Skating On Thin Ice: Labour’s Support Is Not As Solid As It Looks.


WITH LABOUR polling in the mid-to-high 40s, and the Greens around 10 percent, the Left dominates New Zealand politics. At least, that is what it would like us to believe. In fact, the Left’s current dominance of New Zealand politics is both highly unusual and extremely fragile. The party’s commanding lead in the polls is due almost entirely to the approximately 15 percent of the electorate (roughly 440,000 people) who rewarded “Jacinda” with a vote that, in the absence of the global pandemic, would have gone to somebody else. Yet to be given a good reason for abandoning their heroine, these voters remain in Labour’s camp. Truth to tell, it is this 10-15 percent of the electorate that is dominating New Zealand politics – not the Left.

Since the introduction of MMP in 1996, Labour has averaged approximately 36 percent of the popular vote. Putting the 2020 election to one side, the best results achieved were under Helen Clark in 2002 and 2005. Even then, however, the party only just made it into the 40s. Jacinda, herself, only managed to claim 36.89 percent of the Party Vote for Labour  in 2017 – well short of the National Party’s 44.45 percent. That she became Prime Minister at all was due entirely to her poaching NZ First’s 7.20 percent of the Party Vote. (Winston’s tally was generally expected to be made available to National.) Jacinda repeated this trick (albeit with twice the percentage of conservative votes) in the Covid Election of 2020.

At 37 percent, National’s average vote in the MMP Era confirms the centrality of that fickle 10-15 percent of the electorate which slips and slides all over the middle regions of the political spectrum. Until 2020, however, these voters’ preferences tended to be more right-wing than left-wing. National certainly thought so – hence its fury at seeing Winston Peters crown Jacinda with votes it was convinced had been cast by people favouring a right-wing coalition government. In this conviction, they were probably quite correct.

All of which adds up to a very peculiar political situation. In the past two elections, the parties of the Left – whose combined support between 1996 and 2020 averaged just 43.65 percent of the Party Vote – have been able to form a government. Not because the country had just swung decisively to the Left, but because hundreds-of-thousands of moderately conservative New Zealanders had acquiesced in the right-wing parties they usually voted for being excluded from power. Justifiably in 2020, given Jacinda Ardern’s superb handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and National’s extraordinary political implosion. Judiciously in 2017, given National’s nine year legacy of procrastination and neglect. In both instances, the mandates handed to Labour were strictly limited.

All of which makes the behaviour of the present Labour Government and its Green Party allies extremely difficult to fathom. Rather than accept the utterly exceptional nature of the 2020 General Election, and acknowledge the strictly limited character of the electoral mandate it conferred, the Left appears to have convinced itself that the 440,000 New Zealanders whose support for Labour was simply their way of saying: “Thank you, Jacinda, for keeping me and my family safe”, were actually begging Labour and the Greens to turn their world upside down.

Labour’s and the Greens’ sharp swing to the left, in cultural terms, may be acceptable to New Zealanders in the professions, the public service, the universities and the communications industries. After all, these are the highly-educated elites who, in practically all the advanced economies of the West, are the most comfortable, temperamentally, with the politics of race and personal identity. It is not acceptable, however, to the culturally conservative 7-15 percent of the electorate which “switched sides” in 2017 and 2020. They are becoming increasingly alarmed and confused by the Labour Government’s unheralded direction of travel. Not so alarmed that they are willing to overlook the National Party’s all-too-evident disarray, and re-pledge their traditional allegiance to the Centre-Right. Not yet – but they’re close.

Not that you can tell Labour’s apparatchiks any of this. Their ears are blocked to any suggestion that the Government has advanced dangerously far ahead of public opinion. Nor can they be convinced that they have made themselves vulnerable to the sort of brutal, right-wing political attacks that Labour’s and the Greens’ radical policies on race, gender, culture and climate change are bound to attract. If there was still a functioning Fourth Estate, it’s just possible that these warnings might eventually penetrate the static of the Left’s confirmation biases. Unfortunately, the same ideological virus that has melted the brains of Labour and the Greens, has also melted the brains of the nation’s mainstream journalists.

What Labour would like us to believe is that they are skating on a solid sheet of ideological ice, more that capable of carrying the weight of their cultural revolution. In reality, the ice now bearing their electoral weight is wafer thin. Sadly, Labour’s leaders remain utterly oblivious to the currents surging just below their party’s fragile crust of support. They have no idea how very strong they are, nor how deathly cold.

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  1. I think Labours biggest issue is their failure to deliver on their policy promises, and with that goes their reputation for competence.

    Mental health is just the latest but by far the worst because people’s lives are at risk, constantly, by the shambles New Zealand’s mental health is.

    They knew it, campaigned on it, allocated the funding to improve it, made the big announcement they cared and then ceased taking the blindest bit of interest ever since, only for bumbling ministers to be found out by an opposition who is far more obsessed with tearing itself to pieces and hardly on its game.

    It seems to me this particular failure is now one too many. You now kinda expect a promise to do something to never actually eventuate.

    This Labour governments strategy is to get things off the front pages rather than bothering to get things done.

    If Covid fades, Labour have little to take to the electorate come 2023.

    • The Greens have moved from being mainly concerned with Environmental policies to fully embracing Identity Politics of race/gender etc

      Labour have gone from being an orthodox “working mans” party to a social justice party, again fully embracing identity politics, a bit like the UK’s Labour Party

    • Yes Rosie, I’m not sure that “a swing to the left” is entirely accurate but they have undoubtedly introduced “progressive” initiatives that are certain to alienate a lot of former and would be voters.
      For the large socially conservative part of our society, including immigrant communities, they have seriously overstepped what they consider reasonable boundaries. Their overt acquiescence to any outrageous demand from Maori is certainly causing resentment and not just from the usual suspects.
      Their allegiance to the discredited and dangerous critical race theory and a heavily biased view of our history is unforgiveable. How do you think people will react when little Johnny comes home from school bent out of shape, suffering, from being told that all the faults of the world are somehow his fault by dint of his ethnicity or gender.
      That aside much will depend on a healthy and growing economy and issues like housing affordability as always. They’ve just over two years left to do a hell of a lot better than the past three and a half in that regard.

      • All history is heavily biased David. I guess that is why there was such a heavy emphasis on dates when I went to school – 1066 and all that. The dates can be generally accepted, but all else is contentious, and the accepted truth varies as the World changes. I was told some ridiculous rubbish when I was young, as were we all, but all that it did was make me somewhat skeptical. What makes you think that little Johnny will be worse affected than previous generations?

        • The framing of history as an extension of the victim/oppressor narrative along ethnic lines will be divisive. It can’t help but be associated with, and attached to, the pupils in that way. From what I have seen of the new history curriculum it’s difficult not to conclude that that is the intention. Selective, distorted and manipulative.
          Michael Bassett, historian and ex Labour MP reviews it:

    • Jacinda will hang out with the poor people living in motels to comfort them and empathise with them…then go home to her nice warm home after having a good scrub in the shower.

  2. Reports here in The South Island that farmers in some areas are requiring iwi consent to graze winter crops on their own land.
    At the moment the mood is puzzlement -the same iwi did dairy conversions on thousands of hectares of marginal Cantetbury land but such unmandated “co governance” of people’s lives will rapidly turn to anger.

    Outside of the cities, thin ice indeed the real question is the soft city vote and what issue will affect them.

    • Add to that some iwi demanding payment for participating in the iwi consultation that all researchers are required to undertake if they want permission to carry out research on DOC land – a consultation that benefits nobody but iwi.

  3. The mess this country is in, is primarily due to past National Govt’s neglect. Most people can see that now many years after the fact. Only the old die hard Nat’s supporters can’t see that or just fail to understand. Blue blood to the end. And the end is coming. The conservative boomers that have held sway over NZ are fading away and will be much less of a force than the new generations who don’t give a rats arse about “Aotearoa” and Te Reo being used when and wherever they want. A generational shift is happening, slowly as is the way and with it new attitudes that align far more with the Labour/Greens/Maori bloc than Nats/Act. Yes Labour have many warts but I think many of the younger generations can see and feel change happening that’s long overdue and accept it will take decades to deliver. Oh, and they love Jacinda for the kind persona she is spreading across our long green cloud. The Natz will just stick everything into reverse and pander to the boomers. Not gonna happen.

    • every young generation feels like they are the vanguard of change while in their teens and twenties, sometimes even into their 30’s but with time the fire dies down and they drop away

      Look what happened to the Hippy and Punk generations: from being radical rebels to comfy members of the establishment in mere decades

    • There is politics and there is religion.
      Gender/race/identity mantra is nonsensical, non scientific and is modern religion with believers and non believers.

      Hence the dichotomy in the “left”running neoliberal economic policies but embracing woke religion.
      There is no true left as such.

      People voted in a government to govern, not become our moral clergy preaching against our skin color or what car has a “legitimate” use.
      Certainly the ministry of truth and media do their best at brainwashing for the cult, but people will wake up when they are negatively effected themselves.

      • Nobody is preaching against your skin colour Keepcalmcarryon. Indeed it would in breach of our laws to do so.

    • I hope that you are right Greenbus. The government has many failures, but it is the best that we can expect, and it does offer us the prospect of a better future.

  4. I feel this article should have had a Te Reo version at the beginning, then the Colonisers’ language second.
    Just like Government publications are now doing so show us rubes the way of progress.

    And Chris needs to show his/he pronouns. It’s all about showing solidarity. y’know.

  5. Sharp swing to the left?? Did I miss something? The electricity supply re-nationalized, so granny won’t need winter energy payments? AirNZ re-nationalized, so it can properly do the job of connecting the regions? Our unicorps turned back into full-blooded state universities that focus on quality of education rather than number of bums on seats?

    This isn’t a left-wing government – it’s a progressive neoliberal government. The policies that we’re seeing (He Puapua, “hate speech” legislation etc) show that Ardern has one eye on her future employer, the UN. Or maybe both eyes, actually.

    • I agree with your analysis of the politics Pope. This is not a left wing government, and I find it to be rather cautious – no CGT for instance.
      But do you have any evidence for believing that Jacinda is motivated by future job prospects? Decisions about the type of legislation that you mention are made by Cabinet. Could it not be that they just reflect current liberal thinking.

      • I’ve lost all trust in Ardern, though maybe I’m being too cynical about the job scenario. It is clear though that He Puapua and “hate speech” legislation are intended to align us with UN policies. And Ardern has championed both those projects.

        This government certainly looks cautious on economics, but would you describe He Puapua and hate speech legislation as “cautious”?

  6. I have been a Labour voter my entire life and last election was the first time I did not voter Labour: I could see where Labour were heading in terms of embracing divisive/snobbish identity politics and I was very uncomfortable about it.

    I was torn as to who to vote for as I didn’t see any Party that I could fully relate to but in the end I held my nose and voted for NZF purely because I saw NZF as a way to keep in check labours ideological excesses

    The main problem I see at the moment is the lack of a credible opposition party.

    In reality Labour and the Greens are a shambles and are there for the taken should a party rise up and give a voice to the many politically disenfranchised people in NZ who gave Labour their vote last time but now are unsure and troubled about the direction they are taking our country in

    • Totally agree with many of the commenters on here saying that Labour is NOT a left-wing party in economic terms at all, and they still worship at the altar of neoliberalism. Except now they’re also making ritual sacrifices to the God of Wokeism. Labour deservedly earned huge support and trust from voters for their science-based handling of the Covid pandemic last year. Which is why I’m beyond disappointed to watch them degenerate into a Jeremy Corbyn-like mess that is obsessed with ethnic identity, tikanga and transphobia at the cost of far more pressing issues – reducing the causes of poverty and improving social mobility, addressing our mental health crisis, building affordable housing and key infrastructure, training more health professionals, rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible, improving everyone’s standard of living, climate change adaptation and restoring our natural environment. You know, all that good stuff that Labour is supposed to care about on behalf of blue collar workers?! So where are the results? Where is the meaningful progress? So many reports and broken promises. I felt genuine optimism for NZ in 2017, like we were on the cusp of something great that would bring us all together as a country. Instead, I’ve grown increasingly mad/sad as New Zealanders have become more fractious and divided, as every minority group in the land competes for the title of ‘Most Oppressed’. I understand that wrongs were done in the past, but I’m tired of European NZers being used as an emotional punching bag for others’ frustrations, having our own culture metaphorically spat on, and arrogantly dismissing anyone who is opposed to separatist, race-based, undemocratic policies (eg. He Puapua) as a “colonist” or “white supremacist” is not even remotely helpful. Honestly what the fuck is Labour thinking? Do they honestly believe all Pakeha, Pasifika and Asians in this country – or “visitors” as the Maori Party so graciously likes to call us – will put up with this toxic behaviour forever? Or stand by while our legitimate concerns about the future of democracy and freedom of expression get silenced by “it’s-my-right-to-not-be-offended” legislation? I’ve railed hard against National my entire life for being cruel, elitist, selfish, backwards, arrogant and stupid. And yet despite all that, Labour currently feels more dangerous to me by comparison. So what’s a girl to do? Should I swallow a dead rat and vote for National in 2023 simply to get this Far Left mob out of office before they cause any more damage? My feeling is that Labour is going to be SHOCKED by the results of the next election, when there will be an almighty backlash from a broad spectrum of voters. They will lose BIG TIME, and they won’t even see it coming.

  7. Woke mantra is the new religion, this government are our self appointed clergy.
    How many true believers are there is the real question.
    Watch the video clip these guys share to see real religious/cult behavior from the same sect in America:

    • “How many true believers are there is the real question.”

      Agreed. It’s not clear to me how many are true believers, how many are adopting woke postures because they think it will get them ahead in the world, and how many are just too afraid to say no.

    • Musee des Beaux Arts

      About suffering they were never wrong,
      The Old Masters: how well they understood
      Its human position; how it takes place
      While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
      … … … … …
      They never forgot
      That even dreadful martyrdom must run its course
      Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
      Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
      Scratches it’s innocent behind on a tree.

      In Breughel’s ‘Icarus’, for instance: how everything turns away
      Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
      Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
      But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
      As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
      Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
      Something amazing: a boy falling out of the sky,
      Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

      W.H. Auden

      • Oh, the foolishness of (the)yoof who do not listen to their elders and chose to ignore their experience at their peril.

        Labours 1999-2008 premiership all over again. Midway through their second term, which is now in this cycle. The wheels began to fall off the bus as they are now. All because they have not learned anything from their recent past.

  8. Hello All and Chris
    I look at this from a slightly different angle. I think the Left will possibly see its comeuppance at the next election and here is why I think so:
    Labour and the Greens are doing their very best to make it less fun to live in New Zealand. They are the fun police. Everything dear to the average Kiwi, who is generally fairly chilled out, is being attacked by these Wellington urbanites, academics and apparatchiks as you call them. The ute, the bbq, the fishing, farming, stuff that is quintessential kiwi…its all under attack by highly paid politicians and bureaucracts with rulebooks and clipboards. Everything is over regulated now. At the same time he country is slipping backwards and there are more poor people and fewer people that can afford the kiwi dream – their own home. That is not the New Zealand we know. At some stage it will all backfire. Possibly at the next election.

    • “Everything dear to the average Kiwi, who is generally fairly chilled out, is being attacked by these Wellington urbanites, academics and apparatchiks as you call them. The ute, the bbq, the fishing, farming, stuff that is quintessential kiwi…its all under attack by….” Dipshits with zero real world experience. The contempt for the government builds daily and it is across the divide surprisingly. The ONLY factor that will get Labour over the line next time is that the Opposition is so much worse .

      • Of course you know so much better than people who have actually travelled the world, worked on the factory floor, done the shittiest of jobs and strived to better themselves.

        Your honour, the example above is enough evidence for me to rest my case.

    • Jesus Kraut go and vote for Judy at least she would appreciate your maudlin wanderings. The average kiwi you’re talking about is nearing extinction bless them. Times are changing and you will be left in the dust pining for the old days. Not all change is bad you know.

    • Kraut
      The kiwi dream was always to escape the working class and have fun on a section of stolen land, farming, retailing, but always working for the bank until you could own shares in the bank.
      The kiwi nightmare is to lose your land to the bank, raging rivers, Maori or methane, and become a worker again.
      The Labour Party tries to keep the dream alive but cannot postpone the nightmare of the free for all that goes with a world burning up.

    • Agreed Kraut

      More broadly the concept of selling lowered consumption and even rationing as a way of tackling climate change is a non starter. A few extremists might be happy to live lower quality lives in order to assuage their guilt but the vast majority won’t.

      In this regard climate change possesses many of the characteristics of some religious movements: It being a mortal sin to consume.

  9. I agree with you Bert with the alternative being a cot case we also need to be careful as many other countries like Israel and Samoan have such small majorities. And when you have fragmented support or a divided nation it becomes extremely difficult almost bordering on near impossible to rule and please the majority. We also need to bear in mind this is a newly elected unimpeded Labour parties first term. Too many people expect the transformational changes we desperately need to happen immediately and in my view this is unrealistic. Jacinda might have fairy dust (according to some) but she doesn’t have a magic wand yet. And to make matters worse to build the workforce we need will take some time as we are competing for the same pool of peoples with Canada and Australia who are seen as more favorable. We also need to remember the National party had nine years to delivery our brighter future and prevent us from becoming tenants in our country. All I can say is people need to be more patient. Yes we will need to let more people in our country unfortunately but we need to ensure we bring in the best people for our country. And we need to invest heavily in NZers so our reliance on foreign labour and skills can be minimized. In the meantime I can see the farmers have their hands out again. I find some of our farmers and note I say some, to be extremely selfish and always looking to blame. They (these farmers) need to realise it is not all about just them. Those of us living in Wellington had out insurance premiums rise by heaps due to the earthquake risks and we had no choice but to lump it or get out.

  10. Hey teKraut you forgot to add the paperboy and sausage sizzles as quintessentail kiwi icons (Johns’ policies)

  11. If you can’t bring in a apical gains on 50% support you’re no good to anyone. If you can’t smuggle it in on 50% you’re differently not doing it o 75 one hundred or a million percent support. Just not skilled enough boy.

  12. Why would anyone give a fuck what LINO’s lead is when the planet is being melted, whichever bunch of criminals is in power at any given time?

    ‘IPCC steps up warning on climate tipping points in leaked draft report
    Scientists increasingly concerned about thresholds beyond which recovery may become impossible’

    The NZ political machine is rotten to the core and worse than useless.

  13. Great commentary Chris. Thanks.

    XRay is correct (above) in saying that the present government could be forgiven a lot if they could actually deliver on any of their promises. The one thing they have going for them at the moment is their virus response, but if the Wellington infection turns out to be a super-spreader event, then I think they’re screwed.

    I think the Labour faithful are also being lulled into a false sense of security by the polls, particularly the ‘preferred prime minister’ result. If I recall Helen Clark was getting a dismal 6% in that poll just before she became PM. Between elections most people (all except the political tragics, like us) don’t pay attention to politics and their they will mostly say they favour whoever is in office at the time. It’s meaningless. The PM gets most of the air time and the opposition is (or should be) busy developing policies and election strategies so are naturally less visible. If they have policy ideas they will only release them closer to election time.

  14. TheKraut yet again I agree with you.
    Labour Party have failed to deliver on almost all of their campaign promises and indeed have made matters worse.

  15. I am struck by the contrast with Boris Johnston following the UK 2019 election. In it, the Red Wall crumbled and a large number of Labour UK voters choose Conservative for the first time in their, or their parents, or grandparents lives. The Tories were at great pains to message that “I know how agonizing it was for some of the voters”, we consider that you have just lent us your vote at this stage”, “we hope to be worthy of earning it”. Labour NZ’s attitude on the other hand……………………

    • Yes and i expect all the past labour voters are turning in their graves that their children who have taken their lives for granted and fought for nothing have voted for the establishment .

      • The establishment? Who do you think the UK LINO party are? Where do you think most of their MPs went to school? Dysfunctional as Johnson is as a person, his government has nationalized Northern Rail – something we didn’t see Blair’s LINO government doing.

  16. If the nurses’ just demands are not met, if the housing crisis is unresolved, if the cost of the government’s bike bridge blows out past $1 billion, this administration will be finished, to be replaced with something much worse.

    So how about it Labour?

    Concede to the nurses’ demands.

    Bring in an empty homes tax, freeing up tens of thousands of empty houses for rent or sale.

    Instead of building a bike bridge use that money to beef up public transport across the Waitemata so that people don’t have to use their cars and then give the cyclists one lane of the Harbour Bridge

  17. I hate to write this but I think I’m beginning to agree with TheKraut.
    The neoliberal societal constrictions forced on us is a psychological mechanism to make sure we bow down to authority, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter which authority so long as we bow down to one or more of them. The other resource that bowing down to authority and again, it doesn’t matter which one, is that of it being a litmus test to determine just how far we’ll bow down before we start making grumbling noises which will lead to resistance.
    Again, in my opinion, Health and Safety with its army of fluro vest wearing, flashing orange light minions is a mechanism to gauge just how far we can be pushed and shoved around. And of course, the logical fallacy that binds neoliberal H $ S bullshit together is difficult to argue against. Being safe and healthy is vitally important. No one wants to be unsafe and sickly unless you’re a very special client of some very elite S&M dungeon in depths of Remuera where the boys will be boys, Aye Boys?
    national and labour are heads of the same Hydra, I’m not arguing that. Lets be honest? No one could. Labour, however, is the lessor of two weevils. They’re just nicer people. It’s not entirely Labour’s fault that they’re trapped in a narrative designed by national’s greedy psychopathic spin doctors which shat out roger douglas and his ugly fucking cronies from the arseholes of labour.
    Unfortunately, until labour acknowledges and apologises for what’s happened to us from about 1984 under labour’s banner and begins new and bold initiatives to mend and heal things generally no one will ever fully trust labour fully and it’s because of that innate lack of trust that labour voters feel generally they’ll swing about all over the place like an elephants diddle on lets fuck Friday.
    What we AO/NZ’er’s absolutely must do? We must come to understand that it is WE who are the politic of our AO/NZ. Not some greedy, pompous cadre of over priced arse holes making decisions on our behalf for their mates and while we remain a capitalist oriented democracy those decisions will always, by default, err on the side of private wealth creation which means we’ll become even more deeply fucked than we are already.
    Yep. You guessed it. Unless we change OUR democracy from capitalism to socialism it’ll always be Friday and oh look!? Here come the elephants.

    • Countryboy
      Don’t hate to agree on this occasion. I’d rather not have written that piece. But NZ is just not the same place it used to be. Now I know things change and that’s fair and change is good. But it seems the changes are not organic but rather steered and forced by secret agendas. It feels like every little aspect of our life is now controlled and regulated by this Labour govt. Towards what goal…who knows??? They certainly aren’t telling what the big plan is. They don’t have one. Now some of you may like being controlled by 500,000 bureaucrats in Wellington. I don’t.

  18. I just hope Jacinda and her acolytes and sycophants keep doing what they are doing because it will ensure their downfall in 2023.

  19. I’m actually surprised the Greens & TOP haven’t plugged-in to the current of frustration with the housing market (rentals and buying a home).

    I voted for TOP last election – partly because I knew I could ‘afford to’, given Labour was pretty near a sure thing to win re-election.. and partly because I figured a bunch of well meaning technocrats maybe ain’t so bad, given all the other choices on the ballot paper….

  20. Kia ora Chris
    We live in a time of evolving nationalist sentiment in Aotearoa, as evidenced by increasing use of te reo Maori in public discourse, the teaching of New Zealand history and Maori culture in state schools, and proposals for legislative and constitutional change.
    You see nationalism as an electoral phenomenon or, not to put too fine a point on it, an electoral problem, and the key question for you is “Will the Labour Party be able to bring or hold together a majority of voters by getting on board with this broad ranging movement?”
    You do not have a lot of evidence to support your opinion that it will not, which leads me to wonder whether you are bringing in electoral consequences as a pragmatic argument against a cause which you abhor in principle.
    The second question you raise is whether this is a popular movement or whether it is an elitist cause largely driven by elements within the state, as was the case with the Labour Party’s last adventure in radical reform, the economic restructuring of the nineteen eighties.
    This is where your approach is simplistic. Like any popular movement, New Zealand nationalism as a broad phenomenon is complex and contradictory. Political elites and the state itself are not slow to take advantage of or to try to control the direction and outcomes of the movement. Examples would be John Key’s proposal to change the New Zealand flag, and the “He Puapua” and “He whenua taurikura” projects. The first failed because not because it was opposed by the Labour Party (which held to a steadfastly colonialist position on the matter of the flag) but because it was resented by radical nationalists (who have their own flags or have no need of one) and viewed with suspicion by more moderate nationalists (who wondered why John Key, a thorough going colonialist himself, would want to put through a change that would appear to favour the nationalist cause). “He Puapua” will fail for much the same reasons. It would be seen for an attempt by an elite group with strong colonialist connections to hijack the nationalist movement and take it in directions that no one else would want. It won’t get past Cabinet.
    Meanwhile, a lot is happening at the popular level. Outside the echo chambers of blog sites like Bowalley Road, the vast mass of our people are comfortable with the teaching of New Zealand history and the use of te reo. Instead of reacting with fear to the exploration of history, they merely demand that the history as taught should consist of “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and that all biases and preconceptions should be open to challenge. Instead of getting angry when someone on radio or television uses words that they do not understand (a mistake that no five year old child would be prone to) they endeavour to learn what they do not know.
    The elites, and the state, are responding in their own devious ways to a genuinely popular movement. They come up with top down proposals which are either more show than substance, or which are fundamentally undemocratic and which will entrench the power of the colonialist elites. The real popular movement continues to proceed as it has been, slowly by trial and error and millions of simultaneous dialogues in the homes, workplaces and marae of the nation, and the outcomes will be overwhelmingly positive.
    In all this your personal position remains obscure, but comments such as the one about Guyon Espiner’s “insufferable fluency” give the game away. You are not at all comfortable with nationalism as it is manifesting in Aotearoa. That is fine, but it is a position which you should openly acknowledge as your own, rather than hiding behind the mythical 15% of voters who will supposedly desert the NZLP if nationalist sentiment is given its head in this country.

    • “They come up with top down proposals which are either more show than substance, or which are fundamentally undemocratic and which will entrench the power of the colonialist elites.”

      Can you give me examples of these “top down proposals that are more show than substance”?

      And by “fundamentally undemocratic”, would you be talking about He Puapua, which involves (amongst other things) establishing an upper house for un-elected tribal elites? What’s the government’s mandate for this plan that they kept hidden from NZ First and from the public until recently? I don’t recall any mention of it during the last election campaign.

      Speaking of NZ First, surely they would have to be considered nationalists. The difference is they’re not ethnonationalists, which is the kind of nationalism you appear to be talking about (though you’re not upfront about it) and that Chris Trotter might be uncomfortable with.

      As for your reaction to the comment about Guyon Espiner’s “insufferable fluency”, have you been to a rural pub recently in the South Island (or Wairarapa or Rangitikei, for that matter), and tried out your te reo on a few pakeha cockies? I’m sure you’d be unimpressed with their pronunciation. Trotter’s well-made point is that pakeha fluency in Maori is very much an elite thing.

      • “More show than substance” would be John Key’s proposal to change the flag.
        “And by “fundamentally undemocratic”, would you be talking about He Puapua.. ”
        Yes, I would.
        “Speaking of NZ First, surely they would have to be considered nationalists.”
        New Zealand First seems to favour a degree of economic nationalism, but want to keep the British monarch as New Zealand’s head of state and wish to keep New Zealand as a subordinate partner of the Five Eyes Alliance. So they are not nationalist, even though they might like to call themselves such.
        “The difference is they’re not ethnonationalists, which is the kind of nationalism you appear to be talking about (though you’re not upfront about it)..”
        Where did you get that idea from? How can I be upfront about being an ethnonationalist when I am totally against any form of ethno-nationalism? One of the reasons why I am opposed to the current colonialist regime is that it is race-based and race-centred. Having a Head of State who must be drawn from and representative of the dominant ethnic group is anathema to me, but not it seems to all those who think that the current constitutional arrangements of the Realm of New Zealand are quite satisfactory.
        “Trotter’s well-made point is that pakeha fluency in Maori is very much an elite thing.”
        Trotter’s proficiency in the use of written English is also very much an elite thing, but no reasonable person would criticise him on that account. I respect Guyon Espiner for his fluency, and I respect Chris Trotter for his journalistic skills. But in saying that, I do not criticize anyone for poor pronunciation, grammar or syntax, whichever language they happen to be speaking.

    • Geoff, John Key’s flag-change process failed because it was so obviously rigged, and because his chosen designs (yes, his) were hideous. If I’d been given an attractive alternative to the current flag, I would have happily voted for it.

      I’m surprised you apparently see He Puapua as “an elite group with strong colonialist connections to hijack the nationalist movement and take it in directions that no one else would want”. And yet Rawiri Waititi was prepared to get kicked out of parliament for trying to shut down criticism of He Puapua. Are you calling him and Ngarewa-Packer “an elite group with strong colonialist connections”?

      You see belonging to the Five Eyes as incompatible with nationalism? The reality is that all small countries need alliances (and are inevitably “subordinate partners”), and those alliances and agreements are most sustainable if they’re with other countries with shared values and culture. Note that we also have various formal ties to other Pacific countries, reflecting the fact that we’re also a Polynesian country. Would you see “true nationalism” as incompatible with belonging to the commonwealth too? What about the UN? Would we need to give them the flick too?

      It’s hardly just English-speaking countries that have alliances based on shared values, language and culture. The Turkic nations of Asia and the middle east have close ties through the Turkic Council, which includes shared security considerations. Would that mean none of those Turkic countries can be truly nationalistic?

      So NZF are the wrong kind of nationalists as far as you’re concerned, because their view of NZ doesn’t privilege Maori culture or language – unlike yours. You seem very hung up on Liz being our official head of state, but how much influence does she really have on what happens here? And seriously Geoff, we could do a lot worse than Liz.

      On the other hand, there are plenty of NZ republicans who are itching to ditch Liz, but who aren’t particularly attached to Maori culture or language (I’m not one of them), but likewise you apparently see them as the wrong kind of nationalists.

      Geoff, your brand of nationalism is Maori nationalism, is it not? Most of us who live here are not of Maori descent, but that doesn’t make us less Kiwi. You tout a growth of grassroots support for your brand of nationalism, but I wonder how much of that apparent support reflects ongoing indoctrination in our education system, as well as the propaganda peddled by Radio NZ (see the so-called “Citizen’s Handbook”). Many of my work colleagues now feel obliged to make the correct sort of noises about “systemic racism” and “decolonization” because they suspect doing otherwise will hurt their career prospects.

      It looks pretty top-down to me Geoff, at least among pakeha.

  21. Opposing CGT, more intensive housing and here cultural change – is there no established privilege the aging boomer will not defend: albeit couched as fear of the conservative withdrawing support for Labour.

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