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Mahu youth has National munted

by 22 Sep 2017Nuclear power, Youth voting0 comments

Jacinda Ardern, 20170910

Brace for Your Youthquake: Regardless of whether the youthquake will be of sufficient magnitude to see a Labour-led government-in-the-making by tomorrow evening, the Labour Party now emphatically owns the youth vote. Rediscovering itself as a progressive party, Labour is unassailably in the ascendancy—National’s conservative instincts will inevitably see its support base whither over time. Jacinda Ardern pictured with students at the St James Theatre, Wellington, 10 September. image Lynn Grieveson

If the local Kids Voting result is any indication, New Zealand’s youthquake is going to visit most damage on National.

Mahurangi College students, their Kids Voting coordinator has reported, gave the Labour Party a clear majority: 35% versus the National Party’s 23%. While the 13% that it attracted would have the Greens over-the-moon if it happened tomorrow, not to mention over-the-5%-threshold, it should have that party deeply concerned that it is not at least level-pegging with the two more ancient parties.

The 2017 election will go down in history as the first in which a major party, and the Greens can include themselves in this if they wish, has put climate action front and centre, with Jacinda Ardern’s ‘nuclear-free moment’. In previous elections, the Green Party has disguised its concern for anthropogenic global warming as a renewable-energy opportunity. Most voters will see no crime in that, but if photovoltaic panels and electric cars are their solution, then the Greens don’t understand the problem.

Ernest Marsden, front right

Zero-Carbon Marsden Point: Had Sir Ernest Marsden been listened to, New Zealand’s dependence on fossil fuels would not be as comprehensive. Sir Ernest, for whom New Zealand’s Think Big oil refinery was named, as a 20-year-old worked for Lord Rutherford. Marsden, front right, labelled those who opposed nuclear power ‘lazy-minded conservative diehards who are afraid of change.’ image Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

The crisis precipitated by the ruptured Marsden-to-Wiri pipeline should serve to underscore the intractability of the challenge of replacing fossil-fuel infrastructure such as the 96 000-barrel-per-day Marsden Point Oil Refinery. With no convincing substitute for kerosene to fuel air transport on the horizon, the 31-year-old pipeline will be indispensable for the balance of its working life, and every-transport-thing that can be electrified, such as ports and airports, must be electrified, if a meaningful reduction to fossil-fuel emissions is to be achieved; electrified busways, for example, are a no-brainer.

Given that nearly half of New Zealanders polled said they will consider climate change policies in their voting decision, the persistently small percentage voting for the Green Party is perplexing enough, but that only 13% of Mahurangi College students voted Green indicates a spectacular failure to position itself as the party of youth, despite its recently acquired young stars. Progressive parties need to work on their youth engagement strategies over the entirety of the next parliamentary term, rather than throw the kitchen sink at it a few months ahead of the next election.

If Labour leads the next government, it will be a turnaround of breath-taking proportions, considering the sub 30% it had slumped to after a procession of leaders who lacked the critical attribute needed to lead: the ability to communicate, which Jacinda Ardern was born to do. But if Labour fails tomorrow, it will be because of the utter veracity of Michael Cullen’s:

National is better at lying than Labour is at telling the truth.

Win or lose, New Zealand’s progressive parties must prioritise their youth strategies starting Sunday.