Peter Dunne: Address to suicide symposium
The permanent executive representative of Wellington's middle management has blessed the nation in his latest blog - on unpleasant political facts - with another petty, angry, irrelevant, illogical and defensive hate-piece; this latest an attempt to besmirch the reputation of the retiring Green co-leader and her party. This increasingly odious political parasite may register with everyone outside of his Ohariu electorate as nothing more than an opportunist flake holding a seat through inertia and historical circumstance rather than any leadership ability, vision, or compelling philosophy, but the days of enlightenment may be dawning slowly across the middle swathe of the middle class in the city in the middle of the country if the recent election results are an indicator:
2002 57.95% (huge swing in party vote nationwide, but an almost nil movement on the personal vote)
2008 32.61%This is the electoral terrain before Winston got the arse in Tauranga - a three way split where he just pips in between National and Labour. Next time: toast.
It looks fairly clear that the coiffured charm of the commonsensical has worn thin amongst the hill people of the government belt. The voters' wicked delight every three years of returning a suit who will be the Minister of Revenue in the next government (no matter what that government is) has long since lost its novelty value.
Peter Dunne is a type of insurance product that people take about ten years to realise they don't need.
The "in the spotlight" section of his blog - where he presumably highlights some of his achievements in office - we see the most unremittingly boring and peripheral agenda conceivable. In order, (and this isn't photoshopped, I'm not making this up) addresses to a: dental clinic, accountancy conference, the self-medication society, a Wellington regional conference of his party where it appears only three people were involved, a health industry conference at a casino where his speech was so patronisingly dire he told an entire room full of the medical industry that:
"Medicines are used in many situations throughout the community and hospital setting to treat New Zealanders with a wide range of diseases and conditions.
It goes without saying that they make significant contributions to the health outcomes of many New Zealanders" - No shit, so why go on to say it as though they were perhaps 5 or 6 years old and he was their teacher? But that's Peter Dunne: a bouffant of knowledge. He addressed the right wing Employers & Manufacturers Assoc. as part of their "Tax Summit" (hopefully in the same patronising way) and lastly he delivered what must have been after all of these types of functions an uplifting speech to a suicide symposium.At this point, where terminal boredom slowly suffocates his career prospects, he must be nearly the only one who can take himself seriously or consider anything he has to say relevant:His blog post is as churlish as it is incoherent - even for him - so let us now dissect exactly why:
The understandable tributes being paid to Jeanette Fitzsimons on her retirement mask a couple of unpleasant and contradictory facts, which a party like UnitedFuture needs to bear in mind.
- His whole blog post is unpleasant and contradictory.
First, no member of the Greens has ever held office as a Minister in a government. That sets them apart from every other small party that has emerged under MMP. The Alliance, ACT, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture have all had Ministers in government, able to push through key aspects of their respective parties’ policies. In contrast, Jeanette’s self-confessed Parliamentary career highlight was chairing the Local Government Select Committee. The usual hallmark of political success is being part of a government, and on that basis the Greens have been our most unsuccessful small party under MMP.
- And why have they not been in government? Because Peter Dunne in particular has kept them out by refusing to sit alongside them if they were ministers. He preferred being a minister with Winston Peters, even when his shameless deceptions and rorts were on full display in the final year of the last Labour government. His own definition of success also conveniently excludes legislative outcomes and mean that he is permanently successful by having weasled his way into the executive after each election by promising never to rock the boat. That's success for Peter Dunne: get the perks of office without having to actually achieve anything. The reason for the praise people have given to Fitzsimons and the Greens - and the reason it angers Dunne so much - is because we all know it has been done despite being kept out of ministerial positions and they were still able to accomplish more gains than him and his microscopic party ever have or will.
The second unpleasant and contradictory fact is that the above notwithstanding, the news media and the commentariat have failed consistently to acknowledge this point, let alone draw it to public attention. Moreover, they have actually gone to the other extreme and generally lauded the Greens for their “success”, although they have been noticeably light when it comes to pointing out what those successes have been.
- Dunne is so extraordinarily petty and so wrong: the media do usually preface the Green's gains (policy, private member's bills etc.) by stating that they are not part of government - as I said this makes their gains all the more successful. If the media were to state these facts more readily then the Greens would be cast in a better light - is that what Dunne wants - to remind voters that the Greens have had a gain despite Peter Dunne trying to put the kibosh on it at every turn? He seems to be arguing the media should try to highlight the failure of his own desperate and pathetic attempts to thwart them. And as for the claim the media don't tell people what the Green Party's successes are - that is bordering on the absurd: "section 59" is a household word. If home insulation, abolition of the youth wage, the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority, the ability of mothers to stay with their young infants in prison and so on - off the top of my head - are not so well known this is a media reporting problem whose solution will mean a boost for the Greens - not a loss. Unpleasant and contradictory indeed.
The point of all this? Quite simple really. At its most basic, politics is about presenting a story and a view of the world people can relate to. Caring for the environment and worrying about the state of the planet is such a story, even if the Greens’ actual record in practical policy terms has always fallen well short of that story. By contrast, UnitedFuture can, over more than 10 years now, point to a solid record of achievement of virtually all its key policies, and through its ongoing involvement in government will be able to continue to do so. But we have been far less successful in selling the story that goes with the policy achievements.
- Politics is propaganda is another way of saying "politics is about presenting a story and a view of the world people can relate to." That's how Dunne sees politics and he's failing at it by his own measure. As for his party's "solid record of achievement" - is he perhaps too modest to tell us what that might possibly be? He has just criticised the media for not telling us what the Green Party policy achievements are and here he is not being able to tell his own "story" on his own blog. We may conclude there have been no gains for him beyond the "ongoing involvement in government" - which is another way of saying he is a Minister that doesn't do anything.
Yet the UnitedFuture story is actually quite a simple one. [...]
- The United Future story is simple alright: an opportunist group of ship-jumping right wingers too spineless to be in Act and too conceited to join National have been left to rally around a leader who resembles a straight version of Liberace (sans personality and piano) who must keep attracting and then burning off other splinter groups of extremist varieties to stay electorally and financially solvent. It gets even more simple:
[...] We are here for the families and kids of New Zealand, who simply want to get on with life, without the government telling them what to do all the time, or favouring one set of vested interests over another. We are the party of the mums and dads in the suburbs, who seek a decent standard of living for themselves, the best opportunities for their kids, and the prospect of security in retirement, and who are sick and tired of all the ideological nonsense the accompanies politics these days. We are the party of people who like living in New Zealand because of the opportunities and outdoor lifestyle it offers, and we want just want to enhance all that. That is why we focus on practical policies that will deliver tangible gains for these New Zealanders.
- The patronising political waffle oscillates between outright lies and empty platitudes: He set up the Families Commission and says he doesn't want government telling us what to do all the time when that is exactly the mandate of the Commission? He hops into bed with the hunting lobby and cuts a deal with the Nats to get a big game quango set up for them and claims he doesn't favour vested interests? He even boasts of his Winstonesque industry favours - which he calls helping "the long-neglected hunting community". He is critical of ideological nonsense when he headed a march of the good Christian White Folk of Nelson against Maori and - by default - in favour of the continuing racist practices of the local council against Maori and against their foreshore and seabed interests? Are "these New Zealanders" anyone other than right-leaning voters "in the suburbs" of the Ohariu electorate and the "hunting community"?
Sadly, that is not the story the media portrays. In their eyes, and through them in the eyes of many people, our commitment to families is code for a right-wing, prescriptive moralist agenda, trying to recreate the past, rather than focus on the future. Admittedly, the antics of some of our earlier extremist MPs, who did actually want us to go down that path, did not help, but those days are well behind us, although their legacy lingers and frankly scares off too many people.
- His blog post has the trajectory of a drunken discourse: Why do my enemies get all the credit? People love her and they don't love me. The media is to blame! People don't know the truth. If they knew me they'd love me. It's not fair. I'm a nice guy... And now we are at the conspiracy and anger stage. He's wanting to tell us his own sorry saga of past greatness and fall here and he's doing it entirely unprompted and in a highly defensive manner, conceding his party had "extremist" religious MPs who have tainted the party. And like most unreflected drunken discourse he takes no responsibility for his part in forming that bond in the first place - wanting their money, members and votes without baring the cross of having them as MPs when the miracle was performed. If he doesn't like the stigmata he shouldn't of ventured down the rectory.
We are here to represent the values of decent New Zealand families today, not to tell them what their values should be.
- Well he's got his Families Commission to do that for us - a government department specifically set up by Peter Dunne to tell the government and the people whatever it is the commission thinks affects families. Making assessments on values is an inescapable part of that role. Values are what political parties used to be about too, even if Peter Dunne thinks in his case he inherently knows them as they apply to "decent New Zealand families" and so he never has to articulate them in the sense of advocacy or political communication. How helpful, to represent values without having to tell anyone what they might be.
Coming back to the Greens, UnitedFuture is arguably the most successful small party under MMP. We have spent more time in government than any other party, and we have probably achieved more too.
- Arguably Pluto is/is not a planet, arguably the new Supreme Court building is/is not as bad as the Beehive, but there is not much space on any spectrum of believablity for "arguably the most successful small party under MMP" is whatever vehicle Peter Dunne happens to have fashioned around himself. Dunne's one-man band of a micro-party, hopping about as a flea on whatever mongrel animal is big enough to displace the last mongrel animal on the mat in front of the fire, will not meet any credible definition of success as a party. Having a stat like 100% of the caucus serving in the Ministry would only ever impress Jim Anderton.
To be truly successful though, alongside our policy achievements, we now have to focus on promoting our story, to create a sense of purpose and reason for supporting us.
- Peter Dunne's never going to be reason enough for anyone to join whatever vehicle Peter Dunne happens to have fashioned around himself. His last plaintive remark defines the issue well enough really: there is no purpose or reason.
A strong National or Labour candidate ought to be able to end this farce at the next general election.