As you know, the latest secret agenda tape has Bill English saying National will do what it needs to do to win, even if that goes against their stated principles.
The obvious line from National, which their spin doctors will have been running to the press gallery, is ‘this is nothing, winning trumps principles, all politicians are like that and everyone knows it’. It’s the kind of cynical yet insightful-sounding thing that makes people feel like they’re superior and cool insiders when they say it (watch to see who runs it tomorrow). But it is wrong on two fronts.
Ordinary Kiwis who are not close political observers do not expect their political leaders to have secret agendas and no commitment to the principles they espouse. The first secret agenda tapes came as a rude shock to many and my inbox is already filling with people writing ‘wow, the buggers really will do whatever they need to do to win’.
In real life, most politicians are not unprincipled. The Greens will not abandon their commitment to the environment and social justice to get power. Today, NZF and UF both said they would not work with National if it means accepting National’s gutting of Kiwisaver. Labour may make only cautious progress in line with their principles but they rarely go against them. ACT, too, is highly principled. National is the exception. The idea that you would do anything to win actually makes a mockery of the reason most people go into politics in the first place: to make a difference, to further their principles. If you’re willing to desert your principles, you may as well let the other side govern.
Unless, governing is an end in itself. If you don’t care about furthering your principles, if only you want power for power’s sake, then you will “do what it takes to win”.