Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Dunne Speaks - Psycho Pathology in Politics

Dunne Speaks - Psycho Pathology in Politics

In 1940, the notorious Labour politician, John A. Lee, was expelled from the Labour Party after writing a sensational article, "Psycho-Pathology in Politics", a thinly veiled attack on the dying Labour Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage.

The article's essential argument, drawing on examples from the United States, Britain and New Zealand, was that ailing politicians can have a disproportionate and distortionary impact on the affairs of nations. At the time it was published in late 1939, Savage was dying of cancer, but that had been concealed from the New Zealand public. Indeed, barely two months before Savage's death, Acting Prime Minister Peter Fraser was assuring the country that the Prime Minister "had never been better."

While "Psycho-Pathology in Politics" was a product of its time, one passage within it struck me as having particular relevance today as the our various political leaders seek to put together the next coalition government. Perhaps presciently, Lee referred obliquely to his target this way- "... sycophants pout flattery upon him ... Like a child, he will only play if he gets his own way ... He becomes vain of mind and short of temper, and believes that anyone who crosses his path has demoniac attributes."

Negotiating government formation arrangements is a serious business. It is not an occasion for settling old scores, satisfying particular fantasies, or tails wagging dogs. The starting point has to be a broad agreement that the parties in the negotiation have a similar view about the direction of travel. They may well disagree about priorities, or particular policies, but for the outcome to be sustainable, they have to at least agree they want to travel in the same direction. Governing arrangements thrown together on the convenience of numbers, but an absence of commitment on direction, are doomed to fail.

All of which brings us back to "Psycho-Pathology in Politics". Establishing the various party negotiating teams on the basis of who is least likely to cause offence, rather than policy expertise, smacks of "sycophants (who) pour flattery". At the same time, taking umbrage at apparent negative descriptions has an air of "vain of mind" about it. Worst of all though is the risk the coalition talks focus far less on policy and the country's future direction than a child-like obsession on getting one's own way, and the baubles of office.

On a different note, one of the saddest aspects of the recent election was the general demise of the smaller parties ACT is now a barely relevant toe-hold, and the Maori Party and UnitedFuture have gone altogether. Whatever one's view of these particular parties, they each represented a distinct point of view which will now be heard only faintly in Parliament, or not at all. That is neither a triumph for MMP, nor broader democracy, but it is the will of the people.

Congratulations to all, especially the newcomers, who were elected to the 52nd Parliament. Your enthusiasm as you begin your roles is to be admired, although reality suggests it will be quickly dashed for many of you. Some of you will go on to be great leaders of our country, but many of you will be but short-term visitors. Whatever your fate, I acknowledge your commitment to serve, and wish you well for the next three years. Whether in Government or Opposition, you have a vital and responsible role to play. I hope you can achieve that and rise above what John A. Lee described as the "vanity of old men going downhill."

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Another Reason To Loathe HR Departments (And On The Teachers Strike)

This morning’s news item about Police emergency call centre staff turning up for work while they’re sick – because they’re afraid their sick leave statistics will be used against them, and their jobs put in jeopardy – is not an isolated case...

Obviously, sick people shouldn’t be being treated by doctors and nurses who are themselves sick and potentially infectious. Similarly, Police emergency calls also need to be fielded by people who’re feeling alert, and on top of their game. More>>

 
 

MPs' Computers To Be Searched: Inquiry Into Leak On Simon Bridges' Expenses

An inquiry has been launched to find out who leaked the National Party's expenses to the media... Parliament's speaker, Trevor Mallard, said a Queen's Counsel would lead the inquiry with the help of an employment lawyer and also someone with forensic IT skills. More>>

ALSO:

Teachers Strike: Nationwide Rallies And Marches

Teachers and principals voted for a full day strike to be held on 15 August to send a strong message to the Government that the current collective agreement offers from the Ministry of Education would not fix the crisis in teaching. More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: City Council Ends Its Support For Jackson’s Movie Museum

The Wellington City Council and the Movie Museum Limited have today announced a mutually-agreed parting of the ways for a joint project between the Council’s Convention Centre and TMML’s Movie Museum... Both parties remain optimistic for the future of their respective projects. More>>

Pay Equity: Historic Settlement For Education Support Workers

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Ministry of Education today signed Terms of Settlement to address a pay equity claim for 329 support workers who work with very young children in early childhood and primary schools. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Stereotypes About Jacinda Ardern

Routinely, female politicians get depicted as either show ponies or battle axes, with little room for anything else in between. .. More>>

Weekend Interviews: "Discriminatory And Racist" Aussie Deportations

The former president of Australia’s Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs says deportations have risen dramatically in Australia since 2014 when ministers and ministerial delegates were given the power to cancel visas - and half of those being deported are New Zealanders. "These are massive numbers, actually escalating dramatically."... More>>

ALSO:

Legal Challenge: Prisoner Has 9 Boxes Of Documents Seized

Human rights organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa says a prisoner they advocate for has had 9 boxes of legal documents seized from him just days before his case against the Department of Corrections was to be heard. More>>

Single-Use Plastic Bags: Govt To Phase Them Out

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be phased out over the next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages