What makes a good politician?

What an unholy mess. On one side of the ditch, the cost of Brexit appears to be going up and up and up, with Europe expected to call in 50 billion quid’s worth of UK liabilities, and a relatively trifling 1.5 billion pound fine from OLAF (EU fraud watchdog) on the UK for allowing Chinese goods to flood the European market. And on the other side, there’s Trump, who seems incapable of getting through a single 48 hour period without breaking anything.

I look at these fiascos, and I wonder if John Key wasn’t such a bad guy after all. We could say that the worst that he did was to preside over one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich that the country has ever seen. Asset sales; regressive tax policies; high immigration; low infrastructural investments; and suspended contributions to the superannuation fund all contributed to a widening gap between New Zealand’s rich and poor.

We should also remember that he ripped the guts out of the resource infrastructure for victims of domestic abuse, imposed national standards on most schools while channeling government money into standards-free charter schools, and encouraged through looser RMA regulations the removal of native trees.

It’s a dreadful record, which has left hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders worse off (including leafy New Zealanders).

But for the most part, those were all things he said he was going to do. Ok, he probably kept shtum on cutting back the support to victims of domestic violence. But for the most part, he was clear about his agenda, and effective in delivering it. The fact that the agenda was not to my liking, nor to the liking of most people I know, is another matter.

The only thing on his agenda which he really messed up was the flag. But at least that didn’t represent any real crisis (although it might have, had his preferred flag won the day). It was just an enormous bloody cock-up and a total waste of lots of money.

Look, all I’m saying is that his political legacy was one of systematically taking from the poor to give to the rich, and that that was what he said he was going to do, ok? He didn’t exactly plunge the country into tumultuous, warlike chaos. He just made it worse, in lots of ways, for lots of people. There’s an important difference!

Nick Smith, Bill English.

Joking aside, and moving right along, if my elected leaders are going to be ones I disagree with on most key policy areas, I’m still going to prefer the ones who can meet their own agendas. We may live on a small, polluted island with no infrastructure, filthy water and unaffordable houses, but at least we’re not Britain or America.

In fact, out our way in West Auckland, we’re becoming spoilt for choice. There is an abundance of strong, young, female political talent coming to the fore.

Three of them are Green Party candidates. Hayley Holt is standing in Helensville. While a bookie might pay long odds on her clinching the seat, there’s no doubt she’ll galvanise a strong share of the party vote.

original_Leilani_Tamu_2013_Fulbright-Creative_New_Zealand_Pacific_Writer_in_Residence_supplied

Leilani Tamu

In New Lynn, there is Leilani Tamu: a former New Zealand diplomat, a Fulbright scholar and a published poet. Leilani is well connected in the west Auckland Pasifika community. Labour’s Deborah Russell will lose votes to her, and she’ll take plenty of party votes off both National and Labour. While David Cunliffe served his electorate well, Labour’s stock is on the wane here from all sides. National is currently winning the party vote race in New Lynn.

Over in Te Atatu, the Greens have Golriz Ghahraman. She’s a human rights lawyer and former UN prosecutor in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and one of the few (if only?) political candidates to have entered the country on a refugee visa.

Again, it’s unlikely that she’ll unseat Labour’s incumbent Phil Twyford. But she’ll dent his support, and – I suspect – National’s Alfred Ngaro’s. At any rate, I predict she’ll lift the Green’s party vote in that neighbourhood.

All three of these Green candidates are people I’d vote for. That is, the candidates look like the right people with the right agendas. Whether they’re good at achieving their political agendas may be a moot point: it’s a long way from the Green Party list to parliament, and the list has yet to be ranked (which is done by the members). So their immediate agenda is to raise the party vote for the Greens. At that, there is no doubt in my mind, all three will succeed.

 

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