Convertibles — that is what the next four weeks are about: prising votes out from “undecideds” or stealing from rivals. So far only ACT of the main five is in full missionary mode, though Labour yesterday moved up a gear.

Minnows have no choice but to go after convertibles. Give United 400 votes an electorate, said Peter Dunne in his television opening on Saturday night, and his “little guy” party would have two MPs to interpose “caring commonsense” between the Labour/Alliance and National/ACT blocks. read more

the New Orthodoxy

Colin James for the Independent

The revolution is over — that much Richard Prebble, Bill English, Helen Clark and Jim Anderton agree on, though from very different angles. Now what?

The “what” is the deep agenda in this election. The great majority of the electorate has settled that it doesn’t want to go back to 1984 — maybe not even to 1990. But it is unsure where it wants to go from here and the big parties are jostling to draw a map. read more

Politics for the Millenium

Colin James on politics and economics for NZ Books millennium issue

Coming into the twentieth century, the battle for the future was between socialists and triumphalist trumpeters of a “bigger and better Britain” here at the end of the world. The route out is likely to be along some muddy “third way” avoiding radicals to left and right — or into a “new conservatism”. Visionaries have given way to pygmies. read more

The Quigley Committee

Colin James for Defence Quarterly: October 1999

A funny thing happened on the way to the APEC summit. Peaceniks marched in the streets demanding war. And shortly afterwards off our warriors went, under-equipped with out-of-date gear.

The East Timor incident which was the focus of this peace-seeking warmongering highlighted an evolving defence debate which has brought us either to the verge of a major policy shift or, if not, at least at a point of sharp disagreement between amateurs and professionals. That is an unstable state of affairs. read more

English, the new conservative

For a Minister of Finance Bill English is offbeat. Last week he was an honoured officiator at the launch of South Seas Healthcare, a clinic run by Pacific Islander GPs. When he speaks to business groups he belabours them with social policy. What gives with this man?

Mr English is new National, that’s what, refashioning the old party before our eyes. After its long post-1945 period of liberal-conservatism epitomised by Sir John Marshall, its dodge into rank populism under Sir Robert Muldoon and its radical diversion with Ruth Richardson, Mr English’s National is redefining conservatism. read more