Since the resignation of John Key, the speculation about what-might-happen in election year 2017 has been framed almost entirely in terms of personality politics. Is National’s Bill English more – or less – chemically inert than Labour’s Andrew Little, and will the electorate finally decide this predictability /complacency/familiarity to be re-assuring, or disturbing? Is English so very lacking in inspirational energy that he will need to bribe the electorate with tax cuts in order to induce even the centre-right to get out and vote for him? Will the centre-left gain any/some/or a whole lot of traction out of the departure from the political scene of National’s super salesman? And so on.
This obsessive focus on personality politics is understandable. New Zealand politics has been a presidential form of combat for several decades now. However, elections aren’t merely a popularity poll. Moreover, since “populism” – in the form of a desire for wholesale institutional change – is winning elections all around the world. So, it could be worthwhile to try and collate what we know about the dynamics of populism, and see if any of its structural elements fit the situation in which the electorate currently finds itself, in this country. Read the rest of this entry »