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Putting the record straight

Marc My Words - February 18 2005

Putting the record straight

I spent last weekend enveloped in the warm beauty of the Marlborough Sounds – magnificent vistas of Nature’s best – at this year’s Summer Sounds Symposium. I was one of a number of speakers who, in turn, challenged the conventional wisdom about all those things that matter in life, but which we often find ourselves short of time to contemplate. As master of ceremonies Jim Hopkins so eloquently expressed it, ”We were sniffing the intellectual ether” - then, true to form, demonstrated by sucking air noisily through his musically challenged nostrils!

Amid the sparks and flares of debate – we paused only to enjoy the tasty food and imbibe the wine of the area – conversation ebbed and flowed with the competing demands of ardent interest and wilting stamina.

Amongst the veritable smorgasbord of ideas I was challenged on occasions about the pivotal role United Future would play in any coalition arrangements after the next election. It occurred to me that many are confused about our position. So…in an effort to explain, I will take an explanatory detour and contrast our Party’s position with that of another. Consider the recent pronouncements of the increasingly desperate Greens on what they might do.

In trying to re-position the Green party into a semblance of relevance, Jeanette Fitzsimons has said rather optimistically, “Only the Greens can re-inject the spirit of the millennium and the vision for a fairer, gentler, cleaner society into what has become a tired, rudderless government”.

Undoubtedly, by ‘fairer’ she means stripping wealth from those who create it to distribute to those who don’t; by ‘gentler’ she means defending Green policies with ‘soft logic’; and by ‘cleaner’ I assume she is referring to the pockets and wallets of hardworking Kiwis after her policies have picked them! At the same time Co-leader Rod Donald – (clearly two heads aren’t better than one when it comes to leadership), has made an expedient U-turn on their 2002 GE bedrock 100 per cent, ‘you can take this to the bank’ principle, in order to catch the faint whiff of a coalition that Labour neither wants nor needs.

That the Greens could so easily give up on their core principles for the more opportunistic principle of not supporting a National government under any circumstance- and re-inventing themselves as the willing and responsive political child bride - smacks of a certain pythonesque comedic absurdity. Though, I can agree with Rod Donald when he says “In 2002 some found us [the Greens] scary.” The fact is, they still do – and with good reason. Although Labour has a number of options, the Greens do not. They broke away from the Alliance – which then self-destructed – they made an immutable principled GE stance – which they then dropped in the face of their trouncing from the self-anointed role as an obvious coalition partner – and they expect the public to believe them!

What’s more the Greens have given a guarantee that a vote for the Greens would be a vote for a Labour led government! In that case why don’t the last remnants of the dwindling Green party membership simply cast their vote for Labour? After all, there is no point eating the appetiser when there’s a full meal on offer!

The contrast with United Future could not be more stark. To begin with … we do not regard either Labour or National as our natural partner. When asked who we might prefer, the obvious answer can only be – whoever has policies on particular issues that accord with ours. But more than that … it is clear that the party that manages to convince the most voters to cast ballots in their favour deserves to have first crack at forming a government. We have a name for that: - democracy.

This does not mean that United Future will have a slavish puppy-dog submission to the largest party but an admission that we must be cognisant of who has been appointed through the democratic process. If one party holds overwhelming electorate support then it would be irresponsible not to try to cobble an arrangement.

We must also be mindful of the better interests of New Zealand in terms of stability. It is one thing to consider we should align ourselves with Labour or National when they may be of similar size (and where United Future is the difference that counts); it is something else entirely if the situation is United Future plus X or United Future plus A, B and C. Clearly, for the sake of stability, the former scenario would be preferable to the latter.

In the end it comes down to who the voters choose and who would provide the most stable political landscape where United Future could promote as many of our policies as our numbers could reasonably expect. One thing worth reminding ourselves is that democracy is not so much a form of government but a set of principles. And United Future aims to uphold them.


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