PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Nov 29 19:56:02 MST 1999
Gary asked me if I'd write something abut the NZ elections.
First a bit of background:
The previous government was the National Party, the traditional Tories,
led by prime minister jenny Shipley. The National Party in 1996 hadn't
got a majority of votes and seats so they were in coalition with NZ
First, whose leader Winston Peters had been Minister of Maori Affairs
and various other things I think in the early 1990s but fallen out with
the Nats. The fall-out was over Peters' exposing of corruption in high
places, including businesspeople linked with National. Peters also
largely supported the welfare state and state intervention which had
been dismantled by the previous Labour government (1984-90) and then by
National in the early 1990s.
In 1996 NZ First won 17 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Peters held
his seat plus NZ First candidates won all five Maori seats off Labour,
plus because they got 13 percent of the vote they got some list seats as
About a year ago, Peters led NZ First out of coalition, but half his
MPs, including 4 of the 5 NZ First MPs in the Maori seats, stayed in the
government. Basically the defectors from NZ First (led by Maori Affairs
minister Tau Henare) and an Alliance list MP, Alamein Kopu, who had gone
walkabout from the Alliance, kept National in power to the end of its
three-year term. The most economically right-wing party, ACT NZ, which
had 8 MPs, also backed National after Peters' party left the coalition
government. (ACT was founded by former Labour cabinet minister Sir
Roger Douglas and is now led by another former Labour cabinet minister,
Richard Prebble; it's other best-known leader is Donna Awatere Huata,
the founding ideologist of Maori Sovereignty.)
Over the past three or four years there has been a lot of
party-hopping. As well as Alamein Kopu leaving the Alliance (she was a
list MP), two of the three Green MPs left the Alliance as did Liberal
Party MP Frank Grover who went off to the Christian Democrats. Another
Alliance MP decided not to stand again, so by last weekend's election
the Alliance was down to 8 MPs. Just before the 1996 elections a group
of Labour and National MPs got together and formed another party,
United. Most of them lost their seats, although their party leader,
Peter Dunne, another former Labour front-bencher, kept his and has
supported National for the past 4 years in return for National not
standing against him in his seat.
In 1996 the Alliance had attacked Labour a great deal during the
election campaign, especially since the main force in the Alliance, the
NewLabour Party, is a left split from Labour in 1989. Anderton and
NewLabour (one word, two capital letters) were leftish social democrats
who opposed the market reforms of the 1984-90 Labour government. This
time around the Alliance chummed up with Labour and they ran on the
promise of forming a coalition government. The Alliance even withdrew
in Wellington Central to allow the Labour candidate a chance to win the
seat off Richard Prebble, which she did.
On the basis of election night returns, Labour won 52 seats, the
Alliance 11, so they have 63 seats out of 120. NZ First vote collapsed,
they got only 4.2 percent, which is under the threshold for MMP, but
because they won an electorate seat (Peters just scraped in), they got 6
MPs. ACT lost their one electorate seat but got 7 percent of the vote,
so got 9 MPs, one more than last time.
The Greens, who expected to win one electorate seat, Coromandel, missed
by 114 votes, and also just missed the 5 percent threshold (they got 4.9
percent), so they got no seats. If the special votes give them either
Coromandel or take them over 5 percent, they will get 6 seats, and NZ
First will drop to 5, the Alliance to 10, and both Labour and National
will drop by two.
NZ First lost all the Maori seats, which were recaptured by Labour. The
NZ First Maori seats MPs who had stayed in government with National
formed a new party, Mauri Pacific, and it was wiped out. These MPs were
totally humiliated - one of them only got 400 votes!
One of the Maori NZ First MPs who stayed in government, but didn't join
Mauri Pacific, hooked up with the leading Maori nationalist activist,
Tame Iti and ran as #2 on the list of Iti's party Mana Maori. That MM
ran a cabinet minister in the current Tory government as their #2
candidate pretty much points up the political exhaustion and rightward
drift of the Maori nationalist milieu, especially as this cabinet
minister John Tuariki Delamere, is a veteran Tory and, as immigration
minister, had tried to throw a group of Asians seeking political asylum
out of the country and forced them onto hunger strike. A couple of days
before the election it was also revealed that he had offered entry to NZ
to Asian businessmen provided they invested $500,000 each in Maori
business, and he was sacked from the immigration portfolio, but
completely backed up by the Maori sovereignty brigade of Tame Iti and
co, people who usually argue Asian immigration should be stopped.
One of the interesting features of this election is the number of openly
gay MPs elected - all Labour - plus a transsexual MP. The transsexual,
Labour's Georgina Beyer, captured a conservative, 'heartland'/rural seat
off National, which I knew she would. (As I've explained before on this
list, probably to the doubt of some North Americans, New Zealand is the
most politically correct country in the world, and so Marxists like
myself see absolutely nothing radical about pc - it is the ruling
capitalist ideology here.) We have had two female PMs in a row, we have
way more Maori MPs than there are Maori as a percentage of the
population, we have gay and transsexual MPs, we have Tory PMs who open
gay mardi gras and welcome such events as a sign of 'cultural diversity'
(a key part of ruling class ideology here), we have a New Right which is
pro-gay etc etc etc.
Well, we now have a Labour/Alliance coalition, with Helen Clark as PM
and Alliance leader Jim Anderton as deputy PM.
Clark, who paints herself as a leftie and Florence Nightingale figure
who 'cares deeply' about health and education, was a cabinet minister in
the 'New Right' Labour government of the 80s. She was the minister of
health who introduced prescription charges, the minister of housing who
began the shift to privatisation and market rents. She comes from a
Tory farming background, went to boarding school, and is a real 'head
girl' type. She makes me puke.
Anderton was president of the LP in the 1970s and later an MP and leader
of the left caucus, which Clark was also involved in. Clark and
Anderton were very close friends, she was even married in his garden.
But they fell out when Anderton couldn't stomach the Labour caucus any
more and left and set up a new party, the NLP, which then formed an
alliance with the main independent Maori party, Mana Motuhake, and then
three other small parties joined (the Democrats, the Liberals and the
Greens) and the Alliance (with a capital A) was formed around 1993. It
got over 18 percent of the vote, but that was before MMP, so it only had
two MPs - Anderton and Mana Motuhake leader Sandra Lee who captured
Auckland Central off Prebble.) In 1994, the Alliance was actually ahead
of Labour in the polls, and looked like it might replace Labour as the
main opposition to the Tories. But by the 1996 elections, Labour had
got back ahead of the Alliance and has continued to do so.
What can be expected of the government?
Well, not much.
Even on things like tax, both Labour and the Alliance have much lower
taxes for the rich than did Tory PM Muldoon, who ruled here from
1975-84. (I'm not an advocate of 'progressive tax', by the way, since
it has nothing in common with Marxism, I'm just pointing out that even
by traditional 'social democratic' standards, Labour and the Alliance
are both 'less taxing' than a previous Tory government in the 70s and
The Alliance big thing is to get $20 more a week into the hands of
beneficiaries (US$10). Labour is hedging on even this. Given that
benefits were cut by 25 percent in 1991 when Jenny Shipley was minister
of social welfare and her mentor, Ruth Richardson, was finance minister,
this Alliance measure would not even return benefits to pre-1991 levels,
never mind take into account inflation since then.
What we are more likely to get from the government is 'feelgood' stuff,
a load more political correctness and 'diversity' garbage (and the
social control that goes with it), and anything else which costs nothing
and leaves the social structure totally untouched, indeed reinforced.
The model for this government is Blair and the Third Way and Clinton.
Indeed the Labour Party, whose current president and previous president,
are millionaires, had Robert Reich out here a year or two ago for
closed-door seminars for Labour MPs and apparatchiks. One of their new
MPs is also some millionaire entrepreneur.
Most of the left here called for a vote for Labour and/or a
Labour/Alliance coalition on the basis that Labour is some kind of
'workers party'. This strikes me as nonsense. Labour is a liberal
bourgeois party and has been for quite some time. Most of its funding
comes from business and the state, its membership (which is only about
10,000 these days) is overwhelmingly the liberal middle class and
businesspeople, there are hardly even any trade unions affiliated to the
party these days. The number of blue collar workers actively involved
in the Labour Party nationally is probably under 100.
So, as with the Labour government of the 1980s, the 'left', such as it
is, is in for the shock of its life.
More information about the Marxism