By Peter Dunne*
I want a Christmas present I do not think Santa can, or will, deliver me. I am not being selfish or unreasonable, but just realistic, because what I want is a political party I can vote for at the next General Election.
As one who feels currently disenfranchised, I have been looking at what the two main parties have to offer. Both have their good points, but are too bogged down by their negatives to be real options.
I quite like National's pragmatism and realism, but it is too beholden to the top end of the business community for my liking, and still far too inclined to see its role as doing their bidding. Besides, there is a nasty, punitive streak evident in the attitudes of some of its newer MPs that is disturbing, and a group of hard right activists outside Parliament trying to pull the party more in their direction that is downright scary.
Labour's social policies have always held appeal, but the fact that it is still lock-step with the unions when most New Zealanders are not is a turn-off. Also, its obsequious adherence to political correctness is nauseating. I wish it would actually stand for something, rather than just pandering to every passing cause.
Both parties are still in the rigid "my party, right or wrong mould", with limited capacity to compromise, or reach across the political divide. I well recall the advice a very distinguished former MP gave me many years ago that he joined his particular party simply because he agreed with more of what it stood for than he disagreed with. I have always thought that was the appropriate balance. It would nice to see more evidence of that type of thinking in both Labour and National today.
In my quest, I have even looked at the Greens and ACT as well. The Greens have increasing credibility on environmental issues, especially as the ravages of climate change become daily more apparent, but, oh dear, they do go off at strange and tangents every now and then, that leave one wondering. ACT is still too trapped in the neo-liberal time warp of the 1980s to be at all relevant today.
As I am a generally tolerant and reasonable person focused on the opportunities that lie ahead for our country, rather than the restoration of yesteryear, I cannot possibly consider New Zealand First. Nor am I am bigot or a racist, which seems to be a precondition for belonging to that party.
What I want is a basic, progressive liberal party which believes in social justice, equality and equal access for all to opportunity, built on sound, environmentally sustainable market led economic policies, and where the government is there to help those in need, but otherwise lets people get on with their own lives. I want a party that is no slave to vested interests, and is transparent and open in the pursuit of its principles.
Of course, we used to have a party like that - UnitedFuture - whose policies people kept saying they liked, and that it was important we be in Parliament to promote them, but all that notwithstanding, when the crunch came, they just did not vote for us in sufficient numbers to make it all possible.
For those other middle ground people who feel similarly disenfranchised right now, it seems a simple enough proposition. A party of people like us to represent people like us. Yet, sadly, I do not think even Santa can make it happen!
So, in the meantime, it will be back to just dreaming. Dunne Speaks is taking a break for a few weeks, to focus instead on enjoying Christmas celebrations with family, but will be back early next year ever hopeful of finding a solution to this conundrum, and a party to vote for.
May I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a successful New Year.
*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.