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Abolition of Maori seats would spark a civil war

Was there ever a time when the Maori seats could have been abolished safely? It is tempting to suggest the year 1950, when the first National Party prime minister, Sid Holland, abolished New Zealand’s upper house, the Legislative Council. Had he tacked-on the elimination of the Maori seats and presented the whole package as a “modernisation” of the New Zealand constitution, then his government would probably have got away with it.

There would, of course, have been an outcry. Maoridom would have protested strongly, reminding Pakeha New Zealanders of the Maori Battalion’s heroic wartime contributions in North . . .

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The right instincts?

What should Simon Bridges have done when the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University de-platformed Don Brash?

This is not a trick question. A political leader, constantly bombarded with random challenges requiring an instant and forceful response, cannot be seen to equivocate or dither. Either, he has the instincts of a leader, or he doesn’t. There’s no way to teach them or transplant them: a leader can only demonstrate their presence or their absence. And, if he ain’t got them, then his stint in the leader’s office is likely to be a short one . . .

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No ideology please – We’re Kiwis.

Labour’s original purpose was the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. National’s core mission was the preservation of ‘natural’ hierarchies; the upholding of national traditions; the maintenance of law and order; and the protection of private property. Young men and women, inspired by these goals, would join these parties and contribute hours of voluntary effort to their success.

Almost without their realising it, however, the exigencies of democratic politics would dim the brightness and blur the sharpness of the ideals they were fighting for. The so-called “art of the possible” drew them down from . . .

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On the street where you live

There is a move within the National Party to contest next year’s local body elections under National’s own banner. Proponents of this idea point to the Labour Party’s long-standing practice of fielding candidates in local government elections and demand to know why National adamantly refuses to do the same. The answer lies in the fraught history of class-based politics in New Zealand’s cities. Ever since its formation in 1936, the National Party has fought hard to prevent the Right from bringing the class war back home to the streets where its members live . . .

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What makes a good local MP?

“A good local MP”. If that was all they could think to carve on your tombstone, then your political career cannot have been very impressive. Politics is about more than opening local fairs and turning up to the Saturday clash between the local college’s First XV and their rivals from the other side of town. A sensible politician will do all of that, of course. Because, as Tip O’Neill, the long-time Democratic Party Speaker of the of US House of Representatives famously quipped: “All politics is local”. But, if they’re worthy of your service, the locals . . .

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The spirit of the times

Politicians do not seize the zeitgeist, the zeitgeist seizes them. It is simply not enough to be clever, articulate, telegenic and rich (or even all four at once!) if your political message is not connected, in some way, to the “spirit of the times”. Over the past week, many people have been asking themselves why Gareth Morgan’s “The Opportunities Party” (TOP) failed to reach the 5 percent MMP threshold. (Including, one imagines, Morgan himself!) They shouldn’t be. In an era when the average voter’s trust in the economic, social and cultural elites registers just a little lower . . .

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How do the right win?

Think about how Trump won. Did he set out to mobilise the classical Republican voter? Was he seeking the support of the small town-lawyer in Kansas? Or the local Walmart manager in Idaho? Yes, of course he was. Simply by being the Republican Party candidate he was more-or-less obliged to solicit their support. But, in terms of his down-to-the-wire campaign strategy none of those rock-ribbed Republicans really counted. He already had their votes. They were in the bag.

Elections are not won with the votes you already have. You win by attracting the . . .

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Will Justice Kennedy’s resignation precipitate a second American civil war?

The resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the United States Supreme Court raises the awful possibility of a second American civil war. It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of such a disastrous turn of events. Were the world’s wealthiest nation to become embroiled in a fratricidal conflict on the scale of 1861-65, the global economy – already fragile – would simply collapse. The power vacuum created by the United States turning against itself would dangerously destabilise the entire world . . .

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Will Jacinda return as Grant Robertson’s sidekick – or his Boss?

As an effective of the Labour Party Jacinda Ardern rates well ahead of David Lange. Like her mentor, Helen Clark, she has risen through the ranks to claim the top job. On the way there she has won the affections of the overwhelming majority of her party’s membership. That wasn’t a claim Lange could make. The party rank-and-file never really took to “David” and he never really took to them.

Lange had, after all, deposed Bill Rowling whose failure to win the 1975, 1978 and 1981 elections had been forgiven by a party membership who never . . .

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Chris Trotter: Acquiring a taste for rat

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