• Political Circus in the Lead-Up to 2014, Pass The Bread

last modified June 4, 2013 by strypey

Danyl Strype of Disintermedia.net.nz comments on the political manoeuvring on the right of the NZ parliamentary spectrum.

The Daily Blog commented yesterday on a suspected neo-conservative coup brewing in the National Party. The comments below the main article dwelt mainly on the shifting sands of the relationships between National and its coalition partners, both present and potential, and the likelihood that the Nats will need the Conservatives to maintain a majority after 2014 if ACT continue their current trajectory into oblivion.

ACT always had at least two political currents running through it, the Big Money neo-liberals and neo-conservatives who founded it, and the principled libertarians, who were savvy enough to realise that Perigo's "LibertariaNZ" mob were unelectable (not to mention Islamophobic bullies). Many of the latter would have actually fit in just as well in the Greens but saw them as too "lefty" and/or "hippy" , and some of them may have actually gone there now rather than work with Banks or Key. Others are returning to the Libertarianz, or looking to influence emerging forces like the larval NZ version of the Pirate Party.

One commenter, one Frank Macskasy, expressed a fear that the demise of ACT will result in an influx of hard-right ACTivists into National. I think the very reason for ACT's demise is that this happened a long time ago, when Don Brash became leader. All the Big Money ACT founders switched horses to back him, then Key. The events described in the Hollow Men make this pretty clear, and this explains both the hard-right shift in economic policy, and the constant attempts to spin these policies as centrist. Classic "wolf in sheep's clothing".

In the same comment, Macskasy made the cardinal mistake of assuming there is no difference being economically right-wing and socially conservative. I'm no fan of ACT's economic policy, which was certainly to the right economically, but technically speaking it was (neo)-liberal, not conservative.

Neither were they ever really socially conservative. Think of Rodney Hyde's spirited, and I think genuine, opposition to the "Terrorism Suppression" amendment bill (timed as it was to coincide with the Operation8 raids) and the Search and Surveillance bill, and their interest in cannabis law reform (this is not really a "right or left" issue in an economic sense, but it's certainly not something social conservatives support). Credit where credit is due.

Macskasy also called ACT racist, I'm not sure that's fair either, although some of their MPs tended in that direction (I'm thinking of Muriel Newman and her NZCPR think tank), I don't think most of them cared about the skin colour of those running the economy, as long as they were doing it via suitably corporate structures. True, this is a eurocentric view (Māori can run whatever they want as long as they do it in the style of European liberals), but one based on monocultural blindness. The "some of my best friends are maoris but..." kind of subconscious liberal prejudice, not the sneering conservative bigotry most people think of when they talk about "racism".

Most of the libertarians would have left in disgust when they realised they couldn't stop a racist, arch-conservative like John Banks becoming leader, leaving the party an empty placeholder. Shit floats though, and I wouldn't be surprised if Banks ended up leading the Conservatives into the 2014 election. Colin Craig is about as skilled at political gaming as Brash, and maybe smart enough to realise it and look for someone with some experience to front his party. DailyBlog commenters are already picking a deal between Key and the Conservatives for Epsom, and well, Banks is already sitting there, and he has shown he'll stick his head in any trough it fits in. He has the requisite social bigotry, and he's proved he can work with National (despite the early speed-wobbles around his DotCom amnesia).

The vote the Conservatives are pitching to is the same one that nearly got the Christian Coalition 5%, then followed Future NZ into United Future, thence to the Kiwi Party. Having become disillusioned with that fading star, I suspect they were split between National and NZ First in 2011, depending on whether they tend left or right economically. The right-leaning conservatives won't forgive National for gay marriage in a hurry, just as the left-leaning ones haven't forgiven Labour for the child abuse bill. The Conservatives will be trying to attract both, but it's going to be an uphill struggle without a sitting electorate MP to guarantee them representation, and prove they're not a wasted vote. As an obvious coalition partner for National, they'll be an easier choice for the right-leaning conservatives who want to punish the Nats, but expect the Conservatives to run a Greens-inspired 'not left or right but steampunk victorian' campaign, and another 2008 style media sting against NZ First to shock some of their supporters into the Conservative camp.

There's plenty of political circus to look forward to in the lead-up to 2014. Now we just need some bread, or to paraphrase Paula Bennett, let us eat cake.

Originally published on Aotearoa.Indymedia.org (June, 2013)