Is NZ politics heading for its own Trump moment?

Analysis reveals the main path to Parliament is to be born into the middle class, go to university, spend a short time in work, then get elected via party maneuvering on to a list or into an electorate.

Being an MP is now a job, not a calling. This similarity of backgrounds, experiences and political careers reinforces the beltway paradigm of bland, uninspiring policies with little appetite for risk.

New Zealand’s political system has long been intimate and humble. Under MMP, Parliament is more ethnically and gender diverse. But a narrow range of working and socio-economic backgrounds is creating a governing elite with less direct experience of the lives of the people they represent.

We found, stunningly, a full third of our MPs have worked only as political “insiders” in taxpayer-funded jobs.

We also discovered the biggest single job category for MPs is not having any definable career or work history (23 MPs). These parliamentarians typically leave university, work briefly in largely dissimilar office-based jobs, before finding employment as MPs.

This category has emerged only over the past decade.

And this also separates the left from the right in general.  The left are more likely to be people with little real-life work experience, whereas the right will have had a career before politics.  

To his detractors, Trump’s messages are crude, arrogant and dangerous. But to his supporters, Trump’s ideas are bold, strong and refreshingly authentic – especially against a backdrop of decades of political blandness and double-speak.

Could New Zealand see the rise of its own Trump?

Our study’s findings show the ground is being laid for one. Across the political spectrum, our MPs’ lack of life experience is already creating a jarring political culture that increasingly bears little resemblance to the lives of voters.

Populists like Trump are extreme reactions to the very real inadequacies of the current political choices on offer.

If New Zealand’s political elites do not want to face a challenger to their own dominance, they need to start becoming more like the people they represent.

To some degree New Zealand has a safety valve with people like Winston and Key providing sufficient opportunities to both vent and feel there are still people in parliament who can be trusted to communicate directly (enough).

What authors Miller and Blackham don’t include in their analysis is the unelected political party: the Media party. They play a huge role, and generally not in a positive way. They have to be “talked past” if you are a politician on the right. And somewhat amusingly, the left still believe that the media’s general favouritism towards them is a plus.

As we’ve seen through elections and polls, the voters are not receptive to ideas from the left, nor are they taking messages from the Media party with anything but skepticism.

As long as the right keep drawing talent from experience and real life, rather than from trade unions, academia and activism, the emergence of a NZ Trump is unlikely.


The whole article is worth a read.

– Herald on Sunday; Geoffrey Miller is a New Zealand political analyst and researcher currently lecturing at Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat Mainz. Mark Blackham is a public relations and political strategy expert with Wellington consultancy BlacklandPR.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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