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Ripples in History

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Question: What is the difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade?

Answer, later.

On 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved. Two years earlier, the Berlin Wall had been physically torn down by jubilant Berliners. (The symbolism of the Berlin Wall as divisive and an affront to the human spirit seems not to have be well understood by the current demagogue-President of the United States, who is maniacally pursuing his own version of a Dividing Wall between neighbouring nations.)

The reasons for the collapse of the Soviet system have been well traversed. But in the end, it boiled down to a simple reality: people simply no longer believed in, or cared about, the Soviet brand of authoritarian “socialism” and apathy reigned (as related to me by Hungarians in the late ’70s and early ’80s).

As the former Soviet Union broke apart and it’s bulwark of Eastern European nations looked westward for  their future, the fallout from the demise of one of the three great super-powers created ripples that would last for decades. Some of the unintended consequences are still not fully widely appreciated.

The United States, for a while, was hailed as the “the sole global superpower“. Writing in 2012, Mikhail Gorbachev said;

This event led to euphoria and a “winner’s complex” among the American political elite. The United States could not resist the temptation to announce its “victory” in the cold war. The “sole remaining superpower” staked a claim to monopoly leadership in world affairs. That, and the equating of the breakup of the Soviet Union with the end of the cold war, which in reality had ended two years before, has had far-reaching consequences. Therein are the roots of many mistakes that have brought the world to its current troubled state.

Declarations of an “American victory” were somewhat premature. In reality, with the rise of the Chinese economy and a resurgent Russia, the 21st Century would be anything but American.

The break-up of the former Soviet Union was also hailed as a “signal” to  humanity that the experiment of  collectivisation and state ownership of all means of production was a failure. As Indian Marxist, E.M.S. Namboodiripad wrote in 1991;

Today, however, talks are going on that not only have the socialist experiments in the USSR and Eastern Europe failed, but world socialism has collapsed. Adversaries of the socialist movement argue chat, far from the Soviet Union being the starting point of humanity’s transition from capitalism to socialism, the socialist countries in Eastern Europe including the Soviet Union have begun their march from socialism to capitalism. From this they go on to add that the theory of Marxism-Leninism itself has failed.

We Marxist-Leninists are above all realists and, as realists, we concede that the recent events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are a major setback to world socialism. We are therefore engaging ourselves in the process of a deep examination of the reasons why these developments took place and whether the trend that manifested itself in these developments can be reversed.

But there were other strands of fallout. The term “socialism” became – as the word “fascism” was after 1945 – a disparaging epithet to throw at one’s political rival. Post-Soviet Union, “socialist” and “socialism” was equated with failure.

Socialism could no longer be seen as a credible alternative to the fad of neo-liberal, free-market, globalisation sweeping the world. Championed by Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US, it reached New Zealand’s shores in the mid-1980s.

The NZ Labour Party – supposedly a social democrat/socialist party for the working class – implemented radical liberalisation of trade, banking, commerce, labour laws. Economic “reforms” went hand-in-hand with social reforms such as the 1986 Homosexual Law reform in 1986, de-criminalisation of prostitution/solicitation  in 2003, and the marriage equality act in 2013.

The Labour Party had been well and truly captured by apostles to Thatcher and Reagan. It could no longer conceivably be called a social democratic or socialist party.

Aside from the short-lived Alliance Party (which imploded in 2002 over New Zealand coalition government’s decision to participate in the invasion of Afghanistan), the only other Parliamentary parties that feasibly represented left-wing voters were the Mana Movement, led by MP Hone Harawira, and the Green Party.  The Mana Movement itself was destroyed after an unholy alliance in 2014 between Labour,  National, NZ First, and the Maori Party to support the Labour Party candidate, Kelvin Davis.

Which currently leaves the Green Party to represent the Left of Aotearoa New Zealand’s political spectrum.

The Green Party itself is currently under attack from both ends of the Body Politic in this country.

Some media pundits and the Right  are calling for the Greens  to return to their “environmental base” whilst the Left are decrying the Greens as not left-wing enough.

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Meanwhile, the rise of populism and the far right paralled the spread of neo-liberal “reforms” around the world.

In 1998, only two nations in Europe – Switzerland and Slovakia – had governments made up in part by populist parties.

By February of this year, the number of  European nations with populist parties in coalition governments had increased to more than eleven. (More, if countries like Russia and Ukraine are included.)

Europe’s populism has been matched with Trump in the United States;  Erdogan in Turkey; Duterte in the Philippines; Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, etc. Throughout the world, populist parties – mostly (though not always) of a right-wing persuasion – have been on the rise.

The most obvious causes for the rise in right-wing populism has also been well-canvassed;

Most have tapped into a backlash against immigration and a globalized economy that many people feel has left them behind..

[…]

The common thread dates back to the 2008 financial crisis, which opened the door for many populists. Rising inequality and the perception of an unjust — if not corrupt — response to the crash eroded trust in the ability of established leaders to address shifts in the global economy, including technological change and the rise of China.

In Hungary, right-wing populism has taken on a distinct air of neo-fascism;

The biggest advances have been made in central and eastern Europe. All four so-called Visegrád countries are governed by populist parties including Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungary – where populist parties secured 63% of the vote in this year’s elections – and Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice in Poland.

Both parties only started showing their true colours – populist, culturally conservative, authoritarian – after they were first elected. They are now attacking core liberal institutions such as the independent judiciary and free press, increasingly defining national identities in terms of ethnicity and religion and demonising opponents, such as the Hungarian-born Jewish financier George Soros, in language reminiscent of the 1930s.

The public backlash against immigration, globalisation, with a concomitant loss of well-paying jobs, and the flow of wealth to the top 1 Percent is well known, understood, and documented;

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What is not well understood is why voters have generally turned away from traditional left-wing parties and policies, and increasingly voted for right-wing (and often far right-wing) populist parties.

In Europe, the backlash against orthodox neo-liberalism/globalisation resulted not in the election of a left-wing government – but in Brexit. In choosing to shun the European Union, British voters by a small majority literally walked away from the continental bloc.

Whether consciously or sub-consciously, this blogger contends the public view the Left as having failed the ultimate  test. The former Soviet Union – a super-power in the 20th century rising from a feudalistic monarchy to becoming a nuclear-armed, space-faring nation with global influence and aspirations – failed. And it failed dramatically with the whole world watching.

Since 1989/91, the televised spectacle of the collapse of the former Soviet Bloc has imprinted itself in the psyche of most of the world’s population. The message was made abundantly clear as the Berlin Wall came down; the Red Army retreated from Eastern Europe; and President Gorbachev passed laws making his Soviet Presidency redundant: the Left were unable (or unwilling) to staunch the neo-liberal/globalist orthodoxy.

Indeed, in almost every country, neo-liberalism/globalisation had ‘captured’ supposedly social democratic or centre-left parties such as the Labour Party in UK; the Democrats in US; Labour in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, etc.

Thus the parliamentary wing of  social democratic/centre-left offered no solutions. They were seen by the voting public as part of the problem.

If Nature abhors a vacuum, the same applies to the Political Environment. The fall of the former-Soviet Union created a political vacuum on the established Right-Left continuum.

That political vacuum would soon be filled as people sought solutions to what many perceived as an attack on their national identities; falling standard of living; unfulfilled aspirations; unresponsive traditional political parties, and the rise and rise of a tiny wealthy elite.

So it came to pass. The vacuum was filled, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, by populist parties and demagogic leaders who offered quick-fix, simplistic solutions. Cue: the trumpets of nationalism, racism, intolerance of minorities, and the emboldening of even worse extremism on the far-right and alt-right.

To compound the worsening political climate, the Left continued to make itself largely irrelevant to the everyday struggles of working and middle class New Zealanders.

A cursory look at blogposts on The Daily Blog, for example will quickly reveal that up until recently (17 April, to be precise) most blogposts were fixated on the issue of “free speech” and the Green Party. Green Party MP, Golriz Ghahraman, to be concise.

Meanwhile, out in the Real World…

teachers, mid-wives, and medical professionals were on strike for better pay.

… the environment continued to be polluted out of existence.

greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise.

mental health continued to be in crisis.

… savage covert cuts to disability funding were planned.

homelessness was still a ‘thing.

… our security apparatus failed us spectacularly by spying on the wrong people.

… the coalition government buckled to property speculators.

For many on the Left, though, the priority was “free speech”.

If ever there was an instance of a public “Meh!” moment,  this was it.

Just as the GCSB, NZSIS, NZ Police, and Uncle Tom Cobbly were all distracted by Greenpeace, environmental activists, journalists, bloggers, Maori activists, Christchurch Earthquake  survivors, et al, instead of keeping an eye on white supremacists/neo-fascists – the left-wing blogosphere was seemingly distracted by it’s own Shiny Thingy.

The recent furore on the issue of “free speech” and the Green Party’s call to address hate speech appeared to suggest that Aotearoa New Zealand was about to become a quasi-Stalinist state with bloggers and journalists rounded up and despatched to re-education camps on Stewart Island. The unhealthy obsession with the Green Party – Green MP, Golriz Ghahraman, to be precise – drew anger usually reserved for the likes of Don Brash, Mike Hosking, Duncan Garner, et al..

Although, with considerable grim irony, some on the Left were quite happy to protect the “free speech” for the likes of Southern, Molyneux, Brash, et al, whilst launching tirades against Ms Ghahraman.

There remains an ongoing systematic vilification of Ms Ghahraman instead of addressing the issues surrounding “free speech/hate speech”. Some of the vitriol heaped on Ms Ghahraman took on sinister under-tones of misogyny and racism.

That some of the personal abuse has appeared on left-wing forums is especially troubling.

Yet, despite hysterical screams of outrage that the Green Party was advocating stifling “free speech”, a closer examination of their proposal was anything but.

In a recent post on social media, Ms Ghahraman posed a valid question;

“You’re not allowed to harass, or to make up lies that harm an individual. It’s against the law.

However you are allowed to spread hate and lies about a group of people based on their religion or gender, without consequence.

[…]

So why are individuals protected from defamation,  or harassment,  but whole groups of people aren’t?”

The capitalist system is built on the primacy of individualism, property ownership, and reputational interests (which has a direct bearing on an individual’s commercial activities).

To protect that fundamental underpinning of capitalism, the rights of the capitalist individual was elevated above all else. Including above the needs of society itself.

In October 1987, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – architect of Britain’s neo-liberal, free-market “reforms” – was famously quoted in an interview saying;

And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first…”

Western law reflects the capitalist precept that the rights of individuals are recognised – but groups of people are not. (Class-action lawsuits are a rare exception, usually reserved for physical loss, such as mechanical failures, financial malfeasance, medical botch-ups, etc.)

Under the capitalist system, social groups are a nullity under the law.

Recent high-profile public defamation lawsuits have centered on Matthew Blomfield, Earl Hagaman, and Colin Craig.

All three cases involved lawsuits claiming defamation; suffering because of harmful untrue public statements, and sought awards for damages.

The case of Mr Blomfield successfully suing far-right blogger, Cameron Slater, was recently commented on The Daily Blog. Comments posted after the main article generally approved of businessman, Matthew Blomfield’s victory.

Yet, the right to sue does not extend to groups based on religion, ethnicity, gender/sex, etc.

That privilege is reserved solely for individuals. Those individuals are usually wealthy, white, and not women.

That was the point Green MP, Golriz Ghahraman was making. Or trying to make, as the issue was drowned out amidst a hysteria that veered well into moral panic.

It is salient to  note that “free speech” advocates remain mostly silent on this issue.

Free speech is not absolute. A person can be hauled before a court and sued for considerable sums of money if found guilty of defamation.

The legal system protects the rights of individuals.  Groups – not so fortunate. Because as pointed out above, capitalism is about the Individual. Groups – not so much.

At the beginning of this blogpost, I posed the question: What is the difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade?

Free trade is unfettered. It protects and serves the interests of  corporations. The goal is to maximise profits for individuals (shareholders) at the expense of all else.

Fair trade serves the interests of communities, as well as individuals in those communities. The goal is to better the lives of people, but not at the expense of all else (eg, the environment, workers’ rights, etc).

The Left prides itself on the point of difference from the Right in that we act for the collective good. The primacy of the Individual, at the expense of the greater good, is not something we generally look favourably upon.

We want our trade to be fair. Should we expect less for our public discourse?

It is a contradiction to our much vaunted progressive values that we extend the right to Individuals to legally defend themselves in a Court of Law against defamation and harm – yet deny that same right to groups who might also suffer defamation and harm.

We talk the talk when it comes to collective action for the greater good. We demand the right for workers to act collectively and join unions. We demand adequate taxation to pay for public education, healthcare, housing for the poor, environmental protection, support services for the disabled, etc, etc.

Yet, when it comes to walking the walk to extend the right to legal protections for groups –  some (many?) on the Left balk at extending the same legal rights extended to Individuals – usually wealthy businessmen or politicians in positions of power.

The irony is inescapable; that some on the Left seem wholly comfortable with wealthy businessmen being privileged with a legal right to defence against harmful speech that entire groups of people are not.

If we, as a society, are willing to have defamation laws available, they must be available to everyone, groups as sell as wealthy individuals. The law must be for all. Or not at all.

Those days of privilege can no longer be tolerated.

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References

CNN: Fall of the Berlin Wall – On 29th anniversary, it’s a different world

Norwich University: Exploring 5 Reasons for the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Noam Chomsky: Barack Obama and the ‘Unipolar Moment’

The Nation: Is the World Really Safer Without the Soviet Union?

E.M.S. Namboodiripad: ‘An Experiment that Failed’?  (alt. link)

Huffington Post: Trump Knocks Socialism And Bernie Sanders Does Not Look Pleased

NZ Herald: Prostitution decriminalised, brothels to be licensed

Scoop: Why The Alliance-Left Rebelled

Fairfax media: Winston Peters backs Labour’s Kelvin Davis

NZ Herald: Election 2014 –  Hone’s call to arms after Winston backs Kelvin

Fairfax media: Kelvin Davis blasts Mana Party  (alt. link)

Mediaworks/Newshub: Lloyd Burr – The Greens have lost their way

The Daily Blog: If you think that the NZ Green Party (who are just as wedded to neoliberalism as Labour is) are your new political home, you are delusional

The Guardian: How populism emerged as an electoral force in Europe

Bloomberg: The Rise of Populism

Wikipedia: Right-wing populism

Vox: Forms and sources of inequality in the United States

The Irish Times: Conor O’Clery – Remembering the last day of the Soviet Union

Radio NZ: ‘No mandate’ for capital gains tax – PM

Fairfax/Stuff media: Secondary school teachers to strike, citing lack of patience with contract negotiations

Radio NZ: Midwives to strike next week

Fairfax/Stuff media: Resident doctors call back planned pre-Easter strike

Mediaworks/Newshub: New Zealand’s ‘dirtiest industry’ blasted over environment report

Climate News Network: Human carbon emissions to rise in 2019

Noted/The Listener: Youth mental health is in crisis and NZ is failing to keep up

NZ Herald: Limited showers, no meal prep – ‘Ruthless’ plans to cut disabled care revealed

NZ Herald: New report reveals the sharp end of homelessness in Wellington

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern announces Royal Commission into security agencies after Christchurch attack

Twitter: Golriz Ghahraman – Hate speech – 8:47am  17 April 2019

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

The Daily Blog: The Human Rights Review Tribunal has upheld a complaint against Cameron Slater and order that he pay $70,000 damages to Matthew Blomfield, one of the highest awards ever made.

Justrade: Prof Jane Kelsey & Jim Stanford

Additional

Green Party Aotearoa: Golriz Ghahraman speech in response to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks

Fairfax/Stuff media: MP lacks credibility in urging hate speech law

NZ Herald: Political Roundup – Outlawing hate speech and hate crimes

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings – Does New Zealand need hate speech laws after terror attacks?

Other Blogposts

Pundit: Doesn’t hate-speech need to include some hatred?

The Standard: Reflections on Free Speech and Public Discourse

The Standard: The Green Party on the Mosque murders

TDB:  Hone Harawira – Blaming black boys for a white boy massacre

TDB:  Recognising Hate Speech When You See It.

TDB:  Green Party start their campaign to curtail free speech – the danger of Millennial micro aggression policing culture defining hate speech

Previous related blogposts

National – the Party of free speech?! Yeah, right.

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2019.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Waru)

30 September 2017 Leave a comment

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The people have spoke;  votes cast; and now the post-election negotiations begin in earnest…

… once Special Votes are counted and announced on 7 October.

The Electoral ‘Wild Card’ – Special Votes

Three years ago, there were 330,985 Special Votes cast, accounting for 13.5%  of total votes. That reduced National’s seats in Parliament by one, and gifted the Green Party a fourteenth MP. The balance of power in Parliament went through a seismic shift with that one transfer of a single seat.

This year the number of Special Votes has risen dramatically to (approximately) 384,072 (or 15% of total votes).

Special Votes have traditionally supported left-leaning Parties and Labour and the Greens may pick up one or two extra seats, at the expense of National.

This may result in former Iranian refugee, lawyer, and feminist activist,  Golriz Ghahraman becoming the Green’s eighth MP. Two extra MPs will send Mojo Mathers back to Parliament.

National will lose one, maybe two seats, reducing it’s MPs from currently 58 to 57 or 56.

Two extra seats for the Labour-Green bloc will strengthen their hand in negotiations with Winston Peters. A Labour-Green-NZF coalition would rise from 61 seats to 62 or 63 out of a 120 seat Parliament. (With the demise of the Maori Party, there is no over-hang.)

No wonder Peters, Labour, and the Greens can afford to  bide their time. Two weeks will give the three parties a clearer picture as to what voters have delivered.

The Maori Party – a ‘bob each way’

During the election campaign, on 28 August, the Maori Party’s co-leader, Marama Fox, startled the country by making noises that her party could work with Labour as a coalition partner;

“I know our people lean left and they’d love to see us in a coalition arrangement with Jacinda, Metiria not anymore, but somebody from the Greens and Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell. We could change the world – I think that would be amazing.”

She continued asserting that the Maori Party could work in coalition with Labour. In effect Ms Fox was re-branding the Maori Party as an opposition party working to change the government.

But on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 24 September, Corin Dann asked Te Ururoa Flavell if  Bill English deserved a fourth term. Flavell replied;

“Yes, I do. I do, because I work with him. I do believe, come what may that he is an honourable person. That he does have people’s interests at heart […] But  I do believe that he is the right person under the circumstances. He has all that background and that knowledge  and I believe that, that he can take  the country forward.”

Ms Fox may have been earnest in her desire to move her party to the left. But Flavell’s comments suggest otherwise.

We will never know.

The Doom of the Maori Party

The demise of the Maori Party should not surprise anyone. They have suffered the doom of any small political party that has made two grievous mistakes.

Mistake #1: Moving too close to their major coalition partner  and being over-shadowed and subsumed by the  Blue Colossus that was the National-ACT Government.

Mistake #2: Ignoring past ‘messages’ sent to them by voters who consistently showed their displeasure at the Maori Party’s choice of coalition partner. Since the 2008 general election, the Maori Party’s presence in Parliament has steadily dwindled;

2008: 5 seats

2011: 3 seats

2014: 2 seats

2017: nil seats – gone by lunchtime

In blaming voters for their defeat, Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell and other Maori Party leadership ignored the gradual decline of voter support until they had nothing left.

Hone Harawira proved himself correct when he criticised the Maori Party’s coalition with National;

“The downside of being in government with National is having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government.

The Maori Party is a coalition partner of that government and our co-leaders are ministers in that government, so unless we take a very strong position against some of the government’s legislative agenda we will be seen as supporting that agenda.

It does not reflect the hopes and dreams of either the Maori people or the Maori Party, and was opposed by most Maori during the select committee hearings. If we support this bill, we’re effectively saying that our coalition with National is more important than our commitment to Maori.”

Even Patrick Gower warned the Maori Party four years ago that it was sliding toward an inevitable doom if it maintained it’s cosy relationship with the Tories;

” It needs the nuclear option.

It needs to kick National in the guts and walk away.

[…]

It’s time for Flavell to change the narrative.

He needs to start distancing the Maori Party from National. He needs to start extricating it from the cosy relationship.

He needs to position the Maori party differently – much differently. “Positioning” isn’t enough any more – he needs to make a break.

And so it came to pass.

Which is unfortunate, as I believe that the Maori Party’s voice in Parliament added to the public discourse. One hopes that a resurgent Maori-Mana Party will return in 2020. Maori need representation in the House, independent of any mainstream, pakeha-dominated party.

Gareth Morgan – green with envy?

Gareth Morgan’s call for the Green Party to work with National is either political naivete – or a cunning plan to undermine and eventually destroy the Green Party and siphon off their voter-base.

Either way, not a look look for Mr “Common Sense”.

The fate of the Maori Party (and other small parties whose orbits took them too close to their stellar coalition partners) is a clear warning that a blind person could see.

Mr Morgan should to stick to his “knitting” such as promoting the Universal Basic Income and building his own party for 2020.

ACT – time to pull the plug

It’s time for National to pull the plug on ACT. The Epsom life-support unit served it’s purpose when ACT could be guaranteed to poll over 1.2% – but it’s electoral support has been waning since 2008;

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Election Year Party
Votes
%
Votes
2008 85,496 3.65%
2011 23,889 1.07%
2014 16,689 0.69%
2017 10,959 .05%

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With no hope of ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour, pulling in a second MP on his “coat-tails”, National might as well cut him loose and regain Epsom for themselves.

Or not.

Who can really care anymore for a “Party” polling at half of one percent?

Certainly not Bill English;

“We want to get on with the job of forming a government, but we will work with New Zealand First at a pace they’re willing to go.”

He said it was pretty clear cut that a two-party coalition would be more stable, and voters had given National a task of forming a government with New Zealand First.

“Our position in going into those negotiations is that almost one in two New Zealanders supported National.

“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with New Zealand First and that’s what we’ll proceed to do.”

ACT would complicate a governing arrangement, and he would not expect the party to be included in that government.

“The shortest path to stable government is a two-party coalition between National and New Zealand First.”

By the way, David Seymour…

On TVNZ’s Q+A, ACT leader and sole-MP, David Seymour, blamed First Past the post for his party’s crushing defeat on Election day;

“Every minor party got hammered, we kind of went back to a first-past-the-post environment.”

Typical of right-wingers; demanding personal responsibility from the rest of us – but never showing any themselves. If ACT cannot win electoral support under MMP, then it will never achieve success under any system (except maybe at gunpoint).

Perhaps Mr Seymour should just accept that 99.95% of voters simply do not like ACT’s free-market, dog-eat-dog,  and corporate-welfarism for it’s taxpayer-funded Charter Schools.

When Gareth Morgan’s TOP gained four times more votes (48,018 – 2.2%) than ACT  (10,959 – 0.05%), what does that say about the fate of neo-liberalism in this country?

Yes Winston, we have…

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The question is, what will he do about it?

Does Winston Peters really want his party to end up like the Maori Party, ACT, and Peter Dunne – all casualties of their political closeness to National?

Lisa Owen made this observation on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 September, when she pointed out to Steven Joyce;

“Given the situation you find yourself in with the previous people you’ve worked with dwindling…”

As others have pointed out, a vote for NZ First was indeed a vote for change. Otherwise, those leaning toward National would have cut out the Black & White Middle Man and voted for the Blue Team.

Going with National is More of the Same.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

The Fate of The Maori Seats

With the demise of the Maori Party and the assimilation of all seven Maori Seats into a mainstream, predominantly white-person’s political party, it is more apparent than ever that we need to retain those Maori Seats to ensure on-going, guaranteed Parliamentary representation for Tangata Whenua.

If National bows to Peters’ demand for a referendum on the seats, it will be a sad day for democracy in this country when the Majority get to choose on entrenched safeguards for a Minority.

Why do (some) pakeha feel so threatened by seven seats when they  have 113 seats for themselves, under their potential full control? It can’t be any notion of “reverse-racism”. Those who demand the abolition of Maori seats rarely concern themselves with such matters.

National’s Dirty Politics Strategy

In a Hollywood movie, a budding politician rises up from nowhere and successfully takes on the political Establishment Elites. After a struggle, the hero/heroine prevails, showing that truth, courage, and integrity will always defeat the Dark Forces of the political Elite. Cue happy ending; cue stirring theme music; roll credits; bank the ticket-takings.

In real life, Steven Joyce and his party strategists (with the assistance of Crosby Textor?) spun two lies, regarding Labour’s mythical “$11.7 billion fiscal hole” and that Labour would “raise taxes”. None of which were remotely true. Joyce was aided and abetted by Bill English who unashamedly repeated those two lies at every opportunity, whether on-air debates or interviews on Radio NZ, Q+A, The Nation, etc. At no point did either man resile from their wilful calumny.

If 998,813 voters who ticked “National” on their Party Vote ballot weren’t aware that the two claims were barefaced lies – or, knew it was a lie and simply didn’t care – Joyce’s  strategy for mis-information worked.

Even Patrick Gower – no friend of the Left – knew that Joyce’s claims were deliberate lies, and was appalled at what he was witnessing;

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The Dirty Tricks strategy was previously used against Winston Peters when an unknown agent leaked his superannuation over-payment to the media.

At the next election, Labour and the Greens must be better placed to strategically address “fake news” from the National Party. Labour and Green strategists must  be conscious that the Nats will stoop to lies if their pre-election polling shows them at-risk of losing. A rapid-response task-force should be ready and well-resourced to counteract such lies; to do it immediately,  and with energy.

Patrick Gower put it this way on The Nation on 24 September, when he interviewed Labour’s Phil Twyford;

“…And one of the issues was the attack from National on tax and their lies, in effect. Now, why didn’t you call them out earlier?

[…] But do you look back now and go, ‘We were relentlessly positive, but we let their relentless negativity come in too much.’ Do you look back now as you wake up and go, ‘Oh, we should have called them out earlier.’?

[…] But where was her junkyard dog? Where was someone— If she was relentlessly positive— And, actually, I’m going to call you out here — were you personally too late? Do you take some responsibility for not taking on Steven Joyce and letting him get away with what he did?”

This style of dirty tricks cannot be allowed to become New Zealand’s “new norm”.

That was Then, This is Now

In 2008 and 2011, then-Dear Leader John Key was emphatic that under no circumstances would he entertain any coalition deal with Winston Peters;

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Three years later;

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The Nats are nothing if not “flexible”. As are their “principles”.

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References

Electoral Commission: 2017 General Election Timetable

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Fairfax media:   National loses majority, Greens pick up one

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Green Party:  Golriz Ghahraman

Mediaworks:  Labour, Greens and Māori Party ‘could change the world’ – Marama Fox

TVNZ: Q+A –  Maori Party – Te Ururoa Flavell

Wikipedia: Maori Party

Fairfax media:  Māori have ‘gone back like a beaten wife to the abuser’, defiant Marama Fox says

Fairfax media:  Te Ururoa Flavell won’t be part of a Māori Party revival

NZ Herald:  Maori Party investigates complaint against Harawira

Mediaworks: Opinion: Maori Party must kick National in guts

Fairfax media:  Party ‘for a fairer New Zealand’ falls flat, as Gareth Morgan’s TOP falls far short of 5 per cent

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ:  Two-party coalition more stable – English

TVNZ: Q+A –  ‘Every minor party got hammered’ – ACT Party leader David Seymour justifies dismal party vote

Scoop media: TV3’s The Nation –  Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce

Fairfax media:  The Māori Party is out: Labour wins all Māori electorates

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters, scandal and a recipe for revenge

Scoop media: TV’s The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Phil Twyford

Fairfax media:  Bill English – I’m ready to talk to Winston

Other Blogs

The Standard:  National have poisoned the Peters well

The Standard:  National’s political hit job on Winston Peters

The Standard:  Where to now for the Greens?

The Standard:  Consider the people of New Zealand First

The Standard:  National rules itself out of coalitions with cynical BillShit

Previous related blogposts

John Key: Man of Many Principles (2012)

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study (2014)

No More. The Left Falls. (2014)

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

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(Acknowledgment: Toby Morris, The Wireless)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 September 2014.

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