- Date published:
10:05 am, May 24th, 2020 - 56 comments
Categories: james shaw, politicans, Politics, Social issues, todd muller - Tags: catherine delahunty, kennedy graham, paddy gower, waitangi day
A few years ago I was heading to Waitangi with other MPs but the flights from Auckland to the Bay of Islands were cancelled. I cannot recall if it was fog or storm or “ engineering requirements”, but no one was flying to Waitangi. I grabbed a rental car with Kennedy Graham and Todd Muller.
It was my second random road trip to Waitangi, the first being an entertaining gabblefest with Paddy Gower and a quiet man, whose name I forget, and who barely got a word in between Paddy and Catherine arguing about anything at all. The trip with Todd and Ken was far more sedate. I sat in the backseat and observed these gentlemen and reflected on the concept of political consensus. These men appeared to have far more in common than issues that divided them in terms of style and privilege and a sense of polite good humour, far more in common than I felt with either of them, but all was pleasant and free of acrimony.
Neither of them were regulars at Waitangi, they were doing their MP job of attending the powhiri for political parties and then Todd was heading off on some vintage car rally heritage event. I was heading to Waitangi as I have for most of the last 20 years, to listen to the tanagtaa whenua voices about the state of colonisation and how to challenge it. We did not talk about this. For once I just thought I would save my breath. Todd rang his children to say good night, the American elections, a topic of interest to him were discussed. Diplomacy ruled. Looking back I would say it was a pleasant trip but it stays in my mind as the road to nowhere.
The road to polite and personal good will is worth driving when there is no urgency and no deep changes required. It is good to arrive somewhere without personal damage and with genuine good will but it is not the base for addressing the most critical issues of our time. Powerful well resourced white men can afford to be courteous and apparently benign but it is the political consensus that bothers me.
No doubt Todd and Ken (very much a muse to James Shaw) feel proud of the consensus of the Zero Carbon Bill. Everyone kind of agrees to it because it was a toothless tiger. What kind of victory is this in a crisis? The National Party has promised to weaken it further when they get back to power, which hardly sounds like a lasting consensus. So even if Todd utterly believes in that form of consensus – where is his mandate from the right wing? And what is the point of agreeing to addressing the melt down of life on earth as a inoffensive time rich opportunity to change things very very slowly? It works for the green capitalists, but it fails the test of actually reducing emissions at the speed required to stabilise climate chaos.
Consensus has its place for sure, but I am bloody glad that a Parliamentary consensus wasn’t required over Covid lockdown. I am glad that Todd and friends were not the Government responding to the highly efficient and necessary iwi checkpoints. There are times to make watery agreements to build trust, and times when powerful white men who agree with each other are just not much use.
The road trip with Todd and Ken is not one I want to repeat. Not long after that the consensus seeking diplomat, true to his class roots, threw Metiria and the Greens under the bus just before an election, and the genial team player who is the next National leader making a run for power.
What kind of leader he might be cannot be predicted. I guess I don’t trust niceness from tall rich people. I don’t trust personality defined politics because public personality is not real. Jacinda Ardern was not the kindness guru before she was leader. She was not the orator. She has developed these themes in office. But there is no guarantee what “ personality” untested leaders may develop.
However we can be sure that a white man privileged consensus does not include the marginalised diverse voices of the many currently shut out of power. We can be sure that protecting capitalism will come before saving the climate. The road trip to nowhere is not rude or loud, but leads to more inequality in a rising storm which needs a less polite more courageous expression of collective voices hitherto ignored.