Should National follow their founding principles?

I’ve seen a few calls for National to ‘return’ to their founding principles. Like:

I don’t want National to move left or right. I want National to stand up for their founding principles. They display them on their website, after all. Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually followed them?

Founding principles may sound fine at the time, but the country and the world moves on. Founding principles of Christianity are not as relevant a couple of millenia later.

Should a political party’s founding principles be set in stone? Is it possible in practice, under MMP? Greens are finding some of their principles a bit challenged now they are in Government.

The National party was created after a merging of the Reform and United parties in 1936. Wikipedia:

 

The National Party was formed in May 1936, but its roots go considerably further back. The party came about as the result of a merger between the United Party (known as the Liberal Party until 1927, except for a short period between 1925 and 1927 when it used the name “National Party”) and the Reform Party. The United Party gained its main support from the cities, and drew upon businesses for money and upon middle class electors for votes, while the Reform Party had a rural base and received substantial support from farmers, who then formed a substantial proportion of the population.

In hopes of countering Labour’s rise, United and Reform decided to turn their alliance into a single party. This party, the New Zealand National Party, was formed at a meeting held in Wellington on 13 and 14 May 1936. Members of the United and Reform parties made up the bulk of the new party.

The United Party’s last leader, George Forbes, Prime Minister from 1930 until 1935, opened the conference; he served as Leader of the Opposition from May until November, when former Reform MP Adam Hamilton was elected the first leader. Hamilton led the party into its first election in 1938. He got the top job primarily because of a compromise between Forbes and Reform leader Gordon Coates, neither of whom wished to serve under the other.

Compromise is normal and necessary in politics, something some ardent idealists and activists don’t seem to get.

Hamilton, however, failed to counter Labour’s popular Prime MinisterMichael Joseph Savage effectively. Because of this, perceptions that he remained too much under the control of Coates and because he lacked real support from his party colleagues, Hamilton failed to prevent Labour’s re-election in 1938.

The objectives were stated as:

  • To promote good citizenship and self-reliance;
  • to combat communism and socialism;
  • to maintain freedom of contract;
  • to encourage private enterprise;
  • to safeguard individual rights and the privilege of ownership;
  • to oppose interference by the State in business, and State control of industry.

Some of those ideals are still relevant, some are outdated. It is now accepted that Government needs to be a balance between freedom and regulation. the debate now is over degrees.

National didn’t get into government until 1949.

In 1949 National had campaigned on “the private ownership of production, distribution and exchange”. Once in power the new Holland Government proved decidedly administratively conservative, retaining, for instance, the welfare state set up by the previous Labour Government; though National gained, and has largely kept, a reputation for showing more favour to farmers and to business than did the Labour Party.

So they substantially left in place the welfare state, a fairly socialist (and generally successful) state intervention.

In 1959 Keith Holyoake “encapsulated the conservative and liberal principles of the National Party”:

“We believe in the maximum degree of personal freedom and the maximum degree of individual choice for our people. We believe in the least interference necessary with individual rights, and the least possible degree of state interference.”

So the principles have been refined by then – the realities if being in Government tend to prompt reassessments.

The principles were turned on their head with National prime Minister Robert Muldoon taking Government interventions to extremes, make a huge problem leading to radical reform by, ironically, a Labour (Lange/Douglas) Government.

MMP has changed things substantially, forcing major parties to compete in the middle ground.

National revised their principles in 2003, after a disastrous 2002 election result, and are on their website as:

 

Our Values

Less debt, more jobs, strong stable government

The National Party has always valued enterprise, hard work and the rewards that go with success. We will continue to aspire to a New Zealand where all New Zealanders can flourish.

We believe this will be achieved by building a society based on the following values:

  • Loyalty to our country, its democratic principles, and our Sovereign as Head of State
  • National and personal security
  • Equal citizenship and equal opportunity
  • Individual freedom and choice
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Competitive enterprise and reward for achievement
  • Limited government
  • Strong families and caring communities
  • Sustainable development of our environment

That is substantially modernised – as it must be if the party is to attract support in the 21sy century.

A party campaigning on National’s 1936 principles would be lucky to make the 5% threshold.

Demanding that National (or Labour or the Greens) return to their founding principles is as futile as demanding the population returns to no welfare, no television, no internet, no contraception, no sex before marriage, no complaints about family violence and no divorce.

 

33 Comments

  1. -D

     /  March 7, 2018

    The current bullet list is succinct and inclusive. It should be publicized more in this form.

  2. You have quoted Whaleoil editor Cameron Slater. He is hardly a run of the mill National voter as he didn’t even vote for them last election but voted for NZFirst. “I don’t want National to move left or right. I want National to stand up for their founding principles. They display them on their website, after all. Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually followed them?” was taken directly from a Whaleoil blog post written by him https://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2018/03/liam-hehir-political-ideology/ You read us so often isn’t it time you upgraded to a Silver sub? You will find Incite has even better articles to inspire you for your own posts 🙂

    • PDB

       /  March 7, 2018

      “You will find Incite has even better articles”

      To be fair that wouldn’t be that hard to achieve & isn’t saying much…

    • Kimbo

       /  March 7, 2018

      So if Cam is a true National voter in exile because of the unprincipled leadership and policies, what is he doing voting for an unreformed Muldoonist cult-of-personality movement like Winston First?! Piss off and don’t lecture others about political principles.

    • Blazer

       /  March 7, 2018

      I thought she referred to her husband as the ‘boss’…these days.A silver sub….?Get a…job.

      • Corky

         /  March 7, 2018

        That must have hurt, eh, Blazer. All these prats telling me they rarely visit the Whaler, when in actual fact they live over there. Especially early in the morning.

        • Blazer

           /  March 7, 2018

          personally ,my only exposure to W.Ois from…links..here.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  March 7, 2018

            I have looked twice, I think, and that was enough.

            • Corky

               /  March 7, 2018

              For you, Kitty, I don’t think you would have missed much.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  March 7, 2018

              No, it’s not really the thinking person’s thing, to put it mildly. I decided that I hadn’t missed much by not seeing it before.

    • Thanks for linking – I couldn’t remember where it came from and didn’t have time to search through so many posts.

      It’s a bit funny that you are intent on linking from here back to WO, given the laxity of WO linking to things quoted from other sources.

  3. duperez

     /  March 7, 2018

    As futile as demanding the population returning to no sex before marriage?

    I read that one of the next cabs off National’s ranks with the upcoming ‘retirements’ has that sort of principle. https://thestandard.org.nz/nationals-new-lynn-candidate-is-not-having-a-good-campaign/

    • PartisanZ

       /  March 7, 2018

      The plot sickens …

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 7, 2018

        Good luck finding a time when there was no sex before marriage on this planet.

  4. robertguyton

     /  March 7, 2018

    “Founding principles may sound fine at the time, but the country and the world moves on.”

    “Greens are finding some of their principles a bit challenged now they are in Government.”

    You’re supportive of what you believe to be The Green’s re-positioning to suit their new circumstances, Pete?
    Good man.

    • PDB

       /  March 7, 2018

      Robert: “You’re supportive of what you believe to be The Green’s re-positioning to suit their new circumstances, Pete?”

      You mean bending over for Winston? Three years of touching their toes could become painful.

      • robertguyton

         /  March 7, 2018

        No, I’m asking Pete what he believes.

    • Callum

       /  March 7, 2018

      There is a clear difference between founding principles from the 1930’s and the principles you campaigned on mere months before.

      • robertguyton

         /  March 7, 2018

        Pete, seemingly, is okay with deviations from the original; “the country and the world moves on…”

        • Callum is correct about timeframes. The Greens can be forgiven for a pragmatic approach now compared to what Rod Donald and Jeannette Fitzsimons might have stood for, but voters are likely to be less forgiving of campaigning on one thing and u-turning a couple of months later.

          Greens have little choice but to support or enable policies that are contrary to their principles, but it brings them down from an idealist pedestal somewhat.

  5. Kimbo

     /  March 7, 2018

    Nope. Notwithstanding the disingenuous complaints of the likes of Cam Slater, the alleged failure of National to live up to its principles has been continual since at least 1949. Such hand-wringing or anger overlooks National’s true political purpose, and the reason for its long-term success as the natural party of government. As Bob Jones wrote in “New Zealand the Way I Want It” as long ago as 1978!:

    “Nevertheless the philosophical differences between the parties are the principal reason for National’s continuing success and Labour’s continuing failure and this is reflected in their membership support.

    For every genuine socialist among the New Zealand masses there are twenty strong adherents to the private enterprise, market-economy system. They provide an undying if often frustrated and complaining allegiance-base for the party. Their complaints when aired to National politicians are invariably met with the retort, ‘Naturally we agree with you but you don’t want us to lose the election do you?’

    I suspect there are few National parliamentarians who are even aware of the party’s constitutional objectives. I have asked many of them including Cabinet Ministers and have yet to find one can tell me anything about them. The parliamentary National wing has sunk into a middle-ground optional administration oblivious to the party’s historic purposes and ignorant of the dismay of its members.

    …What this reflects…is the deep-rooted disappointment among the party’s supporters not so much at the parliamentary wing’s performance but its direction. It also indicates the parliamentarians’ obliviousness to this basic discontent.

    In fact National could well replace its present list of constitutional objectives with a single expression of its purpose-‘To seek and retain by whatever means necessary, within the existing democratic system, the political control of New Zealand.’ Possibly a shorter objective could be added which would state, ‘To keep the bloody Labour Party out of office.’”

    • PartisanZ

       /  March 7, 2018

      The latter of your two statements is National’s real founding principle and only real objective Kimbo …

      It was, however, rendered entirely redundant, pointless and meaningless in 1984 by the arrival of New-Right Labour and each subsequent so-called government of either persuasion …

      The failings of the neoliberal economic paradigm dictated a drift Left-of-Far-Right by National and Labour, both of whom are now becalmed in the fetid waters known as “managers of the economy on behalf of corporate-capitalist elites” …

      There is no longer any need for principles …

      • Kimbo

         /  March 7, 2018

        Meh. Whether it was the “fortress economy” paradigm that was set by the first Labour government in 1935, or the independent foreign affairs setting of Norman Kirk’s third Labour government, or the deregulated economy of the fourth Labour government in 1984, National’s role in the political spectrum is to maintain the status quo that they inherit. They are historically better managers than Labour, and what change they initiate is usually incremental, or, as in 1990, the necessary tying up of loose ends in Industrial relations, welfare and student fees after Lange’s cup of tea left the country in a neither here-nor-there limbo. In contrast Labour are the bold, often foolhardy reformers and change-merchants.

        • PartisanZ

           /  March 7, 2018

          Meh yourself … Interesting, I’ve never thought of National like that … “maintain the status quo that they inherit” … Is that what they did in 1951 by breaking the Waterside Workers strike?

          I could just as easily argue that given the Great Depression, followed by World War Two, the early Cold War and a return to ‘Commonwealth’ trading through the Second & Third Labour governments, Labour largely did what was essential and even inevitable … almost crisis management …

          National on the other hand mostly just tried to undo what Labour had done … [which I admit on rare occasions needed undoing] … although Muldoon attempted to avoid upsetting the Social Security paradigm for fear of losing power …

          On the other hand, the “foolhardy reform” and more correctly “merchant changes” (not change-merchants) of any political ilk post-1984 were neither essential nor inevitable but rather contrived, doubtful and unwarranted (in the social contract sense) …

          I’ve never understood what’s so terrible about Social Security? Isn’t security one of the main things ‘society’ provides us with?

          • Kimbo

             /  March 7, 2018

            I realise based on your comments you are a class-warfare Labour tribalist (used to be one myself, indeed I was a member of the party) but there was a reason Walter Nash was “neither for the wharfies, nor against them in 1951” – Sid Holland did to Jock Barnes’ hotheads what the first Labour government wished they could have done, but their fear of alienating their supporters didn’t allow it

            And no, there is nothing wrong with social security, or at least a system where people are protected from the vagaries and misfortunes of life. In case you didn’t notice, despite the rumour that Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson used to dine on roast babies, we still have a cradle to the grave social welfare system.

            What changed in 1984-91 was the command economy model where politicians and bureaucrats in Wellington tried to insulate the entire economy and whole industries from the inexorable economic fact of supply and demand. But If you can’t pay the bills, then you can’t fulfill any social contract. Whether the reforms of that era were implemented in the right way and timetable is moot.

            Nonetheless, Labour even before Lange and Douglas were adamant Muldoon was the Great Satan, but their economic prescriptions were even more interventionist. As there is no indication they were better than Muldoon at “picking winners”, it’s hard to take seriously the claim Labour in office for most of the years from 1949 to 1984 would have been an improvement. Indeed, based on the economic debacle of their 1972-75 tenure (admittedly during the first Oil Shock), most, other than a partisan would consider it sufficient proof they were inferior. After all, at least the National politicians were successful businessmen. Labour? Trade unionists, school teachers, academics, and, in the case of Walter Nash a failed businessman.

          • Kimbo

             /  March 7, 2018

            Oh, yes and typical of your “Tories are corrupt, evil, cynical and/or incompetent bastards” tribalism, you misjudge Muldoon. He didn’t defend the fortress economy/social security model of the first Labour government for fear of losing power, or at least that was not his primary motivation. He did it because he passionately believed in it, including defending those whom he considered needed protecting.

            Indeed, Norman Kirk and Rob Muldoon were so similar in upbringing, values, thinking and motivations, that, other in the matter of foreign affairs where Kirk was more principled and Muldoon entirely pragmatic (trade and security were his only concerns), they were peas in a pod. Not that the Labour tribalists ever saw it, indeed they always portrayed Muldoon as the Great Satan, the Pinochet of the South Pacific. The reality was different, which is why Muldoon gained support from traditional Labour voters who nonetheless were not tribal, and judged the man on what he did to look after ordinary New Zealanders.

            But then that’s the problem with being a tribalist and why their judgement is always suspect and often distorted – if they have no one to hate, they have no purpose or sense of meaning.

            • PartisanZ

               /  March 8, 2018

              Your view is more ‘tribal’ and jaundiced than you try to make out mine is IMHO …

              You’re just putting words in my mouth. Nowhere do I say “Tories are evil” and that stuff …

              Your view of Muldoon doesn’t quite equate with my experience of a Springbok Rugby Tour or Bastion Point …

              I guess its a problem with being an anti-tribal tribalist?

            • Kimbo

               /  March 8, 2018

              Your tribalism is a clear enough implication and extrapolation from the ideological content and tone of your posts. As I know my varied voting pattern for the last 20 years, I know I’m no longer a political tribalist. But what I was in the past helps me pick it now in others. From all parts of the political and ideological spectrum. I’ll give you a hint- “1951”, “1981 Springbok tour” and your implication that Social Security was abandoned in 1984 are giveaways.

              Which is why I’m not phased that your alleged experience and subsequent assessment of that 1981 Springbok tour or Bastion Point was different. Simple test: did any protest you engaged in stay within the law, and respect the rights of other persons to go about their lawful persons, and also private property? In case you didn’t know, that’s why ordinary Kiwis of the “silent majority” voted for RD Muldoon.

  6. Blazer

     /  March 7, 2018

    horse fell in a heap at the very first …hurdle…’Loyalty to our country, its democratic principles, and our Sovereign as Head of State’.

  7. Zedd

     /  March 7, 2018

    Should National follow their founding principles? Of Course ! or they will be ‘New Natl’ hang on, a cotton-picking minute… isnt that what they are now calling it, under team-bridges ? 😀

  8. Zedd

     /  March 7, 2018

    Heres my fav. policy item: to combat communism and socialism; (that 1950s ‘REDS Under the Bed’ stuff) Or in Aotearoa/NZ ‘Dancing Cosacks’ ??
    what was that all about ? 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 7, 2018

      Well, as the (White Russian) Cossacks fought AGAINST the Bolsheviks/Communists, they would have been most unimpressed to see themselves used as a symbol for Communism. It would be like using a group of Chinese wearing Mao suits to symbolise right wing extremism..

  9. adamsmith1922

     /  March 7, 2018

    Oh dear, have you visited Slater’s hate blog again