Out of whack Mack on the ‘far right’

I don’t know who Ben Mack is, apart from ‘columnist for the New Zealand Herald and associate editor of Villainesse’ (Lizzie Marvelly’s  blog), but he seems seriously out of whack in a column that somehow got published by Washington Post – How the far right is poisoning New Zealand

But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. And, more terrifying: The far right seized power by exploiting the very system meant to be a fairer version of democracy.

Led by veteran politician Winston Peters — who has made racist comments toward immigrants and people of Asian descent and Trumpian abuse of the press — New Zealand First has traditionally been an afterthought in New Zealand politics. That all changed this past September, when the two largest parties finished close enough in the general election that whichever party New Zealand First decided to enter a coalition with would control enough seats in New Zealand’s German-style MMP (mixed-member proportional) parliament to govern.

In other words, a far-right party that received just seven percent of the vote had the power to decide who would rule.

That’s nonsense on multiple counts. NZ First is faar from ‘far right’. They have some fairly rightish policies, but far from all. Winston Peters has been campaigning against capitalism and for far greater state intervention.

Greens and their leader James Shaw are regarded as fairly left wing generally, and in his opening speech in Parliament Shaw said “Our parties, as has been documented, do not agree on everything, but we do agree—as has not been documented—on far more than we disagree”. That is far from ‘far right’ agreement.

If that wasn’t appalling enough, Peters and New Zealand First held the country for ransom, repeatedly delaying the announcement of their decision for several weeks as they extracted more and more concessions from suitors.

There is little evidence of anything like that, and negotiations involving both national and Labour lasted less than two weeks.

When Peters finally declared on Oct. 19 that New Zealand First would go into a coalition with Ardern and her Labour Party, it was only because Ardern had kowtowed the most to his increasingly extreme demands.

There’s little evidence of that either. In fact Labour negotiated successfully against NZ First’s more extreme policies like ditching the Maori seats and the anti-smacking law and slashing immigration.

The effects of the far right’s influence are already being felt. Amid pressure from New Zealand First, the government has vowed to slash immigration by tens of thousands by making it harder to obtain visas and requiring employers to prove they cannot find a qualified New Zealand citizen before hiring a non-citizen.

Labour had already vowed to cut immigration a bit, they stated that their policy stood after negotiations, and have decided to act cautiously – Ardern: No cuts to immigration coming just yet:

Ardern said the minister for immigration is working through various proposals but she does not expect any announcement soon.

“That was never within our 100 day plan, there were other priorities around housing, around health, around incomes that we were much more focused on,” she said.

The Prime Minister added that it absolutely bothers her that some have drawn parallels between her and US President Donald Trump, who came into office on a pledge to toughen immigration policies.

“For me, it’s a slight on New Zealand’s reputation to suggest that we are anything other than humanitarian, outwardly focused and built on the hard graft and work of migrants in New Zealand,” said Ardern.

That doesn’t sound anywhere near ‘far right’.

Like American white supremacists in the age of Trump, bigots in New Zealand have also been emboldened by New Zealand First’s success into taking action beyond ranting on Internet message boards and social media. In late October, clashes erupted when white supremacists rallied in front of Parliament.

From the link “Only a handful of members of the group, which preaches that diversity equals white genocide, showed up for a planned rally today.” No evidence the protest planned weeks in advance had any link to anything NZ First have done.

Threatening fliers have also appeared in public, calling on white people to “unify” in order to “preserve identity.”

Auckland University Students Association president (from the linked item): “Groups like that were gaining confidence and legitimacy after Donald Trump’s presidential win in the US”.

“It was the second similar controversy on the university’s campus, after another incident several weeks ago” – before the government was formed.

All this flies in the face of Ardern and her “more compassionate” government’s outward progressiveness. But Peters — who took the roles of deputy prime minister and foreign minister as a condition of working with Ardern — and New Zealand First can end the coalition agreement, which would trigger the need for new elections.

Put simply, while Ardern may be the public face, it’s the far right pulling the strings and continuing to hold the nation hostage.

Put simply, that’s nonsense, there’s no evidence of anything like that. There is evidence that Ardern is in charge and calling most of the shots.

What’s happened in New Zealand isn’t just horrifying because of the long-term implications of hate-mongers controlling the country, but also because it represents a blueprint that the far right can follow to seize power elsewhere.

New Zealand’s political situation under MMP and with long time politician  Peters leading a minor party in government for the third time in twenty years is a blueprint for nothing elsewhere.

Appealing to ethnically homogenous, overwhelmingly cisgender male voters with limited education and economic prospects who feel they’re being left behind in a changing world is nothing new for the far right.

The far right in New Zealand appeal to very few people. Peters is a populist politician who is adept at attracting minority votes but whose Opposition bark is far worse than his Government bite.

But what is new is its savvy at exploiting democracy by doubling down on these voters while mostly allowing larger political parties to attack each other on their own, thus positioning themselves as “kingmakers” who can demand concessions from those larger parties before carrying them into power.

New since we changed to MMP in 1996, when Peters chose to go into Government with National. I’m, not sure what Mack is getting at here – that smaller parties should have no say?

Then, they can rule from the shadows by threatening to leave the government at any time and plunge the country into chaos when things don’t go their way.

There is little to no risk of that. It hasn’t happened before and it is widely regarded as suicide option for a small party.

It’s a dangerous tactic that could prove brutally effective in other parliamentary systems like New Zealand’s if the far right is not confronted early for its bigotry, regardless of how marginal its support may seem.

The handful of people from the far right were confronted at their protest and shouted down and chased away by the left, who can be intolerant of different views as the right. But that had nothing to do with NZ First or the Government.

If she truly wants New Zealand to be a more tolerant place for all and to set a worldwide example that hate is not acceptable, it would be best for Ardern to end her unholy alliance with New Zealand First and the far right, even if it meant she might not return as prime minister. As long as the far right has power, bigotry and hate will continue to fester in Middle-earth.

This seems to be suggesting that Ardern plunge the country into chaos because things aren’t going Mack’s way.

The most likely outcome would be a genuine move to the (centre) right with a return to a national led government, quite possibly a single party government.

It’s embarrassing for New Zealand that Washington Post has published this out of whack Mack crap.

The column has been severely whacked on Twitter: