I almost feel sorry for National, almost.
When Labour’s or the Green’s base complain they ask questions about what are the left’s elected representatives doing about climate change, or inequality or child poverty? And are they creating an inclusive tolerant society where everyone gets on and we just enjoy our diversity as well as everything we have in common.
We have a very clear view about how the world should be and ask questions if our elected representatives not getting us closer to that nirvana.
Right wing politicians are under similar pressure but from different quarters. Like Dairy Farmers who want to maintain the current size of their herds 20 years in the future because it is good for business even though it is bad for the planet.
Or the New Zealand gun lobby who is that insensitive that despite the Christchurch massacre it insists on unfettered rights to bear arms, the sort that can kill a number of people in a very short time, even though this right in other countries has been directly implicated in things like mass shooting of school kids time and time and time again.
I used to admire John Key’s ability to look deep into the camera and express opinions that had been polled and focussed grouped within an inch of their lives. It felt like he knew what we were thinking and it was because he knew what most of us were thinking.
How times have changed.
Now all I see is Simon Bridges saying stuff that is designed to shore up a deeply compromised base, rather than reach out to the middle ground in the way that made John Key so successful.
The latest example is National deciding that it is unlikely to support round two of the Government’s proposed changes to the gun laws. And why? Judging by this stand up interview where he repeated the phrase no less than nine times, crims, gangs and extremists.
Bridges has however attracted the wrath of one of the organisations normally very pro National, the Police.
From Collette Devlin at Stuff:
The New Zealand Police Association has called for political unity over gun reforms, urging MPs not to turn it into a US-style debate.
It comes as the National Party revealed it was unlikely to support next month’s second tranche of firearms legislation after a draft of the Bill was leaked.
The party claims the law leak reveals life would be harder for gun clubs; penalties would increase from $1000 to $10,000; that there were no genuine details about the proposed gun register; give police the power to judge what constitutes hate speech or extremism and force medical practitioners to notify police about concerns over the mental or physical condition of a firearms owner.
The gun club requirement seems perfectly reasonable. The particular gun club that the Christchurch shooter practised at has been described as the perfect breeding ground for mass shooting.
The guns register provision is also not unusual. This sort of thing would normally be fleshed through regulations like these so an early draft bill not having the detail is not surprising.
The requirement that Doctors report to the authorities seriously mentally ill clients with access to guns has attracted some opposition.
But the proposal is not a new idea. Back in the 1990s the Thorp report recommended to the Government that the law be changed to permit “voluntary disclosure by health professionals, generally along the lines of the model legislation recently approved by the [Australasian Police Ministers’ Council], but in addition requiring that any opinion so disclosed be formed “on reasonable grounds”.”
Putting to one side privacy issues stopping people with significant mental health problems from having access to firearms seems like a pretty good idea to me.
There have been other contributions.
If the Police are saying that there should be no more mass shootings then I for one am very happy to do what they say.
The only place these gun centred heated culture war debates happen is in America. Even in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre there was overwhelming consensus that guns capable of mass murder should be banned.
But National obviously thinks there is political mileage to be made here. By shoring up support amongst a small group that has fairly extreme views about gun rights.
Maybe Bridges is playing four dimensional chess with us all and there is a stunning strategy that will make him popular. But I can’t see it.
All I can see is National surrendering the middle ground to the Government on this issue while at the same time decreasing public faith in political institutions. Maybe it thinks this will result in a net gain for it.
I hope not.