The Grinch has truly stolen Christmas this year thanks to National. From introducing legislation to increase marginal taxes on the poorest workers to the new 90 day probation law, the Grinch, in the form of the John Key National Government, has acted to take any hope away from our most vulnerable.
It will be some of these same working people who voted National due to the promise of tax cuts and less 'Nanny State' intrusion into their family and individual lives who will suffer the impact of the new government's policies. The wedge politics of the Right never fails to, first, seek out the votes of working people and then, second, kick them after winning office without even an uttering of thanks.
The Right have long traded on the social and moral conservatism of many working class voters in order to gain electoral power and, through that, political influence for their big business backers. This manipulation of the working class then enables parties of the Right to attack the rights and interests of working people through enacting regressive legislation and policies in relation to such important things as benefit levels, worker's rights and public health and education.
This divide and rule strategy has long been a favourite of the Right - those who are old enough may remember the National Party's infamous 'Dancing Cossacks' advertisement of 1975 which drew on blue and white collar New Zealand's then xenophobic fear of Pacific immigration and Communist influence. This advertisement assisted Rob Muldoon to gain power at that year's election and one of his first moves was to raise government charges at the behest of Treasury. Three years later, while Muldoon's National Government retained power, it was only due to the vagaries of the First-Past-the-Post (FPP) electoral system that it did so as Labour gained the most number of votes cast while National piled up enough votes in crucial marginal seats to stave off defeat.
This is the danger that now faces the Fifth National Government (and their Maori Party allies as pointed out in an earlier blog) moreso as MMP is a very transparent system that indicates where voter preferences actually lie much better than FPP ever did. It has been a recurrent theme in the last three decades that after National has won a resounding first term landslide, the second election has seen a shrinkage in its support, which was most dramatically displayed at the 1993 election when, after lurching towards the radical New Right, the Jim Bolger administration almost lost office.
In 2011, National will be defending a bunch of former safe Labour seats like Auckland Central, Maungakiekie, Napier, New Plymouth, Taupo, West Coast-Tasman, Invercargill and Mana where both electoral and party votes could swing back towards Labour and other parties of the Left. If National sheds it centrist image as it already appears ready to do, then any hope of being a four-term decade long government, as Sir Keith Holyoake's National Government was in the 1960s, will dissapate in a matter of months, if not weeks. John Key would be best advised to perhaps look at Sir Keith's example and govern from a genuinely consensual centrist position if he wants to keep some of those Labour voters on board in three years time.
However, in an age where pressure groups such as the Business Roundtable, Business New Zealand and the Employers Federation hold sway over policy formation, these organisations of peak capital will ensure that National (with pressure from Act on its right flank) will lean towards the New Right end of the spectrum.
This will mean that National will continue to act as a Grinch not just during this Christmas but, perhaps, for the next three years. This might mean that many of the blue-collar voters who voted National will not be thanking the party either now, or more crucially, in three years time.