Monday, May 8, 2023

Hipkins goes the full sausage roll

Labour’s re-election strategy is now blindingly clear. Chippy Hipkins is going the full sausage roll.

Hipkins’ fondness for the humble pastry snack has already become entrenched in New Zealand political mythology. On his trip to Britain he was presented with sausage rolls not once but twice – first by King Charles and again at No 10 by Rishi Sunak. It would be no surprise if his benefactors had been tipped off in advance that this would be an appropriate gesture.

The media loved it, of course. “Chris Hipkins charms London with sausage-roll diplomacy”, read a headline in the Left-leaning Sydney Morning Herald.

This plays to Hipkins’ carefully cultivated image as an unpretentious working-class boy from the Hutt. We can expect the sausage roll to become a defining emblem of his prime ministership as he seeks to erase the ideological taint left by his predecessor, Jacinda Ardern.

Labour’s survival at the next election hinges on the party retaining at least some of the middle-New Zealand voters who crossed over from National in 2020 and delivered Ardern the first clear majority of the MMP era.

To achieve this, Hipkins must convince those swinging voters that this is a different government from the one Ardern led – one that’s concerned with bread-and-butter issues rather than the polarising identity politics that have caused Labour’s support to collapse.

The sausage roll, with its reassuring connotations of the less confrontational New Zealand that predated Ardern, meshes neatly with this objective.  Hipkins needs to convince middle voters that he’s no threat, and the sausage roll is the perfect political prop. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a sausage roll? It’s tailor-made as a comforting symbol of national unity at a time when people fret that the county is being torn apart by the ugly ideological forces unleashed during Ardern’s term.

But Hipkins’ “Boy from the Hutt” shtick extends further than sausage rolls. He told Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass that he gets his most useful “informal” advice while shopping at Pak’nSave. Forget all those highly paid apparatchiks cluttering the Beehive; if Hipkins is to be believed, it’s the Pak’nSave checkout ladies who keep him in touch with what’s going on in the real world.   

Note that he shops at the correct supermarket chain – the egalitarian, no-frills one. None of your fancy-pants New World snobbery where they pack your shopping bags for you.

Oh, and Hipkins wants us to know he can be found with other Mums and Dads on the sidelines at Saturday morning sport, where he’s brought down to earth by the realisation that there’s more to life than politics. It’s his way of assuring us that he’s one of us – or if not, that he’s at least in touch with the public mood.

Even in his anachronistic use of language, Hipkins seems keen to evoke the tone of a less fractious era. “It’s a blimmin’ good day for Kiwis living in Australia,” he quaintly said of Canberra’s decision to create a pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders – conveniently ignoring the fact that it’s in Australia’s interests, and potentially very damaging to New Zealand, to smooth the way for skilled and highly educated Kiwis looking to jump the Ditch.  

The folksy vernacular, the sausage rolls and the paeans to Pak’nSave and Saturday morning sport should all be seen as part of Labour’s big rebranding project – a distancing of the party from ideological crusades that alienate the vast majority of New Zealanders.

Another critical component in this transformation is up-and-comer Kieran McAnulty, whom New Zealand Herald political writer Audrey Young recently described as perhaps Labour’s most important politician after Hipkins and Grant Robertson .

If Hipkins is marketed as the boy from the working-class suburbs of the Hutt, McAnulty is presented as the boy from the rural heartland. You don’t get much more country than Eketahuna, where – as he was eager to stress to Young in her complimentary profile of him - his family roots are. McAnulty is Labour’s point of connection with the vital provincial electorates that abandoned National in 2020. The party needs to lock them in come October and you can be sure it will work the former TAB odds calculator like a drover’s dog.

There’s nothing unsubtle about McAnulty’s pitch. He may have sold his ancient Mazda ute, a political prop that charmed the media as successfully as Hipkins’ love of sausage rolls, but he still positions himself as an uncomplicated Kiwi bloke whom ordinary voters can relate to and trust to do the right thing. Except that he's not that idealised person, any more than Hipkins is. They're both politicians to the tips of their toes.

No doubt it was because of his affable, blokey quality that Labour chose McAnulty to sell Version #2 of the diabolical Three Waters proposal. Labour strategists would have reasoned that if anyone could make the rehashed package seem harmless, despite its racist co-governance provisions remaining essentially intact, it would be him.

He played his assigned role to the hilt, even to the extent of opening the press conference with the words: “The guts of it is …” As Young remarked, it was as if he’d just walked off the set of a Fred Dagg skit. Labour would have counted on voters feeling reassured that Three Waters had been stripped of its obnoxious bits. After all, how could a straight-shooting, daggy Kiwi bloke like McAnulty hide ulterior ideological motives?

And it may have worked. Even Young, who gives the impression of having fallen under McAnulty’s spell, said he seemed to have taken the heat out of the issue.

There’s one other crucial element in Hipkins’ attempts to persuade the public that Labour has shed the toxic ideological skew that it adopted under Ardern. While the party’s top people work hard at promoting an aura of benign Kiwi authenticity, Labour is simultaneously keeping its scary monsters out of sight.

Actually, make that scary monster, singular. Nanaia Mahuta has done more than any other single figure to promote unease and distrust about Labour’s agenda. Hipkins realised she had become a liability and moved quickly to demote her from eighth to 16th  in the cabinet rankings while also stripping her of responsibility for Three Waters and co-governance.

The 13-strong Maori caucus, however, remains a powerful force within the government – in fact stronger than ever, with a record eight Maori members in the cabinet. It would be wildly fanciful to assume that Treaty activism, the single most virulent source of potential political conflict in New Zealand’s future, has been conveniently neutered within the government following the change in the party’s leadership. More likely the extremists and agitators have been instructed to lie low so as not to imperil Labour’s bid for a third term.

Two questions arise, then. The first (and there are no prizes for guessing the correct answer) is whether the Treaty activists within the government will revert to form if Labour, with the support of the Maori Party and the Greens, secures a third term. The second is how long Hipkins and McAnulty can persist with the already strained Kiwi bloke routine before the voters cry for mercy.



EP said...

I think they're dog tucker. While Hipkins has been out of the country, McAnulty hasn't had what it takes to keep the co-governers down. Seems they've been baying for blood (to continue the canine metaphor, in case you're worried). Happy landings Chippy.

hughvane said...

The pastry and fatty filling of a sausage roll are distinctly unhealthy - so we are told.

I would strongly suggest the same of Histopher Chripkins in ANY future political role, he has form riding his shoulders.

Flippantly - be not fooled, oh good people of Niu Zild!

Eamon Sloan said...

Karl, had you forgotten about McAnulty’s comments on democracy? Comments which will follow him and Labour all the way to the election. Quoting Mr McAnulty: “There are provisions that we have in this country that wouldn’t stand up to a purely academic democratic framework but that’s not how we work in New Zealand.” See NZ Herald website, Adam Pearse, 16th April.
Labour’s newfound folksy, blokey, wokey, spirit does not wash with me on any level.

The feeling I have had for quite a while is that the October election will be a racial election. But with the majority of New Zealanders being quiet and reserved in so many ways they will not come out and verbalise their concerns. My concern is that there is every danger of us eventually being governed by some sort of malign puppet master from within Maori culture.

Nicola said...

Personally, I have more respect for the Rawiri Waititi's and John Tamihere's than the NaNaia hiding and ever smooth political animal (Under his rural guy schtick, he has form) of Chippie and MacNulty.

The Maori Party MPs are proud to tell you what they stand for and at least you know what you are getting and can make a decent choice. The Chippie Govt is just Ardern 2.0 * with smoke and mirrors. Less diversionary language and more cheerful straight talking. Jacinda ducked and dived and wouldnt let herself be caught out, these two, appear to acknowledge faults but lie about the horrendous significance of what they are up to. "Nothing to see here guys, we'd tell you if there was, honest".

Trev1 said...

Anyone who is taken in by Hipkins' "working class boy from the Hutt" schtick is a fool. He has overseen the promotion of extremist ideology In Education, including the sexualisation of children. He is a coward and a proven liar - ask Charlotte Bellis. If he is re-elected he will be under the thumb of the Maori supremacists in his caucus and Te Paati Maori. Sorry if you choked on your sausage roll.

Shadows said...

First time commenter iirc. Long time reader.

It annoys me no end that I can't dislike Chris Hipikins. He comes across exceptionally well.

I couldn't stand Ardern. Her voice, her words, her dreadful head movements. Ugggh.

But he comes across so well I am worried. Ardern at the helm next election would have been a slaughter.

But I see the Maori party. (yes I said the English version) holding the balance of power.

I'm astonished that so many of my fellow nzers think the way they do.

Just some troll said...

Reminds me of a certain photo involving a hotdog. It seems neolib politics is just cheap meat wrapped in carbs.

Alex said...

A good kiwi bloke is honest, loyal, and ethical.

That's that cleared up!

LNF said...

As comments above have said, Chippy is a nothing like the image manufactured for him. Media following around to find out his favourite pie shop. Friday at his favourite table at the Cossie Club.
Why the need for all this. Makes me uneasy

Ben Thomas said...

It is depressing for democracy that voters are influenced by this condescending, "I am hoi polloi, just like you". All politicians try this in some shape or form so presumably the nonsense works.

Odysseus said...

Any "working-class boy from the Hutt" would surely know what a woman is.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the higher prices at New World if it keeps left wing political riff raff away.

Hiko said...

If New Zealanders cannot see what is staring them in the face
Them come october they will get what they deserve

Anonymous said...

McNulty standing up in parliament & pledging his allegiance to Marxism by declaring himself to be a “proud socialist” should put paid to his te-election prospects this upcoming election

Anonymous said...

To quote AC/DC “It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll”

gazzadelsud said...

I note the local journalists failed to find a pie shop that could remember him frequenting it, even the corner bakery in upper hutt which does the best pies in town. Nor did regulars at the Cossie club remember seeing him coming in.

"Chippy" is a typical labour party drone, student politician, political activist, parliamentary staffer, who has never done an actual days work in his life. He has wrecked the education system by implementing the madness of his mummy's prescription for a centralised marxist utopia.