John Key is a very partisan politician. He is ridiculously negative on seemingly any proposal raised by a perceived political opponent. Key infamously called Working For Families “communism by stealth” (his government now supports it). Key made a fool of himself ranting that Labour’s capital gains tax was “a dagger through the heart of the economy” (every credible economic commentator supported it). Just recently Key dismissed Labour’s policy for rebuilding Canterbury, “put the brakes on” Len Brown’s proposals for Auckland rail, while the Nats rubbished the (otherwise well received) Green jobs plan and rejected calls for a fairer pension system.
Why so relentlessly negative? It’s not like National have many ideas of their own to offer (witness the Jobs Summit). It’s not like the recycling old ideas from the 90’s (austerity and privatisation) is working out well. So why not be open to ideas from elsewhere? Ridiculous statements like “a dagger through the heart” just make it that much harder for Key and the Nats to back down and adopt policies that could be highly beneficial.
Time to lose the arrogance and the reflexive negativity. The Nats need to take good ideas wherever they come from, and involve opposition parties in the process. Labour are showing how it’s done, as John Armstrong writes:
Consensus politics an intricate game to play
Contained within Labour’s thoughtful and thought-provoking recovery plan for earthquake-shattered Christchurch is what might appear to be a rather generous promise. .. Among the list of unashamedly interventionist measures flagged by Phil Goff last Monday to speed Christchurch’s revival is a commitment that a Labour government would take a bipartisan approach “by offering the Opposition a role in the rebuilding process”.
Labour’s point is well made. Once the scale and likely duration of the recovery effort became obvious, National should have found some official means of allowing the major Opposition party to play a constructive role, not least because Labour MPs represent most of the city.
National risked making a very big rod for its own back by not doing so. Christchurch’s four Labour MPs could have really gone to town and made life very difficult for Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.
They have not done so. Presumably that is in part because the city’s plight dictates that MPs mute the normal level of political noise and because those MPs see some real value in a bipartisan approach.
That suggests Labour’s offer is not a hollow gesture. …
Labour is offering to take Christchurch out of the political football game. Excellent. Planning for superannuation and foreign policy are two other obvious candidates for a bipartisan consensus, I’m sure you can think of more. But is Key capable of such politics? I don’t see anything in his record so far that suggests that he is, or that he is even interested in trying. And that is bad news for NZ.