Sunday, 9 November 2008

Silver linings

I'm not going to pretend that there are so many silver linings that this is somehow, perversely, a good result. But I just can't think too much about the policy negatives of what this means, particularly in the area I work in*, because I'll break into little bits and be no good to anyone. So instead I'm going to try to focus on the opportunities I think might come up in the next three years...

This is going to be interesting. The following things occur to me:
  • Key is probably going to try to hold to the Labour-lite campaign promises. This could result in significant internal friction as MPs like Maurice Williamson, Tony Ryall and Nick Smith want to head off to the right with their 5 friends from Act. They've been waiting a long time to get back on those Treasury benches; they have unfinished business from the 1990s and you can bet your bottom dollar that it's not keeping Working For Families going and encouraging public transport use.
  • English is pretty pivotal in all this. Key is relatively inexperienced and will be looking to English and other senior MPs for a steer on how this whole Being The Government thing works. Opportunities for knives in the back of the new boy abound, but Key comes from the pretty savage environment of the trading floor, and may not be as vulnerable as he appears from the outside. Could be strangely satisfying to watch if the sharp implements do make it out of the drawer.
  • There are a whole heap of new National MPs, and a lot of their intake from last time is still largely unknown, in terms of public knowledge of their political leanings. For example I was thinking about whether there are still any strongly anti-abortion MPs in their ranks and the simple answer is that I don't know. This could create some opportunities for good Private Members' Bills, although of course it may also throw up some significant threats to some of the social gains made in the last little while. Either way new MPs are bound to make a few entertaining cock-ups, particularly when they've just swept into power.
  • Our new Prime Minister needs a new speech writer. He's going to have to step up another level with his public speaking - last night's victory speech was the biggest speech of his career to date and TV3 actually cut away from it before it ended. Given his propensity on the campaign trail for mis-speaking he could be a bit of a George W Bush Prime Minister for us, when it comes to verbal precision. Which will be frustrating I'm sure, but in a way that sometimes makes us laugh while we shake our heads in disbelief.
So there's some possibilities of entertainment there, at least, as the new 59-member National caucus get to grips with their new dynamic, their new MPs, and their new positions of power. With any luck they'll cock it all up!

Really significant renewal in the ranks there. I'm particularly excited about Carmel Sepuloni and Jacinda Ardern becoming MPs, and also Rajen Prasad who will surely quickly establish himself as a great Shadow spokesperson, and I'm relieved that Steve Chadwick is still in on the list. Some of those who have gone kind of needed to, although it's an awful way to leave because I know it will be very hard for them, their families, and not least their staff.

Then there's the leadership. I was shocked that Clark resigned last night; I thought she would wait a while, maybe not contest the caucus election in the next week or so. But that's the way she rolls and it certainly gave her a gracious exit as Prime Minister. I think history will be kind to her.

While many Labour Left and Left of Labour people will not be happy about Goff ascending to lead Labour I'm looking past that right now (silver linings and all that) to the Deputy Leadership and hoping Maryan Street gets the nod. She'd be a Labour Left balance to Goff and she's a formidably competent person. There are several in that caucus, and many in the broader party, who will be keen to build around a Labour Left agenda for 2011.

The balance of social liberals has increased and the Older White Hetero Man Guard in those safe seats is now a pretty small group mostly fenced off from positions of power. This bodes well for the future of the party, and also may make it harder if National does try to repeal the amendment to s59, Civil Unions or the prostitution laws or put up new restrictions around abortion (although frankly I don't think they're going to go there unless a Private Members' Bill forces their hand.)

Two new MPs seems like a bit of a letdown after the highs of the polls recently, but it is still a signficant improvement and there seems no doubt now that they are an established party which will make the threshold safely for the foreseeable future. Being in opposition will give them some real opportunities to stake out their own ground, and will hopefully also mean that they get better at cooperating with Labour in terms of marginal electorate seats in the future.

Other stuff
Winston is gone. Although it's hard to imagine our political landscape without him so it feels really weird to be contemplating his disappearance. What did Muldoon do once he was no longer PM, perhaps that will be a pointer to what Winston might think about next?

The Christian parties got less than 2% of the vote, and Gordon Copeland and Phillip Field both got booted out. Anti-abortion, anti-woman agendas didn't get much traction, despite the liberalising flash-points of the last term supposedly mobilising them. I'm particularly hopeful that this means any dawning political party or movement for Pacific peoples will not be socially conservative, given the failure of Field's attempt. Tagata Pasifika had an excellent programme on at 8am this morning about the results for their people and what might happen next too.

The Maori Party will hopefully build a more harmonious relationship with Labour. Turia has indicated she will be stepping down at 2011, and much of the friction between the two parties has seemed to me to be a result of the meltdown between Clark and Turia over the foreshore and seabed. Sharples has several times reached out to Labour on the campaign trail, only to have Turia haul him back. While they're working together to oppose negative changes National and Act might pursue hopefully they can get a bit friendlier again.

Ok I think I'm out of good stuff for now. Hopefully this isn't as good as it gets.

* I don't blog about the area I work in, because I blog in my own time, as myself, not because of my work or as a employee. That's why you won't see me writing posts about early childhood education or primary schooling. It might get hard to bite my tongue as this Government progresses...


Hugh said...

Is Phil Goff really that much of a shoo-in for Labour?

I know he's reasonably well respected within the party (given that his pro-Rogernomics stance in the 80s has largely been forgotten) but I don't think he resonates that well with the public.

Tui said...

Julie, I've read this post several times this morning - it's really helping. I'm still going to miss Helen, especially, so much, but I am feeling a bit better about it.

The Bewildering Case of Ms Enid Tak-Entity said...

Well somebody is clearly not drinking. Nice to chat tonight ducks!

Anna said...

Muldoon hung around and made a bloody nuisance of himself for a while, didn't he?

Phil Goff has no appeal for me whatsoever, but I very much hope Maryann Street moves up the ranks. Like you, Julie, I'm highly impressed by her competence.

And I think that Helen will be looked back on with some fondness. Holding a caucus together for nine years is a formidable task. I don't think JK will be able to do it for three. It's sure to be a comedy spectacle - I just hope they don't inflict too much damage in the process.

I suppose the thing to think about now is how to organise an effective 'lay opposition' - eg community activism.


Anth said...

Muldoon was the narrator for a production of The Rocky Horror Show, which is kind of amusing given his opposition to the Homosexual Law Reform act. I can't think of anything similar for Winston to do, though it seems hard to belience he'll voluntarily abondon the lime light. Maybe he'll become a newspaper columnist, or a blogger.

Julie said...

Winston did actually take up blogging for the campaign, you can see it at I didn't really follow it but what I did see was really quite odd.

I reckon he should go on the caberet circuit with the one and only John Rowles. Imagine their popularity in the rest homes!

Ruth said...

Helen has been a great politician - no doubt about it. But it is time for someone else to buy the beer.

Key is a moderate - I doubt ACT will have much say in the next govt.

Personally I hoped Douglas and that wingnut associated with the Sensible Sentencing Trust would not get in.

But Key is a good man - I think you wil see that. He's not going to go far right on us, which is why I supported him.

Anna said...

I don't think ACT will get too much say either. I think Rodney will mouth off from time to time about law and order issues to differentiate his party, but otherwise ACT will toe the Nats' line. What that line is remains to be seen, of course.

Carol said...

I'm both gutted and thinking of the positives of the left loss and Clark's resignation.

Ultimately, though. I think the loss means the left have time to lose a lot of harmful baggage (at least as painted by the media & probably perceived by many). A 4th term would have included difficult negotiations with the Maori Party while it's sorting out the left-right tensions pulling it in different directions.

Clark (and Cullen's) resignations immediately were the right thing to do, even though at first surprising. This avoids any internal strife over leadership change, enables Clark and Cullen to provide support fot the new leader and new MPs as the party starts re-building. Clark will then move on to an international role (eg UN) where she will do much good for NZ, women and the world.

Re-gaining government for the left in 2011 will be a difficult task. The campaign starts today, but we probably now have a better chance of a left win than if the left was governing this term.

Goff would be OK as a caretaker PM, but, as Tim Watkins on Pundit points out, we need a more dynamic leader who can re-gain the support of many dissaffected working class people. Cunliffe may be inexperienced, but a couple of years as leader, and he has a chance of being more inspiring than Goff in the next election. So I'd prefer him as leader now.

Street for Deupty would provide a very sound, contrasting and capable team. Goff should have a senior portfolio.

PaulL said...

ACT aren't as scary as some on the left like to make out. Hide is a reasonably pragmatic guy, not the devil incarnate. There are plenty of policies and areas that he could make progress in that aren't really left or right, more are good for everyone. Working on the structure of local government, for example, would be good for most NZers, and could equally easily have been something that Labour might have done.

Anna said...

Paul, you're probably right in that Rodders is capable of contributing useful work - I suppose one plus of MMP is that it broadens the number of people who can play a useful role.

I haven't forgotten ACT's objectionable antics of the 90s though. And Roger Douglas at least seems to have changed not a jot since then. He made pretty clear last night that he's determined to stick to his ideological position come hell or high water. That'll be hard to reconcile with a pragmatic (for now) National party.

PaulL said...

anna: ACT didn't really exist in the nineties. And I thought Roger did a reasonable job (before he was just drunk - so far as I could tell) in asking Campbell exactly what it was about him that made him a baby eater.

As he put it, he just wants to give everyone in NZ access to private healthcare and education, not just the rich. I sometimes think that the media do ACT an enormous disservice in talking about the caricature without talking about the policies.

Julie said...

OK I thought of a few more silver linings:

1. The s59 referendum is now National's problem, hurrah!

2. Lots of right wing bloggers probably won't come back after the Xmas hols and lots of interesting new left wing voices may pop up, hopefully including lots of women.

3. Sam Lotu-Iiga really should resign his council seat in Auckland City, which would mean a by-election for the spot that hopefully the leftish ticket in Auckland could build around. Banks and co are doing lots of things that are pissing people off, so it could be a great chance to organise against him, although if the seat did change hands it wouldn't be sufficient to change the balance of power.

Hugh said...

Paul, I'd say ACT doesn't really exist now in comparison to the way it did in the nineties. Back then it got nearly 10% of the vote, now it considers 4% a good result.

Muldoon didn't limit himself to the Rocky Horror Show, he remained heavily involved in National party politics throughout the 80s, playing a key role in Jim Bolger's becoming the party leader. Of course, he stayed in Parliament, unlike Winston.

And for the record, Muldoon didn't oppose the Homosexual Law Reform Act.

Anna said...

Didn't Muldoon try to ruin Colin Moyle's career by exposing him as being gay?

Paul, Roger may say he wants healthcare and education for all, but in his long career he has presided over changes which hugely widened socioeconomic disparity. When you're poor, it's hard to purchase healthcare or education. The fact that Roger clings to policies which have manifestly failed suggests he doesn't give a shit about ensuring people's access to basic needs. His personal writings and statements suggest the same.

Julie said...

Actually PaulL I really wanted the media to talk about Act's policies, because I think the image the public has of Act does not reflect the radical nature of many of their policies.

Eg their DPB policy says women (apparently there are only mums on the DPB) have to use up their superannuation contributions first, the father's contributions second, and then once both of those are gone they could get a safety net benefit. That's pretty out there imho. And it ignores the reality of poverty - that you don't suddenly come into a pot of gold when you're older and for many people (solo parents especially I expect) it's hard to save at all.

Anna said...

That superannuation policy is particularly nutty, given that ACT is in favour of people making their own financial provisions. It's really just asking women to trade off poverty now for poverty in old age.

And it shows quite astonishing naivety about how people actually live. How many parents (esp of young kids) have giant superannuation provisions to draw on? A lot can't even afford to save a deposit for a mortgage.

There's an incredible misogyny about this policy - it's all about punishing women for getting pregnant in circumstances ACT disapproves of, eg without husbands. Interesting that feckless mums have to use up their superann before their babies' fathers - it's a pretty clear hierarchy of blame for unplanned pregnancies, isn't it?

Idiot/Savant said...

For example I was thinking about whether there are still any strongly anti-abortion MPs in their ranks and the simple answer is that I don't know.

Tim Macindoe (National, hamilton somewhere) is one of the new intake who is strongly anti-abortion. The rest, I just don't know about. which given that it could be an issue this term thanks to RTL's court challenge, could be a problem.

Anonymous said...

"The s59 referendum is now National's problem, hurrah!"

Good point! NZ was under international pressure to change the original law and I can't see John Key being able to stand up to that so it will be fun to see how he tries to manage this situation. Brilliant. (katy)

Hugh said...

Didn't Muldoon try to ruin Colin Moyle's career by exposing him as being gay?

He didn't try, he succeeded. And yes, he did, but that doesn't make him a homophobe - he was simply going for the throat in that classic Muldoonist way. It's worth noting that, had Moyle been involved in homosexual acts (he wasn't) it would have been against the law at the time, and a Minister breaking the law is a fairly serious matter.

Muldoon did want the age of consent for gay men to be 21, not 18 (as it was at the time). But within the National Party, in particular, he was a liberal on the matter. He allowed one of his MPs to sponsor the Reform Act, and voted for it. The worst that can be said is that he didn't reign in the anti-reform faction within his own party - but that's the nature of conscience votes.

Heine said...

Say what you like about Sir Roger, but he is respected and even a little popular overseas. I was even asked by a few Slovaks if he become PM as he was pretty big there.

I am not worried about him, nor should any of you. Pick up any of his books and you'll see a man who careds very deeply about NZers and improving our lives.

Danielle said...

And by 'New Zealanders', Heine, you mean 'well-off men'? That ACT DPB policy is *awful*.

Hugh said...

Clint, do you know of any politicians who don't want to improve the lives of New Zealanders?

Ben R said...

"Older White Hetero Man Guard in those safe seats"

A group who are clearly morally inferior & can be safely demonised? Why the hate for people on the basis of their skin colour & sexual orientation? It is a bit of a double standard don't you think?

As for Winston, I think he would be a hit on talkback radio. I think an autobiography would also sell well.

Julie said...

Ben R, perhaps I shouldn't use clever shorthand and presume that people know what I mean?

By "Older White Hetero Man Guard" I meant the cohort of Labour MPs who are in safe electorate seats and have systematically voted to protect the Older White Hetero Man stereotype stuff, eg against Civil Unions, throughout their time in Parliament. But see that's a much longer paragraph.

Frankly I quite like a lot of older white hetero men. My Dad was one and I loved him very much. My partner (and possibly my son, depending on which team he bats for) will one day join their ranks. My issue with the OWHM Guard is that they are blind to the advantages they have, and thus assume that we have a level playing field when it's pretty obvious to most outside their demographic that we don't. said...

There are other silver linings, or issues for contemplation at least. Roger Douglas has promised to write monthly opinion(ated) pieces on the NZ political economy. If he follows through, it will be
interesting to see if Key can balance the exremism of Douglas vs his more centrist sell to the voting public. He could ignore Douglas but may end up with a situation similar to the one English had with a septic Williamson in the National caucus. A maybe problem.

We also see the end of the 'personality' based political parties. NZF gone. Jim A likely won't want to spend too much time in opposition and will fold the progressives when he goes. If there is one consolation from the election result, it is the end of nest featherer Peter Dunne. Sure, he will line his pocket for another 3 years in the National government, but his party is history. It is now only himself and he only just hung on to his seat. He is working out his notice period.

It is also the end of the 'no-personality' political parties. Copeland (and Baldock)is gone. The kiwi failed to fly.

I wonder if, with Goff as leader, Labour may get back some of its 'bloke' vote who moaned about all the feminists running the govt.

Hugh said...

We also see the end of the 'personality' based political parties

Not with National around, we won't.

Julie said...

A nasty possibility occured to me on the drive to work this morning.

1. John Key has said he won't have Douglas in Cabinet.

2. Act and National appear to have come to an in principle agreement that Act will have Ministers outside Cabinet.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Although I think if Douglas were to be a Minister outside Cabinet then the electorate would balk a bit and it would take the shine off Key's honeymoon. Sounds like we'll know by the start of next week.

Placebogirl said...

I have to say, one silver lining I was hoping for was an inspirational change in leadership for Labour. I'm bitterly disappointed with Phil Goff as a choice, because he isn't it. Where's NZ's Obama?

Ben R said...

"I have to say, one silver lining I was hoping for was an inspirational change in leadership for Labour. I'm bitterly disappointed with Phil Goff as a choice, because he isn't it. Where's NZ's Obama?"

I think inspirational leadership is a little overrated. Helen Clark wasn't exactly inspirational, but she was probably the most well organised and effective PM I know of. I think Goff could also be very good if given the chance.

"I meant the cohort of Labour MPs who are in safe electorate seats and have systematically voted to protect the Older White Hetero Man stereotype stuff, eg against Civil Unions, throughout their time in Parliament."

Perhaps, although I think if you look outside NZ those stereotype views don't just apply to older white guys. For instance, consider the proposition to ban gay marriage in California

"Whites voted very narrowly against the ban, 51-49 percent. Asian-Americans voted the same. Hispanics voted for it, by 53-47 percent. Blacks voted for it, overwhelmingly, 70-30. Blacks can be said to have put it over the top. Hypothetically, had no blacks voted, we compute a vote of 50-50," according to an analysis by ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer."

Also, Time Magazine had an article a couple of years ago suggesting Jamaica was the most homophobic place in the world!,8599,1182991,00.html

"My issue with the OWHM Guard is that they are blind to the advantages they have, and thus assume that we have a level playing field when it's pretty obvious to most outside their demographic that we don't."

The difficulty I have with the idea of advantages is how do you separate out an unfair advantage, from someone who has worked hard to do well? The danger of identifying groups as being privileged is pretty well documented, for instance the Armenian Jews, the Kulaks under Stalin etc. (mind you my girlfriend works in the construction industry and certainly feels it would be better if she were male in that particular industry!)

Placebogirl said...

African Americans may have voted overwhelmingly against gay marriage, but they did so on the back of misinformation campaigns that told them their churches would lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to marry gay couples, a statement which basically boils down to "teh gayz will destroy your church". Also, it is well documented that leaders in all kind of community organisations (including churches) were urging their followers to vote in the last American election, so I'd lay money that those involved in community organisations were more likely to vote. So, who paid for the misinformation campaigns targetting black churchgoers? OWHMs (as opposed to those who happen to be older, of caucasian extraction, identify as male, and be attracted to women).

Hugh said...

Placebogirl, your points are well made, but I think you're denying African American voters agency, albeit selectively. The idea that they will do whatever their ministers or advertisers tell them to and that they can't be held responsible for it is frankly pretty patronising.

I think the broader issue is that there are a hell of a lot of people in California who voted for Obama and also for Proposition 8. Black conservatism might be part of it, but another major part of it is the fact that Obama and his surrogates were extremely lukewarm about opposing it. If California were a crucial swing state, that would be somewhat understandable (if not excusable), but the odds of California going Republican, even if Obama took an unpopular stand on this one issue, are minute.