Terry York Election 2002: Dancing Into The Future
Terry In The Area - With Terry York
This column will appear in Remix Magazine 22 July
Terry in the Area Columnist with Remix magazine and Express newspaper looks at the election and the emergence of the greens and new liberalism.
In earthquake prone New Zealand our recent electoral history has mirrored the changing landscape. The adoption of proportional representation. A larger parliament. A new balance of parties. The unexpected formation of the National-New Zealand First coalition, which stunned many. The first woman Prime Minster, Jenny Shipley gained the position by ousting Jim Bolger to lead that coalition which was summarily replaced by the Labour- Alliance coalition and our first elected woman Prime-Minster, Helen Clark. Maori voters split then returned to the Labour fold. And minorities developed political power they never dreamt of previously, just look at our Georgie Girl, Transsexual MP Georgina Beyer.
The MMP electoral system gave electors a stronger incentive to vote than the previous British styled system. And by decreasing the proportion of wasted votes ended an era of one party governments-or did it? New Zealand voters go into the 2002 election mindful of all those rapid changes. But the Alliance party ego fuelled meltdown has made it hard for anyone to pull on the handbrake of the runaway political train.
Electors wanting an easier ride perceive little choice other than to give Labour their party vote so as to avoid minority government shenanigans. The Green party with its bottom line of extending the moratorium on GE field-testing have wittingly or not turned the election into a choice of Labour Majority or Labour Minority. Nationals new daddy Bill English says that's not a problem "we will support labour on gm' a indication he has already conceded defeat. In sweet irony English's chances of maintaining leadership will rise if lower ranked liberal Nat's are shut out by a poor result.
Underneath the political machinations, real change is taking place and the good news is that that change is right across party lines. When talking with political candidates from the left and the right I become aware of an emerging considered caring liberalism, a sense of facing up to the brave new tomorrow. A sense of common purpose. Political parties are realising the new New Zealand voter is savvier and more media literate than his twentieth century counterpart.
Nandor Tanczos the Green parties #3 arrives at the Area office on a cycle his unassuming Mana sweeps through the shared space as he checks our recycling system while introducing himself to Designers, DJ's and Karn a random boy. Sitting down to a can of Red Bull I ask him if the civil rights issues he has been championing are now taking a back seat to the Genetics. 'We all eat' he says and 'the party has prioritised the Gene modification issues because of its inherent irreversibility '. Nandor reminds me that his Clean Slate bill, the Prostitution Law reform, and the Civil Unions bill have total Green support. The cannabis law reform process is underway and tracking forward. And that his colleague Sue Bradford has put repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, which makes its legal for parents to smack kids but does not define degrees of force, firmly on the incoming parliamentary agenda.
Pansy Wong national #10 plies a weary crew with kiwi chardonnay on the George Fm balcony and listens intently as I explain that house music is based on universal messages of Peace, Love, Tolerance, Freedom and Respect. 'Vote Dance' she says and 'we are changing, the national old guard is getting out and you should get involved'. The gay express paper is interviewing Bill English. National is trying to find it's liberal voice again.
Tim Barnett Labour Christchurch Central, is the chairman of the Justice committee he talks about cross party consensus on civil rights issues, about the importance of not making those issues party dependant as that leads to polarisation. He speaks highly of members of other parties and makes time predictions for the passing of Prostitution reform12mths, Clean Slate 12mths, and Civil Unions 18mths. Cannabis Law reform is so big it might have to be dealt with in two parts so as to get important medical cannabis reform through as fast as possible. The police need relief from having to enforce unpopular laws so that they can be respected for all the other good work they do and so that public-police cooperation is optimised. Harm minimisation legislation? 'We need to deal with cannabis first we only have a small window of time for private members bills'. The impression he gives is not one of cop out. Barnett cares.
Mikey Havoc Citizen, calls to say Helen Clark is the only leader who is not prepared to take the quiz he has arranged on his television election special. Labours strong leadership is showing signs of being its biggest weakness as well. What are you going to do? 'Ask some people if she is the new Muldoon' he fires back. I tell Mikey that all the politicians invited are coming to the Breakdancing Battle of the Year warm ups. 'Great stuff about time they got down with the kids'.
John Carapiet greens #13 takes my call and says that the genetic issue is about the essence of life itself he is typical of modern Green politicians Cambridge educated, sophisticated and politically savvy.' We want to be part of Government, we are responsible'.
With a three-year election cycle and the immature MMP electoral system the Green party may soon have a chance of doing just that. Membership is growing rapidly it is better financed and more professional. But is also vulnerable to takeover by party extremists because of the openness of party procedures which make it a soft target for opposing spin-meisters. The Greens are also the benefactors of the Alliance disintegration, they hold the environmental voter and have cleverly integrated Maori and gay candidates into winnable list positions. Sooner or latter Labour will need to dance with the Greens.
'How's the dancing going Nandor? Are dancing Greens the new dancing Cossacks?' 'At least we do dance" he tells me. Nandor goes on to describe television news, stalking Green Party politicians in attempts to catch them having a shimmy and I wonder about other politicians and wether they dance.
'I like loose non-judgemental dance floors' says Tim Barnett. Members of parliament that dance! that understand the universal messages of Peace, Love, Tolerance, Freedom and Respect! Now that makes a boogie to the polling station on July 27th worth it's while.
Terry in the Area.
© Terry York, 2002, used with permission.