The Morning After….Reflections on the 2014 NZ Election.

The Morning After….Reflections on the 2014 NZ Election.

Kevin P Clements

 News Asia called me in the middle of the night for a comment on the  NZ election. They couldn’t understand, in Singapore , how or why New Zealander’s re-elected a government that in the first week of the campaign had been so mired in dirty politics and controversy.

I told them that it was part of a general and quiet drift to the Right all around the world. In a period of uncertainty , anxiety and change a small majority 48% of 72% of eligible NZ voters wanted   stable and   familiar politicians and re-elected the National Government.

They didn’t want political parties advocating   more progressive tax systems, taxing wealth as well as income. They didn’t want any significant redistribution from the rich to the poor. They didn’t want to revive regional economies, support ailing hospitals or develop smaller numbers of students in public classrooms.

They didn’t want to engage child poverty, clean up rivers and lakes. They didn’t want to know what is in the TPP. They wanted avuncular Uncle John, good kiwi millionaire bloke. They wanted “selfies” with the man who himself likes to have “selfies taken with other celebrities like the Queen and Elton John. They wanted John’s “ shtrong economy” without thinking of strong for whom.

Kim Dot Com proved to be a massive narcissistic diversion for Internet Mana and the Left generally. He sucked up time and oxygen that would have been better spent on discussing the political choices on the table.

But this was not an election where rationality really counted. What counted was a smug feeling of complacency about the stability of the economy, the general economic direction of the country and the personality of John Key.

It was a presidential election in a parliamentary democracy. His Victory party was almost the exactly replica of a Victory party for a successful Republican President. There wasn’t as much blue confetti, not as many helium balloons but near hysterical support for “John, John, John” and “three more years”. It sounded a little bit like Nuremburg at one stage. At the end John Key lifted both arms in a Victory salute which looked like Richard Nixon greeting the crowds on his re-election. That was just a few months before Watergate finally ended his career. I wonder if any of the on going enquiries into misuse of the SIS and whether there was or was not mass surveillance or secret deals done with the NSA will start puncturing  John Key’s current euphoria?

Anyway, it was an appalling night for the Left   in New Zealand. Labour polled its worst since 1922. The Green’s didn’t capture the momentum that looked to be flowing their way. New Zealand First pandered to the Worst and the very worrying Conservatives managed to secure 4.3% of the vote. The morning after is not the time for the soul searching that should take place…. But I very much hope that there can be a Red Green Coalition formed over the next six to twelve months   so that there is a United Front in place for the 2017 election. I hope that this progressive coalition will address the real challenges of the 21st century. e.g How do we guarantee social, political and economic equality for all peoples of Aotearoa-New Zealand and the world? How do we ensure a clean green environment for all people? How do we build sustainable development ? How do we deal with climate change?  How do we house , feed and clothe all the people irrespective of status or position? How do we develop, education, health and welfare systems that do their jobs properly and treat everyone with dignity and respect?

I would like political leaders and political parties to dig deeper into the passion that brought them into politics and let us know why they are there and what brought them into this particular work. Politics is not a career it should be seen as a   service vocation. When it ceases to be this it becomes corrupt, self serving and venal. Our politicians and our public servants are there for one reason only which is to serve the people. I didn’t get the sense that the last two National administrations did this and I do not see much indication that the third will either. The reality is that without the Christchurch rebuild and unusually high primary commodity prices, our growth rate and economic performance would look ordinary.   John Key and Bill English are not financial wizards they have had some good luck and there is no guarantee that this luck will continue.

In the meantime, what remains of the Left needs to maintain even higher vigilance if we are to ensure clean, uncorrupt, non intrusive governance. We need to be mindful that our Civil Liberties and privacy have been and are being eroded on a daily basis. We need to be wary of the whole neo-liberal economic, social and political agenda. It has delivered   more chaos than stability, more inequality than equality, and it requires an adversarial style of politics that generates disenchantment with political processes and reinforces the democratic deficit.

Oh well there is much to contemplate.

I’ll go and launch the Baxter Trust today in honour of a First World War Dissenter who said No to King and Country on grounds of conscience. In doing so I’ll remember all those who have stood for principles and passion in politics over the years. I’ll remember all those who struggled against orthodoxy to deliver votes for women, decent labour legislation and the welfare state. I’ll remember those who remembered their international responsibilities while celebrating our national strengths. I’ll remember those who combined reason and passion, vision and principle and who were not content with the status quo. I’ll remember all those who have given the people hope and confidence.

Even though I am aware that there are others on the Right of the spectrum who think they got these things yesterday. I don’t see these things with this third National Government and I anticipate a rapid unravelling as the government tries to cope with larger challenges than before with only pragmatism to guide them.


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in Archibald Baxter, democratic deficit, Dirty Politics, NZ Election 2014, Politics as a Vocation, Public Service and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Morning After….Reflections on the 2014 NZ Election.

  1. womentravel says:

    Thanks Kevin for putting into words so much of what I was feeling. We must not give up!


  2. Gerard Willemsen says:

    Peace Prof – you misspelled “strong” in the 4th paragraph. 😉


  3. Dirk says:

    Labour and the Greens can work together, but there are inherent conflicts. Labour is pro off shore oil, pro fracking, pro mining, supports the TPPA and generally accepts neo liberal economic madness.

    With nearly 60% voting for the right, the right wing of Labour will claim that their way is the way to electoral success. They may even be right. But it is no success for the country or most people.

    Perhaps the million plus who did not vote would have had the main stream media clearly analysed the challenges facing us and the various party’s policies for addressing them. But that would have been far too demanding for most people, and so of little interest. Besides, it is now what the media owners pay them to do.

    The media, and many in the public’s response to Dirty Politics, that it is just the way things have always been done, betrays the ignorance required to accept such a state of affairs. Accepting that politicians will resort to any means necessary to maintain their power, megalomania, undermines the purpose and intent of democracy. Too many politicians choose the career for all the wrong reasons, and now media and voters accept this as right and usual.


    • gregfullmoon says:

      You’d almost be correct in your assessment except you fail to understand that the right of the labour party has been and always will be an insurgency from the trickle down mob and as such should be surgically removed via a defining set of principles that spell out what Labour is about.

      Then labour as a movement along with the greens and the host of others including democrats for social credit and the elements of IM that will persist can join in a coalition of principle and start again.

      All the things that government ought be about are the stuff of the democratic left, the people’s interests. So collective interest is balanced against individual interest in a gentle discourse, rather than the perverse emperor without clothes jousting festival we have currently.

      A while ago I came to the conclusion that it mattered not which rooster won the chook raffle on the 20th, our ability to develop good governance would be severely cramped under TPP and the FTA agenda.

      This became my focus, and arising have found a vehicle to engage in public policy settings through advocating for the Auckland Council TPP policy formula and are advancing that with other Councils.

      The point being that a democracy requires constant vigilance and engagement. It is not just a triennial event.


      • Thanks for this insightful comment and yes you are right- we need to focus on all the things that impinge on our privacy, efficacy, capacity and legitimacy. NSC, TPP, FTA are all powerful and often irresistible forces which need to be resisted with solid analysis and effective coalitions. Cheers and thanks for your reflections.


  4. Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel says:

    Nga mihi Kevin – thank you so much for this measured, poignant, compassionate analysis and your urging! Being back here in Berkeley provides a stark visual reminder of the inevitable impoverished outcome for ordinary New Zealanders of Key’s fiscal shmuckmaking – so sad, so needless, such a waste of the lives of too many . . . arohanui – Jenny.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gray Southon says:

    Kevin, much that you say is very true. However, it seems to me that the campaign was characterised by parties talking principally to their own faithfuls. The left needs to look beyond their own mind-sets, understand the conservative voter, and speak to them as well. We need to be working with the who of NZ, not just to those that naturally see things our way. Gray Southon

    Liked by 2 people

  6. john bryant says:

    Thanks, Kevin, for articulating the sentiments of so many of us suffering from the ‘blues’

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sybil Robertson says:

    e.g How do we guarantee social, political and economic inequality for all peoples of Aotearoa-New Zealand and the world?

    .??? Is that what you meant to say???


  8. Lisa Finlay says:

    Thank you Kevin for this great thoughtful summary of the events of the last 7 weeks. It is almost unthinkable that NZ’rs ignored the stark and dire picture presented by Nicky Hager of the National Government. It is hard to know where to place most accountability for the travesty of re-electing them for another three years.

    One facet of this picture which I think had a huge influence on the out-come, was the role of the Main Stream Media. There was not simply Right Wing bias being displayed, but a clear orchestration of Spin. The Media was not just following the news, but defining it in alignment with the National Government’s strategy of deny, dismiss and denigrate. A case and point was the Kim Dotcom event ‘Moment of Truth’. Regardless of the agenda and the ‘narcissism’ which you mentioned, at the core were some deeply disturbing revelations. Delivered by no less than a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, the world’s most wanted ‘whistleblower’ and a renowned human rights lawyer. They had a stark message for New Zealanders, and had proof and testimony to back it up. The most shocking news that our Prime Minister, in cahoots with the US, had been illegally and covertly actioning a Mass Surveillance program under the old GCSB law. That the completion of this Operation Speargun required our GCSB law to be amended, and which this operation was awaiting a green light. John Key proposed this law change to the Public, as simply tidying up a bill, putting in some full stops and commas. Against the huge outcry of the NZ public and mass protests, due to a realisation by many that the changes in the bill could open up the possibility of Mass Surveillance, John Key reassured NZ’rs, and used his reputation as collateral to push the Bill through. He asked us to trust him, and said that if there was ever evidence presented of Mass Surveillance under his watch he would resign.

    Well the evidence was delivered, and there was no such honoring of his promise. He maligned Glenn Greenwald, Kim Dotcom, denied the allegations point blank, but interestingly over the course of the week leading up to the election, denied them a little bit less every day. The media similarly denigrated Kim Dotcom, called the event a massive failure and completely ignored the content of the revelations. John Key and the media were spinning the issue in synchronicity. This is Government / Media corruption on a whole different level. I have been disgusted by what I have seen, and feel that the Media could similarly do with an expose by someone like Nicky Hager. Some very big agendas have been played out in this election, and it is very worrying not only for the immediate future of our country, but for the future of our democracy.

    (PS I think you meant to say “how do we guarantee social, political and economic equality for all peoples”) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: ‘Don’t Mourn, Organise!” The 2014 Elections, the Reaction, and the Next Three Years. | History Activism Politics

  10. Tejas Arn says:

    Really appreciated your writings.If you are not all ready, why are you not the leader of Greens or better yet Labor.Are you too busy with other responsibilities?
    I am interested in politics because of the social change it can cause.After this election I’m more tempted to get active in some way.I’m not “educated” but have a strong moral ground and love for all people ( even Mr Keys, feel sorry for the guy really ).I’m busy carving out my and my families future but trying to do this in a way that helps those around me and achieving things I believe are healthy for myself and those around me.I’m going to waffle here as its almost 3am and I haven’t indulged in my vices to help switch my busy brain off.
    Guess I want to do more and want to build networks with people I would like to wok with or support or be supported.
    A caring hardworking Kiwi 35yr old that will never give up striving for a better future
    Tejas Arn


  11. Gil says:

    NZ is an increasingly conservative and politically semi-literate and complacent country where people cannot be bothered to keep up with political/social issues and don’t talk about politics ( in contrast to sport), unlike in Europe. Essentially most NZers are not Social Democrats in the European sense. We are becoming more like the USA every year.

    Most NZers are politically lazy. This is exacerbated by a mediocre and conservative media which is increasingly focussed on ‘bang- bang’ news. Most people do not read newspapers carefully if at all. In Germany 70% of people still buy a hard copy newspaper every day (source Deutsche Welle broadcast).

    Consequently when they come to vote many, but not all, NZers are confused, ignorant, visceral and make irrational and stupid choices like voting party vote National, and then Labour for the electorate vote. Amazingly it seems that thousands still don’t understand MMP, think they are having a ‘bob each way’ (confused and ignorant), or are ‘away with the fairies’? Or have I missed something?

    The level of ignorance and confusion is exemplified by the catchcry ‘ they are all the same’ with regard to politicians and parties. Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of actual policies. This all works in favour of presidential, superficial, glib political campaigns manipulated by intensive daily polling by the party with the biggest war-chest.

    How the left gets round these fundamental political and social difficulties is the big issue.


  12. hifromnz says:

    What a beautiful piece of writing. You’ll be high on the list for the book-burners.


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