Much has been made this week of NZF's surge in the polls. We thank the media for finally deciding to sit up and take note of what's sure to be one of the more interesting stories this election - our comeback.
However, a surge in Peters-popularity inevitably causes all manner of spurious allegations to come out of the woodwork from the man and the party's detractors. We've already seen the re-hashing of hackneyed versions of the Owen G Glenn saga which omit to mention the police report finding in Winston's favour. Others have sought to raise the specter of Winston the Kingmaker, calling him a reason to vote against MMP due to his deftness at post-election negotiation.
Certain elements in the media (chiefly in my mind this morning's Sunday Herald editorial) are now attempting to undermine our post-election coalition position by spinning the hell out of our two previous Near-Government Experiences (rather like a near-Death experience except with more bureaucracy).
The customary opening claim runs "in 1996 Winston campaigned on destroying National and then went into government with them."
This is then followed with disparaging remarks about the 2005 arrangement, which usually attempts to seriously mis-characterise NZF's interaction with the then-Labour government.
What they're saying is that NZF can't be trusted to *remain* in opposition once we return to Parliament.
Their general thrust is plain - "you shouldn't trust Winston to keep the Government honest in 2011".
Which is ridiculous. Here's why. John Key has ruled Winston out. Winston has ruled John Key out. John Key has ruled out not selling assets. Winston has *very emphatically* ruled selling assets out. There is thus prima facie no reason to assume NZF will go into government with National in 2011.
The counter-factual narrative then usually ripostes by suggesting that New Zealand First had ruled National out in 1996. This is severely misinterpreting Winston's remark that "the price of a coalition agreement ought to be Jim Bolger's head". And, as it turned out, the price of a coalition agreement was more to the tune of ending asset sales, keeping ACT out of government, free doctor's visits for under-6s and moves toward compulsory national savings and a universal student allowance.
Or, in other words, New Zealand First hadn't ruled out National, and made substantial gains and unquestionable gains for New Zealand by going into coalition.
This contrasts markedly with 2011, wherein Winston has very definitely ruled out National; although I suppose it torments the Business Round Table no end to speculate whether he might reverse this position and entertain negotiations ... if he were to re-take his old Treasurer role and once again end the neoliberal agenda of a wayward National party.
Interestingly, it also contrasts rather markedly with the post-election stance adopted by The Greens, who consistently refuse to rule out National.
This despite its highly publicised recent use of Robyn Malcolm to castigate the Prime Minister and its seemingly-now-abandoned taxation egalitarianism.
Our logic, in effect, was this. We cannot in good conscience go into government with a major party that plans to destroy and to cheapen the nation that we love. National's second term agenda is precisely this.
They have declared they will not countenance any party which won't aid and abet them in this.
The Maori Party voting to raise GST to 15% and make our tax system more unfair as the price of its confidence & supply votes is a prime example.
National have said they will stake their second term on partial asset sales. They're hell-bent on it.
They've supped tea with the Neoliberals in Epsom to try and bring their partners in crime ACT back to help them. The record of both parties in office also suggests frank economic incompetence. Under this three-ring political circus, we've seen a massive increase in the number of Kiwis seeking a Brighter Future in Australia.
We've seen rampant inflation, rampant public debt to pay for unfair tax cuts, and rampant spending cuts to both the public purse and our own wallets. We've seen all manner of shadowy constitutional and economic posturing. We've seen the Foreshore & Seabed and aspects of our economic sovereignty quite literally given away. The record of the last three years suggests the Key-lead government might well have resembled the bridge of the Rena.
Any party which is not prepared to rule out coalition with National is, in effect, refusing to rule out assisting National in the despoilment of the country which we hold so dear.
Any party which is not prepared to be honest with voters about its post-election posturing has something to hide.
There would have to be some seismic shifts in heaven, earth, and National Party ethos before coalition with them became an idea which any party genuinely committed to social justice and national sovereignty could support.
As the 2011 campaign heats up, so to do the sentiments and the tempers of those involved in it.
Several times in the last week, NZF Youth have run into other parties' online activists brandishing the quote "We have now reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand - or some other country". This is then customarily followed with a screaming and hysterical array of vague and ill-substantiated allegations of xenophobia.
Now, anybody who's read the quote in-context - that is to say, anyone who's actually read the speech it originated in rather than a sensationalised excerpt - will appreciate how inaccurate this is.
Here's a short precis.
"Being a New Zealander is something precious.
That is why we called ourselves New Zealand First.
It means that we place our country above ourselves.
We believe in words like patriotism, loyalty and traditional values.
We believe in the concept of the people of this country owning it.
We believe that we must protect and defend it.
And we believe that we have the right to say who should come and share it with us."
"The last census revealed that over 300,000 people in New Zealand spoke little or no English."
"New Zealand is for New Zealanders. This is our place. The rest are here at our invitation. We will weed out those illegals who should not be here. We will not have 20,000 overstayers 'give or take five percent' And those who are here for genuine reasons and want to contribute and become New Zealanders, we will welcome. And give them the same rights as New Zealanders."
Guicciardini once wrote "L'imitazione del male supera sempre l'esempio; comme per il contrario, l'imitazione del bene è sempre inferiore". For those of us who, like myself, never pursued Italian beyond Latin .. this translates as "He who imitates what is evil always goes beyond the example that is set; on the contrary, he who imitates what is good always falls short."
For anyone who's followed the progressive political plagiarism of NZF's policies over the previous two decades, the meaning of the above quote will be clear.
What Guicciardini meant was that it is very difficult to copy the beliefs and actions of another and put them into practice without losing something in the process. When seeking to wreak destruction, this is hardly likely to lead to a less damaging result. When attempting to perform good works, this failure tends to lead to less effectual (indeed, inferior) works. Something is overlooked; something is missing. The imitator cannot fully grasp or become the ethos behind the action, and thus cannot fully replicate it.
An apt summation of the first part of the quote is provided by the neoliberals of Labour's (arguable) past, and ACT. (I hope nobody minds me referring to Rogernomics as 'Evil') The first time around, from '84-'90 as is a matter of historical record, Labour did fundamental and thus far unrepaired damage to the Kiwi economy. The ACT Party, not realising quite *why* the twilight years of the Lange government took their cabinet-collective-responsibility foot off the accelerator ... then spent most of the next two decades attempting to push the neoliberal revolution further. Indeed, Roger Douglas's foundational work of ACT party mydeology, was entitled "Unfinished Business". The jaundiced, economically quasi-literate minds of ACT sought to outdo their predecessors.
As you can see, the imitation of evil begets greater evil.
The imitation of good, by contrast, is often flawed. The best recent example of this is supplied by Bill English. (I hope nobody minds me talking about English intending to do something positive) National recently proposed to make Kiwisaver compulsory (with an opt-out), showing they've finally started to comprehend the point NZF first articulated some fourteen years ago about compulsory savings being good for an economy. It's only taken them three decades to see the advantage of a pension-based sovereign wealth fund. The problem, however, is the date English chose for its introduction. Half-way through the upcoming decade .. and only once we've reattained budgetary surplus. Now, excuse me for being pessimistic .. but assuming we have an economically incompetent National-led government for the next three years, returning to surplus within that timeframe doesn't seem likely. In other words, inferior imitation turns a good start gets turned into an empty, wasted opportunity.
Similar examples abound from the Labour party. They want to keep our existing state assets. Great. Let's take this to its logical extension. We want to start buying back the necessary ones which *they* flogged off. This was why the NZF-Labour administration 2005-2008 bought back TRANZRAIL.
Now this last point is interesting. It indicates to me that it's possible to correct the behaviour of a minor party (a stratagem known to the Campaign for Change as "the tail wagging the dog"). The same thing arguably happened with the Foreshore & Seabed Act 2004, wherein NZF's intervention kept Labour on-course (despite pressure from its breakaway Maori turncoats) and ensured crown title.
In sum, I came into this party with one burning sentiment.
"What we need right now is a clear message to the people of this country. This message must beread in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television. I want this country to realise we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want every man woman and child to understand how close we are to chaos. I want everyone to remember why they need us."
I used to think that meant New Zealand needed NZF as a sort of eternal champion ... a Marquis resistance always there to guard against the return of rampant Neoliberal agendas.
I now realise it also means New Zealand needs NZF for something more akin to our traditional "Keeping the Bastards Honest" role. We should also be there to guide their hands. We are, after all, in the persuasion business - it thus only makes sense to ensure that the works we've inspired are not of inferior quality.
Say what you will about us ... but we're inimicable.