With more changes of leadership in recent times than New Zealand politics has ever seen, the 2017 election was never going to be without undulations.
Around 12 months ago Prime Minister John Key abdicated his reign meaning, in a sight not seen since – in fact the year of my debut vote – 2002, hitherto finance minister and deputy Prime Minister, Bill English took on the leadership role for National but not only that, MP Bill English then became New Zealand’s PM.
This shake-up came sometime after Greens leader Russell Norman had stepped down as head of his failing party to make way for deputy, Metiria Turei; a leadership which collapsed shortly thereafter following revelations of fraudulent benefit practices. This laid the foundation for the emergence of James Shaw who, well, he’s doing his best with what he was given.
Think back to prior to the election before today’s one; in an effort to boost party popularity, ostensibly personable Labour candidate Phil Goff had become leader of the Labour party. Push came to shove and he subsequently stepped aside for up-and-comer David Shearer, who was consequently forced out of way to make room for the almighty David Cunliff who, after steering Labour to its grandest election defeat in history, gracefully left the party. This left an opening for newcomer Andrew Little who, in fairness, I don’t think ever sat truly comfortably in his role as leader of the Opposition; thus it was little surprise when this man, more recently, relinquished control to allow his deputy to take the reins…
I never imagined that a woman who so alarmingly resembles a young Helen Clark could ever be considered ‘attractive’ but (this was an opinion formed by a large portion of Labour supporters so I don’t know how much belief one ought to place that assessment), the much-hyped ‘Jacinda Effect’ came next.
…That is a terrible lot of turmoil for any political party to endure, then just when the Opposition support seemed all but lost, suddenly Labour, who has been well behind in the polls for the better part of a decade, came from behind to again be a genuine contender in this current political race…
No one can deny it; Jacinda Ardern has the best interests of New Zealand at heart. The issue many right-wing supporters are taking with her, is the fact that Jacinda is an idealistic dreamer (I believe ‘hopey-dreamy’ is the accepted political term), with no leadership experience thus no real political wisdom.
…Nobody can be quite sure, but the theory is that this so-called Jacinda Effect has less to do with government policy and more to do with aesthetics; a hypothesis boosted by the consensus that ‘Bill English is too dull’…
Yes, this makes a lot of sense; if there is one area of international governance that is repeatedly being called into question, it’s a lack of exuberance shown by our countries’ respective leaders, and yes, obviously Jacinda’s unshakeable grin and unflappable optimism have the potential to remedy this New Zealand Government shortcoming.
…I just worry, if our nation’s team of resident malcontents do happen to effect a shift in governance, leaving Labour – thus Jacinda – in charge, what might happen when New Zealand starts facing some genuinely difficult issues, things that actually matter and which can’t be remedied with a broad grin, some firm hand gestures and a snappy catchphrase or two…
This is the main issue that I take with saying, ‘Every person who is of a voting age needs to vote.’, because while it may be difficult for us impassioned poliphiles to grasp, many people who are of a voting age, simply, don’t give a damn about politics and if they were to vote, would likely end up making some asinine voting selection based on member attractiveness or charm (which, I assume is why the last election saw Kim Dotcom’s Internet party do so well), and not at all related to government policies, which in the long term, might seriously contribute towards the disruption of a nation’s prosperity.
…Typical of bandwagon jumping Kiwis though, and in fact an exemplary illustration of the fickle nature of people in general, when Jacinda first emerged on the political scene – never mind that she is effectively a succession of Andrew Little and everything for which this man once stood – her novelty factor raised Labour’s popularity by around double. A few weeks’ on, once the voting population have accepted that, while the ‘flavour of the month’ is indeed a superb taste to have in your mouth – for about a month – for the next three years and while running your country..?
Poverty, Health, Law and Order, and Housing are some of the major issues facing New Zealand today; both leading parties are quick to point out the other’s shortcomings on these matters, but any voter who believes that any one of our ‘major issues’ can be remedied simply with a shift in government is, as a political analyst might coin it, ‘a touch hopey dreamy’.
Sadly, this is an example of – as has been thoroughly documented in fine publications such as ‘Tim Walker’s Concern’ – a country with so very little to concern it that it struggles to understand the concept of ‘genuine hardship’. New Zealand’s ‘major issues’, when compared to some of the rest of the world, are almost triviality; our waterways might appear polluted, but that’s because a team of eco-warriors took a camera around New Zealand and photographed whatever dirty, stagnant bodies of water they could find. New Zealand’s ‘starving children’, by world standards, are not ‘starving’, they’re hungry – they’re hungry because their parents don’t prioritise their spending and in likelihood, should never have been allowed to procreate at all. Our hospitals are full because many people panic when they see blood and don’t seem to know how to apply a sticking plaster, or bandage a scraped elbow. Petty crime is rife largely because our Police Force is enfeebled after too many mothers-who-never-should-have-been-allowed-to-procreate procreated thereby raising a generation of (gang related, drug dealing, ultimately good for nothing) delinquents, which is largely the fault of the solo-breeding incentive offered by New Zealand’s DPB (but I don’t see any political party with plans to abolish that, do I?). Houses in Auckland are high because of an under-supply of basic housing in the area caused by an over-population of people in the area, leading to a shortage of land on which to build, in the area. Again, that’s more people than Government.
On the topic of ‘a nation’s genuine concern’, Winston Peters who, after honourably stepping back from politics some years ago only to bumptiously force his way back in to NZ First’s leadership some years later, as always seems to be the case, is reported to be this election’s potential ‘king-maker’; ‘king-maker’ of course being the political term for a party that lacks the ability to garner any real bulk of voter support, but which earns just enough to make them impossible to avoid, and in an MMP system of government, ‘impossible to avoid’ essentially translates to ‘problematic’.
(The following was to be this article’s leading paragraph; alas it kept having paragraphs written on top of it until) Paddy Gower called it ‘the most exciting election build-up in New Zealand history’, but then, he’s a little odd too so, in this election, I still don’t know who to trust.
Vote responsibly, New Zealand.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by E Luck-Shinn
Photography by Bill Dip