24 February 2013

The Johnkey cargo cult

A taxi-driver asked me recently if I 'like' John Key. Having never met the man, I was at first puzzled by the question – only then to realise that I think too hard about politics. Because, the way that elections are  normally won in this country is that, when more voters 'like' the leader of one of the two major parties, then that lucky person is on the way to becoming PM, regardless of whether the same voters would actually 'like' that party's policies had they bothered to read its election manifesto and to think about the consequences.
'Liking' John Key is akin to a cargo cult (see the entry on Wikipedia, if you're not quite sure what that means). A common rationale for 'liking' him (and for voting National) was that, because Key had gotten a whole lot of money for himself, he would do the same for the rest of us. We were facing very difficult economic times in 2008, so we put a rich trader into the Beehive to make sure that 'the money' would flow back into our economy – by some mysterious means that no-one really understood – and we would be able to catch up with the Aussies, if not the Americans.
More than four years on, the results are unimpressive. From a technical economic point of view, the recession is over, but, from the point of view of the unemployed or those working on the minimum wage, it's not. The only policies that the National-led government has been really successful in implementing are sacking public servants and kicking the poor in the teeth. Beneficiaries have served National well as scapegoats for political and economic mediocrity.
Last year was a disaster for the National-led government, though. The litany of scandals and cock-ups is simply too long (and too boring now) to repeat here. And 2013 has begun with more, as the convention-centre democratic-process-for-sale scandal gets an airing.
Nonetheless, National still rides relatively high in the opinion polls – although it is slipping, and it now looks in danger of losing office to a red–green coalition in 2014. My guess is that those who are doggedly sticking with 'liking' John Key have scaled back their hopes. His ability to make himself rich may not rub off on the rest of us after all, but at least, they hope, he will be better at averting economic disaster than the other guy (whom they don't 'like'). Oh, and he 'saved the hobbit,' don't forget. The Johnkey cargo cult has not yet lost its mojo. But then, cargo cults are known to be very persistent.