• The Incoming Tide

    The 2017 election was a roller-coaster ride – and it’s not over yet.  The special votes, yet to be counted, could well – in an election of such tight margins – make all the difference, and that’s to say nothing of the post-election coalition negotiations yet to come.

    In the meantime, some player ratings.  The star of the show was surely Jacinda Ardern.  Her charm, energy and intelligence lit up the campaign.  She resurrected Labour, from a standing start less than two months ago, when Labour support stood at 23%, to the real possibility of forming the next government.  Whatever the outcome, she will live to fight another day.

    The National party achieved the creditable feat of winning the largest number of votes after three successive terms in office, but the loss of two of their coalition partners (and the Epsom indulgence of ACT having gained them nothing more than an irritant) has left them exposed, without visible means of support – and more people voted against retaining the government than voted for it.

    National’s achievement was, of course, tainted by their readiness to resort to “attack politics”, supported as it was by deliberate misrepresentations about Labour’s plans which not one reputable economist could be found to endorse.

    The acceptance of, and susceptibility to, such tactics by New Zealand voters leaves our politics all the poorer.  We must hope that this distressing disregard for principle will not be carried into government.

    The collapse of the Maori party suggests that Maori voters have realised that the issues that particularly matter to Maori cannot be safely entrusted to a government that sees its priority as serving the interests of business.  A large number of similarly placed pakeha voters have been much slower on the uptake.  Labour, and Labour’s Maori MPs, must now show that they are worthy of the trust reposed in them.

    The Greens held on, surviving mistakes of their own making, and remain in play as a possible coalition partner in a progressive government.  They continue to bring a valuable dimension to our politics.

    As always seemed likely, the final decision as to who will form the next government rests with Winston Peters and his New Zealand First MPs.  I make no predictions and offer no advice.  But I do express a hope.

    I think the election shows that there is an appetite and a momentum for change that is likely to grow rather than subside.  “More of the same” is not sufficiently inspiring to claim new adherents.

    We have a real chance to make a fresh start.  And remember that, in MMP politics, votes for the largest party carry no additional weight.  What matters is whether a majority exists in parliament, not where the votes come from.

    The chance arises to bring fresh minds to bear on old and neglected issues.  Rather than act as a mere adjunct to an existing administration, Winston could play an important role, as an elder statesman in, and foundation member of, a new government – one that catches the incoming tide.

    Bryan Gould

    24 September 2017


Leave a reply.