Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bitten on the bum by MMP

(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, January 3.)

HOLD everything!

Dismiss the government. Call another election.

The John Key-led coalition government has no legitimacy and no mandate to do anything. This is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the non-stop wailing emanating from those still smarting over the election result.

Labour and the Greens insist the government has no mandate for the partial sale of state assets. As Labour stalwart and marijuana law reform activist Phil Saxby explained it in a letter to this paper, parties supporting partial asset sales won only 48.98 percent of the vote. Because parties opposed to asset sales won an infinitesimally greater share (50.29 percent), he seems to suggest, the government is morally obliged to abandon its plan.

But if that’s the case, the Left can surely argue that none of National’s policies were endorsed by a majority of voters. It follows that the party must abandon everything in its manifesto.

There would therefore be two choices: hold another election (and just see how the voters like that), or go into a state of suspended animation for three years during which nothing would happen.

But let’s back up for a moment. In the general election of 2005, Labour and Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party formed a centre-Left coalition with a combined share of only 42.26 percent of the vote. Funny, but I don’t recall the democratic purists of the Left protesting then that the Clark government had no mandate.

The truth is, of course, that it’s mightily difficult for any party to secure an absolute majority under the MMP system. If National can’t even do it with 59 seats to the combined 48 seats won by the two main centre-Left parties, chances are that no party will ever pull it off.

This is the very reason so many anti-MMP campaigners complain that the system can lead to political paralysis.

Of course it suits the Left to argue, now that we have a centre-Right government, that it has no mandate. It must be a bitter disappointment that MMP, which the Left saw as a way of weakening the National Party’s traditional dominance in New Zealand politics, has let them down.

The exquisite irony is that Mr Saxby was one of the original promoters of MMP, but cries “unfair!” when the system delivers a centre-Right coalition. Well, he asked for it.

* * *

ARE GREYING rock fans being played for a bunch of suckers?

In recent years a steady procession of reformed 1960s and 70s bands has passed through New Zealand on the concert circuit, hoping to capitalise on nostalgia for the glory days of rock.

Some are still capable of “doing the business”, as they say. But with others, you get the impression that things are a bit – well, desperate.

Ads for the forthcoming “Creedence Clearwater Revisited” tour trumpeted the fact that the band includes original Creedence Clearwater Revival members Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford. But anyone familiar with CCR knows that the heart, soul and creative brain of the band was John Fogerty, who wrote and sang the band’s songs as well playing lead guitar.

Promoting the tour on the basis that it features Cook and Clifford (the original CCR bass player and drummer) is like announcing a reunion of the Beach Boys featuring David Marks and Ricky Fataar, or the Bee Gees starring Colin Petersen and Vince Melouney.

Of course you’ve never heard of these individuals. They once played in those groups, but no one remembers them.

That the faded remnants of CCR continue to tour, even after Fogerty tried to prevent them from using the name Creedence Clearwater Revisited (which cleverly retains the initials of the original band), is testament to the public’s enduring fascination with the music of rock’s golden era. But a decent pub covers band could probably replicate the CCR sound just as well.

* * *

ALL MY LIFE, the word “fatality” has been pronounced with the stress on the second syllable: fa-TAL-ity. But in some radio news reports on the holiday road toll, the emphasis has mysteriously shifted to the first syllable, so that it comes out as “FAY-tality”.

A similar fate has befallen the word “flotilla”. Traditionally it has been pronounced as flo-TILL-a. But when Israeli commandos boarded a fleet of Turkish relief ships approaching Gaza in 2010, television and radio newsreaders decided this was all wrong. Suddenly it became FLOW-tilla.

Similarly, broadcast reports on the Foreshore and Seabed Act often referred to the public DO-main, rather than do-MAIN. This quaint pronunciation is reminiscent of parts of the American South, where people call the POL-lice when someone’s causing trouble.

Why these peculiar inflexions? It can only be ignorance. A new generation of journalists and newsreaders appears not to have encountered these words before, so makes up whatever pronunciation feels right. Then it starts to spread virally.

Sadly, resistance is probably futile. This is a language in flux – a process as unstoppable as the phases of the moon.

1 comment:

The probligo said...

OF THOSE WHO BOTHERED TO VOTE, more than 50% were in favour of the government. That is the fundamental of democracy.

Those who failed to vote can have no complaint about the outcome. They disenfranchised themselves.

Those who insist upon voting for the fringes - whether you consider "Legalise Cannabis" any more fringe than McGillicudy Serious Party, Mana, ACT, or Winnie the Pooh matters not - all have had their opportunity as well.

To turn around now and blame the system is not the solution. Some decent and workable policies in place of tired old ideologies would be a great starting point. A campaign that focussed on solutions for the future rather than personalities could garner quite a level of support as well. The Greens have proven that.

"Apathy is the greatest enemy of democracy". So true!