Winston Peters is on a mission to get rid of the Maori seats. But like most things Winston wants us to care about we need to stop and ask an important question – do we actually care?
Turns out, not really, although that might be difficult to appreciate given the media’s irresponsible and hysterical reporting. In fact, they seem to already know how we feel, as a Stuff article on the 17th June makes clear:
“Peters is calling for a referendum, of course, but it is assumed by many that the majority European population would vote to get rid of the seats.”
Too bad that a Colmar Brunton poll three weeks later found that:
“55% say they should be kept, 13% say they should be abolished as soon as possible and 23% say they should be abolished some time in the future”
Of course, this can be seen as another cynical attempt by Winston to create an issue where there isn’t one just to fire up his base – another good example of why we need to move to a more honest, reality-based politics focusing on policy, not personality and demagoguery.
But sadly, it may actually be worse than this. Winston may actually believe his own lies. Our mutual fiend, Don Brash, makes it clear:
“the last time the pair spoke in person was in April last year when Brash was in Wellington to make a submission to select committee about the RMA. He and Peters ran into each other in the street after and had a coffee together.”
Putting aside the unsettling fact that Don still has his ‘colour-blind’ eyes keenly focussed on the what he sees as the carrion of New Zealand race-relations, he now seems to share many qualities with NZ First and Winston, not least a proclivity for delusional thinking.
“I had said to Mr Peters that morning that this whole racial separatism issue is the biggest issue facing Government right now, at which Mr Peters replied ‘it’s the biggest issue facing the country right now.'”
Except of course that it isn’t.
It is precisely this kind of deceit that impedes democracy and progress. The interchange between these expensive dinosaurs really sums up the problem with this type of politics – it’s not about finding out what the real pain is or the real problems people face. It’s not about speaking to those problems and offering policy ideas to fix them. It’s just about pushing buttons and waiting for a bounce in the polls. To add to our disquiet, Winston now seems to entertain the possibility of accepting not only cups of coffee from Brash, but substantial financial support. The racist ex-politican du jour wants to:
“…make money available to any political parties that were “committed to moving New Zealand to a ‘colour-blind’ state after the election”.
Winston Peters is a menace and it’s vital that other parties (my obvious preference The Opportunities Party) pinch traditional NZ First voters. I managed to sway my conservative Dad, whose support for NZ First is really just because Winston “talks straight” – to consider that Winston really plays voters, and to switch his vote to another party whose leader “talks straight” but doesn’t play us. The real reason for his decision I think, was when I laid out the scale of economic injustice in this country, and TOP’s plans to address it. He worked hard all his life as a Butcher, never making a lot of money. He understands that these days people are working even harder for less, that they don’t have enough money, and that this is all unfair. He has no love for a system that makes people clean toilets for pittance, while others live large in gaudy excess.
The thing is – I truly believe that nearly everybody feels this on some level, and that if we tap into that feeling in an honest and bold way, then a grand coalition is just waiting to be formed. People like Bernie Sanders had their success because they told people what they already knew anyway – lacking only the social climate or discussion in which to express it.
Unfortunately, its where this frustration is directed that clouds the issue – so for Dad, it’s a disgrace that “prisoners are getting underfloor heating”, while poverty persists. That’s a classic Winston/NZ First line – and I completely empathise with Dad responding with outrage – it’s a difficult statement to dismiss. But it’s so obviously not the whole story, not by a long shot. Winston has shone a torch on an issue, taken it out of all context and wrapped it in his “straight talk”, just to get people fired up. Meanwhile the real sources of such inequality and injustice remain outside the torch beam, obscured in the darkness.
So here is my plea – if you have a family member who sits in the NZ First cross-hairs – socially conservative perhaps, a bit nationalistic, a little prey to emotional manipulation towards classic scapegoats (Maori, the poor, the incarcerated, foreigners) – trust in the possibility that what really motivates them is a disgust with politics-as-usual, but more crucially, economic injustice. Speak to that part and explain that there is a party with bold plans to tackle the real causes – not just the same-old tinkering. Disabuse them of their simplistic ire, foisted on them by Winston, and show them the bigger picture.
The way to win on policy, and to hopefully win on election day, is by entering into a dialogue with those who disagree with us, especially those whom we feel can never change. I can post to my like-minded friends all day, but it’s not really the answer. If we actually make the effort, instead of turning away, we may be surprised – certain unpleasant prejudices might wither away.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But I will forever be an optimist on this one – there is no other option.