So far, the speculation around this election has centred on whether or not the National Party are going to see a third term. In fact, less the National Party and more John Key. Key has come to signify the entire National Party, and probably commands more of a percentage in the polls than the rest of his Ministers together.
However, no one has really considered what a third term National government would look like. This is dangerous, especially given that National are so policy-lite right now. We’ve had some vague promises about roads, schools and GP visits and very little else. It’s time to stop thinking about whether it would be nice for John Key to have a third term, and time to start considering what a third term National government would be doing to New Zealand.
It is inevitable that we will see the National government take a leap to the right in their third term. The genial John Key will be replaced with the ‘smiling assassin’. This is a hallmark of third term governments who, given a fourth consecutive victory is unlikely, throw caution to the wind and delve deeply into ideology. We could be seeing further asset sales – it’s not like the referendum changed anyone’s mind in the National Party. Interest on student loans, why not? ACT will be pushing for it and we’ve seen how little the National Party care for students with some of their previous budgets. Will there be more tax cuts to the rich? Will they be hidden behind some falsely comforting scheme like an increase in GST?
National will continue to gut our education system. Good teachers will be taken out of their schools and forced to spread their time across a number of different schools. Charter schools will continue, receiving taxpayer money to teach curriculums that don’t require approval. Class sizes currently remain well above the OECD average, will National try to increase them again? National Standards remain in place, forcing schools to squeeze into strict and inflexible standards of measuring achievement which does not allow for different school conditions and deciles. The tinkering with individual schools results to make National Standards seem like a success will continue. Hekia Parata, possibly one of the most inept people in the government will stay on as Minister of Education. While this is going on, there is not enough money invested in teacher training, millions has been slashed from ECE and the Novopay system continues to make a mess of teacher salaries.
What will happen with welfare? There will inevitably be more attacks on beneficiaries from Paula Bennett. The average income for Orakei has gone up, while the average income for Mangere has gone down. There is no denying the shocking levels of inequality in this country and by depriving people of support a third term National government will only exacerbate the problem. Meanwhile, the government will continue building roads, ignoring the extreme levels of poverty and joblessness that exist in their country.
The housing crisis will not stop under a third term National government. It will get worse as more and more of the top 1% invest in housing, shutting out first home buyers and families looking to move. More and more people will be forced to rent as prices go up, while all the property and wealth circulates around a top tier of wealthy property investors.
We need to be aware that if John Key takes a third term then it is very likely that he will not finish it. The Prime Minister is not one to lose – that would be unfashionable. He came in as Leader of the Opposition to win – I doubt he would have even joined the party if he didn’t see himself as Prime Minister by 2008. At the first sign of a Labour Government post 2017 Key will desert the sinking ship, and very likely desert New Zealand. The National Party, no longer united under Key’s cult of personality will turn on each other immediately. Steven Joyce, Judith Collins, perhaps Gerry Brownlee, Bill English and maybe Paula Bennett will tear chunks out of each other to reach the top. Anne Tolley might have a go? It still seems likely at this point that Judith Collins would succeed Key as Prime Minister. Remember, ‘Dirty Politics’ has revealed her ‘New Zealand Tea Party’ – a group of around 13 hard right MPs installed in seats that could support her bid post-Key. If this happens then the aforementioned leap to the right is inevitable. However, whoever follows Key will lead a National Party divided and unstable, and this will reflect in the country. There is no way that you can steer a country in the right direction if your Ministers are savaging each other and you. This is the real National Party. We will be increasingly unsure of our government, and constantly subjected to headlines on the internal viciousness of National. It will be frightening to be led by a party that seems on the brink of collapse and civil war.
And of course, under a third term National Government the vile attack politics revealed by Nicky Hager will continue. Enemies of the government will be targeted and have their lives systematically and deliberately ripped into. The National Government isn’t interested in engaging in a war of ideas with their opponents. They’re interested in bringing them down subtly, through rumours and lies. We can’t have a government that treats its opponents like this.
On the other hand, think about a first term Labour government. The constant and relentless smear on Labour is that they are too far to the left, and the presence of the Green Party will turn New Zealand into a Communist dystopia. This isn’t even remotely true. Remember, a post 2014 Labour government is like to feature Winston Peters, who will pull Labour closer to the centre. He did it in 2005-2008, meaning that Helen Clark couldn’t take the traditional leap to the left. Besides, even without Winston Labour and Green are nowhere near Socialism. Labour offers sensible market solutions to market problems, like NZ Power.
Labour’s policies are designed to help people. Young families will have houses, and funding to help them raise their children. Those children will have GP visits paid for up to the age of 13. Elderly people and pregnant women will also receive GP visits. Class sizes will go down and the quality of schools and standards of education will rise. Welfare will be reformed into a sensible and empathetic package, including an employment subsidy to get unemployed people back into work.
I recently heard a prominent Labour MP say that no matter how much they disliked an opponent, they would never resort to the underhand tactics revealed by ‘Dirty Politics’. A Labour Government would be far more open, transparent and honest in its conduct. You can bet that there won’t be Ministers leaking names to blame for scandals, and no bloggers will be employed to do the government’s attack work.
When you vote, think about what you’re voting for. You’re not just voting for John Key to have another three years – you’re voting for all the people with him. Think about what that will mean for New Zealand.