Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Encouraging Words

Yes, I can say something nice about the NZ National Party: So far, John Key and Bill English are making all the right noises. Sure, it’s very early days yet, but credit where credit is due, I reckon.

The news media have been talking about Key and English pulling the National Party to the centre. They base this assumption on early statements from Key as well as the more centrist position of the party when Bill English was leader.

“I believe in a tolerant and inclusive
New Zealand,” Key was quoted as saying. “I believe in a society which is therefore to the benefit of all New Zealanders.”

English led the National Party in a centrist election campaign in 2002. The failure of that campaign is part of what emboldened the right to take control of the National Party. Don Brash, according to Nicky Hager’s Hollow Men, then took it farther, relying far too much on the advice of right wing advisers, including some foreign.

The result of the Brash leadership was a divisive party that alienated Maori, women and centrist voters in general. In moving away from that legacy, the challenge for National will be to stake out distinctive positions in the centre that can compete with Labour’s own centrism.

New Zealand Herald’s political correspondent, John Armstrong, suggests that “National needs to start outsmarting and outflanking Labour with some bold ideas that reach right into Labour's heartland,” an area, Armstrong says, “where National leaders never normally go.”

New Zealand voters aren’t particularly partisan and will consider supporting parties that reflect ordinary people’s centrist values, not the phoney “mainstream” of Don Brash’s divisive tenure. They want New Zealand to move forward—together.

John Key said “the future
New Zealand must be a New Zealand that everyone feels they have a stake in.” Like most New Zealanders, I couldn’t agree more. Now, we’ll just wait and see if he really means it.


Jessica said...

Yes, let's hope he means it. Coming from America, I hadve gotten to the point where I view everything that sounds mainstream as code for something far different. Values and fanily - completely innocuous words - set off alarm bells. I am so used to a few vague phrases being repeated to mean a raft of policies with which I disagree that I have gotten really cynical about whether politicians are using wholesome sounding words to push whatever they want.

I know I'm not in the US and National certainly isn't the RNC, but I can't help being a little shellshocked from previous experience. Hopefully Key will move them towards the center.

Arthur Schenck said...

I know what you mean: I keep looking at NZ politics through my American-born eyes, even though I know it's not even almost the same (which is one of the reasons I love it in NZ).

Still, if the last National leader was really cosying up to far-right religious types and also American right wing extremists, it would pay to keep a watchful eye on the new team.