Bryce Edwards: Labour’s version of conservatism is no longer popular

Dr Bryce Edwards writes:

New Zealand now essentially has two conservative major parties for the public to choose from. Unfortunately for one of them – the Labour Party – the public increasingly prefers the more authentic conservative option, National. This can be seen in the latest opinion poll showing National continuing to storm ahead of Labour.

According to last night’s Newshub-Reid Research poll, National has nearly a third more support than Labour – 41 per cent compared to just 32 per cent. As a result, Labour is currently projected to lose something like 24 of its MPs at the next election, and be turfed out of power in what could be a landslide reversal of the 2020 victory.

Five years of cautious managerialism

Labour’s five years in power have been incredibly conservative, despite the radical times. Very little in the way of far-reaching reform has been pushed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and few radical policies have actually been delivered. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards: Labour’s version of conservatism is no longer popular”

The polls look promising for the Nats and ACT – but it’s too soon for them to be counting on an election victory

The latest political  polling   shows  the  centre-right parties  pulling  ahead of  the centre-left—but  it  may  be  too soon  for  the  leaders  of  the National and ACT parties to  be thinking they  will  be  forming  the next  government.  The mood  of  the  country has  seldom been  as  dark, chastened  as  it has been  by Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, and  a string of  Rugby test disasters, which  not  even  the golden  glow  from the Commonwealth Games  could  erase.

Some  commentators  have  seized  on  the  One  News  Kantar poll to suggest that the  parties of the  right would be  able  to  form  a  government for  the  first  time without  the Maori  Party,

The poll results nevertheless  contained  a  warning  signal for  both  National  and  ACT — the  former  because   it  was  down  two points  from the  previous poll, and ACT  because it  may  have  experienced a  one-off bounce in its  four-point  rise.

National   currently has  its  own  troubles, notably  with its  new  Tauranga  MP Sam Uffindell becoming the centre of a controversy about how much his electorate should have been apprised of something he did as a 16-year-old schoolboy.  Besides,  the Nats have yet  to  find  the  threads  which  they could  stitch into  a  coherent policy with  broad  appeal. Continue reading “The polls look promising for the Nats and ACT – but it’s too soon for them to be counting on an election victory”

The Nats need to diversify – and if they don’t know what this requires, the Greens and Maori Party can show them the way

Now that the Nats might muster enough votes to forge a right-leaning coalition partnership and oust  the Ardern government at the next election, the commentariate has become agitated on the “diversity” issue. 

Issue?  Newsroom’s Joe Moir calls it a “crisis”.  

National’s just had its first opportunity to deal with its diversity crisis and its response was four white men contesting the Tauranga by-election

There are now more Christophers than there are Māori in the National Party.

This isn’t a new problem for National but Simon Bridges’ exit from politics this week only makes it even more profound.

Moir reports that Bridges’ departure means there are now just two Māori left in the caucus – Shane Reti and Harete Hipango – and the only other ethnic representation amongst National MPs is Korean-born Melissa Lee.

The headline sums this up as Luxon’s big white problem.

Diversity is more vital than ability in the media mindset, it seems, although concerns about an obvious lack of ethnic diversity in the ranks of the Maori Party is unlikely to result in headlines drawing attention to Rawiri Waititi’s big brown problem. 

The Nats shortcomings in the diversity department have been reflected in a raft of media reports over the past year or so.  Among them –

12 October 2020 

How well do political parties represent NZ’s ethnically diverse communities?

The National Party came under fire this year for its lack of diversity after it reshuffled its caucus several times following two leadership changes.

But one of its candidates Christopher Luxon, who is the former Air New Zealand CEO now running in Botany, has taken a bolder stance on the issue in contrast to what his party’s leaders have said this year….

Luxon is standing in the most diverse electorate in the country and he said while the party has a diverse range of experience and skill, diversity of representation matters a lot as well.

May 2 2021

National MPs admit ‘we’ve got some work to do’ on diversity

National MPs admit the party’s “got some work to do” in terms of increasing diversity.

It comes after a review revealed on Wednesday highlighted the need for National to commit to diversity, with a stronger focus on Māori.

The election review panel recommended making Māori a priority area, and suggested they “develop a diversity plan” and “embed diversity across the party’s membership, caucus, candidate and Board”. 

December 6 2021

National ‘has work to do’ on diversity after caucus announced

The National Party has “got work to do” to better its ethnic diversity and gender representation, new leader Christopher Luxon says, following his caucus reshuffle.

Only two Māori and four women now sit on its 12-member front bench, while not a single MP in the 33-member caucus is of Pasifika descent. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who Luxon will face for the first time as National’s new leader on Tuesday, leads one of the most diverse caucuses in history.

But concerns about ethnic diversity don’t necessarily amount to concerns about all ethnicities.  When Simon Bridges announced his retirement, he was asked about how he’d served Māori.

He quite rightly said he was MP for Tauranga, not a Māori seat, and he aimed to offer the best service to whoever walked in as a constituent. But he was proud to have been the first Māori leader of one of the two major parties.

Bridges was elected the party’s first Maori leader in 2018. His deputy leader was Paula Bennett who also is Maori.

The Labour Party has never elected a Maori leader.

But the headline on an article by political analyst Bryce Edwards raised a curious question.  

Political Roundup: Who gets to decide if Simon Bridges is ‘Maori enough?’

Edwards wrote:

There are legitimate and complex questions about the significance of this achievement, including how important it is for Maori voters and for advancing Maori interests, and what impact it might have on politics.

Unfortunately, much of the questioning so far has been along the lines of: How Maori is Simon Bridges really? Is he Maori enough?

I raised this on TVNZ’s Breakfast today, saying “There’s been a lot of people suggesting he’s not really a ‘proper’ Maori, questioning his Maori-ness and I think that won’t go down well with the public and I think it will backfire because it’s becoming increasingly unacceptable really to question whether someone is Maori or not”.

Fair to say, Edwards further noted that most of the questioning of Bridge’s Maori “authenticity” had taken place on social media, especially by some on the political left.  

Paula Bennett was challenged three years ago for not being Maori enough, too.

National’s Paula Bennett says comments calling into question her Māori heritage were ‘racist’

The contretemps in her case was instigated by Labour’s Willie Jackson.

Yesterday, in a speech during Parliament’s general debate, Minister of Employment and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson took aim at the Māori members of the National Party and called them “useless”.

He outlined a few Māori who he said were “the good ones” but said that “the rest were useless”.

“Paula Bennett – well, she doesn’t know if she’s a Māori. Some days she does and some days she doesn’t. Dan Bidois – he needs to go back to Italy. And Jo Hayes – Jo wouldn’t have a clue,” Jackson said.

Bennett said those remarks “without a doubt” were racist.

“It’s kind of like saying if we’re not like you, and fully entrenched and able to speak the language, then in your mind, we’re lesser Māori – I don’t think that’s necessary,” she told media after question time.

“It’s Parliament, it can get pretty robust. But I think to be calling in if you like, whether we’re Māori enough is just really unnecessary.”

While the National Party grapples with its diversity challenge, the Greens have signalled what diversity means to them  by changing their constitution to abandon its requirement for one male co-leader and one woman co-leader.  The requirement now is one woman and one person of any gender, plus a requirement that one must be Māori.

Co-leader Marama Davidson this afternoon said they were pleased with the changes which focused on a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“And proud that the party, the members, have voted in support of constitutional change which upholds Te Tiriti, which centres a framework on Te Tiriti, and far more inclusive representation including that leadership.

“The whole point though is about better representation, more inclusive expectations for leadership and upholding Te Tiriti.”

University of Auckland public policy lecturer Lara Greaves (Ngāti Kuri, Ngāpuhi) told Midday Report the move seemed like a logical next step for the party.

“This kind of just aligns with their values and the direction the party’s heading in.”

“I can see that this is a really important symbolic step for them to go in that direction of trying to pull more of the Māori vote … I can see they’re more moving in that ‘yes we are pro-Te Tiriti, we’re pro-co-governance, we’re pro-Māori’ direction.”

Greaves said it could also pave the way for a change in leadership, with suggestions someone like Chloe Swarbrick could be better in the role, and there had been disquiet about co-leader James Shaw not aligning so well with some of the party’s kaupapa.

Kiwiblog headed its report  

Green Party says it was racist to have Jeanette and Rod as leaders

David Farrar referenced a Herald report on the constitutional change:

The two co-leaders now need to constitute one woman, and one person of any gender (providing leadership pathways for non-binary and intersex). One co-leader also needs to be Māori.

He commented:

So under this new rule, you would never have had Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald as co-leaders.

It also means that Chloe Swarbrick can’t replace Marama Davidson as a co-leader as Chloe is not Maori. She could replace James though.

Farrar challenged a claim that politics had never provided a “level playing field” for Māori and Pasifika peoples, people of different genders, rainbow communities, and women.

Really?

21% of Parliament is Maori – much higher than their share of the adult population.

8% of Parliament is Pasifika – slightly higher than their 7% share of the adult population.

49% of Parliament is female, marginally below their 50.4% share of the adult population.

11% of Parliament is LGBT – much higher than their share of the adult population.

But for now, let’s wait and see what the Tauranga electorate makes of National’s candidate, team and programme.  

 

Now let’s  see  how  Christopher Luxon  develops the image of  a  “caring” National Party

Only  weeks   into becoming leader  of  the  National  Party, Christopher  Luxon has  succeeded   in  pulling  together   his   troops  and at  the  same  time  re-shaping the  message  he  thinks  is needed  to  attract  back the  413,000 voters who drifted  away  in  the  last  election.  The  question    is  whether  he  can  pitch the message  to  haul  back  some of  those  who  voted for  Labour  in 2017  on  the  basis  of  their  promises, but  have  since  realised Labour ministers  don’t  have  the  ability  or  capacity to   deliver them.

Initially  there  was  some  uncertainty  that  Luxon,  with  only   a  year behind him  as  an MP, could   unify  the  faction-ridden National caucus.  But he  settled  those  doubts  impressively   at  the  two-day  retreat  at  Queenstown,  not   least  with  his two  warring  predecessors,  Judith Collins  and Simon Bridges,  showing up  to  breathe  a  new  spirit  of   sweetness  and  light by  the  lakeside.

Luxon  has  resumed polling  to get  the mood of voters, re-engaging  David  Farrer’s  Curia, and  will  use  the  techniques  refined  by  John Key  and Bill  English of  focus groups and  internal polling   as  new  policies  are  formulated. Continue reading “Now let’s  see  how  Christopher Luxon  develops the image of  a  “caring” National Party”

Luxon is advised to take the Nats back to founding principles – and promise a government that is not divisive

The National  caucus,  suddenly,  seemed transformed.  Whereas under  Judith Collins  it  had been split into warring factions, under  Christopher Luxon (at first blush) it  is  presenting  a  united front. Those   factions quickly  fell   into   step, adopting   Luxon’s  new-page philosophy.

But  has  the Ardern  government much  to  fear?  After all, Labour has a  leader who  dominates  the  centre  ground of  NZ politics, who succeeded in pulling across  400,000  voters to the party just  a  year  ago, and  who  still  draws  crowds  wherever  she  goes, (albeit now  with  some protesters, too).

National’s new  leader,  by comparison,  has  had  only a  year  in Parliament and  his  talents  have  remained,  some  would  say,  hidden   largely  from the public view.

Yet  some  clues   have emerged   as  the  party  undergoes   what  has been  labelled  the  “re-set”, even  if  Luxon’s opponents revelled  in his   early  stumbles   in  the  House. Continue reading “Luxon is advised to take the Nats back to founding principles – and promise a government that is not divisive”

Righting the Nats may require pitching to voters in the centre – but that need not mean dumping free-enterprise principles

 

National’s   new  leadership   team had  no  need  to  worry  that, as  they stepped  into  office and into campaigning to replace the Ardern government at the next election, they  would suffer  from a shortage of  advice.  Wherever  they looked   they  could  see mountains  of  it.  

There  was  this  kind (from  a  newspaper  columnist) :

“ In short, new National leader Chris Luxon will likely have to come up with policies and strategies to tackle immediate economic headwinds in five areas: a slow economic bounceback, immigration, a slowing China, tourism, and inflation.”

Or this  kind  (from former National Prime  Minister  Jim  Bolger) who said a “disappointing”  National  has  to  reimagine capitalism because   social  inequality is  pushing  countries to  revolution.

Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.

“Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens.”  Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality.”

Parliamentary veteran Winston Peters, once a National Party deputy leader and MP before forming NZ First,  weighed in. What is  needed, most importantly, is a real vision for NZ, he opined from his (somewhat lonely these days) pulpit.

The Dominion-Post  was  at  its most  omniscient:  NZ  needs  Luxon  to  right   the  Nats.

And  to  make  it  plain exactly  where  it  stood,  the  next  days’ edition  carried  as  a  lead  story the  revelation that

“.. soaring  prices  mean new  National  Party  leader  Christopher Luxon  is  effectively  earning about $90,000  a  week  in capita; gains  from his 7 properties which give him the biggest property portfolio of  any  sitting  MP”.

Point of  Order  resists  the  temptation   to  join  the throng in  offering  advice to the  new  leaders.  But we wonder  whether  Chris Luxon and Nicola Willis are  as convinced  as  the  would-be  advisers appear to  be  that the original  principles  of  the  National Party are  so  shop-worn   they  should be discarded.

It  is  true,  of  course,  that  Labour  has  long departed  from the  principles  on which  it  was  founded (remember   the  “socialisation  of  the means  of production, distribution   and  exchange”)  which it  found both unpopular  and, more  to  the point,  unworkable.

That  doesn’t  mean to say that  some  people don’t believe this system   is  superior  to capitalism.  Yet  it  was  clear  that,  in  an  imperfect  world, most  people  given   the  choice  in the days  when Communist Russia espoused the Leninist philosophy preferred  to  live   in the  West.  The Iron Curtain was designed to keep Soviet-bloc people in, not to keep the capitalists out.

Returning to  modern-day NZ, the  question is  about how to win the  middle  ground  in NZ  politics, which – thanks to Geoffrey  Palmer’s  adoption  of the MMP electoral system – a party must do to win  enough seats to govern at general elections.)  National may well be tempted to at least take a hard look at its original  founding principles  of free-market  capitalism  in a property owning democracy.

Critics  may  argue (as   Bolger  does) that some  people  are  becoming  obscenely rich  and  others  are  going to food  kitchens, but  one  may also look to  the  farming  industry as  it  has evolved  in  NZ  for another example  of the operation of  the free enterprise  system.  It  is  proving  not only  to be the backbone of  the  NZ  economy, but  it is a virtual saviour in  terms  of  export earnings  as  Covid-19 renders  others  like the tourist industry  almost  impotent in  terms  of earning  overseas exchange.

And  now  there  is  evolving an equally  successful outcome   for the  capitalist structure to farming  in  the  hi-tech  industry. As   Southland-born Peter  Beck, founder of the spectacularly successful RocketLab, said this week:

“Right now  the tech  sector in NZ  is  raging…I have a lot to do with the venture capital, it’s  the  best I’ve  ever  seen it and  funding a  lot  of  startups. And  I have to  say that the  quality  and  quantity of  startups  now  is the  best I’ve  ever  seen  it”.    

It’s  no surprise  that “obscenely rich” individuals like  Peter  Beck are backers of new  hi-tech  ventures — this  is  what  capitalists  do — and  they  encourage  others  to  do  the  same. The  theory  is  that  it is  better  to  aim at lifting  all boats.   

Point  of  Order suspects  that’s what  Luxon and  Willis want  to  do.

Labour is giving opposition politicians plenty of issues to exploit as it is stalled by ‘an end-of-year fug’

If  it’s  true  that Labour’s great run is  now  ending,  Opposition parties  should  be vibrating  with  new-found  confidence.

This  may be the   case   with  ACT,  but  so far  there has  been  little sign of  it in National.  In fact   judging  by  the  volume of  speculation  about  National’s leadership  among  the  political  cognoscenti  in  the  weekend  media, the  inner  circle of  the party is stressed  out over  its  leadership.

A  party on top of  its  game certainly would  be  scoring  some   big  hits. On the  other  hand  it  may  be  argued that  the  preoccupation with  Covid has stifled interest  in other political  issues.

Still, as  economic uncertainty  deepens, and  managing the  Covid  Delta  variant  exposes the  government’s vulnerability, the   country  is  looking   again for  something  different,  if only  to  measure  accurately how  the government is  performing.

Beyond  the  leadership issue, the  problem   for  National   is  that it  does  not speak  to  all  elements  of  its  base. It  appears  singularly  out of  tune with  the  regions  and particularly   with  farmers, who are  facing  vocal  lobby groups campaigning  against  what they call  “dirty  dairying”—  never  mind  it is dairy export earnings  that  are sustaining the country’s  balance of payments. Continue reading “Labour is giving opposition politicians plenty of issues to exploit as it is stalled by ‘an end-of-year fug’”

David Seymour and Judith Collins meet Daniel Hannan

Daniel Hannan is a British politician whose joy in clear thinking probably exceeds his ambition for high office (although he played an influential and honourable hand in the Brexit ruckus).  

And his thinking on the future of Britain’s Conservative party has resonance for right-of-centre politicians around the world.

Continue reading “David Seymour and Judith Collins meet Daniel Hannan”

How the Nats have opted to invest in the future with small change

A post on the left-wing The Standard blog expresses bemusement at National’s re-election of its party president.

MickySavage writes:

You would think that the conference held immediately after National suffered one of its worst drubbings in its history National would take the opportunity to refresh its leadership and change its direction.

If you did you will be disappointed.

May we suppose this means he was disappointed?

Surprised, perhaps, but Labour and its supporters surely should be delighted at National’s disinclination to overhaul the party leadership after a disastrous general election result.

In his report on the party elections, Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan noted there was some change. But it was small change.  Continue reading “How the Nats have opted to invest in the future with small change”

Hurrah for Dame Hilda – but when her statue is unveiled, here’s hoping someone remembers which party she stood for

 TOTI – a charitable trust in Hamilton – this week announced that a public sculpture commemorating political pioneer Dame Hilda Ross and the 1919 Women’s Parliamentary Rights Act will be unveiled in Hamilton tomorrow.  But Dame Hilda’s National Party stripes were curiously camouflaged in the TOTI  press statement

Actually, they are not mentioned at all (an oversight, deliberate or otherwise, drawn to our attention by Ele Ludemann on her Homepaddock blog).  

The TOTI announcement reminds us that Dame Hilda Ross was the first Hamilton/Waikato woman elected as an MP in 1945 and became the second woman in New Zealand to become a Cabinet Minister in 1949.

It tells us that artist Matt Gauldie’s bronze sculpture portrays her in Parliament: one hand is holding a copy of the 1919 Act which finally allowed women to become MPs, the other is raised, advocating on behalf of women and children, whose welfare she considered her principal concern.

And it advises that the unveiling will be a public event featuring live music performances and guest speakers, Dame Marilyn Waring and feminist historian, Dr Jenny Coleman and Georgina Beyer.

Dame Marilyn Waring is identified as National MP (Waipa 1975-1984) and author of “The Political Years” .  

But no mention is made that Dame Hilda Ross too was a National MP. Continue reading “Hurrah for Dame Hilda – but when her statue is unveiled, here’s hoping someone remembers which party she stood for”