Po­lit­i­cal kite fly­ing in spring

Nelson Mail - - COMMENT&OPINION - RUS­SELL HARD­ING

A mug’s view

At the time of typ­ing, Win­ston Peters was yet to an­nounce who had won New Zealand’s 2017 gen­eral elec­tion. Doesn’t he re­alise I have a fort­nightly dead­line to meet? What hap­pens when some­thing ac­tu­ally hap­pens and I don’t get to in­clude that hap­pen­ing in this week’s hap­pen­ings? Oh, the out­rage.

For three weeks we have waited. First we waited on spe­cial votes to be counted. Then we waited on MMPne­go­ti­a­tions. In an in­stant 24/7 world this has been im­pos­si­ble stuff to en­dure. Im­pos­si­ble I say. And to think Win­ston lost his elec­torate seat and only got 7 per cent of the vote. Did I men­tion my dead­line?

De­spite the po­lit­i­cal empti­ness there’s been no a lack of words writ­ten or spo­ken about said empti­ness. In­trepid re­porters from the press gallery have made camp in the cor­ri­dors of the Bee­hive and doggedly in­ter­viewed clos­ing el­e­va­tor doors. And colum­nists have con­tin­ued fly­ing po­lit­i­cal kites. All that’s miss­ing is any sort of wind to keep the kites air­borne.

Luck­ily its spring, and I have plenty of hot air.

Three years ago I said Nick Smith should start his own po­lit­i­cal party. From mem­ory I said he should join forces with Colin Craig and the Con­ser­va­tive Party. Boy, did he miss a bul­let.

It was soft, tongue in cheek stuff point­ing to­ward hard po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity – un­der the MMPsys­tem, big par­ties need lit­tle par­ties to be able to form gov­ern­ments. It’s this hard re­al­ity that has dom­i­nated the past three weeks Bee­hive ne­go­ti­a­tions.

What­ever Win­ston chooses to do this time, the Na­tional Party, the coun­tries big­gest and most po­lit­i­cally suc­cess­ful, need fresh op­tions to be able to form gov­ern­ments in the fu­ture. All their other op­tions ap­pear dead. And for the past fort­night that cold-hard re­al­ity has been ex­pressed via the kite fes­ti­val that has been the ‘teal deal’.

It was amaz­ing to see how much a pos­si­ble po­lit­i­cal al­liance be­tween Na­tional and the Greens got talked up. ‘‘Pick up the phone James’’, they said. ‘‘Bill’s just wait­ing for your call.’’

It re­flected the news vac­uum that needed fill­ing. It re­flected how the thought of Win­ston Peters hold­ing all the po­lit­i­cal cards was so un­palat­able. But it also re­flected how in­flu­en­tial cer­tain voices in New Zealand me­dia are.

It sim­ply didn’t seem to mat­ter that the idea – the Greens join­ing hands with Na­tional to form a gov­ern­ment – was batty. There was an agenda to push and push they did, even if no push­ing was re­quired.

No­body summed it up bet­ter than Stuff’s Vernon Small: ‘‘Lets for­get that for 9 years, and more, Na­tional have been us­ing the Greens as the bo­gey men of pol­i­tics; one of the main rea­sons peo­ple should not vote Labour.’’

‘‘Lets for­get that in Na­tional folk­lore [the Greens] have been dope-smok­ing, RMA-hug­ging, farmer tax­ing, wel­fare-en­abling, SIS-dis­man­tling, Iraq-de­ploy­ment­loathing, Ha­gar-lov­ing, cowculling, min­ing-deny­ing, cli­mate change-ob­ses­sive, growth-curb­ing, rail­road­ing, mo­tor­way-re­ject­ing, anti-free trade peaceniks. And not very bright or re­al­is­tic ei­ther.’’

James Shaw (Mr 6 per cent) phone Bill English (Mr 44 per cent) and cut a deal? You have got to be jok­ing. As it stands, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Na­tional and the Greens is toxic.

The very plat­forms the two par­ties stand on are built on the rub­ble of un­der­min­ing each other. Both par­ties would need to com­pro­mise hugely and fun­da­men­tally if they were to form a coali­tion. They would need to com­pletely re­build the very ground their par­ties and sup­port­ers stand on.

All of which makes me think a new po­lit­i­cal party will be floated soon. And once again I reckon the elec­torate seat of Nel­son could/ should/would be the place to start.

The Na­tional Party are on the wrong side of en­vi­ron­men­tal science and it’s a science that is fast go­ing to flood them. Cli­mate change and wa­ter qual­ity are only go­ing to be­come big­ger is­sues, not smaller. Free mar­ket think­ing does not fit neatly into any of this stuff.

A ‘Teal-Deal’ with an en­vi­ron­men­tal po­lit­i­cal party would al­low them to make that pivot. But it would be far eas­ier to start up an en­tirely new po­lit­i­cal party than do the hard yards with the Green Party and make that po­lit­i­cal part­ner­ship ac­cept­able.

Es­tab­lish­ing an all new ‘Teal Party’ would have the added bonus of white-anting the Green Party by look­ing to take over the very is­sues the Greens might feel they have own­er­ship of – is­sues that are in­creas­ingly main­stream and ac­cept­able – while at the same time dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the wider so­cial is­sues pushed by the Green Party – is­sues that to date, con­tinue to be less ac­cepted, es­pe­cially by Na­tional Party sup­port­ers.

Think of it as open heart surgery of a po­lit­i­cal party. Take the heart and leave the morals to those who think pol­i­tics isn’t sim­ply a game of win­ners and losers. Too cyn­i­cal you say?

There are votes in it as the past fort­night of kite fly­ing has shown. I ex­pect there are al­ready polling num­bers to back it up. Now there’s also plenty of col­umn-inches ploughed into the soil about it. Some­thing is sure to sprout from all this fer­tile ground.

Any­one know of an elec­torate seat with a strong vote for both Na­tional and the Greens? Or a Blue-Green his­tory? Teal even?

There’s plenty of hot air in the po­lit­i­cal scene at the mo­ment as we wait for a de­ci­sion on who will gov­ern the coun­try.

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