The politics of muck raking: Changing my allegiances [Part 1]

When I saw the release of Nicky Hagar’s email regarding dirty politics it reminded me very much of a couple of things when I was down in Christchurch running for ACT. The first one was an attempt to create a parody video of Helen Clarke by a neighbouring electorate candidate and personally I found the whole idea of creating the parody video as pretty damn immature and distracting from what should have been getting discussed. I wouldn’t put that on the same scale as Nicky’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ but it did give me an insight into how immature those involved with politics can be particularly when there are things of greater concern that should be getting discussed and way in which time is spent quite frankly was time wasting given that it should have been spent on pounding the pavements handing out leaflets (I did that around my own area – every house until I ran out of leaflets). The second one was the attempt to put information out there that, quite frankly, was incorrect – the claim by one National candidate that there had been no new schools in Christchurch have been opened whilst Labour were in power and if it weren’t for me pointing out the inaccuracy (given that I worked at the very non-existent new school that, according to him, was never built) it is almost an assurance it would have been left unchallenged and the public would have assumed what he said was correct.

I was never particularly into ACT in terms of the hardcore right but me joining was born more out of it ‘not being National’ (lack of thinkers in the party – there is a reason why the originators of ACT came out of Labour with only 1-2 of the first members being from National) rather than it being a situation of being boots and all into ACT policies (I ran as a candidate for ACT in the seat of Wigram in the 2008 election) such as mass privatisation of assets, flat taxes, education vouchers etc. and at the time I was a university student Sue Bradford was still heavily involved with the Green Party which made my skin crawl given her past behaviour. I didn’t join Labour because, well, I was an angry short sighted student pissed off that I wasn’t getting a tax cut whilst I ignored the fact that as a student I benefited from a student allowance and interest free student loan.

I felt like a fish out of water but what other choices did I have? I tried to reconcile my socially liberal views with an otherwise moderate economic outlook but found myself increasingly isolated as three factions having seemed to develop in ACT before its eventual implosion. The first faction was the ex-National Party members angry that John Key was too much of a watered down Labour Party light. The second group are the libertarians always end up coming off as the spoilt child who protest ‘I do what ever I want!’ and fail to see the dependency we have on each other as a society (having a strange ‘them and us’ view of the relationship between the citizenship and the government) and that working together towards a common good shouldn’t be seen as something ‘evil’. Then there is the third group, the John Birch society types as parodied in the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ believing that fluoride in the water is a giant communist conspiracy theory to steal their precious bodily fluids (not to mention the conspiracy that public healthcare is apparently a giant ruse to introduce eugenics). So when you combine the disgruntled, the immature and the paranoid it creates a grand unified coalition of  ‘since the government isn’t serving my interests then it shouldn’t serve anyones interests’. Before ACT pretty much self imploded with Roger Douglas and Heather Roy soon leaving the party – something I don’t blame them because they were the last two sane voices left in the party.

I look back once again at my time in ACT and it never made any sense given that someone like me advocated a universal student allowance, more government involvement in promoting apprenticeships as well as free education for nurses and doctors who sign up to a bonded programme (work for the public system for 5 years). I guess in my older age I started to question much of the simplistic understanding of the economy and how people work especially in light of the global economic financial meltdown and how even 6 years after it happened that much of what caused it is still left unresolved such as high rates of personal debt, the rising income disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom and then there is the issue of imbalances in the economy that is skewed towards high commodity prices and debt fuelled consumer spending. In other words here we are almost two terms after John Key talked about the need to rebalancing the economy and no such thing has taken place – we’re as dependent upon high commodity prices as we were before, the personal debt still hasn’t dropped sufficiently enough nor has there been a change in how the average NZ’der manages their money not to mention the money that has been sucked out of public transport and rail in favour of bending over and servicing the trucking industry.

Oh well, more will come with Part 2 of my thoughts.

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