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To New Zealand’s Don Brash: stop counting and start absorbing 

Regular readers know I have been critical of New Zealand’s Labour government, but at the same time I wrote to the Prime Minister around May 2005, foretelling her she would win a third term. It’s not just because is a heck of a nice lady in person, but she has no credible opposition.
   People turn to the National Party not because it has a better plan, but because they see it as ideologically in tune with them, or because they want to vote Labour out of power. A change, some might argue, is needed. is low and I am dreading the fall in the dollar, because I can’t see how that helps a net-importing nation while no exporters are being properly supported.
   But life under the Opposition won’t work, either. They have given every indication that they are party of economic geeks, which is well and good for some. But New Zealanders are still sore from the changes of the 1980s and 1990s, and in that context, Clark’s leanings tend to feel more familiar, less inhuman.
   The won’t succeed because they constantly ignore the one thing New Zealanders like being valued on: . And, if you want to trace that back to its roots, the New Zealand .
   That is one of innovation, independence and inspiration—and a lot of other I words—and it includes, as part of its mix, an appreciation of the culture.
   All I sense from the Leader of the Opposition, Dr , is a series of mixed signals. Dr Brash is a former governor of the Reserve Bank, so it is only natural he steers his conversations to economics, an area in which he feels comfortable. He and I largely agree on the notion that the Minister of Finance has mismanaged the growth of the . But I am not sure that his economic discussion takes into account the .
   I have heard little about how the culture is to be built upon, and how programmes might be funded. Hard questions endear only the initiés, not everyday New Zealanders. And that is where he has not won the “hearts and minds”—he may be the most sensible, economically minded leader out there, but politicians need more than intelligence. (Thus, Shadow Finance Minister , as his stands now, is not the answer for the Opposition’s leadership.) Speaking out against Māori, in terms of abolishing their seats, might appeal to white New Zealand, but in the absence of an alternative (e.g. integrating later, Anglo cultures with Māori culture, acknowledgement of in everything from currency to street signs, an acceptance of Māori models and structures of governance to run alongside the surprisingly dominant ones), Māori should rightly balk at their suggestion.
    should not be aimed at the majority, because that says you are counting votes and treating people like numbers. Speeches should be aimed at the heart and soul of what a nation stands for, and in Opposition, you have a lot more time to think about it, and a greater luxury to say it. This is what does well—you can debate all you like whether he means it or not, and whether the reality lives up to the promise. But he knows he only reaches half of the electorate, and hopes that his thoughts on ‘America’ sift through to enough members of the other half.
   For Brash and National, this will take some training in what the nation brand stands for. National has already done the research. But if it is to stand a chance at the next election, it needs to connect to what this nation means, not just what the party means. And it needs to integrate this sincerely and wholly into its thinking, because it is something the Prime Minister has been able to do rather well in her first two terms—and might again master in her third.

Del.icio.us tags: New Zealand | politics | economics | nation branding | culture
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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