|Jacinda Ardern : The acceptable face of New Zealand centrist politics.|
While the focus of late might of been on the ethnic diversity of the National Party frontbench in Parliament, there's another kind diversity completely absent from Parliament. But none of the parliamentary parties want to talk about it.
TODD MULLER and the National Party copped a bit of critical flak last week because of the lack of ethnic diversity on its front bench. The issue descended to the level of the bizarre when Deputy leader Nikki Kaye incorrectly identified finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith as 'Ngati Porou'. This was a source of much fun for the Labour-led Government and the jokes and jibes flew in Parliament. What fun.
But while the politicians and the media don't have difficulties talking abut the issues surrounding ethnic and gender diversity within Parliament, they are less keen to talk about the institution's complete absence of another form of diversity - political diversity. It's not hard to work out why. That's because all the parliamentary parties are implicated and the corporate media don't regard it as an issue. Don't expect to see TV3's Tova O'Brien breathlessly exposing New Zealand's lack of democracy anytime soon.
The last time there was anything approaching an alternative and competing view in Parliament was when the Alliance had a presence. It promoted left social democratic views and policies. But since the 2002 general election, when it lost all of its seats, the ideology and policies of neoliberalism have not only prevailed they have tightened their grip to the point there is now no genuine parliament opposition to the dictates of 'the market'. We have now reached the point that the former leftish Green Party no longer wants to ask critical parliamentary questions of the Labour-led Government. It sits in poodle-like silence, with a Green MP occasionally rising to ask a patsy question or two of a government minister.
Parliament has become not so much arena for genuine debate and argument but a conveyor belt for market-oriented polices. Any differences are of emphasis and not of substance. To suggest that this represents rule by and for the people is a complete nonsense.
While overseas politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continue to pursue a government of the many and not the few, not one political party or individual politician in New Zealand has attempted to provide an independent voice to the widespread discontent over such issues as inequality, housing, welfare or climate change. Any 'opposition' is always fundamentally compromised by support for the Labour-led government.
Even as capitalism again spins into crisis, the parliamentary parties have nothing to offer but the same failed market-based policies. The Labour-led government itself is hoping that the marketing of Jacinda Ardern will get it back into office despite the widepread disenchantment with our so-called 'representative democracy'. It is so widespread that over 700,000 people will likely again not vote this year. In the absence of a genuine alternative to vote for, it is the only rational response.
Tariq Ali, author of the Extremism of the Centre, puts it this way;
'...economics and politics are so intertwined and interlinked that politics now, mainstream politics, extreme centre politics, are little else but a version of concentrated economics. And this means that any alternative—alternative capitalism, left Keynesianism, intervention by the state to help the poor, rolling back the privatisations—becomes a huge issue. The entire weight of the extreme centre and its media is turned against it, which in reality now is beginning to harm democracy.'