At the helm of this triumph is not a Prime Minister but a phenomenon, John Key. He is the rock star of NZ politics. Love him or hate him (and, believe me, any overseas readers reading here, some hate him with an intensity a decent family blog such as this cannot convey), John Key is not just a rock star. He is the rock face which any wannabe alternative has to climb.
Yesterday's result showed the rock face had no ropes. few toeholds, and just the odd crack to jam a finger into.
Let's leave John Key to present political scientists and future historians to analyse. We'll also by-pass the jeremiads which are now enveloping David Cunliffe's leadership of the Labour Party (suffice to say that, IMHO, he should stay. He can and will get better). A momentary linger at the fate of the Internet Mana movement is called for: I so wanted them to not win a seat but I didn't realise most of NZ shared my wish. Top quality sledge against IM from the winner of Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, "all steam and no hangi."
No, what we need to quickly get to is the poor in our country. Their situation has not changed overnight. My general sense is that their situation has not become worse (because National will continue to preside over a strong economy which underpins current welfare arrangements and which continues to distribute money from the wealthy to the poor). But what could make it better?
If God has - as many theologians argue (including me) - a bias towards the poor, then what steps - politically - are the next steps in the light of yesterday's result?
1. National could do things differently. But the result places them under no pressure to do so.
2. Some new political movement could arise which would challenge the popularity of the National Party. See above re the rock face! See also the results and how leftwing parties fared badly. At best they achieved approximately 37% of the vote. There is no foreseeable traction ahead for a new leftwing movement.
3. Some attempt could be made to improve the electoral fortunes of the party of fairness, Labour.
I suggest (3) is worth working on. More knowledgeable people than me are already proposing remedies. Josie Pagani is worth a read, both here (written today) and there (written previously). Clayton Cosgrove, a local Labour MP has this to say:
""I visited a meat works recently and asked members on the line, actually what the boys and girls on the chain thought of us, and the key message reflected in the verdict of the people was that they don't have a lot in common with us," Cosgrove said.
"The message was: 'You guys just deal with minutiae and fringe issues, you should be articulating the needs and concerns that we have'. Those people who say the silly left, right thing, the truth is that thousands of Labour voters elected Mr Key and we need to reflect on that."The plumber, the freezing worker, the little guy who's now [got his] own carpenter shop, the SME (small business), these were all once Labour voters and if you don't progress with people as they evolve and change, people feel completely disengaged."
Rather than wax on about some of my own ideas for change in Labour, let's just say that Labour needs to rediscover its 'fairness' mojo.
Ditching the leader will not do that.
As Pagani notes, its about a deep change, very deep.
Cosgrove's point is that the change needs to know which direction it is going in: back towards the working person. Back towards understanding that jobs matter more than letting trees rot on the forest floor. Back towards understanding that tradies are more concerned about a vibrant economy wanting their skills than whether Labour is against using animals for testing. Back towards understanding that working people who are not rich 1 percenters aspire to own a rental property as an investment they can put sweat equity into and may not be enamoured about a Capital Gains Tax (i.e. introducing a CGT needs to be argued on the basis of fair taxes, not on the basis of envy).
A bit of blood on the floor through a hasty leadership change may see the blood dribbling across the floor in the wrong direction.
Only if the Labour can make that change will it re-find the political centre - the voters who, extraordinarily, especially in Auckland, voted in droves for Labour MPs to represent them and gave their party votes to National.
For those disappointed on behalf of the poor of NZ that a National government has not only been re-elected but given a huge vote of confidence, the next step is to reform the Labour Party.
Students of NZ political history might note that 'reform' is an ironic word in this context. One of the predecessors of the National Party was the Reform Party!
Middle NZ is where elections are won or lost. I do not think middle NZ is averse to Labour working as government for a fair society. But this election seems to be saying to Labour that middle NZ is averse to possibilities that Labour might be part of an unstable government, that Labour might make life harder for small businesses (e.g. by abolishing the 90 day probation period for new employees), that Labour might be talking unachievable talk (e.g. building 10000 houses a year) and that Labour might be talking down the reality of life (in this election they talked down the obviously 'up' economy).
Middle NZ is smart, astute and discerning. Voters from that large bloc have clearly said on Saturday night that they do not believe or trust what Labour had on offer. Even less so the Greens.
The biggest mistake each party could make is to dismiss middle NZ as dupes who have (once again) voted for the 'smile and wave' style of John Key. If Labour wishes to lead a government again it must treat middle NZ with respect, understand its heartbeat and connect to its hopes and aspirations.
From a Christian perspective, our concern for the poor means we pray for and work with the appointed government for the betterment of society and we pray for and work with the opposition to both keep the government honest and to develop a better vision going forward into the 21st century.