Monday, November 10, 2008

Good news from the election, down under that is.

Did you hear the good news about the election?

Okay, I’m not talking about the U.S. election which, as far as I can see, was pretty much bad news straight down the line. I’m talking about the New Zealand election where the results were relatively good.

First, we need to discuss the problems that the Kiwis faced. Prime Minister Helen Clark was a horrific individual with a very stern, very authoritarian streak who craved political power. While she was rather far to the Left herself her overriding principle was to seek power. And she was petty and vindictive.

People were becoming sick unto death of her. She resorted to all sorts of desperate measures in order to stay in office. In the last election she formed an alliance with the most bigoted moron in Kiwi politics, Winston Peters, just to secure his support. Peters is anti-immigrant, antigay, anti-civil liberties, anti-free market and anti-free trade -- he is Pat Buchanan on steroids.

One of Clark’s brilliant ideas, this time around, was a muddled piece of legislation which was meant to prevent anyone from spending money to oppose her in the election. It’s requirements were so strict as to basically censor opposition to Clark. Meanwhile her government used state funds in massive measures to campaign for Labour without officially doing so. It was the most authoritarian anti-free speech pieces of legislation passed anywhere in the last year. The law is so absurd that Act Party leader Rodney Hide was informed that he broke the law by wearing a jacket with his party logo on it!

Clark knew she was trouble when she passed the law, which is why she did it. Anything for power is her motto.

Her alliance with the odious Peters came to bite her in the ass. Peters, it turned out, was not just a moronic bigot and national socialist but also dishonest and corrupt. Peters had secret trusts set up which were getting massive amounts of cash from wealthy donors especially those with interests in fields related to his ministerial portfolio. Peters got caught with his hands in the cookie jar and then just blatantly lied repeatedly over the evidence. Even though Peters was a minister in Clark’s government she ignored the scandal.

If she disciplined him Peters would withdraw support and she could lose office two weeks earlier. For the sake of holding office a few weeks longer she simply accepted his corrupt practices as the norm. For what amounted to just a few extra days in office Clark stayed kissy-face with Peters. Clark is incapable of admitting errors and the result was that Peters dragged her down.

As expected Helen Clark was defeated by a substantial margin. The unfortunate news is that the opposition National Party is lead by John Key, a man without principles. In the last election National was lead by Don Brash, a good and decent man with classical liberal values. Brash led the party from 20 points behind into a statistical tie with Labour. His reward for rejuvenating the party was to be stabbed in the back by Key. Clark’s Labour Party spread rumors about Brash’s marital life to destroy him, some Religious-Right types helped in the smear, and Key took advantage of the attack to grab power for himself. Key has run what amounts to a Labour-lite campaign. Like Clark, Key is not worried about principles as much as power.

But New Zealand has a mixed member parliamentary system. And the structure of that is such that no one party can ever really control everything. It is forced to seek partners in government. With 122 members of Parliament a party needs the support of 62 MPs in order to govern. Even with Labour being decimated at the polls National only secured 59 seats. Early on it had made a deal with United Future, run by the chameleon Peter Dunne, who supported Labour in the last government. But United Future and Peter Dunne are one in the same -- the party has no other representative. This left National one seat short of a government.

This basically means that National has to deal with the classical liberals in the Act Party. Act Party leader Rodney Hide is a principled politician, which makes him a rarity. He took the leadership just prior to the last election which made his a particular target of smear campaigns from Winston Peters -- smear jobs where the hallmark of a Peters election campaign. And the media was united against Hide telling voters that Act was finished and wouldn’t win any seats.

Hide continually told the media that his own polls showed he was going to win the Epsom seat but the media dismissed his claims. Hide, however, showed them that his polls were accurate and media polls just so much rubbish. Hide easily won the seat and brought a second MP into parliament as well.

This year Hide repeated his win but by a bigger margin. His second in command, Heather Roy, was expected to join him and it was hoped that a third Act MP would join the fold. That third candidate was Sir Roger Douglas, the former Labour minister who led the reforms of the 1980s that took New Zealand from being a bankrupt socialist state to becoming a world-class economy. But many pundits didn’t think Act could pull it off and bring Douglas back into parliament.

But one thing the pundits seem to forget is that Rodney Hide can do far more than they think he can. Under Hide’s leadership Act did bring Douglas back into parliament. And, as gravy, Act elected two other MPs as well. With five MPs, National has to pay attention to Act and has to get some backbone as well. So it appears that Hide will be offered a ministerial position -- and it appears that Minister of Education is a high probability. Hide is a proponent of school choice so we shall see.

More importantly it appears that National may have to offer a second portfolio to Act. But Key has said he won’t work with Sir Roger. That was part of Key’s campaign to placate the Left who were furious that Douglas, an old time Labour politician, realized that Left-wing policies had bankrupted his country. Douglas abandoned Left-wing plans in favor of free market policies, not because he understood free market principles but because socialism doesn’t work. That was considered a betrayal by the ideologues in Labour and Douglas has been anathema to them since.

However, the somewhat Left wing Maori Party also secured five seats. Formed mainly by exLabour MPs this racially based party also won five seats in parliament. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Key doesn’t offer them a portfolio as well. Because Key’s one principle is to have no principles this makes sense. He knows that Act does have principles and he doesn’t want that. But he has to offer them something. But as insurance he can bring in the Left-of-center Maori Party. With their five seats he would have a comfortable nine seat majority and he could ignore any free market ideas that come from Act. Alas, there is no one more anxious to sell-out free markets than conservatives and I suspect John Key will be no exception.

The election of Key is nothing to get too excited about. But the defeat of Helen Clark is to be relished. And there should be nothing but joy from real liberals that Winston Peters and his nationalistic socialist party were defeated soundly. All New Zealand First MPs lost their seats and it is unlikely they will ever win them back. With Rodney Hide in government there is some likelihood that a few good reforms will be made but Key and his party will resist any such efforts.

Meanwhile the comedic Libertarianz Party limped along pretty much as usual. However, few parties are as delusional as the Libz, who are not libertarian in the usual sense of the word, but actually are an Objectivist party dominated by a war-hawk crazy who recently called for literally lynching Obama. In the last election the Libz came in 15th place, out of 19 parties. This election they dropped to 16th place and barely broke 1,000 votes nation-wide. There first time out they managed 5,000. So the party lost 80% of its support, yet is crowing that this election was a massive step forward for them. That whole fantasy is based on the fact that the party got 130 more votes this year than it did in the last election. No surprise there, smaller parties in general did better this year because the race wasn’t as tight as it was three years ago. But 0.0005% of the vote is hardly anything to crow about.

If libertarian ideas continue to make an impact on Kiwi politics it will be because of the efforts of Rodney Hide and revived Act Party. If they don’t it will because of the efforts of John Key and his National Party colleagues. But for now the most dangerous road blocks to expanding liberty in New Zealand -- Helen Clark and Winston Peters -- are now fast fading memories. And that is something to cheer about.

Photos: Helen Clark. Lower left, Rodney Hide.

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