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Nat Civil War: The perils of monolithism

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, April 10th, 2012 - 63 comments
Categories: bill english, john key, Judith Collins, national, Steven Joyce - Tags:

Despite losing nearly one in four of its supporters, 300,000 voters, in a little more than six months according to the Roy Morgans, National’s 44% still looks superficially impressive. Until you realise they need to be able to form a  majority more or less alone. The Right’s monolithism doesn’t just place extraordinary demands on National’s leader, it’s the root of the current civil war.

While it hurts, the Left can handle a weak Labour party. There are other viable vehicles for Left policies – most notably the Greens. So, even if Labour remains stuck in the low 30s doldrums, a Centre-Left coalition can be formed pretty simply. National, on the other hand, for all intents and purposes is the Right now. It needs to get pretty close to 50% to be able to govern. One dud leader, one dud policy, or simply a public and media falling out love with smile and wave – and holding on to government becomes impossible because all that lost support slips across the divide to the Greens or Labour, not to alternate Rightwing parties because there are none (unless the Conservatives make it into Parliament in 2014, a strong possibility with bad consequences for the neoliberals in National).

The number of parties on the Centre and Left also provides a constructive outlet for differences of opinion and conflicting personal ambitions (thanks, MMP) – don’t like the way Labour’s policies are heading? Go to the Greens; frustrated in your leadership ambitions in the Maori Party? Set up Mana. In a relatively painless process, one Left faction’s party will move into ascendency if it out-performs the other without messy backstabbing. Although for some Labour MPs, their instincts may be to go anti-Green, their political nous tells them that a string Green Party is part of their ticket to government and they just need to do a better job carving votes off National for themselves. The Left as a whole wins.

If you’re rightwing and you don’t like National’s direction what do you do? Or what if you want to be leader and there’s others in that same race? You could start a splinter party, like the Conservatives, but you’re inviting being dumped on from a great height (and you’ll end up paying $30 a vote) or, more practically, you form a faction, try to defeat the other factions, and win the leadership.

So, National has

  • the Collins faction – socially conservative, the party’s Christian wing, economically pure (ie neoliberal) but not overly strong economically apart from on decreasing government spending;
  • the Brat Pack – socially conservative but also more economically conservative, incrementalists who see the object of politics as being in power, transforming the country gradually, as a glacier carves a valley;
  • the Boag/Key faction – socially liberal, economically neoliberal, old guard, who also want power for the long-run – their next star after Key is Hekia Parata;
  • the Joyce faction – socially liberal, small business mentality that the rules should be bent or discarded when they get in the way, not really ideological economically but probably tending to the libertarian way.

Most of National’s MPs can be slotted into one of these factions. One of them, or a coalition, will have to come together to win the leadership post Key. I’m picking the Boag/Key and Joyce factions will cooperate and win with a Joyce/Parata or, more likely, Parata/Joyce leadership. With the Brat Pack now firmly anti-Collins after the Nick Smith resignation, she doesn’t have the allies she needs. The Collins faction has clearly made the same calculations looking at the way they’re playing. Undermining Boag and Key and making a play for the support of the lowly-ranked and predominantly female MPs whose jobs are at risk unless they get better list places by getting in the new leaderships good books, with the object of leaving Parata and Joyce isolated, are her only hope of winning.

But what damage will be done in the meantime?

We’re already seeing the infighting breaking out in to the public arena over the ACC affair, and this race has a long way to go yet.

63 comments on “Nat Civil War: The perils of monolithism ”

  1. tc 1

    Whatever happens the sell off and continued departure of our talented kiwis and democratic erosion will continue unabated. What a delightful range of choices Eddie just makes you fell great to be a kiwi.

  2. I agree that monolithism is an issue for National. The repeat talking up of the “civil war” is a tad overstated – to most people National appears more united than Labour does – but National faces a real challenge trying to progress it’s policies but retaining a decent shot at the next election.

    The multi party “left” certainly has more options. But with that there are multiple vulnerabilities. Any of the following could jeopardise the centre-left’s chances in 2014:
    – Labour fails to respond to and support Shearer
    – a sometimes jaded Winston Peters fades with age
    – a closer examination of Green policies cretaes an electorate nervousness if they become a real prospect of being in Government rather than being a chic protest party

    It’s easier to control and discipline a single party than it is three or four parties, in fact one party leader has little control over other parties.

    • United Follicles manages perfect discipline Petey.  Why is that?

      • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1.1

        But then the left hand seems to disagree with the right hand, usually after an election

      • Pete George 2.1.2

        There’s never perfect discipline in any party, there’s always people who are not getting the policy emphasis, presentation or positions they would like. I’d be very surprised if there’s no mumbling beneath the surface in any party.

        But seeing you raised this, I can only speak for myself but I’m prepared to say I’ve got full confidence in the leadership of UF and I fully support Peter Dunne as leader.

        Are you prepared to say similar about Labour leadership and David Shearer?

      • The Baron 2.1.3

        You’re a dick, Greg.

        I don’t like United Future, but I don’t like idiot fan-boi bullies like you either. Pete posts under his own name and is clear about his affiliations, and all you do is dump on him with crap like this just cos he is playing for the wrong team.

        “Labour isn’t the nasty party” huh. Looks like your a paragon of virtue in that regard.

        • Enough is Enough


          Pull your head in Presland. That comment and most your responses to Pete fall into the non substantive rubbish that usually resides in the sewer at Kiwiblog.

          • Colonial Viper

            LOL Pete deserves every bit of it, he acts as a hypocritical anti NZ troll on an endless and shameless basis after all.

        • mickysavage

          Oh look two Slater acolytes accusing me of being nasty because I asked Petey how UF maintains discipline.  My attempt at humor was to point out that it is easy to maintain discipline in a caucus of one.

          But they think this is being nasty?  I wonder if they think this is as nasty as publishing sensitive details about a wharfie’s wife’s death for political advantage?

          • Colonial Viper

            They’re really grasping now mate, but I’m not sure it’s straws that they are pulling on!

          • Pete George

            Micky, you asked me about UF and I responded. I then asked you to indicate your confidence in Labour leadership and in David Shearer. Did you miss that or are you avoiding it again?

            • Colonial Viper

              Sorry mate you must have missed all my comments of the last week where I clearly stated that I feel that the Greens are definitely on the ascendence, and that Labour is definitely struggling for traction and for vision. But if you want me to come out and criticise the leadership of the party that I am a member of, then you are shit out of luck.

          • Enough is Enough

            Slater acolyte????????


            Please explain

            • mickysavage

              I take it back EIE.  I have had a read of a few of your comments and agree that you are anything but.  My sincerest apologies.

              But the Baron is and I was surprised at your comment.  I thought my original comment was pretty tame and did not deserve the full on attack that it generated.

              • Enough is Enough

                Thanks for the apology Greg,

                My comment was frustration that comes from hoping this place doesn’t descend into mindless name calling. I read here daily because of the intelligent debate that takes place. When your argument stacks up I struggle to see the need for a needle and jab.

                Intelligent reasoning is so much more persuasive.

              • The Baron

                Not sure where you get the idea that I’m a Slater-ite either, Greggles. Sure, we both share our dislike for tribal labourites like you, but I really don’t care for WO’s bible bashy rabid attack dog stuff either.

                I’ve also never said anything for or against the POAL disclosure either, so not sure which keyboard you were interviewing on that.

                But regardless, your constant childish denigration of Pete based purely on his affiliation is pretty pathetic and dickish, and trying to justify it by saying someone that I have the most cursory of linkages to is pretty dickish too. Oh the other guy did it so that means you can? Pathetic.

                I stand by everything I said. It’s pretty tame compared to the crap you dish Pete, so I’m sure you’ll survive.

                • I was happy to acknowledge to EIE that I was wrong in relation to him  but you Baron I am not so sure about.

                  You see my comment to Petey was pretty mild.  But you then launched into me.

                  Petey is an unusual commentator.  He pops on and acts like a troll but I do wonder if he actually wants to engage in a debate.  I have given him the odd serve as has others.

                  But you seem to want to push the micky = nasty therefore labour = nasty line and to be frank this is just a load of tosh.

                  Pete wanting to lecture Labour on discipline justified the very restrained response that it is easy to maintain discipline in a party of one … 

    • Te Reo Putake 2.2

      You’re a bit tough on Winston, Petey. He’s only a few years older than Peter Dunne and appears to be in fine fettle after winning all those seats at the last election. Perhaps by way of an apology for your ageism you should send him a card for his 67th birthday. Which is tomorrow, as it happens.

      • Pete George 2.2.1

        Nine years is a very long time in politics.

        Winston’s fettle seems to have faded since last time he was in parliament. And arguably his lifestyle has been harder on him than Peter Dunne’s has on him.

        • Te Reo Putake

          Descending to gossip, now, Pete? Still, I imagine swimming in whiskey is better than drowning in Brylcreem.

          • Pete George

            Not gossip, observation. An interview on Q+A a couple of months before the election was a bit concerning. And Peters’ efforts in parliament are very mixed – that’s highly visible and unedited.

            • Colonial Viper

              Don’t worry mate, Winston’s not after The Hair’s 0.6% voter base!

    • aerobubble 2.3

      National looks united because its a nakedly deregulate party, i.e. its easy to look united when the orthodxy ideology is so simplistic and easy to follow. I put it too you that you bias is showing, that Labour does look healthier as a party as discord is welcomed and refreshing, whereas the lock step right that had it so easy with their branding themselves winners due to cheap oil and cheap borrowing is now looking like both weak, wacky and weird. I mean look at National, they are anti-national on tax changes (pro-foreign investors over their own constituency wannabe self-owner farmers), they hate democracy with their surviellience grab that just completely ignore the rights of court victories…. the list is long…

      National are a bunch of naked weirdos.

  3. I agree with the monolithism comment but after the ACT implosion last year there really is no alternative for National. Watching that seething collective of hatred and self interest tear itself apart was great to watch and the Simon Lusk engineered takeover was the only rational thing to do.

    But ACT cannot be resuscitated.  NZ First is National’s only chance.  For this to have a chance Key will have to be gone … 

    • Bored 3.1

      The Right is fraying at the edges. There was never any real hope of achieving a lasting 50% plus in a time when economic warfare between the haves and have nots has been progressing into the “centre”.

  4. Deer Hunter 4

    Eddie you are making too much of this civil war BS. It was a good old fashioned taking a trouble maker out at dawn. Ask any Nats, there aren’t real factions, just a few people jockeying for position. One of the jockeys fell off his horse last month.

  5. Was Smith jockeying for a tilt at the leadership?

    And did he fall off his horse or was he taken out by someone operating a machine gun totally indifferent to any collateral damage?

    • Deer Hunter 5.1

      No, no party can win government by pandering to its base. Goff tried it in ’11 and it wasn’t believable from him and turned off centre voters. The Nats are smart enough to know far right policies will turn off the centre. There’s nowhere to the right of the Nats anymore, all they need to do is hold the centre.

      • Pascal's bookie 5.1.1

        heh. If Goff lost becuase he ran a base centric campaign that turned off the centre, then the govt’s single seat majority tells a pretty sorry tale for rightwingers.

        Ans as for holding the centre goes, you might want to check in with KB comment threads and see who the base hates, and who they like, re Smith/Collins.

        • Pete George

          KB is far from representative of the National “base”. There’s far more comments from dissillusioned righties with no party to support.

          • Pascal's bookie

            I’m not talking about the frothers pete.

            Perhaps you migt like to pop along to a fed farmers gathering and get their opinions on the relative merits of Smith/Collins, but they’re not the base either I suppose. Perhaps the Law and order anti PC types are the base, or perhaps the national party’s base is a jumbled up incoherent mess of disparate groups all fighting for relevance.

            hang on, what’s this post about again?

            • Deer Hunter

              Wrong Bookie. Fed Farmers and KB comments ARE the base, left to their own they would put Crusher in charge just like they put Shipley in charge. Disastrous. The theory of multiple factions is BS. A small group of frothers who want the Nats to be more rightwing, and a caucus who wants to stay in government and smartly keeps a leader who can do it.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Don’t know why you’re calling me wrong about who the base is.

                Guess you’re a bit trigger happy, but ne’er mind.

                Fact remains, Smith is gone, Crusher isn’t, and the govt has a one seat majority in spite of Goff’s last campaign.

                • Deer Hunter

                  Bookie when you’re reviewing labour’s campaign you can be so proud of labour’s worst election result ever.

                  • Pascal's bookie

                    Greens did well though, that’s who I vote for.

                    It’s good that on the left there are options. I’d imagine that if the greens didn’t exist I might well have just stayed home, and plenty others would do likewise.

                    Especially if their only viable option just assumed their support and called them disaster inducing frothers.

                    But still, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about that 1 seat majority that resulted from what you think was a base centric campaign from Labour.

                    Getting MMP yet?

                    • Deer Hunter

                      Bookie the greens will lose popularity when they have to actually be in government, the same way all the small parties have suffered when they compromise their ambitions. The only reason the Greens haven’t suffered yet is because Auntie Helen was so good at keeping the Greens out of government. I don’t think Shearer understands MMP yet, he still has to turn up and make a respectable job in the house. Bookie if you were an esteemed international academic coming to advise Shearer on how to perform, what would you tell him to do?

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Oh, so you don’t want to talk about the implications of your theory then.

                  • Maui

                    Are you familiar with the expression ‘running dead’ ?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Bookie when you’re reviewing labour’s campaign you can be so proud of labour’s worst election result ever.

                    Which still happened to be a full 1/3 ahead of National’s worst election result ever hahaha

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2

        The Nats haven’t been anywhere near the centre for a loooong time.

        • Pete George

          From your perspective maybe.

          Apart from a few extremists on blogs most of our politics is very centre-ish, with both National and Labour (and UF, NZF and Maori) covering mostly centre/centre-left/centre right with a few dabbles outside that.

  6. bad12 6

    At the point of the release of the Roy Morgan poll National,s back bench could be heard in a frenzy abrading small metallic objects,

    Once the flurry of public opinion polls begins to show the slide is permanent and the trend becomes more pronounced the new game in town for the Tory backbench, the running computer graph of National MP,s who will or wont be in the Parliament after the 2014 election will for them probably become a must do as far as logging onto the internet goes,

    The National backbench is likely to start looking like the scene after the recent rioting in the UK with senior National Ministers constantly being distracted by rumor of coups and the odd public outbreak as one or other of the backbench dragged to the abyss by the most recent poll showing that their cozy spot in the nest has disappeared commits Party political Hari Kari attempting to take a few with him/her as they go,

    (Incidently the recent UK riots according to the most laughable Government inquiry findings we have heard for some time had as a cause the ”bad parenting” of the rioters parents)…

  7. Mark 7

    I’ve heard rumours of a new socially liberal/economic conservative party to fill the gap left by ACT’s spectacular implosion. If they were able to energise young people in the way the Ron Paul campaign in the States has it would be interesting to see where they would take votes from with a freedom/peace/less government intrusion message.

    With the rise of the Greens on the left maybe social liberty and anti-institution politics will be the new common thread here.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 7.1

      …and maybe they won’t. Why would a party of environmentalists buy into a load of Randist (anti-institution) bullshit?

      I think ACT imploded because its members espouse a fundamentally selfish, greedy and confused ideology which renders them philosophically handicapped when it comes to acting in unison. The same will be true of any party with a similar manifesto: the senseless garbage these people believe breeds apolitical impotence – even when they gain power they can’t destroy wealth fast enough, and everyone can see it but them.

  8. Rosemary 8

    “We’re already seeing the infighting breaking out in to the public arena over the ACC affair, and this race has a long way to go yet.”

    And long may it run.

  9. Sam Hill 9

    So if Key does manage to stay over 40% and does stay on as leader, wouldn’t it be wise for a few of National’s MPs to defect to a party to the right of National (Conservatives) and try and get those christian/social conservatives to vote for them rather than NZ First?

    Act attempted something similar last year, but failed miserably due to their undesirable leader and foolish advertising campaign. Conservatives seem to have a bit more respectability, and a couple of female Nats moving to the Conservatives might actually bring out a few non-voters. They certainly have the cash too.

    Just a thought.

    • Lanthanide 9.1

      I think the conservatives would only welcome someone who had or could win an electorate seat.

      They don’t really need to fill themselves up with low-list ranking women from National.

    • Colonial Viper 9.2

      wouldn’t it be wise for a few of National’s MPs to defect to a party to the right of National (Conservatives) and try and get those christian/social conservatives to vote for them rather than NZ First?

      It actually wouldn’t make sense for NAT MP’s, because it pays to keep National’s lucrative and extensive public/private sector network on side.

      National has far more carrots (and sticks) to utilise on its MPs than Labour does.

  10. AnnaLiviaPluraBella 10

    It is dreaming, or a least wishful thinking our our part, to think that the NATZ are going to publically dis-embowel themselves for our benefit. They are not stupid and they will do everything to retain power.
    Yes, some of our team should be exposing the NATZ and rubbing salt into their wounds.
    The equally important task is for the Labour Party to develop and communicate policies that are relevant to the majority of the people of New Zealand. Labour is the Left. Let us take ownership of it.

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      I have the same sort of feeling.

      All of these comments about getting “popcorn” because it’s going to be exciting are frankly quite sad.

      I also haven’t seen any real public evidence of this factional battle that’s apparently going on behind the scenes. I’m not saying I don’t believe it, just that there’s no obvious signs of factions warring with each other in the media.

    • Balanced View 10.2

      Agree. Labour sit where they do because they lost their identity. Too focused on putting National down instead of communicating good policy.
      I also agree with Lanthanide, I haven’t seen any public evidence of a rift that is ridiculously speculative at best. Repeating it over and over in the hope it will come true reminds the public why they lost touch with labour in the first instance, especially when you consider the well publicized fractions within Labour.

  11. captain hook 11

    the real problem is that john key has been declared inane.

  12. Craig Glen Eden 12

    I have to agree with ALPA, Labour cant wait for National to pull it self apart, Labour has to present its policy to the people.It has to show Kiwis a different path from the Nats Brighter Future = Giving state assets to their mates. Sadly all Shearer can do is repeat the slogan brighter future.

    • bad12 12.1

      We hate to say this, but, with a certain amount of relish, sauce, and perhaps mustard and vinegar We will,

      Perhaps Dave Shearers lack of a release of differentiating policy from Labour as opposed to the status quo is simply because He aint got any,

      Perhaps Dave Shearers foot’n’mouth moment of parroting Slippery and Nationals ”brighter future” bullshit is simply because He is working off of the exact same cue cards as what Slippery uses,

      Such has been foisted upon New Zealand time and again,why would the international neo-capitalists not continue to use the same old ruse,

      Shearer and the right of the NZ Labour Party ”know” that after National must come Labour,its all so ho hum like the sun coming up and going back down again,

      No wonder a million enrolled voters ”didnt”,they all have been brain washed by the media circus painting anything other than Labour or National as some personal experiment in self imposed psychiatric disorder….

  13. Fortran 13

    What a boring post – very little of it true I suspect – big yawn.

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