Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Where is the political opposition?

Aaron Bhatnagar calls for 'the right blogosphere' to put aside John Tamihere now and to 'go after' new Labour MP Stephen Ching. Yawn!

This unfortunately is what passes for political opposition in New Zealand. 'Going after' a politician for something - often inconsequential - and trying for his scalp.

Even if 'success' is achieved - even if the scalp is won - then even if the scalp belongs to a member of cabinet, nothing changes. Whatever outrage has occurred continues. Whatever corruption is exposed continues - just more carefully: everyone knows that politicians don't follow up.

Opposition politicians 'going for scalps' and practicing populism, making fun of Labour Ministers and grandstanding in the House think they're achieving something. But the 'achievement' is illusory, and you'd think the poll ratings might tell them that - the public knows what they do not, that this kind of performance leaves the Government's programme untouched.

In my view the job of an opposition politician is to travel the country and find people who have been done over by government regulation, or had their dreams crushed by the statist steamroller, or had their lives destroyed by bureacratic duplicity. To find them, to put their story in the face of the media, to harass and pursue the people responsible.

Sadly, opposition MPs are too busy going for scalps. Rodney Hide did it once, but he doesn't know how to follow up. He's like a drunk having a one-night stand, enjoying the moment and forgetting it once it's over. In this case, he got the scalp of IRD's head, but the TrIRDs themselves were let off the hook, and the outrages exposed just continue underground.

There is no political opposition. Thank God for people like Rob Moodie.

[CORRECTION: Aaron Bhatnagar has pointed out that Stephen Ching is a candidate, not an MP.]

12 Comments:

Anonymous BerlinBear said...

Or, to formulate it more succinctly: Aaron, stop bleating, the electorate doesn't give a toss.

4/13/2005 11:19:00 am  
Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Peter,

Firstly, get your facts right. Steven Ching is not a new Labour MP. He is a Labour candidate, and with a bit of pressure, may not be one for much longer.

Secondly, I am a blogger, not a Member of Parliament. For you to suggest that bloggers are a political opposition is a bit tenuous. A blog is whatever the blogger intends it to be - intellectual thinkpieces, comments on current affairs, vox pop commentary, whatever. I use mine to influence opinion makers such as political activists, the media, and people who have an interest in politics.

I'm very surprised you don't think the ethical conflicts involved with Mr Ching do not warrant attention by the public. I've blogged considerable information about the man based on both my own investigations online and information from the mainstream media. There is much that warrants a deeper look at his alleged issues. If he did become a member of parliament, there could be some serious ethical conflicts of interests - imagine him as a minister of fisheries?

I note that your argument is one that is often tendered by the "purists" of Liberterian ilk - talk about the policies and the intrusion of the "nanny state". Fine - you go ahead and do that. You try and change the election outcome with your thinkpieces and pontifications. It's your blog.

But I think one of the reasons why National lost power in 1999 is that they were perceived to be tired and that they were beseiged on a number of matters relating to ethics and honesty - "golden handshakes" etc.

If I, and others raise concerns about the ethics of Labour Party people, then that might influence the media, and in turn, that might influence people when they vote.

As for BerlinBear's comments, well, we will see if the public do or don't give a toss - I understand that Mr Ching's background is now being thoroughly checked from a number of avenues and Labour may have a real problem on their hands.

4/13/2005 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Blair said...

It's a common mistake for those inexperienced in politics to think that policy actually matters within the contest, or that the majority of people actually vote on it.

Helen Clark is popular not because of her views or policies, which are out of step with mainstream New Zealand, but because people see her as competent, assertive and in charge. Non-stop attacks on her policies make no dent in this view. But if you can "take scalps", you make her look shaky. The public can only display confidence in politicians if they are confident themselves, thus opposition MPs know their priorities are to undermine the people involved. Once that happens, the policies take care of themselves.

4/13/2005 12:20:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Blair you said: "... opposition MPs know their priorities are to undermine the people involved."

Well, that doesn't help the people being screwed, does it? Doesn't help the Berrymans, for example, does it? Doesn't even seem to help the all-important poll ratings of those who adopt this tactic, does it?

So even on your own terms its not succeeding, and meanwhile the Government's programme is left untouched, the RMA and other abominations are still in place and people keep getting screwed. And the opposition think having fun in question time will somehow change all that? Don't make me laugh. No wonder people are cynical about politicians.

4/13/2005 12:36:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Feel free to start your own party and change the way people feel about politicians.

Oh that's right - the Libertarianz party. Hmm, are you saying hand-on-heart that the Libz NEVER made fun of politicians, criticised them for public failings or ethical matters, either via Libz commentary or via The Free Radical.

4/13/2005 12:44:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Aaron, I stand corrected as to Stephen Ching's position. As he's not an MP, all the more reason not give a shit, surely! And yes, it's probably a little unfair to single out your call to 'go after' Mr Ching as indicative of opposition tactics, but as you indicate by your comments you agree that it ~is~ indicative of opposition tactics, which is why I used it.

I have no doubt that large dollops of time will now be spent on 'going after' Mr Ching - in fact you boast that is already happening. Many of us could care less.

You suggest "one of the reasons why National lost power in 1999 is that they were perceived to be tired and that they were beseiged on a number of matters relating to ethics and honesty." That could also be said of the post-Thatcher Tories couldn't it (see: Mellor, David et al), but in my view the 'perceived tiredness' of both administrations explains their lack of ethics and their dishonesty. What was clear was that after too many years in office, neither the Bolger Government nor the Major Government had a clue what to do next: John Major's big ideas were the Cones Hotline and the Citizen's Charter, neither ~big ideas~ by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, as imagination goes, John Major's already had. And as far as Bolgers ideas went, mot disappeared with Ruth Richardson.

Neither administration had a clue what to do next ~because neither had any principles worth a damn~. Their principles if they had any would have told them what to do next; their principles if they had any would have told them to keep rolling back government until their goals were achieved; at which point their principles if they had any would have seen them endeavouring to set their gains in concrete to avoid them being overturned by a subsequent administration. That is, if they had any principles, which of course, they did not.

Such a course was once put to Jim Bolger. He called it "Bullshit!" So much for the principles of the Bolger administration.

Now, in my view Helen Clark is popular not just because as Blair says she appears "competent, assertive and in charge." I'd say that more fundamentally she appears to be 'competent, assertive and in charge' because most people would see that there is some sort of principle behind her actions - and of course there is: the egregious principle that, as she put it herself, "the state is sovereign"!

People might disagree with that principle (and I surely hope they would!) but they do apparently like the sight of principle in action. They saw it briefly from Don Brash in his first Orewa speech and responded accordingly. Unfortunately, since then Don has been 'McCullied' by spin doctors so that he now appears less like a man of principle, and more like John Major. Uuugh!

As I said, we have no opposition.

4/13/2005 01:04:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Aaron, you asked: "Hmm, are you saying hand-on-heart that the Libz NEVER made fun of politicians, criticised them for public failings or ethical matters, either via Libz commentary or via The Free Radical"?

No I can't. After all, it is a lot of fun. You'll probably see soem of that here as well. :-)

But I can't say that we ever thought that these things were the ~only~ things we should be doing, as it seems do much of Her Majesty's present Opposition.

4/13/2005 01:07:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Rodney Hide does a lot of things. Going after a scalp, doesn't mean you don't do anything else. And I'm pretty sure individuals who have been maltreated by the government will find their politicians. If you have to travel the country to look under carpets, there are better things to do with your time.

4/13/2005 09:26:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Berend, you said: "Rodney Hide does a lot of things. Going after a scalp, doesn't mean you don't do anything else."

Doesn't it? Tell that to those who do nothing else.

"I'm pretty sure individuals who have been maltreated by the government will find their politicians. If you have to travel the country to look under carpets, there are better things to do with your time."

The Berrymans weren't living under a carpet, Berend, they've been on their knees for ten years. Has one politician backed them properly in this time? Have any backed them this week? Not bloody likely - too interested in the sideshow! It's a disgrace.

Try doing a Google search on "keith berryman" AND "rodney hide" and see how much your fearless leader has done to help this couple.

It seems to me he's been too busy chasing scalps to defend decent New Zealanders.

4/13/2005 09:57:00 pm  
Blogger Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Peter, you have a pretty blinkered view of politicians if you seem to suggest that the main opposition parties and politicians are solely pre-occupied with "chasing scalps" and that the Libertarianz found a better balance in attacking Labour policy compared to attacking Labour people.

Admit it - it's easy being a pundit, and a whole lot harder being a politician. That's why you are a pundit - and that's why people like Rodney Hide are politicians.

4/13/2005 10:25:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

It's not about 'balance' Aaron, it's about defending good New Zealanders who are being screwed by their government, and showing the country what busybody government does to people.

Rodney's campaign agasint the IRD began as a model of how it should be done, but he pulled out early (so to speak) - like George Bush I, he didn't go all the way to Baghdad.

4/14/2005 08:49:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Rodney's book made a difference to me. I'd say he's made a difference to many people at a personal level. It would seem a shame to denigrate him for not having done more of it.

4/14/2005 06:32:00 pm  

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