Ardern’s positive politics pledge

I’m all for more positive politics (and less negative, dishonest and divisive politics), so Jacinda Ardern’s pledge for “a positive, factual and robust campaign” sounds very good. But, unfortunately, Ardern has a history of not matching rhetoric with actions.


Running a positive, factual and robust election campaign

This week Labour MPs descended on Martinborough for the annual Labour Caucus retreat. It was here that Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern set our intention for the year ahead – to run a positive, factual and robust campaign.

Speaking to caucus, Jacinda Ardern said: “New Zealanders deserve a positive election. I don’t want New Zealand to fall into the trap of the negative fake news style campaigns that have taken place overseas in recent years.”

In light of this, Jacinda Ardern took the opportunity to announce that the Labour Party is signing up to Facebook’s new advertising transparency rules.

“It means voters can see who is behind paid advertising online, how much they are spending and who they are targeting. The measures help avoid anonymous fake news style ads,” said Ardern.  “These rules are compulsory in the US, UK, Canada and the EU amongst others, but not here. We think it’s the right thing to do to voluntarily adopt them anyway and set a clean tone for the election.”

Ardern also confirmed Labour will have its major election policy costings independently verified so voters can be sure of what they are voting for.

So, sounds good – in theory.

But I hope that this time, Ardern (and Labour MPs and the party) deliver.

At this same time last year Ardern promised a ‘year of delivery’ – “”For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

“2019 I think for us as a team is going to be characterised by the word ‘delivery’. 2018 was obviously a huge year for us: bedding in as a new Government, setting up the infrastructure for a significant change in direction for New Zealand, reinvesting in those core services – health and education and housing in our budget.”

“That work has now been set in place. 2019 is now the year that a lot of delivery will be required of us and is actually already underway.”

“We do not claim perfection but we do claim a considerable advance on where we have came from.”

The Government has delivered on some things, as any government does. But at least as notable are the things that haven’t been delivered. The big election promise and post election commitment, Kiwibuild, has largely been a failure and has been dumped. The light rail commitment seems to have been so lightweight it has floated away.

Ardern campaigned last election on ‘openness and transparency”. In her government’s first year Ardern was embarrassed by her minister of Openness and Transparency, Clare Curran, being secretive and misleading. Ardern dumped her.

This government seems no better than the last in it’s abuse of the Official Information Act that is supposed to ensure openness and transparency.

Ardern seems impotent when it comes to the negativeness and determination not to be open by NZ First ministers Winston Peters and Shane Jones, but she should have an influence on her own Labour ministers and MPs.

Will there be no more Labour MP references to ‘9 years of neglect’ and misleading claims of National Government reduced spending?

Will Labour MPs more openly share facts with the public, especially when asked?

Will this year see a turnaround of the toxic politics of the past? Will we get a positive campaign, by Labour at least?(National’s negative attack politics is another disappointing story).

I hope so. Ardern has time to plan her campaign this year, and time to make it clear to her MPs, candidates and party promoters that she wants a positive, factual campaign. She has no control over some in social media like on Twitter and The Standard, but her and her party’s campaigning really is positive and factual perhaps that will filter down and influence the actions of Labour leaning activists.

Perhaps she can lead by example, and lift the quality and tone of this year’s election. If she and Labour can deliver on that it is likely to improve their vote and their chances (and Greens), especially if it contrasts with NZ First and National attack campaigning.

Promoting positive politics for 2013

I see a lot of negativism on political blogs, along with anger, abuse, despair, unrealistic ambitions based on narrow ideologies. Many people with an interest in politics seem to see a glass seven eights empty, and the one eight of water they can see is dirty.

Last century polarity politics, where one side must defeat the other, is self defeating.

Progress is made with a positive approach. I’ll do more to promote positive politics.

Colin James has written his final ODT colum for 2012 – Looking on the bright side into 2013 (not yet online). He also looks at the dark tunnel of the political world.

The can’t-be-done crowd treats issues as problems. Public service policy people and politicians think this way because they then feel needed to fix them. Treating issues as options and opportunities — the can-be-done line — invites aspiration and energy.

Here’s a parallel: pitying victims risks locking them in victimhood; backing them as survivors makes more of their futures.

The victim mentality has wormed into our thinking about our country and prospects. We see what’s wrong or missing more than what’s on offer.

In the political blogosphere the right and the left seem to think not enough is done of what they want and too much of what they don’t want is done.

Both hard right and hard left think government will ruin the country (or is currently ruining it) unless their far more extreme ideas are implemented.

I don’t agree with that, I think our country is doing ok – but it could do better. And the way to do better is to have a more positive view, and to look at more positive ways of adrerssing things and doing things.

This means overcoming the political tunnel vision that seems to confine and blind too many in politics.

Sure, there are negatives that need addressing, there is crap that needs confronting, there are problems with no easy or quick solutions.

But we need a more positive political approach.

And that can happen from both the top – with strong positive leadership – and it can be pushed and promoted from the grass roots. Positive people need to promote themselves and their ideas more. If enough people see the benefits this can overwhelm much of the negativity.

And Colin James looks to the bright side, the light beyond the politicfal tunnel vision.

Here’s a New Year resolution for 2013: look on the bright side every now and then (though as a realist, not Pollyanna). There is a bit to see there.

The New Zealand habit is to look on the gloomy side and to see something small, smug and stifling. Half a million ex-New Zealanders have shaken that habit for life in Australia.

Yet realistic bright-side lookers can do things here faster and more freely than in most other places. That’s why there are many entrepreneurs here, a few of them world leaders.

…we have some big pluses.

We have abundant water, food-catching and growing capacity and energy in a world short of water and food and unevenly endowed with energy. We have lots of space. We are distant from mayhem. (Boat people don’t bother us.)

We have very low corruption, one the most stable democracies, generally good institutions and the rule of law. We have a voice in world affairs much louder than our size warrants. We have by world standards a good education system.

We are, many of us, entrepreneurs in the broad sense: inventive (think Weta Digital, the top firm in the world for digital film imaging) and creative (Gareth Farr’s “Mad Little Machine” was my 2012 standout).

We are generally peaceable: we made the extraordinary journey from a monoculture to a bicultural society without mayhem.

We have a great brand, best said as fresh/safe/natural.

Of course, there are negatives, not least that we don’t have a “spike” city in which highly creative people congregate in numbers and drive innovation and economic and artistic success. Our elites scarper abroad. Our supply lines are long and tenuous. Our brand is fraying. We are often stiflingly small-minded.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives. To many foreigners New Zealand is highly desirable, stacked with opportunity and good living.

To me New Zealand is highly desirable, stacked with opportunity and good living.

To live better, to make the most of opportunities, we need to desire better.

One way to do this is to shake off the last century petty politics and promote a more inclusive, tolerant, dynamic positivism.

Polarity politics, where one side must defeat the other, is self defeating. Out with the ‘woe is me’ wowsers.

In 2013 I will address negatives that I see. But I’ll do as much as I can to promote positive politics. Our cup is seven eights full of possibilities.

Positive Politics

I’m posting this comment on The Standard and Kiwiblog today:

Blog challenge – The Standard versus Kiwiblog
(and any others that want to join in)

There’s quite a bit of inter-blog and inter-leaning rivalry, and it’s easy to get sucked down into a whirlpool of negativity. It’s easy for the negatives to overshadow, even overwhelm the good that does happen.

Sometimes it’s worth stepping back and looking at what can be done positively. We all need some positives, and our country needs collective positives.

A positive for me – both Trevor Mallard and Tau Henare replied by email overnight. A number of MPs (Green, NZ First, UF) have responded positively over the last week.

Here’s a challenge to step back and consider Positive Politics, what can be done better in political blogs and in parliament.

I won’t respond or comment in Open Mic today – that may be a positive for some. If there’s anything positive here today I’ll collate and summarise.

Suggestions, pledges, whatever – people here claim The Standard is much better than Kiwiblog, show that it is at least as good. Get positive.

Here is my positive pledge:

I pledge to promote positive discussion and actions, positive politics, and as much as possible work for a more positive political climate and for a better country.

I retain the right to debate robustly, to stand up and speak against what I see as wrong or overly negative, and I acknowledge that sometimes I’ll get grumpy, angry, and may act negatively. But I will work on a positive balance as much as possible.

The best way to get positive outcomes is to act positively, individually and jointly.

I pledge to work as much as possible for positive politics and a more positive New Zealand.

Pete George

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