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Tired Old Warhorses

Che Tibby's view from Wellington | Sep 19, 2005 17:12

Noticing this afternoon that none of the other PA bloggers had gotten in to do an election post-mortem I thought I'd put my hand up. Naturally there's no government yet, but there are still perhaps some lessons to be gleaned from the results as they stand.

Number one is Hide. Personally, I can't stand the guy. His politics are anathema to me, and I sincerely hoped to be dancing a little dance of victory on his grave on Sunday morning.

But Rodney, here's to you mate, full respect for battling it out to the bitter end, whether you won or not. And the fact you did win that seat, despite National doing their best to pull the rug out from under you, deserves admiration. So let's all raise a glass to Rodney, a winner without having to muck-rake his opponent.

Otherwise, National's vault in the polls and their huge increase in public attention from 2002 requires a little thought. So here's No Right Turn doing just that. He has a few good links there too.

Personally though, what interested me on Saturday night was a concern about what the result means for the centre right. The impression I got was this. Imagine your traditional left-right spectrum, red on the left, blue on the right. In its bid for votes, Labour kind of anchored itself out on the left near its own extreme fringe, the Greens, and then stretched inwards to pick up votes in centre/undecideds territory. National on the other hand more or less tried to anchor itself in 'the centre' with a plea to 'mainstream New Zealand', and stretched itself out to also encompass as many votes as possible over on the far right.

The result is obvious of course, the decimation of ACT and the gaining of as many NZ First votes as possible as well. This decimation is obvious in the relative stability of Labour's share of the votes compared to Nationals. Those votes must have come from somewhere after all.

Naturally, there are more explanations for the poor showing of the minor parties of the right, and even of United Future, than just the deliberate cannibalism National conducted, but the type of appeals National used remain pivotal.

What I'm looking forward to seeing is a break-down of what attracted voters back to National. Was it the all the Treaty-bashing? Was it the promise of more money? Was it the appeal to the middle ground, even though this was little more than National deliberately trying to establish that ground itself, and to then drag the entire electorate rightwards to where it felt more comfortable.

I know I'm more or less interviewing my PC here, but the question remains, why?

The right's agenda in this election hasn't really been clear. Other than as a series of more or less naked appeals to at times converse prejudices and attractions, there wasn't really an obvious representation of 'what they stood for'.

Yes, there was a lot of 'we're sick of this government, and so are you' information being pushed onto the electorate, a glimmer of the old neo-right agenda of privatisation, and the big one of 'low taxation', but you have to ask, what purpose did it serve?

There's still the outside chance that National will form a Government of course, the slim majority I alluded to last week, but if they do occupy the Treasury benches there's every chance it won't be for long.

Of course, on the other hand, considering the kind of coalition Labour is going to have to put together, you can guarantee this isn't won't be a term of highly controversial legislation. The kind that got them in this pickle in the first place that is.

Again, I'm looking forward to seeing if it was just the disgruntlement factor of policies involving Treaty-bashing or 'social engineering' that actually drew votes, or whether undecideds actually voted for Nationals more ideological policies like tax cuts, and why they were considered relevant.

And this is because I'm beginning to think that we could just have seen the last roll of the dice for the old neo-right agenda afflicting us during the 80s and 90s. I mean, where the hell else do they have to go? If their remaining idea is to drag us all out towards the lunatic fringe of the right, a set of people with absolutely no idea about society and culture, the things that give a nation-state meaning, then what do they have to offer the centre, the real mainstream?

Like the group Clark spoke to in her victory speech, the mainstream in New Zealand is broader than what the far right wants it to be. If 'social engineering' means recognising New Zealand for what it is, and not what an elite would like it to be, then that's all good.

It should be an interesting few weeks of waiting.

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