The art of walking forward

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New Zealand politics hadn’t been noted for its volatility over the last few decades – at least back until the 1980s, but last election’s Meteria Turei bombshell and Green Party resignations, Andrew Little’s withdrawal as Labour’s leader, and Jacinda’s arising, created a dynamic and interesting election. The historic events of the last three years and Jacinda’s ease of handling murder, mayhem, plagues and disaster made it look like Labour were a shoe-in for 2020, maybe even governing alone.

Even after Todd Muller’s coup on National leader Simon Bridges, it seemed maybe this year’s election would be a tame affair. By accounts, Muller was a nice man. Though nice as he may be, questions are raised how he could then oversee the breach of quarantining Covid-19 patients’ privacy and fail to own and admit his and other Ministers’ involvement and knowledge in it.

In his first speech as leader, Muller appeared to be trying to appeal to softer National voters, to emulate or affect a politics of kindness following Jacinda’s successful lead. And then, in his first speech on home turf after becoming National’s leader, Muller talked about Te Aroha, the town of love, and he mentioned love nine times. He talked about noticing socioeconomic disparities in rural Waikato as a youngster. So far, so “see I’m like Jacinda too, but a better economic manager”.

He quickly learnt that you can’t ‘out-Jacinda, Jacinda’. She’s got the market covered when it comes to authentic compassionate leadership. But Muller couldn’t compete with the heat in the political kitchen either. And while the charitable response to Muller’s break-down has been that ‘politics is a nasty business’ – and surely it is – watch the media like a pack of hounds baying for blood – it takes more than an assumption of kindness or ‘being a nice man’, it clearly takes a certain kind of impervious ruthlessness, to survive, let alone succeed or excel.

Judith ‘the Crusher’ Collins dispenses with any attempts to sing by Jacinda’s songbook. She’s confident enough in her own beliefs and her own ideologies to carry not just her own luggage (and baggage), but to do it with chutzpah. She is apologetic to no-one for her views, her past, her ambition, her policies, her eye on the end prize, or her decisiveness. She’s definitely not sorry for not being a man (to paraphrase another former opposition leader – David Cunliffe), and she’s not sorry for being white – or assumedly, privileged, either. The fact that she doesn’t doubt herself means that those on the right are less likely to doubt her either. As decisive as she has been, already she must have offered some redemption for despondent National supporters, she’s the party’s Lazarus, bringing the party back from the dead.

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Confidence counts for so much in politics – if you don’t believe in yourself, voters won’t believe in you either. Attack is sometimes the best defence – although that seems to be a less effective strategy for Winston Peters over time. And confidence is key to handling the media. Muller’s equivocation was a bit part of his downfall. He equivocated because he was not honest, and the media could smell his weakness. Judith Collins, on the other hand, admits of few vulnerabilities – though her sadness at the loss of her pet cat Minnie, and admiration of Jacinda’s hair are frailties we can forgive.

In his Te Puna speech, Todd Muller quoted the New Zealand poet Alan Curnow’s poem ‘the art of walking upright’. He invoked the famous line ‘Not I, some child born in a marvellous year, will learn the art of walking upright here’. He said it was his personal passion that every one of us in our time, not some distant year, can truly stand upright here. Thing was, Muller himself was unable to stand upright and admit or defend the dirty politics that was – and has been – at the diseased heart of the National Party.

In his own ‘The trick of standing upright’ building on Curnow, Northland doctor and poet, Glen Colquhuon says ‘The trick of standing upright here, is the trick of using both feet. One is for holding on, one is for letting go.’ But at every step we take, we are falling. Judith Collins has probably arrested the immediate falling of the National Party. She’s managing to stand on both feet. With her self-confidence and media competence, she is her own woman, and not a pale imitation of Jacinda. She’s confident and self-defined enough, to not even try. National’s expectations may have been low after the last few months of ‘bungling’ by Simon Bridges and then Todd Muller. The party will be happy that they have a bold, walking, talking leader. Judith has had a great run in the media, and so far has been getting the sort of press needed to convince centre-right voters and the business community she and National have something worth voting for. Already there’s a media subtext – while there were reports this weekend about the new National Party infrastructure policies, and photos of Crusher with a drill, erecting billboards, ruling out working in coalition with New Zealand First, Jacinda’s media headlines told how she’d made time to meet her impersonator. “Jacinda may be kind”, this says, “but the Crusher is getting down to business, with all steely competence”.

There is just enough sense and vision in the new National Party policies for a North Island ‘Golden Triangle’ ‘economic powerhouse’, creating Australasia’s most dynamic region, enough money in infrastructure plans, and enough resonance in ripping up rather than tinkering with the RMA, that powerful business voters will be pleased.

But with the infrastructure policies announced yesterday that focus on huge toll-funded motorway projects and threaten SkyPath, and plans to suspend SuperFund contributions, it’s a regressive and reckless package. These policies and a potential National government will inevitably take us backwards. The Crusher is a conservative so it’s no wonder. And as Franklin D Roosevelt said, “…a conservative is a (wo)man with two perfectly good legs, who …has never learned to walk forwards at all’.

7 COMMENTS

  1. The sort of person who says in 2020 she opposed civil unions in 2003 because she preferred equality for same sex couples rather than an alternative to marriage. The fact is in 2005 she voted for legislation making marriage for a man and a woman only.

    • Paradoxically Collins has liberal views on other women’s issues. She also voted against legalising prostitution – as rape that’s paid for, if she’s lucky. But as Christine says, nothing can compensate for a policy that denies climate change. All she stands for is underpinned by taking care of big business/capitalism at the expense of the rest of us. Good blog, thank you Christine

  2. “But with the infrastructure policies announced yesterday that focus on huge toll-funded motorway projects and threaten SkyPath, and plans to suspend SuperFund contributions, it’s a regressive and reckless package. These policies and a potential National government will inevitably take us backwards. The Crusher is a conservative so it’s no wonder. And as Franklin D Roosevelt said, “…a conservative is a (wo)man with two perfectly good legs, who …has never learned to walk forwards at all’.”
    Where is Judith Collins Climate Change Policy here????
    We don’t see it when she announced the transport package; We claim that ‘Building more roads using public taxes, only subsidies private road freight and not any rail freight’ Rail Freight is the only way to lower our climate change transport emissions, as the MBIE latest statistics are now saying road transport climate change emissions are increasing not decreasing.

    A vote for National is a vote to increase ‘climate change disastrous weather events’.

    • Do you seriously think that the actions of any NZ political party have any impact on the increase/decrease of “climate change disastrous weather events”? I’m not sure weather is made on such a micro level…..

  3. What are they doing about job security?

    No minimum redundancy payments in our law which encourages NZ firms to lay off workers willy, nilly, as it costs them nothing. They then hire them back again which destroys worker income, security and moral. Long term, the firm and industry itself is destroyed, as it becomes a less and less trusted brand that quality workers do not want to work for.

    Other countries like Australia have protections in place for people who lose their job – four weeks redundancy pay for the first year and two weeks for each year of service after that. But in New Zealand we have nothing… zilch.

    That leaves the third of working people who live paycheque to paycheque with real problems.

    Sign this if you want our law changed in NZ.

    https://www.together.org.nz/4wks4fair?utm_campaign=4weeks4fair_1&utm_medium=email&utm_source=together

  4. Never liked Roosevelt tbh, -in my book he was a political hedger.

    He hedged until he saw who would win between Nazi Germany and England while seeing England take the brunt during the Battle of Britain and watching it burn, , – and then he hedged again as he sniffed the political /economic winds of change sweeping Europe with Prof John Maynard Keynes Cambridge University’s brilliant economic recovery plans , – and then had the audacity to dismiss it as ‘too simplistic’.

    One year later he adopted it and the same result: six months later the USA was out of the red and into the black. The New Deal owes NOTHING to FDR and EVERYTHING to John Maynard Keynes.

    So lets just get that straight.

    ——————————-

    Apart from that?… good article and many salient points. And thanking you for it.

  5. I think she’s tapping into a rich vein of truth in NZ that will resonate with many voters, regardless of their political persuasion. Here’s a sample:

    > People are sick to death of woke. We don’t want our speech policed by some green haired harridan from the local uni who thinks there are 72 genders and that all men are rapists.

    > People are concerned about the creeping assault on our sovereignty by iwi lawyers and crazed academics. There is no ‘partnership’ in the treaty – read article 1 and the letters written by tribal chiefs discussing it at the time of signing it. Finish the settlements and shut the tribunal down. Even Maori are bailing on the Maori thing – more people left the Maori register than joined it last time. Move on. As a nation we all own the rivers and the beaches.

    > The Iwi need to butt out of the RMA. It’s holding the country back. Sorting out this one issue alone would transform NZ

    > White is a colour. We have nothing to apologize for.

    > We want effective government, not hugs. We want our taxes spent efficiently, not on ‘working groups’

    > We need good, safe roads, and while cycle ways are fine (I cycle) they need to be built to a sensible budget and not hinder traffic. Rail is a 19th century lemon.

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