Saturday's march of anti-lockdown protesters in Auckland has focused attention on the fringe of New Zealand politics. Advance NZ, led by ex-National MP and fraud accused Jami-Lee Ross and blues musician Billy Te Kahika (who has faced his own allegations of improper handling of donations), suggests, without foundation, that the pandemic and its response are part of a convoluted United Nations plot.
Social media-originated disinformation, which transformed Te Kahika from a concerned citizen supporting lockdown into a frothy conspiracy theorist within weeks, is undoubtedly a concern.
But it disguises the growing concentration of political sentiment in the centre, and the homogenisation of mainstream politics.
This was in evidence in Labour's income tax policy announcement last week. At the beginning of the Covid crisis, former prime minister Bill English warned a business audience that if asset prices such as shares proved immune to the Covid slowdown and recession, they should not rule out a capital gains or tax on assets going "on the table" to ensure the pain of Covid was shared equitably.
Minister of Finance Grant Robertson's announcement will have calmed any nervous owners of capital, worried about their windfall returns in equities and housing.
An additional tax of six cents for every dollar earned above $180,000 will scare few people. Robertson also ruled out any new taxes, including the Greens' proposed wealth tax.
This explains, along with the largely adept Covid response, how Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been able to lure upwards of 15 per cent of National's traditional voting bloc over to Labour at times in the past six months.
The introduction of MMP had twin purposes: first, to put a handbrake on radical policy reforms of the likes seen by Labour in the 1980s and National in the 90s; second, to increase the diversity of parties represented in Parliament. MMP has failed in the second objective. On a poll for business subscribers by UMR (a reputable firm that also does polling for Labour), we are on track for a three-party Parliament after the election, with the Greens and NZ First well off the 5 per cent threshold for re-election.
However, the first objective has been wildly successful. Managerialism has overtaken idealism in the growing political centre. Even with extraordinary polling, sailing through an unexpected second lockdown with over 50 per cent of the vote, Ardern opts for cautious incrementalism.
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It will be cold comfort for those on the left who want to see transformational action on climate change and inequality.
At least the more conspiratorial minded protesters over the weekend should take solace that the imagination and ambition of the governing parties stop far, far short of the grand plans for world domination the protesters fear.
Ben Thomas is a public relations consultant and is a former journalist and former press secretary to Chris Finlayson.