Courage for more than a cuppa
It’s 30 years since David Lange belatedly called taihoawait; do not hurry. Lange, in fact, said it was ‘time for a cup of tea’.
His Labour Party caucus cohorts had unleashed the neoliberal onslaught that, amongst other tragedies, precipitated New Zealand’s ongoing youth suicide epidemic.
Throughout the intervening Labour- and National-led governments, however, the neoliberal line held unchallenged, although David Cunliffe had a crack at it, only to be labelled naïve and foolish by Labour’s hierarchy. And when the membership thought he was onto something and elected him leader, a disloyal caucus quickly destabilised his cause—something its United Kingdom counterpart treacherously attempted, but spectacularly failed, to inflict on Jeremy Corbyn.
With pragmatist Jacinda Ardern consummately and charismatically picking her party off the canvas and announcing a string of policies the country has been crying out for since Labour pawned its moral compass, Aotearoa could at last be leaving the failed ideology of neoliberalism behind, and embracing evidence-based policies. Even the revered David Lange didn’t begin to rate in the preferred-prime-minister stakes until after he was elected. At about the same time in his prime-ministerial bid that Ardern is experiencing her 19.6-point surge to 26.3%, Lange was on a languid 12%.
Although it has only polled 1.8% in Sunday’s snap poll of Ōhāriu for Q + A, Gareth Morgan’s Opportunities Party has done much to publicise the long-overdue need for evidence-based policy-making. But with Ardern so comprehensively capturing hearts and minds, the opportunity for tOP to do more than waste the party votes has evaporated. Morgan’s opening pitch was he was not interested in getting into Parliament just to make up the numbers. But now, with zero chance of that, short of an Epsom-style of cup of tea, and almost certainly not even then, tOP can now only act as a spoiler, or get off the pot:
With its policies on cannabis and water it seems to be drawing more Green voters than those of other parties. But unless there was a surprising and radical jump in its support—and with no sign it can win in an electorate seat—the party would not make it into Parliament.
Morgan’s other broken undertaking was not to field electorate candidates. In Germany, which had the mixed-member-proportional electoral system deliberatively installed, with the help of British occupation zone administrators in the aftermath of the Nazi’s murderous megalomania, citizens know which side of their voting paper matters. But in countries late to adopt the Rolls-Royce of proportional voting systems, the level of understanding is appallingly low that, with a few exceptions such as Ōhāriu, only the party vote matters. The Scottish Parliament, from its inception in 1999, has used the mixed-member system, but when questioned in 2003, only 24% of respondents knew the correct answer to the question:
The question was asked somewhat differently in Aotearoa, and not consistently. Be that as it may, by 2008, after five mixed-member elections, only about half knew that the party vote was the major determinant of the makeup of Parliament. Given that a fundamental requirement of a democratic system is for citizens to know how to vote, it is ludicrous that the Electoral Commission New Zealand stopped surveying this detail nine years ago. Campaigns extolling people to vote, known to be generally ineffectual. If, however, campaigns along the lines of…
…would at least disabuse some of those who are already planning to vote, that their party vote is some form of second preference. The fine print would detail how, under the current rules, electorates the likes of Epsom are brazenly gamed by the National Party.
With the Green Party, after 45 years, back to the single-digit political wilderness, Morgan is opportunistically attempting to talk his way from 2–3% to 10. But the trend, in Morgan’s case, is not his friend. Without a leadership-change Ardernquake, tOP’s line-up is not going to refocus the remaining weeks of media attention on the serial policy wonk’s well-intentioned work. His supposed stela crew includes ex-Green David Hay, who polled less than a tenth of Chlöe Swarbrick, who if she’d been made leader of either the Green or Opportunities, would have further shaken up the 2017 election party—as she was universally credited with doing in Auckland Council’s mayoral race. James Shaw, soldiering on as his mortally wounded party’s solo co-leader, will forever regret his decision to not put it all on the line to have one-better-than-youth-adjacent Swarbrick sworn in.
Until now, the Mahurangi Magazine has been happy to style itself:
…part of a hope-based network restoring and enjoying the Mahurangi…
However, hope-based could all-too-easily be assumed to contrast with evidence-based, in the context of policy-making, so henceforth the publication will be styled determinedly evidence-based. Hopefully, this, in a minuscule way, will help nudge one or two readers from wasting their party vote on a tyro party for which the trend is not its friend, no matter how desperately Morgan might imagine he can talk 10% out of the Green’s disintegration.
What is not fanciful, is that Jacinda Ardern could galvanise Labour into actions considerably more courageous than a cuppa.
Disclosure Cimino Cole has resigned his membership of the Opportunities Party, and has re-joined the Labour Party, which he joined briefly to participate in the election of the neoliberalism-denigrating David Cunliffe, as its all-too-readily-betrayed leader.