Straddling the political divide

Some see politics as a big division between one thing or another but in reality there’s far more fairly common ground than there are extreme differences.

But today the ODT chose to call their editorial Straddling the political divide, looking ahead to the year in Parliament kicking off. However i think what they are referring to is more of a divide between what the public would like to see of their Members of Parliament and how those MPs present themselves in Parliament.

Parliament resumes tomorrow with the Prime Minister’s statement taking precedence over other business.

While official business takes centre stage tomorrow, the political year started earlier with the State of the Nation speeches by political leaders.

Mr Key can take all the time he needs as his statement has no limit in length. The debate in reply has a limit of 14 hours but the Government can, if it chooses, and it probably will, adjourn the debate and get on with other business. The year needs to start strongly.

The debate in reply begins with the Leader of the Opposition moving a no-confidence vote in the Government and moves on from there into the Opposition parties trying to score some political points against the Government in general and Mr Key in particular.

Mr Key has been untouchable for seven years and will point to the achievements of his Government as he outlines parliamentary priorities for the year ahead. In the past, Mr Key has deviated from his set speech to get a march on the Opposition, which has an advance copy of his address.

Tomorrow can really be the time for Mr Key to put aside the political agenda of trying to make his opponents look silly and provide some uplifting goals to which he aspires.

The Opposition can use their time to avoid making personal attacks and focus on providing some alternatives to what it sees as damaging policies.

All of this seems sadly unlikely and New Zealanders will again be left frustrated on the sides of the political divide.

As I said at the start, I think one of biggest divides in New Zealand politics is  not left versus right (the main parties are often called National Lite and Labour Lite) but a divide between how our Members of Parliament behave in Parliament and how the public would like them to behave.

Robust debate with opponents and challenging policies are very important aspects of a democracy.

But far too often our politicians resort to petty attacking and opposing for the sake of opposing rather than based on common sense.

The tone of our politics and of Parliament must be set from the top, by the party leaders. When did we last have a leader who led by example?

John Key has been a very successful leader but I don’t think he has yet been a great leader. He often tries to be a person of the people, quite successfully going by the polls but that’s probably as much to do with a lack of strong opponents.

Andrew Little is yet to step up as a credible leader.

The party leader I’ve been most impressed with over the annual Waitangi debacle is Winston Peters, who spoke honestly about the core of the problems. Perhaps the wily old campaigner can rise above his usually futile game playing and end his career on a respectable high.

Is Key capable of providing ‘some uplifting goals”?

Or will he continue to massage the masses with meanderings, policy-wise?

Likeable (to half the population) but with modest achievements who eventual fades away? Or can he become a leader of our times? If he aspires to the latter he will need to do more than just wave a flag.

Can Key find a way of straddling the divide between successful politician and aspirational leader? Does he want to?

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32 Comments

  1. I found this fascinating and yes I agree that politics is becoming more and more polarised.Could you please check out my politics blog and give it some support if you can?

    Reply
  2. Timoti

     /  8th February 2016

    “Can Key find a way of straddling the divide between successful politician and aspirational leader? Does he want to?”

    No, and No and No. Key has stumbled upon what makes average New Zealanders tick… it ain’t aspirations or personal drive. Its mediocrity. The average New Zealander doesn’t like change. They want a little brass in pocket, booze and drugs and a shelia or fella to shag.

    Key provides mediocrity,with a smile, by the tonne. I suspect even people who hate Key still feel comfortable with him as leader. Not that they would ever admit to that.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  8th February 2016

      he hasn’t stumbled upon anything…he is contrived,rehearsed and marketed by clever people…he is a good pupil however.

      Reply
    • Timoti

       /  8th February 2016

      Maybe Blazer is right about Key. At least if Little was voted in he wouldn’t be contrived,rehearsed and marketed by clever people. I mean, Matt McCarten, the Unions and
      Clark’s minions who changed the social fabric of our society, all without the help of Uncle Sam, are so impotent.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  8th February 2016

        how was the ‘social fabric of our society’ changed compared to other english speaking democracies that you acknowledge in common.

        Reply
      • Timoti

         /  8th February 2016

        Blazer asks the obvious. Why doesn’t he answer his own question? Start with the commonly called “anti smacking” legislation.”

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  8th February 2016

          I see .just .like the anti smoking in public legislation signalled the end of life as we know it!.Uncle T yearns for the days of 6.o’clock closing,where you get bladdered ,go home give the missus a good hiding for serving up cold cuts,doze off and get up the next day for another days work in the coal mine and the prospect of rugby,racing and beer in the coming weekend, when all the shops are closed and you have to have stocked up on gaspers

          Reply
          • Pantsdownbrown

             /  8th February 2016

            But that’s what Chris Trotter says are the ‘good old days’, the one’s he wishes the country reverts back to…….

            Reply
        • Timoti

           /  8th February 2016

          Blouser is losing it folks. Worthless hyperbole as usual. What a pity he is ruining this blog.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  8th February 2016

            next you’ll be telling us you were smacked as a child…and it didn’t do you any harm!

            Reply
          • Rob

             /  8th February 2016

            PG runs a damn good blog here Timoti (IMO the best in NZ) and blazer certainly isn’t ruining it. You need to grow a thicker skin son.

            Reply
            • Timoti

               /  8th February 2016

              No son. Trolling is trolling. The thing with Blouser is he mixes reasonable comment with his hyperbole. But he always reverts to type. He is a worthless addition to this site in my opinion. I would dearly love to fire up on this troll, but I would become the first person to get the boot from this blog. Pete’s benevolence must be respected. Therefore, I will take bjmarsh1 advice and ignore him. Maybe that will help me develop the thick skin you say I need.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  8th February 2016

    No. Key is a pragmatist like Holyoake. He will settle for what works over what should be but can’t be. He is also a strategist and tactician, not a theorist. He will have his objectives and a plan to get there that leaves his opponents least opportunities. He will disarm their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. That is what he does.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  8th February 2016

      he has his agenda prepared for him just as U.S presidents have done for decades.He smiles,he waves,he cultivates an ordinary bloke image…thats a tough one ,but he turns up at the Queer parade,the footy,the stamp collectors annual convention,boy scouts,girl guides,the PONY club…all in a days work for likeable Johnny appleseed.

      Reply
      • “he has his agenda prepared for him just as U.S presidents have done for decades.”

        Can you elaborate on that?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  8th February 2016

          I am sure you appreciate constant p/o polling and aligning policy with it, and the over arcing strategy of prepared press releases compliments of the advisors and lobbyists that handpicked first Brash and then Key to implement their agendas.That there is a U.S bias is not in doubt..Brash’s intentions ‘gone by lunchtime’ and U.S Sec of States comment re NZ support for U.S foreign policy…’we don’t even need to ask’…its a given.A recent Australian poli stated that 10 coys basically made govt policy there ..the 4 banks,a Telco,3 mining coys,and 2 major S/MKT chains.Same here ,our biggest export is profits.’Our 4 banks appear to be aussie owned but the main s/holders/bondholders are U.S as I understand it.Not surprising is it…’pay the piper…call the ..tune.’

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  8th February 2016

            You have no problem with cognitive dissonance do you?

            Key has his agenda prepared for him vs constant polling and aligning policy with it.

            Best choose one or the other for your attack, but not both. They refute each other.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  8th February 2016

              They don’t actually but dont let fact get in the way of your feeble story.Good to see you are keeping up with the Standards phrase du jour…’cognitive dissonance’ indeed,now you just need to learn what the term means.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  8th February 2016

              Since I never read the Standard it will have to keep up with me, not vice versa. Cognitive dissonance does require cognition so I understand your immunity.

            • Blazer

               /  8th February 2016

              ‘the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.’…my post was perfectly logical.

  4. @PG… to be a strong leader in a parliamentary system you need a strong majority over multiple parliaments. Without that you cannot pass policy into statute to drive.

    Kiwis decided they want the government party hobbled following the revolutionary Douglas and Richardson era’s and voted for MMP to dilute strong parliamentary majorities under a FFP system. Thereby constraining major change that involves any type of temporary belt tightening. By example see how hard it is to change RMA legislation to allow easier development.

    The other consequence is how electoral bribes like Interest Free student loans and WFF are to dismantle even though they impose a burden on the general taxpayer.

    Key is being pragmatic and pursuing a slowly, slowly policy of change – see the progress toned down of WFF entitlements. To do otherwise is to lose the treasury benches

    Our system precludes radical change now unless a party can generate a strong majority or has the committed support of coalition partners to pursue that change….

    Trying to paint Key as weak is fair enough – he has flip flop on any number of small matters where a media beat up has produced enough heat. But his core policy is retention of the treasury benches and incremental change via policies like the Investment Approach to social spending…

    Reply
    • EDIT “The other consequence is how HARD electoral bribes like Interest Free student loans and WFF are to dismantle even though they impose a burden on the general taxpayer.”

      Missing the key word HARD d’oh..

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  8th February 2016

      quite correct the politics of expediency,the reality of retaining the treasury benches at any cost….’get some guts,stand up for what you really believe in’!Who needs it..only the naive,and principled, foolish ,breathless sincere advocates.

      Reply
  5. Pete, you said “Robust debate with opponents and challenging policies are very important aspects of a democracy.” This actually summarises the problem with our Parliament since the 1930s arrival of ideological based political parties becoming the focus of debate. Instead of focussing on the issues, we see all sides of the house opposing the views of those opposite, instead of debating possible alternative solutions to the issues. This is not helped by the media focussing on the winners and losers and not proper investigative journalism focussing on the issues on debate. Sides are chosen and positions are fixed, and we the voters chose one side or another based on emotive languageand disinformation about consequences and results of policy decisions. Party politics are the poison of democracy and will eventually kill it. The issue should be the focus of debate, and alternative solutions should be teased out from factual information tested in the scientific manner and the policies so derived should be subject to monitoring on a regular basis to recognise and implement policy improvements aimed at improved efficiency and effectiveness.

    Reply
    • I’m largely with you on this one bjm1, except I’d probably go further.

      “Robust debate with opponents and challenging policies are very important aspects of a democracy”. Or what I call “partial democracy”. Until politicians are all committed to the best for everyone, to “consensus” democracy, and hopefully re-named something other than ‘politician’. Until every vote is a conscience vote …

      “But far too often our politicians resort to petty attacking and opposing for the sake of opposing rather than based on common sense” Everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint on what is common sense, but until there is some mechanism to deter “attacking and opposing”, which is a natural consequence of party politics within the Westminster system.

      Solution: Reduce or reject Party Politics and improve-modify-or-replace Westminster.

      “The tone of our politics and of Parliament must be set from the top, by the party leaders. When did we last have a leader who led by example?” Set from the top is another enormous, systemic problem, not the solution. Set by voter expectation and feedback maybe? Set from the ground up? Without Party politics, or with it severely reduced, back-benchers could demand better behaviour of their leaders?

      Better still if they were all independent “self-leaders”, which would also model this for the population? But the whole “Leader – Down” theorem is apposite to the founding concept of democracy, which is “Voter – Up” (It’s so much like a Church. The resulting ‘Body Politic’ is the exact opposite of the founding principles of its founder-teacher. It’s like, “Let’s pray to Our Peaceful Saviour now for the best outcome of this current Religious War”)

      I don’t think ideologically based political parties started in the 1930s though.

      Which leader led by example … Michael Joseph Savage of course!

      There are two “realities”. The thing in itself and the name for the thing.
      I agree with Pete’s first assertion : “Political Divide” is (much more) a war of words than of things.

      Reply
  6. Blazer

     /  8th February 2016

    Good post Bj…I guess Switzerland try to address this with referenda.

    Reply
    • @ Blazer – Regards Switzerland: Yes, theoretically. The problem is that referenda by themselves are like a return to ‘First Past the Post’ politics and tend to be inherently conservative. Government by referenda would be a retrograde step in NZ.

      A 51% majority “of those who voted” win in a referendum could easily mean greater ‘minority of eligible voter’ rule than we have now.

      This is potentially even less inclusive and the only way to improve democracy is to make it definitively more inclusive.

      Reply
      • I agree on referenda, in theory they should be a good idea in a democracy but in practice they have limited benefits, for a number of reasons.

        Parts of Switzerland have not long ago given women the vote with their Canton based direct democracy.

        Reply

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