Potential and promise

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Saturday’s election was highly anticipated – we might say – over-anticipated, after an extended campaign that left the public, and both Party leaders apparently exhausted. But it was important not to take the occasion for granted –some people specially dressed up for the honour and privilege of voting, and others took time to reflect on the referenda for which they have campaigned for years.

At our election, there were no threats of violence, no potential bombs in the carpark, no intimidation, no bribes (if you discount New Zealand First’s usual operating model). Lines in and out were orderly, and hygienic; we had confidence there was no Covid, no vote rigging, no corruption.  Even the conspiracy theorists and their illegitimate arguments were able to formally organise into political parties and get their names on the ballot in a legitimate attempt at power.

We are lucky with our orderly civil society, organisational capacity that leads to efficient voting systems (even if they ran out of special vote papers in Auckland Central). Even though our democratic system hasn’t tended to serve the young, Maori, Pasifika and other disenfranchised groups terribly well, it is better than many. These groups have at least been represented in the major parties, though perhaps in token, relatively powerless ways. I’m glad to see the Maori Party back, with Rawiri Waititi in the Waiariki seat, with his mana and his moko. If we can’t have a Maori Party specifically represented in our Parliament, where in the world can we?  Chlöe Swarbrick winning Auckland Central was another highlight – unanticipated, exciting, confounding polls, and also providing hope that the predictions that the cannabis referendum will fail, are also wrong.

More than 82% of the population voluntarily  voted, (without coercion), we now have almost 50% gender parity among our MPs, and a new cohort of 40 (!!) ethnically, gender and demographically diverse candidates, even though National’s decimation has impacted its diversity in the process. As they joined their Party leaders on stage on Saturday night, or assembled on Parliament’s steps on Monday, the new MPs looked eager, idealistic, bright eyed, star-struck and caught in the headlights of often unexpected, life-changing success.

Because of this process, we can and do have a high level of confidence in the electoral and representative legitimacy of New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament – even where the results have been surprising, and have upended old alliances and sinecures. Such a significant influx of new MPs signals a generation change in Parliament.

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The election was not just a rush to Labour. It was a rush away from National. And despite some of the mixed views about Jacinda’s performance, it’s clear the die was cast for Labour victory, well before, and beyond the Leaders’ Debates. The election was decided not just on the pantomimes on TV but also by the performance of the parties in the prior three years. The train wreck that was the National Party -Jamie-Lee Ross, Hamish Rutherford, Andrew Falloon, the revolving door of leaders, Judith’s mistimed comments about obesity-, all had its own inertia that took National over the cliff.

Some observers have simply attributed Labour’s resounding victory to (Jacinda’s) “management of Covid”. It’s true that the public clearly want a Covid hero, one who looks good, is competent, science based, relatable, inspirational, communicative, empathetic and authentic, and Jacinda has all that in spades.  But to say that all the success is down to Covid, is to belittle the other reasons for the Party’s success – including, primarily, National’s failure. Other reasons include the inertia of the status quo, and middle New Zealand’s confidence in it. This year, with global fires, droughts and pandemic, most of us rightly want the security of competent continuity, and there’s great reassurance in just continuing after the election as we did before it. It’s easier to imagine the end of the world, than it is to imagine the end of capitalism and our way of life.

Since the election, there’s been so much speculation. “Will Kelvin Davis (“who fades into the foreground”) be Deputy Prime Minister, rather than the ‘real’ Deputy, Grant Robertson?” “Will Jacinda include senior Green Party members among her Ministers, inside or outside Cabinet?” -As they weren’t included inside Cabinet when their numbers were more important to the Coalition, it was always highly unlikely now they’re not needed – and that’s been confirmed. And should the Green Party even seek to shackle its fortunes to Labour, or should it stay in Opposition?

As National’s ‘elderly statesmen’ Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith, have lost their electorate seats in this changing of the guard, some suggest it’s time for them to resign altogether. It might also be that some of the longer standing, more conservative Labour Party MPs should move on and let the fresh blood rise up too. But instead, this election may have empowered the conservative wing in Labour. The apparent strategic voting of otherwise National Party voters, in supporting Labour to keep the Greens out, is likely to strengthen the arm of MPs like Damian O’Connor. Given the support from farmers and industry, it’s hard to see that Labour are conceived as Left at all. And as it has been said, now that the ‘handbrake’ of New Zealand First is gone, it’s just Labour’s own handbrake that remains. Jacinda has talked about her mandate, and it comes from middle New Zealand, not otherwise represented by the Green Party or Act; it’s such a broad church it entails prospects of paralysis. While Jacinda hasn’t used her political capital to do much so far, I’m sure she has plenty enough of it that voters will forgive her, for a while, for not using it in the future. One way to keep people happy is to not do much at all. But for other more optimistic believers, there is hope.

Jacinda says she wants policies that stick. Enduring policies, and that transformation occurs one step at a time. But to address inequality, housing unaffordability and poverty, as well as climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental damage, that get worse every day, some could argue that the necessary steps are big ones. And slow steps aren’t necessarily more enduring than quick ones, they just make the targets slower and harder to reach. Many initiatives suggested as solutions to these problems have Labour-imposed deadlines that are beyond the term of this new government, and the next, and like the debt incurred by the wage subsidy, leave legacies for the future as well as costs for today. So while voting on Saturday felt like an historic opportunity – as it always does and should – in the scale of time and the eternal struggle for power- history will judge whether it – and the Labour Party, live up to their potential and promise.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Very good observance and comment on our lucky country right now. NZers have become more aware of of each other and the need to address our issues. JA and team represent the modern Kiwis philosophical country/world view.
    Kia kaha.

  2. There was a bribe ! $4,000 from Judith to women – oops, persons – giving birth to babies. That cut a lot of us out, but support for babies is always welcome – and there’s the crunch.

    It’s all about our kids. Everything is. Climate change is their future, and we owe them a decent one. Child poverty is about their present and how they are living in it, and for far too many it is not good enough, and this will impact miserably upon their future.

    Child poverty is the outcome of years of social brutalisation at the hands of neoliberalism, and patching it up here and there with meals and raincoats, doesn’t address the systemic issues which cause it. Nor does acknowledging it, and describing it, and wringing hands.

    The influx of a very diverse group of new politicians in Parliament may be one of the best hopes for the future, and help produce the courageous government, which is needed. I’d like to think that that sort of government could carry the people along with it, and that it would want to do so.

  3. Fairly shabby democracy.
    1. The SFO, inaccurate and very late polls and the media torpedoed NZF chances.
    2. The 5% threshold works against democracy. NZF should have got 1 seat.
    3. My sons vote was not counted. At his polling booth 0 recorded votes for his preferred candidate.
    Well done to the SFO as they have done what many others couldn’t. Two ticks SFO.
    But if you are a winner who gives a shit.

    • Better than 3 years under your dirty politics, shambles National Party that couldn’t run a piss-up in a brewery. National couldn’t find their own @rseholes (or hearts) with a compass, a topographical map, in braille, or using sign language. They couldn’t even find it if Merv rang a radio station and gave them verbal directions.

      People rejected your Natzi Party and its negativity, it’s born-to-rule arrogance. A bunch of rich white bullies like Gerry Brownlee and Michael Woehouse, let by a leader who promised to “give it back double!”, according to Nuicky Hager’s book. Judith Collins threatened Nicky’s life and then, given the chance to back down and apologise, double-down:
      https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018766202/judith-collins-won-t-back-down-over-hager-comment

      The Natz had Mike Hosking and Paul Henry (Dikshits) rooting for them, if that’s not clear enough reason that they are out of touch with most New Zealanders, National leadership needs to resign en masse and move the B team of David Seymour in as National Party leader.

      FFS Todd Muller hugged his MAGA hat before going to sleep at night.

      Do we want rich, white, male Trumpism in New Zealand? Your answer, Danny Paoa, came resoundingly on 17th October. So, build a bridge Danny, get over it and stop denigrating Labour and sort out your own National Party, who are the real problem party in Aotearoa.

      And Danny, if Chris Luxon succeeds Judith Collins, your beloved National Party will get its arse booted out even further in 2023. Chris Luxon as leader of National will give David Seymour 29% of the 2023 vote and National will be lucky to get 7%.

      • Yes Diane, for once I tend to agree with you. David Seymour is a way better proposition as leader of the right-wing bloc of sensible, common-sense New Zealanders.

        Labour had that ‘sensible’ handbrake with Winston during the last coalition, but poor old Winnie reverted to his irascible self and turned on Labour once the election was announced. New Zealanders don’t like this sort of two-faced-ness. And they didn’t like Shane Jones’s brand of born-to-rule arrogance either, so similar to the National Party hacks.

        So yep. David did not indulge in personality-bashing and dirty politics, so our 2023 votes should go to ACT in 2023, and National can go the way of Winston of 2.6%. David would make a superior leader of the right-wing bloc in a sensible New Zealand.

    • Right!
      3 years of Blaircinda and National Lite nothing will change for the better. She’s a career traitor. Actually she shld stand for national.

  4. This was NOT a rush to anywhere.
    It was the knee jerk response by the public that is normally experienced when a crisis ensues.
    Sadly, this opportunity has been wasted on the most incompetent government in a generation.
    Adern will waste this opportunity due to her inane need to be liked and the incompetence of her cohorts.
    This opportunity would have been far better handed to Clark who would have been able to take advantage of it.

    In three years time all the dreamers on this site will be crying rivers of tears wondering why St Jacinda didn’t deliver on her election promises, forgetting that she didn’t actually make any.

    • @Jays, Instead of wasting your time carping on how bad Labour are, you’d be better served with your time to sort out your beloved National Party’s woes and dirty politics. People don’t like the slimy undercutting, the backstabbing, the bully-boy tactics that we all heard from Gerry Brownlee in his interviews.

      Brownlee didn’t even turn up to candidate meetings in his own electorate !!! That sort of arrogance plus the catalogue of disorganisation and hate-speech from Collins and her husband and her handlers in the basement once inhabited by slaters, are even less fit to rule, instead of born-to-rule. I agree with the above response by Diane.

      It’s easy as ABC – anyone but Collins, or Chris Luxon and your beloved National Party might have half a chance of getting above 30% in 2023. Because, let’s face it, John Key’s successor, picked by Key will just be the same old business as usual for the white guys and MAGA-loving Trump brigade currently within National.

      • LOL! I did NOT vote National and have only voted for them ONCE in my life.
        Therein lies the problem with people such as yourself who are ideologically programmed to label anyone as National supporters or Nazi sympathisers if they tell the harsh truth about Labour.

        • The post was about you fixing National’s problems.

          But, as usual, it is a sad indictment on your own, and National’s typical dirty politics modus operandi, to attack the person, NOT the argument.

          Dirty politics at its core is about argumentum ad hominem and I cite ‘the incredible sulk’ meme by Judith Collins husband, and your ‘Blaircinda’ comment above and the rest of you right-whingers use of the misogynistic ‘Cindy’. More than 50% of New Zealanders disagree with your right-whinge, misogynistic MAGA-ism hate-speech and genuine unkindness and lack of aroha towards those you deem beneath your born-to-rule arrogance. I guess the best example of this was Aaron Gilmore’s seminal “Don’t you know who I am?” https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/66323814/former-mp-aaron-gilmore-back-with-finger-in-politics-pie

          My apologies for calling you a Nat. Andrew and Gosman pm’d me and told me your true leanings. Your time will come. And that’s not a threat like Judith gave to Nicky Hager, ‘time to meet your maker’. https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2020/09/29/judith-collins-is-wishing-investigative-journalist-nicky-hager-death/

          If you were one of the 200,000 that voted for David Seymour, he was the beneficiary of National’s woeful & well-catalogued fuster-cluck in the lead up to 17th October election.

          The press today outlined National’s blamestorming meeting, blaming National voters for voting Labour’s Jacinda Ardern to keep the Greens out of power.

          At what National tea-pot meeting did that little gem come up?

          Nats voted Labour to keep those nasty, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, dope-smoking leftie, wealth-jealous Greenies out of a potential coalition role.

          My predictions:
          Mark Mitchell for leader. Chris Luxon for Deputy.
          Mark Mitchell to step down in 2022, to spend more time with family.
          Chris Luxon takes over. David Seymour becomes deputy leader of National
          Sorted.

  5. For sure National missed a golden opportunity by not putting Nikki Kaye up front as a puppet leader. The only one capable of taking it to Ardern and they shafted her! They’re a pack of tunnel visioned drongos lead by old men who think being anti cannabis is a winner. Winston fucked up on the cannabis issue also. Also NZF made the wrong decisions on cameras on boats, firearms reforms and the mismanagement of Oranga Tamariki.Most of ACT’s support is from the huntin and fishin section of NZF. National’s votes went to Labour .So obvious Such a boring campaign and we now have surprise surprise a zombie neoliberal do nothing government. Yippee. Oh well back to saving for more batteries for the solar.

  6. Yeah don’t hold you breath if you think there will be any big changes from this lot. The last three years are glaring evidence of that. Now that they have a Nat voter base too (funny how Nats felt comfortable voting Labour) you can be sure they will be even more cautious.

    Really just another neo liberal center right party these days.

  7. Adrian Ruawhe said his party, Labour, run the Maori lens over everything, can they run their Maori lens over the recent community covid out break and can they do it pronto before any more of our whanau die.

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