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The middle vs the centre

Written By: - Date published: 5:00 pm, October 2nd, 2016 - 42 comments
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Originally posted at Boots Theory.

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about the “political centre” in the last week or so, particularly due to the fact that Andrew Little denied its existence, instead talking about the “middle”.

The thing is, he’s correct.

The notion is there’s a left/right continuum and people are smoothly spread across it in a kind of a bell curve. The implication is there’s a big chunk of voters out there who think the same way politically.


On this basis, the closer you move to the centre (being neither left nor right), the closer you get to that big peak of potential votes. Do the market research, find the sweet spot in the distribution, pitch to it incessantly and you’re home and hosed.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Very few people outside of the small niche of politically engaged types who read blogs or work in politics actually think about politics as left and right. Fewer still would place themselves on that spectrum and base all their political decisions on that position. Pitching to the “centre” starts to look a bit like a fool’s errand.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole series of shared values held by New Zealanders – a kind of “middle ground”. And my guess is that this is what Little is talking about when he makes the distinction between “middle” and “centre”.

The thing is, these shared values usually aren’t politically coherent in the left/right sense. Even in the more sophisticated two-axis left/right-liberal/authoritarian model. Two values held by the majority of the electorate (and simultaneously by many of the individuals in that majority) might be “we need less government” and “we need more law enforcement” or “we need lower taxes” and “we need to invest more in healthcare”. More often than not, voters will hold two or more middle values that significantly conflict on the basis of a left/right analysis.

Political theorist George Lakoff talks about these voters as “biconceptuals” – people who identify as conservative but have some progressive views (and vice versa). It has to be remembered that Lakoff operates in a two-party system and pays particular attention to how this idea manifests in relation to Republican vs Democratic politics. As he should – that’s his intellectual hunting ground. I’d argue that voters are more multiconceptual – the majority of us have a grab bag of political preferences that come from all areas of the political compass.

The great thing about New Zealanders is the majority of these identifiable “middle” values are progressive. We believe in increasing spend in healthcare, we think that corporates should pay more tax, we hold our environment dear, we want medicinal cannabis legalised, etc. Alternatively we also hold a few less-progressive views. We can be a bit insular, we don’t like beneficiaries (but we also don’t like poverty – go figure), we take far too much pride in our military escapades, we have/had a taste for tax-cuts (there’s strong evidence this is diminishing).

There are a whole lot of possible reasons for why a larger and larger part of the population (probably a majority now) in New Zealand are tending toward a multiconceptual view: political disengagement, more decentralised access to information, a lack of political education in schools, whatever. My personal theory is that market decentralisation has led to political decentralisation. We haven’t suddenly started consuming politics as if it were baked beans, but we expect to be able to choose organic baked beans, good old Watties (English or Kiwi), or the budget ones or whatever. And we expect to be able to eat them alongside a whole host of other choices too.


In effect, New Zealanders now expect to be able to personalise their political beliefs the same way we personalise most other aspects of our consumption – rather than slot into one position on a fixed spectrum and stay there.

The trick is to find the shared middle values that align with your core principles as a political party, or don’t strongly run against them, and play them up to the electorate. National understand that: it’s why John Key plays to “the centre” on a regular basis. But it’s not the centre he’s playing to, it’s a broadly shared value set that happens to be progressive. And it’s important to note that he never ever plays to a progressive value that cuts across his constituency’s interests – eg any policy that might seriously harm speculative investment in housing, any hint of drug liberalisation, any increase in work rights that might significantly tip the balance away from employers.

cornel-west-thermostatThe best thing an effective opposition can do is map the middle values that the government can’t touch, such as deterring housing speculators, investing in health, or strengthening work rights, and play these up as much as possible to wedge the government against middle voters.

The worst thing an opposition can do is pick a middle value that runs against their core constituency and try to play to it because they mistake it for the “centre”. All that does is piss off your base and reinforce the values your opponent (or in an MMP environment – your competitor) can play to more strongly than you. It makes you look incoherent to all but the small part of the population that holds that particular value set plus one of your more progressive ones. It’s like deciding to market baked beans with dill pickles in them instead of those little sausages – there will be a tiny part of the market that thinks these are just the best baked beans ever, but the majority of people, even the majority of people who really like baked beans, and the majority who really like dill pickles, will just be like “WTF?”

Unfortunately, a lot of progressive parties confuse the middle – those (mostly) good shared values – and the centre – that stupid bell curve. That leads to looking incoherent, and it harms the good parts of your political product. My hope is Andrew Little’s rejection of the centre shows NZ Labour is starting to avoid that trap.

42 comments on “The middle vs the centre ”

  1. TopHat 1

    Interesting read. Thanks.
    An oldy but a goody https://www.politicalcompass.org

    With an interesting breakdown as at 2014 elections https://www.politicalcompass.org/nz2014

    • McGrath 1.1

      I’m very slightly right and very slightly authoritarian according to political compass. Essentially I am the centre voter.

      • TopHat 1.1.1

        I seem to be a Left leaning Libertarian which doesn’t surprise me.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          The inclusion of a delusional cult renders the measurement pointless and invalid.

          • TopHat

            Interesting comment.
            So I looked up the definition of Sect and Cult. I didn’t find an utterance of Libertarianism but;
            a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
            an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers:
            the physical fitness cult.
            the object of such devotion.
            a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
            Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
            a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
            the members of such a religion or sect.
            any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

            of or relating to a cult.
            of, for, or attracting a small group of devotees:
            a cult movie.

            religious order, religious sect
            sisterhood – a religious society of women who live together as sisters (especially an order of nuns)
            organized religion, religion, faith – an institution to express belief in a divine power; “he was raised in the Baptist religion”; “a member of his own faith contradicted him”
            Albigenses, Cathari, Cathars – a Christian religious sect in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries; believers in Albigensianism
            High Anglican Church, High Church – a group in the Anglican Church that emphasizes the Catholic tradition (especially in sacraments and rituals and obedience to church authority)
            Abecedarian – a 16th century sect of Anabaptists centered in Germany who had an absolute disdain for human knowledge
            Amish sect – an orthodox Anabaptist sect separated from the Mennonites in late 17th century; settled chiefly in southeastern Pennsylvania
            Karaites – a Jewish sect that recognizes only the Hebrew Scriptures as the source of divinely inspired legislation and denies the authority of the postbiblical tradition of the Talmud; the sect arose in Iraq in the eighth century
            Shia, Shiah, Shiah Islam – one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam; mainly in Iran
            Sunni Islam, Sunni – one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
            Shivaism, Sivaism – a Hindu sect worshiping Shiva
            Saktism, Shaktism – a Hindu sect worshiping Shakti
            Vaishnavism, Vaisnavism – Hindu sect worshiping of Vishnu
            Haredi – any of several sects of Orthodox Judaism that reject modern secular culture and many of whom do not recognize the spiritual authority of the modern state of Israel
            International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, Hare Krishna – a religious sect founded in the United States in 1966; based on Vedic scriptures; groups engage in joyful chanting of `Hare Krishna’ and other mantras based on the name of the Hindu god Krishna; devotees usually wear saffron robes and practice vegetarianism and celibacy
            Jainism – sect founded in the 6th century BC as a revolt against Hinduism
            Taoism – a Chinese sect claiming to follow the teaching of Lao-tzu but incorporating pantheism and sorcery in addition to Taoism
            Kokka, Kokka Shinto – the branch of Shinto recognized as the official state religion of Japan
            Shua, Shuha Shinto – any branch of Shinto other than Kokka
            brethren – (plural) the lay members of a male religious order
            monastic order, order – a group of person living under a religious rule; “the order of Saint Benedict”
            Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends – a Christian sect founded by George Fox about 1660; commonly called Quakers
            Shakers, United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing – a celibate and communistic Christian sect in the United States
            Vaudois, Waldenses – a Christian sect of dissenters that originated in southern France in the late 12th century adopted Calvinist doctrines in the 16th century
            Zurvanism – a Zoroastrian sect that claims Zurvan was the ultimate source of the universe
            convent – a community of people in a religious order (especially nuns) living together
            2. sect – a dissenting clique
            clique, coterie, ingroup, inner circle, camp, pack – an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
            splinter group – a faction or sect that has broken away from its parent organization
            LEFT WING. LEFT- those who support varying degrees of social or political or economic change designed to promote the public welfare
            RIGHT WING. RIGHT – those who support political or social or economic conservatism; those who believe that things are better left unchanged
            old guard – a faction that is unwilling to accept new ideas
            pro-choice faction – those who argue that the decision to have an induced abortion should be made by the mother
            pro-life faction – those who argue that induced abortion is killing and should be prohibited.

            Thereby rendering your point invalid OAB!

    • Rob Egan 1.2

      I’m pretty sure that if you mapped every question on the political compass test onto the final result (rather than just the single aggregated point) you’d find that most people would have points all over the compass depending on the issue they were addressing. The politically useful aggregation would be those individual issue points aggregated across the electorate.

      • TopHat 1.2.1

        I think you will find that the test was designed with functions that deal with your concerns at it’s core. Maybe reading the sites supporting text and having a little play with it to familiarise yourself with it’s workings will assure you as to it’s accuracy…

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          It’s a propaganda tool designed to make people think that “Libertarian” is something other than a delusional cult.

          • Bill

            You’re aware that the association of the term ‘libertarian’ with right wing market fundamentalism is a peculiar N.American thing OAB, yes? That libertarianism has very deep historical roots on the left of the simple left/right political spectrum? That autonomous Marxists, communists and anarchists could all reasonably come under the umbrella of that historical definition of libertarianism?

            A mere moment of reflection – on marrying libertarianism to free market fundamentalism – reveals a screaming contradiction that self defining right wing libertarians can only reconcile by insisting (against all the evidence and any logic) that the market is neutral and free.

            I don’t know what expression of libertarianism TopHat would associate themselves with, but it might be prudent to know which one before bandying around accusatory insults like ‘delusional cultist’. 😉

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              …a peculiarly N. American thing it may well be, and yet the first thing that springs into my mind is Matthew Hooton.

              It’s typified by statements about what “would” happen if only Libertarian principles were applied, and the utter refusal of reality to match the rhetoric when they are.

              • Bill

                ‘Cept, if you’d understood my comment there can be no “what would happen” with regards libertarianism if it’s to be taken in the way that you prefer or habitually understand the term.

                Right wing libertarianism is like all the money at the races going on the dog in trap 5 overlooking the fact that the dog in trap 5 has no front legs.

                Okay, so there is a “what would happen” It’s utterly predictable and the same every time – a nose dive into the dirt followed by some weirdly yapping ever decreasing circle thing .

  2. NixSaved 2

    This is a very good piece about the ‘middle’ ground. Wouldn’t look out of place in an op-ed section of a newspaper OR a mainstream news website. Well done RobEgan.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Very good post and well explained.

    • Rob Egan 3.1

      Cheers Draco – I think there’s a better, less confusing, term for shared values than “middle” though. As trevett points out in the linked column it is usually a synonym for centre.

    • Leftie 3.2

      I second that.

  4. Bill 4

    So, I’m thinking that ‘all things being equal’ the neat little curve with the bulge around the centre or mid-point would hold.

    But things ain’t equal.

    There was a survey type thing done in England and Wales a while back (Did I do a post on it? Can’t remember) …anyway, the survey purported to demonstrate that peoples’ views had shifted to the right of a right/left spectrum.

    Given the endless propaganda we’re subjected to, that was no surprise, although what the survey overlooked was that when people were asked less policy specific questions, then their left bias had persisted.

    In other words, that linear graph might have a double hump that marks the middle (two middles) and then, depending on what you’re pitching, you pitch for the underlying and more left bulge or the surface and more right bulge.

    Alternatively, just have principles and values, call it as it is and see where things fall. In other words, always pitch to that underlying middle and couch policy explanations by reference to those leftist principles or values.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Like all the cute bell shaped graphs and nice chart lines in neoclassical economics, no one actually knows what the true shape of that ‘political beliefs curve’ is – is it one bump, two bumps, three bumps, fat tail one side, long thin tail another side – who knows.

  5. Nic the NZer 5

    In actual fact there is no ‘conflict’ between the two phrases “we need lower taxes” and “we need to invest more in healthcare”. At worst the implications of both these things happening at once are an increase in the government budget deficit (and any of the implications of that occurring). The idea that these statements are in conflict are based only on assumptions made by the author, what kind of assumptions are being made?

    Many economists agree with this but differ in the implications of what impacts the government deficit has on the economy. On the one hand you have economists like J.M Keynes who suggested that inflation started to occur when the government deficit spending pushed real economic activity beyond the capacity of the economy, and therefore that the government could always afford to spend its way out of a slump. On the other hand you have economists like Milton Friedman who argued that government spending had no long run impact on the level of economic activity (that the actual level of economic activity quickly heads towards and reaches the capacity of the economy) and that any additional spending could only result in additional inflation as it got there. There are also economists vaguely in-between such as Paul Krugman, who may argue that market imperfections stop the economy reaching the ideal level of activity at times, but that the government deficit spending over the whole economic cycle is still inflationary.

    None of these positions in any way implies that a government can not both cut taxes and increase spending at the same time. To claim so is simply miss-leading of readers. In fact there are many real world examples to test the claims on, from President Regans (far from progressive) tax cuts and simultaneous spending increases to the US government and Federal Reserves responses to the global financial crisis, or to look at Japans own multi decade response to the Asian Financial Crisis. Surely it is time to start testing our economic assumptions, and the manner in which we debate economic issues against real world veracity now?

    • Rob Egan 5.1

      Rather than get into a discussion about economics I’d just say that I used these statements because they would map the holder at different parts of the traditional left/right continuum. The conflict may or may not be an economic one, but it is a political taxonomy one.

      • Nic the NZer 5.1.1

        It would seem that since these beliefs (political statements) say nothing about reality (eg they don’t have to be related to real world facts) then this is simply a discussion on the premise that many opinions don’t fall neatly onto a simplistic left right political scale.

        We saw this dimension shift in a fundamental way in the period since Muldoon where it became a political ‘fact’ that the government is financially constrained (where as previously and under Muldoon it tended to target full employment). At this time myths started to be generated which assumed the most restrictive economic arguments were a definite reflection of reality but did not reflect the actual basis of any economic debate (for example the discourse forgot that a govt like NZ can simply issue new money to finance spending, despite this having occurred in practice in NZ).

        Why should this or any other not reality based dimension not shift again? A distinction between a Centre and a Middle is kind of irrelevant when your axis is a fictional dimension, no?

        • Rob Egan

          I agree but that’s a whole other post 🙂

        • Draco T Bastard

          for example the discourse forgot that a govt like NZ can simply issue new money to finance spending, despite this having occurred in practice in NZ

          I wouldn’t say that it was forgotten but purposefully hidden and we saw the rise of the politicians telling us that we needed foreign money which, if the government created the countries entire supply of money, we don’t need at all.

          Here’s the thing. If the government can create money then we don’t need the rich and the money that the rich have accumulated is worthless. Taxes are then not a means to fund the government but a means to control the amount of money in circulation and, via that, inflation.

          Why should this or any other not reality based dimension not shift again? A distinction between a Centre and a Middle is kind of irrelevant when your axis is a fictional dimension, no?

          I suppose what we need to be doing is shifting the beliefs back towards reality. In fact, I’d probably draw that line like this:

          Reality ———————————————————- Capitalism/Delusion

          Put it like that and we’ll probably start to get people thinking about it.

  6. NZJon 6

    The only comment I’ve got is: the English don’t have Watties baked beans; they have Heinz… http://www.heinz.co.uk/products/beans/ranges/beanz/heinz-baked-beanz 😉

  7. Craig H 7

    Also, I think for a lot of people, the government of the day has little impact on their daily lives, so they value leadership and competence over specific policies, and will only vote on policies if leadership and competence are not a concern.

    If Labour and the Greens can continue to work together, not trip over their own feet and Little can continue to appear reasonable leadership material (and I believe they actually have done that thus far – any mis-steps have been minor), then that will get people to vote on policy, which based on the suggestion that most people tend left over right, will results in increased votes.

  8. Incognito 8

    Great post, thank you.

    When it comes to people’s political beliefs I think most people only have a very few firmly-held beliefs as such – although they might not think so – and that much of their thinking is still binary, linear, one-dimensional. Politically speaking, people have limited vocabulary to express themselves; they generally lack the versatility and mental tools to grasp complex issues, think them through, and grapple with multi-dimensional concepts. It may sound patronising and arrogant but I believe that many people have the political maturity of a toddler or less, a tabula rasa. The same is true of our society, obviously.

    Politicians are, by virtue of their position, a few steps ahead of the mob. Without getting into conspiracy theories I believe that some (?) politicians try to exploit our collective immaturity and naivety – it does not take much imagination.

    So, when politicians “play” to the centre or whatever they are really trying to influence the people, to convince them to see things their way, to adopt and adhere to their values. The MSM play a huge role in this …

    When people agree with a politician’s view it is because they think these views mirror their own while, in reality, they simply absorb and then reflect the politician’s views, almost by osmosis. It all becomes one big echo chamber in a palace of mirrors of self-affirmation, self-confirmation and self-reinforcement.

    I am not at all keen on populism, so-called “charismatic” politicians, personality cults, etc. Similarly, I ‘shudder’ when I read or hear “the people have spoken”, “people’s choice” or “the will of the people”, and I try to ignore political polls as much as I can. Sometimes I get the feeling that we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere …

  9. roy 9

    Can totally sympathise with the simultaneous viewpoint thing.
    I do want lower taxes – for the poor, which is most of us, and higher taxes on those that pay fuck all, like the millionaires, to pay for healthcare.
    I also want smaller ‘government’, eg reduced TPPA junkets, GCSB and SIS, and more law enforcement eg on white collars.

    • Rob Egan 9.1

      Yup. I totally get that. But there are a lot of people out there who hold those opinions without the left/right nuance you are including here.

  10. Tamati Tautuhi 10

    Locking up white collar criminals would be a good start, stealing a pinky bar from a gas station gets you more time in jail than defrauding grandmothers for millions of $’s.

  11. Chuck 11

    “There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about the “political centre” in the last week or so, particularly due to the fact that Andrew Little denied its existence, instead talking about the “middle”.”

    Middle and centre often have the same meaning, especially to the general public.

    Andrew Little is attempting to control the narrative on left / centre / right, as he knows National will attack Labour along the lines of Labour being held captive by the far left Greens in forming a Government next year.

    As most here (the activist base) also want Labour to go further left, it compounds the problem for Little.

    IMO the general public do have a understanding of left / centre / right. With the majority falling into the centre-left to centre-right zones. National have and are still straddling across both these zones. So I guess this is where the “trade off” is…as Rob Eagan points out.

    Point in case; National have been the first Government in decades to increase the Benefit rates for families (over and above the rate of inflation).

  12. Olwyn 12

    The best thing an effective opposition can do is map the middle values that the government can’t touch, such as deterring housing speculators, investing in health, or strengthening work rights, and play these up as much as possible to wedge the government against middle voters.

    The worst thing an opposition can do is pick a middle value that runs against their core constituency and try to play to it because they mistake it for the “centre”

    That sums it up really. Unfortunately the “worst thing” holds greater temptations for the left than the right, since the core constituency of the right is better placed to throw their weight around. I was relieved at Andrew Little’s denial of the political centre, because over recent years it has become a code phrase for urging the political left to abandon the interests of the core left constituency. “Taking the hard decisions” is another code phrase for the same thing.

  13. save nz 13

    I think most people want stability but forward planning from government. National have provided some sort of appearance of stability but in reality it is robbing from Peter to pay Paul and Peter is foreclosing.

    People also want fairness. It is clear that National policy has created an unfair and unequal country and a country that is losing decency as well as democracy.

    I think there are a number of issues most people agree on, and that is having a safe environment. Finding out that water quality and our rivers are now polluted was a wake up call.

    Blaming the farmers is not the best way forward for the left. Fonterra has taken to the neoliberal model of robbing farmers and running the co operative into the ground with risky ventures that backfire, food scandals, bad environmental conditions and poor returns. Instead of leading the farming environmental movement Fonterra management are joining the Natz way of pretending their is no problem even though other countries are going to benefit from early adoption of environmental farming that NZ is throwing away. NZ used to be proud of it’s environmental record and animal welfare – we are now falling behind in their blinkered dinosaur 19th century approach.

    Housing, most people agree that housing should be affordable. But then the disagreement starts, is it low wages, immigration, price gouging of building costs, selling state housing or speculation that is making housing unaffordable?

    The left seem to ignore all of the above and focus on a watered down version of the Natz ideas – i.e. land prices is the issue and get rid of all the green field areas to build on with little regulation, they blame red tape at councils and environmental laws. Not sure if this is even left policy but whenever there is any media on the issue there is normally some left person fronting it and sound byte that seems to echo National. AKA Auckland Unitary plan.

    Not only that, there is a big beat up in the media against baby boomers who are blamed for somehow stealing the younger person’s house. Again completely counter productive discourse that drives boomers to National, and lets the Natz get away with their failed housing policy.

    Wages. Natz keep this out of the media, but are on record as saying they want a low wage economy. They have decimated regulation for employees and have a policy to flood NZ with cheaper desparate workers, so that now most Kiwis are on lower wages with less secure conditions. TPPA is estimated to kill 6000 Kiwi jobs, National say great, Labour have not been strong enough on this issue.

    The left are not really tackling this one very well. Surely it is fair that Kiwis are on decent wages and conditions? At the same time, many X generation and younger have never had a secure job, don’t understand unions and actually feel Labour did as much damage in the 80’s. Labour in particular need to find some middle ground between protecting workers while not having excessive regulation on employees. Under National we have a self employed farm worker is prosecuted for a quad bike while Talleys and Pike river can kill people and no one is held to account with a jail sentence.

    War and foreign policy is another area Labour could be clear on. The environmental boomers and X are all for peace not war. Natz are pro war and surveillance, increasing budgets while Labour have been very weak in their communication and seem like a Nat Lite on foreign policy.

    Privatisation of our country is another big issue that Labour need to be stronger on and a big difference from National. They can not say Labour did it too. Even National voters are concerned that farms are being sold off, public land is being sold off, power companies are being sold off, State houses are being sold off, but still record deficits from Big English. Even selling the family silver he can’t make a surplus. Labour could have a great billboard with what surplus Labour had and what surplus National has had. Kill the idea that National have been good for the economy and Labour are bad economic managers.

  14. Bob 14

    Well written Rob, this is easily the best post I have seen on The Standard for a long while.

    “National understand that: it’s why John Key plays to “the centre” on a regular basis”
    Not only does he know this, he has been quite open about it for a long time:

  15. weka 15

    Very good piece Rob.

    Very few people outside of the small niche of politically engaged types who read blogs or work in politics actually think about politics as left and right. Fewer still would place themselves on that spectrum and base all their political decisions on that position.

    I think this overstates the case (but would be interested to know if there’s been any research done on it in NZ). I think most people that were voting pre-MMP would understand the left/right spectrum and place themselves somewhere on it. There was National and there was Labour, and back in the day you could tell which was left and which was right 😉

    It’s true that more and more people are outside of that framework, especially people who are post-introduction of MMP voters. I’m in my early 50s and I had four elections before MMP. I think those generations will be here for a bit longer, and they tend to vote.

  16. Takere 16

    The middle-class are the problem. Swingers. They don’t class themselves as the impoverished and do align themselves “philosophically” to “I’m better” than the Jones’s next door.
    They see themselves the as the hard done by because they think they are the only ones that work the hardest to of got to where they are and will shit on anybody to get more of what they believe they are entitled too.

    When Helen got savaged in her last term before the election by the nutty right.Like a bunch of rats deserting a sinking ship. They fucked off to the Nat’s and few to the Greens.
    They’re the first ones to get inline for the hand-outs because of their belief they are more deserving because they contribute the most which to a degree is true but they also receive a lot in return because of tax breaks, flicking a house every few years for a capital gain, have a “life-style” business that runs at a loss most years and if IRD come for them they just shut it down for a while.
    Watch them swing again, I say.

    The left, a large proportion of the missing 1 million, just don’t trust politicians. Politics gets in the way of integrity & honesty and doing what you say you’re going to do.
    Maori too are tired of been manipulated and “used” by both mainstream Poly’s & Maori Poly’s too.
    Time for some changes to the rules of being a politician and what you do which will conflict with taking the partys position or not? Party policy and been shackled to sometimes bullshit party position(s) and then having to go sell it to your constituents, you loses face and are put in the hands of the gods come next time round, or until the next compromise?
    The fear of losing support of their constituency or the party is and rightly so, should play on the conscience of the party and MP.

    Also, bring a bit of Hanging back too! Revisit the Treason Act.
    For 152 days a year, an MP works as an MP & the rest of the time is party stuff & canvassing ect ….There shouldn’t be room for running other businesses & interests at all. An absolute commitment to been a representative of their constituents. If your a list MP, you got lucky and need to go find an electorate! Haha!

    • weka 16.1

      The middle-class are the problem. Swingers. They don’t class themselves as the impoverished and do align themselves “philosophically” to “I’m better” than the Jones’s next door.
      They see themselves the as the hard done by because they think they are the only ones that work the hardest to of got to where they are and will shit on anybody to get more of what they believe they are entitled too.

      I come from an upper middle class family. My immediate family are pretty consistent in who they vote for (Labour or the Greens) except for one of us who votes NZF sometimes when not voting Labour. A generation ago (ie my grandparents), both sides of the family were what I would call old school conservatives, they probably voted National. Muldoon seemed to put an end to that (or maybe Kirk), so by the time I came along they were all staunchly liberal (in the old meaning of that word). But even the conservatives considered that there was a public good.

      I wouldn’t say that my family have a particular protestant work ethic (“I worked for everything I got”).

      My peers from that time run across the political spectrum, I’m sure some are as you describe. Yet there still appear to be plenty of left voting middle class people as far as I can tell. If I were to make a generalisation about the middle class liberals in NZ, I would say that they do have a sense of entitlement and protecting their position that precludes serious political activism. They’re the ones that should be leading the way on issues like climate change (because they have the resources), and they’re not.

      As for people who swing across the centre divide, I would guess that there is a big chunk of people there who in the past would have been working class leftie voters, but got screwed by 80s Labour, and so took up the “I’ll look after me and mine” rhetoric that was the underlying meme of neoliberalism. I’m especially thinking of people who have done well by being self-employed.

  17. left_forward 17

    I don’t think that I agree with the bell curve diagram – the centre is not a position of equilibrium. People tend to be either left or right in our perspective on the world – I have this diagram on my wall at work – it really helps define the differences


  18. Lloyd 18

    Fundamentally the middle ground in NZ is leftish. The English settlers who established our political structures and social mores came to New Zealand with a few underlying aims. One was that “Jack was as good as his master”. This can be redefined as “Jack should earn as much as anyone else doing a fair days work for a fair days pay.” This is fundamental socialism.
    Another basic concept was ” a fair go”. Everybody should have a reasonable chance of success.
    These basic concepts of fairness and equity established our country. Rightish governments have come along and tried to claim many of the left-wing advances and have found turning the country into a Liberal-capitalist wonderland has been very difficult. There is major political inertia from middle New Zealand to such changes.
    Labour and the Greens need to emphasize that they are far more middle of the road than any of those radical neo-liberal gnats.

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