Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: what a difference a day makes! [UPDATED]

Wow. That old saying, A Week Is A Long Time In Politics, re-truthed this week as a couple of bad polls confirm that our Labour Party has been polling badly, and Andrew Little - bless him, decent man that he is - fell on his sword, stepped down as leader and nominated the obvious successor, Jacinda Ardern, to succeed him. Bang. Labour has a relatively inexperienced leader but a photogenic one (don't minimise the importance of that in our televisual age) and, much more importantly, a brilliant performer in the media. Jacinda is an eloquent, thinking quickly on her feet star and it is right and proper that she now leads the only serious alternative party of governance in our land. If Labour do not lead the government on 24 September 2017, they will do after the election in 2020. You can pretty much bet your house on that.

But what does all this mean for Christians contemplating who to vote for in this year's election? I suggest it means very little(bad pun!). While it matters that we have competent leadership, what matters more is what ideology drives the government of the day and thus what we theologically make of that ideology. Policy substance is more important for Christians electing a government than personality.

Sure, Jacinda may now make a play for some policy change that she wants to emphasise and to sell with her own cheerful ("relentlessly positive"), pleasing manner. But we should determine whether we will vote for the Labour Party on its policy first and on its leadership secondly. Ditto other parties.

I have my own views on what Labour Party policy would mean for our country if elected. Ditto other parties. My choice and yours is not much different today than yesterday. But it might be a little bit different in this way: if we reckon each party's policies are a mix of good, bad and indifferent, and if we reckon they are all (pluses and minuses added up) equally good or bad or simply indifferent, then it would be right and proper to think about the style of leadership of our future government. The "Jacinda-effect" might then kick in. So might, and especially for Christians, the Bill English effect (that he is a committed Christian and public with it).

On one matter of leadership I am prepared to be very public in my views about leadership: there are no circumstances in which I think Winston Peters would be a good Prime Minister for Aotearoa New Zealand (as some are calculating might happen). Of all the things a country might appreciate in its human leader, maverick tendencies are not one. Need I point you in a certain north-eastern direction to remind what a disaster having a maverick for a leader is?

UPDATE: I find my blogging colleague, Michael Reddell, at Croaking Cassandra makes a lot of sense here as he gives Jacinda Ardern and her party advice which could help elect them AND more importantly, help a huge number of Kiwis!


Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter, 1/2

I chuckled at your opening lines “A Week is A Long Time In Politics, re-truthed this week as a couple of bad polls confirm that our Labour Party has been polling badly.”

Our Labour Party? I didn’t realise membership of the Labour party was mandatory for Anglicans?

However, when it comes to Labour returning to the government benches I wouldn’t bet your house too quickly. The chances of Labour becoming government this election cycle or next are slim, very slim. Here is why. (Disclamier: I have only voted national once for the party vote in the last five or six elections – and I carry no water for them today)

Labour has consciously abandoned its historical roots as the ‘workers’ party. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It is also true that a lot of ‘workers’ today are aspirational. They don’t look to the Unions or a paternalistic Labour party to defend their interests. They have their big boys and girl’s pants on and believe they are more than capable of looking after themselves.

Second, Labour has consciously and to its great hurt embraced highly divisive ‘identity politics’ with all the energy its MP’s could muster. The one exception is Damion O’Conner who strikes me as a decent human being. Note well Damion is given no profile and is listed 17th on their website despite their fronting him in TV advertising either in the most recent election or the one before. They did this to convince voters that Labour MP’s were ‘just like us’ when they (and we) know very well that the ‘white male straight conservative’ Damion O’Conner is the least representative of the labour caucus.

Ironically the embrace of identity politics has resulted in the complete loss of cohesive identity for Labour. Are they For Maori, Pacifica, LGBT, Feminists, the poor, the workers, women, or all New Zealanders?

Here’s the thing. Only a minority of New Zealanders view themselves first and foremost by Labour’s identity politics agenda, but note well, that’s how the Labour MP’s view themselves. Increasingly they only resonate with a very small clique of urban voters. Driving in the car last night listening to Checkpoint I heard many Maori and Pacifica voters who had no clue as to who the Labour leader was. Simply couldn’t name any of them.

Labour’s base, like the Anglican Church is dying out. Those hard-core voters that ticked Labour all their lives come what may are a dying breed. Labour is dying with them.

Young people are less motivated to vote, and those who do appear more attracted to the Greens. What’s not to like about saving the planet, and now the promise of having a 20% raise in all benefits with no work testing for life?

Labour is broke. If it weren’t for the confiscation of worker’s funds through the Unions fees, and state funded advertising, they would be out of the game completely.

Brendan McNeill said...


Labour MP’s are almost without exception, like the Greens, career politicians most of whom have never earned a cent outside of their tax payer funded careers. They have never employed anyone, been responsible for serving customers, making payroll, or running a business. What does Jacinda Ardern know about anything outside of life in parliament where she arrived at 28 years of age?

To make matters worse, National has moved further to the left of NZ politics, retaining all of Helen Clark’s middle class welfare, and pork barrelling where and whenever it suits them. Like Labour they are devoid of any philosophical governing principal. This has squeezed labour between a left wing National Party and a hard-left Greens party. They have yet to come up with a defensive strategy that will give them any cut through. You can be sure they have had their best minds on this for the last three terms of the National Government, so I think we can conclude the party for Labour is all but over.

Finally, Labour has been through about five leaders since they were last in Government, and it has solved nothing for them for all the reasons I have outlined above. They have become a political anachronism whose future is reflected in their polling.

Jean said...

I was a disappointed with Andrew Little's resignation, not so much with him, but with the tendency of 'us the public' to be taken in more by charisma and appearance than the integrity and character of a leader. Again not thinking at all of another certain country fro whom this approach has umm well.... Hopefully his replacement will do well.

After listening to Andrew and his Finance minister talk on radio NZ interviews I was coming to respect the approach labour was taking re policy and the next election - on things like health and immigration. Sensible and identifying prevention as better than cure. Sorry Brendan I am oblivious to the identity politics.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Jean

I’m assuming you understand what identity politics are. Black lives matter for example are an identity group political movement in the USA - based upon race. Most Christians believe that all lives matter, and even if blacks felt discriminated against, they could have chanted, ‘all lives matter, black lives matter’ but they didn’t.

Labour will have a quota for LGBT, Maori, Pacifica and women candidates. If you are a feminist, then you are committed to removing white male hegemony from Caucus. Consequently, Labour’s commitment to a 50/50 male female gender quota by 2017 is identity politics writ large. Note this has nothing to do with merit, it’s all about gender.

In the end, for the progressive left it all comes down to sex.

For those of us who are interested in politics, it engenders a large sigh (if you pardon the pun). It’s absurdity writ large, which is one reason why they languish at 25% in the polls.

But hey, if that’s the ‘point of difference’ they want to take to the electorate, all strength to them.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
"Our Labour Party" refers to the NZ Labour Party!
Anglicans are quite likely to vote for the Maori Party ...
Anyway I think you could be proven wrong (but not because your general observations of the Labour Party's woes are wrong).
I suggest your analysis does not take account of the propensity of the NZ electorate to give the other lot a go.
Since 1949 we have never had a party run in government for more than four terms (National), we have had five lots of three terms (National 4x, Labour), one two terms (Labour) and two one term governments (Labour).
Our governments have a tendency to run out of puff and/or get lost, complacent or arrogant or all of the above.
In the long term we are a National country but we won't give them a very long run.
Hence my confidence, assuming they squeak through this time, that they will not win again in 2020.
At that point Jacinda will be at the peak of her remarkable powers of televisualcommunication.
The like of which we have not seen since ... oh ... John Key😊

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Jean is missing that with our MMP system, Labour's own polling was indicating that it was getting to the point of Labour MPs being in the next parliament without their leader - remember Andrew Little is a List MP not an electorate one. Maybe Jean thinks that is an acceptable situation - I would agree with many others that it is not.



Anonymous said...

I am looking for the politics of Jesus in all of this.

Down under, I hear a consensus that Jesus does vote to help the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the land, but not if they organize to demand the help that their sorts and conditions actually need with pressure groups like Orphans Lives Matter etc. People should get help, but only if they try hard to pass as people like us, and act submissive. That is, Jesus teaches and practises strict in-group altruism-- help for the Jews but not for those uppity Samaritans-- and is protective of the egos of voters. Or have I misheard?

Speaking of down under, I wish that you would all stop making backhanded remarks about the president of Venezuela. That serious situation requires prayer. And perhaps-- according to classic just war theory-- the Marines. A state with disorder in the streets and arresting its political opponents is approaching the anarchy that obliges neighbours to intervene.

Here up yonder, Jesus quite dramatically voted last week for a restoration of much of our Constitution's natural bipartisanship, implicit separation of powers, and explicit federalism. For those who may not see anything up here but tweets from the White House, the story is briefly told.

The Republican majority in the Senate needed one more vote to repeal the legal framework for this country's private system of health insurance, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or informally Obamacare. As most new presidents do, this one was bullying Republican senators to stand with the party. After getting emergency surgery for a complication of brain cancer, Senator John McCain (R) returned to the Senate and voted first to open debate on the repeal, and then against the repeal itself. His vote does not forestall substantial revision of the law, which many in both parties favour, but it has effectively ended the seven year effort of a unified Republican Party to unilaterally repeal the law in Congress. Several good consequences of that collapse are rippling across Washington and out to the state capitals.

Jesus voted to remind the powerful of the human condition; to help the sick, the halt, and the lame when they were endangered; to remind both the President and party leaders that their power has limits; to break a dysfunctional polarisation, liberating politicians of both parties; and to devolve power to governments closer to the people. Up to this point, Republicans have agreed on little else but repeal of the ACA, finding some taxes to cut, and supporting their mad king; one vote has untied that straitjacket.

But down under, the most interesting thing up here today is probably Ross Douthat's account of the problem Francis faces as the politics of America and the West finally leave behind the post-war world of Vatican II.

Bowman Walton

Jean said...


Actually Brendan I was being honest I have been oblivious to the identity politics within labour until after reading the link you referenced. Personally I am in favour of a person being chosen for their character and integrity irrespective of other factors. Acknowledging at the same time that in order for this to be achieved systemic inequalities of the past or present which create an uneven playing field need to be continually addressed. Note labour was obviously unable to achieve their own goal with a somewhat less than 50% of their party list being female.

Bosco I admit I also miss a lot : ). It also seems to me that polls can be somewhat misleading notably Brexit and the last US election. Andrew made his own choice to step down no doubt for the reasons you suggest. Notwithstanding this I still respected his character and work history more than a number of other politicians in the ring. I am still disappointed with how or on what factors the collective 'we' judge who is a fit leader.

Bowman that is great news re the Affordable Care Act! It was good to hear of the internal resistance to its repeal! I am not sure of your analysis of NZ society re politics : )... To be honest I don't think we have many pressure groups; there seems to be to me and this is just general observation a growing number of people becoming more aware of the families and individuals for whom life is becoming more of a struggle - the more one knows or is associated with people in such circumstances the more ones views are influenced. Perhaps fortunately we are still small enough a country for it to be difficult to ignore such things completely unless we choose to do so. The divide in terms of quality of living is growing a lot wider in NZ than it has been historically.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of down under, I wish that you would all stop making backhanded remarks about the president of Venezuela. That serious situation requires prayer. And perhaps-- according to classic just war theory-- the Marines. A state with disorder in the streets and arresting its political opponents is approaching the anarchy that obliges neighbours to intervene.

Only if that state has strategic resources that the robber barons who run the neighbouring states covet for themselves Bowman

Do you want to send the marines to sort out Saudi Arabia where those who oppose the absolute monarchy that rules there by beheading its opponents in the streets?

No the West's robber barons are totally in bed with the despots of Saudi Arabia which has the fourth largest military in the world armed with weapons sold to them by the West's robber barons

Even in the 1960s the real purpose of "sending the marines" was obvious to the perceptive

Anonymous said...

I pray that the commentator at 9:05 is feeling better today.


Jean said...

Hmm I am still not convinced on the tax debate aspect Peter, the OECD corporate tax rates for 2017 features NZ as slightly lower to equivalently natured countries such as Australia and Canada. Interestingly given the blog points it is actually only slightly above that of the Netherlands. In a range of countries it is about the middle of the road. Foreign investment when done right no doubt can reap certain benefits, it can also destroy countries where their natural resources are undervalued and capital gains are sent offshore (notably free-trade zones in developing countries) or countries who lack protectionist laws such as PNG. Investment in NZ even with tax rates has a lot to offer already not least because of our primary resources and stable social and political environment - there is a reason China owns a number of dairy factories here.

As for lower taxes on local companies, I can appreciate the benefit of this for sustainable economic growth, manufacturing and exporting.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Come to me all you who LABOUR and I will give you rest"- Freedom from activity?