19 September 2017

19 September 2017 in Progressive News


5 Days from the election, who’s going to win? And Why might Labour miss out…


What went wrong in Norway?

 Prime Minister Ardern?


This week, veteran Labour Party strategist Phil Quin gave his prediction for the upcoming election- a narrow Labour win. 


When the dust settles on the 2017 election, Jacinda Ardern will be sworn in to lead a coalition government built on a four-way arrangement with the Greens, NZ First and the Māori Party. The Greens and the Māori Party will agree to back confidence and supply from the cross benches, while only NZ First will occupy cabinet spots. This will be necessary since the combined Labour-NZ First vote will fall 3-4 points shy of a majority. The National Party will win a marginally higher share of the party vote (41-43) than Labour (37-40) but, bereft of partners, will face little choice but to serve the next term from opposition.


Ironically, the strength of the New Zealand economy, with robust business and consumer sentiment, may help Labour in this case. It could turn out that voters are less spooked by the prospect of fiscal mismanagement when they feel there is room for error. For that reason, I’m guessing scaremongering won’t sway enough voters in time to reverse the tide. Beyond merely anointing a new and glamorous PM, voters seem ready to reward Joyce and English for their fiscal stewardship by handing the reins to leaders they consider better suited at investing the bounty.

Quin points to the weaknesses in Labour’s policy platform -particularly around tax- as being the main weakness in their campaign. A vague taxation plan has been the only issue National have been able to get traction on, as they have turned to an overall negative campaign.


Joe Pagani, from Progress, also suggests that policy weaknesses may be holding Labour back. 


Labour are paranoid that their values and policies are unpopular, and so have watered down much of what they stand for. Jacinda Ardern may make bold statements; saying she would march in the streets to end child poverty. But would anyone march in the streets in favour of child poverty


Ardern has benefitted from everyone on the left imprinting their own vision onto her. From Victoria University socialists, to working class centrists in the regions, everyone sees what they want to see when Jacinda speaks. She has achieved this by not taking hard stances, not offending people, and not wanting people to march in the streets against what she stands for. But politics is the opposite of diplomacy. You have to make enemies to stand for something.


Prospect Magazine backs up this opinion; arguing while leaders matter, the ideas they represent is what matters.


Talented leaders can play a part in securing ideological victories, but the battle is always bigger than any individual, so success is not guaranteed. David Cameron and George Osborne formed a leadership team of verve and guile, but in their outdated response to the crash, and narrow view of Tory modernisation, they never reset the ideological terms of trade. The sea change in thinking taking place was simply bigger than them. In 1979, Jim Callaghan, the outgoing PM, observed a very different sea change, and correctly noted he was doomed. Callaghan was a more popular leader than Thatcher, but she was riding the waves. She won because of that—not because of who she was.


This election has come down to two rival ideas: “Hope” on the Labour side, or “A Plan” on the National side. The electorate is apparently in flux between the desire for stable governance, and the desire to do more for the country. What may define this election is National’s ability to offer hope, or Labour’s ability to offer a plan. 



What Happened in Norway?

Labour, traditionally Norway’s largest party, hoped that nationalist rhetoric of the immigration minister would create a culture war backlash. It also promised tax increases to respond to inequality. 


It was a poor campaign strategy. When the polls closed on September 11th Labour had got 27.4% of the vote, its second-worst result in 93 years. Erna Solberg, the prime minister, became the first right-wing leader to win re-election since the 1980s,” the Economist writes.

As a result, Norway will continue to be governed by the Centre Right Conservative party, in coalition with the hard-right nationalist Progress party (trust us, there's no relation). 


Pipeline Problems


Finally, we leave you with a query about how the pipeline laid by one of New Zealand’s largest corporates to supply fuel to another of New Zealand’s largest corporates, is the government’s fault. 


If neither of those companies had sufficient risk management in place to build storage or alternative fuel supplies, then either they assessed the economics as not worth it or skills in our largest businesses are substandard.


But if the pipeline failure is allowed to be introduced as as an exhibit in a case that the government is allowing infrastructure to  crumble, then it follows that the economy is going to be far more centrally planned than even Steven Joyce’s dreams would allow.


We are not free marketeers but it would be better to let the frustrations over the pipeline be assigned to campaign trail exhaustion, as politicians and reporters juggle flights, than to put the state in control of the country’s jet fuel market. It has higher priorities for both capital, and its bureaucratic energy, such as fixing the state’s own infrastructure, such as it’s road and rail.

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