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Heather Roy's Diary: Lessons Re-Learned?

"Heather Roy's Diary" is the weekly newsletter from Heather Roy MP.
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Lessons Re-Learned?

Last Saturday's General Election challenges us to re-learn many lessons of the past. Coming just a few days before the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, those lessons are particularly poignant.

New Zealand's culture is unique. There was no conclusive military outcome during colonisation. The values of New Zealand's Celtic settler forebears are almost identical to those of Maori and Pacific Islanders. A strong sense of family and kinship - sept/clan or hapu/iwi - is at the core. That's why there is so much history of marriage and business success between Tangata Pacifica and Celt. There is also a common tradition of hospitality, and an undeniable warrior ethos. Many other ethnic groups that make up the New Zealand of today reflect similar values. Throughout history, in any place in the world, attack these values at your peril.

There has already been much comment on what this election result means. No doubt, much more will follow. If I could ask only one question that would cut through all this, it would be: "did the Labour/Green incumbents lose, or did the National/ACT Opposition win?"

The same question could be asked of the 1918 Armistice. Did the Allies win, the Germans lose - or did both parties just agree to end hostilities? Certainly, appeasement is simply hoping the crocodile eats you last. Any deal that is intended to end suffering must provide a dignified outcome for both parties. That didn't happen in 1918 and we endured WWII as a consequence.

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If politics is war without bloodshed, then the lessons from this election and the 1918 Armistice must be the same. People knew in their hearts that the path they were travelling was one that ended in mutually-assured destruction. It had to end. No logic can be written to explain it. There is no Party manifesto or spreadsheet that can adequately explain this.

The Green Party demonstrated this with its child's-eye view ‘Vote for Me' campaign. It was simple, effective and gave them eight MPs without clearly articulating much in the way of policy. I acknowledge their insight in that choice - used first with similar effect by Ireland's Greens in 2007 and which will, undoubtedly, be a feature of the worldwide Green campaign machinery in the future.

It is said that the measure of a victor is the degree of compassion afforded to others. That's why National's inclusion of the Maori Party in coalition talks is positive. In the weeks leading up to the election I saw the odd blog commentator that dared suggest a ‘NAM' (National/ACT/Maori) coalition dismissed as mad. This has been talked up in the media now for the entire week.

Some things have changed forever in New Zealand politics. Personality-based dynasties - such as those run by Helen Clark and Winston Peters - have gone. Of nearly 4.3 million Kiwis, 600,000 now live overseas. No future campaign can ever view Kiwis overseas as a minor constituency. Given this fact, and the proliferation of online media, no future political discussion - campaign or consultation - can regard this as a minor media channel. In a world overwhelmed by facts, the power of a simple message to the heart across channels that reflect social networking, entertainment and gaming styles will be pre-eminent and the Centre-Right has much work to do in order to perfect this style of communication.

I predict a changing of the guard in every political campaign team, with the old spin doctors hanging up their spurs. New Zealanders have signalled that they are tired of ‘angry old white men' messages. The first casualty has been Labour, but we must all learn from this. Kiwis want to feel convinced, not just be "logic'd" there.

Thank you to all those who made the effort to vote last Saturday. No matter which box you ticked, you honoured the best traditions of our unique Kiwi culture and honoured the sacrifice of those that enabled you to place that tick. I intend to do my best to represent your commitment to creating a New Zealand that our children will choose as the place that they want to live and raise their families in.

The Maori view of time is that ‘we must walk forward with one eye fixed firmly on the past.' The military equivalent is ‘ignore history at your peril.' Rationalised, they become ‘Lest We Forget'.


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