Most po­lit­i­cal ac­tion out­side par­lia­ment

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION / NEWS -

From the as­set sales pro­gramme re­vealed in Jan­uary 2011 to the Labour Party lead­er­ship change in De­cem­ber, po­lit­i­cal events un­folded this year with a cer­tain in­evitabil­ity.

Hav­ing ruled out as­set sales dur­ing its first term, National was bound to re­veal its pri­vati­sa­tion agenda this year, in time to win an elec­tion man­date in Novem­ber.

Other­wise, the Key Govern­ment sought to main­tain the non­threat­en­ing im­age of ‘‘ com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­vatism’’ that has en­abled it to oc­cupy the mid­dle of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum so suc­cess­fully.

For that rea­son, the as­set sales sell-down was pre­sented not as an ide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ment to pri­vati­sa­tion, but as an op­por­tu­nity for so-called ‘‘Mum and Dad’’ in­vestors to earn a buck.

When­ever the pub­lic did feel spooked – say, by Fe­bru­ary’s plan to mine national parks – the Govern­ment quickly back-ped­alled.

Labour’s prob­lems were equally ob­vi­ous.

Given the low polling by leader Phil Goff, Labour chose not to en­gage in a pres­i­den­tial- style pop­u­lar­ity con­test it was al­ways bound to lose.

None of its pol­icy plans – to grad­u­ally raise the re­tire­ment age, to re­move GST from fruit and veg­eta­bles and to in­tro­duce a com­pre­hen­sive cap­i­tal gains tax – ever stood much chance of win­ning new vot­ers, and were more about mo­ti­vat­ing its own sup­port­ers.

In the end, Labour’s left-wing sup­port­ers fled to the Greens and its so­cial con­ser­va­tives hived off to Win­ston Peters and his resur­gent New Zealand First.

Hav­ing used Hone Harawira as its rad­i­cal cre­den­tials to jus­tify its al­liance with National, the Maori Party found a pre­text in March to cast him out be­fore Harawira could go out on the cam­paign trail to ad­vo­cate an al­liance with Labour.

At this point, the Maori Party’s fu­ture (and that of Harawira’s own Mana Party) ap­pear bleak.

For comic re­lief, 2011 couldn’t beat the Act Party’s in­ter­nal ruc­tions, which cul­mi­nated in a coup by Don Brash, mass re­tire­ments from its cau­cus, a bun­gled photo op­por­tu­nity in Ep­som and a share of the elec­tion vote in­suf­fi­cient to elect Brash to Par­lia­ment.

With John Banks at the helm, Act is now lit­tle more than a National Party fran­chise op­er­a­tion.

Come the elec­tion, the Key Govern­ment won its best share of the vote since 1990, but this has trans­lated into a bare one-vote ma­jor­ity in the House for its core agenda.

Mean­while, de­lays over the Christchurch re­build and un­cer­tain­ties in the global econ­omy show no sign of be­ing re­solved – as re­flected in three in­ter­na­tional rat­ing agen­cies choos­ing to down­grade New Zealand’s credit rat­ing, be­cause of lin­ger­ing con­cerns about our lev­els of pri­vate debt.

Dur­ing 2011, most of the year’s ex­tra­or­di­nary po­lit­i­cal events oc­curred well out­side Par­lia­ment.

The Christchurch quake, Ja­pan’s quake, tsunami and nu­clear cri­sis, the Arab Spring re­volts, the Lon­don ri­ots, the deaths of Bin Laden and Gaddafi, the melt­down in Europe, Ru­pert Mur­doch on the ropes . . .

What be­gan as a demon­stra­tion against cor­po­rate greed on Wall Street quickly led to the tent cities of the Oc­cupy move­ment mush­room­ing in 1100 cities around the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand’s ma­jor cities. By the end of the year, Oc­cupy’s core is­sue of in­come in­equal­ity had been put firmly on the main­stream po­lit­i­cal agenda and will form the back­drop to the Key Govern­ment’s sec­ond term.

Cen­tury-maker: Elsie Carter has been in Whitby Rest Home since ill-health took hold in 2007 but grand­daugh­ter Laura Moult and son Richard Carter made sure she was sur­rounded by fam­ily for her big day.

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