National is back! –Christopher Luxon, National’s new leader

Luxon is an inexperienced new broom, though

By Roger Childs

With Simon Bridges pulling out, Luxon had an unopposed run for the vacant leadership of the party. The impressive Nicola Willis was always the likely deputy, balancing the new leader’s conservatism with a smidgeon of urban liberalism. One of the big worries for the party faithful, however, is Luxon’s political inexperience. He is a first time MP and for all his business experience and confidence, what does he know about the hard realities of New Zealand politics?  

In the mainstream media he emphasized yesterday that he will push the concept of “moderation” but one wonders if this is a cop-out. His lack of knowledge about divisive racial issues was revealed when he indicated that he would be moving on from He Puapua.  But, Chris, the Maori elites’ programme for expanding their power with the ultimate goal of goal of joint Crown–Maori governance by 2040 is proceeding rapidly and increasingly dividing the country.

Does he understand what the programme is all about? His bedside reading should include John Robinson’s He Puapua Blueprint for Breaking Up New Zealand. And what does he know about the Treaty of Waitangi? He needs to read the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi and learn that there was no mention of Crown–Maori partnership, no Treaty principles, no reference to  Fisheries and Forests, and that the natives (later called Maori) were given equal rights, but not special rights, along with the settlers. 

What the Luxon – Willis leadership needs to do

It must increase National’s standing in the political opinion polls and Luxon must quickly get into double figures as preferred prime minister, something Judith Collins failed to do this year. The leadership also need to spell out a set of policies they will pursue to appeal to middle New Zealand and beyond. For example have a referendum on the name of the country to end the “Aotearoa by stealth” process.

Above all they need to entice back at least some of the 400,000+ National supporters who defected to ACT and elsewhere last year because they didn’t think the Collins leadership was a good alternative to Ardern and/or realized that Ardern was riding the covid wave to certain victory.

They also need to re-establish National’s traditional roles as the Party of business and the agriculture sector. Farmers have been treated shamefully by the Labour government, so that won’t be difficult. In the 2023 election, Labour MPs for significantly rural electorates like East Cape, Otaki and Rangitata will be history.

National also needs to decide what they will do about Maori separatism and the growing power of the Maori elites. There is a desperate need to re-establish democracy, fairness and equality in New Zealand society. 

An ideal opportunity to do this would be for Christopher Luxon to speak fearlessly at the Orewa Rotary Club in January 2022.

There is a famous precedent.

Bending with the political wind

The indigenous culture of New Zealand will always have a special place in our emerging culture, and will be cherished for that reason. But we must build a modern, prosperous, democratic nation based on one rule for all. We cannot allow the loose threads of 19th century law and custom to unravel our attempts at nation-building in the 21st century. –Don Brash, January 2004

Don Brash’s campaign speech at Orewa in 2004 set out honestly what the party stood for and how it would re-establish equality. Opponents screamed “racist!” but a careful reading of the speech shows that there was nothing racist about it. 

It hit a chord with middle New Zealand and the silent majority, and from 28% support in the polls in late 2003 National jumped to 45% in mid-February 2004.

If the party hadn’t got involved with the Exclusive Brethren later in the year they would probably have won the election against Helen Clark’s Labour government.

Since 2004 National leaders have been guided by political expediency on Maori issues and have often shown hypocrisy. The He Puapua document, which Judith Collins wanted a debate on, is based on the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) which John Key’s administration secretly signed the country up to in 2010 so to keep Maori Party support for the National government coalition. 

A disastrous election result showed the need for change

National under Collins in the 2020 election National lost significant groups of traditional supporters – farmers, rural towns, and small business. ACT were the big beneficiaries and in the present parliament David Seymour’s party is the only one that stands up for democracy and equality.

National could regain the right wing and centrist voters who have drifted away, but only if they spell out unequivocally what they stand for and what they want to achieve. Brash did this early in 2004 and positive change in the Party’s polling showed the impact of that honesty. He wanted an end to Maori separatism, favouritism, and special rights and powers.

The need to take a stand for equality and against separatism

The Orewa speech in 2004 was clear on the need to get rid of separatist legislation but also laid out an agenda on what to expect from the next National government:-

  • raising incomes
  • increasing school leaver qualifications
  • reducing welfare dependency
  • enforcing the law especially against gangs
  • bringing the process of treaty settlements to an end.

This would probably be the basis for a popular programme today which the majority of New Zealanders could identify with, and lead the way for National to reclaim the treasury benches in 2023, possibly in coalition with David Seymour and ACT.

But does Luxon have the guts and political nous to do it? There is a golden opportunity for National to regain middle New Zealand and the Orewa Rotary Club would be the place to do it, but it would need boldness from the new leadership. However, many will doubt whether the new politically immature leader has the motivation and desire to take this initiative.