Fran O’Sullivan calls John Key ‘Cheerleader-in-Chief’ today. I still prefer rodeo clown. But she’s on the money, for the most part, in her description of National as a party afraid of the public and afraid of its base, and most afraid of what would happen if the public ever found out about its base’s ideological plans for our country. National has become completely stage-managed and has chosen a clown for a leader precisely because a clown is distracting.
O’Sullvan writes: ‘Even the bland and rather homogeneous jamborees the Chinese leaders orchestrate to affirm their in-house succession choices and the next five years don’t look that far removed from what is promised by the agenda for this weekend’s conference.
National is rapidly morphing into a party that has lost its appetite for full-blooded policy debate. Instead it defers to the inclination by its Politburo (led by the singularly unimpressive party president Peter Goodfellow) for mere stage-management.’
O’Sullivan goes on:’This does not bode well for a party that was founded more than seven decades ago on the principles of personal freedom, individual responsibility, a competitive economy and support for families and communities.’
Well, the fact is that National was founded by the rump of the failing farmers’ party and the failing small business party along with the fascist New Zealand Legion with the express purpose of keeping Labour out of power. The name National comes from a claim to represent the interests of the (white, protestant) Nation rather than any particular class, like Labour expressly did (and, in my day dreams still does). Choosing the name ‘National’ in the 1930s, of course, expressly referenced the global rise of nationalist movements.
In short, we should not be surprised this party is not into grassroots democracy. It never has been. It has always been about hierarchy and class (let’s not forget David Bennett’s rant to that effect)
But it is getting worse and for a very good reason, a reason that O’Sullivan as a hard-right winger doesn’t get: If National is open about its intentions it loses elections and National needs a second term more than anything.