A Country Party?

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 am, June 3rd, 2010 - 34 comments
Categories: ETS, national - Tags: ,

There’s increasing rumbles in the country side about a Country Party breaking away from National. The roots of this are in the anti-ETS backlash, which National brought upon itself with its behaviour in opposition.

It’s kind of like the Republicans’ Tea Party in the States. Started as Republican astro-turfing, the Tea Party has rapidly taken on because mainstream Republicans can’t actually adopt the extreme Right policies that their militarised base are demanding.

So, it is for National. Now in government, National has to actually govern. One of the things it has to do is distribute the cost of the international price on carbon created by Kyoto at least partially on to polluters. Naturally, the farmers, as heavy polluters who National has been feeding anti-climate change propaganda for years, don’t want to pay and can’t understand why National has betrayed them.

The storm of anger over this betrayal is compounded by what many in National’s rural base see as an overly generous attitude to Maori on issues like the foreshore and seabed, which threatens Pakeha rural business interests. Not to mention raising the driving age.

A Country Party standing apart from National would have more influence over rightwing governments than a rural base submersed within the Party.

Is a Country Party practical? Yes. There’s the population base: 20% of the country lives rurally and most of them are National voters. The rural population is already well organised through an array of community groups and companies. A breakaway Country Party could easily raise the money for a campaign. Winning a few seats and passing 5% should be easy.

Will it happen? Hard to say, but it’s looking more and more likely.

If it does come about, the Right will be reverting to its pre-National days. You see, National formed to bring the Right together with the sole aim of keeping Labour out of power (the name National was meant to show they represented all New Zealand, not just the working class – Labour called them the Nationalists referencing the Franco’s fascists). National brought together Reform representing the urban business class, United (the rump of the Liberals) representing farmers, and the crypto-fascist New Zealand Legion.

Could National, the Country Party, and ACT re-establish the old arrangement?

The Left has already splintered into natural fragments now that MMP makes it possible. The Right might be about to do the same.

34 comments on “A Country Party?”

  1. Badger 1

    This should not be seen as a Good Thing (TM)

    New Zealand has enough fringe right-wing types (Act Party) – you double or tripple the lunacy by encouraging a country party.

    • Fisiani 1.1

      It’s what you get when you muse over a keyboard without a clue on reality

      • mickysavage 1.1.1

        It is what Farrar does all the time. Propose and surmise what is happening on the other side without having a clue. Except Eddie’s suggestions are actually possible.

        National does seem to have a number of cracks visible right now. Serves them right.

      • Sam 1.1.2

        We’re talking about political happenings in the country, not what you do when you end up in front of your computer.

  2. The Voice of Reason 2

    A country party would be an interesting return to the past and certainly would be useful for the left in terms of splintering the right vote. I have a sense that Fed Farmers are very close to ACT now, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Rodders offers a list seat to them as he has done for the Senseless Sentencing Trust.

    I have the opportunity to talk to farmers most Friday nights in the pub, as I live in a rural town in the commuter belt of the city I work in. There does seem to be grumbling that National are not delivering for them. The ETS, rural broadband, roading and other issues are not important to the urban elite that run the Nats these days. I seem to recall that the Nats used to have a city/country split in their leadership, with either the PM or deputy having to come from a rural area. Obviously not the case now with two city slickers in control.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      Pfft, English is from Dipton! He’s hardly a city-slicker.

      • The Voice of Reason 2.1.1

        Er, yes, I know he’s nominally from Dipton, but he has lived in the slicker parts of Wellington for twenty years while rorting the housing allowance as if he was a rural MP, which he clearly is not. I’m sure there was a post or twenty on the subject earlier in the year, Lanthanide.

  3. PK 3

    ***you double or tripple the lunacy by encouraging a country party.***

    They provide a large portion of the country’s wealth (generally seen as a Good Thing (TM)). If their interests are being ignored it makes sense to form a party – every other group does so.

  4. gingercrush 4

    A country party is not viable. Its a myth to believe that the rural/country community is as tight-knitted as you like to believe. The fact is most of the rural community actually don’t have much to do with farming. This murmuring by some is well bullshit.

    Who the hell is going to lead the party and how are they going to expect to get 5% of the vote. Not all farmers will vote for such a party. They’d stay with National or whatever other party they vote for (The Greens do quite well in a number of rural/provincial seats). The idea that personalities from outside parliament are going to win electorates isn’t realistic.

    No minor party from when MMP began have been successful without a leader or member already being in parliament. Without Tariana Turia the Maori Party would have struggled. Alliance didn’t exist without Jim Anderton and the Greens came from Alliance (though the value party then the Greens always did rather well before MMP).

    Who from National (and that is where they would need to come from) would form their own party and who from National have the personality to pull it off? There’s no one. Look at every rural/country or provincial electorate in this country and name someone from there that could legitimately lead a party. But not only lead a party but actively get the people of that electorate to vote for them? There isn’t.

    And show me an example of an outsider coming in and being successful politically in this country? The closest thing you’ll get is the New Zealand Party.

    A Country Party would be frankly laughable. The only way it could work and this is a huge stretch would be to tap into the conservative/religious vote base. The likes who voted the Kiwi party in 2008 and the Christian Coalition in 1996. That isn’t very viable either.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Lockwood Smith maybe? He’d never leave National, though.

      • gingercrush 4.1.1

        Of all the rural/country electorates (though in my mind Rodney is just an urban outlier). That would be the best place for the party to spring from since many in Rodney are upset about the Super City situation. Though to what extent dissent and dissatisfaction due to local politics plays about at a General level is debatable. And much of the dissatisfaction in the Rodney District aren’t even in that electorate anymore.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.2

      I think you’re correct on this one. Rural people are very diverse politically and farmers are a small percentage of rural folk.
      Also different issues are important to people in different parts of the country. A lot of them are committed conservationists. Rural South islanders are unlikely to agree much with the Coromandel or Waitakere acre block dwellers. National do well because they have a conservative social agenda and rural people have an anti-Wellington predilection which they also spout well.
      Whats gets me though is why rural people like things like privatization and reduced government spending(which is sure to decrease their services of like telecommunications, roads, libraries, schools and hospitals) and would vote for tax cuts for high income earners. You’d think they would be guaranteed losers from that sort of agenda.

  5. Lew 5

    GC, the Greens? The māori party?

    Anyway, I’m intrigued by the suggestion and not concerned either way.

    I suspect that the consequence of this would be to drive National in the direction of what the ACT party used to be prior to being hijacked by the anti-science-hang-and-flog neo-authoritarians; it would be the national party of social conservatism, soft authoritarianism, a trade protectionism and agricultural nest-feathering,while National could focus on the urban liberals and city business types with rhetoric about free markets and free people. At present its service of two masters is beginning to look costly. With a Country Party, though, ACT’s lunch would be eaten by two competitors.

    An appropriate allegory is Australia, where the Liberal party is roughly equivalent to our Nats; somewhat accepting of environmental and socially-liberal causes, but not so much as Labor; while the National party (roughly what I’m suggesting a Country Party might be here) is rurally-based, much less environmentally and socially tolerant, but generally in line with the Libs on many topics.

    But there’s considerable ambivalence in them there hills. As I’ve argued before, rural dwellers are a complex bunch, not all authoritarian redneck throwbacks, and those socially-conservative voters who reluctantly tick “National” at present often do so for lack of alternatives. There are lots of lifestylers and back-to-the-landers, and lots more who wish they were. It’s a damned shame that the only MP who really has any connection with the huge population of hunters, trampers, fishers and non-farming rural types is the suave and urbane Peter Dunne. I’ve suggested the Greens have an opportunity to exploit this, by taking different (read: less hand-wringy-liberal nancy) positions on topics like outdoor recreation and natural resource management. Not that they will.

    Not that National would split, either. Much of the right’s strength is in unity, in swallowing its internal differences for the common good, and exerting discipline over message and policy.

    L

    • gingercrush 5.1

      Both the Greens and the Maori Party came from the inside. Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimmons came from the Alliance. The Green/Value vote existed for years prior to the Alliance and was above 5% and no doubt once 1996 came around that Green vote was very important to the Alliance Party. But I’d argue had Fitzsimmons and the Greens simply came from outside parliament I don’t think they’d be elected in 1999. Had Jenny Shipley not played her part in Coromandel. I’m not even sure the Green party would exist in parliament.

      So while outside forces helped that Green vote get near to 5%. I’d argue without the parliament presence of Fitzsimmons and Donald. Coromandel wouldn’t have happened and they would have lagged in the party vote as well.

      And while outside movements within Maori were important in the Maori Party forming. Without Turia providing the trigger from inside Parliament I doubt the Maori Party would have such an impact.

      That’s why for a Country Party to be successful they need someone from inside parliament.

      • Lew 5.1.1

        Oh, I see what you’re arguing, now. I agree on that count.

        L

        • toad 5.1.1.1

          Sandra Goudie?

          She’s about as rednecked and intolerant as you can get, and the fact that she’s been an MP for 8 years and hasn’t progressed beyond the backbenches would indicate she has no career prospects with National.

          • Lew 5.1.1.1.1

            Nah. Couldn’t be a bloody sheila. They need a Pine Tree.

            L

            • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Richard Loe?

              @GC

              But while I don’t think it is going to happen, if it did I’m not convinced that they would need a current or recent pollie to be the front man, or someone many people here would recognise.

              What an established politician as frontman for a new party does, is bring coverage, recognition, experience and a bit of organisation and some parliamentary, ahem, resourcing. The hard thing to overcome is the lack of an organisation, with info distribution channels and fundraising ability.

              Within NZ all of that stuff is doable for a rural based party. The recognition doesn’t need to be universal, and nor does the press coverage. There are rural media outlets that will be glad for the copy and go to pretty damn near every farm gate. There are numerous organisations with the communication networks already in place. They only need to reach these people. And if they can get a showing in a poll, they become a story and MSM coverage will follow. A well crafted timely stunt, (a-la fart tax tractor hikoi or something to do with the RB, interest rates and high dollars crushing exports, or whatever it is that opportunity presents) and you are away laughing.

              As noted, I don’t think a split will happen, the talk is just shots across bows. But those shots aren’t meaningless, and it could happen. And if it does happen, of all possible newbie outsider parties to be able to pull off getting past 5 percent, a rural one would have the best shot at it. I wouldn’t write the possibility of a split off, or the chances of it’s success.

              One thing about authoritarians, even mild ones, is that they are loyal as all hell. But they expect that to be returned and if they decide they’ve been betrayed, it’s all over baby blue.

      • Oscar 5.1.2

        I agree with the argument, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be someone inside Parliament.

        While it would definitely be easier to get a fledgling party off the ground, a’la Winston 1st in 1996, it’s entirely possible that the likes of Spud Bolger could easily be a frontman for a Country Party.

        Perhaps that big ostentatious birthday advertisement was a code, a call to arms for Spud to start farming his support base?

  6. Nick C 6

    I think at most you may see many rural groups openly endorsing Act. There is no way there will be a country party, it simply wont happen.

    • kaplan 6.1

      Just to clarify. Does ‘Simply wont happen’ mean the same things as ‘Never ever’? It’s just that our PM has recently proven that ‘Never ever’ = ‘Once we find a way to convince youse guys it’s all good’.
      It’s awesome. Works for promises on GST and asset sales plus heaps more. Probably will work in you case too.

      • Nick C 6.1.1

        No simply wont happen as in about as likely as the Cathrine Delahunty becoming Prime Minister of New Zealand after the next election

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Personally I’d like to see ACT and a Country Party both poll 4.9% without an electorate seat.

    Hey, a win is a win!

  8. PK 8

    ***It’s kind of like the Republicans’ Tea Party in the States. Started as Republican astro-turfing, the Tea Party has rapidly taken on because mainstream Republicans can’t actually adopt the extreme Right policies that their militarised base are demanding.***

    Extreme right? Actually, the reason is that mainstream Republicans are beholden to corporate and military interests.

    “Program of the Boston Tea Party
    Adopted in Convention, May 27, 2010

    1. End the Wars of Aggression: The U.S. should withdraw all forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and all other occupied nations.

    2. End the Fed: The U.S. Congress should audit the Fed, allow for competition of currencies, repeal the income tax, abolish the IRS, and refuse any further ‘bailouts’ of corporations in any industry. Furthermore, all federal regulations covering every aspect of the private economy, including those individuals who seek self-employment, should be repealed across the board. All FICA and withholding taxes levied on employers and employees should be eliminated entirely.

    3. End the War on Drugs: The federal government should repeal all laws against the use and trade of “controlled substances.” The states and local communities should also permit people to freely choose what substances they wish to consume without government intervention.

    4. End the Abuses of Liberty: Congress should repeal the Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act & FISA Acts and abolish the NSA, TSA, CIA and any other federal agency that infringes on individual rights. Congress should review and revoke the emergency powers granted to the President in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. The U.S. should restore privacy by forbidding warrant-less wiretapping of phone and internet communication. The U.S. must restore habeas corpus, allowing all detainees, foreign and domestic, a speedy and public trial. No physical or environmental discomfort should be used to influence the interrogation of suspects for any crime. The U.S. government must respect the rights of all people, regardless of place of birth, status of citizenship, or suspicion of criminality.

    5. End the Immigration Fiasco: Rather than suddenly decide to enforce long-ignored immigration laws, the U.S. should open the borders to trade and travel. We should loosen restrictions on citizens and visitors alike, allowing people of many backgrounds and cultures to coexist in a society of social and economic freedom and prosperity. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agencies at all levels of government should be abolished and dismantled immediately.”

    http://www.bostontea.us/program

  9. DS 9

    Nitpick: Reform was the redneck rural party, United was the urban business party (not the other way round).

  10. gobsmacked 10

    Let’s hope we get the Country Party in Parliament.

    Then we might get to hear this exchange, which did actually happen* in Australia:

    “I am a Country Member …”

    (interjection) “We remember!”

    (*possibly, and if it didn’t, it should have)

  11. DS 11

    >>>(*possibly, and if it didn’t, it should have)<<<

    Well, if puns on "country" are good enough for William Shakespeare's Hamlet, they should be good enough for party politics.

  12. solatnz 12

    The historical cleavages in the NZ right were there in 1935 and caused the Right to lose the election to Labour.

    You had the rural-based conservative Reform, the urban liberal but anti-Labour United and the pro-business Democrats (who won no seats). I see those as roughly correlating to “Country Party”, National and ACT respectively. NZ First represents the old National Party that overlapped Reform and United.

    If a country party were to form a splinter the Right vote it would be catastrophic for them.

  13. Bored 13

    A bag of spuds with a blue rosette on it was all that the Nats needed to stand to win Selwyn and Ashburton in the recent past…there was Ruth and Jenny.

  14. vto 14

    Good. Anything to spread the power has to be good. Concentrated power has only concentrated uses.

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