With the downward spiral of the National Party I thought it would be best to collate my views as a single blog entry rather than the flurry of tweets I’ve made on the matter – don’t worry, it isn’t gong to be a multipage dissertation where I roll out complex theories to explain an otherwise straight forward situation that National have found themselves in. Before I start it is I important to recognise the the reality that elections in New Zealand are won from the centre – never the extreme left or the extreme right. As much as I would love a glorious revolution to overthrow capitalism I also recognise the fact that I am a minority voice and as such I have to keep my expectations at the appropriate level given the circumstances. National in the past has tried to run to the far right when they had Don Brash as leader – he crashed and burned which then opened up opportunity for John Key to enter who branded himself as a centre right candidate who wasn’t some wild right wing lunatic but a moderate who would make some tweaks but not upend the whole apple cart. Were there things they did that I disagree with? sure but I’ll cover that in a future post.
The first thing that National need to do is to stop fixating over the governments response to COVID because the reality is that if National were in charge with Bill English it is highly unlikely that there would be a radical difference and what it appears to be today is hair-splitting by National over minutia for the sake of differentiation rather than positioning themselves as the government in waiting. and conducting on a day to day stuff Labour does and focus on putting out a bold vision of a post COVID future. The COVID response by Labour was good and although it would have been nice to have the vaccination roll out done quicker the reality is that we’re going pretty damn good when compared to other countries. When you look at the economic position we’re in where our economic growth will be the fastest in the region (link) not to mention low unemployment, growing exporting, imports being successfully processed and distributed and a decreasing budget deficit – all contrary to the claim by John Key that New Zealand was some how a ‘hermit kingdom’ (link).
I also believe that focusing too much on “replacing Judith Collins as leader will fix the problem” ignores the fact that she is a symptom of a larger problem in National and when you look at what the alternatives are, they’re steeped in the same reactionary nonsense that Judith herself engages in. For National to get back on track they need a ground up replacement of the neoliberal orthodoxy, to reject the market worshipping that far too many politicians engage in because it allows them to always have a convenient scapegoat when they don’t get the result they want – in much the same manner of someone shrugging their shoulders and resigning themselves to ‘fate’ rather than stepping up to directly intervene to achieve the end goal that they wish.
The solution for National is to eat some humble pie, admit that Labour handled the pandemic well instead of sniping at their ankles to instead focus all their energy on developing a bold positive vision for New Zealand post COVID. When you’ve lost the battle, move on, in much the same way that when Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft the focus was to stop the bleeding and focus on the future, stop fighting past battles that were long ago lost and instead focus on new markets that are emerging and how Microsoft can leverage their strengths along with partnering with companies (see partnership with Samsung). In the case of National they need to focus on building more social housing so that Housing New Zealand can become the public housing provider in much the same vein as what is seen in Japan, Singapore and numerous European countries.
The next focus should be able expanding the rail network in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Hutt Valley line connection over to Wainuiomata by taking advantage of the incomplete tunnel that exists which will open up Wainuiomata as great place to build another 50,000 homes for starters, in Auckland expanding out to the north shore by replacing the bridge with a tunnel and tunnelling to the north shore for rail, building out a light rail network in Christchurch to connect the airport to the CBD by going up memorial drive – yeah, I lived in Christchurch around the Bryndwr area) but also fully electrifying the network on 25Kv (convert Wellington from 1500DC to 25Kv) along with upgrading the Auckland to Hamilton connection with modern high speed tilt train so that there can be a 130kmh connection between Hamilton and Auckland (reducing the trip down to 1 hour which would be faster than the Wellington to Masterton train which is chock-a-block on a regular basis).
Supporting councils in the form of funding infrastructure if the council focuses on dense urban development. The focus for sustainable development is predicated on ensuring that we use the existing land efficiently rather than sprawling and sprawling because sprawl ends up this sort of mess.
I really wish that MPs in the New Zealand parliament would watch a few of those videos just to see what sort of nightmare we should be avoiding when it comes to how we plan our cities. As you’re heading into Auckland when driving up from Wellington the sprawl is endless and unsustainable – that is something needs addressing and needs addressing fast. There also needs to be a focus on putting side land for light rail – it might not get laid down straight away but at least if there are land corridors there is the ability to either lay down light rail or even have bike paths or maybe even do a ‘cut and cover’ for light rail with subway entrances and bike paths that follow the route.
I’m going to stop there because at this point I think I’m using the National Party as an empty vessel for all the things I wish the Labour Party would do but if National did adopt those policies and build upon them with the same general vibe it would give them the potential of being able not only win back those who ‘protest voted’ for ACT but also win back those who voted for Labour because National were so dysfunctional. When there is a healthy productive tension between the two major parties with the focus on producing the best policies with the best outcomes then we the voter benefit from that. If there is going to be a change it will require more than just new leadership.