Tuesday, 4 November 2014

“By Their Fruits Shall Ye Know Them”: There’s nothing ‘moderate’ about John Key’s government.

Wolves In Wolves' Clothing: What Key and Joyce, both inveterate poll-watchers, clearly grasped after National’s last-minute failure in 2005 was that when push came to shove, the New Zealand electorate just wasn’t ready to take yet another wild ride into political and economic upheaval. National had to learn how to "make haste slowly".
 
NEW ZEALAND’S LOVE AFFAIR with John Key, like most enduring relationships, is based on trust. Ever since he wrested the leadership of the National Party from the scary Don Brash, it has been Key’s unwavering mission to present both himself and the party he leads as ordinary, decent and (most important of all) non-threatening. Looking back over the past six years, only a fool would say he hasn’t been extraordinarily successful.
 
Had Brash won the 2005 election New Zealand would have been plunged into a period of acute political instability.
 
Faced with a government determined to relegate the Treaty of Waitangi to the status of an historical relic, and abolish the Maori seats altogether, the Maori Party, the Greens and (with much less enthusiasm) the Labour Party would have found themselves mobilising not only a furious Maoridom, but also a very significant swathe of Pakeha society as well. The resulting clash of a very significant minority of the population with “the racist Right” would have made the 1981 Springbok Tour protests look like a tepid historical dress rehearsal. After three years of increasingly violent and ultimately fatal confrontations, it’s likely that Brash, the National Party and their rabid Act allies would have been consigned to electoral oblivion. The Right’s electoral rehabilitation would have taken at least a decade.
 
In a very real sense, then, National (and New Zealand) dodged a bullet in 2005. And the two National Party politicians who appreciated just how big a bullet it was that had whistled over their heads were John Key and Steven Joyce. It’s not that these two politicians underwent some sort of Road to Damascus conversion from far-Right fanatics to kitten-eyed moderates – far from it. What they grasped was that any further attempts to impose the entire right-wing agenda in one fell swoop were bound to produce exactly the same electoral failure.
 
Brash had taken his inspiration from Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson. All three of these politicians were “policy aggressors” determined to overturn “the conventional wisdom” in the name of a radically reconfigured New Zealand economy and society. But what Key and Joyce, both inveterate poll-watchers, clearly grasped was that National’s last-minute failure in 2005 was only partly due to Brash’s personal stumbles. When push came to shove, the New Zealand electorate just wasn’t ready to take yet another wild ride into political and economic upheaval. If National was to capitalise successfully upon the electorate’s growing disenchantment with “Nanny Helen’s “ “political correctness” and a Labour Party fast becoming unrecognisable to “Middle New Zealand”, then the negative legacies of Richardson, Shipley and Brash had to be expunged.
 
And nobody does expunge like John Key. In spite of the fact that in his earliest incarnation as a National Party back-bencher, the MP for Hellensville boasted a decidedly reactionary political profile, John Key, as Leader of the Opposition, proved to be extraordinarily adept at presenting himself as “Mr Moderate”, “Mr Bloke-Next-Door”, “Mr Guy-I’d-Like-To-Have-Beer-With” or (if you were a woman) “Mr Guy-I’d-Like-To-Shag”. If Brash’s mentors had been Douglas and Richardson, the policy aggressors; Key’s were Sir Keith Holyoake, Jim Bolger and Clark herself: incrementalists all.
 
But just because, as a politician, you’ve decided to make haste slowly, doesn’t mean that you don’t get to where you’re going in the end. A dispassionate review of the Key Government’s legislative achievements since 2008 could only conclude by observing that notwithstanding all the taunts of National having turned into “Labour-Lite”, this is a very right-wing government indeed. It’s unrelenting hostility to all forms of environmental protection; its opening of our land and sea to mineral exploration and extraction; its blank refusal to take any meaningful action against Climate Change and its determination to protect the dairy industry from any and all forms of practical regulation: these are only the beginning of what is now a very long list National’s reactionary victories.
 
And just consider what has characterised the opening shots of National’s third term. Dismissed as mere technical adjustments, the Government’s changes to the Employment Relations Act place New Zealand at the far right-wing reaches of the OECD. (As the CTU president, Helen Kelly, quite rightly points out.) Then there is Bill English’s and Paula Bennett’s extraordinary decisions in relation to state housing. At a time when people are living in caravan-parks and cars, the idea of selling up to a third of the nation’s state houses represents a sudden and utterly unmandated return to the darkest days of Jenny Shipley. And as if these measures weren’t reactionary enough, it now seems certain that Key will commit New Zealand military forces to the confused and almost certainly ineffective US-led war against the Islamic State.
 
“Moderate”? “Labour-Lite”? Not really. John Key’s government is every bit as bad as its predecessors. It is, however, a great deal better than most of them at pretending it isn’t. And to those who find it impossible to see “that nice Mr Key” as being anything other than the soul of reason and common sense, I can only offer the words of St Matthew’s Gospel:
 
 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”
 
This essay was posted simultaneously on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road on Tuesday, 4 November 2014.

29 comments:

Barry said...

Hello Chris. I think you are wrong about Brash - I think he was the last chance NZ had to ever make any sense again.

With key, our country is deteriorating into a garbage dump of racial discrimination in favour of part-maoris and Pacific islanders. That includes his continuation of the sham "treaty settlements" (ie dishonest gifts).

It's back to the Stone Age with john key!

pat said...

...and frighteningly 54% of Kiwis recently endorsed this philosophy....and Labour seem either unwilling or unable to counter it....but will say it is encouraging to see someone finally calling a spade a spade.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Characterising Key as Mister "I'd like to shag" is not particularly complimentary to women :-).

Victor said...


Do large numbers of New Zealand women truly harbour fantasies of a night of abandon with John Key?

What a weird thought.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Stone Age or nineteenth century? What terrible choices :-). I think I'd plump for the Paleolithic diet thanks.

Davo Stevens said...

Be interesting to see what Brash's background really is. Rumour has it that he's a CIA creepie.

Sadly Surgeon that comment about Key is accurate. Lots of women in the 20 to 40yr old group go all squirmy and gooey over him.

The Flying Tortoise said...

There is nobody as in NOBODY in New Zealand politics that I trust less than John Key...

Anonymous said...

The United Nations recommended very recently that as a territory NZ has a statutory maximum number of working hours each week put into legislation.

Did we like heck! And spot the indifference from the left... We are currently f####

markus said...

".....And frighteningly 54% of Kiwis recently endorsed this philosophy....."

About 53% of Voters cast their vote for a party of the Right, Pat, but that represents only 38% of New Zealanders eligible to vote.

pat said...

I sit corrected marcus...53% of those that bothered to vote endorsed this philosophy, as National are want to remind us at every opportunity.

Alistair Young said...

The oriwa speech of Don Brash was approved of by 91% of kiwis according to the pollsters and really put brash on the map as a rising force, so Im guessing if brash won and eliminated the maori electorate seats and other forms of 'state based rascism' he would have been regarded as a hero by most.

It was the scandal over the links by Brash to the exclusive brethren and his aggressive economic agenda that cost Brash, his race relations policies were bang on the money if populism and winning power are your goals.

As for Key being radical right - thats fantasy stuff even for a Paleo-Red like you Chris Trotter.

By the end of this term National would have sold off 49% of its shares in a few power companies, implemented some mild labor law liberalizations (undeniably mild compared to the Employment contracts act of 1991) and flicked a few thousand state houses - all over 9 years - outrage, string up the right win radicals the world is coming down.

Im guessing your working on a tome of leftwing Fairy stories and this is the first featuring the wicked ultra rightwing John Key being defeated again and again in many forms by various selfless moderate heroes including Russell, Martyn/Martin and Helen Kelly etc - I want one for christmas Chris, make sure your wearing deep red when you fling it down my chimney.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to shag"

"Lots of women in the 20 to 40yr old group go all squirmy and gooey over him".

You have to be joking! You obviously don't talk to many women in the 20 to 40 age group!!

Anonymous said...

Chris, tell all that to the NZ Herald. Good luck. They are his No one Fans and bootlickers.

I would have trusted Don Brash far more. Key is just a hollow millionaire, in love with himself and the limelight. Ego driven to the core.

NZ hasn't had a decent PM for decades.

Anonymous said...

so, Labour need to get the near million eligible to vote to do so...but will they. That is the game-changer. The people never seem to get tired of the unprincipled, sneaky Key. Strange indeed.

pat said...

"By the end of this term National would have sold off 49% of its shares in a few power companies, implemented some mild labor law liberalizations (undeniably mild compared to the Employment contracts act of 1991) and flicked a few thousand state houses - all over 9 years - outrage, string up the right win radicals the world is coming down"
....arnt you forgetting one or two items there Alistair?

...how about kneecapping the RMA, introduction of charter schools, signing NZ up to a trade agreement blind, weakening provision of ACC and welfare, the sinking lid on health and education spending and the GCSB spying on NZ residents in contravention of the statute are a few that spring to mind.....but then I guess you could be using the services of the same PR company that the government use.

Davo Stevens said...

@Alistair: Brash was pandering to the White Upper-middle class voters with that speech.

Also the Brethren should have stayed out of politics as their doctrine stops them from voting. No voting -- no politics simple.

"Flicking off a few State Houses" is not the problem mate. It is the fact that the State Houses are an asset and he's selling off another big bite of one of our assets, surely you can see that, even after he stated many times that he wasn't gong to do so. That makes him a liar! Further with the poverty level here being at an all-time high it is profoundly stupid to sell off something that so many needy people can use.

If he was going to sell off some and build new ones with the money it wouldn't be so bad. But the afterthought of using a little bit of that income to pay accommodation allowances is ridiculous! Plain bullshit!

Wake up Alistair, our Johnny is on a privatising drive of more of our assets to make his mates even richer.

Jigsaw said...


I think that the 'like to shag' comment is really pathetic. I guess that you sometimes really have to make something out of practically nothing at all to write a regular column but this is down at the bottom of the barrel stuff. Much more fun to watch the left wrestle with itself I would have thought. I wonder what you would have thought about similar stuff written about Helen?

Jigsaw said...

Barry-completely agree about Don Brash.

pat said...

exotic fruit with a familiar flavour....http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/british-government-leading-gunpowder-plot-democracy-eu-us-trade

Charles said...

You lot seem to think Key is the reason National have done so well in government but you are missing the key (sorry) factor. Ok he is popular with most as the nice charmer next door but that is only part of the story of nine years, probably twelve.
So what is the other factor in this equation Chris which you and your dullard blogger groupies are missing constantly?
Look in the mirror guys and girls!
It's the alternative government. For example, I was out this evening with six other people. Two of them voted Green. For fuck's sake I said, why!!? They said they dislike Key and the Greens seemed the only real opposition to him. The other four all voted National on the excuse that they thought Dotcom & Hager were trying to hijack our democracy and the alternative to Key's lot was worse than him.
So you really do not get it. National are lite, boring and benign. It is just that the alternative government are not credible, at all. Get your act together and you'll get elected. Until then forget the bullshit about far right National. It is pure fantasy. As one guy at the table said to me tonight. Middle of the road is what is popular in NZ so that was Clark and now it's Key. Dead right. No. Dead central.
But I still think the first move Labour should make is left left left. To take out those Greens. They are the left's Achilles's heel because 90% of the country cannot stand the idea of them in a government.

Charles said...

And another thing...
I suppose Chris you might want more of an argument from the likes of my lot why we think Key & Co actually are very moderate, indeed Nat-lite.
Well you cite Brash & Act. His ideas about telling Maori to get lost were very popular indeed but the current National view is yes Brash was of course correct but no policy is needed since that is the way Maoriville are going anyway, ie out of the picture. Maori inter-marriage and 'Pakehaisation' are occurring at a rapid rate so very soon if not already, the average Maori has more Pakeha ancestors than Maori. So that culture is in permanent decline and no issues in future are seen so the Brash approach is just not required. And anyway, the more Pakeha with a little Maori in them who do well, the more likely they are to vote National anyway so good luck to them if they feel 'Maori', as long as they join middle NZ.
And on labour laws: The whole trend these days is get those who employ happy to hire new staff easily, readily. Yes more like in the US but less harshly. That way when the economy turns up the hiring response is quick and easy, not cautious and slow, as e.g. in France with its permanent 12% unemployment. Would you prefer that?
Sure it suits employers but it works for most employees too who after all, can change jobs at the drop of a hat.
So again, it is not a far right plot, it is purely pragmatic and pure Economics 101. New Labour should embrace it but try to add a bit more to the pay packets of the low paid. That trick will get it elected, if it looks credible and not beholden to the likes of the morally vain Greens, let alone the real old left further afield..

Alistair Young said...

Davo Stevens and Pat - sorry to ruffle your red feathers with my insistance that the current government is not hard right wing - I use the 4th labour government and Ruths 18 months from 1991-1993 as my yardstick and JK is about as right wing as Helen clark in my world view.

State houses are hardly state assets and selling a few thousand dosnt constitute stealth privatisation for any other than the 5% to the left of martin/martyn. Charter schools - public private partnerships - we already have thousands of them they are called early childhood education centers and you get state subsidies when your kid turns 3, National have added 5 more and the fuss from the paleo reds - must be gulags and childhood slavery.

Key is a true MMP conservative - not more blitzkrieg neoliberal revolution , instead you stick to the center and push through the same policies incrementally over a long period of time - pragmatic incrementalism.

The fact that the Nats gained an extra 75000 votes this time round and almost nailed an outright majority shows that not only is it effective economically (Yes I read whaleoil as well as bowalley) but its also very well liked by the mass of voters.

Davo Stevens said...

Oh Charles you just can't help yourself can you!

Firstly there is nothing pragmatic about the employment changes at all. It's about DRIVING WAGES DOWN!! The Employment Contracts Act implies that everyone is a skilled and experienced negotiator.most are not. Especially those who are desperate to get a job, they will take on almost everything.

Secondly the main reason that people put the Gnats back in was because there is no real difference between the Gnats and the Labs. Their basic policies are the same. The only difference was cosmetic. Why change the Govt. when there will only be the same policies? Remember that Govts, are voted out never voted in.

The Greens have moved away from their hair shirts and sandals and gone mainstream now. Yes, they still keep their core policies but appeal to the middle ground.

Finally, you can't run a country like a textbook or a business, society is too complex for that.

Alistair Young said...

Davo stevens your salivating now - I have touched a raw nerve, Chris must be pulled up about allowing non martyn/martin istas to comment on his blog - hes one of those rare birds a lefty who practices freedom of speech as well as preaches it.

Davo bringing in the 3 month trial adds flexibility to employment - it dosnt lower wages, its hardly radical and is used all over the world, pragmatic incrementalism.

The current changes are largely about curbing union power (tea break elimination headline grabs aside), primarily bo forcing them to announce and end date to industrial action and by removing the pressure on new recruits into union dominated industries from being pushed into membership agreements. Given the low and falling rates of unionisation this will clearly not impact wages for most people.

I stopped using 'the world is to complicated to understand it so f**k up' at about 16 years old to much of an intellectual copout.

Victor said...

Alistair Young

I would agree that the current National-led government is less "pure" in its neo-liberal rigour than either the 1980s Labour government or the National government that followed that absurd farrago.

But I think that Key & co. are even more aligned with the interests of their friends in selected upper echelons of the business community than were the ideologues of the '80s and '90s.

Sometimes that means more neo-liberalism and sometimes less.

I dislike quoting monsters. But, as Lenin pointed out, the most important questions in politics are "who?" and "whom?"

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah, the famous blood quantum Charles? I think you'll find that people who study this sort of thing know that ethnicity is a little more than that. And for someone who doesn't like "ad hominem" arguments you certainly got in a great one with "dullards" :-). Still, with the right it's always do as I say not do as I do :-).

Davo Stevens said...

Alistair where did I say that the 3 month prob period brought down wages? Go back and read what I did post.

The whole purpose of the employment changes that this Govt. is bringing in has the purpose of lowering wages, either that or Bill English is lying! He has stated many times publically that he wants to bring down wages here.

State houses ARE an asset mate. They were built and paid for by the taxpayers to use for people who needed a warm house to live in. Something that is seriously needed right now. Further why should my hard-earned tax money go to lining the pockets of very wealthy landlords?

If caring about my fellow man, especially those who are the 'Collateral Damage' that is created by the way Key and his bunch of merry men run the show, is having "red feathers" then yes I have them. Do you care? I think not.

There are many ways that a Govt. can support those who pay that price other than just giving them pocket money and telling them to go away and keep out of sight. Remember that 'There but for the grace of Who-ever, go I'.


pat said...

Comparing early childcare centres with charter schools? yep , definitely the same PR firm Alistair.
You are right to point out that the current government is not as radical in its portrayal as your stated yardsticks, however their goal remains the same and having learned the lesson from those previous examples the Key government is all the more dangerous for it.
The extra 7500 votes National received (your figures) demonstrate absolutely nothing about economic efficacy as I suspect you well know, but it may well demonstrate the weakness of the alternatives and the fact that many voters live in the here and now.
I suspect when the cycle takes its inevitable turn many of those who voted National will wonder what happened to the NZ they thought they knew and John Keys name may become a new expletive rather than just the addition to one..
Dont worry about ruffling my red (or green for that matter) feathers as Im in full moult.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Some interesting figures.
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/nov/06/podemos-a-crisis-of-trust-and-the-rise-of-new-political-parties