Greymouth last weekend to demonstrate their opposition to the Coalition Government’s policies will no doubt be dismissed as feral rednecks.”

    I don’t think most progressives think like this. Beyond that fact, what is this column arguing? That Labour and the Greens should do what National Party voters want because otherwise they will lose the election?

    While National can say and do anything it wants, Labour and the Greens have to walk around on tippy toes in order not to upset people who are not going to vote for them anyway?

    It’s about time responsibility for voting choices be laid at the feet of those who make the choice.

    • Oh bollocks.
      National can do and say what it wants no more than Labour can.
      They made a shit tonne of promises they either knew they couldn’t deliver upon or should have known.
      This makes them either liars or incompetent. Which is worse? I’m not sure.
      However combined with this woke identity politics bullshit is what threatens to turf them out of power next year.
      However democracy dictates majority rules, so yeah – Labour do NOT get to do whatever the hell they want without considering the majority.
      Consequently they need to pitch policies that will appeal to a large enough voting base to ensure victory.
      If they don’t then they end up back in opposition.

  11. Lizzie clearly doesn’t understand the difference between Governance and Management. The Board’s job is to govern by setting policy, priorities and general direction. They employ the CEO and hold that person to account. The CEO and their management team do the actual running of the organisation which includes most of the stuff that Lizzie thinks the governance board do.

    Truly a useless piece of journalism when it comes to the factual information and every bit as worrying as Chris suggests when it comes to attitude.

    Incidentally the excuse that is being used on the left for the lack of action is that NZ First is holding them back. This is nonsense because in the neo-liberal era NZ First’s economic policies are more radical than Labour’s

  12. I am somewhat right wing but absolutely agree with Chris on this matter. These people are dangerous because they are:-
    1. Arrogant
    2. Incorrect and misguided
    To quote the great Winston Churchill
    Democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all the rest.

  13. Ms Marvalley is qualified as … to do what? Definitely not a journalist, that would mean that her scribblings would have to show some balance, impartiality maybe? A declaration of a touch of sycophantism/infatuation with the PM, maybe?

    Oh thats right! She(He/Them/They …) was a singer! For a little while? The perfectly experienced person to be giving others advice about how Ministries and boards are to be structured and populated.

    I do think Ms M has enough on her/him/them/they’s plate to contend with I think.

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