Choosing MMP was our Brexit, and a NZ Trump is not likely, says Brent Edwards

It is not often I agree with someone from Red Radio, but Brent Edwards has got this one right:

The unexpected victory of Donald Trump in last week’s United States presidential election has been compared to Brexit – the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Some commentators are suggesting this political “revolution” in the US and the UK is a signal of change to come in other Western countries, including New Zealand.

Should this country worry about or look forward to a Trump-like figure emerging here to turn politics on its head? Probably not.

Aspects of Mr Trump’s approach have been and are already here, although not in the blatantly misogynist and racist guise that has so upset so many in the US and around the world. But elements of his approach are not unusual in this country.

New Zealand has had its Brexit moment as well. Mr Trump’s success and Brexit could both be said to represent segments of the UK and US electorates saying “a pox on both your houses” to the two major parties. That happened here in 1993 when a majority voted for MMP.

MMP has allowed the opportunity to give voice to the disenchanted – those who President-elect Trump referred to as the “forgotten men and women” of the US.

Many of those responded to Mr Trump’s railings against immigration and globalisation.

They responded to his message that most of their woes, including unemployment or stagnant incomes, were the result of rampant immigration and free trade exporting American jobs to overseas markets.

Sound familiar?

Last week on RNZ’s Morning Report, the New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, reminded listeners he and his party had been raising worries about immigration and free trade for the past 20 years.

Winston is ever the opportunist. I just don’t detect any anger in the electorate about anything much at all…not even housing. Sure there are some loud and angry politicians, bloggers and invested and biased journalists, but no one else really is upset.

So does New Zealand have reason to fear or welcome the rise of a Trump-like figure here?

Under MMP, it is unlikely. The sorts of views President-elect Trump represents – although not necessarily the extremes of misogyny and racism – are already represented in the New Zealand Parliament.

MMP has allowed political parties which represent and exploit fears about immigration, free trade and the like to have their voices heard.

Even if an exact replica of Mr Trump did emerge here, he or she would not likely gain enough support to completely turn politics on its head.

After all, MMP was introduced to Germany after World War II to prevent the rise of another Hitler. It should also prevent the rise of another Donald Trump.

MMP has been brown bread as far as politics goes, all sensible parties competing for the centre ground. Failure to curry favour with the middle is fatal, as Labour knows all too well. National learned that in the wake of 2002. Labour is still to learn that lesson, they are currently thinking that hankering for union stroppiness of the 1950s is the winning proposition.

 

– Radio NZ

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