What distinguishes the next Prime Minster?

The most remarkable element in this election is the unremarkability that the choice of Prime Minister is between two women.

This may be a minor subterranean factor in the rise of the flank parties — some men seeking a man to vote for. But in the media there is no gee-whizz about this extremely rare factor. It seems the country has got used to it. read more

Prebble's punch

Is Richard Prebble punching above his weight? He’s acting like a big boy when his party is a littl’un. What’s the game?

On Monday, as Labour basked in the glow of the Waikato University survey’s stratospheric figures and other pollsters were unofficially reporting a lift for Labour over the weekend and wondering whether that was a bandwagon off the Waikato figures, Mr Prebble tried a little poll-bandwagoning of his own. read more

"It’s the party vote, stupid."

The flank parties are scooping up party support and leaving National and Labour with an oversupply of electorate support. Both are now trying to neutralise that.

You would expect some excess because the big old parties hold almost all the electorates, a lifetime of an electorate-only choice has ingrained voting habits and incumbents attract cross-party support that does not reflect true party loyalties. Nevertheless, in 1996 National’s two votes were almost identical. Labour’s electorate excess was 2.9 per cent. read more

Insiders and Outsiders

What is this election really about, deep down? “Outsiders” and how to make them “insiders”. The instability of our politics of the past 15 years has a lot to do with that.

In the old politics you could walk down a street and roughly pick its political complexion. While individual voters could not be typecast in this way, socioeconomic status was not a bad general guide to choice between the two big parties. read more

The New Zealand economy and politics: the revolution and the future

Seminar: America’s Relations with Australia and New Zealand Beyond the Turn of the Century

University of Maryland

Baltimore, 8 November 1999

Abstract: Just as a vigorous flowering of the arts in the 1980s signalled New Zealand’s true emergence as an independent (decolonialised) nation, it energetically espoused neoliberalism, the third radical policy shift in its 160 years of Anglo-Celtic rule. This third “New Zealand model”, which attracted considerable international interest from economists, businesspeople and such diverse politicians as the government of Mongolia, the Japanese House of Councillors and Vice-President Al Gore, is now embedded in policy. But, while the economy is undoubtedly more flexible and robust, it is (for various historical and contemporary reasons) still far short of neoliberals’ high-wage, high-performing ideal and it has left most citizens political “outsiders”, at odds with the “insiders” in the business, bureaucratic and political establishments and this has destabilised politics. Other “outsiders”, the indigenous Maori, are posing demands for power- and resource-sharing which many non-Maori find threatening but which seem likely nonetheless to lead to constitutional change in the next decade. To reconcile these disparate dimensions in a stable society and politics, the search is on for a new political language. read more

They're only human

There is Jenny Shipley in an ad telling us she made a mistake! And “brat pack” whiz Bill English likewise! What’s National playing at?

Human — they’re human like you and me. We all make mistakes; they underestimated the Asian crisis and the drought. Mrs Shipley, stern school-marm, has been airbrushed into Jenny, sweet, smiling mumsie-pie. read more


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