Frail And Confused: National Succumbs To Political Alzheimer’s.

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WHAT NEW ZEALAND WITNESSED over the weekend was the demise of the National Party. That parties are often divided and fractious after a significant election defeat is a fact of political life. Indeed, it would be worrying if passionate disputation was absent from a party’s post-election AGM. People would probably be more alarmed by a party that accepted it defeat by exuding a sort of Zen calm. Not that National was demonstrating anything like Zen acceptance from the Manukau Events Centre.

Proof of the party’s decline was not, however, to be found in either an excess of passion, or the lack of it, but in the sheer political ineptitude of the entire 700-strong gathering. What we saw over the weekend was a party which no longer knows how to play the game of electoral politics. Neither its leaders, nor its members, any longer have a clue what’s required of them. They no longer know who they are, what they believe in, or how to reacquire a competitive electoral edge. National has become frail and confused.

What else but a frail and confused party could possibly have acquiesced in the re-appointment of Peter Goodfellow as its president? This is a man who failed to perform on not just one, but many fronts. After leading the party to its second-worst defeat ever, and insisting on playing a decisive role in the selection of some truly appalling candidates, Goodfellow’s resignation wasn’t just expected – it was required. He needed to supply his party’s 2021 AGM with his own head on a platter – garnished with heartfelt apologies and seasoned with a passionate call for rejuvenation.

That Goodfellow didn’t understand that; that his fellow board members didn’t understand that; that the delegates who replaced the retiring board members didn’t understand that; is all the proof one could possibly need that National has succumbed to the political equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease.

Judith “Crusher” Collins ended-up piling failure upon failure. Either she wanted Goodfellow back, or she lacked the political chops to prevent his return. Whichever explanation is correct, National’s leader emerged from last weekend’s AGM looking stupid, weak, or an uninspiring combination of the two. Her references to the certainty of sunrises notwithstanding, Collins did not give the appearance of a women who either wants, or expects, to lead her party into the 2023 election. That she may end up doing exactly that will merely confirm that there is no one in National’s parliamentary caucus who could do the job better – or wants to!

Can you imagine Rob Muldoon, Jim Bolger, Don Brash or John Key dutifully reciting this abject excuse for a political pitch to the disaffected and disappointed?

“Over the next two years we will engage with experts and the public and you, our members, to develop solutions. We will listen and we will discuss. We will demonstrate we are the Party that can deliver on our promises, and has the ability to deliver solutions for the country’s big problems. Outlining a vision to the New Zealand public. And releasing policy in each of these and other areas as we go.”

It is hard to know where to begin with this glutinous heap of political blancmange. Perhaps by re-emphasising that a political party seeks power to implement the policies advanced by its members, and the socio-economic forces those members represent. A viable political organisation contains within its ranks all the expertise it needs to knock the rough edges of the membership’s policy ideas. Moreover, why would any political party worthy of the name want to “engage” with the public? That is what it does every time an election is held! Only when the ballot boxes have been emptied, and the votes counted, does a political party discover whether or not its proffered “solutions” have been deemed equal to the public’s problems.

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This is political Alzheimer’s with bells on. National has simply forgotten how to play “Democracy”. It also seems to have forgotten that the Oppositioncannot deliver on its promises until it becomes the Government: that the delivery of solutions comes after the people have voted – not before. There is something both tragic and embarrassing in the spectacle of a once great party losing its wits.

National brought it on itself, of course, when the party decided that it could no longer be trusted to play the Democracy game successfully. After the debacle of the 2002 general election, when its Party Vote plummeted to a risible 21 percent, National allowed Steven Joyce to transform it into a sort of electoral holding company.

Instead of living, breathing, thinking citizens, National’s membership transformed themselves into a bunch of largely powerless political shareholders. Henceforth, they would not be turning up to an annual conference. [For readers under 35, annual conferences were where the members of political parties used to gather, in full view of the public, to argue about policy and elect themselves a President and a National Executive Committee.] No, what the Nats turned up to after 2002 was an AGM – where they dutifully rubber-stamped their “Board of Directors’” decisions and cheered-on the CEO. Safe enough when your CEO was a Don Brash or a John Key. Not so safe when your leader was a Simon Bridges, a Todd Muller or a “Crusher” Collins!

The medical experts say that the best defence against real Alzheimer’s is to keep one’s mind as active as possible. At 85-years-of-age, the National Party should be doing everything it can to stay sharp. Reading books, listening to invited speakers with exciting new ideas, writing and thrashing-out policy, debating the great issues of the day, vetting and choosing candidates, and making sure its office holders are up to snuff. Allowing all those jobs to be done by others (and done badly!) is not the way to stay sharp and remain a competitive player of the Democracy game. (At 105-years-of-age, Labour should probably be contemplating something similar!)

Though only a handful of the delegates attending last weekend’s AGM realised it, National was wandering dangerously close to the edge of a deep political hole. If it was to avoid a fatal fall, the party needed to wake itself up with a painful slap in the face. Having slapped itself, National should then have grabbed itself by the scruff of the neck and shaken itself until all the dead wood dropped off. Had it done that, then it just might have found the courage to reclaim its proper role as a living, breathing, thinking political party, in a living, breathing, thinking parliamentary democracy. But, that’s not what it did. Instead, frail and confused, it forgot what and where it was – and fell into the hole.

Which just leaves Act.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Yup, seems like the process towards ACT is already underway, where else can the right wing vote go? What it seems to suggest is more polarization of the electorate than ever before…if in this age of things done by numbers and comparing/avoiding the distasteful former messiness of Masseys Cossacks and the 1951 watersiders strike…

    • After all those bullshit sly accusations of Venezuela this, Zimbabwe that, blah blah blah because The Labour Party. It turns out The National Party was smuggling in hyperinflation by just cutting the budget for tax cuts. National is supposed to be the superior economic manager. Turns out it was all a bluff.

  2. Wow Chris, that was so well put, excellent. Please send this article to Luxon as he needs to read it. Mind you, he will read it anyway I presume as he makes his plans. He seems reasonably alert. He will take note of your comments. Not sure yet if he is the perfect solution, but he and Bridges are the best they have to save what can be saved. As for Collins, I really have no clue why they are not axing her? Must be a timing thing but she is about as thick as it gets. Hopefully the next poll will get her fired. Please someone do a poll! My word, she is a destructive political trainwreck of highest order. Now you all know I lean towards and vote to the right. So that just leaves me with… yep Chris you said it…Act.

    • i predict that ACT will have more MPs than National at the next election and David Seymour will be the leader of the real opposition. I dislike the idea but I think its inevitable . The only way Judith can stop this is to disavow ACT in Epsom a tell National supporters to vote for the National candidate and thus chop the head off the ACT party. I’d be surprised if National MPs haven’t already suggested this to their board.

  3. Totally agree Chris, and your closing sentence “Which just leaves ACT” should make us all nervous.

      • Simply because Inequality, Pollution, Climate Change, Failing Infrastructure, and Covid 19 have all shown that the major challenges the world now faces can not be solved or even confronted with free market profit driven mantra; in reality these problems have all been created or worsened by the profit at all costs motive expounded by ACT.

  4. “Exciting new ideas..”
    Not exactly a National Party thing.
    Basically National stands for non-intervention, which is another way of saying doing nothing, with the assumption that their beloved free market forces will take care of it.
    National may have once represented the heartland rural communities, the conservative middle-classes and the New Zealand small business community.
    But now National is dominated by the 1%, the country squires, the internationally-financed corporate farmers and the climate change denialists – people who have no interest in making our country great but only in making themselves wealthy.
    You reap what you sow.

  5. +1 “Instead of living, breathing, thinking citizens, National’s membership transformed themselves into a bunch of largely powerless political shareholders. Henceforth, they would not be turning up to an annual conference.”

    but it’s not just the Natz that seem to think running the country does not require much thinking and expecting your executive committee to do all the work, Labeens drink the same neoliberal Koolaid and so do most NZ businesses ….. even the electricity is going off these days as lack of expertise and forward planning in NZ business is at an all time high, and years of this approach means massive risks of work that was never done while the good time, profits rolled in, until everything stops working, all at once.

    Back to the Natz,

    Natz idea will be to jettison Collins right before the election and get the media talking about the new Natz leader, who if things look stale for Labeens, might make people want to give Natz a chance out of desperation… worked for Jacinda.

    That’s why I’m concerned that Labeen are set in their woke rhythm which is getting more annoying by the day, woke speech laws, more taxes proposed, higher interest rates, wages not keeping up, while more freeloaders come into NZ in the latest virtue gathering, still no houses and full hospitals and schools… another grab for centralisation like three waters, tertiary, DHBs, electricity disruption, who knows what else…

  6. My hope for the future is as the ACT pack grows in numbers the predatory nature of its members will mean leadership struggles where the pack leader uses up his energy in battles with rivals.
    I am someone who has never voted National but I am now wondering if it is a good idea to have such weak opposition to a government which ignores its popular mandate to govern and keeps throwing away all opportunities to have a lasting impact on New Zealand society.
    Maybe if they felt more threatened they would not be so complacent about a return to power in 2023. Personally I fear even fewer of the poor and disillusioned will vote in future elections and this will harm Labour and Greens more than ACT or National.
    ‘The best lack all conviction”
    ‘while the worst are full of a passionate intensity” (W.B.Yeats)

  7. It’s not just National that are lost; all political parties are. It’s just that National are closer to the abyss than the others, as the world turns to shit as a consequence of the mendacity and ineptitude and money-grubbing of politicians over many decades.

    This is the deadly future the above arseholes have foisted on us:

    ‘Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet

    Report warns temperatures likely to rise by more than 1.5C bringing widespread extreme weather’

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/aug/09/humans-have-caused-unprecedented-and-irreversible-change-to-climate-scientists-warn

    And National are still firmly locked into denial of reality. Bizarre beyond belief!!!

    • Totally agree and what you point out is just the tip of the iceberg. Food shortages, wide spread poverty, power shortages, civil unrest – this has the last days of Rome feel stomped all over it.

  8. Nationals demise has been predicted before and proven to be wrong time and time again. Similar articles were written by those on the right during the Goff, Shearer, Cundiff debacle and frankly don’t deserve much attention. Act and the Greens rise on Nationals and Labours fall. It’s simply how the electoral cycle has been working for the last thirty years. The same things will be said again on the left when Ardern leaves, rinse and repeat.

  9. The natzo party… ‘the farmers party’ are on the run. I knew the above would come to pass even before jonky jumped the sinking AO/NZ dung barge ( No doubt after urgently and desperately tying up dirty, secretive little loose ends. Aye Boys? )
    One might think [all this] is about best intentions imploding. Well, it isn’t. ( Unless one’s understanding of ‘best intentions’ differs from the common understanding of the words. )
    Natzo World is merely shrivelling up to a small suit case size to make it easier for them to make a run for it with.
    The Natzo’s have enabled their billionaires, they’ve lined their own pockets, they’ve created a desperate underclass of who were once the essential work force to our primary industry and now that the poor old cocky goose’s on it’s death nest after laying its last golden egg the dirty little Natzo’s are on the run. With yours and mine’s lives, well being and of course, our money.
    If AO/NZ were perhaps the USA, the natzo’s would be mired in public inquiries. Instead, in funny little AO/NZ, Funny little, rich little, lucky little AO/NZ we’ll be left holding a piss pot full of turds and fuck all else.
    When I think of it…? Global heating will be a Godsend to the crooks who’ve grifted us for years and generations.
    Since about the late 1930’s the natzo’s, a duopoly of shyster banksters and money lenders, have been swindling farmer funds and as we all know, there’s always a day of reckoning. Unless…?
    Global heating.
    Now a days? There’re billionaires on the move. Peter thiel’s an AO/NZ citizen, as is larry page. Who else, one might ask? Who else is in standing in the cue to buy our country?
    AO/NZ will certainly become a republic and will be literally owned by the planet’s hyper riche so it’s good by to the natzo’s criminal past. Buried under burning forests and dying oceans. Oddly ironic, isn’t it, but that won’t help hungry kids in Otara.
    ( Bizarrely, it may work in our favour. I see Rocket Lab’s launched a satellite for Space Force. To no doubt keep an eye on the riffraff readying to walk over the the draw bridge.
    NZ Herald.
    “Rocket Lab launches US Air Force’s new Space Force”
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/rocket-lab-launches-us-air-forces-new-space-force/3ZAT33B3XVO3AGBX574XIJNDNA/

  10. Well said Chris, totally accurate. The real worry now is how big a percentage with the Act neoliberal-in-sheeps-clothing project get at the next election?

    • I agree with you Nukefacts. Scarey times; Goodfellow & Collins’ love of power has consequences far beyond the demise of the National party. When leaders resort to collecting desenting scalps the only solution is a coup.

  11. Chris I think Alzheimer’s is an illness suffered also by the Jacinda Ardern Labour Government and their supporters.
    They have forgotten all of their election promises to help the poor and instead have widened the gap between rich and poor to an unprecedented level.
    The rich have benefited hugely through property and equity values which have risen more under 4 years of Labour than they did under 9 years of National.

    • Yeah well now its Labours turn to be patronized by all those delicious donations. Neo liberals never change. But the baton is getting worn from all that passing.

  12. I like National’s Politics

    More population growth
    More urban growth.
    More car and congestion growth .
    More consumptive growth
    More fossil fuel energy growth.
    More Tourism and Aircraft journeys growth .
    More cow growth ,with more nitrate and methane growth.
    More opening the borders in covid to save the economy growth.
    More unaffordable housing cost growth .
    More species extinction growth.
    More dead coral reef growth .
    More drought growth .
    More wild fires growth .
    More floods growth and sea level rise growth

    That should work . Brilliant .
    Who wouldn’t vote for that .That’s real leadership when you need it most .

    Nationals Neoliberal vision of endless growth based on fossil fuels is accelerating the destruction of the biosphere not saving it .National are politically living in 1953 .
    To save what we still have, they are already politically irrelevant .

    The next election and every one thereafter will have a younger and younger demographic which desperately want a sustainable planet to live on and will like National even less .

    I think a rebranding would work well ” Vote for the NZ Numpty Party ” .

    • Absolutely 100% correct. Add that whist in power Keys open door policy allowing those with mega cash saw a property gold rush destabilising the market as we knew it. Those increases can’t be reversed thrusting our housing market onto an international footing where majority NZders do not have unlimited resources to compete – particularly at auctions.

  13. Pretty sure having re-read the article Labour wasn’t mentioned once, yet we still have those foaming at the mouth to assimilate this story to Labour. Crazy times.

    • Correct John they are. Compare that to National whom as Black Lemming previously raised aren’t…

      National’s Politics

      More population growth
      More urban growth.
      More car and congestion growth .
      More consumptive growth
      More fossil fuel energy growth.
      More Tourism and Aircraft journeys growth .
      More cow growth ,with more nitrate and methane growth.
      More opening the borders in covid to save the economy growth.
      More unaffordable housing cost growth .
      More species extinction growth.
      More dead coral reef growth .
      More drought growth .
      More wild fires growth .

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