Politicians versus ordinary people

Professionalised politicians are increasing out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.

This is believed to be a major factor behind the surprising Brexit vote in the UK and the rise of Donald Trump in the US>

Geoff Miller and Mark Blackham make some interesting points in an NBR article on the growing disconnect of parties and Parliament from ordinary people.

New Zealand’s political environment is now largely a professionalised machine. A whole generation of MPs can no longer truly emphasise with many New Zealanders.

A third of New Zealand’s MPs have only ever worked inside the government system. Another third built no real career before they tried to get into Parliament.

So two thirds of MPs don’t have much ‘ordinary New Zealand’ experience in their working lives.

For most current MPs, the secret to being elected is attending a well-regarded secondary school, going to university and joining a political party on campus and finding a job in the public sector or as a political party staffer. After making the necessary connections with the right people inside the parties, the final step simply requires a little behind the scenes manoeuvring to secure a place on a party list or safe seat and make it into Parliament.


By failing to forge careers unrelated to politics, the current crop of MPs largely lacks genuine insight into the lives of New Zealanders who live outside the Wellington political establishment.

It has become a career path as opposed to some time out from real life to represent the people.

The insight they do have is handicapped by political and media machines that smooth out language and ideas. Populists like Trump are extreme reactions to these very real inadequacies of the current political choices the machines generate.

Voters are disgruntled with ideology driven by politicians’ agenda rather than by the reality of ordinary lives. They prefer the sincerity of Trump-like passion to the crafted emptiness of professional politicians.

John Key has a bit of the ordinary person touch, warts and all (but nowhere near the warts of Trump).

Who else in Parliament competes with him on that?

Bill English is the opposite, a political insider – but isn’t he one of the perceived strengths of the Government, the steady-as-she-goes money manager?

Andrew Little is struggling to appeal to labouring union type people let alone the wider constituency. Interestingly Annette King is probably Labour’s most respected politician and she has been around for quite a while.

But not as long as Winston Peters – he has nurtured the maverick outsider vote for about a hundred years, but has been part of the political bubble so is hardly a fresh new idea.

Greens are struggling to appeal outside their own bubble, adored within their professional middle class constituency but hardly resonating with the poor they try to represent.

Peter Dunne is as same old as one could get.

Act’s David Seymour is probably the only semi prominent Member of Parliament prepared to buck trends and do things differently. And he has age on his side  – or relative lack of age, born in 1983 compared to Peters born in 1945, over twice as long ago. Seymour is 33, Peters is 71.

Outside Parliament the Cannabis Party have been trying for decades and compete well with the also-rans but will have make a dramatically different impact to get into parliament

The only outsiders on the radar at the moment are Gareth Morgan and his new TOP party, and also the NZ People’s Party who will test their appeal in the Mt Roskill by-election.

New Zealand’s party system along with MMP are an obstacle to populist outsiders, but in the current era of political surprises anything could happen.


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  1. @ PG – “By failing to forge careers unrelated to politics, the current crop of MPs largely lacks genuine insight into the lives of New Zealanders who live outside the Wellington political establishment.”

    I’d argue that many so-called careers outside politics are equally unrelated. For instance, a ‘career’ overseas as an international money trader is largely unrelated to ordinary people in Aotearoa New Zealand. I think many, many people experience John Key as disconnected, lacking common insight and empathy for the ‘average citizen’ … He’s a member of the financial elite. Is this any more ‘connected’ than the so-called political elite …?

    Key, Trump and Morgan have a lot more in common than first meets the eye … although Morgan at least projects an aura of being ‘in touch’ with common folk …. I await his policy platform in order to confirm or refute that …

    The fact all three are mega-rich really says something about the state of politics and indeed, about the communal psyche of so-called ‘ordinary people’ who, despite all the words about ‘populism’, are seeking and choosing financial elitist leaders … Perhaps its aspirational on ‘our’ part …?

    Finally, I believe all politicians regardless of their ‘political’ race, colour, creed and religion are somewhat ‘out of touch’ because the ‘Church’ we call ‘democracy’ has distance-from-common-reality built into it, partly by its social & technical evolution – e.g. manual ballots, electioneering etc – and partly ideological – maintenance of the race-class system necessary for imperialist colonial capitalism to flourish …

    • PDB

       /  19th November 2016

      Reading that diatribe the only person out of touch’ is yourself…….essentially summed up as the ‘politics of envy’ where being ‘rich’ automatically makes you ‘out of touch’ with ordinary New Zealanders & therefore not worthy of being a representative – of anything. Helen Clark wasn’t ‘rich’ but she was far more out of touch with the general populous in her time in charge than Key is now. Key worked in the ‘real world’ both at home and internationally for 20 years before entering parliament so hardly the political stooge that PG is referring to in this post. The lack of recognition in your above post that a knowledge of economics wouldn’t be a bonus for a PM running a country & its economy basically sums up the depth of your musings.

      I don’t think you’d know an ‘ordinary New Zealander’ if you fell over one. It may surprise you to discover that most New Zealander’s aren’t twisted extreme leftists that constantly put down the country whilst crying out for an universal income & a return to the 1950’s.

      • You want a diatribe … Okay … You’re partly right PDB, John Key has an excellent working knowledge of speculative economics, exactly what’s required in today’s global, financialised, capricious, serpentine, viperous economic world …

        He’s an economic ‘commando’ leader, a member of the ‘finanelite’ force parachuted into Helensville to run the country on behalf of ‘wealth & power’ …

        There’s no such thing as an “ordinary New Zealander” any more; if there ever was one. Was he the ‘Cow Cocky’ who moonlighted as a Special Constable? Or the Factory Worker who moonlighted as a Trade Union activist? The neoliberal consensus ushered in by Rogernomics has put paid to any possibility of ‘average’. Nowaday’s there are rich New Zealanders – upper & upper-middle-class – then an aspirational middle-class who want to be rich but are treading water at best or sliding backwards – and the rest, the working-classes, low-paid, casualized, under-employed, unemployed and beneficiaries … with racial, ethnic and religious differences complicating the picture … the whole system ultimately depends on them … and their sweatshop cousins overseas …

        All of their jobs, of course, are ‘up for grabs’ when your Rightie robotics overtakes them in the name of ‘productivity and efficiency’ …

        Right-Wing politics has brought this about PDB … make no mistake … and now Righties decry the very Arthurian ’round-table’ Mordred-like disfigured & debauched child they have spawned and coached by inequitably splitting and polarising the nation [world] into wealthy, barely surviving-but-aspirational and poor …

        Any attempt to treat the septic malignancy of this ill-gotten offspring (or ‘issue’) is treated with utmost derision – as evidenced by your comment above – leaving Righties in the bizarre position of entrenched troops, dug in and stuck in a stalemate of their own making … wallowing in your own *shite* …

        You won’t attempt to change the prevailing system for the better, even if it cries out for improvement, but endlessly criticise anyone who wants to improve it … They are ‘the enemy’ and the enemy must be “The Left” …

        So I want a productive manufacturing sector in New Zealand … some hope of full employment … healthy and sustainable regional and local economies and communities … less reliance on imports … access to cheaper or free tertiary education … etc etc … and yes, we had some of this in better measure in the 50’s & 60’s … Gee I must be evil!? …. It doesn’t mean I want to go back … I want to go forward in a way that doesn’t just continue the speculative sell-off and sell-out of Aotearoa New Zealand’s people and way of life …

        But notice PDB, my fine Rightie friend, how there’s another stream running concurrently and parallel to this “neoliberal constipation”? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction perhaps? Life strives for balance?

        Meantime, your very same National govt is making accords with the Maori Party over RMA reform and fresh water … further cementing principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi … This is a prelude to Bicultural Constitutionality, even if they don’t know it …

        It’s really another topic but … Do you think we’re going backwards from any of this ‘progression’? Back to what amounted to White rule? You’re kidding yourself … To exaggerate: Has any nation in the world ever re-instituted slavery?

        This is progress. This is “the Peace Train” … So climb aboard or get left at the station. The railways are gonna close after this anyhow …

        And that’s why you need a written Constitution probably more than I do … ?

        And that’s why we need new democratic mechanisms so our legislative representatives are as ‘connected’ and related and accountable to us all the time, as is humanly possible …

        • PDB

           /  19th November 2016

          PZ: “Gee I must be evil!?”

          I wouldn’t go that far PZ – I’d say misguided and too wordy.

          Your argument falls down at the first hurdle as New Zealand is not a far-right wing country, nor is the current National govt practising far-right wing politics. Great country this, pity a small number of vocal people are convinced it’s a hell hole and feel compelled to try and educate us poor ‘self-serving’ unfortunates.

          • PDB

             /  19th November 2016

            To add – left wing politics and those who practise it have only one thing to blame for their failings – themselves. This country is a classic example of the left unfortunately being taken over by small interest groups, living in the past, and not understanding the future.

            • Well PDB, if you think Rogernomics and Ruthanasia were not Right-Wing ideology politics – initially masquerading as Left-Wing – taken over by small interest groups – Financial elitists and Treasury – living in a ‘laissez faire’ capitalist fairy-land past or trying to relive it – you are much more deluded than I thought …

              I understand the future PDB … It looks like this …

              United States’ families median net worth source: Fed Survey of Consumer Finances in 2013 dollars ….
              1998 2013 change
              All families $102,500 $81,200 -20.8%
              Bottom 20% of incomes $8,300 $6,100 -26.5%
              2nd lowest 20% of incomes $47,400 $22,400 -52.7%
              Middle 20% of incomes $76,300 $61,700 -19.1%
              Top 10% $646,600 $1,130,700 +74.9%

              Format probably screwed, see here …

              Something to be immensely proud of PDB …?

              I’ll bet you Donald Trump makes no difference to this or that these figures are worse at the end of his Presidency …

            • PDB

               /  19th November 2016

              Just to point out to you PZ, we live in New Zealand………no wonder you are always befuddled.

            • Yeah, nah PDB, we live in Aotearoa New Zealand where the tendencies are exactly the same but not so extreme … I am not befuddled … You are discombobulated …

  2. PZ’s attempt to build up the socialist left side politics as superior in all aspects by denigrating any policies that do nor fit into his narrow-minded image of what New Zealand should be, has failed miserably. Look at the election results in New Zealand PZ to ascertain just how unpopular your philosophy is with middle New Zealand. Your personal attacks on the motivation and integrity of the Prime Minister demeans you as a purported commentator on the politics of New Zealand. The times are a’changing mate, time to get on the right carriage or you and yours will be left behind by the silent revolution that is going on. PZ, your reflections back to Rogernomics and Ruthenasia are as backward looking as they come. That was a generation ago. Me, I counsel our young people to think for themselves, to identify the real motivations of those who seek power, ask if you feel you are making your own decisions for yourself, are you comfortable in your own skin, are you in control of the important decisions in your life, in the knowledge that it is your body and you are blessed with a power to make your decisions on what is best for you. As far as the claims of preferential treatment being given to Maori are concerned, they know as well as any one else that their reservoir of patience from other New Zealanders is used up, and they are doing their own thing. Soon one hopes there will be a cleaning out of the stables in the small number of grasping corrupt elders robbing their own people, and a better approach to the almost intransigent problems of poverty and modern academic success faced by young people who identify as Maori.

    • Orh Jeez BJ, to say Rogernomics and Ruthanasia are irrelevant today is like me saying Micky Savage and Social Security are inconsequential to this country’s his/herstory …

      Roger and Ruth set us up for the prevailing socio-economic-political culture we have now, no matter how much it’s been ameliorated by Working for Families, Rent Subsidies for landlords and other austere and generally punitive subsidies and ‘benefits’ ….

      Its already been said on here some time ago by the very people who promote minarchism and free-range capitalism, that the best way to tackle the “minimum wage” issue is to remove it and have the State make up the difference with tax relief and/or subsidies for the poor (which such policies will inevitably create and have created) … The STATE FFS!!!

      Presumably that’s real minarchism at work …!?

      This is Righties behaving like the Black Knight in Monty Python … “Orh well, its only a leg of our policy gone … we’ll be all right … Oh … there goes an arm … We’ll fight on though …”

      If Maoridom’s “reservoir of patience from other New Zealanders is used up” I reckon we may be in big trouble … ?

      • “Minarchism is a libertarian political philosophy which advocates for a particular variety of minimal state that acts only to enforce a universal framework of natural and legal rights essential to the functioning of a free marketplace in economy and culture, and operating through a limited government societally managed …”

        I must admit that small Government has a real attraction to me, but the small bit is related to regulations that inhibit free choice

      • Who might be in trouble PZ? Maori or non-Maori? I know just how fed up young Maori are with the same old ? Where do you stand?


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