National at 80

In his weekly ODT column Colin James looks at National coming up to the party’s 80th anniversary.

National at 80 — on top, flush and set to celebrate

On Saturday National turns 80 — in power, flush with funds, as chipper as it has ever been. How will it be at 100?

One answer National will hope for is: not like Labour at 100, which Labour will be on July 7 and will commemorate the following weekend, including with a new history of the party.

Labour has been in office 35 of its 100 years, a little over one-third.

National has been in office 45 years, more than half of its 80.

One building block has been a broad membership, a cross-section of much of society.

This has not made National literally a “national party”. It has been overweighted with farmers, businesspeople and professionals and the better off. It has been a white party with flecks of colour.

Nevertheless, for most of its 80 years it has, much more than Labour, been a part of the communities it lives in (to use Grant Robertson’s mournful phrase just after the 2014 election, when Labour’s 25% showed it clearly wasn’t).

National has certainly been a relatively successful party throughout it’s history, and recently (over the past eight years).

Labour is really struggling to arrest a slide in support and direction.

Of course, National connects with and is funded by the well-off. But it also connects with middling voters who bother about the mortgage and the kids’ schooling and the next car and don’t want too much change or too much attention to beneficiaries and others outside the mainstream.

And National’s flecks of colour have grown a bit. It has active “community” groups of Indian and Chinese (and more Asian MPs than Labour) and a growing Pasifika group. It has challenged Labour in numbers of MPs with Maori whakapapa.

National is favoured by or tolerated by a majority of voters which means they have to have had wide appeal.

We are in, or at least entering, another deep social change, logically requiring deep policy change. How National responds will be a major determinant of how it will look on its 100 birthday in 2036.

National is not in the fractious state of its counterparts in other liberal democracies, especially the United States.

That in part is because the social pressures that have generated the populist upheavals in Europe and the United States are not (yet) as intense here and such populism as there is mostly mopped up by Winston Peters who parks it more or less safely.

Despite the fervent wishes of those dreaming of a New Zealand revolution most Kiwis are mostly disinterested in politics and are not attracted by attempts at social upheaval.

Other could-be populists gravitate to Key-the-bloke coupled with Key-the-nice-chap and with Key-the-silken-tongue — at a guess accounting for somewhere north of 5 percentage points of National’s 2011 and 2014 47%. When Key goes, that will go with him.

The big question will be when Key decides to go. Or whether he is put under enough pressure to push him out.

Key has weathered many attempts to destroy him as a politician, but it could take just one serious slip up to change that.

Right now only Labour and the Greens are on offer but they are not yet a substantive, unified force and Labour has yet to develop a deep reform programme.

The lack of a credible alternative is one of National’s biggest assets.

So for now, there is political space and time for English to wave his calming wand in the May 26 budget.

There will be some lollies and a bit more social investment and some filling of political potholes and a soothing assurance that government finances are headed towards a surplus and debt reduction.

This is the art of the possible. Done well, it leaves little room for opponents to score scarring points, even given third-term wear-and-tear and the growing number of bad stories.

So National can celebrate its 80th in calm times.

Perhaps.

In politics the governing party is only one scandal away from significant jeopardy.

A day can be a long time in politics.

 

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19 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  10th May 2016

    The current national party are a disgrace and do not reflect the party’s foundational statements of belief. They only make life difficult for the left because they occupy the left’s position.

    Reply
    • Pantsdownbrown

       /  10th May 2016

      …and still left-wingers will tell you that National is a far-right party.

      This disconnect from reality is why the left continue to lose support.

      Reply
      • Yup but it’s also why National have done so well gaining & keeping it. Sometimes you just have to be Christian about it and take the good with the bad Brownie.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  10th May 2016

          PS: I just threw a bucket of water over the burning bag you always leave on the doorstep – you might have run off again but I’m not falling for that one. 😎

          Reply
      • Pantsdownbrown

         /  10th May 2016

        “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
        ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  10th May 2016

          That dude would’ve cleaned up on Survivor. Every one of them.

          Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th May 2016

      @Brown, to be fair the Government can only do what the electorate will permit. Until our education system is improved they are stuck with a Lefty-indoctrinated electorate.

      Reply
  2. Corky

     /  10th May 2016

    Hear,hear, Browny. Apparently the cleaning lady found Nationals constitutional documents gathering dust behind the men’s urinal, the other day. Bill English told her to chuck them.

    Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th May 2016

    You folk are a delight to read in the morning. Thumbs up to you all.

    Reply
    • @ Allan. Hey Al, now I’ve been emailed by Sveltana’s sister Ana. Apparently I’ve got another deceased rich uncle in Ghana. I don’t suppose you can lend me $20K could you? I’m a bit strapped for readies till Svetalana shoots the other bequest through to the BNZ.

      Shouldn’t have any probs paying you back mate. Looks like I’m gonna be quids in by the end of the month.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  10th May 2016

        As Reggie’s boss CJ used to say, “I didn’t get where I am today by lending anyone money, especially Russians”, cheers Gezza.

        Reply
        • I think she might be Ukranian. But ok ,cheers for that Al. The BNZ hasn’t been very enthusiastic either. I’d better look for a Finance Company.

          I did some promo work for Sunshine Desserts. Damn. CJ never bloody paid me, come to think of it …I’ve still got a copy of the invoice here somewhere … 😕

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  10th May 2016

            Is it in imperial currency ?

            The chairs were bananaskin humour, but weren’t they funny ?

            There’s a really good finance company called Grabbe Suckers and Fleecem.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  10th May 2016

              And it they’re no go, try Robbin Chumps and Skinningham.

            • Gezza

               /  11th May 2016

              That last one was xlnt m8!

  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  10th May 2016

    I am really surprised at Labour’s poor attendance record as Government-I expected them to have been in about the same number of times as National.

    Reply
  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  10th May 2016

    I can never remember whether Winston Peters was a founding member of Labour or National.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  11th May 2016

      I think he was a foundling of National’s. They nurtured & raised him, but when he grew up they discovered he was a werewolf when he turned on them.

      Reply

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