Chris Trotter makes a number of debatable predictions for the year in 2017 in the shadow of Trump (Stuff).
The political consensus at the beginning of 2017 – election year – is that the National-led Government will hold on to power.
Who is in general agreement that National will hold on to power? I think there’s too many unknowns and uncertainties to claim this with any confidence.
National are very likely to comfortably get the most votes and seats in this year’s election, but it’s far from certain whether they will be able to form a similar coalition to this term (with ACT, UF and the Maori Party), or if the need more whether NZ First will join a coalition or let National run a minority government from the cross benches. It’s also possible (but unlikely with Turei as leader) Greens could enable a National led Government either in coalition or from the cross benches.
Not in its own right, as might have happened had John Key led them into battle, but with sufficient parliamentary support to govern comfortably.
They don’t govern comfortably this term, requiring two of the three minor support parties to back any legislation, and they have been limited because of this.
The most significant political event of 2017, however, could well be the collapse of the Labour Party and the emergence of the Greens as New Zealand’s leading party of the centre-left.
Labour collapsing is a real possibility, and any further decline in their share of the vote could be seen as a collapse. But they could just as likely stay at a similar level of support, or increase their vote a bit (to the high twenties), or recover into the thirties. At this stage i think which of these will happen is impossible to predict with any certainty.
In a way Greens can already be seen by their actions as the leading party of the centre left going by performances inside and outside Parliament. Their party vote seems to have hit a ceiling at about 11%, but even if they increase to say 15% (their target last election) they are likely to remain smaller than Labour.
A number of people have predicted that NZ First grow bigger, causing a drop for Greens to fourth in the party pecking order. I think this is quite possible – NZ First are likely to pick up more ex-National vote than the Greens if the National support declines.
A key factor driving the New Zealand electorate’s flight to the right will be the profound and ideologically toxic influence of Donald Trump’s presidency.
There has been no sign of New Zealand moving much to the right this century. Both Helen Clark and John Key aimed at the centre and apart from a few policies mostly stayed moderate. Even National’s asset sales were watered down to being only half sales.
If anyone has learned anything yet about the effect of Trump they should know that it’s difficult making predictions about his influence. It’s quite possible Trump as US president will have a negligible effect on New Zealand overall. Or not.
Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman predicts a global trade war, and the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine is filled with disquieting articles foreshadowing an ominous deterioration in the relationship between the USA and China.
The future for US trade relationships and US foreign relations are uncertain. Trump will definitely do things differently – but it depends on how China learns and adapts as to whether problems will escalate or not. Predictions of Trump trashing the economy have already proven to be premature at least.
If the US and China clash New Zealand may manage to stay out of the melée. That could be complicated by Winston Peters – but if there’s trouble abroad and Peters is seen to try and stir that up here it could easily backlash against him in the election.
In a neat division of political labour, NZ First will lead the attack on China while, publicly, National condemns (but not too loudly) Peters’ racially-charged rhetoric. Meanwhile, privately, the conservative supporters of both parties will be encouraged to recognise the inherent electoral synergies of the unfolding crisis. As the countdown to the election shortens, the prospect of a National-NZ First coalition government will begin to acquire the aura of inevitability.
Some voters here like maverickism, but most prefer stable status quo government when it comes to economic matters.
Especially if there is an ‘unfolding crisis’ a National-NZ First coalition government will become more uncertain rather than certain. If Peters ramps up his attacks on China it is more likely to create further division between NZ First and National, and voters tend to avoid this sort of uncertainty.
Amplifying the conservative message among the Maori electorate, the Maori Party will cast the Chinese as a second-wave of colonisers threatening not only tino rangatiratanga but also Pakeha sovereignty. Iwi corporations will be portrayed as the foundation stones of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s economic independence. The incipient government of the centre-right will thus be presented as a National-NZ First-Maori Party alliance.
Is Trotter serious? Or is he taking the piss? Or is he trying to stir something up?
An alliance involving NZ First and the Maori Party seems unlikely given Winston’s previous antagonistic attitude towards a ‘race based’ party.
I think it’s highly unlikely that Winston will present an alliance including NZ First and National prior to the election – he has been staunch in not indicating which way he may go – and even less likely of any NZ First-Maori Party presentations.
The turmoil created by the Trump administration will similarly throw into sharp relief the serious disjunction between the beliefs of the Labour Party and its electoral base. Even if Andrew Little and his advisors were of a mind to join with Peters in attacking China, the reflexive anti-Americanism of his caucus and Labour’s wider membership would drive the party inexorably towards their enemy’s enemy. Immediately, what was left of Labour’s support among “Waitakere Men” would decamp for the Sinophobic right.
That’s more likely to be to NZ First rather than to National.
The reverse manoeuvre – in which Little prevails upon caucus and party to follow National, NZ First and the Maori Party into Trumpism and Sinophobia – would only drive Labour’s younger, more progressive, voters toward the Greens.
I think Trotter is in fantasy land here trying to connect National and the Maori Party with ‘Trumpism and Sinophobia’.
And to claim ‘Trumpism and Sinophobia’ would split Labour is even more bizarre.
The classic Labour solution – trying to have a bob each way – risks losing both the conservative and the progressive components of its electoral base.
Labour already seem to be trying the bob each way approach, and have already lost both conservative and progressive parts of it’s electoral base to an extent. An international crisis, should it happen, is more likely to force Labour into being seen as responsible rather than divisive.
The extreme-nationalist complexion of the Trump administration and its geopolitical focus on the burgeoning power of China can only hasten the disintegration of Labour’s electoral position.
I think this is far from certain, and even if it becomes a contributory factor in further Labour decline it would be impossible to quantify.
It is, however, highly doubtful that sufficient young people will participate in the 2017 general election to significantly offset the emotionally powerful appeal of an unabashedly nationalistic, Sinophobic and pro-American coalition of National, NZ First and the Maori Party.
I think Trotter is trying to create an absurd political meme here, either ignorantly or disingenuously. Fantasy or deliberate fiction.
Neither conservative fish nor progressive fowl, Labour is likely to see its party vote plummet into the teens – and with it any hope of reclaiming major party status.
That’s already possible without any Trump crisis involved.
The baton of progressive politics will pass to the Greens. Real political power, however, will remain with the National Party and its allies.
It may be that Trotter has genuinely given up on the Labour Party. Labour could collapse further.
But NZ First becoming allies with the Maori party seems preposterous. And National joining Winston’s Asia bashing and siding with Trump is more so.
Trying to promote Greens as the progressive baton carrier and the dominant opposition party seems to be wishful thinking, at best.
Trotter’s political propositions were all over the place last year, and they seem even more confused now.