Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why 'Tea Cup Gate' is not trivial

It is easy to feel sorry for Bryce Edwards, the University of Otago political scientist who has given himself the task of summarising each day of the election campaign on his blog.

As Edwards must be all too aware, the Northern Hemisphere is currently the scene of extraordinary political turmoil and ideological debate, as an economic crisis shakes Europe and America and pro-democracy protests surge through the Arab world. Instead of getting to apply himself to these sorts of profound events, Edwards is forced to write, day after day, about the cup of tea which John Key took with John Banks in an Epsom cafe, and the suppressed recording of the conversation which the two men shared. It's no wonder that Edwards is complaining, in an opinion piece published in today's New Zealand Herald, that our election has become a 'circus', where personalities are more important than policy, and trivial disputes obscure the very serious economic situation New Zealand faces.

The Leader of the Opposition seems to share Edwards' impatience with the controversy now being dubbed 'Tea Cup Gate'. Phil Goff has ridiculed John Key's complaint to the police over the recording of his talk with Banks, and has called for Key to allow the release of the recording. But Goff seems to want to shift debate away from the infamous conversation, and back towards issues like National's plans to sell off shares in state-owned companies.

Edwards and Goff might be a little too quick, though, to dismiss the significance of the controversy over the chat Key and Banks had last week. Even before Key met with Banks, there had been widespread criticism of National's attempts to keep its ailing Act Party ally in parliament by getting an Act MP reelected in Epsom. National voters chafed at instructions to vote for Banks, and supporters of other parties complained about an abuse of the MMP system.

It is hardly unusual, in the era of MMP, for major parties to instruct their supporters to vote tactically, so as to ensure that a favourable minor party gets returned to parliament. What has upset many Kiwis is not National's advocacy of tactical voting, but its attempts to preserve the Act Party, and the suggestion that its support for Act is linked to a secret policy agenda.

For many New Zealanders, the Act Party symbolises the radically right-wing policies which were introduced to New Zealand by the Lange-Douglas Labour government in 1984 and continued by the Bolger-Richardson government which took power in 1990. During the late '80s and early '90s unemployment in New Zealand quadrupled, as scores of state assets were sold at bargain-basement prices, financial markets were deregulated and the dollar was floated, banks and post offices were shut down around the country, and new laws made unions into an endangered species.

The arrival of neo-liberalism in New Zealand came as a near-complete surprise. Labour had fought its 1984 election campaign on a traditional social democratic platform, promising to tackle problems like unemployment and to strengthen unions.

In 1990 New Zealanders elected the National Party, which had cynically promised to reverse some of the worst policies of the Lange-Douglas period. When National actually deepened and elaborated Labour's policies, voters turned to a post-Douglas Labour Party, and to the new Alliance Party.

In the 1993 election Labour and the Alliance won far more votes than National, but the First Past the Post system kept them out of power. In 1996 voters turned to Winston Peters' New Zealand First Party, which had campaigned against right-wing policies like the sale of state assets, only to be disappointed when Peters decided to throw his weight behind National and keep the party in power.

National was finally removed from office in 1999, when Labour won a solid victory by emphasising that it would not return to the policies of the late '80s and early '90s.

National soon discovered that it could not defeat Labour by advocating a return to radical right-wing policies. The Act Party had been formed by men and women nostalgaic for the Lange-Douglas era, but it attracted very little support from voters, and had to rely on populist non-economic causes like crime and Maori-bashing to keep a handful of seats in parliament. In the 2002 election National was routed after advocating a return to the '90s, and it only managed to rebuild support in 2005 by focusing on the seabed and foreshore issue and on Pakeha fears about the supposed 'privileges' Maori were enjoying under Labour.

The global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession have reinforced the long-standing opposition to neo-liberalism amongst New Zealanders. A generation too young to remember the dole queues and rusting factories of the '80s and '90s has seen the world economy brought to its knees by financial markets 'freed' from government regulation.

National only returned to power in 2008 because John Key made a conscious and concerted effort to rebrand the party as a force for moderate rather than radical change. Realising that there was a consensus amongst voters against a return to the policies of the '90s, Key took over the centre ground which Helen Clark had earlier made her own. The fact that Key's caucus was full of retreads from the bad old days of Bolger and Richardson seemed to elude voters.

During National's first term in government Key has projected an affable and moderate image. He has described himself as a political centrist, told low-income voters that he understands their problems, and kept a studied distance from the Act Party. By doing these things, Key has reassured New Zealanders who have traumatic memories of the way the governments elected in 1984 and 1990 betrayed their supporters and took an extremist course.

Now, though, Key has damaged his standing with the moderate majority of New Zealand voters by associating himself with Act, the political symbol of the bad old days, and by appearing to behave in the same duplicitous ways as the governments of the late '80s and early '90s.

By working to get Act back into parliament, when more than 99% of voters appear to reject the party, Key has suggested that a radical right-wing ideology lurks beneath his moderate image. And by trying to suppress the details of the conversation he had with John Banks in that Epsom cafe, Key has given the impression that, like Roger Douglas in 1984 and Jim Bolger in 1990, he has a secret agenda, an agenda which contrasts markedly with the policies he is selling to voters on the hustings.

Despite appearances, then, 'Tea Cup Gate' is much more than a dispute between the media and a politician about privacy and etiquette. If many voters are preoccupied with Key's mysterious conversation with his Act ally it is not because they are diverted from the issues by personalities or media hype, but because Key has reminded them of a disturbed and disturbing period in their country's history. Tea Cup Gate may not compare with the political controversies which are destabilising the Northern Hemisphere, but for many Kiwis it is not a trivial affair.

[Posted by Maps/Scott]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a communist pplot to destabilise Act.

You dirty bastards.

3:22 pm  
Anonymous Red said...

You have written a very good article, with a lot of well-thought-out and important information in it, that should be on the front of every newspaper in the country, but unfortunately never will be (or at least until there is a Socialist Revolution here and everything is Nationalized). Am perpetually utterly mystified how the corporate mass-media have managed to apparently somehow dupe a substantial proportion of the voting population that Key is some kind of a so-called "moderate". Key is a currency speculator for God's sake!!!

3:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL look at this!

Prime Minister John Key has refused to answer reporters' questions about the tea tapes and stormed out of a press conference in Wellington.

Key was addressing media after giving a speech at the Federated Farmers national conference at Westpac Stadium.

He began by answering two questions about trade before he was asked about the secret tape recorded during his cafe meeting with ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks last week.

Instead of answering the questions, Key kept repeating the economy and trade was what New Zealanders were interested in.

He then stormed out of the conference leaving media visibly stunned.

3:23 pm  
Anonymous Red said...

Ah, there is an ACT Party creature called "Anonymous" who has put a reply on this page too, but the brute cannot spell, resorts to swearing, and rants about "Communist PPPPPPlots" to "destabilise ACT". Animalonybrute, since when did "Communists" have to "destabilise" ACT, when ACT is nothing but a gang of vicious fascist thugs (just like the National Party) who will stab each other in the back and rip each others political throats out at the drop of a hat! ACT is INHERENTLY unstable, because it is comprised of vicious, greedy, nasty, fascists, who are enemies of New Zealand and the Working-Class people of New Zealand.

3:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Communists are hellbent on destorying Act...that's the

4:20 pm  
Anonymous Richard Watts said...

To be honest this is pretty trivial. It doesn't matter so much which political or economic system is chosen, what matters is whether or not it is sustainable, I.E. you can carry on doing the same thing in 100 years time.

7:32 pm  
Blogger Sandra said...

Spot on, Maps.

8:14 pm  
Anonymous Scott/Maps said...

Richard, that 'neither right nor left but out in front' Green ideology is wishful thinking - the old right-left spectrum, like the class divisons upon which it is based, is an inescapable feature of capitalist society. The Green Party fantasy about being neither right nor left has acted as a cover for a move to the right - a move which may well see Norman and Turei becoming Ministers in a National government.

I blogged about this stuff back in 2006, when it was just taking hold of the Greens:

Red, I can see where you're coming from but I would not in any way consider Act or National 'fascists'. I think that demonising those parties lets us forget that extreme neo-liberal policies can also be enacted by ostensibly social democratic parties:

9:23 pm  
Blogger pclarebu said...

I think your analysis period is too long for people who are used to voting for 3 year governments. While there may be truth in the facts - I am sure very few people understand or dwell on them. Why Tea Cup Gate is not trivial is that it exposes the media to focus only on superficial and sensational content. There has been no in depth analysis of policy from any party in particular how combinations of policy may either complement or perhaps nullify each other. Many perhaps even most people in New Zealand don't have the skills or the access to information to analyse these policies that spill forth in sound bites. Some sound good but have no detail, some will have short term impacts some with impact in the longer term some are subject to massive changes before they will occur - some are distorting facts. This is occurring in all party outputs. But the media, public commentators, experts are at most paraphrasing policy releases - definitely very little in independent detailed analysis. But give them a bit of gossip of what might or might not have been said on a tape - given that those in the know think it is not worth mentioning and it's all the media can talk - about asking the same question over and over again. This is why it is not trivial because our supportive analysts are failing us.

9:31 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

The tape will be published by someone. My bet is Bomber who has said he would if he got a copy. But he has competition and Key is rapidly increasing the field.
This is real political circus with the media in the middle. There is also Hone's old revelation that a senior MP got caught up in a P raid. We're still waiting Hone.
Could be a real perler final act where Key penetrates himself with his own sword, ACT eats fire and meltsdown, Goff manages to jump over the corpses on his farm bike while way above Hone excels himself on the hire wire.
Whoever has the biggest laugh will win.

9:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone was strong in tonight's minor party leaders' debate.

He argued forcefully from the left.

Russel Norman on the other hand tried hard to be as moderate as possible, even trying to show how National and the Greens could work together on the economy.

Brash was pitiable.

10:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Well, whatever, don't bank on Banks.

12:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you dirty bastards

9:23 am  
Anonymous Red said...

Scott/Maps: The NZ Green Party cannot accept any "bait" of cabinet posts from the National Party (if, God help us, the National Party gets back onto the Treasury Benches this month)as the Green Party knows full-well it would be committing political suicide. The "Red-Greens" (of which I am a Card-Holding Member) would tear up their Party Cards in their droves (there are a lot of us: the overwhelming majority of NZ Green Party Activists are "Reds") and ditch the NZ Green Party; we would switch to Mana with our Party Vote and Activism (we promote Hone Harewera and his Mana Party as a matter of course in our political arguments). No-one is more intensely aware of this fact than Russell and Mateiria.

The alleged attempt by the NZ Green Party to "inch towards the Centre" is I believe far more a false impression deliberately concocted by the corporate mass-media than it is anything of actual substance. John Armstrong of the NZ Herald is a particularly insidious plugger of this falsehood, and Armstrong tries to claim that the NZ Green Party really are devoid of any policies other than "Tree Hugging/Clean Waterways", which is an outrageous LIE!!! Take a look at the NZ Green Party Policies in real, fully comprehensive detail here:

The NZ Green Party are a very communicative collective, and there is, on the "inside", no sign whatsoever of any alteration of the Green Party Policies that are viewed by the Right-Wing-Mainstream as "Radical". Do not forget that the NZ Green Party have always demanded the implementation of an all-embracing (apart from the family home/personal place of residence)Capital Gains Tax with NO LOOPHOLES!!! They also for years have been stating as Policy, a "Hone Heke Tax" which will hit currency transactions above around $100.00.

the same venomous wall of obstinate resistance and refusal to cooperate that The Alliance were confronted with from 1999 onwards. The Labour Party, after all, are still a gang of rabid Douglasites at heart, and, in fact, a number of the Parliamentary Labour Party members have publically stated that they would be perfectly happy to be in the National Party!!!

9:52 am  
Anonymous Red said...

Damn! Something went wrong with the previous post: had made it too long, and had to mess around trying to edit it. Here is it's continuation from the main theme (not the "orphaned" bit that seems to be tacked on underneath it!):

These things (and especially the Hone Heke Tax) are utter Anathema to the free-market capitalists and hurl them into foaming-mouthed eruptions of hysteria. The only reason the Labour Party recently and belatedly tried to trump the NZ Green Party with a feeble and insipid Labour Party version of a "Capital Gains Tax" is that Labour saw how popular the idea of such a Tax is with the Working-Classes of New Zealand, and Labour were doing so hideously rottenly in the polls that with immense distaste they in desperation "swallowed the dead fish" and reluctantly started proclaiming their loophole-ridden virtually toothless "Capital Gains Tax" which goes hand-in-hand with their contemptibly pathetic "remove gst on fruits and vegetables"!!!

As for a "Hone Heke" Tax, you would not get Labour going near anything like that in a million years!!! It is infinitely too Radical for an insipid, idiologically Right-Wing capitalistic mob like Labour!!!

Also, it is very seriously to be doubted if the NZ Green Party Leadership are so naive as to believe that "there is no Left or Right". But as for the Labour Party, they DO claim, falsely, to "believe" that "idiology no longer has any relevance". In 2008 Helen Clark repeatedly got on her hind legs in Parliament and ranted out impassioned, fervent speeches where she claimed that "Idiological political differences are things of a byegone era" and that ideas like "Social Welfare" are "Antiquated, outmoded concepts that have no place in a modern market economy".

You have written an article about
how it is always the "Labour"/Social Democratic type political parties that have a powerful propensity for lurching violently to the Right (and a long way Rightwards).

Don't forget that the NZ Green Party refused to go into coalition with the Labour Party in 2003, and the NZ Green Party made it absolutely clear that that is how it was going to stay. The Green Party would give Confidence-And-Supply, and vote also for any Labour policies that they approved of, but there the line was indelibly drawn.

My hope for this Election is that the NZ Green Party and Mana can hold the "Kingmaker" position to enable a minority Labour Party to govern with their Confidence-And-Supply. They will be able to try and force Policy on Labour, but they will meet with exactly the same venomous wall of obstinate resistance and refusal to cooperate that The Alliance were confronted with from 1999 onwards. The Labour Party, after all, are still a gang of rabid Douglasites at heart, and, in fact, a number of the Parliamentary Labour Party members have publically stated that they would be perfectly happy to be in the National Party!!!

10:06 am  
Anonymous Helen said...

Anonymous said...
Communists are hellbent on destorying Act...

Au contraire, the PM's making a good job of removing Act's story all by himself.

11:44 am  
Anonymous Red said...

I wonder if the ACT Party "Anonymous" can tell us what story, precisely, the "Communists" are removing from ACT? Apparantly the "Communists" are "de-storying" ACT, but it seems to be John Key who is doing the "de-storying" viz-a-viz the Teapot Tapes. Rodney Hide has been to all intents and purposes "de-storied" from ACT, but it was Brash and his clique who "de-storied" Hide, and I can tell you here and now that Brash is NOT a Communist!!! (There was also some ACT bint "de-storied" from the party prior to Hides abrupt Knife-In-The-Backing as well. But it wasn't by "Communists". Brash is next!!! But Brash aint gonna get toppled by "Communists"!!!).

As it is, it is looking increasingly probable that the entire ACT Party are going to "de-storied" from the NZ political landscape altogether, but not primarily by "Communists" but by the General Electorate!!! And GOOD RIDDANCE!!!

2:50 pm  
Anonymous A Key Person said...

This is clearly a police issue. The reporter illegally taped a conversation. Maybe a spell in jail will teach these journalists some respect.

3:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The PM gets weirder by the hour:

National Party leader John Key, who was in Whangarei on Thursday, said any police action following the complaint he laid was out of his hands, as the police act independently.

When asked whether his complaint was a good use of police time, Mr Key said National had lowered the crime rate across the country so police had a little bit of spare time.

4:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...





11:27 pm  
Anonymous Red said...

Hell, there are some incredibly paranoid fascists putting posts here: they are seeing Communists everywhere!!!

ACT "soaring in the polls"!!! - that must be powerful coke you're snorting up your snout you fascist swine. The fact is, fascist, that your rotten ACT Party is barely reaching one-percent in all polls, and is staring straight down the barrel of political annihilation, and GOOD RIDDANCE!!!

2:58 am  
Anonymous Red said...

eltneHave been re-reading the posts on this page and am jawdropped at the one by Richard Watts where he says that it doesn't matter what political/socio/economic system there is, because the only thing that matters is that it lasts for a long time.

Richard Watts, are you Apeshit???? Inside your skull there should be some mushy shit that physiologists call a "brain".


11:49 am  
Anonymous Nonsiatu said...

The labour theory of value (LTV) isn’t supposed to determine the one-time prices of individual commodities, which Marx openly acknowledges are affected by market conditions, scarcity, etc. LTV is a theory that focuses more on the general situation, long-term prices, monopolies, etc. and especially the price at which products tend towards.

Anway, in the 1990s Marxian economists started to apply the normal scientific method to the labour theory of value, for example:

They found that the predictions of Marx and before him Ricardo had been spot on. Market prices were actually correlated with labour values to the remarkable degree of 95% or more. That meant that 95% of the variation in the prices of goods is explained by the labour cost of making them.

12:27 am  
Anonymous Party supplies said...

It's a illegally issue go a head.

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