New leader pledges to win back National Party’s culture wars deserters
Christopher Luxon’s declaration in his leadership acceptance speech that he intends to return to the National Party fold precisely 413,000 absconding devotees rates as the most candid party political disclosure in memory.
This is because the majority of people in the politico-media sphere know exactly who these disaffected voters are.
They are middle class well-to-do females living in the nicer suburbs of the main urban centres.
They deserted the National Party because National itself became a casualty of the culture wars, overwhelmed even.
This entire disaffected segment of the National Party had hitherto been estimated at 300,000.
Mr Luxon’s disclosure of the much greater 413,000 number of absentees, truants, from his party’s ranks explains why his predecessor Judith Collins always seemed so tongue-tied on the matter of the culture wars.
This especially applied to the flagship climate cause and its costs which remain the underpinning worry for National’s traditional base of farmers.
If we estimate that there are approximately 100,000 family farm proprietors, ones that the National Party has always relied on for its bedrock vote, we can understand exactly why Mrs Collins was unable to challenge even the most extravagant of climate doctrines.
Any such direct challenge to the climate industry’s saintly intentions might win over one ACT-prone farmer. But it would harden the resolve of four suburban defectors to continue their self-imposed exile in Labour-Green land.
Given this 1:4 ratio against her it is small wonder that Mrs Collins had to bite her lip in the matter of the culture wars in general and the climate skirmishing in particular.
Mr Luxon in military terms has before him operationally the task of creating a pincer movement.
One pincer must convince the productive sector, the wealth-generating one, that he can at least contain the internationalist culture wars with minimum damage to the local economy.
Simultaneously he must persuade his missing 413,000 former adherents that their abject adhesion to these same doctrines will undercut the very prosperity that confers on them the privilege of their high mindedness and noble aspirations.
Between Mr Luxon and these two widely divergent, diverse, voting blocs, flocks, there remains a formidable barrier.
Broadcasters and daily newspaper practitioners are spellbound by the culture wars. They hold up the mirror in which the straying 413,000 can with a sense of regard see themselves fashionably and virtuously reflected.
Mr Luxon will have to communicate directly with his renegades. He can use things like Twitter and Facebook, and the rest. But this is already conquered territory overrun in the culture wars.
To win back the affections of the 413,000 absentees he must deal with them on their own terms which means using conventional media.
There are recent signs that this mirror may be cracking in his favour.
The first was when the Listener revealed the cost to the taxpayer of the government’s climate induced ban on oil and gas.
Without getting mired in oil depletion allowance minutiae the Listener piece explained the consequences of this political theatre.
It showed how in pulling out the rug from underneath the oil and gas sector the Labour government is now well on its way to achieving the 28 billion dollar economic loss forecast for the nation by the NZIER consultancy.
The Listener breakthrough now seismically cracked even wider.
The article now appeared in the New Zealand Herald. It was handled gingerly by the Auckland daily. Up for barely a day on the paper’s internet version and securely behind a paywall. It was though a start.
Mr Luxon’s upwardly revised new figures on the alienated National Party voters is an astounding revelation. The numbers reveal that whatever he does do or does not do that he can no longer continue a policy of triangulating, taking bets each way on the climate front of the culture wars.
If he does he will generate an even worse ratio, this time of 4:0. This is because the farmer constituency will jump as a body into the ACT fold. He still wont have the missing 413,000 and he wont have any farmers either.
He has to find a formula by pass around this simple arithmetic.
Labour has dominated the culture war battlefield by grabbing the high ground on each and every engagement in the campaigns. It successfully frames its opponents as unfashionable, out of touch, coarse, unfeeling, unimaginative and selfish, insensitive and above all, insular
Mr Luxon a man of a philosophical turn of mind knows that the longest journey in the world begins with a single step.
Psephologists and others who seek meaning in voting patterns might point him in the direction of the Listener for this stepping off point of departure.
The weekly’s enduring historic catchment embraces each one of those earnest yet politically flighty quondam National Party followers so recently become daughters of Aquarius and now so very definably and publicly AWOL.