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Marc My Words - 14 September 2006

Marc My Words - 14 September 2006

Political comment By Marc Alexander

Keeping an eye on the ball

The art of political debate has lost its aesthetics lately. Sadly it happens from time to time. The only real cure is to starve it of oxygen and let the fire die off. Then we can get back to business.

What it does show however, is that there is much truth in the observation that politics is too important to leave to the politicians. That is why we need men and women who are driven by higher considerations than simply their private regard. We need strength, integrity, and wisdom. But more importantly perhaps, we need individuals with the talent for discerning the needs of the people who elected them rather than giving in to the hedonistic wants of those whose votes will secure their stay to power. Human nature being what it is it is often a tall order.

One of the strengths of our political system is that, over time, the shade of our governments varies to reflect our continuing historical imperatives. Public opinion is but a momentary barometer by which political parties judge their electability: that's why parties are voracious consumers and deciphers of polls despite protestations to the contrary.

More important, albeit harder to fulfill, is the necessity for a long term vision to chart our nation's course. Unpopular decisions may be necessary at times for the good of our future in spite of short-term voter dissatisfaction. The trick, I suppose, is to ensure that regardless of the immediate difficulty, there is a well articulated vision that resonates with, and encourages, a positive buy-in from the public.

Unfortunately we have let such ideals fall by the wayside of late. Instead we have had a government that has put political survivability ahead of the nation's interests. Whatever vision Labour had when it took the Treasury benches in 1999 has been well and truly replaced by the politics of expediency through creating voter dependence.

Either by raising the proportion of kiwis who, at least wholly or in part, derive their living standard from government largesse or, through laws that presume community stupidity by enacting intrusive busy-body legislation on how we should live, Labour has re-invented the role of government to our detriment. Rather than empowering individuals to be authors of their own destiny, Labour has handcuffed them to the whims of government.

No government, no matter how sophisticated the rhetoric, can be of any good to us if it no longer sees itself as the servant of the public. Labour, for seven long years, has derived its position not from the consent of the informed voter but by willfully purchasing election after election with the public's own money. Expedient bribes that prey on short-sighted voter interests do nothing for our national vision but simply bankrupt our future with the politics of indulgence. We deserve better than that.

The recent parliamentary landscape has been marred by bellow the belt antics leaving much of the public incredulous; while fulfilling the lowest expectations often given the political profession. That the increasingly despotic looking Labour would stoop to the level of gutter personal attacks as a strategy to deflect, obfuscate, and bury allegations of corruption, says much about how low a value they place on their employers, the New Zealand taxpayer, and the long-term interests of our country. It is ugly to watch our parliament dragged discreditably through the muck. It must surely be intolerable for those representing us who do have honor and principle but must invariably feel tarred and shamed by the current proceedings.

There will be many in Labour who, under normal circumstances would like to distance themselves from such dirty tactics. While Mallard, Benson-Pope, Hodgeson, Cullen and their fellow political goons pop corks and bathe in the light of their 'cleverness' and self narcissism, others will be rightly repulsed by them. It is hoped that for the future of Labour it will be their non-participating colleagues who will, in the long run, hold sway over the soul of their party.

This should all come as a warning for the minnow political parties. Those which lie in bed with the ethically moribund Clark regime need to re-evaluate their continued support or risk losing whatever credibility they might have left. This is the time for them to prove the worth of MMP by standing up for principle. At the very least they should demand that unless Mallard and his ilk resign their ministerial warrants, they will pull the plug on their continued support.

Nothing less will do. Our parliament's credibility has been sorely tarnished already by the intention of this government allegedly to legitimize its own illegality and theft of the public purse to buy off last year's election. This is an opportunity to show that the small parties can carry the conscience and principle of the people. If they do not it will be questionable as to their purpose in being there at all. Where else the checks and balances?

What's interesting in all this is how certain quarters of Labour have lashed out like a scalded cat just when they are at their ethically weakest point. Nothing brings out the claws faster than a severe case of disapproval. For Labour it is a dangerous remedy. No matter how far they fling the crap, the flies will always return to the hand from which it is tossed

Meanwhile it's important for National not to drop the ball. Dropping the guard before the last bell has been rung won't do. All the more so when there's such a wealth of front bench talent raring to get going and repair the damage of the last few years. Individually they have been scoring heavily against a government whose shadow of failures should keep them from requiring sunblock any time soon.

And behind them there is another string of proficient individuals with high ability and an enviable record of success in the real world - qualities we desperately need at the nation's helm. Rather than being distracted by the tumult of the last couple of days, the National caucus needs to remind itself who the real enemy is.

Our future depends on it.


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