Another week. Another opportunity to approach what will be the new normal. Conversations at dinner tables allow people to theorise what Level 2.5 might look like.
The new normal for the National Party changed this week. Simon Bridges ended up where most people felt he should have been a long time ago. On the back bench. I have a fascination about leadership. I like servant leaders. Those are the ones who demonstrate empathy and an ability to discern who’s feeding them bullshit and who is genuinely giving them the real oil.
There are many types of leaders. Over the past few decades there has evolved a new type of politician. The technocrat. A definition of a technocrat on Google is:
It can refer to someone exercising governmental authority because of their knowledge, or “a member of a powerful technical elite”, or “someone who advocates the supremacy of technical experts”.
The Oxford Dictionary definition was:
“A technologist exercising administrative power”
Isn’t it interesting that these definitions did not refer to a values base? So, the rise of the, often University educated, class of politician has crept up on the masses slowly; and now has engulfed us. Too often we sit staring at the computer screen, or listening to the radio, or podcast, and mix up how good they look, or how good they sound, rather than what are they capable of performing. How good are they at leading the sorts of transformation society constantly needs is the real test.
David Lange once referred to people as “poll driven fruitcakes”. A wonderful term. This week the National Party succumbed to media pressure and demonstrated that their Christmas cake has been eaten early.
To get back to leadership. The Nat pack has acted. The new “leader” is in place and we start all over again. The public will temporarily show some curiosity, and then move on. The media, which is also mostly peopled by technocrats, has become bored by Covid 19 and is looking for a new obsession. They whipped up politicians who could see their time in Wellington drawing to a close so when they acted in unison, whacko, the media has a new hero, and after time, a new focus. Someone else to tear apart.
The first speech by the new leader, was a technocratic one. It covered National’s electorate bases. It played to the middle of the road. It smoothed our feathers. He reminded us that National was the party of sensible finance. The party which supports small business. It would not rely on bureaucrats for advice, he implied. He has friends in business who can add to his considerable experience working with small businesses, like Fonterra.
I sat staring at my radio as Muller said this statement. I thought back to how we were treated as a business, as a family, and as a community by the National Party post-earthquakes. It was complete rule-by-technocracy. Hundreds of bureaucrats sat in offices running our lives. The private sector was no better. Consider the insurance companies and those who ripped us off from thousands of firms, rapaciously filling their bank accounts and leaving town with little, if any accountability.
The adoration of personal greed during this rebuild, by both public servants and their advisors, was disgraceful. Careers were of greater importance than public service. Greed hidden in voluminous reports, carried from meeting to meeting by individuals, promoted via PR about the important role that they were performing for our community. The most insidious group were the secretive advisors. The consultants. The engineers. The architects. The Big four accounting firms. The financial advisors. The banks. Those who made small fortunes acting as these advisors. Seldom responsible if anything went wrong. As fortunes changed, or the politicians changed, these people just moved onto another agency and hawked their cranky ideas to the latest people in power newly hypnotised by their honey tongues.
Many of the consultants and “advisors” from Christchurch post-earthquake are still in key places. Still promoting the same unworkable solutions. Promoting nothing which will work. These people move in a small grouping and reinforce each other. As are the bureaucrats who let us down badly. I will remain suspicious of them forever. They have earned my, and many others, odium.
So, Todd Muller has a big job to convince me that he represents a new type of politician. His Party left large parts of Christchurch in tatters, as it pandered to the rich and powerful. Just look at our Central City.
However, over the past few months, we have experienced leadership which is really old fashioned. We saw a Government which was responsive. A leader who is empathetic. We saw a leader of the opposition who behaved according to a formula he thought was expected of him, and he failed in the minds of the population.
That’s why the poll gap between the parties is so great. When it came to the crunch the only solution was a shared one. We had to band together to survive. We didn’t rely on nonsense theories like “herd immunity”. We relied on science. The economy was relegated to its proper place, as part of the mix. Not the only reason why we exist. The solution promoted by the Government was a mix of market intervention, personal support and we were all expected to play our part, which we did.
So, I look forward to Todd Muller leading the National Party to discuss ideas. To not use fear. To remember that they cocked up our local rebuild really badly. That they imposed bureaucratic solutions which brought this City down onto its knees. That the National Party walked past being able to leave this a 21st Century City. Instead they re-invented the old one, with all the same power-blocks who were there before the earthquakes.