Gordon McLauchlan: Why are our politicians sleepwalking?

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Do I see people who have integrity and ready to take us into the future with imaginative policies? Yeah? Nah.

John Key is captain of a ship that's lost its way. Photo / Greg Bowker
John Key is captain of a ship that's lost its way. Photo / Greg Bowker

A blogger who has openly declared that politics and politicians are necessarily "despicable" and who peppers his (formerly) private messages with obscenities is (was?) a mutually accepted "close friend" of the former Minister of Justice.

The former minister made it clear in undisputed emails between them that she believed not in "utu", which is open revenge, but in a furtive, underhand version of getting your own back "double".

The blogger and the former minister were involved with a group, members of which appeared not to mind damaging the lives of people with whom they disagreed and who were frustrating their agenda.

Among that group was a government employee close to the Prime Minister, who later worked for the National Party and who has made no attempt to defend accusations of complicity.

The Prime Minister also had "regular" phone conversations with the blogger.

That much, anyway, seems to be incontrovertible.

How much the Prime Minister knew of all these machinations is open to question, but he was captain of the ship that has so badly lost its way and if he was just trustingly negligent does he thus escape any blame?

What flabbergasts me is that he and, worse, most political columnists are telling me this is all a distraction and I should put it aside and concentrate on party policies.

Am I some sort of weird retro-moralist who finds all this disgraceful, inexcusable and the main political issue of the day? The only way to get to the bottom of it is a full inquiry conducted with judicial rigour; so, of course, that won't happen because too many people don't want to get to the bottom of it.

Okay, I did decide not to be distracted and rather to consider party policies. What I found was mostly various forms of political somnambulism set in a world in turmoil.

The Government is sleepwalking into the future accompanied by some people who are hungry and despondent down on their hands and knees, and followed by the Maori Party picking up scraps.

The Labour Party is also sleepwalking and with eyes closed can't even see the future.

The Conservative Party is sleepwalking backwards into the past; Act is sleepwalking into the jungle; United Future is sleepwalking in gradually diminishing circles before it disappears up its own agenda; but the Internet-Mana Party is walking, alertly, into the ether where burglars don't need balaclavas.

New Zealand First is wide awake, trying to repel boarders from the future; and the Greens are the same old unfathomable Greens.

So, how do we stand as a nation? In 1969, as a journalist, I covered a National Development Conference organised by our last far-sighted government, led by Keith Holyoake. The conference was held because Britain was joining Europe and we were to fend economically for ourselves.

The most compelling recommendations were that future prosperity for us lay in adding value to our primary products. The advice was ignored.

I have been around for many decades and for the first time see New Zealand as a sad, subservient, rudderless little country in which I have no pride.

Let me explain. The United States used to buy up small Central American countries and arrange for the locals to plant and harvest bananas on low wages before the fruit and the profits were shipped away. They were called, disparagingly, "banana republics". We are already a "pine log republic" and there is still a chance we will become a "milk powder republic".

Do I see people of integrity, far-sightedness and who are, yes, politically shrewd, available to take this country on to imaginative, independent policies through intelligent, flexible, long-term planning?

Yeah? Nah.

Gordon McLauchlan is an Auckland writer and critic and former Herald columnist.

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- NZ Herald

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