Polarising politics

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It’s the time of the triennium when all you want to talk and hear about is politics – and the last thing you want to hear and talk about is politics. You definitely have to check your audience. Friendships and relationships are tested, especially with the cannabis and euthanasia referenda. Partisan politics is so polarising – increasingly in this election’s trend where the bell curve is highly centred around two main parties. You’re either team Jacinda or you’re not. That in the last One News Colmar Brunton public opinion poll, around 50% of respondents did not have Jacinda as their preferred Prime Minister shows we are still a divided nation, bizarre, considering Judith Collins received support of around 23% in that poll, and there is really no-one else. Still, there’s a lot of heat in the Judith and Jacinda show, even though the minor parties on the margins are those with most to distinguish them.

Judith Collins is doing a surprising job of keeping going in the face of ridicule, overwhelming odds, weak policy analysis and proposition, hostility and ambivalence – not always just from within her own party. With friends like Denise Lee, who needs enemies. There’s one thing (among many) you can say about the Labour Party under Jacinda Ardern, that there is never any sign of disloyalty. Contrast that with the era of Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe, it’s clear that unity and devotion within your own party is a precondition for devotion from outside it.

Judith’s run at the election has hardly enabled her much time to rally the troops or to articulate her authentic political voice to wider public appeal. What she has articulated is a mixed bag – her laughable attempts to be PC by referring to her Samoan husband; the second home owned in a family trust; her car collection – including a BMW, an MGB and a jaguar; she “loves gold”. She’s adamant that she’s getting asked for “lots of selfies”- the new mood-of-the-nation meter?, -and at least some requests to sign her book. Judith’s “been having a lot of fun”, she repeats, but she may also enjoy going to the dentist. The bizarre church visit, the lonely and abandoned cheese rolls, the staged walkabout, the optometrists who declined her Ponsonby Road visit because they ‘didn’t want the political sideshow in their glasses shop’ – Judith is no media darling. Maybe that’s why she got the flack for the gauche rent-a-crowd display in Ponsonby, a practice of enlisting supporters to political walkabouts that’s used far and wide. Winston reckons he’s the only one who doesn’t prop up his visits with legions of supporters – which is perhaps true when he no longer has legions of supporters to enlist.

This weekend, Judith’s been on a trail scaremongering about a potential Green-Labour wealth tax. As if that would be a bad thing. But it has led to Jacinda – distracted from her own Wellington rally of supporters – arguing that she won’t be distracted, by National’s “last roll of the scaremongering dice”, and at pains to dismiss any prospects of a wealth tax proposed by the Greens. If you love gold and have lots of cars, maybe it affects you. But it’s hard to see how the “Team of Five Million” will be able to pay off the Covid-19 wage subsidy debt, and achieve a more equitable redistribution of wealth, a more equitable society, if the Labour Party is too scared to tax for the redistribution that’s necessary.

Also at the rally in Wellington, Jacinda said “we can all campaign on long lists of policies and ideas”, (as they did last time, and even though the ideas this time have been pretty tame, and the referenda are the most progressive elements of this election’s agenda). “But you truly get to know a Government when disasters strike”. Though as Jacinda is Labour’s greatest asset, that’s like a reverse argument ad hominem – attributing the credit due to the individual, to the collective. We certainly know that Jacinda’s human instincts (and “as a mum”), are competent, calm and comforting, but for the Labour Party itself, it’s pretty much business as usual.

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In Wellington’s speech, Jacinda referred to the ‘progressive’ policies of extended free lunches in schools, and having Matariki a public holiday. But lunches are no substitute for a decent wage and affordable accommodation, and imagine if all Sir Michael Joseph Savage had given us was a day off, instead of the welfare state. We’ve come to admire Jacinda for her many strengths and intuitive, articulate, and natural appeal. She takes the public with her where she wants to go – literally, but she’s so crippled by that support – in both physical walkabouts when she’s out on the street – when she is truly mobbed, but also in that it seems to have cramped both her political room to move, and her articulated vision. There are no more promises of transformation, and some targets portrayed as aspirational in today’s speech, are more modest than existing targets.

Jacinda is careful to remind us that Labour will not achieve perfection (Kiwibuild, light rail, poverty, welfare reform, prison reform and more), and sometimes they will get it wrong. Commentators observe the risks in a personality-strong, policy-light devotional politics that’s short on delivery but high on expectation. But given the fears people genuinely held about coronavirus, many voters want – and got a saviour. Jacinda’s closing point in the second leaders’ debate, that changing Government now, would lead to instability, and uncertainty, is a compelling one. National’s claim to be a strong, better team, is not credible, even though the strength of Jacinda’s team is represented by the One. Most voters have more faith in Jacinda alone than they do in the whole National Party. But then, reading the comments on news media sites, there are strong, even visceral, views, against Labour, that defy rationality and evidence.

Notwithstanding the 13-14% undecided, who may be ‘shy Tories’ (if I was a Tory, I’d be pretty shy about it too), and could add support to National, this election looks like a shoe-in for Labour. The Greens have positioned themselves in social media memes as “In Government with Labour”, you can have ‘two for the price of one’, a balance of healthy greens with your red meat diet. Next week, I’ll welcome a Greens-Labour Government (though I’d welcome The Opportunities Party and the Maori Party in there too). Then I’ll be happy to talk politics again, or maybe not at all.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Ardern in for an unprecedented victory. Labour will govern alone and extremely well.

    National in for a well deserved unprecedented drubbing. Collins replaced within 48 hours by next cab off the rank, Luxon. Collins will retire after Christmas and call a costly by-election in Papakura.

    The Greens back in with probably 7% of the vote.

    ACT in with probably 6% of the vote.

    NZF and Winston….bye bye

    Maori Party. Not confident either way.

    • ‘Ardern in for an unprecedented victory. Labour will govern alone and extremely well’.

      You would think so. If ever there was a time in history for a resounding Labour victory it is now. The second assertion that Labour will govern well is a bit more contentious. History will be the judge of that. Not rocking the boat may be the preferred strategy but given the seas will be a wee bit rough for the next few years a bit more political will might be needed.

    • Labour will get a resounding victory before but on wah are you basing the assumption that they will govern well?
      They have fucked pretty much everything they have touched so far.

      • Handbrake Peters.
        Christchurch massacre.
        Whakaari / White Island tragedy.
        Covid-19

        All enormous issues that would negatively impact on the performance of any Government. Those who don’t factor in those huge issues are bellends and need to be treated as such.

        As for “They have fucked pretty much everything they have touched so far”. That is a mixture of incorrect, total bias, and completely fucking ignorant. You’ve clearly not been paying attention. Getting a bit old to have vested interest eggspurts still selling that total bullshit as if it was an indisputable fact.

        https://www.labour.org.nz/progress-list

        • Progress list…hahahaha very funny. Good one. You must be a fan of Jacinda? You should call yourself….can’t think of it now….

              • Chris,

                Most polls are chocolate teapots. Any poll that shows Collins as having 23% of all New Zealanders preferring her as Prime Minister should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

                They get it wrong as much as they get it right.

                As for the piece you put up. Anything that has the name Cameron Slater attached to it deserves to be embraced in the same way you’d embrace a festering turd. That is even more so if he’s going in to bat again for Judith Collins. I’m actually genuinely surprised Slater has crawled out of his slime covered hole to remind people of his DIRTY POLITICS connection to Collins.

  2. An awful lot of truth i your comments there Christine as labour do seem to be a normalised political party in this 2020 election as a clear “not to rock the boat” party, without the 2017 “transformational party. They have been tamed by the “Wellington swamp of aristocrats/bureaucrats” alright.

  3. Excellent article,Christine. An apt unbiased summary of Election 2020 and the events leading up to it so far. Well done, I enjoyed reading it very much.

  4. Very well written indeed .A balanced ,detailed summary showing considerable time researching the full media spectrum of the campaign trail ,giving a fair and measured evaluation of the strenghts and weaknesses of both major parties/leaders.

    ” School lunches are no substitute for decent wages and affordable accommodation ” hits the economic nail on the head . Crystal clear .So too the observation of the triumph of personality over visionary and transformative policy .
    Excellent article , Christine , really enjoyed it .

  5. More neoliberal policy and the forecast of a $221b debt bomb in 2022-2030 during the onset of the global depression.
    How’s that going to help anybody struggling now considering 12.2% are already unemployed and/or are in receipt of Welfare?

    All these clowns have demonstrated is only one thing, they havent a clue about what to do other than kick the can further down the road and make plans for Austerity MK11.

    Maybe thats the reason why Act are pushing for the “Death” penalty. Euthanasia!? Death or Debt?

  6. It is clear that Labour will be the winner because it is already the winner unless a totally unpredictable event occurs and there seems little chance of that. Over the last week the game has been exactly what Labour would dream of. Lots of smiliung Jacinda fans fawning over what she does best, looking good before an audience. Judith has performed well but is making no impression at all.
    More than that, Labour has already won because of the enormous quantity of early votes. They were delivered those votes when their polling support was at a high so it is predictable that all those votes will total around 50%. They cant be changed by any means now and the small number of remaining votes would need to support National massively to change anything. I dont think it is possible.
    The argument changes for Greens and NZF. Most of their votes will have been cast with their popularity was at a low. Thats bad news for all but ACT.

  7. I wonder what have become of the Blue Dragons?
    The group of Chinese New Zealanders clad in National T-shirts smiling and waving banners alongside John Key and to a slightly less extent Bill English.
    They have almost completely disappeared!
    Why would that be, do you suppose?
    I’ll tell you why, my children.
    The Chinese love free-market economic policies (their own peculiar brand, you understand) that’s for sure.
    But they also have a great respect for leaders and leadership.
    They look at Jacinda Ardern and see a great leader in times of trouble and they respect her.
    They look at Judith Collins and see someone who spews out nothing but negativity and they don’t respect her.
    My wife says that her Chinese friends all enthusiastically voted Labour this time.
    If Judith Collins thinks the Asian vote will save her then she is sadly mistaken.

    • Mike the Lefty,

      The considerable support from the Chinese arm of the National Party is still very much there and as strong as ever. Trust me on that Mike. The usual M.O for them is to keep a low profile especially when victory is not assured but their low profile at this time is deliberately invisible for obvious reasons. If Kiwi’s delved into Judith Collins Chinese connections and all the implications and ramifications, Collins campaign would already be over. This is why our alleged media have very deliberately avoided the subject and the Chinese support arm of the National Party is magically invisible at this time. The very last thing they all need at this time is Chinese alarms bells going off and all concerned are 100% aware of this.

      Can you imagine any possible scenario where Ardern was the person with considerable Chinese connections and our alleged media not grilling her about it all day every day? National and their close friends in the media would base their entire election campaign around it

      As for our Asian friends who support Ardern. Yes, there are many. They not only respect her and don’t buy into National’s incessant fearmongering, they also like having their money on a winner.

      There is a narrative being pushed at the moment that Collins is doing all the heavy lifting for National, has campaigned well but is being undermined by her “strong team”. This is complete bullshit. Collins is steering the ship as that as her only way. She’s made up policy on the fly despite her alleged strong team. She’s been incredibly negative and divisive when she could have offered a positive alternative to Ardern. She’s been toxic, rude and disrespectful. Kiwi’s just don’t trust her and the totally contrived moments of the campaign have been at her hands and only reinforced why so many people don’t trust her as far as they could throw her and recoil at the very sight of her. If this constitutes her running a “good campaign” then I’d hate to see what a shocker looked like. Final confirmation of my perspective will arrive on Saturday 17th.

  8. “You’re either team Jacinda or you’re not.”

    We’re talking about politics here: this is really creepy. Cult Jacinda, is what it sounds like to me. I recall when John Key was PM. Lefties derided what looked very much like a cult surrounding him. They were right, of course. So I think that everyone needs to be honest about what’s happening at present with Ardern.

    “Judith’s been on a trail scaremongering about a potential Green-Labour wealth tax. As if that would be a bad thing.”

    Of course it’d be a bad thing. Remember the old saying regarding proposed policies: explaining is losing. If you think that there wouldn’t be scope “creep” surrounding who’d have to pay such a tax, and on what, you haven’t been paying close enough attention to tax issues over many years.

    The Natz are perfectly within their rights to politick over it. I’d expect no less of them: they’re an opposition party, after all.

    “….seems to have cramped both her political room to move, and her articulated vision. There are no more promises of transformation…”

    The issue here is that she’s a Blairite. That’s not a compliment. Of course we cannot expect anything transformative from her or Labour (or not contemporary Labour). They made those promises in 2017 solely to get elected. Judging by what hasn’t happened since, there was no intention on Labour’s part to implement any of that stuff.

    And if the Greens make it back to parliament, and Labour needs them to form a government, you can confidently expect more attempts at authoritarian policy – such as the wealth tax.

    Note the NPS-UD, which has been foisted upon Councils in the main cities. Do you know its provenance? Are you aware of what legal requirements it imposes on said Councils?

    Last week, I was at a candidates’ meeting in Khandallah, at which the subject came up. And we heard from the MPs present what had actually happened. This policy – which has the force of law – was dreamed up by Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter. And it was rammed through under the provisions of the RMA. It didn’t go through the select committee process. Those MPs told us that the first they knew of the implications was when they saw what Council was proposing for the Ngaio-Khandallah area. They were horrified. As were we all.

    There is nothing democratic about any of this. The proposals might possibly work in Auckland, but they sure as hell won’t work in smaller cities such as Wellington. And none of us had any say in it. There is a very strong whiff of Mother-knows-best-ness about the NPS-UD. We need more of this stuff like we need toothache.

    And you can be sure that we’ll get more of it, if Labour gets enough of the vote, but needs the Greens to form a government.

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