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Election 2023, Left-wing, Right-wing or winging it?
As I am prone to do customarily, I comment on politics – one of the three things one should never comment on because you will always piss someone off. So here goes!
New Zealand is set to vote on two key issues:
- Dealing with the current recession.
It manifests itself in inflation, the cost of living, interest rates, ultimately rising unemployment, middle-class poverty and hopelessness, falling production and increasing world instability and protectionism. The first choice will be who is most competent to lead the government response.
- New Zealand’s future.
The second issue, and a distant second for many, is what sort of country do we want to live in? What future do we see for New Zealand? And how are the parties lining up on that?
The political landscape, MMP and the confusion of quite basic choices
Nothing much has changed in the nearly 100 years of party politics in New Zealand. There is the choice between self-determination and aspiration and the protection and enablement of the individual, usually personified by the Right. And entitlement, caring for the whole of society imperative, usually personified by the Left.
Until the advent of MMP, it was pretty easy: National was Right-wing, Labour was Left-wing, and both were semi-balanced versions of each political cult, one Centre-Right and one Centre-Left. Philosophically, National championed business, aspiration and the individual, and Labour championed a more team approach of supporting the whole of society with government and big social initiatives.
With MMP a fractional 5% middle of the spectrum voter decides the result, which will prevail, Centre-Right or Centre-Left. Consequently, both the major parties drift to the Centre to try to win that elusive 5%, and both pander to the perception of the middle and the hot issues exorcising that 5% mind.
The outcome is that the two main parties inevitably drift to the middle under MMP, and become neither Left nor Right but more Democrat, PC, and dare I say it, non-controversial. In a policy sense, it is hard to differentiate between the two main parties regarding Left and Right philosophy.
As a second-order consequence of the convergence to the Centre of mainstream politics, fringe parties emerge on the Left and Right, which are of more extremist views of Right and Left – enter Act and the Greens. Extremist parties tend to vilify overtly or covertly the other extreme. The Greens vilify wealth and perceived privilege, a classic communist/socialist approach, advocate extreme redistribution measures, and the Right tends to cut and dice the constituency of the Left and find a scapegoat to persecute. Act seems to focus on race, a common football in New Zealand, a good one played by NZ First and National in the past.
It is rare under MMP for a major party to obtain an absolute majority. As a result, the middle parties need coalition partners, and the Centre-Right normally picks a Right-wing party, and the Centre-Left picks a Left-wing party. These extremist parties bargain and move the elected Centre party Right or Left.
So, as electors, what are we left with? A choice between the two philosophies is determined by a two-step process, with more uncertainty than the nice old two-party system.
So the first thing a voter has to do is work out whether they want collectivism as a future governance state for our country or responsible individual aspiration. I.e., society-centric or individual-centric. It will be one of these only two basic choices.
If the individual aspiration is your philosophy for a country you want to live in, you are Right-wing; if not, you are Left-wing. The second issue is deciding whether we are in an economic crisis. If so, competent hands will be essential.
Electioneering and policy statements
Most ‘policies’ are just noise to grab headlines and pander to the middle 5%, so don’t get confused by a line-by-line analysis of what each party will do.
If you need a back pocket increase, then, of course, work out who will give you the most. If you do this, you are unlikely to be in the middle 5%; however, the relative poverty line is rising quickly, so you might be.
If you are doing this ‘what’s in it for me?’ analysis, understand that everything they give you comes out of someone else’s pocket. As a result, this is usually a cynical numbers game of ensuring a small number pays a lot to give a large number a little. This is the Greens’ song sheet.
The few that are being taken from shout “politics of envy” (aims at destroying others’ good fortune) or, in extreme cases, shout “fascism”. This is the Act song sheet.
More noise and electioneering are best ignored
However, be aware. History tells us that when that noise gets headlines and public fear is engaged, taking from the few to give to the many with promised redistributions is the beginning of an unpleasant journey. Read the history of the Jewish persecution from 1933 to 1939 – it was economic appropriation and restrictions initially. It is always the first step on the journey to persecution.
The majority say it is just and fair, and all should be able to live well. Both are correct in what they say from their perspective.
This sort of noise always occurs at the bottom of an economic cycle. Political extremism and hate rhetoric strongly signal that we are nearing or in a cycle similar to 1929 to 1945. If so, that is worrying. Or maybe it is just noise and marketing to win votes for politicians. Let’s hope so.
In times of plenty, the noise is different. When the middle class thrives, they become more altruistic and think about big social issues. Be that the environment, education, housing, health, or whatever is the day’s issue.
But when times are tough, they focus on putting food on their table, cost of living, economics, jobs, etc. So, the middle class and that swing of 5% follow economic cycles.
New Zealand’s basic cultural setting
Fundamentally, New Zealand is a Right-wing capitalist country that swings Left when it has plenty, feels good, and has the time to think about the soft, fluffy stuff, especially if the Right-wing governments have ignored it for too long.
Before 1935, NZ governments were all individualists in sentiment. It went on for too long (like 70 years). The economic cycle reached an ugly bottom, and we flipped to the Left and remained there for 14 years. To be fair, we suspended elections between 1939 and 1946. Then followed;
- Two terms National
- One term Labour
- Three terms National
- One term Labour
- Three terms National
- Two terms Labour
- Three terms National
- Three terms Labour (Helen Clarke) – first long-term Left-leaning government since the 1930’s
- Three terms National
Based on this track record, Labour is out this time.
Base characteristics of the parties
Why does National usually get longer in government than Labour?
In simple terms, they are just more competent leaders. Having said this, they sort of imploded when Bill English stepped down, which is exactly what happened to Labour when Helen Clarke lost. National is usually more resilient; however, the last six years in opposition have been a very ‘labouresk’ journey for National.
The second factor is the emotional journey each party takes. Except for Helen Clarke, mostly Labour drifts to hubris faster than National, hence why they are thrown out in one or two terms. National takes longer to become entitled and arrogant.
So, in terms of a safe pair of hands, a change is probably best, and National is the pick of a very sad bunch to choose from.
Now, to the extreme ends of the spectrum
NZ First., first.
They are a bit like the Destiny Church, a cult, with Winston being king in his kingdom, spinning the same rhetoric year in and year out. All he wants is the kingmaker role so he can play god again. A vote for NZ first is an opt-out of making a philosophical decision and leaving it to Winston to do it for you. You are better than that, you need to decide competence and direction.
They are Left-wing, borderline communists, and play the hate game in most of their policies. Their protested green environmental mantra is simply a hook to win more out to the middle and, dare I say it, Right-wing wealthy who have the means to care about this stuff.
They reconcile The Green wrap of the Left-wing mantra by saying without eliminating poverty, we can’t have a sustainable future; thus, extreme Left-wing policies are necessary to support our Green agenda.
Time to call bullshit on that.
Seymour is relatable; he is humorous and a bit of a joker, quite likeable, as might I say is Hipkins. Luxon and the Green leaders are hard to relate to and or like, but this should be ignored; their competence and agenda matter.
Act and Seymour are beginning to cut people into small groups and pitch them against each other, the discrimination game that the Greens play. Act is a focused party on individual aspiration and incentivising that, or at the very least, getting government out of the way of individual aspirations.
Irrelevant and a wasted vote, they are unlikely to get above 5%. The time for sending a message or signalling minority philosophies is, for the moment, over.
This election is the most important one since 1935. We must decide on direction and competence and between choices we may not be comfortable with. Blue (Right-wing) or red (Left-wing), the rest is mud.
The final thing to note on tactical voting – whichever party you support, sometimes splitting your vote makes sense.
Vote on election day, have your say, be responsible and think about it, and make a direction and competence choice, ignore the rest.