Politics

Group Think: It’s Jacinda Ardern, PM, as Winston goes with Labour

Arise Prime Minister Ardern, arise Deputy PM Peters (tbc). Our hastily convened panel weigh in on what tonight’s announcement means.

Duncan Greive: Hope battling with dread

I’m writing this in my phone in the way to an R&B fest in Melbourne, having spent an agonising hour with my phone speaker pressed to my ear to the sound of an empty stage. Then Winston did what hindsight made it seem inevitable he’d do – what ‘had enough?’ demanded. He changed the government.

I spoke to my eight year old daughter, heard the immense happiness in her voice. Her teacher had made her a committed Greens/Labour booster and it’s been the sweetest thing I’ve been near in a while to witness.

I saw a similar ecstasy explode across Twitter, the same people who’ve been furious and deeply frustrated for nine years finally filled with hope.

And yet I feel deep dread. What binds Labour and NZ First is superficial, and comes from a similar response to known stimuli. When the first crisis comes, that’s when we’ll see how fragile those bonds are. And National, hulking in opposition, will be ready to hammer at them.

It’s not a popular opinion that our country is reasonably well served by regular rotations of relatively similar governments, blundering into a future mostly better than the past. But I believe it. And I believe that National were gassed, the wrong party for this moment. That the coming storm of automation and probable recession would be best dealt with by a comfortably interventionist left-leaning government.

Yet the inherent instability of this troika, and the immense strength of National both as opposition and as a brand – leaving with head held high to their people – that from that soup we’ll see another nine year spell coming in 2020. And I think that will be far too soon.

Post-script: 20 minutes after he wrote this Duncan was watching En Vogue sing ‘Don’t Let Go’ and decided everything would be fine.

Duncan Greive is the publisher and editor of The Spinoff.

Photomontage: Jose Barbosa.

Toby Manhire: An astonishing achievement

We’ve spent most of the last few weeks talking about Winston Peters, but – and notwithstanding that we so far know fuck all about the coalition agreement – the protagonist as of tomorrow will again be Jacinda Ardern. It’s a gobsmacking thing she has achieved. For all that the whatever-effect might have flailed in the final days, for all that she might have erred on the tax working-group captain’s call, to be on the verge of becoming prime minister less than three months after taking over a listless Labour Party is astonishing. True, Labour didn’t win more votes than National, but that’s more interesting than it is important. The three parties that campaigned for a change of government have changed the government.

Perhaps the most insightful piece of journalism in the campaign of 2017, for my money, was Branko Marcetic’s account of a semi-embedded weekend at the NZ First party conference. It revealed the broad mood of the Winstonian foot soldiers was not so much the hot-button issues around race that tend to win Peters headlines, but economy. The delegates saw the enemy not as immigrants, but the ghosts of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.

The key passage in Peters’ speech this evening bears that out. “Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe,” he said. “And they are not all wrong.” In post-election negotiations, the party’s choice was “for a modified status quo, or for change. In our negotiations both National and Labour were presented with that opportunity.”

From that point of view, and with the obvious benefit of hindsight, that seems to be a pivotal factor in the NZ First’s decision. We don’t yet know, of course, how that will manifest in the coalition agreement, though for starters it will involve, presumably, significant tweaks to the Reserve Bank Act. The fearsome and heaving benches of a National opposition will pounce eagerly on any signs of economic slide. Grant Robertson, more than anyone, has his work cut out for him.

And what about the leadership of that heaving opposition. Bill English said this evening, quite reasonably, that it was pretty extraordinary to win 44% of the vote and not win the election. His “I got up again” campaign was very, very impressive. He’s highly intelligent, highly authentic, highly capable. The National caucus may well decide that they need him through the next three years. There will no doubt be some however who’d spy a moment for rejuvenation. And he could yet decide that he can live without a third campaign as leader. Either way, we’re best done quickly.

Toby Manhire is The Spinoff’s political editor.

José Barbosa: I spent 10 minutes watching TV current affairs tonight

“Extraordinary scenes today,” said Mike. “Extraordinary. Amazing. Extraordinary.”

“Yes, it’s a -” chirped Carolyn Robinson before Mike said “Never seen anything like it. Let’s got to Corin Dann, One News Political Editor.”

“Extraordinary,” said Corin. “And of course the dollar has gone down, so who knows what will happen with this Labour slash New Zealand First pairing. Will the dollar fall into the sea???”

“Thanks Corin,” said Mike. His face scrunched itself into a configuration that looked a bit like what you’d get if a shallot gained sentience and thought it tasted piss in its mouth.

“And what about the Greens??” asked Mike making a weird one handed tent on the desk with his left hand which made him  look like he had something important to say. “What about the Greeeeens? Extraordinary, we don’t know what’s happening??? Amazing.”

“There’s a big-” said Carolyn Robinson.

“Let’s go to that extraordinary press conference held by Winston Peters” said Mike.

“Mr Peters -” said a woman journalist before Barry screamed something.

Winston Peters’ eyes disappeared and he told everyone off and things were gonna change around here.

“Let’s go to Corin Dann, One News Political Editor,” said Mike. “How’s the dollar doing?”

“It went down half a cent and then went back up again,” said Corin.

“Extraordinary,” said Mike.

“Ah-” said Carolyn Robinson before the outro music started playing.

And somewhere John Tamihere was trying get his wife to stop recording him on Periscope.

José Barbosa is The Spinoff’s gaming editor and audio/visual producer.

Rebecca Stevenson: Thank god that’s over

I am really happy that I bothered to vote now. Is that how this works? I was feeling quite despondent, but now I feel much better because we might get public transport out state highway 16 way.

I can’t say Winston going Labour was a huge surprise, even I thought he’d struggle to go against the “Enough is enough” slogan on New Zealand First’s signs. They have clear policies that overlap, and at this stage I’m feeling deliriously hopeful, mostly because it’s over.

Rebecca Stevenson is The Spinoff’s business editor

Don Rowe: Winston listened to the people

It was empathy over efficiency, compassion over corporations.

Winston Peters, faced with a chance to make a legacy-defining decision, took the mood of the country and realised they wanted something new.

Things are getting worse, he said, capitalism has not served the people. The choice is between more of the same and change.

The problems facing New Zealand aren’t always politically palatable – immigration, foreign ownership, tax – but it is in investing (and believing) in ourselves that we’ll build a better future. Winston knows all of this, and more importantly he knows the people want to be heard. Just as social media has given us all an opinion, it’s given us the conviction it deserves to be heard. And in a democracy it does.

Also, the man is a fox, a wily old demagogue, and he knows the next generation, and the ones to come, will remember him not for 30 boozey years in the Beehive, or that alleged little tryst with Condoleeza Rice, but for enabling the ascent of Jacinda, and for enabling the hope that things can be better – for all of us.

Let’s just hope he behaves himself as Deputy.

Don Rowe is a Spinoff staff writer.

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