Friday, May 17, 2019

A handmaid party?

Earlier in the year, National helped failed Green leadership candidate Vernon Tava set up a "teal" astroturf party, sustainablenz. It seems to have sunk without a trace, without even registering a logo with the Electoral Commission, let alone applying for party registration (which are things it would have done if there had been a rush of people discovering a party which finally represented their views). So, they're turning to a new plan: trying to tap the bigot vote:

The coalition lifeline that National will need if it's to have a chance at the next election looks set to come in the form of a Christian party led by one of its own, former Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro.

Talk within the party's been rife for weeks now with Ngaro's plan being well received and with the possibility of National standing aside, possibly in the Botany seat, where it has the strongest party vote by far.

Jami-Lee Ross's departure would let National gift an electorate to its new vassal without having to throw a sitting MP under the bus. But religious politics has a toxic reputation in New Zealand for all sorts of reasons: misogyny and homophobia, historic religious parties being dominated by fringe loonies (which in one case the public only discovered after they'd been elected), and Graham Capill, combined with a strong social consensus that religion is a private matter and a desire not to be like the US. So while its a natural fit for National - just look at the way they vote on gay rights, women's rights, and death with dignity - a "handmaid party" is also risky. Because voters are influenced by who a party's friends are (National's 2014 and 2017 election advertising infamously relied on this), and if a party's path to power is to crawl into bed with the religious right, then a fair number of people will be turned off by this, and vote accordingly.

And on the griping hand: National has no friends, and has effectively destroyed its previous coalition partners, so all it can do is gamble and hope.

Correction (17/5/19): Thanks to a 2014 amendment to the Electoral act, unregistered parties can no longer register logos with the Electoral Commission. I hadn't noticed.