I see suggestions that the National Party somehow manipulated results to gain their unprecedented win as an extension of “dirty politics”. I have no doubt that there has been a vindictive streak in ministers’ ranks for some time as this was already evident with Paula Bennett’s exposure of private details of any beneficiaries that criticised her. There was no need to resort to skulduggery to win. National won fair and square, and our poorest will suffer for it.
The return of Judith Collins, by her electorate, showed that National supporters either didn’t believe or didn’t care about the issues exposed by Nicky Hagar’s book. If this was true for the minister at the very centre of the allegations then it can be assumed it was also true for the supporter base as a whole.
National ran a good and well organised campaign and kept the political issues on their terms, when political issues got the chance to be discussed.
Reviewing commentators’ thoughts and reflecting on what I saw, I believe this election was lost by the opposition as much as it was won by National.
Dotcom has already apologised for the harm caused by his “brand” and it is certain that it adversely affected those who accepted his help. Though the issues were important, his reasons for presenting them were too personal. Without doubt, Hone Harawira and Mana were caught in the crossfire.
I see the schizophrenia of the Labour party as the biggest impact on this election. It was divided into versions that were ‘National Lite’ and ‘Labour Left’ and was unable to decide at any given moment which one it was. The result was a party with policies that were more to the left than they had been for two decades, and ones that would greatly have assisted in reducing inequality, but presented at the same time as the leadership tried to distance itself from its natural allies.
By refusing to campaign with the Greens, in order to keep options open with Winston Peters, and actively sabotaging Mana in Te Tai Tokerau, Labour gave mixed signals to its voters and alienated the parties it would have relied on to become a Government. It was like cutting off a leg to reduce your weight so that you could run faster!
Whether this or any other analysis is correct is not really important. National has three years to do whatever it wants. One policy it had announced during the campaign was to reduce the number of people receiving benefits by 25%. We already know that they take no account of the availability of jobs in their targeting and can anticipate a further increase of people in hardship.
I still believe that we are following very closely to the pattern seen in the early 1930’s when one economic crash was followed by a later deeper one, caused by the austerity policies of the inter-war Governments and the failures to address the impact of the income/wealth gap on the economies.
Even though the Government will probably not recognise or accept that we have a structural social and economic problem in our society, let alone attempt to mitigate its effects, it will only grow worse. While it grows it will be people: our families, friends, neighbours and the many we don’t even know, who will suffer.
Until we have a Government that sees these victims, who are hidden in plain sight, we need to do all that we can to help them: by speaking up for them; by campaigning on their (and ultimately our) behalf for a fairer distribution of wealth and welfare; and by sharing what we are able, even if it is one can in the food bank by the checkout each time we visit the supermarket.
As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”