Monday, November 28, 2011

Election 2011: As the Dust Settles

So the dust is settling on another election. The people have spoken, the right rules for another three years. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is the obvious surprise at the success of NZ First, no doubt in no small part due to the Epsom Tea Party which gave him a platform. Winston appeals to the floating voter who wants neither party, cares for the elderly, and is attracted to his style—which is very winsome (Winsome Winston). As a Christian, I have some sympathy, especially for Winston’s concern for the elderly. One sign of the health of a nation is how we look after the elderly. Perhaps the move from 65 to 67 for retirement cost Labour a few votes here. After all, there are other options, like a graded system where you can take retirement earlier, but receive less, or take it later, and receive more. Raising the retirement age works for people like me who sit in an office all day, but it is a tough call for those do manual work. I wonder if this policy is a popular as some people think.

Secondly, there is the dominance of the centre-right in NZ politics. It seems to me that Conservative and NZ First are more right than left, although they will go either way if required. As such, there is a dominance of the centre-right in NZ politics with 60% of the vote. The distincly left side of the vote, Greens, makes up only 40% split between Labour, Green, and the Maori parties. This reflects the move right in the nation since the Clarke era, which has not run its course.

Of course, we could still have had a left wing government with the help of NZ First and UNF, but this was always a long shot, especially since Peters has said he would not go into government either way (of course he has changed his mind before!). So, while pundits are saying it was a close election, it was not so really. It is hard to imagine Labour on 27% getting support to cobble together a stable government.

As Christians, we need to think about this dominance of the right. One thing we should believe in is the care of the poor. We need to watch this government closely to ensure that they are held accountable for the marginalised and poor. I know that we are in a phase where we need to stimulate business and get through this economic crunch, but it is the poor who will hurt the most if things turn sour. We need to watch closely how this plays out. It may be that we will need a swing left next time around if the “right-solution” is not effective or the problem gets worse.

Third, there is the decline of Labour. They are in a bit of trouble it seems to me. Greens are on the rise, with real appeal to younger voters. Labour looks tired and needs to renew itself, and quickly, to recapture a younger generation of lefties. They need to bring through the likes of Jacinda Adern who has real appeal. This may be easier said than done, with the Greens fresh appeal—I know from younger people in our church that some were really impressed with them. Still, if Greens and Labour play it shrewd, with Green’s focussing on environmental issues and Labour the full agenda, they could easily turn the tide in 2014. Especially so if we hit harder economic times which is likely in light of the world economy.

This may be a great time for Christians with a heart for the left to get involved in the Labour party. They will be going through a lot of soul-searching and looking for solutions. Perhaps this is a good time to be salt and light in the NZ political scene.

Fourth, there is the rise of the Conservatives. Getting 2.8% of the vote is no small feat in its first election. I know from my church, that a number were attracted to them. There was a bit of false hope here, with news spreading that Colin Craig might win Rodney. This was based on flawed systems like Horizon and was a bit over played, as the the 10,000 or so National majority indicated. There seems to be a rump of Christians floating around searching for a right/Christian option. It has never gained traction to the point of getting into parliament. Perhaps Colin Craig has the ability to pull this off over time. Conservatives will have to either find a way to win a seat, or do a Winston and forget the seats, and send Colin Craig over the nation to try and raise the 5%. It is a tall call, as all these small parties, Greens alone, have been based around a big MP and figure who has left a major party (Anderton, Hyde, Douglas, Prebble, Peters etc). Then there is the question of whether this is the best approach for Christians in politics. There is a shortage of volunteers in all parts of our culture, if we get in and do the hard yards in the mainstream parties, perhaps we can achieve more. Time will tell, because Conservatives will be very hopeful from here. To do it, they will have to inpire people, prove an ability to be a "wide church", keep unity, and get the right strategy.

Finally, there is the terribly low turn-out of voters. According to today's Herald, it was the lowest percentage turn out since 1887 ( Perhaps it is due to the polls which indicated a foregone conclusion.

I hope Christians did not stand back, but voted. We should lead the nation in caring who rules over this part of God’s world. It is a privilege to be able to help shape our nation through casting our vote. Let’s hope for something better in 2014.

Now that the election is over, it is back  to the real work on which a nation is formed, the people working hard, living ethically and well, building strong families, communities, businesses and giving it their all. This is where the real work must be done for NZ to get through the next three years, which everyone is saying, will be tough.


John Phillips said...

Good analysis Mark. I'm notentirely convinced that green = left. It depends on how we define left I guess. I can't understand why so many christians lean to the right. Are we just imitating the US? Perhaps true conservatism should conserve creation and the community by caring for and identifying with the poor?

Mark Keown said...

Thanks John. With respect, the Greens are left for sure. They do nothing to question the assumptions of the welfare state, they align with Labour, they argue for the values of leftist thought. I wish that they were not left in that sense. I wish that they were for the environment and left the details of left-right to National and Labour. That they are left, is seen by their refusal to work with National in any serious sense.

John Phillips said...

Mark I'm enjoying a little bit of political chatter, thanks for responding! I'm aware that serious christians can be rightish (Neuhaus) or leftish (Sider). How much does the National party really question the assumptions of the welfare state? So are they really right? I think the Greens will have difficulty working with National as they tend to prioritise short term financial gain over long term environmental impacts. Perhaps because my background is farming and horticulture, I struggle to distinguish between 'the environment' and other aspects of life. So, I'm not so sure that you could have a strictly environment party without considering economics and you certainly can't ignore people because we are part of the environment. (Creation and all that)

Steve Tollestrup said...

Hi Mark,
I don't think you quite get the Greens. To say the Greens do nothing to question the assumptions of the welfare state is incorrect. As the Waitakere candidate for the Greens I can assure you that we had very clear policy. I'd suggest you go to the Greens website and look through our policies particularly as they concern the poor and beneficiaries. One of the issues that bugged me with Labour is that much of their policy roll out was based on Green policy formulated well before the election. I think we are better to encourage Christians to support progressive justice and social policy of parties on the left than try to gain a movement for Labour. By the way, the Greens largest working group is something called 'Spirit Greens' and has much Christian content and membership. It is worth checking out. If you want to come along sometime to a Green event, let me know.

Mark Keown said...

Thanks Steve will do. I don't urge people to support any party, they have to think for themselves. I just try and raise issues that I think are relevant. Cheers. Mark.

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