Polarisation versus centrism (or can we have both?)

Is political polarisation increasing? Is ‘centrism’ fading away? Is centrism actually a thing?

From Reddit: With the decline of Centrism in global politics, do you see it happening in NZ?

There has a been a trend in the last 2 decade in global politics, in the US, UK Europe etc, we have seen the rise of centrism in politics, New Democrats with Clinton and Obama and New Labour with Tony Blair in UK. Nowadays politics is much more partisan with Democrats going further left and Labour also going left while at the same time the decline of moderates in US and Liberal Democrats decline.

Is politics becoming much more partisan? Or is partisan politics a minority thing that is getting more attention? Controversial politics makes for more dramatic headlines and is more click baity.

Donald Trump certainly drives division as a tactic, but how non-centrist is he?

While their is division in the UK over the Brexit debacle is that because of the strength of partisan politics? Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look like weak leaders. There is as much division within their parties as their is between them.  This is more poor politics and poor politicians on both sides rather than a rise in partisanship.

Could we see the same thing in NZ, where NZF along with United Future, both centrist parties decline, with Labour/Greens and National/ACT moving further apart?

IS NZ First really a ‘centrist’ party?  Aren’t they more populist? Their last election position on Immigration was right wing-ish, but what they have supported on immigration is the opposite of that, but very similar to what National did and what Labour are doing.

NZ First already declined, dropping out of Parliament in 2008, but came back in 2011 and rose to power in 2017. It is too soon to write them off.

It’s hard to know where National will position themselves under Simon Bridges. Some of Bridges’ policy positions, like on drug law reform and abortion, may be right-ish, but they are unpopular.

Jacinda Ardern has talked up being a progressive and transformative government, but has not actually proven that much yet. Economically the government has been cautious, following much the same line of the last National government.

Proteus_Core:

Short answer…yes, I see growing polarization in NZ politics which I believe will only get worse in the future. I also could easily see the proposition you put forward happening and I actually believe its a probability at this stage and certainly at the next election.

Signs of polarization in social media does not mean that the general voting population is polarising. I think that most people are probably more disinterested than supporting strong positions either way.

Waterbogan:

Yes, in fact it is already happening. United Future has already declined into oblivion, and I see NZ First following them in short order as they have lost a bunch of supporters since the election and again more recently. I would say there is room for another party on the centre/right aiming at the market sector NZ First and the Conservatives formerly shared between them.

United Future faded away, but so is ACT, so did Jim Anderton’;s Progressive Party, so has the Mana Party, and the Conservative Party. Green support has over halved. All small parties have struggled to survive, no matter where they are in the political spectrum.

‘spoondooly’:

There will always be room for populism in NZ but the nature of our political system is that it drives centrism to a degree.

The reality is that parties (by and large) need the centre vote as that is largely where the swing vote occurs. It drives moderate politics to a degree and has brought both our centre left and centre right parties together.

Even populist parties such as NZ First have to largely ditch their manifesto when in power as the majority party would be severely damaged by any coalition arrangement if that manifesto was fully recognised.

So there will always be a degree of populism but by and large NZ is centrist and moderate and our politics recognise this.

This probably reflects two things.

Most Kiwis are fairly moderate (as opposed to centrist) in their political preferences. There are a number of bell curves like this:

And MMP tends to moderate more than polarise, with National and Labour fighting over a fairly large swing vote in the centre.

‘bogan_avant_garde’:

Wait until you hear about the policies of Michael Joseph Savage. Labour are struggling to return to the position on the political spectrum they held from 1916-1983.

Ardern has tried to present herself as a great shift leader, but she is yet to deliver.

The idea that neo-liberal market capitalism with low regulation and free movement of capital is centrism is laughable. What you are seeing when you see Labour ‘shifting to the left’ is in fact Labour shifting to the centre and providing an actual centrist alternative to right wing orthodoxy.

The small noisy left are growing in dismay at the lack of action from Labour and even the Greens. The small noisy right are probably always dismayed and always will be.

The extremes are minorities.

Image result for bell curve politics

(That’s from The Political Typologies of American Educators but is indicative of minority extremes).

One of New Zealand’s most polarising politicians has been Winston Peters, but that’s only when in Opposition. He is currently in Government, and is mostly quite non-controversial.

I don’t think we have much of a problem with polarisation here. We have a much bigger problem with political apathy (if that is actually a problem).

(This is not original) I tried to start up an Apathy Party, but no one was interested.

The feminisation of leadership and public discussion.

Over the last two decades New Zealand politics has had significant feminine influence.

Jenny Shipley became New Zealand’s first female Prime Minister, taking over (rather being elected) and being in charge from 1999 to 1999.

Helen Clark earned her way to the top of the Labour party and then helped Labour ‘win’ three successive elections, leading from 1999 to 2008.

John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce brought back significant male influence in our politics for the next nine years. Key played on blokiness, quite successfully, a lot, but English moved a bit towards a more caring approach to finance.

Then in 2017 there was a major switch back to feminine influence when Jacinda Ardern turned around a flailing and failing Labour Party to take over the Prime Ministerial office – to an extent ironically thanks to the support of and baubles won by Winston Peters (NZ First does not appear to be a bastion of feminine influence).

Ardern’s takeover of power was sudden and a surprise, but her promise to put more kindness into Government has been largely accepted as a positive, even though she is yet to substantially live up to her PR.

So politics in New Zealand has had and still has a fairly ‘feminist’ influence leading into and for the duration so far of this century. It has been a largely uncontroversial transformation.

Alongside this, while women are still in a minority in some things, especially business management, some balance is apparent in notable or influential positions, with women becoming Governor General and Chief Justice – Dame Sian Elias was the first woman to hold the office, appointed on the advice of Jenny Shipley, and Helen Winkelman has just been announced as Elias’ successor.

This has been happening over several decades.

What has seemed to suddenly change this year is the attempted feminisation of public discussion. This has been brewing for some time, but was given impetus by high profile issues like the Harvey Weinstein fall and the resulting #metoo movement. Properly addressing male abuses of power was long overdue.

But this has led to boldness by some feminist types (there are varieties of feminism) to try not just claim a right to drive public discussions on issues, but some have attempted to discredit and diminish male influences in discussions.

John Roughan (a male!) discusses this in Despite Trump, politics is getting softer

It is not just that more women are coming to the fore in politics but the wider influence of that, in business, the media and the way people are now supposed to think, speak and behave. It has changed quite rapidly, mostly for the better, but I think it is getting excessive.

Some attempts to shut up male voices in discussions is excessive – addressing imbalances often involves some over compensating – but it isn’t really getting a lot of traction.

The gentrification of politics is not confined to women. Its ultimate expression came from a man I would have counted among the last converts, Trevor Mallard. As Speaker of the House he has commissioned an independent inquiry into bullying and sexual harassment at Parliament. National, meanwhile, commissioned a review of its own culture after complaints against its ejected MP Jami-Lee Ross.

But these excesses are a small price to pay for the civilising influence of women in politics and the professions, and the progress they are making against sexual harassment. Few large law firms would have read the report of the inquiry into Russell McVeagh without looking hard in a mirror and making changes. All over the Western world, men who take advantage of power and position are being forced to take another look at themselves.

This is a good thing. Men who have abused power and abused women are a small minority but they have done a lot of damage.

There is unfairness from ostracising all men, and dangers from trial by media/social media and also from mischaracterising discomfort from criticism or holding to account as bullying. Lumping trivial offences in with serious things like abuse and rape can detract from dealing with the serious properly.

But this is all just relatively minor imperfection in addressing problems that need to be addressed by making it clear that male abuses of power are unacceptable.

I’ve written a bit about attacks on free speech by some feminists who think that redressing an imbalance demands that males, particularly white middle aged and older males shut up and keep out of discussions.

I think that the best way of dealing with this is to continue to participate in and promote discussions – and address the imbalances by making it easier or more inviting for female input into discussions.

It is far better to improve forums for debate for everyone, and while feminists can and should advocate for their free speech, males can do similar rather than shrink away.

Feminisation doesn’t have to mean a takeover by a few extreme feminists. In public discussions it should aim at freedom of speech that is free from abuse.

An irreverent review of the 2018 political year

The year of 2018 welcomed a Prime Ministerial baby, the collapse of two Ministerial careers and a kamikaze takedown of the Opposition. Political reporter Craig McCulloch takes an irreverent (by RNZ standards) look back on the biggest stories of 2018.

Audio (RNZ) – Focus on Politics: 2018 in Review

Books and documentaries on NZ political and economic history

A 25 year old dude with an interest in New Zealand politics asked at Reddit – Can anyone suggest a book that discusses NZ politics and economics of the past ~70 years?

My issue is, there is very little information available to me that lays out our entire history.

I’ve looked everywhere I can think of and I haven’t been able to find any concise histories of what the hell happened in our country in the last 70 years from our free trade deal with the UK til how we got to where we are today.

If anyone could suggest a book, it’d be greatly appreciated.

Hearing the last generation making vague allusions to events that happened 30 years ago that shaped their political views that I have no understanding of really makes it hard to evaluate where we are today.

There are a lot of misleading (and false) claims and assertions about what happened here economically and politically through the 1980s and 1990s (the move to the much maligned and misrepresented ‘neoliberalism’).

Some suggestions in comments at Reddit:

The documentary Revolution on NZ on Screen covers everything from postwar to post-Ruth Richardson era. It is very good.

Great series, I came across the book recently too. Adds some interesting detail.

Revolution (part one) – Fortress New Zealand

Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ’s radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon’s reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform.

Revolution (part two) – The Grand Illusion

This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.

In a Land of Plenty (it’s on the youtube) is worth a couple of hours, focused more on our primary industries

New Zealand – In a Land of Plenty Full

2002 Documentary about economic changes in New Zealand during the 1980’s. Documentary by Alister Barry and narrated by Ian Johnstone.

Book suggestions:

by Raymond Miller covered enough of the basics to get through a 100 level Politics class, Miller was the lecturer though so of course he’d build the class content around his own book. “Democracy in New Zealand”

Raymond’s books are great. I’ve read a couple even though I only took a single politics gened. Recommend Party Politics in NZ too even though it’s moderately outdated now.

Can’t go wrong with Kings’ Penguin history of New Zealand for a great explanation of Maori colonisation to the present, and for the 20th century rudd & ropers’ the political economy of new Zealand is an excellent political & sociological analysis of our economy that doesn’t read like paint drying.

The Penguin History of New Zealand – tells that story in all its colour and drama. The narrative that emerges is an inclusive one about men and women, Maori and Pakeha. It shows that British motives in colonising New Zealand were essentially humane; and that Maori, far from being passive victims of a ‘fatal impact’, coped heroically with colonisation and survived by selectively accepting and adapting what Western technology and culture had to offer.

Perhaps: New Zealand Government and Politics

Sixth Edition Edited by Janine Hayward

New Zealand Government and Politics

  • Contemporary: updated following the September 2014 NZ election, makes this the most current text on the market
  • A truly introductory text the sixth edition has been carefully restructured and rewritten to suit the learning needs of first year students. Key introductory topics are covered early on, concepts have been simplified and there’s no assumed knowledge (as well as less specialised chapters).
  • Highlighting of Maori politics. NZ political science has taken a very long time to engage with this issue, and it is not only profiled right up front in Part 1, but also thematically woven through the other sections

I highly recommend Paradise Reforged by James Belich for his look at post-war economic and political history. His theories are entertaining AND enlightening. You’ll never guess how much of our history revolves around butter.

Paradise Reforged – A History of the New Zealanders, 1880-2000: The sequel to the best-selling Making Peoples, which was a bestseller and award-winner in New Zealand. It picks up where Making Peoples ended – at the beginning of the 20th century. The volume presents an account of a country which in 100 years undergone massive changes as a flood of “Pakeha” (European) immigrants built on the land opportunities opened by the ferocious British-Maori wars of the 19th century. Torn between British and Maori identities, New Zealanders have successfully created a new nation but one in which the tensiosn and injustices of its founding are never far from the surface.

If you’re looking for specific topics, the NZ Journal of History can be quite useful.

And Papers Past if you want to read what people were saying at the time (although it’s missing a lot of the more recent stuff).

 

Satire versus bullying

I hadn’t heard of Terry Pratchett until I saw this quote at The Standard:

There could be some truth in that.

Another Pratchett quote on bullying (from Hogfather):

“A bully, thought Susan. A very small, weak, very dull bully, who doesn’t manage any real bullying because there’s hardly anyone smaller and weaker than him, so he just makes everyone’s lives just that little bit more difficult…”

He has a satirical record:  Terry Pratchett and the Art of Satire:

Under his hand, the entire concept of fantasy changed, and satire was put to better use than ever before; but just how did Pratchett combine both into such a phenomenally successful formula?

Pratchett also uses the medium of his Discworld novels to examine more serious issues concerning our society today: bribery and corruption are a major feature of his Discworld, especially amongst the ruling elite.

Human behaviour is examined in all of his novels – even his children’s books, such as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, where the society of intelligent rats are made the heroes rather that of the townspeople who are trying to kill them. Comparing the two- with the implication that is it the rat that are the truly educated ones rather than the humans- allows Pratchett to make intellectual points in both a funny and parodic way that might not be possible in another setting.

Here, satire is not only a comedic device but also a way in which to examine our society.

Through his juxtaposition of the modern and the fantastic we can laugh, not only at the society he creates but also, obliquely, at ourselves. In Pratchett’s hands, the art of satire is a way in which we can examine ourselves more clearly.

Satire is a useful way of examining and exposing those in power, politicians.

But it can also be misused as a means of attacking politicians – and political supporters.

From Oxford:

satire
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

bully
A person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

Politicians (and political supporters) sometimes deserve ridicule, and satire is a fair and reasonable means of doing that.

But politicians are also vulnerable to being coerced, intimidated or harmed by unfair and untrue attack and ridicule.

‘Satire’ is sometimes used as an excuse for dirty politics.

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:

How to Start a New Political Party

I looked seriously at how to start a political party. Seriously enough to have a go in 2011, suggesting a party based on more inclusive democracy. That’s actually where the name of this site came from – Your NZ.

It soon became apparent that it was a daunting task, especially with few resources (in other words, I’m not a multi-millionaire with money to burn).

Getting the 500 party members necessary to register as a party is challenging.

Most people who are interested in political involvement are already involved with existing parties. And by far the majority of people are not interested in getting involved in political parties.

Even if you can manage to sign up 500 party members there is then the reality that no new party has managed to beat the 5% threshold. Most get nowhere near it, and with no apparent chance of making the threshold voters aren’t interested.

There were sixteen registered parties this election so they must have all signed up 500 members, but the Internet party only got 464 votes so far – perhaps the rest of their members will be counted in specials.

Anyway, I’ve been sidetracked from the reason for this post – a post by Alex Eastwood-Williams at Right Minds NZ on How to Start a New Political Party

This includes an interesting graph of the historical links between different New Zealand political parties, plus discussion on party formation.

My point was to demonstrate that founding a new political party simply to cater to a more pure strain of a particular ideology is almost always a waste of time and effort (I’m looking at you, MNZGA). To be successful, political parties have to be able to form coalitions, and I don’t mean coalitions with other parties, I mean form coalitions of voters.

Last week I used the example of New Zealand First, currently the third oldest party in New Zealand, and argued that its political survival hinges on its ability to form an internal coalition of working class Maori, upper class elderly white people and disillusioned voters from other parties such as Labour or the Conservatives.

A big talking point as we await the outcome of the election is the Green Party determination to not consider a governing with National, and their exclusion so far from discussions with NZ First in particular and also their supposed ally, Labour.

Greens have successfully managed internal coalitions but have been largely unsuccessfully over 7 elections at forming meaningful coalitions with other parties.

How to form a new party:

So maybe you’ve read all this, but you’re still hell-bent on starting a new political party. What can you do?

You have only two options: You can either attempt to find people on the extreme wings of the left and the right and hope that enough people are annoyed with Labour or National being “too centrist” that they’ll vote for your new party instead – but be aware that as soon as you end up in power, you’ll be absorbed by the bigger, older party.

The alternative is to build a coalition that is neither left nor right and be non-aligned: Either you could be a liberal right-wing party like Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party in 1984, or a conservative left-wing party like Social Credit. You could try and be “centrist” but appeal to urban liberal voters like United Future or the British Liberal Democrats, or you could try to be “centrist” but appeal to rural conservative voters like NZ First (and, again, Social Credit).

As long as you’re consistently attacking both the left and the right in equal measure, and you don’t get into power, your movement will survive. And it helps to go in the opposite direction to the other parties, too.

But too much negative politics can turn potential supporters off. Winston Peters tends to dominate the “consistently attacking both the left and the right”, leaving little room for anyone else in this space.

For example, if Labour are trying to be socially conservative to win National voters, and National are trying to be left-wing to win over Labour voters, then your best bet is to form a right-wing socially liberal party: It worked for Bob Jones in 1984, it works for the Libertarians in the US (where the Democrats and Republicans both try to out-conservative or out-big government each other) and it worked well for the Liberal Democrats in the UK when you had a socially authoritarian New Labour competing with David Cameron’s “Compassionate” Conservatives.

However if things are trending the opposite direction: National are trying to be socially liberal (e.g. John Key) and Labour are trying to be economically right-wing, then you should be trying to win over the conservatives and economic left-wingers.

Basically, if you’re a non-aligned party, you should do the opposite of what the left and right parties do: If they agree on something, it’s your job to disagree.

But if you’re planning to start a new party, and if you’re planning to be successful, be prepared to eschew ideological purity: There are a diminishing number of each type of voter, and you will need to be able to form a coalition that can appeal to as many as possible.

I really don’t think there is much hope for any new party with the current barrier of our 5% threshold. National and Labour have been happy to keep that in place to protect their patches. Even the Greens have been happy with a high threshold, despite their claims to being principled on democracy.

Going by our 21 year history of MMP the only practical way of starting a new party requires a long term and high risk strategy:

– join an existing party
– grease your way up the ranks
– either score a winnable electorate (if in National or Labour), or
– get enough party support to get a winnable place on the party list
– establish yourself in Parliament for a term or two
– get enough other MPs to split off into a sizeable new party
– win an electorate or beat the 5% threshold in an election

If you manage to make it that far your next task is to play a meaningful part in a government. That could take another term or two, or if you’re the Greens, seven terms and still trying.

As well as this expect to get a lot of media disinterest because you are not deemed important enough for them to promote, unless you create some controversy and get hammered by them.

If you look like achieving some success also expect attacks, undermining and dirty politics from opponents in parties and in social media.

Why don’t we get more good quality candidates and politicians?

There is the odd exception.

Shane Jones seems to have been given an easy ride into parliament by Labour, and again by NZ First. But he is part of the club.

A media bored by the Auckland mayoral election last year amused themselves by picking up and promoting Chloe Swarbrick, and she picked up a few more consolation votes than others.

And the media kept giving her exposure, leading to her taking her chances with the Greens. It turned out she was the right age and sex for the Greens to promote her up the ranks, ahead of candidates who had been greasing their way up the party for many years. And she’s now in Parliament. But for every Nek Minit success there are thousands who get nowhere near achieving their political ambitions.

Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and now Gareth Morgan couldn’t buy their way into Parliament with huge resources.

The most common pathway into Parliament these days is to become a party staffer either as a political graduate or a journalist, and grease your way up the party from there. Many years involved before even getting a shot at the big time.

Trying to start a party and trying to find a way into Parliament can be interesting and fun, but for most it is futile hobby.

If you want to be an MP your best chance is making it a career and wheedling your way into and up the political class.

If you want to fast track pick a smaller party with possible future prospects. Unless you can convincingly join the Green congregation they only option is NZ First, but that means having to approve of Winston and be approved by him. And remaining subordinate.

Someone may come up with a successful way of starting a political party, but the formula hasn’t been found yet. It will take a lot of ability, a lot of nous, and a lot of luck. Even the most successful politicians happen to be in the right position of the right party at the right time.

Peters: whisky and whine

You can tell when Winston Peters has arrived – when the bus motor is turned off the whining continues.

NZ First billboards inevitably got some attention:

But there’s still plenty of whine. He has moaning on RNZ this morning about how bad polls are – NZ First must be not doing well enough for him.

NZH: Winston Peters accuses Labour of stealing his party’s policy to re-establish the NZ Forestry Service

Labour’s pledge to set up a forestry service in Rotorua has been praised by a major timber processor.

However, NZ First leader Winston Peters has accused Labour of “dishonesty” and stealing his party’s long-standing policy to re-establish the NZ Forestry Service.

“The desperate two old parties are obviously rifling through our speeches and documents for ideas,” Peters said.

It’s common for different parties to have similar policies. And it has become more common for parties to poach policies to try to target voters. Whining about it just sounds sour.

Newshub: Winston Peters pulls out of minor parties debate

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has pulled out of tonight’s minor parties debate, saying if Labour and National see no value in attending, neither does he.

“I cleared my programme and accepted that invitation enthusiastically,” he said.

“Hence, I was astonished, on a general inquiry late Tuesday, to be told by them that neither Labour nor National had ever accepted the invitation.”

Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch told The AM Show she was surprised Mr Peters assumed Bill English and Jacinda Ardern would be taking part, as it’s a minor leaders’ debate.

“You have to sort of question things if he didn’t realise that.”

Good grief.

Peters won’t lower himself to debate alongside the other minnows – he probably thinks that Ardern and even English a beneath his stature.

Perhaps he can have his own elder statesman debate, but he would probably whine his way through that too.

Alongside Ardern in particular he is looking way past his used-by date, and Shane Jones doesn’t help NZ First look like a party of the future.

Metiria versus Pākehā men #1

While Metiria Turei has largely dropped out of the media spotlight there has been some ongoing commentary on her rise and fall over the last month. Two articles claim that she has been done over by white middle/upper class males.

Newshub:  Metiria Turei’s demise due to ‘race, gender and class’ – academic

For the last three weeks, the actions of former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei have polarised our country.

Māori academic Dr Leonie Pihama described the coverage as “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class”.

There were certainly attacks on Turei and her actions and attitudes to benefits and solutions to poverty.

But she started a highly political and contentious ‘mission’ and media had a duty to examine the whole story, not just the bits Turei wanted to promote to try to grow votes for the Green Party.

Some media coverage may have been over the top, but that’s not unusual in politics. Bill English has been hammered by media for months over the Todd Barclay issue, and he’s right wing-ish, white, male and relatively well off.

Polls showed that many people who leaned left were not comfortable with Turei’s actions and continued acceptance of law breaking.

Three quarters of people polled, including about half of Green voters and about two thirds of Labour voters answered yes to ‘Was it wrong for Metiria Turei to get a bigger benefit?’ – see Newshub poll: Most Kiwis say Metiria Turei was wrong to lie to WINZ

There was clearly:

  • left wing disapproval
  • clearly many of those who disapproved must have been female (at least half)
  • many must have been lower to middle class,
  • there must have been some non-whites who disapproved (as there was whites who approved).

It is fine for Pihama to question whether there has been some bias in reporting the Turei issue. There is always bias in media.

It is also fine to suggest that some ‘attacks’ were based on ideologies, race, age and class. Inevitably they would have been.

But stating that the coverage was “a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right-wing ideologies of race, gender and class” is not something one should expect from someone presenting themselves as an academic.

There was more. Discussion on this at Reddit:

She said a lot more than that:

“What we have is a clear attack that is grounded in the fundamental right wing ideologies of race, gender and class that serve the interests of domination and which reproduce systems of inequality and disparities. Metiria Turei embodies all of those things that white supremacy seeks to destroy.

“It seems that everywhere I turn there is a upsurge of white supremacy expressed as white privilege.”

A comment in response at Reddit:

What it says is actually the truth. Metiria Turei does embody all that white supremacists (aka Trump supporter type) because she is:

  • Brown coloured (aka not white)
  • A woman
  • Activist for the poor
  • Environment activist
  • Socialist
  • Secularist

The only reason she was hounded by the media is because she failed to anticipate that they would dig for, and find, more dirt on her. Lying about having a flatmate (although it was actually fine for her to have a boarder), and voting in a different electorate to your actual residence (John Key did the same thing while he was an MP) was no big deal.

What actually hurt her was the fact that the residence she put down was actually the baby daddy’s address, so the possible implication was that she she lied about living with him which meant she was never entitled to the benefit in the first place. Despite her years of political experience and the fact she was a co-leader if the Green Party, she failed to anticipate the media uncovering it all and connecting the dots.

But Pihama seems to think that it was unfair for media to join the dots. It was clear there was more to Turei’s story than she was willing to divulge.

It sounds like Pihama is biased based on her political  ideologies, race and gender (I won’t try to judge her class).

 

 

‘The fundamental divide between left and right’

Food for thought (and comment);

It’s like we’ve forgotten a basic fact of leftwing politics. It’s built on solidarity.

That’s the fundamental divide between left and right.

We believe in community and cooperation. They believe in self-interest. We’re about the collective. They’re about the individual.

We know that the important question is not “how does this benefit me personally?” It’s “how does this benefit us all.”

Standing together, not because we’re all the same and we’re all after the same thing, but because we have the same enemy: capitalism, which takes many forms: patriarchy, white supremacy, social conservatism.

From The political prospects for 2017: living our values (in which there are some other interesting points).

It is common for those on the political left (and also on the political right) to see their own views and ideologies as close to ideal, and opposing views and ideologies as close to totally misguided at best, and despicable and evil at worst.