Earlier this week Scottish voters participated in their independence referendum. There are many, many points to be made about this. Most notably, however, is the fact that the percentage of people turning out to vote in this democratic process was around 85%.
This is an extraordinary figure compared with the last Westminster election turnout at 65% or our turnout yesterday of around 70% (I’ve seen a range of figures this morning. I think people are working out the percentage without including special votes in the total – I will update if I find more information).
The reason so many people turned out in Scotland for this chance in democracy is because it was a chance to participate in history. Yesterday, almost 1 million New Zealanders decided there was an abject lack of anything worth voting for.
Our democracy, along with others, is facing a crisis of engagement. People no longer believe their vote is worth enough to turn out to use it. I’m not surprised with the choice being offered is so scant.
Unfortunately for those of us who believe in a progressive government, those who believe in the reverse are far more engaged in the process. They understand how important it is to vote. Sadly, there are 1 million of us that, probably for a range of reasons, don’t.
The missing million now appears to be a constant.
Millions and millions of people turned out to vote in Scotland for a positive change. Just imagine what sort of positive government we would have in New Zealand if we had an 85% turnout…
I have a few thoughts about the result last night. They are in no particular order so I’m just going to type them up and see how they fall.
- National appear to have won an outright majority despite being shown to be utterly corrupt with their constitutional machinations highlighted in Dirty Politics. Obviously New Zealand are taking John Key’s line that his massive right-wing conspiracy is actually a massive left-wing smear campaign. I suspect National and it’s allies will see this vote as an actual endorsement of how they are acting and the undermining of our constitutional conventions will continue unabated.
- National have succeeding in lumping Kim Dotcom in with the ‘left’ because of his association with Hone. Hone is gone, Mana is gone, and the left have not increased their vote. Dotcom is poison and a lot of people out there see him as a criminal trying to manipulate the New Zealand justice system (National are not ‘criminals’ because they haven’t been arrested yet). Labour knew this but the polling told New Zealanders they would need Mana to cross the line. People have stayed with National because of Dotcom.
- National were critical of Dotcom ‘buying’ the election. I wonder how many millions they have spent on their reelection. Why isn’t that considered buying an election? Because National do it?
- Has Labour suffered too much from trying to take out John Key? People love that millionaire banker. He’s one of them. I have absolutely no time for him but I have to admit he is one of the best politicians we have ever seen. A quietly ruthless everyman quick with the selfie and the withering schoolboy putdown of an opponent. He knows exactly how to play the game and we are all being played.
- Maybe New Zealanders, as a whole, are now only voting for things that affect them personally? Are we no longer that egalitarian society of fairness from the post-war baby boom generation that set John Key and his ministers up so well for their lives of success? Maybe New Zealanders no longer believe in thinking about the less fortunate? On Friday, a person I know who I thought was a bit more caring than this, suggested the ‘poor’ would have more money if they spent less on alcohol and cigarettes. I’m picking this is not an isolated feeling. It was still disappointing to hear.
- Labour are trying to attack Key for being this duplicitous character. However, if 50% of the public are willing to give their vote for him then they should move on to something else. As hard as it is for them not to attack someone who they see at the heart of, let’s call them questionable practices, if all of New Zealand love him then you’ll just be seen as playing the man not the ball. People won’t go over to your side because you attack the character of the leader of the other side. They will go to you when they are suffering, if they see a viable vision or if they are utterly sick of the governing party. I can’t see the latter happening any time soon.
- National now have a majority. They can do anything they want. Anything. Watch out if you’re a teacher, poor, and/or receiving a benefit. Your time is up. They don’t need any supporters now so they can totally do what they want. Whether their ‘reforms’ have time to bed in and begin hurting the middle classes before the next election we will have to wait and see. The other thing that might help the is Key resigning / being rolled. I suspect Crusher is waiting in the wings ready to spray old tea all over National at the first available opportunity.
- David Seymour and ACT are going to be utterly chewed up and spat out by this parliament.
We in the left a grieving for our democracy. I suspect the right will use this time to rub salt into our wounds with some of those classic schoolboy put-downs we all know and love.
Today utterly sucks.
Here’s a picture of the führer and his henchmen to remind you who’s in charge of where we are heading.
Hello again and welcome to election week. 130 million or more are expected to vote today in the US presidential election. There they have a choice between a cranky old man and a jive brother – I know which one I’d choose. Personally I’d like to see Obama take the pledge next year dressed in a purple pimp suit sporting a particularly enormous afro. Old school.
Back to New Zealand… oh dear. When you compare our elections to those being run in the USofA, what a marked difference! On the one hand you have a young African American with truckloads of charisma, and say what you will about McCain, at least he’s got character. What have we got? A former financial trader with all the personality of a half-dead eel and a woman whose teeth resemble a picket fence that’s had a strong vehicle-based disagreement with a truckular mechanism.
Both our major parties, National (=UK Tories or Republicans) and Labour (=UK Labour or Democrats), are exactly the same. Neither are offering anything remotely different to each other. Both have aimed for those middle ground voters who are regularly willing to change who they vote for. As our most respected of journalists John Campbell (you can’t hear or read the sarcasm, but it’s there I promise you) pointed out the other night, “Why don’t you two just create a grand coalition?” There was much flustering and pontificating. Ultimately they don’t want to work with each other because they hate each other.
It’s all about sound-bites this year as well… “this one’s about trust” (Labour), “it’s time for a change” (National). The only problems with this type of polling is the total lack of vision. What are their plans for the future of New Zealand. Nobody knows, yet we go to the polls on Saturday! It’s ok to have a lack of vision. Obama hasn’t really said much other than the mantra NZ National Party stole off him. He has, however, the charisma and charm to back it up. This year, our election seems to be a charm free zone (see previous paragraphs re metaphors about charm/charisma ie fish and picket fence).
Due to the lack of vision and/or charm from our candidates, it seems hard to pick or indeed trust any of them. All they seem to be doing is trying to get everyone’s vote while trying desperately not to offend anyone. What you end up with is nothing – a political ice-cream where the flake of ideas and vision has been replaced by the poo of cynical media manipulation.
Roll on Saturday.