Monday, October 24, 2011

The Meaning of John Key


With apologies.



Lancaster Park, 1981 (via)

At the time of the Springbok Tour of 1981 John Key was in his last year of his Bachelor of Commerce degree at Canterbury University, yet if you ask him now whether he was pro or against the tour, he will reply that he doesn’t remember. Of course nobody believes that, reasoning that even a fence-sitter – of which there must have been some – would recall taking that particular stance in one of the defining moments in the country’s social and political history, all the more so if he was attending university at the time. Therefore it has been widely assumed that this is a calculated lie, regarded by Key and his advisors as preferable to stating what his position was at the time and risk alienating a sector of the electorate.

Of the two options, I think the possibility that the Prime Minister may wish to hide having been anti tour is the more chilling, but the speculation distracts us from the larger and more significant issue of why Key would want to dissemble at all. Why is the erasure of this personal political past, of the very idea that he might have been political at all as a young man, matter so much to his image?

The subtitle of Nicky Hager’s important book on the 2005 election, at the time when Key was Don Brash’s deputy, is ‘a study in the politics of deception’. Since Key has taken over the Tory leadership, he has steered the party into a new phase that would be best described as ‘the politics of amnesia’.




It is tempting to read The Hollow Men as the prologue to the term as opposition leader and then the Prime Ministership of John Key. Hager suggests as much in the book’s epilogue, when he reminds us that one of the party’s principal financiers, businessman Rod Deane, had drawn from his conversation with Key the reassurance that the party under Brash and Key would resume the aggressive pursuit of radical economic reform from which the Tories had strayed for far too long [1]. Alister Barry’s film adaptation of the book, which premiered four months before the 2008 election, wryly notes that no sooner had Key declared that he would break from the campaign style and the manipulation engaged in by his predecessor that he travelled to Australia to renew the commission of consultants Crosby/Textor. The strong implication here is that we should distrust Key’s professed centrism, and be mindful of how long Brash had succeeded in projecting a moderate, compassionate image while privately reassuring his backers that once in power he would be anything but a moderate. However while Hager’s book was so instrumental in revealing Brash’s true politics – the politics that he’s now pursuing in a much more transparent fashion as leader of ACT – it has failed to taint Key by association, no matter how substantive and prominent that association was.

This alone tells us that Key was very successful at making a decisive break with his documented past following the leadership coup. And so while there are commentators who contend that he has a ‘heart of darkness’ (Sue Bradford) or that he is no more a moderate than his predecessor (Gordon Campbell), there are others for whom he is a genuine centrist intent on reorienting the party towards small ‘n’ national politics (Colin James [2]), or who maintain that he has no secret agenda simply because he has no agenda at all (Brian Easton). Granted, you could argue that the politics of these commentators is in turn fairly well-documented, and rather predictive of the above results, but that just means that the evidence is not yet clear enough to prove persuasive outside of partisan lines and across discursive domains.

To trace the politics of amnesia at work, we may begin looking at Key’s website, johnkey.co.nz, and find it includes an archive of 142 speeches at the time of writing, beginning with the first one he delivered as leader  of the party and none from the previous tenure as deputy or from his time as a backbencher. In that first speech, Key proposed a vision for the party that was strongly linked to his personal story:
You may know that before entering politics I had a career in international finance. That career was sufficiently successful that from time to time the media likes to question me about what I might be “worth”.

Such questions imply that in the totality of my life, my investments are the most important assets I have accrued. How wrong that is.

As a husband and father, the things I value most in life are not anything you'll see listed on the Stock Exchange.

I think all New Zealanders would agree that the security, happiness and welfare of their family, which is also dependent on the security and welfare of their community and country, is the most precious thing to them.

This vision, which would be more fully articulated in the ‘Kiwi way’ speech delivered two months later at the Burnside Rugby Clubrooms in Christchurch (the location that replaced Brash’s Orewa), included the following commitment:
I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it.
This is how Key in early 2007 heavily qualified his critique of a system that sometimes trapped its beneficiaries instead of helping them (the highly corrosive but always effective phrase ‘welfare dependency’). Now not only could one counter that, when he was Brash’s deputy, Key regularly trotted out the accusation that Labour was ‘soft on welfare’, but in 2002, having just entered Parliament, he was immediately counted amongst the party’s hardliners, stating for the record his belief that there were women on the DPB who,
for want of a better term, [have been] breeding for a business.[3]
Resetting the political clock at the time when he assumed the leadership has helped Key to inoculate himself – to use the phrase so dear to Brash’s strategy team – with regard to the area that has been and will continue to be the crucial battleground of his Prime Ministership, and a key indicator of a politician's neoliberal quotient.

We may regard with equal suspicion his very strong protestations that no John Key-led government would include Roger Douglas as a Minister
We are going to do the best things for New Zealanders, but we’re not going to be held hostage running a radical right-wing agenda. It’s not why I came into politics, it’s not what I’m campaigning for, it’s not what I stand for, and I’ll be buggered if I’m going to go out there and run a policy agenda which is moderate, considerate and pragmatic, and then turn around and try to sell New Zealanders down the river. [4]
against his links to the cynical politicking of his former leader and his willingness to promise Brash a cabinet position should National win the next election and ACT be returned to Parliament. Clearly the issue here is that Roger Douglas is associated in the minds of the electorate with the decade of New Right reforms in New Zealand in a way that Don Brash isn’t – possibly because of the latter’s administrative/technical as opposed to political role – and the association is still considered toxic. Hence Key’s insistence that he is not interested in ideology, but in what works, and that ‘the National Party is about tomorrow, and what we can achieve’, and not about ‘blaming things from twenty years ago’ [5]. And so too perhaps his refusal to answer the less charged question of where he stood on the Springbok Tour is motivated by the fear of being drawn into a discussion of that decade and what was to follow.

The problem of the politics of amnesia, it must be clear, is larger than John Key, and reflects a complicated and ambiguous relationship with neoliberal reforms in the country as a whole, a failure to properly engage with the political issues that remain open, wound-like. On this count I think the conventional wisdom used to explain the rise of John Key and National’s easy road to victory in 2008 ought to be reversed: the issue is not that people got tired of Labour, but rather that Labour’s narrative itself was exhausted. Just how exhausted was highlighted in the campaign when Annette King criticised National’s youth policies as if she was a member of the opposition and not in charge of that very portfolio, and when put on the defensive blamed a raft of social statistics on the benefit cuts under Ruth Richardson, fifteen years earlier [6]. This kind of profoundly disconnected statement only served to confirm that Labour had never really meant to reverse or rethink the fundamental planks of Rogernomics. After three terms, it was clear that the party’s policies couldn’t match the rhetoric of change that had framed its 1999 election victory.

Clark’s metaphor of the New Zealand economy as a cork bobbing in the ocean, later mirrored by Key’s mantra that we can’t stand on the beach and push back the tide of the global recession, had become shorthand for the much larger and far less justifiable claim that there is no big ‘p’ politics, just good or bad administration, and therefore the supreme virtue of a politician is competence – which Clark possessed in abundance – as opposed to the capacity to produce meaningful and lasting change. But the voters hadn’t forgotten (and Māori voters especially so) that Labour had promised them something else.

(The politics of amnesia came even more starkly to the fore in the disastrous election of Phil Goff as Labour leader after the election. Whatever Goff’s merits and skills, whatever his seniority, that decision meant that Labour would have the worst possible person in charge of breaking the neoliberal consensus, should they have opted to do so – a person who had been implicated with, and had never apologised for, the very reforms that Key is supposedly conspiring to relaunch behind the nation’s back.)

Key and his strategy team read the situation very well, and made sure they would project competence as well as making the claim that the party’s policies were forward-looking – under the ‘ambitious for New Zealand’ slogan – for the benefit not of the politicised voter but rather of the soft, disengaged centre, in the well-founded hope that it might itself be forgetful enough to buy this claim. As late as 2010, two years into his first term, it was perhaps these citizens that Key was addressing when, in wishing them Merry Christmas in a recorded message for Radio New Zealand, he introduced himself as follows:
Hallo, it's John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
There he is, in a nutshell: a man who sees himself as the Prime Minister of the people who may not be quite sure who the Prime Minister is, or in which country they live.

***

The question of whether Key has steered National in a moderate liberal direction or is gunning for a second round of radical economic reform over the next three years can properly be answered not by listening to the speeches and the prepared statements but by keeping a close eye on the workings of government and of the party machine. It is the work of political reporters, investigative journalists, unions, advocacy groups and anybody in a position to tell when there is a mismatch between rhetoric and substance in one or more of the government’s policies, or to spot a contradictory connection. When Bruce Jesson complained that New Zealand is a hollow society, I think he might have meant that we don’t have too many people on this kind of case, and that they’re easily isolated and neutralised.

I say that there is not much to be gained by studying John Key’s speeches, but I did it anyway. Over the course of the last few weeks I endeavoured to either listen to or read everything that Key has said into a microphone since becoming an MP and that is available for consumption, as well as a lot of what has been said and written about him. Other than the fact that I might have watched Citizen Kane a couple of times too many, I’m not sure what I was hoping to demonstrate by doing that: I can certainly say that I don’t feel especially enlightened about John Key the man or John Key the politician, and that I didn’t glimpse a grand design, sinister or otherwise. His celebrated charm remains profoundly mysterious to me, although I have a feeling that he may have stretched things too far in the last few weeks. While the leader’s feminine side crafted on the mags such as the current Australian Women’s Weekly remains a thing to behold, his blokeish image, so carefully cultivated with the help of the likes of Tony Veitch and Paul Henry, may have reached an endpoint last night when he posed as one of the boys in the All Blacks' locker room

Image from this set. h/t: Richard Pamatatau

or, more extraordinarily, had a photo of himself raising the Webb Ellis trophy included on the National Party’s website.

Image clipped from www.national.org.nz on 24/10/2011

Key’s playing a dangerous game here, and he may have misread the sensitivities of the public for once: the average joker / non-politician needs to practice his modesty very carefully, and be sure not to overreach.

But as to the far more substantive issue of what Key’s politics are and where its roots lie, hence where the battlelines will be drawn over the next several years, I found nothing of note. Okay, perhaps one thing. It’s in the ‘state of the nation’ speech delivered in January of this year, in a passage in which Key talks about the origins of New Zealand’s economic troubles and offers some uncharacteristic historical perspective – albeit in order to talk up the task faced by his government and therefore magnify its achievements. In the copy of the speech released to the media, the sentence I want to highlight reads as follows:
New Zealand's economic imbalances have built up over several decades, so it will take more than a year or two to fix them.
Whereas in the speech as it was delivered (at the 9m15s mark) he said this:
New Zealand's economic imbalances have built up over nearly two decades, so it will take more than a year or two to fix them.
That there is a discrepancy at all suggests that there was a discussion over this, and therefore that the difference between several decades and nearly two decades was perceived by Key’s strategists as having political connotations. I agree with them. Several decades is vague and fairly meaningless. Nearly two decades, said at the beginning of 2011, places the mark in the first term of the Bolger government, and most likely at the end of it, in 1993. Not 1999, when Labour returned to power. Not 1996, when National remained in power but was saddled with Winston Peters after the first election under MMP. 1993: between two terms of National, Key’s own party of birth, governing alone. And the only thing that changed in 1993 is that Ruth Richardson got the sack, marking the symbolic end of the New Zealand experiment, or rather the end of its forward motion: for the laboratory has remained there ever since, aseptic, untouched, montionless, in the form of benefit levels that just won’t rise, public service philosophies that just won’t change, public companies operating like businesses and always in a state of readiness for privatisation.

This is the same Ruth Richardson, a friend and former Minister of the Crown, that Don Brash felt that he had to meet in secret while he was leader of the National Party. And perhaps it’s the literary critic in me talking, but I think I might have spotted her making a small but symbolic appearance in that speech at the beginning of a new election year, as a harbinger of things to come.



Offline references:
[1] Nicky Hager, The Hollow Men:  A study in the politics of deception (Wellington: Craig Potton, 2006), p. 277.
[2] Colin James, 'The Purpose Of Power'. New Zealand Management, 01 July 2009, p. 20.
[3] Anthony Hubbard, Ruth Laugesen, ‘Which Way Bill?’. Sunday Star-Times, 25 August 2002, p. C1.
[4] Checkpoint, National Radio, 20 March 2008.
[5] Morning Report, National Radio, 30 January 2008.
[5] Ibid.








31 comments:

Scott said...

Close reading eh! Literary crit has a lot to offer politics...

Robyn said...

Hallo, it's John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Whenever the PM appears on One News, he (or she) will never have a graphic showing his name and title as it is assumed that most viewers will know and would be "Duh!" if it was captioned so.

Stephen said...

"Labour had never really meant to reverse or rethink the fundamental planks of Rogernomics. "

That implies that Labour shared a common view on the merits of Rogernomics. I think that it's more that Clarke built a coalition by being willing to forget -- there's your politics of amnesia -- in order to achieve unity. A proper reevaluation of Rogernomics would have required humiliation and conflict. The Labour policies we see now are moving back to traditional social democratic positions, but I don't think we'll see either a full commitment to those older values or a true accounting of the mistakes of the 80s until the last of the players from that 84 crew are gone from caucus.

Getting back to Key... what can we do? Until he and his crew make more overt and unambiguous moves, it's hard to convince people about what they're up to, no matter how clearly we see signs.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Whenever the PM appears on One News, he (or she) will never have a graphic showing his name and title as it is assumed that most viewers will know and would be "Duh!" if it was captioned so.

Yes, I get that on radio you have to say who you are. But of New Zealand? I think he might have had us at "John Key", and "the Prime Minister" really ought to have sealed the deal.

While we're at it, in the state of the nation speech I quote at the end of the post he claimed that National was securing a brighter future "for New Zealanders and their families". Who are these families? Wouldn't they be included under "New Zealanders"? Unless he's talking about reuniting the families of recent immigrants.

che tibby said...

"of New Zealand" is a loaded term.

as in, "we are all New Zealanders" and not any of those other minorities that might like to claim especial privileges from time to time.

WV, "dieknou", a single line short of understanding my own demise.

Stephen said...

Who are these families? Wouldn't they be included under "New Zealanders"?

I think we should infer that "New Zealanders" are actually people who earn a wage or salary, and their families are those they support. Like the similarly misused "taxpayers". That would be consistent with the classic Nat outlook, anyway.

merc said...

Last night on TV, PMONZ Key said 3x...NZer's have shown they can...they would be us.
wv; unorb, dismount or be...

Christopher said...

I think you definately hit one nail on the head; we have indeed been in a catonic state since Richardson was sacked.

"And the only thing that changed in 1993 is that Ruth Richardson got the sack, marking the symbolic end of the New Zealand experiment, or rather the end of its forward motion: for the laboratory has remained there ever since, aseptic, untouched, montionless, in the form of benefit levels that just won’t rise, public service philosophies that just won’t change, public companies operating like businesses and always in a state of readiness for privatisation. "

It could be one reason why many on the left are 'deserting' Labour, as Labour cannot countenance a) reversing some of the 'reforms' and b) cannot bring themselves to even talk about seriously left ideals - for example I have asked if the Labour Party will come out with a clear statement that they will rip up the treaty between the US, Australia, NZ and a few other SE Asian countries if Pharmac is included in the treaty. Such inclusion will mean higher medical costs for us. Ripping up the treaty will incur other costs but asserts economic nationalism, a greater benefit in my view.

Labour has yet to make any kind of statement about this issue.

merc said...

Ah here it is,
"We are not prone to overt signs of patriotism but they wanted to show their emotion and support," said Mr Key, who enjoyed a beer with the team in the dressing room after the 8-7 win over France.

"What a great channel to be able to do that. In a way I'm not surprised [by New Zealanders and they way they embraced the tournament] but I am delighted. At the opening ceremony I said, 'this is your World Cup, be proud of it,' and they were.

"I really wanted the All Blacks to win for a team that had tried so hard and worked so hard to get there. But for New Zealand it's great. It's been a pretty tough time over the past 12 months, just being able to unify the country and give them something to really cheer for has been really special."

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby/news/article.cfm?c_id=80&objectid=10761391

Not the words of a republic.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Getting back to Key... what can we do?

You mean writing a long blog post is not enough? I went to a lot of trouble, you know.

I think there’s a hint in the other point you make: if the reason why Labour never had that conversation on Rogernomics is that it might have upset some of its caucus, then – how can I put this delicately? – fuck them. But I would argue that it’s more complicated than that. Rogernomics presided over a massive redistribution of wealth in this country, and it wasn’t only the Rod Deanses and Diane Foremans that got rich(er). To name one group, there are a lot of landlords in New Zealand, which doesn’t mean we’re an ‘egalitarian society’ or that there is no class – but rather that a sizeable chunk of society stood to gain from the reforms. And in that as well as other areas I think it’s quite straightforwardly a matter of the middle class having sold the working class down the river, with the added, significant psychological benefit of being able to revile extremists like Douglas in the full knowledge that neither the marginally reformed Labour nor the newly moderate National would take things further and mess with their entitlements or devalue their precious assets. That’s the political centre in this country, those are the people that Brash tried to deceive. And maybe Key is up to the same game. But it shouldn’t make us lose sight of the fact that the moderate political centre now subscribes to what would have passed in 1981 for an extreme right wing ideology.

I am heartened that Labour is finally talking about reversing some of the reforms, and if Goff truly has had a change of heart, I say good on him. But it doesn’t come across as sincere, and in part because there is no tangible sign that Labour has come to that historical reckoning – which is the politics of amnesia at work again, history being rewritten speech by speech, as if the party had always been there, on the side of good, a force of progress. Whereas the loss of progressive politics – of the very capacity to think of a progressive politics that goes beyond ‘not being as bad as the other side’– is precisely what we have suffered.

Anonymous said...

So by your logic Richie McCaw should introduce himself as "Richard McCaw, Captain" or just "Richard McCaw"?

After all, we should all know what he's Captain of right? And we wouldn't want him to imply that we don't know who he is! That would be calling us ignorant!

I think you're searching for insults a little there... it seems reasonable to introduce oneself and the reason you're on national radio in my mind.

Giovanni Tiso said...

So by your logic Richie McCaw should introduce himself as "Richard McCaw, Captain" or just "Richard McCaw"?

I struggle with the analogy. Plus, you're not suggesting that he commonly introduces himself as "Richie McCaw, captain of the All Blacks", are you? He should let people work it out by themselves.

But I was merely noting that saying that you're not just any prime minister, but in fact the prime minster of the country whose national radio you're speaking from is a touch redundant. And of course it's a small detail, but it was a prepared media statement, and few things about prepared media statements are casual or done without reason.

3410 said...

I've always thought that the appeal of John Key was fairly obvious. He's simply the embodiment of what "we" would all want ourselves to be; normal, happy, successful, popular, wildly wealthy, and yet not (or, at least, not usually appearing to be) one who considers himself better than the rest of us.

That seems to widely be the measure of a leader these days. Not excellence in governance, but rather something more like a mascot (of New Zealand).

Even his very name perfectly captures the blend of normalcy and success that "we" look for in a mascot.

I'm a bit surprised that you didn't dig a bit deeper into "the meaning of John Key"; specifically, into the meaning of "meaning".

For me, "the meaning of John Key" is that there is no meaning. He's just "a nice man". To even ask about the "meaning" of him is wallow in the negative, over-thinking arrogance that Key himself has swept away (aka "Your just jelus.") Likewise, *any* questioning of policy or performance ("He's doing his best".)

He is, indeed, the Hollow Man par excellance (his favourite music is currently Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, because that's the most popular, natch). What's more shocking is that all this makes him the most popular prime minister in living memory.

The real question is what Key's supreme popularity says about us.

Giovanni Tiso said...

What's more shocking is that all this makes him the most popular prime minister in living memory.

Maybe, except... how do you measure that? All that you know is that he is a lot more popular than Phil Goff. That's the only real yardstick we have. Opinion polls don't tell you how much New Zealanders like John Key – just that they like him more than the next guy. In other words, we don’t how ‘hard’ his numbers are. It might yet turn out that they evaporate quite quickly – more so than Clark, who was far more substantial – once the vacuum is filled with some politics, as it inevitably must at some point.

For me, "the meaning of John Key" is that there is no meaning. He's just "a nice man". To even ask about the "meaning" of him is wallow in the negative, over-thinking arrogance that Key himself has swept away (aka "Your just jelus.") Likewise, *any* questioning of policy or performance ("He's doing his best".)

That’s not far from what I was trying to get across: the politician without a past is a blank slate on which to project some very roughly sketched, clichéd ideas about the New Zealand mainstream subject. But like I say, we might find that this very successful marketing construct will fall apart quite quickly, once something or someone make the first little dent, precisely because it is so shallow.

Giovanni Tiso said...

One thing I will say, though, on the subject of rhetoric and meaning: one admirable quality of the 142 speeches currently up on John Key’s site is precisely that they are all subtle variations on a single, unambitious theme. By which I mean that if nothing else his team has crafted a coherent communication strategy that can be very easily adapted regardless to audiences varying from the Tory party conference to the Australian Parliament or the Sensible Sentencing Trust. After a while you really do feel like you’re reading the same speech over and over again. And… there’s something to say for that, I suppose, if you're aim is to make of the leader a man for all seasons.

merc said...

Projection into a leader is usually very difficult to unravel, this is the nature of projection. Projection is vital for cognition, it is innate. We defend even our unconscious projections, bitterly or lovingly, even both at the same time. It can be seen in the language of the time. Both desirable and undesirable contents are projected. Leaders are designed to be containers for mass projection and so with the good the bad. Key has more mileage yet, I suspect.
Democracy demands it.

Giovanni Tiso said...

You may very well be right. I just wonder - and maybe I'm just being contrarian here - to what extent New Zealanders are actually fond of that reflected image.

merc said...

When the group participates in a collective view, as politics demands, the collective level is participation mystique, the most primitive level. It is not a case of being fond of, more a case of having to believe that this leader is the best container for me in the eyes of the collective, until it is safe to decide the other way, and in our system, this is the same way, Obama or Bush, Clarke or Key.
The unendurable response is that this system would produce individuals.

merc said...

Sorry, Clark.

Giovanni Tiso said...

@Christopher
“for example I have asked if the Labour Party will come out with a clear statement that they will rip up the treaty between the US, Australia, NZ and a few other SE Asian countries if Pharmac is included in the treaty.”

Somebody raised this issue on Grant Robertson’s Facebook page earlier today. I don’t imagine he would object to my reposting here his response:

Labour has made clear that we do not think that Pharmac should be traded away. It's is way too valuable to New Zealand.

Keir said...

Interesting though to watch Key at the RWC final. He was ruthlessly kept out of shot on the pitch, and managed to mangle not one but two photo ops. (The handshake, and he also got in the way of one of the better camera angles for the `McCaw kisses trophy' moment.)

I think Key stuffed that up. Which is interesting. I don't think it means much, really, but then again it starts to offer insight into ways Key can fail at being Key, not just at `being a politician' or wevs.

JL said...

Although it is undoubtably a lie, I think John Key's proclaimation of amnesia regarding the Springbok tour has another reason behind it. I think it is to hide the fact that in 1981 the whole issue was over his head. I really don't think he had an opinion either way. He had other interests, like how he was going to become a millionaire. I suspect at the time he had no principles, no strong beliefs about what was right and wrong in the world. And his grasp on these things is still pretty sketchy today.

To put myself at risk of being a Labour apologist, I disagree with your opinion of Phil Goff. He is willing to admit past mistakes. For example in an interview with Sean Plunket, referring to the economic reforms of the 80s, he says "We had to make changes. Many of those changes were right, some of those changes were wrong, and my experience of life is that when I find out that something's wrong I change my position. What do you do?"
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1105/S00002/phil-goff-on-the-nation.htm

Unlike Key, Goff has integrity, principles and a conscience. I think Phil Goff would make an awesome Prime Minister, actually I like him more than I liked Helen.

Rob said...

The lack of a sustained eco-political argument from the left of politics can't be attributed simply to Labour in NZ and the inability to admit mistakes. Since the 80s, there's been a lack of intellectual fire-power from the socialist camp across the English-speaking world. At the same time, the leaders of centre-left parties (Clinton, Blair, Clark) have overtly rejected the moral and political 'taint' of socialism- opting for 'triangulation' or 'the third way'. Someone one KimHill said the other day "Feminism is like vacuuming- very five years you have to do it all over again."
Mebbe socialism is the same?

Christopher said...

@ Gio


Thanks - so Labour says;

Labour has made clear that we do not think that Pharmac should be traded away. It's is way too valuable to New Zealand.

I note that it thinks that Pharmac should not be traded away. I cannot for the life of me see anywhere it says "...and if it is traded away, we will rip up the treaty.", or similar statements of consequences should it be traded away.

The statement by Labour is not unequivocal.

Giovanni Tiso said...

"The statement by Labour is not unequivocal."

But the treaty is not signed, right? And it won't be before the election. So if Labour gets in they'll take over the negotiation - hence what I'd expect them to pledge is that they would make the preservation of Pharmac non-negotiable. Robertson seems to have indicated just that.

merc said...

This is a perfect example of why I find voting so fraught. Either Pharmac is demonstrably a good idea both financially and socially, or it's not.
As it stands it's an ideological football with the value of funding obscured.
Frankly, in light of their inability to actually quantify the financial benefits of the RWC investment I wonder if this doesn't highlight ineptitude, meanwhile Bill keeps borrowing...from private banks.

Giovanni Tiso said...

To put myself at risk of being a Labour apologist, I disagree with your opinion of Phil Goff. He is willing to admit past mistakes. For example in an interview with Sean Plunket, referring to the economic reforms of the 80s, he says "We had to make changes. Many of those changes were right, some of those changes were wrong, and my experience of life is that when I find out that something's wrong I change my position. What do you do?"

I in turn don’t want to engage in Goff bashing – we can probably agree it’s not the most productive use of anyone’s time, if nothing else – but I must say I’m unconvinced. Not just because it’s not what he said the last time he wasn’t running for office, but because even if we take him at his word I think he has framed this change of direction in very problematic terms.

Tim Barlow said...

I think Giovannis criticism on NZ politics is the best reading thats available. Total respect for the amount of research you've done

I dont know why a man like Key, coming from his history, can't change his tune. He probably really believes he can become some kind of political moderate

I can't help but compare the criticism of Key to Obama's lack of comment on the OWS movement. It just seems these political figureheads are totally ineffectual now. Is that a good thing? I hope so.

John Key is a global heavyweight trader who has been given NZ as a treat to play with. I'm sure there have been some tradeoffs for the country such as bargain reinsurance for the ch.ch earthquakes.

The pace needs to stepped up on the Occupy movements, otherwise leaders like Key will will ride it out and gain kudos from surviving it

Christopher said...

@ Gio

You said:

But the treaty is not signed, right? And it won't be before the election. So if Labour gets in they'll take over the negotiation - hence what I'd expect them to pledge is that they would make the preservation of Pharmac non-negotiable. Robertson seems to have indicated just that.

No, the treaty isn't signed. However Robertson's statement as you indicates hinges on a belief that they would get elected come 26 November. I'm more interested in what happens if they don't get elected to government benches.

I completely understand the slightly ambivalent statement Robertson has made; which party wants to be the one that holds a 'knife' over such an issue where that same 'knife' can be used against them in a future similar issue? For good reason politicians of any stripe will *never* say that they will rip up such a treaty come what may once in power.

Why do I want the Labour Party to hold that knife? Selfish interests really - I do believe that we should not be beholden to a treaty that shifts control of an important part of our lives (health) to multi-nationals.

Giovanni Tiso said...

What you are asking is that the Labour party commit to their policy for the 2014 election, in the assumption that they're going to lose this one. This would be both strategically perplexing and democratically suspect, seeing as it will be a different caucus at that point.

Ben Wilson said...

Nice work, Gio. Rather you than me to listen to all those speeches.

I hope you are right that the veneer will fall really fast when he kicks into gear.

I find it unlikely they will hold off after this election. 3 years is plenty enough time to prepare for a huge gutting movement. I hope I'm wrong and he's just a nice guy, but the absence of a past really does creep me out.

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