I’ve joined Twitter. I’m not proud of it, but I have.
I’m an even bigger noob to it than Lianne so I’m probably doing it wrong, but here are my tweets in response to the election results yesterday. 140 characters is good training in conciseness, but I can’t help but add a few more comments now that I’m back in my natural habitat.
“Great result on Chch council alround, comm boards mixed, really hoping special votes will swap round 7th/8th on CDHB. http://www.ccc.govt.nz/thecouncil/howthecouncilworks/councilelections/index.aspx”
ECan notwithstanding, there’s definitely been a leftward shift on the city council … People’s Choice have one councillor elected in each ward except Fendalton-Waimairi (the most they’ve had since councillor numbers halved in 2004) and several of the independents lean to the (relative) left too. It’s looking like a dream council for Dalziel and certainly a change from the Parker/Marryatt-era council.
Local government elections usually favour incumbents, but this time the mayor and nine of the 13 councillors are new faces. Eight councillors sought re-election – three People’s Choice, who all survived, and five I-Citz/City 1st, of whom Jamie Gough is the only survivor.
Four of these I-Citz/City 1st voted for Marryatt’s pay-rise … three are gone, and Gough has a lot to thank The Press for. Aaron Keown has managed to hold onto his community board and health board seats despite being booted off council – though he’s sitting at a precarious 7th on the health board preliminary results. Let’s hope special votes bump Heather Symes above him. (If they don’t, I’m blaming you non-voters).
Elected councillors by parties/groupings:
People’s Choice – 6
‘network of the likeminded’ – 3
I-Citz – 1
City 1st – 0
Other – 3 (Scandrett is former People’s Choice, Lonsdale might as well be National, I don’t know anything about David East)
It’s not too late to vote in local body elections, even if you don’t have your voting papers. You just have to go to one of these places today, tonight or tomorrow morning and cast a special vote which seems pretty easy.
If you do have your voting papers, you can drop them at your local library.
You don’t have to fill everything out if you don’t want to… eg. you can just vote for mayor and a councillor or two and that’s fine.
Here are my votes and good resources for figuring out how to vote, and here is my guide to four important questions (which councillors voted for Marryatt’s pay-rise, what the [non-]parties mean, etc).
Here’s how I’m voting this time, and – more likely to be useful for you – the resources I used to make my decisions.
- It’s Our City’s suggestions about who to root for and who to root out. If you read nothing else, read this.
- Generation Zero ratings on 5 environmental issues
- Gap Filler’s candidate questionnaire (To be honest I didn’t read much of this. Too long!)
- Other bloggers’ thoughts (James Dann, Puddleglum, Steven Cowan, Sam Johnson)
- Answers to questions on vote.co.nz
- Who voted for Marryatt’s pay-rise (see my previous blog)
- Party/group affiliation (see my previous blog)
- Their spiels in the voting book
- Individual research into the individual candidates (this takes the most time. My previous blog comments on a few I’ve taken interest in)
Mayor (pick one or none)
Councillors – Fendalton-Waimari ward (pick up to 2)
Community Board members – Fendalton-Waimari ward (pick up to 5)
Canterbury District Health Board members (rank as many/few as you like, up to 26) (Updated 9/10/2013)
7 are elected but your votes are almost guaranteed to be transferred further down your list, so it’s worth ranking at least 12 if you can bring yourself to do so. I’ve ranked 25 to give my votes the maximum chance of contributing to anyone but Keown (see below).
- Paul McMahon (preventive health, mentions health inequalities, highlights wider causes of (un)health, community development/youth health experience, supports living wage for all, supports free public dental care in theory, part of the Anabaptist network, People’s Choice)
- Heather Symes (health practitioner, focus on vulnerable people, sympathetic to public dental care, supports living wage for all health workers and lower CEO salaries, signed Nurses Organisation pledge, People’s Choice)
- Oscar Alpers (focus on vulnerable people, public health not health insurance, People’s Choice)
- Adrian Te Patu (health practitioner, community/public health experience)
- George Abraham (health scientist, campaigning on free public dental care, wants to look after ‘less privileged’)
- Jo Kane
- David Morrell
- Anna Crighton
- Chris Mene
- Sally Buck
- Steve Wakefield
- Alison Franklin
- Drucilla Kingi-Patterson
- Andrew McCombie
- Wendy Gilchrist
- Tim Howe
- John Noordanus
- Margaret McGowan
- Andrew Dickerson
- Beth Kempen
- Murray Clarke
- Keith Nelson
- David Rowland
- Robin Kilworth
- Tubby Hansen
Unranked: Aaron Keown (Only attended
one two full Health Board meetings in 2012 but still picked up a cool $26,000 for his troubles. Tries to go where the populist wind blows, but occasionally reveals his true colours as an ACT member and Marryattophile who called quake victims whiners.)
Disclaimer: Fine, I admit it. I linked to the Bryce Edwards post 78% for ego reasons. He mentions me!
Some world leaders according to PoliticalCompass.org (only vaguely related to this blog)
A friend who studies political science commented on Facebook in response to my last blog, saying among other things that she was (I’m paraphrasing) “confused about my determination to attribute everything to left-right frameworks.” She has a good point and I thought it deserved a good response. I wrote what turned out to be a very long response… I’ll let you decide if it was a good response.
I thought I might share it here as well, because a lot of my recent blogs have drawn quite heavily on the left-right spectrum, and I thought some other people might be interested. As always, all comments are welcome.
The truth is that we probably largely agree that the left-right framework is over-simplified etc. – likewise with the Political Compass, which is only slightly less simplistic (two spectra instead of one).
Where we might differ is: I don’t think the left-right frameworks are completely useless and thus should be thrown out completely. Or at least, I only think they can/should be thrown out by people like yourself who have the time and knowledge to look into, and analyse, each party and philosophy and candidate on their own merits – which is barely anyone. I personally don’t have the time, knowledge or brain-power to analyse everything and everyone on its own merits without any generalisations to help categorise it.
When I use the left-right framework, I partly use it as shorthand for more complex realities (I think conciseness is vital in blogging, and I struggle enough as it is here). But I partly use it with an implied audience not of people like yourself who know I’m oversimplifying things, but of people who struggle to understand politics at all. I talk to quite a lot of people who describe themselves this way, and the number may surprise you as a POLS student… this is not to say that these people are stupid, they just haven’t put in the necessary hours and hours of time to understand politics. With local politics this category is even larger… I think I’ve probably done more research into it than most voters (at least most young voters), but I still don’t really understand anything beyond what I wrote in my last blog.
While over-simplified, I do think the left-right spectrum touches on some truth, for example the way neo-liberalism has shifted the political ‘centre’ in NZ. You as a POLS student would have more sophisticated ways of explaining this than me, but is it completely wrong to say that neo-liberalism involves a shift to the (economic) right? I think it’s a generalisation but a generally true generalisation.
I think if someone doesn’t understand politics at all, nor how NZ parties have shifted over the years, and then they hear my (admittedly simplified) explanation of both Labour and National shifting to the right economically since the 80s, they’ve increased their understanding. I don’t want to sound superior or condescending but if some of the people who struggle to understand politics (because they have other priorities, and haven’t put in the hours and hours you and I have into politics) read my over-simplified blogs and feel they understand it a bit more, I’m glad.
I also note that a lot of polls say that the current government’s policies are unpopular, but John Key as a person is very popular. There seems to be a disconnect from understanding the political realities and trends and philosophies that certain parties stand for (consciously or unconsciously), and the kind of policies they are likely to enact because of it. So if I can help to slightly decrease this disconnect, I’m glad too.
It’s partly my personality… I know a lot of people don’t like generalisations, but I do like them, as I feel that they can help us gain some kind of understanding of the patterns of how the world works. Even if they’re over-simplified, which they inevitably are, I think it’s still better than just seeing the world as random chaos and not having any grasp of the patterns at all.
I don’t think everything should be attributed to the left-right spectrum, and if what I write sounds like I’m doing that, it’s because I like to write in an extreme style, and I like to point out what I don’t think is being pointed out enough. It’s my impression that what’s pointed out a lot at the moment is personalities, individual quirks etc, but what’s not pointed out enough (in my experience) is the patterns and the groups of individuals that tend to believe certain things and do certain things.
It’s a bit like people saying that when multinational companies do horrible things, it’s because there’s a few bad apples. But if there’s a consistent pattern that multi-national companies, in their exclusive drive to maximise profit, act in psychopathic ways (cf. The Corporation documentary – which is probably oversimplified too), I think it’s worth pointing that out.
Likewise with Marryatt’s pay-rise. People might think it’s just a few bad apple individuals on council that voted for the pay-rise. But I think it’s worth pointing out that they seem to have all been right-leaning (correct me if I’m wrong), and that the four of them who are standing again are all standing for right-leaning political groupings (I-Citz and City 1st).
There’s another reason why I stubbornly cling on to the left-right spectrum as a way of describing things. The last few decades have seen a growth of ‘post-modern’ distrust of big stories and grand theories, and part of this is the growth of what has been called a ‘post-political’ and ‘post-ideological’ mindset, where we don’t like politicians to be tied to any big ideas, our politicians claim to be ‘pragmatic’ rather than ideological, and supposedly all the big grand narratives of religion, nationalism, communism etc. are dead.
But what this obscures is that there is in fact one ‘narrative’ that is far from dead. Capitalism (and consumerism, free markets, commodification, inequality etc) is more globally dominant than ever before, and it no longer needs a big narrative to support it – in fact it’s supported precisely by the post-modern turn from big theories to individual feelings and individual consumption. (You could also say that social liberalism/individualism is a narrative that is extremely powerful in the West, but I’d say that capitalism is more globally dominant – cf. China combining capitalism with social authoritarianism and doing it even ‘better’ than the countries who combine capitalism with democracy).
Paralleling this, in political science (from my outside perspective) there seems to be a movement towards seeing the old left-right frameworks as inadequate and seeing people who ‘still’ use them as out of touch. But again, I think this can potentially obscure real political phenomena like neo-liberalism, especially if you don’t replace my over-simplified ‘shifting to the right economically’ explanation with a better and more accurate explanation that is still accessible to non-POLS students.
So my question is what should we replace the left-right spectrum with? I think I’d be happy to abandon the left-right spectrum (and the political compass two-spectrum model) if I saw that there was a better alternative. I’m very happy to be corrected and educated here, but at the moment, all I see replacing the ‘old’ left-right model is A) from academics: complex theories that are inaccessible to most people, B) from politicians: cynical obscuring of the real political realities they represent. I’d rather have an ‘old-fashioned’ model that can be understood and engaged with than intentional or unintentional obscurantism that contributes to lack of understanding and apathy.
“Should the nation’s wealth be redistributed? It has been and continues to be redistributed to a few people in a manner strikingly unhelpful.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997.
Just like every summer, the Remuneration Authority has announced a back-dated pay-rise for MPs, and just like last summer, they’re claiming that we should actually be feeling sorry for politicians, because their pay is rising slower than average wages, and certainly slower than inflation.
This spurious justification completely misses the point that in the worst financial times since (arguably) the Great Depression, those who are earning at a luxury level – and can live without some of their excess – should be asked to sacrifice more than those who are struggling to make ends meet. Still more so when they are so-called public servants whose pay is symbolically significant.
Unfortunately, it seems that the current government’s stance is pretty much the opposite of this principle – they’re willing to protect a tax system that’s “very generous” to the rich and an environmental policy that’s compassionate towards polluters, even if it means they have to claw an extra $2 from poor people’s prescriptions.
All pay should rise by the level of inflation by default, but as long as politicians are earning more than 99% of their people, they should willingly exempt themselves from the right to a pay-rise in these difficult times, as Hone Harawira has done the last two years.
Better yet, surely this economic climate is a pertinent time to rethink the ridiculous salaries and perks politicians, CEOs and other high-status personages receive? Underlying the Remuneration Authority’s crude proportionalist argument is the assumption that what everyone earns is what they deserve, but the numbers are making that assumption less and less plausible.
Un-elected public service executives’ salaries are even worse than those of elected politicians, and in the private sector, worse still. Over the past ten years we’ve had very healthy economic times and then we’ve had a recession, but one thing has remained consistent: CEO salaries have continued to grow and grow, and are getting more and more out of proportion to workers’ pay.
We all know this, so why do we tolerate it?
Bosses’ salaries and child poverty are two of the most extreme symptoms of inequality, which is at an all-time national high. In order to fix either poverty or excessive salaries, we’ll need a massive mindset shift: we’ll need to stop pretending inequality, poverty and excessive wealth aren’t problems, we’ll need to put to death the delusion that people automatically deserve whatever pittance or fortune they receive, and we’ll need to develop an of the causes and effects of inequality. And we’ll need to gain more control over our workplaces and government, so that we can attempt to halt the banal and relentless redistribution of our wealth into the hands of a few.