Ticking the Box
Updated: a day ago
2020 is election year for New Zealand, and there are plenty of voices saying that it can't come soon enough.
In fairness, much the same gets said of every election, everywhere. The downside to democracy is that we all get consigned to putting up, for several years, with the results of stupid decisions made by other people.
Next year in Outer Rower will be no different. For firearms licence holders, however, it represents something of a watershed. We are at a crossroads in New Zealand where firearms laws are concerned, and the approaching election is very probably the last chance, for a generation to come, that ordinary law-abiding firearms users will have, to stem the tide of ideologically-driven stupidity that is eroding not only our ancient rights, but indeed the better part of two centuries of fine sporting and hunting tradition - tradition that is the very embodiment of who we are as a people.
New Zealanders, like Australians, carried the British through both the Boer wars, and the First World War, in large part because we were Peoples who lived, and breathed, and survived and grew, through the culture common to pioneers across the globe and across time - the culture of the farmer and the hunter, the horse and the rifle.
Social media in New Zealand today is being filled with a steadily increasing chorus of voices, asking for guidance as to where gun owners should be placing their political faith.
People, with the greatest possible respect, you're asking the wrong question.
The question being asked is "which Party do we vote for?"
The question that should be being asked, in my humble opinion, is "which Party do we JOIN?"
And I say that for a number of reasons.
I'm 52. The first election I was able to vote in was 1987. And I voted Social Credit, casting my special vote at New Zealand House in London, because I had just begun my Big OE. Not only did I vote for Social Credit, but I was a paid-up member of the Party.
And I pretty much only joined because the Old Man, rest his soul, not only belonged to it, and lived and breathed its philosophies, but he worked full-time for it, as a paid campaign organiser and strategist.
They had over 100,000 members at that time. National and Labour each had around 250,000. Values, who went on to become the Greens, had about 40,000.
Almost everyone belonged to one Party or another in those days. It was something that New Zealanders just did.
Today there wouldn't be 100,000 members in all registered political Parties combined. People don't join things anymore. Rotary, Lions, Jaycees (remember them?), even the Women's Institute, and dare I say it, some sports clubs; everyone is struggling for members, and some long established organisations have folded up for want of them.
People are busy nowadays. They have two and more jobs to work in order to make the same ends meet, they have traffic jams to sit in, they have social media and the Internet to attend to; which also means that they don't need to actually join organisations, and do boring stuff like going to meetings, in order to facilitate social intercourse.
No, I said SOCIAL intercourse. Get your minds out of the gutter. Honestly.
But back to the point I was making. Socred had 100,000 fee-paying members, and because of that they were able to pay salaries to full-time workers like my Dad. They also owned commercial buildings and profit-making businesses, because they knew about money, and were clever with it, so they took donations and put those donations to work, by investing in things that would provide an ongoing return. But that's an aside.
Most of my contemporaries (I grew up in the dairy farming country of the Hauraki Plains) were National through and through, and they were Nats because their parents were Nats, and their parents had been Nats because their grandparents had been Nats, ad infinitum.
And so they voted National. But here's the difference - they didn't, as a general rule, become members. I did because of the reasons above, and because even then I was a bit of a political geek.
But my generation were probably the first for whom attaining membership of a political Party was something you didn't just automatically do. I don't know why. It was the beginning of a societal shift, and we can't even blame the Internet for it, because at that point in history, Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet yet.
Or maybe he had. I'm not sure; did he or didn't he? I'm certain he claimed he did, but then he claimed to have invented Global Warming as well, and that turned out to be a crock too.
But I digress.
Pick a horse to back, by all means. That needs to happen. But it has to go beyond that as well.
Every Party's policies are decided by its Executive. There is generally a degree of input from members as well, which varies from Party to Party, but the fine print is worked out by a smaller group, who in turn have been put there by those members to do just that.
And Parties have to have policy about everything. Firearms is but one small bit of it; and trust me when I say that it won't ever be a big bit of it, for any Party that has a realistic chance of holding sway over the Treasury benches.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again, I'm sure. People vote according to a very small number of very basic issues. They vote on jobs, houses, hospitals, and schools. Like Bill Clinton famously said, "It's the economy, stupid."
Only when these fundamentals are taken care of, do secondary things such as Law and Order, immigration, The Environment (whatever that really means), euthanasia, cannabis, and abortion, get a look in.
It's the back pocket that motivates people first and most powerfully. Threaten to raise taxes or lift the age of retirement, and your punishment will be swift and merciless. But scrap the Air Force, sign away yet another chunk of our sovereignty to the UN, or give the Chinese carte blanche to take our water for nothing and sell it at a massive profit, and the response from the electorate will be a resounding 'meh.'
Parties know this. And they also know that the New Zealand political landscape is really a blandscape, made up of a fairly small number of very broad churches that largely overlap one another. People are not contained, as 'voting blocs', within specific definitions. All Old People don't vote the same way. All women don't vote the same way. All Maori don't vote the same way.
And all gun owners don't vote the same way either, because gun owners are to be found within the ranks of almost every other category of people you might care to name.
Old or young, brown or white, male or female (and variations thereof), farmers, tradies, professionals, unprofessionals, you name it; we are counted among the number of every other delineation imaginable. And there is no way on God's earth that you are ever going to see the fantasy of every firearms user voting in a singular direction, being fulfilled. It won't happen. I promise you, this is true. Please, whatever you do, don't fool yourselves into thinking that it could. The other side know this, and they're counting on you believing it.
Sorry to appear as a rain cloud above a parade. However it isn't all doom and gloom - I bring a ray of hopeful sunshine as well!
By my reckoning, only about one firearms licence holder in ten is probably willing to hitch their wagon to one singular political horse, on the back of firearms as a defining issue of priority. But that still adds up to around 25,000 people - and make no mistake, that's utterly huge, in terms of the number of people who currently belong to political Parties in New Zealand. It's vast. It's epochal.
You need to pick your Party, and back it. That much is a given. And it needs to be the same one, which will require quite a bit of nose-holding for many people, as far as that Party's other policies and philosophies are concerned. To that I say, man up, or woman up, or variation up, and just bloody well do it. No party's complete raft of policies is perfect, most are bad, and some are terrible.
But this is because they are decided by the people who can be bothered to join them in the first place - and as we know, most people DON'T bother anymore.
Allow yourselves, for a moment, to imagine what 25,000 people could achieve, if they did bother to join a political Party, in a nation that has a grand total of no more than 100,000 political Party members.
And if those 25,000 did go to the meetings, and did run the sausage stands outside the supermarket on Saturday morning, and did put up the billboards; and more importantly, in fact MOST importantly, did put their hands up at the meetings that they bothered to go to, and did take on roles within Electorate Branch Committees, and did get themselves elected to their various executives, and did go to Conferences, and did submit remits at those Conferences, and did stand for positions on Boards of Directors, and did get appointed to Policy Committees, and did say yes, I will be a candidate.
Because you know all those things are being done, right now, and all those roles are being filled, right now, by people who can be bothered to join political Parties.
If those 25,000 did do all that, they would form a mighty host, the likes of which New Zealand politics has not seen in two generations. They would change the political landscape.
It is by way of the 25,000 of you actually bothering to join one single Party, and do the things that you have to do when you're a member of a political Party, boring thankless pain-in-the-arse tasks that they are, that you will achieve your desired and necessary 250,000 votes; and not otherwise. Your friends and family and acquaintances and workmates will be motivated to give you a Party Vote, if they see you doing this stuff.
If they don't see that, well, they might tick Like on a Facebook page - but their support will not go beyond that. They'll vote the way they always have, and so the status quo will prevail.
But let's say that you do. And let's say that as a result, your Party comes in with a healthy 10% or thereabouts. And let's disregard for a moment that you have to deal with all sorts of mundane crap like tax rates, and roading, and bail and parole laws.
Folks, most of the work of Parliament is concerned with financial, judicial, legal, and local authority matters. Most of it is as dull as church, but it is necessary and important.
The upside to being in a position of influence, provided that you have your sponsoring Major Party by the balls, and provided that you make it unequivocally clear that you will cut off said balls if your basic demands are not met, and mean it, is that you WILL GET to make the important calls, and in this case, the important calls involve firearms laws.
Make no mistake, National is not your friend. They are controlled by a group of six people, two of whom are not even in Parliament. The same goes for the other mob. Your local Member can say whatever he or she likes, but they have no influence whatsoever, and will, at the end of the day, do, say, and vote, as they are told.
And National supports Labour's new gun laws. They support the UN agenda. Given a clear majority, they will change nothing at all.
So who to back, and who to join?
Personally, next year, I will be once again casting a special vote from overseas. Plus ca change. Thirty-odd years has come full circle, it would seem.
And who are the options?
In reality, there is only one. And I don't particularly like it, but I will very probably vote for it anyway.
It won't be New Zealand First, surprise surprise. Winston Peters is a charlatan and a sell-out, and even if Mephistopheles hasn't come to collect by the time 2020 rolls around, his one-man 'Party' won't even exist, let alone have a hope of going back to Wellington. He's shafted and shat on too many people, and broken too many promises, one time too often.
It won't be the Outdoors Party. I haven't met Alan Simmons, though I have spoken with him, and he's a good mate of a good mate; and I'm sure he's sincere. But his Party won't trouble the scoreboard keepers, and a vote for an also-ran is worse than a wasted vote, because the mathematics of MMP means that it's actually a vote in favour of the people you don't want.
And it won't be the New Conservatives, for the very same reason. I have actually met Leighton Baker, and he's a genuine guy too, by my estimation. But New Zealanders just simply don't like the mixing of religion with politics, and whether they're actually a God Party or not is irrelevant because that's the perception, and they won't crack the 5% barrier. They just won't. Please don't fall down this hole. I've seen it with 1080, I've seen it with South Island Independence. It isn't going to happen. You have one chance. Please don't throw it away.
It won't be any of the minnows. 'Sending a signal' is pointless, in real political terms. The signal, however sent, is received as "Ooh, look, a signal. Haha."
So for me, it will be ACT.
Now I have no time for David Seymour, and he has no time for me. I've called him a silly little boy, and he's called me a f******g idiot, both claims made in public, and you know what, we're probably both right to a degree.
And I'm also on record as saying that I would happily pull the lever on the gallows, if Roger Douglas were ever to be hanged for treason for what he did to New Zealand.
But needs must when the Devil rides; and he's saddling up as we speak.
I have voted ACT in the past. This time, I'm going to hold my nose and do it again. I know Rodney Hide a wee bit; I corresponded with him before I went into politics, and he always responded, in person. Ditto Heather Roy. Rodney came to lobby me once in Parliament, after he had just left and I had just begun, and his daughter used to go to the same school as my girls in Christchurch, and we had a few brief yarns in the car park. Rodney's a good bloke, in my estimation.
But the clincher is that ACT will actually be there. The others won't. No, stop dreaming. They won't.
This doesn't mean that an ACT presence within a National Coalition is a magic bullet. ACT continues to exist because it suits National that it continues to exist, and because the Nats need a friend, and other than ACT there doesn't appear to be the possibility of one.
So an ACT that gets back to Parliament as part of a National Government will, for the very most part, still have to do whatever it's National masters tell it to.
But an ACT that has an additional 25,000 members, that being all of you, and that has its policy agenda dictated by you, and that has its priorities set by you, and its candidates selected by you, and accountable to you, and is in Parliament in numbers; and those numbers can and do actually hold the Nats to account, and do actually hold them by the balls, and that are prepared and willing to make the unkindest cut of all, should they not get their way - your way - our way;.....now there is a real proposition.
And it seems to me, distasteful in many other areas of policy that it is, that it's very probably the only realistic option.
Everyone else will make their own calls, of course. This is simply my take on it, for what that's worth.
But whichever horse you choose to back, know this - placing a bet isn't enough. You need to get on the horse. You need to own the horse. Because there is no Knight in Shining Armour who is going to come riding to the rescue on his valiant white charger, unless that's you. That other Knight has his own priorities. He'll be happy to trade platitudes in exchange for votes, but.....once he gets to the stable, it becomes more about the beer and the nosebag.
At the risk of mixing animal metaphors, I will say this. You need to be committed to this thing. And by that I mean you have to be committed like you're making a commitment to bacon and eggs. Now ask yourselves - are you committed like the chicken, or are you committed like the pig?
Update, July 12th 2020:
After this article was first published, David Seymour got in touch with me. I'm happy to report that we have buried the hatchet, and I'm wishing him and his Team all the best for this year's general election.
I'd like to think the likes of the New Conservatives could join ACT in a rejuvenated New Zealand Parliament, which in an ideal world would be free from the entrenched corruption of the establishment as it has been represented over the past century or so, via the Red and Blue labeled arms of what is essentially one single Party of Government. Whatever else National and Labour might be, they most certainly are not different, separate, or on opposing sides.
It really is time to drain the swamp.