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Friday, 20 October 2017

Electons 2017: And awaaaay we go!

These are just my opening thoughts now that we know who is who and what is what. A full breakdown of the election will come a bit later.

Its finally over, as of today we have a new government.

Twenty six days is not the longest time ever but I knew people were getting truly sick of it when I opened the Listener and saw the word "interregnum"* used to describe the state of affairs and realized that people were rapidly running out of words to describe the same situation again and again**.

And the last week in particular, it was clear that the news supply had simply dried up except to report the minutest details of peoples comings and goings. Surprisingly the worst offender was not the print media or bloggers but Radio NZ who seemed, at times, to be stuck in some sort of Mobius strip of rank reportage to which they could not escape.

Another thing which had become painfully clear by the end of last week was that Winston was tearing through his limited supply of public good will when his self imposed deadline came and went without any decision being made.

One can only imagine what kind of scenes were playing out, up there in the NZ First meeting rooms, as the mood of the public started to sour when the comments in public, and media, started to note how well things were running without politicians or parties*** and the average apolitical Kiwi began to grumble about "bloody Winston making us wait".

At that point it was painfully clear that this was not another 1996 or 2008 with the cool, calm, ever smiling Winston stringing the public along while he  wheeled and dealed. Instead Peters began to look vulnerable and various apocalypse scenarios surfaced about "another election" which if designed to spur Peters into action had the desired effect of making him decide who to go with.

And the choice, which I said before the election, was Labour.

It was always going to be Labour, which is why I put down for all to see two weeks before election day. And if it was clear to me before voting day it soon became clear to others after when the media started talking about head over heart and Winstons legacy because its clear that the Old Man of NZ Politics is truly old and like all old men in power he wants to leave some lasting mark, some monument to remind future generations of his "greatness" and had he backed Bill & Co he would have obliterated any possible legacy except that of the man who denied NZ the change it needs.

Also spare a thought for Bill English in all of this. His face on election night when the polls closed, showing National well ahead of Labour, was that of a man in the throws of some magnificent, beatific, political orgasm right there on stage for all to see.

Faces like that might be common on some Ecstasy fueled dance floor but not right there with his wife and family in attendance and certainly not with the media around. Such ribald behavior is common at election time but not that stark or so positively raunchy.

Yet it was clear sometime last week that things were slipping for Bill as various hints and leaks began to nod towards Labour and away from National and some time last night Bill will have gone home to his wife and family, quietly entered the family house at some late hour, stood for a moment in the darkened hallway before turning on the light, letting his body slump momentarily under the hideous weight of knowing that his political career is now effectively over before straitening up, snapping on the hall light and making his way up to bed.

God knows what his therapy bills will add up to but one thing is clear, without the required two years in the job as PM there will be no PM pension for him.

Meanwhile over in Aro Valley, James Shaw has probably slept soundly for the first time in a fair few months, knowing that his job is safe (for now) and that with three ministerial positions (but no seat at the cabinet table) he (and by extension the Greens) are in government for real this time as long as they keep up the confidence and supply for Labour.

In the wake of his and the parties hideous screw-ups pre-election the Greens have done well and I am willing to give Shaw his dues after he stepped in to shout down what was a potentially fatal rot regarding some Blue/Green Axis of Evil but only time will tell if he actually has the brains to make it far in politics because one thing is monumentally clear and that is he only just made it this time.

Shaw was saved by the special votes, and the sickening plummet from the heights of 15% polling to 4% will go down in NZ political history as a harrowing lesson on not what to do in the run up to an election.

Had the Greens retained their 15%, or even 10%, things would have been different and Shaw's bargaining position come being in Cabinet and elsewhere, would have been much more robust.

Instead its clear that Jacinda Ardern (possibly with urging from Winston) took the tactical decision to play on the numbers realistically, ignore the urge to punish the Greens for their MOU related backstabbery before the election and cut James and Co some slack rather than settle the score now. Whats that they say about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?

As for Maori and Mana, they were wiped out and Tuku Morgan now has to face the horrid fact that his plan for electoral success was predicated on playing the same old game that Maori/Mana had played before but with a side order of Labour related vitriol which made them as extinct as the Moa. The next vehicle for Maori politics is going to have to figure out that letting the tribal elites get all the goodies at the expense of all other Maori is no longer a viable way to make it in politics.

And then there was Labour.

One person who sprung immediately to my mind when I found out that Winston had finally got off the pot was Andrew Little.

Now I bagged Little relentlessly on this blog for nearly a year as the kind of political cock-block (pardon my French but there really is no other term for it) to Jacinda Ardern (and the fortunes of Labour) and that he should just give up and go away and to his credit, he did.

Sure it was only when the pressure got so critical that you could clearly see the knives sticking out of Grant Robertson's pocket (as proxy for Jacinda) but he did and we all now know how that went. He stepped aside and in doing so ignited the fires of Jacindamania which was the main component of Labours fightback in the polls.

A lesser leader would have fought on because greed and stupidity trumps reason almost every time in politics so on that alone we can thank him for making the change possible.

And for all of those people who spent much of the campaign shouting "its the policy stupid!", well you guys now get what you want as Labours plan for the first 100 days is chock full of policy nuggets to chew over and gnaw on for many months to come.

Finally all of this would not have happened without one person, one key individual who made the right call when at the right time and has allowed for NZ to take its first steps away from the neo-liberal wasteland we were rapidly heading towards. One person whose foresight and wisdom will be a legacy that will echo down the years.

I am of course referring to John Key.

What? You were expecting me to say Winston Peters?

If Key had not made the call to exit politics in December last year none of this would have happened. Key was the champ and all contenders to the throne had to get past him and his Teflon popularity. Even Jacindamania would have been muted against him and he now gets his payoff as a crony on the ANZ board but its a small price to pay for opening the door to real and positive change.

Winstons role in this is in the end minor. He was nothing more than the hand of fate and he knew it. He fought against it but as they say desine fata deum flecti sperare preccando.

Enjoy the long weekend.


*-Which was nice in a way because my perspicacity had been flagging a bit after the election
**-And again, and again. I am looking at you in particular Stuff. What, a possible Chinese spy in the Beehive was not something you could get your head around? The NZ Herald at least gave it some lip service coverage, but you guys just ignored it, like WTF?
***-Which if I recall happens every time we get some pause between elections but a lot faster and a lot louder this time round

Monday, 9 October 2017

Hostage situation in Parliament continues

When the going gets boring the bored turn to satire*.

The hostage situation in parliament entered into its second week today after an elderly man entered Parliament and took the nation hostage on the Sunday immediately following the election.

Two weeks ago, on September 24th, a man armed with a 7.5% vote share, identified as Winston Raymond Peters, of no fixed political abode, invaded the Parliamentary complex in Wellington and took hostages claiming political relevance and wanting his old job back.

Peters is believed to have been responsible for the death of at least two political parties so far while a third remains in critical condition at the political ward of Wellington Hospital.

Both of Peters victims appeared to have died instantly after polling closed while the third, a resident of Aro Valley in Wellington, was wounded by fire from Peters but managed to escape to safety, however their condition remains critical at this time.

So far Peters has issued no formal demands and it remains unclear what may have triggered such behaviour with Peters only communication being a series of vague and unclear statements shouted from the windows of the Beeehive at anyone who will listen.

Several hostage negotiating teams have been sent in to try and defuse the situation but were unsuccessful after Peters claimed to be waiting for “The Specials”. At this point it’s remains unclear what connection the 1970s Ska band from the UK has to Peters but Parliamentary Services manager Barry Smallgrope said they were not ruling out an ideological link.

Meanwhile the Special Task Force Unit (STFU) based at Police Headquarters in Wellington has compiled a profile of Peters describing him as a “lone wolf, probably driven by a messiah complex and delusions of grandeur”. The Police have also stated that they believe Peters to be acting alone at this time but that he may have had help in planning and preparing for his actions; an investigation has been launched.

Police spokesperson Basil Weasleface also noted that Peters appeared to be under the influence of an illegal substance, known by its street name of NozTalJa, which creates a feeling of “the past being so much better than it actually was while blinding the user to any sense of the future”. Police have noted the effects of this substance to be 50 times stronger than P or synthetic cannabis and with an almost 100% addiction rate.

Additionally Police have warned about the danger of a 7.5% vote share noting that while it is of a smaller caliber than some of the vote shares available to the public, such a weapon can still cause damage or even the loss of life and advise no members of the public to approach the Parliamentary complex.

Currently the standoff situation ensues with Peters and the hostages remaining inside Parliament while members of STFU wait outside, maintaining a cordon around Parliament with only negotiators, the press and members of Parliamentary Services Special Catering Unit (PSSCU) being allowed onto the grounds: The black berets and aprons of this elite unit being familiar to the public after an incident involving Gerry Brownlee at Bellamy’s a few years back.

Commentators have blamed the lack of political security at Parliament as being responsible for allowing an individual such as Peters to gain access to Parliament without having to pass though security checks with Council for Reforms Under Democracy (CRUD) spokesperson Bruce Snodgrass taking to social media to say that “Peters was a known threat yet he simply walked on in without any checks and started blasting away at anyone who got in his way.”

In such a charged atmosphere the internet is abuzz with various conspiracy theories about Peters and his motivations. The most popular stating that Winston Peters is actually a pseudonym and that the individual who has taken over Parliament is the son of Joe Bloggs; an individual who was politically active in New Zealand during the 1970s and early 80s before dying in mysterious circumstances in 1984.

Elsewhere in Wellington a memorial was held for the two victims of Peters with members of the Miramar Children’s Ragtime Choir singing a rendition of …And Justice For All by Metallica, to the small crowd of mourners while a mysterious figure cloaked in a black hooded robe and mask, known only as “The Leader” capered around in a macabre dance which some onlookers interpreted as having “evil intent”.

With no end to the hostage situation in sight and authorities refusing to comment if any special measures will be taken the country remains in stasis, however a special commission is being set up to investigate the circumstances that lead to these tragic events with retired high court judge Boris Fudgezonkalis to chair.


*-I am working to finish my post about Tunisia but got sidetracked this weekend.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Elections 2017: The temptation of James Shaw

When the Devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time – Luke 4:13

It’s been interesting over the last week to watch the mainstream political media in NZ twist desperately as they try and fill their daily news quota because Winston is simply stalling for time and there is almost nothing else to discuss in politics until parliament starts up.

Thus it’s been right royally entertaining and somewhat depressing to see the slew of articles coming out discussing James Shaw taking the Greens over to National.

Now to be fair it’s a prospect I have also raised in the past but the difference is my portrayal of the situation (which I shall elaborate on a bit below) was always based on the impulse of Shaw himself and not via any conscious decision by the party, its vote base or some sort of policy pragmatism.

No, what’s being hailed here is something very very different. What is being set up here is the pre-greasing of the public to accept a Green/National government, via a strangely compliant media, based on the rational (and dare I say public choice) idea that who cares about principles or where you are on the political spectrum just think about the what you will get if you do!

Normally dependable reporters like Stacey Kirk and Tracy Watkins on Stuff have been busy shoveling the kind of half-baked analysis that is more at the level of my standard stream of consciousness rot than their usual astute analysis and reportage.

Elsewhere Isaac Davidson over at the NZ Herald has not been immune to “going with the flow” and turning out something that is similar to his counterparts over at Stuff.

Meanwhile leave it to Martyn Bradbury over at the DailyBlog to get to the point (also here) and explain why a Green/National coalition would be a toxic result for Greens.

Because what would happen if James Shaw, and I mean James Shaw, not the party, took the Greens over to the other side would be for all intents and purposes and the end of the Greens.

It would be the birth of the very short lived James Shaw party which would live and die in exactly the same fashion as the Maori Party did when it cozied up to National and then got obliterated at the polls for essentially betraying its core vote base.

Because what Shaw would be attempting to do is pole vault the Greens over two other parties on the political spectrum (Labour and NZ First) to place it next to National, as long term coalition partner or just for some casual confidence and supply (the political equivalent of friends with benefits (or should that be benefits?), at the expense of any solid understanding of how democracy works.

Shaw, like Winston in my last post, is not free to buy and sell, horse trade or even prostitute his vote share to any and all parties that come a courting, despite what the media is trying to say. It not only betrays the democratic mechanic and spirit, its also just plain stupid.

And the alarm bells that should be ringing in Shaws brain right now do not stop there as the only actor in recent NZ political history I can think off of that managed to pull off that trick is Richard Prebble when he went from Labour to ACT, and we all know how that turned out.

Prebble, the golem of the Treasury Trokia from the mid-1980s, who, along with Roger Douglas and David Caygill* had their names etched forever in infamy as men who poisoned the well in NZ left-wing politics and set NZ on the unwholesome path it is treading today is not a good example of how to manage your party, its brand or its future.

What Prebble is a good example of, is one individual selling out his constituents and party (Labour Leaning Auckland Central in the 70s and 80s) for his own personal gain and in doing so being remembered only as scumbag political hack who once lead ACT.

And Shaw could have all of that if he takes the bait and goes to National.

Sure it makes all the policy sense in the world, when Stacey Kirk phrases it along pure policy lines, but it would be a very personal and very short term gain for James Shaw; and those lucky few high enough on the party list to get into parliament, who get a few years to play in politics while the Green brand goes from skating just above the 5% threshold to the same level as the Maori Party today (essentially 0%).

But given how bastardized the Green party is at this time, with its skew towards social justice more than the environment and their feet suddenly feeling the chill after having come down from the lofty heights of Mt Morality it is a possibility that could happen but what the media is not making clear is what happens to little green fish that swim with the big Blue Shark.

Sure the Greens were kept in a rather limited bowl by Labour but they were never threatened with annihilation (just subservience), as they would be for sucking on the teats of National.

So while we can blame the dictates of Winston Peters (and his refusal to ever work with the Greens) for being the primer for nudging Shaw along this path, that is the only rationality which would justify such a move and, as noted above, it would be purely short term and purely personal gain.

If Shaw needs any evidence of what decrepit fate awaits him its right there in the now vacant offices and work spaces of the Maori Party in Bowen House and Parliament.

Of course if Shaw is a corporate Trojan horse or Security Service mole, like has been speculated for some time in Wellington, then his going with National would lock those theories into pole position on the grid as Shaw is not stupid enough to think he could salvage the party from such a fate that has befallen so many in NZ politics and around the world but he might be willing (and stupid) enough to sell the party down the river for his own gain (or that of his masters).

The track record for voter betraying minor political parties is not good and if Shaw was a deep cover operative then this would be the perfect time to follow his MK Ultra programming and take the party over to the dark side.

However what sits in my mind now is not some political parable but the story of St Paul who started out his career as hunter of Christians but was struck down and blinded, on the road to Damascus, by the glory of Christ, and spent three days blind and suffering before a Christian healer made the scales fall from his eyes (hence where the saying comes from), he “saw the light” and converted to Christianity.

If the story stopped there is would be warm fuzzies all around but it doesn’t, what happened after is that St Paul went on to become one of the most prominent of the Apostles and his works and thought dominates early Christianity and the New Testament as one of the most rabid evangelists for Jesus Christ.

In short Saul became a “prisoner of Christ”, suffered Stockholm syndrome, changed his name to Paul and then became a Jihadi proselytizer for the JC Franchise.

And if that is not making it clear enough then I will spell it out. If Shaw goes to National then he will spend the rest of his days as a raving believer for the rightness (pun intended) of his dark deed, religiously defending his actions because his total reversal for all that the Greens stand for will require a stupendous level of missionary zeal to convince, even himself, that his deal with the devil was worth it.

This is the temptation that James Shaw is facing because just as the Maori Party constantly kept referring to how they were doing it "for Maori" the end result was they really were doing it for themselves only and Maori in general got little to nothing from the bargain that Maori struck with National; and Shaw & Co will have to utter the exact same lines and platitudes as the Maori Party did while National gets a free pass for another three years***.

For the Aro Valley** champagne environmentalists, which now make up the limited core of the party, they might feel good for the initial moment when the Greens get to lick the lever of power in ritual subservience the the Great Wyrm but as they say, revenge is sweet but not fattening, and election 2020 will probably be time enough for Shaw to become as toxic as dairy stream in voters minds and as popular as Clitter.

So if Shaw wants to kiss the devils buttocks so be it but the media should not be trying to fool people to which way he is really going.


*-(Douglas as Hitler, Caygill as Gobbles and Prebble as Himmler)
**-And I should know because I lived just up the hill from Shaw for five years
***-To be fair a NZ First/Labour/Greens govt has all sorts of potential issues lurking just below the surface but its still better than another three years of National at this point

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Elections 2017: So you say you want a coalition

This is probably one of the last in the Elections 2017 series and a topic which we always had to address, but like finding a nest of spiders in your sock draw its not a pleasant one to deal with.

Musically aware readers may notice right off the bat that the title of this post is essential a play on the opening line to the Beatles 1968 song Revolution, in which the group, but mostly John Lennon, express some concerns about some of the revolutionary sentiment going round at the time (this was 1968 after all)*.

Well, you know, I am not writing a hit pop song or having any concerns about the revolutionary mood in this day and age but I do have some issues with the current bout of horse-trading that’s passing for “coalition negotiations” at the moment.

As I noted in my last post the end result of a fair and democratic election is a highly undemocratic process where the various parties begin to wheel and deal in order to form a government.

“But that is politics under MMP!” I hear you cry in anguish at my failure to understand the obviousness of Mixed Member Proportional politics.

Well Sparky, you may be right but before you go betting the farm you might want to consider that be it MMP or FPP both systems for running democratic elections have very clear rules and structures which MUST be followed to ensure that the election process remains fair and democratic so why not the same with the process for making a coalition?

This is why election advertising must be down before vote day, this is why advertising budgets are controlled, this is why there are observers and a whole galaxy of rules and regulations starting all the way down at how voting should be conducted on the day (as noted on the vote form and how the polling place is setup) up to who gets to sign off on the final outcome (technically the Governor General when they formally appoint the PM and next government).

All of these things ensure that the end result is free and fair and NZ gets to boast that it remains a democratic state rather than many of countries which like to pretend they are democratic (for example China, Thailand, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Australia and the US of A**) but in reality are not.

So it’s pretty clear that these rules and regulations exist to ensure a fair result yet as soon as the populace has completed voting we step away from the clean and orderly streets of election town and cross the tracks into the crack house ghettos of coalition negotiations where anything goes and nothing is off the table.

Imagine its evening time, the sky is a fiery red, the day time traffic has faded away and the people of the night have come out. Imagine further, Bill English dressed up as a street walker outfit (stockings, short skirt, heavy lipstick and hair teased just so) standing on a street corner trying to attract the attention of any potential customers.

Now here comes a shiny black Beemer cruising down the way, Bill tosses his mane and strikes a pose that says “Hey baby, wanna party?” The car pulls up to the curb and the tinted windows roll down, with a whine of servos, to reveal the Cheshire cat grin (and silver mane) of Winston Peters.

The pair briefly discuss terms there on the street before, with a flash of shaved leg, Bill hops in and the Winstonmobile rolls off to some secluded back alley to complete the deal. Soon Bill is back on the boulevard looking for the next customer but is now joined by Steven Joyce in skin tight boob tube and skirt while Jacinda (rocking the “girl next door” look but still clearly on the make) plys her trade across the way.***

This might be a somewhat colourful description of the process but all the essential elements are there as this is not some clean cut business deal between buyer and seller but one party prostituting those that voted for them to anyone who will pay their fee. The only thing we don’t know is if Bill English is addicted to P and walking the street to fiancĂ© his drug habit.

I am aware that there cannot be a rule for everything and every situation and that countries round the world which have had coalition governments have to go through a similar process but as NZ has a political system which has thrown up two previous coalition governments in the last 20 years (along with various confidence and supply situations) and both of these did not end well so I don’t think it’s a long ask to have some basic format to how these things go which is not a slightly more glamorous version of the world oldest occupation.

Even worse is that this situation was clear to every voter and their dog months before we even went to the polls but the process is still being run (or at least covered by the media) as if this is some shock outcome which no body has had time to prepare for so we had better just wait while peeps figure this out.

And let’s not get our heads twisted round the idea that this can only be done after the fact of voting has taken place. The only difference between the before and after is that the numbers have firmed up, which does not stop parties from setting out positions, no go areas and discussing the matter before the big day, which some, to their credit (see the Greens and Labour) have been able to do.

Perhaps things would be different if it was not Winston Peters, again, being the person to which everyone is waiting on for an answer, perhaps a less capricious kingmaker might just have gotten down to brass tacks but then again the only other possible king maker out there (not really but let’s never discount the unlikely as an option) is the Greens and I think the stomping the party got at the polls (just over the 5% threshold) means they will probably not be too keen to make any risky moves by going out to play with National.

And if I may borrow some further lyrics from Revolution I would “like to see the plan” for what Winston has in mind because I read in the paper that Peters has refused to get back to people until all the special votes are counted on October the 12th which is nothing more than stone cold BS as a few percentage points or an extra seat is not going to fix the issues of policy and personality that are really what Winston is all about when it coalition time.

What is needed here is not set rules about coalition building but principles. Some basic principles about how a party might make a coalition set out before the election might go a long way to giving voters some certainty about the post-election coitus interruptus that we are all now suffering because if voters knew more about which way a party would swing in a coalition situation it would probably make for a different outcome.

Then there is the fact that the 5% threshold seem both a barrier to minor parties but also a safeguard against chaos in parliament.

In fact, I think part of the reason Winston lost his seat in Northlands and the party slipped back in the polls is because he was so obtuse about which way he was likely to go. Winston was so busy making sure that he was greased and ready for any action that came his way that he nullified his actual appeal to voters who saw NZ First as a party less about any specific or identified principle and more set up to get the greatest windfall for its leader post-election.

Winston’s rhetoric this election has been a far cry from his glory days with the Winebox and its shows.

Gone are the days when Winston could cause chaos and fear in the halls of power, in the 90s (specially before 96) he had more than one MP and senior civil servant on the ropes and seemed a genuine folk hero, exposing corruption and bad behavior as the then National Government was caught in a number of scandals relating to the Winebox. These days the resonance is just not there and saying National has a Chinese spy in its midst (which may or may not be true) just does not cut it.

So like the song says

You say you'll change the constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head

You tell me it's the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead

The only thing about this process I like is that I still believe that I know the outcome (see my post about the The Daffodils of Change) and that the reality of this situation is that it’s not a 50/50 spilt like people keep saying or that Winston is supporting a deeply unpopular second term government into a third but that this is a deeply unpopular (yes even with its 46 percent) third term government who is desperate to remain in power in the face for a broad base of calls for change (Labour, Greens and yes even NZ First if Winston’s supporters are to be believed).

That the situation of NZ First/National does not behoove players like Shane Jones (with his Labour pedigree) or the general tone of party supporters means that any deal with National risks going against a greater grain than if he goes with Labour and the Greens.

But Winston is Winston and Winston will do what Winston does so we now get to watch this single individual dither around for another two weeks while the sheckles change hands before getting to the money shot (so to speak) of going with Labour.

So if Winston is going to carry to carry round a picture of Bill English he aint going make it with anyone anyhow and I say that because Winston is know to have apologized to NZ First voters in the later 90's (specifically in his then electorate of Tauranga) for his going with National in 96 when the mood of the nation (much like it is now) was not conductive to three more years of their antics.

So, don't you know its going to be alright.

Alright?


*-Later on Lennon plunged a lot more whole heartedly into the spirit of the age but at this point he was still on the fence.
**-I might be wrong about the two of those examples
***-To be fair we could have had Winston in the short skirt and on the street corner but it just seemed better having Bill do the cross dressing.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Got Democracy?

Well we can’t say we did not see it coming.

Yes folks, here we are, again, for the third time in recent memory as we get to play another exciting game of “What does Winston want, and is it worth it to give it to him?”

But first the numbers.

National got the bulk of those who actually bothered to vote (more on that in a moment) while Labour pulled back those previously wayward voters (you know the ones that had voted Green the past few elections) while the Greens only just escaped electoral annihilation and NZ First (despite its reduced vote numbers) ended up where we expected them to be; sitting in position of deciding where NZ will go for the next three years.

The Maori Party and Mana were obliterated at the ballot box by voters who had tired of their piss-poor antics while Gareth Morgan acted like a spoilt child/very rich man when voters did not flock to his banner of rational populism.

Finally the voters of Epsom confirmed their kinky fetish for David Seymour and ACT by returning him to parliament but probably in opposition.

And it seems that after such a democratic process as this election was (because we don’t have easily manipulated electronic voting machines or people dropping off pre-stuffed ballot boxes at polling places) that now having to wait while a single individual decides the outcome for us is extremely undemocratic.

One question on people minds is "what will his price be and will it be worth it because the last two governments which did a deal with the devil got exactly what they bargained for in the end?"

With that in mind I am torn between wanting Winston to back National right into the god awful outcome they are going to get as a fourth term government, struggling with a mess of problems of their own making and wanting Winnie to throw in his lot with Labour, usher some change to NZ before the inevitable substance hits the fan.

In the end the real losers will be both parties because if you’re dependent on a highly capricious third party, with the moral scruples of a predatory fish, to get you into government then you will get burnt no matter what the outcome is. The only winner in this scenario is Winston (and I mean just Winston: not NZ First or any of those who voted for him).

Of course no power seeking politician in their greed addled mind will give up a shot at the throne so instead of expecting Bill English or Jacinda Ardern to say no to the poisoned chalice we will more likely get to watch them twist, turn and dance like puppets to the dictates of Winston before one of them blinks and the other gets the crown.

All of this is standard stuff for NZ politics and nothing we have not seen before but what is interesting is that voter turnout only just cracked 78% (up slightly from previous elections) which leaves over 20% of the voting populace too apathetic to vote and has killed dead any idea that there was a generational shift about to take place in NZ politics with some sort of “youth quake” reshaping the political landscape.

So it seems that Mike Hosking was right all along and for the next few days (or possibly weeks) we get to cool our heels while Winston Peters cuts a deal with either Bill or Jacinda over the future of NZ.

Speculation at this point is invited and the media has already started trying to figure out the puzzle but as I have said before even on the best of days it could still come down to how tight Winston’s pants are or what colour a reporter’s shirt is so there is only so much room for figuring the angles.

Best case scenario has nothing to do with what party he supports but rather how well the damage can be mitigated by which ever party comes after. The next best outcome is he supports Labour because “change” (and because watching Bill English implode as his dreams of PM are cruelly snatched way remain an entertaining prospect) while the least preferred option is another three years of National doing little because Winston has them by the short and curly’s.

But despite all such manoeuvring only one true question remains.


Is the fact that one fifth of the population not bothering to vote, and by extension handing over the whole outcome to one individual to decide “democracy in action” or something else? Is that populism kiwi-style? 

I really don't know.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Elections 2017: See you on the other side

Readers may have noted the lacks of posts here recently which has been because I have a) other things to be doing with my time, and b) there seemed to be nothing left to comment about in regards to the electoral process.

As of today I have been commenting, reading, writing, researching and generally thinking about NZ politics since I started this blog (ironically on September 23 last year) at a near daily level and the only change is that I have, for the third time in my life, come full circle and realised how loathsome and degrading politics really is.

Yes that’s right, not one, two, but three times I have now come back to the inevitable conclusion, towering above me like some dark monolith, that politics is a wretched soul destroying pursuit which delivers minimal outcomes for maximum pain.

The signs were all there for those who do read this blog to see and for me the heady rush of politics soon degraded into something akin to bitter cynicism which needed to be stomped out rapidly and without mercy lest it infect the rest of me.

But to cut a long story short the end came quickly when I watched Steven Joyce lying his heart out and caring not a damn that all and sundry knew he was a dirty little doggie that had been caught soiling the rug.

That said this is not to ascribe some saintly virtue to any other party or politician this electoral cycle because all have been behaving just as expected by making promises they are unlikely to keep or acting just so in order to get votes.

And I find myself again faced with the rather dark, and bitter, realisation that a much younger self had in 1996 when I voted for the first time almost instantly regretted it. Long story short I voted for Winston on the basis of his promises to remove national and felt like a heart broken lover when he sidled up with National post-election.

But this is not all negative as I have had plans to wrench the content of this blog away from the increasingly narrow focus it had developed on NZ politics and more accurately NZ politicians and political parties, and it took getting to this state to motivate me to do it.

So apart from some post-election coverage readers will notice a shift in content on this blog as I return to some of the wider topics I covered when I was over at Kiwipolitico and here on this blog.

There are plenty of great blogs out there doing NZ politics and by simply focusing on just that I was painting myself into a niche I was never happy, or comfortable, being in.

So after this Saturday I will be returning to some of the things I have been wanting to do and will be putting NZ politics on the backburner until something significant of note happens.

In post terms this means more posts about places in the world that interest me (and those requested by readers); more posts dealing with issues facing our society (both NZ and the wider world) and more material which is less about politics and more about anything else I am wanting to write about (history, culture, military affairs, art and perhaps even some of my fiction). Who knows I may even find time to review a book or film from time to time.

I am not sure if readers will like this change but at the end of the day I blog as an outlet for me rather than for other people but I do enjoy it if others do get something from my oft demented output.

So good luck space-monkeys, see you next week and don’t forget to vote (whoever it is for).


E.A.Blair




PS – No post about Gareth Morgan and TOP will be posted pre-election (even though it has been written) as there was just not enough of substance in a political party that is less than a year old to do anything with so that post has been shelved until after election day when we can see what kind of future the party has. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Elections 2017: The daffodils of change

If this election has been my medicine then I am now off my meds.

There are three weeks still to go before this election is “officially” over but for me it ended this morning when I saw daffodils in Hagley Park.

“Daffodils?” You ask (somewhat puzzled). “Yes, daffodils” I reply.

Daffodils: a quintessential symbol of spring, a whole gaggle of daffodils shooting forth from the grass along the river bank and under the trees. Daffodils: signalling the end of the cold damp winter and heralding the eventual return of warmer, balmy summer days.

See where this metaphor is going?

Spring is in the air, yes we have had a few showers now and then but there is a definite warming and I no longer find my cat hidden under my duvet, looking at me with indignant eyes that say “do you mind, your letting the heat out”*.

Of course spring does not mean summer just yet but it’s those little barometers of nature which know better than the weatherman which way things are going.

And it was in that unguarded moment when I saw those daffodils that its image struck straight through the crust of the conscious mind in into the deep depths of my subconscious, when I realised that even with three weeks to go this election was over.

It’s over, dear reader, not because the calendar says it’s so, not because the polls say it’s so (although they are looking rather daffodil-like at this time) and not because the politicians say it’s so but because the daffodils say it is so.

But before I announce the winner let us consider the losers first.

ACT

To say that David Seymour and ACT have been irrelevant this election is completely incorrect as David has been politically irrelevant since the day he got gifted his seat in the house and the party has been irrelevant since the mid-2000s.

Nothing he or the party does has any meaning or bearing on the political landscape of NZ and they know it.

I don’t even consider them when I look at poll results and apart from a few obligatory pieces I see in the media, written to give the illusion of “equal coverage”, there is nothing he can say or do that will prevent him and the party from being identified as a bunch of misguided zealots with the same dangerous and outdated ideas that got NZ into this mess in the first place.

Also with the numbers looking close there might not even be the safety of National standing aside in Epsom to get him back into parliament as ACT poll so far below the margin of error that its clear they exists only by the grace of National.

So ACT gets a giant L for “looser” stamped on its hand and we can consign them to the dustbin of history.

MAORI/MANA

For a while the alliance of the Maori Party and Mana seemed like a good idea as its avoided splitting any potential votes and pooled resources for the coming campaign.

However Tuku Morgan’s plan to use Labour as whipping boy for all of the their ill fortune only worked somewhat even when Andrew Little was still leading Labour, as even then their polling still never climbed above 2%, but took a complete nose dive when Jacinda Ardern took over.

The Maori Party irrepably soiled its name when it hitched its waka to National for one season too many and even the recent comments by Marama Fox that they would be willing to work Labour are not going to help it get back all those Maori seats Labour holds.

If National is gone in government then so too will the Maori party be gone. They might retain their current seat or even pull back a seat or two from Labour (although I have yet to see anything which indicates that) but there will be no seat at the cabinet table for them in a Labour government after both the Party and the Maori King (at the urging of Tuku) decided to denounce Labour in no uncertain terms.

Gone by Monday the 25th of September.

GREENS

There is not much left to say about the sad and sorry saga that has been the Green party in the last 12 months so I will simply summarize here by saying that James Shaw ran an unsuccessful internal coup on the party to seize control which tore the party apart and destroyed the Green brand as the only principled party in NZ politics.

Shaw now gets to be leader in all but name (as he is still calling himself “co-leader” but he is fooling nobody) but he is the leader of a party that had a 15% poll rating only two months ago and is now hovering around the 5% threshold like a soap bubble circling the drain.

Probably worst of all is that Shaw might survive this election but under his leadership the party is doomed to be seen as nothing more than a bunch of Champagne environmentalists playing at politics rather than a genuine political party.

Back to the compost heap.

NZ FIRST

Wait, what?

Oh yes, NZ First faithful, even Winston is going to lose this election because despite being the potential “kingmaker” again this election it’s clear that his mojo aint what it used to be and the recent slip in the polls show the party also hovering only slightly higher than the Greens at the 5% threshold.

But what about Winston power to anoint the new PM I hear you cry?

So what? Winston gets to choose the king but he will never get to be the king and that’s what he wants. Also this election will be Winston’s last tilt at the windmill and in order to secure his legacy in NZ politics he has to avoid making the ruinous choices he made in 1996 and 2005 when he backed the wrong horse and saw him being cursed rather than heaped in hosannas.

This election Winston has to make the right choice and while he is not in the looser category like ACT, the GREENS or MAORI/MANA at best he gets to redeem himself rather than reap the rewards that this election could have brought.

It’s not his polling or his cruddy party members that put him in this bracket but the simple fact that when he goes NZ First goes also and that for a man on whose shoulders so much has rested he has twice made the wrong choice for New Zealand (ie the job of a MP) in order to benefit himself in the short term.

So this September, when Labour and National come calling, Winnie has only one choice but to support the winner (see who that is below) or be consigned to the same dustbin that Peter Dunne and United Future went into (slightly different to the dustbin that ACT is going into) as a malingering political mercenary who never lived up to the promise he had.

If he does not his legacy will be similar to many of his fellow MPs (think how people like John Banks and Gerry Brownlee are viewed) and that is not what he wants, deep down Winston wants to be loved.

And now we come to our runner up, drum roll please…

NATIONAL

Sorry readers from Kiwiblog, I know a few of you over there really dig Bill & Co but it’s time to accept that has not been a good year for National or their political fortunes.

Ever since John Key left, National has been forced to get by on its own means without the gigantic crutch that Key’s popularity was for them and its shown.

Little that Bill and the B Team have done in the last 10 months has resonated with the electorate or helped stave off the ravenous monster that Jacindamania has been.

What’s worse is that had Andrew Little stayed leader of Labour it was almost a given that Bill would get to be PM and see National into a fourth term. What stings even more is that they (and Key) knew this and they did everything they could to keep Little in play rather than let Jacinda get to be leader in what I can only call “the Jacinda Ardern anti-coup plan”.

To give them their due they nearly pulled it off and possibly would have if for a few small “details” that they forgot to consider.

The first is that by being the current government in power they don’t get to harness any of the populist energy that is going around at this time (they lost that when Key jumped ship).

The second is despite Labour being the party that let the free-market beast that is neo-liberalism into NZ, National has been forever identified as the party that still supports its cruel tenants even while the its noxious after effects such as the housing hernia, failing education and health systems and dirty water sicken the nation further.

The third is that National is a third term government which has long since spent the mandate given to it in 2008 and was previously holding on only due to its claim to be a “steady pair of hands” when the opposition seemed about as capable of running the nation as the pissed inebriants of a hens night or stag party. With Jacinda and Labour on the rise that argument is swept away in the effervescing fervour that they are riding.

Even the usual election lolly scramble promises of money for this or money for that have only managed to slow the tide and for most people it’s either too little too late or an obvious election bribe with no reality behind it were National to get back into power.

Thus for Bill English he gets to be the man who led the party to electoral defeat twice and if this does not end his political career I don’t know what will.

If there is a saving grace for National it is that hopefully being out of government will allow many of the deadwood MPs that currently infect the party (such as Collins, Brownlee, Smith, Tolley, Bennet et al) to slither gracefully into the night and allow a new generation of younger, and less corrupted, MPs to take over and revitalise the party.

The origins of National come from 1935 and the failure of the Liberal and Reform parties (the forerunners of National), as the then government to manage the great depression and the nation (which also saw the election of the first Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage) and it’s this fate which National either has to embrace, by reforming itself or face the same fate as those parties (National did not return to government until 1949).

The lesson here is obvious. National in opposition can take the time to tap into the mood of the nation, figure out a less toxic set of principles to guide their policy and rebuild the party brand after it was hollowed out by the skeezy antics of John Key and debased by the rest of its MPs in their never ending quest to hold power for its own sake rather than to serve the national interest.

I have never born any ill will towards the National party itself, only its MPs and brain trust and I remain a political pragmatist (rather than a tribalist) who votes where the best outcome for NZ (not myself) lies and who knows, if National can get rid of that lice ridden free-market security blanket that its forever clutching (while its sucks its political thumb) I might someday consider voting for it.

WINNER - LABOUR

So yes, Labour for the win, and I am not even a Labour supporter nor will I be voting for them this year BUT it’s impossible to deny the energy that Jacinda Ardern has generated as party leader and the effect that has had on party fortunes.

Fact: Labour still does not have a policy pot to piss in BUT Jacinda.

Fact: there are still deadwood MPs in the party which need to be ruthlessly pruned before the party can grow again BUT Jacinda!

Fact: Labour needs to live up the promise of change (ala the spirit of Norman Kirk and 1972) that is currently driving the mood of the electorate BUT Jacinda!!

Jacindamania might not be affecting everyone (as I write this a Nicky Wagner party van drives past my window) but after nine years of National the mood of the natives of NZ (ie that’s all Kiwis) is restive and you only have to look at the polling to see what’s coming.

Labour is not “trending up” when you look at the poll charts but shooting up like a bottle rocket. Sure there is a ceiling to that rapid climb but Labour is no longer cannibalizing vote share from the Greens but now it’s capturing it from NZ First and National (as per the latest polling numbers) which means that Labour has rebuilt its voter base and is now looking over the fence at Nationals (and NZ First’s) verdant pastures.

To be sure the insane popularity of Ardern and the party is being driven by the appetite for change that populism (and nine years of National) has created and thereby turned Labour from moribund political entity to dynamic avatar for political change and that if not willing (or able) to effect that change they will hit the post-election slump like all those other avatars which thought getting elected was all they had to do (Trump, Macron, Trudeau, May ect).

Even if the nightmare scenario occurs and National gets back in (either by itself or supported by Winston or the Greens) then it still wins in the same manner as Jeremy Corbyn did in the UK by retaining its avatar status while the Tory party (both UK and NZ) dissolves into a steaming miasma of low poll results, infighting and crisis mismanagement.

Then come the next election labour can swoop in and pick over the carcass of National (and sadly the nation) any time it wants because the mood in NZ after three more years of the Bill and Bennet show (reduced human right anyone?) will be just this side to the left of Smiths Dream.

Even if Labour 2017 only serves one term like Labour in 1972 (due to the death of Norman Kirk) there is still a lot of good things Labour can do in those three years (like Labour did between 1972 and 1975 to re-orientate NZ with the world, strengthen state housing and ACC).

And for a moment let’s just address the elephant in the room which is the popularity of Jacinda Ardern.

It’s not, as some have so bitterly described it, as “lipstick on a pig” or a temporary thing but like John Key (who acknowledged recently how popular she is) something which, in itself, might not supplement for bad policy (as Key’s did not for National) but it could carry the party through three terms as government which might be as far as the party is looking at this time.

Also Ardern’s popularity will not save her should Labour fail to follow through on what’s needed for NZ but that’s not on voters’ minds at this time.

Whats on their minds at this time is CHANGE, some change, any change. Something has to give and for that to happen all those hopes and dreams are being invested in Jacinda to make that change as the avatar for said change.

And that’s where the daffodils come in because after the long winter of discontent that has been the current National government, Jacinda (and by proxy Labour) are the daffodils of change poking through the cold soil and reaching up for the warm bright future above.

SUMMARY

I am willing to admit that I do not have a time machine (yet) nor is what I write 100% guaranteed but at this time I am 95% certain that this is the outcome as instead of my usual rigorous analysis I am going on gut instinct and wild inspiration, which at this time is seems to be the right way to deal with the stultifying deadlock that the capricious nature of Winston Peters and FukYoo Politix has inflicted on this election.

In a situation where no choice is clear it is better to make one’s own fate and cut through the Gordian knot that this election has become.

Do you think its wishful thinking on my part?

Let’s see come September the 24th.



*-Now I just find it on top of the duvet, looking at me with eyes that say “one word: plastics”.