A new era of post baby boomer politics

Jacinda Ardern’s rapid rise to the top in politics this year has perhaps signalled the beginning of a new era in New Zealand politics, where there is a sudden surge in influence of politicians who weren’t born in the fifties or sixties (of last century).

Other politicians on the rise in Government, like Grant Robertson, James Shaw, David Clark, Megan Woods, Chris Hipkins, Tracey Martin and Julie Anne Genter are all new age MPs.

The odd one out of course is Winston Peters, but surely his career is just about over.

If old school National MPs slip away this term, as some of them should (like Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce)  then that will leave the way for younger MPs like Simon Bridges, Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop to wave the baby boomers goodbye and take over.

While many baby boomers may like to be given choices over their end of life if they are unfortunate enough to face an awful death, it is the influence of younger MPs who are leading the push to get the bill passed.

In his closing speech in the first reading of the bill – End of Life Choice Bill first reading – David Seymour rebuttal – David Seymour said:

I felt when I was listening to Bill English’s contribution that we were talking at each other from different ages. The age that a blanket prohibition on all end of life is required as the cornerstone of our law may have been a good argument in 1995. It may have even been a good argument in 2003.

It is not a good argument today because, as Chris Bishop so ably outlined, we now have almost a dozen jurisdictions around the world that have designed a law that does give choice to those who want it and protects those who want nothing to do with it whatsoever.

We are like ships in the night: one speaking from 1995; the other speaking from 2017 when so much of history has moved on.

The baby boomer ship hasn’t sunk yet, but it is sailing into the political sunset.

The sudden generational change is in part fortuitous – Seymour’s bill was drawn from the Members’ Bill ballot. But that was necessary because old school politicians and parties wouldn’t risk promoting it – Andrew Little deemed Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice bill “not a priority” and dumped it, so Seymour picked it up.

Little was also instrumental in the rise of Ardern, stepping aside as Labour was listing badly.

Old and middle aged are becoming dirty terms in some quarters. The dismissing of experienced opinions as now worthless is perhaps understandable but is often over the top and unwarranted.

But there is now doubt the influence of baby boomers dropped significantly over the last six months, and is likely to continue to fade.

I’m happy to see a new generation of ideas, enthusiasm and governance largely take over. The younger politicians have an opportunity to make a mark, and make New Zealand a better country in the modern era. They will no doubt have challenges but I think we will be in good hands.

However as a baby boomer I am not digging my grave yet, despite supporting an enlightened approach to euthanasia.

I will still give my two bobs’ worth of  opinions for a while (that’s showing my age). I’m not exactly a technophobe, I have grown up in the age of computers, having worked with them for over forty years (I wrote my first program on punch card in 1972), printing a conversion chart from Fahrenheit to Celsius – that also ages me a bit, but y memory isn’t shot, I still remember the calculation of minus 32, times 9 divided by 5.

But this is just baby boomer reminiscing about an era that is now becoming history, last century history.

I’ll keep chugging away here for a while yet, but if any youngsters want to contribute here with their two hundred dollars worth of opinion I’ll welcome a new era of ideas and angles.

And that’s what we are going to get in Parliament over this term and beyond – a new generation in politics. Revitalisation and different approaches in dealing with difficult issues are an essential part of a thriving country.

It won’t be that long until we have MPs who born in this millennium – it is possible next year, or next election. Chloe Swarbrick was born in 1994. I hope I don’t need to make an end of life choice before I see that happen.


Similar old, or a new generation?

There has been an extraordinary turnover of party leaders this term – see Why are so many party leaders resigning?

John Key decided to call time on leading the country, but there has also been an exit signalled by many MPs who played a part in Parliament last century. Like Phil Goff, Peter Dunne, Annette King, Maurice Williamson.

One option for voters in this election is a combination of two party leaders from last century, Bill English and Winston Peters.

English represents a steady same old, or at least similar old.

Peters wants to take the country even further back to Muldoon style interventionism of the 1970s and early 80s.

Jacinda Ardern has suddenly risen as a representative of a new generation of politicians and politics, and she has undeniably excited both media and many voters.

Will the similar old hang on this election, delaying regeneration to 2020? Or will Ardern rise to the top next month?

Her ambition may be tempered somewhat by her probable need for an alliance with Peters, and there couldn’t be a bigger contrast in generations. Labour may grow their vote enough to do it with the Greens but they are looking more like they are in death throws than being a part of a rejuvenated Parliament.

Looking at it pragmatically I think Ardern needs more time. A creditable second this election and then three years to build her new modern style of politics to take over in 2020 seems a practical outcome to me.

But excitement and momentum may carry her all the way this campaign.

If Bill English’s steady hand and competence holds on and Peters doesn’t force too much backwards thinking I won’t be disappointed, things are going fairly well in New Zealand and are likely to keep improving incrementally.

But I’m not averse to change, and if Ardern succeeds this election I won’t be disappointed either. It will be riskier. It will be a huge learning curve for Ardern, far more demanding than her dream run over the last three weeks.

She would have to kick a previously lacklustre and limping Labour into life.

She would also need to manage a coalition that would include either or both the Greens and NZ First. That won’t be easy.

Is this a time of major change to a new generation of politics and policies? Or is the electorate going to hang on to one more term of a similar old?

Political fate will give us a good idea which in a month or so.