"National blew it". My sentiments, but not my words. It was one pithy sentence in a strongly worded email from a listener to my podcast regarding National endorsing the Government's Zero Carbon Bill. And the author delivered plenty more venom.
I don't have intimate insight into every National supporter's reaction to this "betrayal" but the mood I am witnessing suggests it's a good time for a couple of minor parties to be active.
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"They had their chance to show they were a real alternative and give themselves clear political space. Instead they folded into supporting bad law and made themselves look more like a Labour-lite, rudderless ship".
The difference between this letter and the rest in my inbox is that it was written by an ex-National MP. And they weren't done, "this window-dressing, virtue signalling bill is indicative of their lack of political spine and being blinded to the views of what used to be their core constituency". Then the ultimate political insult, "they voted for it because they were too scared not to, basically." That is a comment that channels me to another.
I was asked by a woman on the political fringe, "what is National's core, what do they stand for? What is their purpose?" Without waiting for a reply she answered her own question. "Basically it's to keep the other lot out".
The "other lot" however has drifted. It has been led further left. Socialism is its mantra. Jacinda Ardern is a self-confessed Progressive.
Of course, in the 10 months until the next election anything can happen. Repetitive I know but 10 months is a long time in politics. Right now I could see NZ First disappear and Labour and the Greens married and in bed together after the ballots are counted. Equally, rumours of a rural group winning a handful of seats, if they got their act together, could hold the balance of power. Act or the New Conservatives could be in the same position. Then maybe, just maybe, National could throw up a new leader and duplicate what Jacinda Ardern achieved in 2017.
There is another area where National has disappointed. The 1936 establishment of the party was based on "Individual freedom, individual responsibility, individual initiative and individual opportunity, individual enterprise and individual reward". These were the beliefs of Prime Minister Sir Sidney Holland, the party's second leader.
National's website lists nine points in an upgraded list of values, most of which have been undermined over recent decades. One of those values is limited government. I don't think so. The number of ministerial portfolios gives lie to any lessening. Quite the opposite. That leads to the growth, influence and power of the administrative state. New Zealand might be considered too small to have an administrative state, but it's there and expanding.
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Ronald J. Pestritto is associate professor of political science at Hillsdale College, a conservative college in Michigan. He refers to the administrative state as "a system that allows delegations of power, combinations of functions, and the insulation of administration from the full measure of political and legal control". I'll throw in arrogance. Sound familiar?
It was encouraging if not a little surprising to see a Brian Rudman column in this paper on November 6, regarding this same matter. Rudman wrote, "everywhere you look, our elected masters seem to have walked off the job, leaving the bureaucrats to run the show. The results are not pretty".
The obvious example is the Auckland Super City. In one motion, the guillotine dropped on seven Auckland councils in order to form one giant "swamp". The biggest council in Australasia. Accordingly, business was conducted differently. Whatever relations between authorities and ratepayers were, they became more distant, more difficult, more authoritarian. I witnessed it in what had been the Manukau semi-rural zone in 2011. Now, along with the multitudes, I'm experiencing it all over Auckland. If you're looking for the administrative state's worst offender, Auckland Transport is at your service. Not.
The irony is that having contributed to the trashing of downtown Auckland, the holder of the absurd title "urban design champion", Ludo Campbell-Reid who came from London, is moving to a new job in Melbourne. Philosophically, he will be right at home in the most socialist city in Australia. All round, the city of my birth deserves better. Yet a further irony is that my maternal grandfather was mayor of Preston, in Melbourne, when it graduated to city status.
Meantime, there's a good chance that whatever positives may be forthcoming in Quay St and surrounds are already negated by the carnage being inflicted on the increasingly angry ratepayers.
The US provides the best example and it is under the microscope in Washington DC at present. First by appointment, then occupation, assuming power between the elected government and the electorate, with help from an indolent public.
Keep a close eye on the Independent Zero Carbon Commission appointments.