Search This Blog

Friday, 18 August 2017

Campaign Fail: Why the Greens blew it

I am going to start this post by linking (here) to a re-post from KP that I did in April on this blog about the Greens.

So go have a read of that first before we digest exactly what caused the Greens to slump to 4% in the polls yesterday.

...Pause...

Ok, got all that, good. Now lets us proceed.

And for those thinking that I am linking old material to crow about the current situation with the Greens by saying "Look, I was right" I wish to assure the reader that, as with my long running calls on this blog to get rid of Andrew Little as way to fix the issues with Labour, my intent is less to gloat but rather to point out that the things that have caused this current crisis for the Greens are not unprecedented and have, in fact, been around for some time now.

And its been over a year since I originally wrote that post for Kiwipolitico, so what James Shaw and Co are facing today has its roots well before Metria Turei's benefit fraud furor (which was merely a trigger for the current crisis) rather than this being some sort storm that came out of no where.

So what we shall do is take snippets of what I wrote a year ago and compare them with what is happening today; starting with the recent poll slump.

What I wrote a year a ago:

Every new voter to the Greens that is merely running from the nitwit antics in Labour will run straight back if Labour shapes up and flies right (geddit?) 

It was clear, even a year a go, that much of the voter base which was swelling the Greens polling were refugees from Labour who were not happy with how things were under Andrew Little and were transferring their support to the Greens. But that if the factors which were bedeviling Labour were to change (like replacing Andrew with Jacinda) then they would go straight back.

And with Jacinda Ardern taking over they returned like a wayward pet finding its way back home after being absent for several years.

Then there is the re-branding that the Greens have undertaken since James Shaw took over which have seen them move away from their traditional issues (like the environment) to wider social issues (such as social welfare and "budget responsibility").

What I wrote a year ago:

Shaw himself is pro-market and believes that it can be reformed to be sustainable, which is a laudable sentiment for a member of the young Nats but not in a party like the Greens. These kind of ideas, Shaw’s background and the recent statements from the party about doing and end run around Labour to work with National on some issues show that the Greens of the past may soon be replaced by the “Greens” of the future

Well the "Greens of the future" arrived and not only did it cause a split within the party (with some the older environmental types, obviously put out by Shaw's wholesale importing of the Kool Kidz into the party over them) but also ticked off its potential coalition partner, Labour, by doing things like supporting National on the budget and not sticking to the terms of the MOU (they signed with with Labour) by not telling them what they were going to do in advance.

Last year:

So in dissecting the Green party at this current time it’s not the past to which I am concerned but the future and to put it simply it looks like the Greens are about to (take a deep breath and say it with me) compromise. In daily use compromise is not a bad term but in politics it almost always means abandoning your principles to reach a short term expediency at the cost of both your long term supporters and policy goals

And compromise (as well as abandon) their principles they did, which did no favors to Greens, or its core voter base who have obviously revolted given how the party is currently polling. This is also the place where Metria Turei's duplicity over benefit and electoral fraud came back to haunt the Greens by stripping away in short order the previous air of moral untouchability that had long protected the Greens like a magic cloak.

Add in the fact that Shaw was obviously clearing house behind the scenes by culling key Green party staff and the structural weaknesses were multiplied..

What I wrote a year ago:

Personality conflicts in politics are not new and party staff generally know not to contradict the leader but when key staff are either removed (as in the case of Spagnolo) or leaving in droves (as with the other three) it takes more than claims of “coincidence” to assuage the growing feeling that something is not right in the good ship Green

Shaw removed, or drove out at least four key staff members in the wake of his taking charge of the Greens and this gutting of older hands within the party obviously left it bereft of the saner minds that would never have endorsed any of the things the party has been doing recently; like its sudden lurch into social issues and instead counseled sticking to the older, slower, but also successful, formula of primary environmental concerns.

I am pretty sure that evicted Coms and policy director David Cormack (or exiled chief press secretary Leah Haines) would not have advised that Metria Turei make her benefit fraud admission, but they were obviously not around at the time that that plan was hatched and whoever had replaced them was either asleep at the wheel or dancing to Shaw's tune.

Then there is James Shaw himself, who I have never been comfortable about:

The obvious cause is new male co-leader James Shaw himself, who with his corporate background with HSBC (the money launderers bank of choice) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (an organisation with so many scandals attached to its name I will not relate them here but encourage any who are interested to have a dig themselves) seems an extremely unusual choice for a party whose charter explicitly states “unlimited material growth is impossible” in two of its four articles.

Shaw has always presented his time working in the corporate sector as something laudable and virtuous but the fact is he was working for major corporate actors with dodgy track records and backgrounds and all the sustainability projects in the third world were never going to remove the fact that he sought to work with them rather than the usual, and more ethically sound, run of NGOs that are not as tainted as HSBC or PWC.

Then we add in these rumors which I had herd about Shaw at the time:

a) Shaw is a corporate Trojan horse (ala Don Brash in both the National and ACT coups); b) Shaw is an agent provocateur in the pay of the security services (not so astounding once you realize that it’s a known fact that the security services have had paid informants in environmental groups since the 90s; or  c) the Greens have a serious case of political blue balls and are now prepared to do anything (and I mean “anything”) to get into power.

At this time I would say that Shaw is in fact a combination of all three. His miracle rise within the party, his clear alignment away from traditional Green issues and his willingness to work with National mean that I would not be surprised if Shaw was revealed to be part of some secret nexus of corporate power and the security-services which are focused on destroying the Greens from within by having Shaw hijack the party and steer it to disaster. It would make perfect sense.

But thats not all because there was also the issue that the path Shaw was charting for the Greens was one of known dangers:

But there are a few problems with this scenario and Shaw would do well to heed the lessons of history when it comes to playing with fire. The fate of the Lib Dems in the UK, the Maori Party and NZ First should serve as warnings to any minor party leader willing to put short term expediency ahead of long term progress.

But did he listen, no he did not, and in a few short months has destroyed over 20 years of hard work by former and current party members.

And even if Shaw does not turn out to be a traitorous worm working for dark forces he will go down in NZ political history as a naive imbecile who simply did not understand that the strength of the Greens was its strict adherence to its principles and environmental line rather than trying to be like every other party in parliament.

At the time I compared Shaw and Turei to the lead characters of the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

If this is the case then James Shaw and Metiria Turei are the Brad and Janet of NZ politics while Key is Frank N Furter (with possibly Winston as Riff Raff, Andrew Little as Dr Scott and yours truly as the Narrator). 

John key is gone and its hard to imagine Bill English will ever admit his cross dressing habit but if you wanted naive dupes who got sucked in and enslaved to their lusts by a shady hucksters (as Brad and Janet were by Frank N Furter) you do not need to go any further than Shaw and Turei who seemed to not understand what was waiting for them once they decided to get into politics for real.

And from last year this was my summation of the situation:

If we discount the “coincidence” argument in favor of a more holistic approach we see that new leadership with new ideas, mass changes in key staff and indications of attempts to exit the political corner that the Greens have painted themselves into shows a party on the cusp of a major political shift, a party that is smelling the winds of change and planning to take full advantage of them.

As of today the Greens are polling at 4% because of that "shift" and James Shaw is saying they will get back to 10%, and I wish him good luck with that because I will be surprised if they even make 8% given how Labour, and Jacinda, have surged in the polls.

Shaw stripped out the party to make it in his own image and when things were good the issues were ignored for continuing the focus on Shaw's plans to get into power. But when things started going wrong all those structural weaknesses which Shaw had brought into play suddenly complicated and lead to where the Greens are now.

And to be really clear it was not the Metria Turei benefit fraud thing that did it for the Greens, it did set a clear line for Green voters but it was not what sunk her or the party.

What did sink the her and the party was the discovery that she had also committed electoral fraud, the defection/loss of two key MPs, Shaw's bungling of the matter with in the media and the rise of Jacinda Ardern (and the subsequent resurrection of Labour) which sucked all those ex-Labour voters out of the Green vote base and back to the Labour bandwagon, and in doing so exposed the Greens as weak, divided and therefor susceptible to whatever predators were circling.

But if that kind of analysis is too complex then what has happened to Shaw and the Greens can be summed up in the song Falling by Teenage Fan Club and De La Soul where the line repeated all throughout is "you played yourself".

And Shaw and the Greens have played themselves, right royally into 4% public polling.

I am going to end with this little snippet from last year and ask the reader to consider if the following statement, made then, remains true now:

But at the end of the day the Greens are still a party which is currently fighting the good fight and with an entirely justified moral stance and matching policy prescriptions. When you match up any doubts about the party with the generally disgusting and loathsome behavior of the rest of the rabble in parliament a few potential worries about their direction pale into significance.

Let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Politics is not just about policy

I read on Harry Walsh’s recent article on Stuff decrying the fact that politics in Godzone are driven by personality and not policy and was not impressed with his argument or examples and thus was this post born.

But before we delve deeper into that particular issue let’s find out what exactly “politics” is made of.

Politics, as you or I know it, in a functional democracy*, consists of three board categories that make up the various politics parties which do the “politics” stuff.

Those three areas fall under the three P’s which we will label Policy, Personality and Principles and are a holy trinity of sorts in politics in much the same way that Rationality, Chance and Emotion make up the Clausewitzian holy trinity when analyzing war.

These three aspects of politics are all separate but also connected; all are important but depending on the circumstances one can be more important than the others; and the quality and quantity of each aspect varies from political party to political party.

In a democratic system there should be a healthy interplay between the three P’s but not an absolute balance as the various flavours of democracy combined with history and culture will always create mixes unique to whatever polity where democracy has taken root.

So what are the values of the three P’s? How do they interact and why do we need all three and not just one or two of them?

Principles

First up, the biggest and broadest of the P’s; Principles.

Principles in this context relate to both a political party and its members and could be understood as the core ideas or values which are the foundations that a political party is built on.

In NZ the core principles for each of the main political parties can be summed up in a range of single words but when viewed through a political lens to give each party its colour and flavour.

National was formally the party of the farmer (thus its conservative nature) but has now moved to the party of business, bosses and “fiscal responsibility”*** while Labour was the party of the worker but has morphed over time to loose conglomeration of liberal social values as best represented by the middle class; The Greens used to be about the environment but have recently started to emphasise issues of social justice; NZ First is nationalistic but with populist elements (Winston); ACT is a party which masquerades as libertarian but is in reality a vehicle for wealthy individuals and their concerns (tax cuts and deregulation); while The Maori party is technically race based but has become captured by tribal elites.

Voters, when deciding which party they identify with, often choose a party whose principles most align with their own; hence why ACT polls well in wealthy Epsom but might not do so well in less wealthy Otara or why NZ unions have a stake in Labour but not National

Principles can, and do, morph over time but as they do so do the various people and groups that associate with them and this is why it’s important to truly know what values and ideas lie behind a party and not just what is written in its constitution document.

A recent example of this is the Greens rejecting two of their four founding principles in their charter (the ones explicitly saying “unlimited material growth is unsustainable”) so they could sign the Budget Responsibility Rules document with Labour. This shows the Greens rejecting one set of principles to move to another and they will probably have to change their name soon or revise their charter given this shift.

Without principles political parties would struggle to differentiate themselves without appealing to either just personality or utilitarian policy and would certainly not be democratic in nature (being that the idea of democracy should sit above all other principles a party has).

Principles also drive policy and not the other way around. Principles are the place from which all policy springs in a democracy; values such as justice, equality and the rule of law are the basis of all democracies and without them nations could never achieve anything more than the illusion of democracy.

Policy

Next there is the politics at the coal face of reality; Policy.

Policy is what governments spend much of their time creating and enacting and, as noted above, the governing principles of any particular democratic government shape the policy it decides to pursue.

Policy does not grow in isolation and Principle is the seed from which almost all policy springs. Policy is the final step in enacting the “peoples will” as directed via the “people’s representatives” which starts with principles.

Any political party that subjugates itself to policy over principle is not democratic, as such a policy would not be enacted “for the people” but for the policy maker (sometimes known as a technocrat) or at best for what the policy maker thinks the “public” wants.

Policy also comes in the form of “Big P” policy which are the core policies of any particular party that form its manifesto or charter and “small P” policy which is the day to day policy making of government (ie that of select committee) which few in the public care about until it affects them directly or becomes “big P” policy.

It is true that Policy can stir debate within the body politic (look at the 1080 Party) but only the most contentious and divisive policies can do that and since democratic politics under MMP requires a high degree of co-operation and compromise, few policies will remain contentious for long if they have a negative impact on the greater populace.

Personality

Finally there is the wild card of politics; Personality.

Personality is the link between the blue sky ideals of Principles and the day to day reality of Policy. It’s the political representatives of the political parties themselves and they are the public face of any political party, it Principles and its Policy.

Of course not all politicians have personality, some are dull as dishwater or seat warming deadwoods who do nothing but toe the party line and collect their pay, saying nothing and doing little during their tenure in parliament.

But even the most boring MP on earth is still the link between the voter and the government: between the principle that they are voting for and seeing those principles brought to life as policy.

But when you do get a politician with Personality, watch out! Charismatic politicians are few and far between and when one with the gift of the gab or the common touch gets going they can be powerful arbiters of a party views and beliefs.

As much as I loathed John Key, and all he stood for, it was always clear that he had a genuine connection with voters (something that Bill English and the rest of the National party does not have) and was a real person. It also helped that he could speak well and sounded like he was doing it all off the cuff rather than via some prepared speech.

His popularity was genuinely reflected in both his own high polling and the popularity of his party and they lasted for the duration of his time as PM, not just as a blip on a poll chart.

But there is one time where Personality is a perquisite for participation in politics and that is when it comes to who is going to lead a political party.

John Key might have had “it” but Andrew Little did not. Little was clearly an intelligent man who believed in the values of Labour but he had no real personality and as such all that he said and did was tainted with his lack of character which is fine for some party backbencher who does not have to front 24/7 but it’s the wrong stuff for what is essentially the party spokesperson.

And if we can get Machiavellian for just a moment it’s not that John Key was an actual authentic person but that he was able to project an authentic persona and as such resonated with voters as being “genuine” which, in politics, media or acting, is just as good as being genuine.

Of course Personality does have its dark side in that of ego and dictatorial behaviours (think Robert Muldoon in his final years as PM). And while it’s natural among individuals in a dictatorship or an Oligarchy, even in democracy it can raise its ugly head in the form of leaders who channel their personal popularity for little more than personal gain; and in NZ politics nobody is clearer example of this than Winston Peters.

Winston is clearly a charismatic individual which is why he was the rock star of the political establishment in the late 80s and early 90s.

Unfortunately along the way Winston switched from being genuinely popular to simply doing what all aging rock stars do, which is playing the “hits” over and over again and no longer being a genuine personality but getting by on the nostalgic cliché of what his personality once was. The Winston peters we see today is a shadow of what he was in his prime in the 90s.

And this is why personality is important; personality can drive politics in a way that Policy and Principle can rarely do, and in a media age, such things have a force multiplying effect on politics as a popular politician can get elected in a democracy, sell an unpopular policy and put out (or at least damp down) the fires of dissent or scandal where an unpopular Politician can do none of those things and will probably just make things worse (think the recent performances of Bill English and Andrew Little vs John Key and Jacinda Ardern).

So is personality dominating policy in NZ politics?

So now that we know what the three P’s are what about Mr Walsh’s idea that politics in NZ is dominated by personality? Is this true and even if it is true is it the issue he makes it out to be?

The quick answer is that personality is not dominating policy but that policy and personality react differently with the public in NZ.

Usually Kiwis as a whole do not want to talk about Policy in any shape or form, policy debates are rarely a staple of NZ politics when compared to the depth and focus the average Kiwi will bring to sports, Shortland Street or the property market.

For example the crisis of the Housing Hernia has rarely been discussed in NZ at the level of Policy but rather of bubbles, foreign speculators, real-estate agents, land banking or the spectre of homeless Kiwi families with nary a look at what policy (or policies) helped create (or perpetuate) such a state of affairs until the situation was well out of hand.

This is, in part, because there is no one policy that created the housing hernia but also because the Kiwi attitude towards government is that of a parent towards a paid baby sitter as they head out for a night on the town.

We elect our representatives to do a job and we usually don’t want to know all the silly details as long as the baby is asleep by the time we get home. This is why NZ politics often sees three-term governments in power as its only by the third term that the populace gets home (or wakes up) and decides that the current sitter is giving the child too much sugar and letting them stay up way too late.

Policy in NZ remains an esoteric place that few ever really visit and often it is on the smaller blogs or buried in a news article somewhere where any real policy discussion is had.

Then there is the fact that in a time of uncertainty and populist politics it’s only natural that Personality (be it John Key or Jacinda Ardern) take centre stage at election time because these are the faces that will get people out to vote a lot more than any particular piece of policy will.

So when I read an article by Harry Walsh moaning about why personality is king and lamenting for some mythical time when NZ talked only about policy I see just a hint of sour grapes and a political nostalgia for a time that has probably never existed.

I also take issue with his claim that if Policy is not brought to the fore then we “dilute our individual power to influence government” which sounds very noble but makes no sense as what influence Kiwis do wield over their government is almost always collective and enacted through the political parties (and their principles) they elect and not by individual protest or petition***.

And if I was to be really critical I would say that Harry Walsh is just a bit miffed by the recent rise of Jacinda Ardern and is expressing that via his article on Stuff because after eighteen years of John Key and Helen Clark (both highly popular leaders) it seems a bit late now to bemoan why NZ has a preference for a Personality over Policy when the last 30 years of NZ politics has been governments often ignoring genuine policy issues (and any related petitions, protests or referendums) and often being ruled by strong and publicly popular PMs.

Perhaps when the boiling waters of populism and middle ground politics recede we may see policy coming to the fore or taking a greater place in the debate but at this time with politics in NZ in flux it’s unlikely that the day to day running of a nation (policy) is going to take precedent over the much more important argument about what principles do we want our society run by.

Right now what is driving much of the populism around the world is the long coming reaction to 30 years of free market politics and deregulation under Neo-Liberalism and the debate about whether those principles are best for our democracy trumps any desire to see the “trains run on time”.

Unfortunately populism also provides for any individual, with an ounce of charisma, a boost to their own position, and that of their party, if they manage to tap into that revolutionary mood so there is a natural synergy between a political firebrand and a mood in the public for change.

So let’s forget about Policy not being the big thing because at this time as it’s just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic while the real discussion should be about how to fix the damage, get safely off the boat and how we hit the damn iceberg in the first place.


*-And for the time being let’s assume that we do live in a functional democracy
**-At least as they would define it
***- Unless your “petition” is a $20,000 donation to the party of your choice 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Elections 2017: A week is a long time in politics, specially when its in an election campaign.

So what to make of the last seven days in NZ politics.

Labour goes up

Well for a first thing, I think that with the rise of Jacinda Ardern, and the end of Andrew Little, the last fragments of the political stasis that John Key had brought to NZ politics with his hideously high popularity and winning polling has finally been brushed away.

Its taken almost nine months since Key moved out of his office in Bowen House but when the political constipation that was Andrew Little was finally flushed by the sparky laxative that was Jacinda Ardern the last of the grim, grey glacial inaction that was clogging the pipes of the Labour Party seems to be gone.

Ardern could have tripped and stumbled in her first seven days, and she might do so between now and election day, but Ardern, for a first week debut, has done amazingly well and it shows.

Sure there is no polling to back things up at this point but there are a lot of other measures which have indicated that Ardern has hit a sweet spot with the public.

The first is that right off the bat the Maori party have offered her and Labour an olive branch almost as soon as Ardern got the job, the same day in fact, and I think that reflects not only the bad relationship Andrew Little seemed to have with the Maori Party but also that Tuku Morgans political plan to bring Maori voter numbers up in the Maori seats may not have reaped as many dividends as he, and the party had hoped (given that six out of the seven seats are currently in the hands of Labour) so why not try and cut a deal with the new supremo at Labour.

The next is the more subtle but unmistakably positive media coverage Jacinda has gotten. And I don't just mean in the normal political press or the papers and TV but also in women's magazines with her face gracing at least one cover this week and and plenty of other articles elsewhere showing an unmistakable rise in her public profile and quick identification with her being the leader of Labour.

Then there is Jacindas reaction to improbably stupid question in the media about her plans to have children and how she handled that showed that she can think on her feet. She could have batted them away but instead she made a club out of the questions and beat Mark Richardson about the head with it in a manner that got her international coverage and showed that she can deal with dingbats in the media far better than Little ever could.

Also showing that she can play with the big boys is her firm, but fair, manner, in which she brought newly minted deputy Kelvin Davis into line for his hyperbolic descriptions of the National Party*. She could have backed him, she could have endorsed it but instead she showed what kind of firm hand she has on things as she politely censured him and then decreed that a "positive focus" on the campaign was a the right way to go.

And with all the positive talk, sudden surge in donations and support coming into the party now its painfully obvious to all that Little was a dead duck for the party fortunes while Jacinda is the enthralling swan who will take them all the way to the electoral ball.

Finally while its clear that Ardern has things going her way at the moment, a battlefield promotion does not mean there are not other pretenders for the throne out there; but for now, and at least until after polling day, she will be the person giving the orders and calling the shots and if she means to go on as she has started then things are looking up for Labour.

The Greens meet political reality

A week ago the Greens seemed to be on the up with a jump to 15% in the polls though having snatched some of the populist vibe via Meteria Turei's benefit fraud admission.

Unfortunately I don't think the Greens thought their plan all the way through as further digging by those investigating her benefit history also then uncovered what looks like voter fraud with Turei providing false information about where she was registered to vote.

And at that point all that good work in starting the debate about how beneficiaries are treated in this country (and its a debate that needs to be had given how wealth and privileged do lead to some being above the law in NZ) has been eliminated by the further negative revelations from her past, and as as of today, seen Turei has quit as Greens co-leader.

In seven days she has gone from virtuous saint to now blocked from being a minister (by Jacinda Ardern no less) in any Left leaning government and facing a split over it in her own party to being on her way out the political backdoor.

But that alone has been just one of the speed bumps on the road to September 23rd for the Greens with MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon deciding to spit the dummy, and expose a rather deep ideological schism in the party to rival anything that Labour might have, by quitting in a very public manner (which I am calling the Kool Kidz vs the Old Krusties) and exposing further internal weakness just when Labour looked to be on the ropes.

But there is plenty of blame to go round because James Shaw got chopped up, like a ripe pineapple, live on RNZ, by Guyon Espiner when he could not answer a simple question of political expediency around the issue and sounded just like any other scumbag politician when caught in a lie and Espiner has made sure that the sting of coming down off the moral high ground, and encountering political reality will last for a very long time.

And this is the reality of politics that the Greens have avoided for so long, by being the morally superior party, and, as Phillip Mathews recent editorial started out by saying, it could not have happened to a "nicer party" was just a hair short of saying "welcome to politics, bi**ches!"

And I would have to agree because it has been a long time coming, and James Shaw's plan of beating Labour at its own game, by moving away from just environmental issues to greater social concerns, has been scuppered by the rise of Jacinda and the duplicity of Meteria Turei.

So it seems that its not just National that was worried about Jacinda Ardern and making hay of the ineptitude of Andrew Little but also the Greens who have seen a slow but steady leakage of pissed off Labour voters swell their ranks for nearly a year but now the glove is on the other foot and the NZ political press smells blood and its fair to say that the Greens will be reeling from the latest damage to their once pristine image.

To be fair, Shaw and Co almost got away with it but in the end Labour still had some basic political instincts remaining intact to sense the trap and pull out the last minute which has left the Greens violently shoved back into the political corner they have long inhabited, by an invigorated Labour and Jacinda Ardern.

My own take on this is to offer up a rather crude, but very sage, military saying as advice to Shaw, Turei and all those bright eyed little sports in the party that thought that all it would take to make it big time in politics was a two page fashion spread in a magazine and somehow failed to realize that as soon as they came down off the moral high ground they would get their feet muddy; and that advice is "never suck a dead mans d**k!"**

I wonder what they will make of that?

National, still in stasis.

And if we can hold with the theme of fellating a corpse (as disgusting as it is) for just a moment we come to the National Party who might as well be doing just that given how they are running their campaign at the moment.

Of course the dead man in question is not quite dead , but in sense that he is no longer with the Party, is, of course, their former dark lord and master; John Key.

Every thing English and Co has been (or not been) doing for the last few months is nothing but cautious echoes of the 2014, or even the 2011, campaigns minus the one key (pun intended) ingredient that saw them sweep in to victory those times and boy does it show.

Sure they are also suffering third-term-itis but that only a small part of the story as National has been in a holding pattern since John left in December last year.

National don't have any tricks left in their bag and it was only the hideous ineptitude of Andrew Little that was keeping them looking credible and now with that one bugaboo gone and Labour suddenly swinging back into action the icy stasis of the last nine years of John Key are really showing as Bill and the rest of the B Team have no credible answers to any question that raises it head.

They always knew that Jacinda was a threat and as such have been rather muted in the last seven days as she wrangled Labour away from the rocks of doom that Andrew Little was grimly locked on course for and aimed the leaky ship of Labour for the nearest safe harbour.

And National can do nothing but watch at this time as all the cards are against them and I don't think polling is going to be as reliable as we might wish in the last two months as the populist sentiment that the Greens let out of the bag, and now Jacinda (and a super thankful Labour) have jumped on, is starting to catch fire elsewhere.

And lets be real clear here that the key ingredient of the populist mood in NZ and around the world is change, and that is the one thing National cant sell to the public.

For Bill and the sacks of grade-Z monkey meat which make up the current National lineup there are no new faces, no new policies in the works and just more roll outs of the same tired fixes for problems they have helped to create and nurture and more of the horrid, bloated, visages which scare children (and apparently Kelvin Davis) nightly on TV.

And even the small changes they have made, like the recent immigration announcements in April for tightening up visas and work conditions have been yanked back, with all the speed of a well trained dog reacting to the snap of the whip, when the Businesses realized that their supply of cheap labor was going to be cut off and raised a stink.

So in the last week Bill English has simply made a few minor comments and acted like the stunned mullet that he is while all the momentum shifts away from them.

National has been in a holding action for the last nine months and it looked like with  their weathering of Tod Barclay scandal (of which there is still more to come with English saying he has deleted important texts of his phone) had given them enough to make it though the last two months.

But I don't think that will still be the mood in the lower levels of the Beehive anymore, where National has its shrine of skulls, that Bill prays at, nightly, in the fervent hope that he will get to PM and not again be the man that pissed it all away.

Actually speaking of pee, I think that when it was announced that Andrew was out and Jacinda was in, Bill probably peed himself just a little as his mind instinctively jumped, as all victims do when faced with reliving their trauma again, back to early 2000s and National getting beaten at the polls by Helen Clarke and Labour.

A week is a long time in politics

Its a tried and tested saying and it has been shown this week in such sudden changes in  fortune for Labour and the Greens but also conversely for the stuck in the mud attitude of National who makes weeks look like years when you consider how they respond to anything these days.

The key take away for a anyone interested in what all this means for polling day is that the populist fire that Metria Turei and the Greens sparked has burnt them badly but like a fire that clears out the dead wood and old growth in a forest, so new things can sprout upwards, it has kicked Labour back into gear (with the rise of Jacinda) and left National acting like a spooked burn victim going on a blind date with a raging pyromaniac.

So while I was bemoaning the stupidity of the Greens a few weeks back and despondent at Labour under Little I can see that even I was stuck in the groove of the John Key stasis which is now fully washed away and we are now left with having to really reconsider how this election could play out.

And not a moment too soon.


*-To be fair to Davis I positively loved his description of the goons in National but while its ok for an medicated  nutter like myself to get away with them less so for fresh faced Deputy PM.
**-Because nothing good will come from it. Sorry, its crude but true.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Elections 2017: Political Billboards - The good, the bad BUT mostly the fugly!

For many people in NZ the first real sign that there is an election campaign going on is when the election billboards go up.

Like a form of political graffiti or territorial pissing they appear on the side of the roads, near major intersections and roundabouts across major cities and out in the countryside to remind people that their local MP may soon be unemployed.

Of course these brightly colored signs serve other purposes, of which one is to provide employment to the political billboard industry and another is to make the local candidate feel good about themselves.

And that's all political billboards are really good for because one of the the first things any Pol Sci 101 student learns when the study gets to election campaigns is how pointless these things are. Its generally accepted that they have no real value in an election campaign.

I have distinct memories of sitting in a lecture, in what was a NZ and US election year, listening to a well paid political consultant, who had come in as a guest speaker, talk about how to run an election campaign and what not to do as a candidate.

And their words stick with me now, as they did then, because they summed it all up in two simple maxims that were Be authentic and don't waste your money on billboards.

And the reasons for the billboard rule is numerous but the best way to explain it is though the language of advertising.

In advertising, targeting ones product at ones audience is a basic principle and such a thing is best done by finding the  best medium to reach that target audience.

So the questions then is who thinks that a large, garishly colored billboard, with an MP's gormless face on it is the best way to a) reach that sweet target market of potential voters and b) convince any of those potential voters to actually vote for you?

The correct answers for both should be "are you out of your mind, I have better ways to waste my election campaign funds*"

However its not often the answer that MP or political parties seem to give**.

Its scatter-gun advertising at its worst with the potential to raise vaguely one personal profile and the party's brand image slightly but with no room for any substantive message or any genuine appeal to voters.

Think about it: not only is your political billboard and three (or four if your really pushing the envelope) word message competing with every other political billboard out there but also with every other billboard and piece of advertising in the same space or area.

Also, consider, in your daily travels or commute, how many signs, billboards and other forms of advertising you pass and subconsciously block out? You probably don't even notice how many billboards and signs you pass.

In fact, next time you are moving around town take the time to consciously count how many small signs are out there on the sides of the roads and streets in New Zealand, probably a lot more than you think. Also consider how many you knew were there before you deliberately started noticing them.

There are signs for (and this is not counting actual normal advertising on the road but just the kind of signs one sees on fence which are likely to compete directly with political billboards) bridal shows, hypnotists, school fairs, garage sales, theater groups, local pubs and shops, fencing contractors, dog washes and all kids of activity and business one can image; and they all have more words, a more focused message and probably much more relevance to you, driving, walking or busing past, than whatever political candidate X and party Y has to say.

And on top of that there are the even larger political meta factors to consider such as if your candidate is either a guaranteed win or a hopeless loss, why spend precious campaign budget on a dead skunk way of advertising at all given its limited effect?

The answer to trying to connect with potential voters is not through a billboard but more targeted and direct means such as pamphlets, letter drops, public meetings, sky writing, going door to door or even just driving round the neighborhood, blues brothers style, shouting out your name and message through a  public address system.

And that raises other issues for these useless hunks of corrugated cardboard in that how much mojo do you think your dead eyed face staring out at the world is going to do to offset the already poor reputation both you, your party and politicians in general have among the public?

Is a photo of you on a billboard with your soulless party leader going to do anything to offset all the bad publicity you and they have generated over the last three years from your antics in Parliament?

The answer to this is obvious and the rate at which political billboards "edited", defaced, punk'd or just plain destroyed should be enough to give readers an idea of how good these things are at inspiring people to vote for any politician.

Finally there is the fact that your billboard itself might inadvertently generate its own media controversy like when politicians squabble over potential wall space or have to take it down or modify their message.

Of course there is also the use of digital and social media as a campaign tool but NZ is not a sophisticated democracy and as such these areas are not fully explored or understood yet.

And to help ram these points home I spent part of last week driving around Christchurch looking for and taking photos of various party billboards to analyze like some sort of demented political Pokemon collector, Ugh!

So in no particular order, except in which I took them, please find my take on what will be trying to worm its way into your subconscious this election.

You can also decide if my own party slogans are any better than the party's actual ones.

I did try to find a NZ First billboard but as much as I drove round I never saw any so they escape for now but if anyone sends me a photo of a current NZ First billboard I will add it here.

Labour - Oh the Irony


Its worth noting that this photo was taken the day before Little announced his resignation and that its been removed now as Jacinda has rapidly stamped her mark on the party by getting new billboards done.

The problems with this billboard are many but the fact that the party has now spent a lot of money erasing little from history with its new billboards, new slogan and new faces shows that this will be come a rare collectors item for anyone who would want this monstrosity.

First up the color; not one BUT two tones of blood red and a picture of Little and Ardern dressed mostly in black superimposed over it which makes them look like a pair of vampires come to your door to suck out your life force if given a chance.

There is also the issue of the slogan as there was nothing "fresh" about having Andrew Little anywhere near the party leadership. If they were honest it would have said "the same crap as always!"

Labour's new slogan, soon to be appearing, on billboards is "lets do this" which immediately brought this to mind when I herd it.

Yes that's right, Jacinda may have accidentally come up with the best campaign slogan of the lot because unlike the other awful offerings (see below) this one at least implies some energy and action (if also a good amount of steroid abuse).

Finally there is the glaring issue of Jacindas teeth. Little is flashing just the right amount of tooth to not look like a add for toothpaste but Jacinda is firing off a dental broadside like she has just found out that she has absolutely no cavities after a weekend of drinking endless sugary cokes and smoking meth and is not afraid to prove it.

A less horsey picture of her would have been just as effective.

The person that comes best out of this picture is Jacinda's dentist.

The Greens - Fine Young Conservatives!


As someone who has voted Green in the past this picture frightened and confused me.

Firstly because Shaw and Turei look like young National candidates more than Green MPs as they are both wearing sombre blue (traditionally the color of National) business attire and because the actual color green is highly minimized in this picture.

Its either blurred in the background or in green so dark to be almost black so on the use of a core color to build even simple brand awareness this billboard fails miserably.

At least neither of them are showing any teeth but when you do the old trick of covering the mouth and looking only at the eyes only to see what kind of real emotions are being displayed you get a sense of smugness emanating from both co-leaders.

Its the kind of smug of people who think they are in control of their destiny, who are on the right (or should that be Right) side of history and who are going to "win big" this election.

Also the slogan, "Great together", means absolutely nothing unless again the Greens are subliminally trying to tell Bill English that they are happy to work with him because otherwise what exactly is "great" about the current Green/Labour arrangement together?***.

Its just a two word jumble that produces no real message and mushes up the mind of anyone reading it without further context.

Whats for sure is that this photo was taken prior to Turei's benefit or vote fraud admissions and I wonder if the Greens have realized that taking a principled stance only works when your actions remain principled.

If I was to read anything subliminal into from this picture is that the Greens don't really want to be green they want to be in government and if that means doing a deal with the devil (the oh so blue National party) then so be it.

Vote for at your own risk.   

Eagle eyed readers might have also noticed this this billboard is already on the ground. That's how I found it and photographed it. I don't know if it had been pulled down or just fallen down.

TOP - The mask behind the man


I had been looking at the face of Gareth Morgan, staring down at me from immense billboards like Big Brother, for some time now and something about his face was bothering me.

Something about the high cheekbones, large nose, mustache and the way the black and white photography gave him dead eyes was not sitting right and it was only when I was recently in Auckland and the evening sun caught the billboard in a certain way did I realize what I was looking at and I nearly peed myself.

Look at it a certain way and that billboard makes Morgan look like the main character V from V for Vendetta which sounds crazy until you think about a few key points.


a) Morgan announced the creation of the political party TOP on Guy Fawkes day (November 5th 2016);
b) the titular character in V for Vendetta wears a Guy Fawks mask and announced his presence to the world on Guy Fawkes day also;
c) These masks are now popular items among the online and social protest group Anonymous.

It seems unlikely that Morgan is ignorant of this Film (or even the comic book form which it sprung), the obvious connotations such connections have for anyone who is clever enough to make such them and what both the implications of starting a political party with such connotations actually means for politics as a whole.

Morgan himself has not quite been shy about things as he compared himself to Donald Trump, because of his anti-establishment approach, on the day he announced TOP but he forgot to mention this little bit of subliminal manipulation his billboard has been doing to myself (and now you too as once its seen it cannot be unseen) because if the Big Brother face on a billboard was creepy enough then Morgans ginormous face morphing between himself, Big B, the man called V and then Anonymous as you gaze at it is terrifying.

Who knows what "Care, Think, Vote" actually means   but I am probably going to need one of those pairs of "special sunglasses" like in They Live to see what the real message of TOP's billboard is.

Creepy, very creepy.

National - On Dead Ground


There was something about National's billboard being all there alone on a piece of waste ground in central Christchurch that immediately made me think of the following lines from TS Elliot's The Waste Land:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.

What an apt description for both the bungled rebuild in Christchurch but also the National Party because despite the gloss of the rebuild in the central city and the grandiose plans to bring the "business back" there has never been any real recognition of the devastation wrought on the people of this city by the inept bungling of the rebuild, of the horror of fighting with insurance companies that afflicted many and the greed and corruption that lead to CERA having to be closed down to hide the evidence and Gerry Brownlee being moved out of the Rebuild portfolio prior to the election lest he do more damage to Nationals election chances.

So Bill and Nicky grinning out at us from a blasted piece of earth is entirely appropriate and sums up National so well that why bother with a slogan when that says it all.

One thing is notice able though and that's the "toothy" factor again showing its head (or should I say teeth) as its clear that the photographers instructions on the day of the shoot was "more teeth please" as while Wagner is not on par with Ardern (who just seems to be dentally well endowed) she sure seems to be trying.

In fact I would almost say that those teeth are digitally enhanced as they just don't look real, did Colgate Toothpaste sponsor this billboard?

Still its nice to see National not bothering to try and change the formula from when John Key was running the show by having the old "candidate with the leader" style billboards all about town because Bill English is entirely just as popular and recognizable as John Key was.

Perhaps National is hoping potential voters wont notice and just assume it still is John Key running the show.

If National had any brains they would have just put up the same billboards from the 2014 campaign (complete with JKs grinning face) and be done with it and saving its campaign money for better things*4.

If this billboard has a message to voters its the actual land its situated on.

A waste land!

ACT - Pissing into the wind!


Look at this, just look at it! I was so amazed that I actually found one of these that I almost crashed into the back of another car in my haste to make sure I was not hallucinating.

Whats worse is that the bold yellow that ACT normally uses for its branding had faded on this billboard when I got to it and it was more like custard, puss or even a bold piss yellow colored when I took the photo which are definitely not the kind of things you want popping into your potential candidates head when they think about your party.

But it does not stop there as if you thought some of the faces on other billboards were bad then Seymour looks like he has just been asked to leave a restaurant for some public indiscretion and has wandered outside to find a camera aimed at him.

He has a smile on his face but its curled up the way a piece of bread curls as it goes moldy and by doing the cover the mouth test we can see eyes desperately pleading with us to vote for them but knows the reality will be the opposite.

Seymour is the unwanted pet in the political pet store window, you know the one, that mangy runt of the litter that would die if left alone in the wild or be eaten by its siblings but is stuck with its ugly snout pressed up against the glass desperately trying to get someone, anyone, to take it home.

Alas it will never come to be as sooner or later the store will tire of the scabby mutt that does nothing but eat food, crap in the corner and scare the kids when the walk past and take it out back for the "big sleep".

Finally, as if a piss yellow sign with a man trying not to look dodgy or desperate fronting an obscure minor party you probably did not know still existed was not enough there is that three word abortion of a slogan to add to the confusion.

What does "own your future" mean to anyone? Its just as likely that passers by will see it as an endorsement for ACT as for some group of golden shower fetishists.

Summary

So long story short, election billboards are visual pollution and nothing more and the candidates would be better served by simply driving round and handing out free money while shouting their name at passers by.

At least the damn things will be down by election day.


*-like on hookers and cocaine!
**-Or we should be able to note a measurable increase in the level of cocaine and hookers come election time
***- Ask Andrew Little
*4-see "*"

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The King is dead! Long live the Queen!

Not much to say here except its been a long time coming.

I have been calling for this for some time and while it is a risky (if not dangerous) move two months out from an election but the reality was Labour was dead either way so changing the guard now at least has the potential to bring about positive change.

And, I, for one, am happy with this.

Little was an albatross around the party's neck from almost day dot and it only ever got worse as time went on. The fact that I was calling this outcome a year ago might surprise some but it was all there for anyone who did not have their ideological blinders on*.

Ardern is untested by and large but she has something (call it the x-factor of politics) and whatever that is it has not had any negative effects on her or the party up to now.

The best barometer of this will be the next round of political polling and I can bet that National will now be looking over their shoulders at this change because it was known that they wanted Little in the role for his dullard ability, political ineptitude and the damage those things did to Labour's election chances.

Well not any longer, there is a new sheriff in town and there are two key tasks that Ardern must face if she wants to make this 60 day sprint for the prize work.

The first is sorting out the dissent in her own party, if the faction that opposed Little's rise to leader are not happy with her she either has to win them over or root them out, there can be no room for mercy here because if the public gets a whiff of the same old stale Labour infighting this will all have been for naught.

The second is running a variation on the campaign Jeremy Corbyn ran in the UK which is "new leader/new agenda". If Labour can make a clean break with its grotty past and make amends for the betrayal of 1984, by electing a new leader and a choosing new agenda, 60 days is plenty of time to sell this to the nation. This will be the harder of the two but a new leader out on the hustings selling her vision of a better NZ is something that many can get behind.

If Ardern can make these two work then it may just be enough to boost Labours poll numbers and draw in some of the undecided voters which are ripe for the picking.

One word of warning to her is that National will be gunning for her and they will be digging out the dirt file on her to see what can be turned into mud and slung at her.

Even if she looses in 2017 she has the potential to lead the party to victory in 2020, she is young and has the energy and the spirit of Norm Kirk is with her on this one.

The only real downside of Labour making the change now, when it was obvious a year a go that it needed to be made, is that this will a trial by fire election for her but this is the perfect opportunity for her to strut her stuff and show that she can hustle under fire.

The only other things to wonder about is will Labour have enough cash to change its billboards?

Finally as many other seem loath to make predictions I am going to put my money where my mouth is and say that this will be enough to get Labour the prize on September 23, given that things like the Maori Party extending the olive branch was an almost immediate response to Jacinda getting the top job but with the minor caveat as per my two points noted above.

This will be just the thing to energize the election, the electorate and the political parties (save National, Act and United Future) to put some more energy in and look at working with a Labour government.

Its almost enough to make me want to vote Labour.

Benediximus Jacinda, benediximus!

*-And for those that scoffed at me making this call six months plus ago (and there were a few of you): I am not going to crow about this or say that I was right and you were wrong but simply encourage you to examine why you failed to see the obvious when I did not.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Going Down in Flames*: The end of Andrew Little

Ah, so the chickens have final come home to roost for Andrew Little.

I wake up this morning and what do I spy in the news but Labour slumping further in the polls and Andrew Little flip flopping about whether to leave the job now or take the beating and quit after the election.

Its classic Little, on one hand saying he has thought of falling on his sword and on the other saying he will stick to his guns.

Tracy Watkin's article on Stuff was the most amazing if only for its suggestion that the only thing keeping Little in the role is the cost of printing up new billboards (and that Labour doesn't have the money).

Not that we haven't seen it coming because for well over a year this outcome was always going to be.

My very first blog post over a year ago was about the issues inherent within Labour and Little and I was bemoaning his ineptitude just last month when the party intern scam was distracting form Tapegate.

Along the way I have noted that Little has never seemed up for the job to just simply saying its time to get rid of the man, no matter what.

But did anybody listen? No they did not. Not even National, who want Little in the role because of the damage he does to Labour as leader and how he keeps the more popular Ardern from perking their polls up.

So here we go, Labour is at a 20 year low in the polls, has an unpopular Leader and is facing not only the prospect of electoral annihilation in two months but also loosing its stake as the main opposition party.

But already the arguments about what should happen have started with some on the Left praising the Greens as Labour burns as Chris Trotter does in a recent post while others (Martyn Bradbury) still sees hope left for Labour in the next 60 days if only they can get their game on.

But with all due respect to those two gentlemen, the bleak reality is, and as I have said before I have no joy in pronouncing this, that Labour and Little are doomed this election, the outcome has been a year or more in the making and despite all the warning signs he and the party have continued on with the same old program that they always have.

The same old center left gibberish which is now dead and buried in the UK, where a vivaciously re-energized Left under Jeremy Corbyn has seized the agenda by steering the party out of the center and back to being a party of the people and the working class.

Meanwhile in NZ, Little and Labour have floundered time and time again and now are simply too far gone to save.

Bizarre hopes of a Labour/Greens/NZ First government remain a possibility only if Winston gets what he wants come polling day and that would be the PM role and all the political swag he can scoop.

And such an outcome is not due to people voting for an inherently unstable center/Left government or for any policy of Labours but simply to get rid of National which is not the most solid foundation for building a government on.

Could Labour stomach that? I don't think it could. The idea of Andrew grinning and bearing it have some comedic appeal but the reality of becoming a political catamite for Winston would probably break him forever and see him slink away to political obscurity.

Nor do I think this was an avoidable outcome as Labour's alliance with the Greens was always the marriage of convenience that Labour intended it to be and that both sides knew which way things would go if Labour got its act together which means that the recent poll jump by the Greens means very little overall.

The Greens making capital of Metiria Turei admitting benefit fraud was brilliance in that it benefited (no pun intended) the Greens as a party but disaster in every other way as it cannibalized that poll increase from Labour so that any net gain for the Greens came at the overall cost of beating National in September.

And with the "don't know's" and "refused to answer" at 19% on the Colmar Brunton results its clear that the political Left is in dissary and any gain for the Greens was simply undercutting Labour rather than bringing in new voters which means that the juicy pool of potential voters was unswayed by the Greens and still up for grabs.

But in the end its not Little's fault, we are the ones (actually you guys are since I kept on pointing this impending accident many many times) who perpetuated the illusion that Labour could keep on with its ineffective and useless leader and its out of date manifesto in an age of rampant populism, where the option of getting back to supporting the actual people and the working class was always on the table but individual greed and stupidity got in the way.

So as someone who is sickened at the prospect of another three years of National doing its evil deeds but not going to support dangerous stupidity as the antidote I find no fun in watching this outcome come about but at the same time, we were warned, the signs were always there and we (read you!) let this happen!

So we now have the option of watching this train wreck, with or without Little, going over the cliff and onto the rocks below.

The only good news is that there are some interesting options out there with the demise of Little and Labour.

The Greens might pick up the mantle of being the peoples party (they seem to with their recent changes to personnel and policy) or that NZ First and Winston will check National in their own inimitable way.

We will see in time.

*-Thanks to Chris Trotters post (linked above) for inspiring the title of this post.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

If you don’t vote for populism in 2017 it will be back in 2020: bigger, stronger and more pissed off!

If you are not a Member of Parliament or New Zealand’s elite you can stop reading here.

Let’s take a step away from the current day to day of the election cycle and fix our gaze on the larger global political landscape and how NZ might fit into the dynamics of what’s going on.

Recently the world has seen a definite movement towards a series of events, opinions and ideas that people have termed populist

Events like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and even our very own Winston Peters all have the populist tinge.

Unfortunately most of the people who use the term populist use it in a negative or pejorative manner which reflects either their own elitist opinions and views or that they are echoing those elite opinions and views (as fed to them by the media).

And to be fair to you elites you should be worried about populism because it is, in essence, a rejection of your self-interested views and market orientated way of doing things and a call to change the direction of not just politics, nations and economies but also whole regions, and perhaps even the world; away from mostly serving only the ultra-wealthy few and realigning it towards that of the common person and the greater good.

Of course at this point the more Right wing of you will be tuning out as you anticipate another “left wing rant” while others on the Left might be gleefully expecting another round of “Bash the Tory” but neither of you are correct because both Left and Right are just vehicles for elites and their politics and as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows I have (and will) bash both sides should the need arise.

And this post is not about what’s wrong on the Left or the Right but what’s wrong with the system because Left and Right are just different symptoms of the same disease, a disease called political decay, and populism, no matter how much you deny it, is the cure.

Thus with the 2017 election shaping up to be an exercise in both mediocrity and banality without even the previous freak show antics of Kim Dot Com or Dirty Politics to make it entertaining that populist undercurrent that has been ticking away in the background, like some weird noise you keep hearing under your floor boards at night has grown from a few isolated bumps into a full blown home invasion.

You can try and bolt the door, desperately hoping to stave off the inevitable by voting National or Labour (or even the Greens) but it will do you no good as New Zealand is not immune and those dark seeds which you sowed over 30 years ago and are now bearing their ominous fruit.

It only took 30 years, approximately time enough for those who grew up in this bleak age and for those who lived though it, to see that there is no greater good waiting for us at the end of the franchise rainbow and that the only way we will get what we want is to take it ourselves, from you.

So if we could consider the body populace like a human mind, the elites might be seen as the “rational” and conscious aspect of that entity while the vox populi is the darker and deeper subconscious, and as modern psychology and science has shown, the subconscious is the far more numerous and powerful of the two and that the ability of the consciousness to control its other is often tenuous at best and pure illusion at worst.

And, if you’re part of NZ’s elite, those nagging voices in the back of your head and that eerie feeling that whatever is scritching away down in the basement is not friendly are not going to go away and will in fact get worse.

Your creeping paranoia that “they are out to get me” is entirely justified, we are out to get you but at this point we are out to get you to do your job, not rip your class out by the roots from this society and plant someone new in charge.

However the recent release of Stats New Zealand’s “Well-being Statistics” when contrasted with the fact that NZ has the most expensive housing in the OECD and all other sorts of negative social indicators shows the struggle between the two parts of the NZ psyche is growing and the gap widening between the populist dreams that helped shape New Zealand in the 20th century (because if we went back to the 19th we would have other issues to deal with and that’s for another post)  and the harsh reality that we have become in the 21st.

And as that gap between dreams and reality grows so too does the populist sentiment and the voices in your head.

And at this point I can hear some of you saying “But it can’t happen here! We are not going to have riots in the streets or mass protests or social disorder. This is New Zealand!”

Really? It can’t happen here?

There is nothing special about NZ; not its size, nor distance from the rest of the world. Nothing in its cultures or demographics which will guarantee insulation from a populist outcome sooner or later.

To be sure populism in NZ will be have a strong NZ flavor (remember the Springbok Tour?) but populism it will still be and the longer it’s takes us to wrest your scaly claws off the levers of power and to steer New Zealand back onto a more equal course the more extreme and negative the outcome will be for you and us as well.

This is the lesson of history that elites rarely bother to learn, the longer you stand in the way of the greater forces of the vox populi the angrier the result and the more likely that you will also be permanently removed in order to enact needed change and that sometimes the change wont be what any party desires.

Take for instance Zimbabwe, which was once Rhodesia. The white elite in Rhodesia fought long and hard for its right to racial minority rule, it won on the battlefield but in the end lost the war; and due to the length and brutality of that struggle the result was not a better place but a new racial elite and dictator, the average person no better off and a pariah nation with crippling debt.

Or how about tropical Singapore which has been under rule of one family almost since independence from Great Britain 50 years ago where harsh censorship, gerrymandering, draconian laws and a “Disneyland with the death penalty” facade are the only means hiding the seething racial tension, political dissent and grinding poverty which many in Singapore face.

And just to round things out how about the UK where one year ago Jeremy Corbyn was being called a political looser and fighting off challenges from inside his own party but nearly won the UK general election and he and his party would win if an election was called today.

This is the power (and peril) of populism; this is what happens when elites decide to gut democracy for their own selfish benefit and refuse to give up their privilege and this is what can happen when even in the face of clear calls for change you won’t back down on your greedy agendas.

This election you’re trying to dampen down the flames of the populist fire that has been burning a long time but with the usual escape hatch of Australia swinging shut there are a lot more refugees from your skeezy dealings than ever before coming home to roost.

You’re working hard to keep us focused on our tri-annual ritual of going to the polling booth and pushing the button for one of your “representatives” in Labour, National or the Greens while trying to contain your agent provocateur over in NZ First, and you might just pull it off this election but for how much longer?

Sooner or later a result will emerge that you cannot contain or control (like Brexit or Trump) and the longer you try and delay things the more extreme the eventual outcome will be.

Have you not figured out yet that people like Trump, Bernie Sander and Jeremy Corbyn are just avatars for change, any change where you are not in charge? They are not there for their good looks or sound policies but because they position themselves as far away as possible from your own dull faced politicians.

Can you not see that we might have a “Kiwi Spring” with crowds milling in Aotearoa Square and that you’re going to have to engage in more repressive and severe means to keep Smith’s Dream in check if that happens.

So this election a vote for any of the mainstream parties is simply a waste and I encourage you to vote for one of the minor parties as you can still do your duty, as the elite of this country, and lead the way rather than slack off at the back, eating all the pies.

You can vote National in the hope of maintaining your illusions for another few years before your front door is kicked in and your dragged out to be put up against a wall or you can vote for Labour with the self-sanctified smugness of the ideological zealot but will still find yourself facing the grim reality of fighting for scraps when things finally go bad.

You can even cast your vote for the Greens as a safety valve “third option” and watch a bunch of political shape-changers slide into parliament and then achieve very little but it won’t stop populism.

This election don’t fight populism, give the people what they want, embrace it, ride that wave of change and ensure your survival rather than your vilification and eventual demise (as a class, not as individuals).

All societies need elites to run them but those elites need to maintain a degree of responsiveness to those who you rule (the Noblesse oblige as it were**) or you will face the consequences when your refusal to do your job leads to the very chaos and anarchy that you have sought to prevent.

You might be able to stave off things in 2017, but its taking more and more energy to do that and sooner or later you’re going to make a fatal slip and no slick talking PM or dead eyed party leader is going to talk their way out of it. You will find the merest thing, the slightest scandal an excuse for behaviors and activities that you won’t be in charge of and people who you won’t be able to get back into the political conga line.

When 2020 comes round you will have fewer options and fewer friends to turn to and populism will be bigger, stronger and way more pissed off as you will have failed to do anything real to stop it and just backed the same broken parties and policies you always have.

So do the right thing this election, back the real parties for change and get rid of your failing lapdogs on the left, right and center*.

  
*-Possibly for new lap dogs but as they say change is as good as a holiday.
**-explored further in an old post of mine back at Kiwipolitico