GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – On NZ First’s new distance from Labour

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As we slouch towards the election I note that NZ First are trying to distance themselves from Labour with Winston Peters reminding us that Labour governs at his party’s pleasure.

(The Coalition also depends on the support of the Greens but I have not heard him mention that in any recent sound bite.)

If one of the flaws in the first -past- the- post system was the tyranny of the majority, then Winston Peters has proved time and again that MMP has become the tyranny of the minority.

In a close fought election small parties can hold the major parties ( and the country ) to ransom.

For example, you may not want a National led government or indeed a Labour led one, but depending on the ambitions of some small party politician you may very well end up living under a government whose economic policies, for example, are abhorrent to you.

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But let’s be clear the ransom note is always on the table before election day.

Typcally a small party like NZ First will say to the electorate , words to the effect – Vote for us and then Trust us to get the best deal on our policies during the post- election negotiations we can muster.

If we declare our alliance preferences before the election result is announced, then we will lose our bargaining power and you wouldn’t want that now – would you?

The problem I always have with that slippery argument is it means – on polling day- I am voting blind and I could easily get a government I really don’t want on the whim of a minor party leader.

Every election I argue that small parties should tell us which policies of the major parties they find so repugnant they could never form a government with them.

When they refuse. I say well if you don’t stand for SOMETHING then why should I fall for ANYTHING you say?

If a party leader has no principle upon which he/she i prepared to stand or fall , then what that tells me is that power is more important to them than policy.

Right now I’m waiting for the major parties to state their policies before I take the above line of thinking further because it seems to me there is much more at stake in who we vote for this time around.

This time politics is not the game it has often seemed in previous years when , for example John Key and John Banks did a political deal over a very public cup of tea.

No. This time New Zealanders understand the coming vote is about the future of our country for at least the rest of the decade – one which will see a major economic recession , if not a depression, mid way though it.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been a quiet and conditional supporter of Peters for about 3 decades but his self serving performances of late have been nauseating to endure and a complete turn off. He, more than anyone else in NZ has been witness to the very deliberate undermining and misrepresenting of this Government, yet here he is putting the boot into his coalition partner purely as a cynical attempt at gaining votes at any cost. He is the cockroach that National supporters have been describing him as since he chose Labour back in October 2017.

    When did it all change for Peters? He’s been quietly smoking his pipe assuming strong support for the Government over their handling of the Covid crisis. It didn’t. Labour soared and NZF sunk. Peters would have been terrified by the consecutive polls that showed Labour could govern alone, and NZF, his baby would be gone. He’s always known he could be the phoenix rising from the ashes for NZF but that no longer applies. More people dislike Peters now than ever and very few people would be lining up to allow one man to gleefully hold NZ to ransom… again. This is unfolding at the exact time Peters is rapidly coming to the end of his career so will be unable to resurrect his baby and legacy. He’s desperate.

    Timing is everything. Can you imagine any Government minister let alone a deputy PM describe his new rival “Muller” as the real deal during an election campaign? Peters the only man on the planet that could do that.

    He’s witnessed Slime-on Bridges barking about dropping levels during the stages of lockdown, all the while understanding exactly why it was so critically important to exercise caution. yet, after the polls come out and Muller starts demanding NZ put business before health, Peters gets on board with undermining the pace of leaving lockdown stages. How can NZ open up a bubble with Australia while some states within Australia will not even let people outside of their state get in? Madness! We no longer have a coalition Government and Muller knows it after the gift from Peters. Muller described different tunes coming from the Government as a “shambles”. An experienced politician such as Peters knew his gift to Muller would create that exact dynamic but did it anyway as there was something in it for him. The epitome of cynical timing.

    The time of Peters and NZF is mercifully almost at an end. No more holding us to ransom. No more donation platforms that ask far more telling questions than they give answers. No more massive anchor for the Government that wanted to bring in a much fairer tax system instead of hard working lower and middle NZ carrying the bulk of the tax load as per usual. That could have been Cullen’s legacy as he nears death himself. Instead, Peters got his legacy. Bye bye Peters.

    Q: What do you really stand for?

    A: Winston Peters and NZF only.

    Light years back to the well being of New Zealander’s. Enough already.

    • NZF represents a certain proportion of the conservative nationalistic rump of the electorate. If NZF were to disapear then that proportion would just go back to either National or labour or both. We voted out FPP and for a MMP system and that is what gets played out each election. Under the current Tribal-Party parliamentary system MMP is the accepted way to stop large unfettered power and to have a mix of representation in parliament. Winston is a battler and has represented his corner well over the years and he has a definite core support. Jacinda on the other hand is the visionary, a consummate leader and impressive communicator who rises above petty party politics. That they both get on and work well together can only be for the country’s benefit. Enjoy the theatre, its real life action.

  2. Well said Bryan,
    “If one of the flaws in the first -past- the- post system was the tyranny of the majority, then Winston Peters has proved time and again that MMP has become the tyranny of the minority.”

    But in the National Party 1990’s selling of everything that was our ‘state run controllers of public assets begun, such as the electricity power boards and post offices firstly went and NZ Rail just to mention a few, – we were seeing Winston operating as a hand brake to slow the march to a full fire-sale of our assets that we saw when John Joy returned National to power and finished the job when Winston was banished.

    So having Winston their now is a bonus to keep the handbrake on Labour’s swing to become “National Light” ( We are less enthusiastic about the other prominent figure in NZ First Shane Jones is a ‘loose canon’ – and possibly is damaging NZ First we feel.

    • “( We are less enthusiastic about the other prominent figure in NZ First Shane Jones is a ‘loose canon’ – and possibly is damaging NZ First we feel.”

      It isn’t just a possibility. And it answers @Jacindafan’s question above: “When did it all change for Peters?”

  3. What either major party say they will do in respect of major changes to the running of the economy will depend on where the world economy is at by then.. It seems certain that some major crisis or collapse is inevitable to a system out of control in the money printing treadmill that the major central banks have been forced into to try to ward off a collapse of the international banking system, exacerbated and hastened by, but not caused by the pandemic.
    Announcing a moves toward the self sustainability that will be necessary and a profound change from the agreements on trade that are presently dictating what can and can’t be done in that regard before the rest of the world is forced into the same adaptions will likely precipitate devastating reprisals from our trading partners because all the remedies to the coming crisis that will be needed are proscribed by trade agreements entered into over the period of neoliberalism. So neither party can afford to say what they will really do about it unless the collapse has occurred by the time of the election.
    So they will both pretend to carry on with the neoliberal settlement on the one hand and both come up with the same radically altered plans on the other.
    IMHO
    D J S

    • David any avoidance of being cut off from supplies we have built up dependency for, will play into the hands of large corporate investor groups forever chasing leverage to further their bottom line in the short term.

      One thing that has become clear is that perceived short term profits are liable to dictate direction rather than what is good for stability and long term resilience within a community.

      Unless a govt has some control or leadership in directing of resource use, or a strong mandate if newly elected, then its influence over the financial sector that is still operating is liable to default to existing neoliberal lines.

      Neoliberals are most likely to be on both sides of the table with trade agreements.

      I guess what I am hinting at is unless there is a very strong (or entrenched) central core controlling Govt that does not deviate from directing the carefully planned steps towards long term good , then the resolve of the electors will be under piecemeal attack from both sides of the table.

      Public servants with neoliberal leanings have to be removed from any position of influence.

      Dog eat dog management of resources almost ensures, waste and eventual scarcity within the communities to which they may be vital over a long period.

      As you suggest trade agreements will continue until they are no longer fit for purpose then the bargaining starts.
      The less we have to buy in then the stronger our position provided we have stuff to sell that others want.

      So long term projections of needs and surpluses are a cornerstone of economic and social planning.

      • It seems to me that government has passed the control of resources and control of the economy over to the multinational corporations; and into the bargain they have passed laws that forbid subsequent governments to reassert control on behalf of their citizens.
        It is hard to imagine a society that is not controlled by an absolutely authoritarian government , at least as dictatorial as China’s that is not run by any system that could be described as anything but capitalism. But capitalism must operate under rules that serve the needs of all the people . All the rules we work under now protect capitalism and capitalists and capital. The people are constrained by the laws to serve capital. It is round the wrong way.
        D J S

      • To add I guess it probably is that under a capitalist regime the best brains are always by and large going to be attracted to where the greatest rewards are to be enjoyed. And this is always going to be into the world of commerce rather than the world of politics. So in the course of time the commercial sector, especially the finance sector which is always going to attract the cream at least of the self interested, are likely always to have the upper hand in the end.
        D J S

        • Breaking that mold needs multilayered strategy held within a tight group who do not have non predatory interests.

          Opportunity to strike out into a new direction successfully is rare but has occurred and with a long battle backed by un-corruptible leadership. Evidence of successful progress is still with us in two Asian states who are well directed and yet allow limited capitalist activity but tightly controlled.

          The USSR got stymied by systematic attacks over many decades and infiltration from many hostile quarters including the CIA and global financiers controlling a wildly aggressive propaganda regime that was successful but untruthful. The USSR formation and existence are regarded by its citizens as the golden years.
          George Soros and some fellow CIA corruptees are banned from Russia.

          The core beliefs to breaking the dog eat dog mold, must contain sovereignty, equity with a will and plan to eliminate poverty, enhance universal education, free public health, state controlled development of industry towards self reliance and self sufficiency with a state regulated plan to conserve resources and land can only be owned by its citizen user or rented from the state.
          How all that is achieved are matters upon which the government is held to account.

  4. The problem is not New Zealand First. If that party did not exist some other opportunistic Centrist party would emerge or evolve to fill that particular niche in the political environment.
    Under the current colonial regime voters do not get the leaders or the government of their choice. They are subject to the rule of politicians who gain power by an opaque process that leaves the voter pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised to discover just which leaders they have “chosen” for themselves the day after polling closes.
    The unelected hereditary Head of State is a tacit declaration to the masses that they are not really in charge, that the system goes on as it will generation after generation and that nothing the people might lawfully do will fundamentally alter its course.
    You can carp on about Winston Peters and New Zealand First, or National, or Labour on any of the parties and politicians of the regime, but if you really want power to return to the people you will have to ditch colonialism and restore te rangatiratanga.
    It seems that the liberal left would rather bitch than ditch. So be it. But the people of Aotearoa will not play along with these games forever.

  5. Moved to NZ over 20 years ago. Took me only 2 weeks back then to figure out that Peters is somewhat of a ‘snakeoil salesman’. What he does is tantamount to confidence tricking…pity there’s no law against voter fraud. The poor old people he suckers into believing he’ll give them the good old days back.
    I am also amazed how many gullible poor old folks he ensnares, and the arrogance with which he parades around. NZ1 voters can only blame themselves for letting him take the piss time and time again – and collect a fat tax-payer funded reward while he at it.

  6. Almost had a heave in the weekend watching that little salamander Ron Mark on the telly literally weeping about the retirement of the Hercules C130s. Sickening. Save your tears for the innocent lives taken by the 5 eyes countries Mark

  7. Winstone needs to retire he looks tired he could hardly breathe when I watched one of his interviews during the lockdown and his hands were visibly shaking. Jacinda can give him a diplomatic posts he deserves this. He can’t carry his party for ever they need to stand on their own two feet and its now or never. He has done his dash. While I have never voted for him and probably never will cause he Maori bashes too much for my liking I admire him and I am very grateful he choose Labour and not those horrid gnats. Why? because the gnats so called good economic rhetoric is all bullshit. Why? because every time they get in power Maori, PI and our poor Pakeha whanau plus some new immigrants (brought here for cheap labour and not looked after properly) end up at the bottom of the heap.

  8. Winstone needs to retire he looks tired he could hardly breathe when I watched one of his interviews during the lockdown and his hands were visibly shaking. Jacinda can give him a diplomatic posts he deserves this. He can’t carry his party for ever they need to stand on their own two feet and its now or never. He has done his dash. While I have never voted for him and probably never will cause he Maori bashes too much for my liking I admire him and I am very grateful he choose Labour and not those horrid gnats. Why? because the gnats so called good economic rhetoric is all bullshit. Why? because every time they get in power Maori, PI and our poor Pakeha whanau plus some new immigrants (brought here for cheap labour and not looked after properly) end up at the bottom of the heap.

  9. We can have an MMP government without NZ First. Labour and Greens could form a government if we vote that way. You know what to do.

  10. If our political establishment weren’t so dim-witted there are many options. One obvious one last time; a grand coalition between Labour and National. Better solution than Winston First.

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