Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

Chris Trotter: What The Right Has Won

Chris Trotter,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Oct 2023, 5:00am
 Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Chris Trotter: What The Right Has Won

Chris Trotter,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Oct 2023, 5:00am

WHAT HAS THE RIGHT WON? Or, more accurately, who has the Right won? The answer to that question offers nothing but grief to the left of New Zealand politics.

Elements of New Zealand society whose loyalty fluctuated between Left and Right, like the infamous “Waitakere Man”, are now firmly located on the Right. Immigrant communities, which for many years seemed welded-on to the Labour Party, have also broken away, equally alienated by the Sixth Labour Government’s policies. The over-60s: voters old enough to recall pre-“Rogernomics” New Zealand with a nostalgic fondness; they, too, have soured. The forty years they have waited for Labour’s neoliberal “revolution” of the 1980s to either work as promised, or be replaced, have ended with an unrepentant Labour Government attempting to “decolonise” and “indigenise” what was left of their country. They’ll die before they return.

Let’s start with Waitakere Man and Waitakere Woman. The term goes all the way back to my efforts to explain Labour’s inability to halt the John Key juggernaut. This is how I described Waitakere Man in 2009:

The sort of bloke who spends Saturday afternoon knocking-back a few beers on the deck he built himself, and Saturday evening watching footy with his mates on the massive flat-screen plasma-TV he’s still paying-off.

His missus works part-time to help out with the mortgage, and to keep their school-age offspring in cell-phones and computer games.

He has a trade certificate that earns him much more than most university degrees. He’s nothing but contempt for “smart-arse intellectual bastards spouting politically-correct bullshit”.

What he owns, he’s earned – and means to keep.

“The best thing we could do for this country, apart from ditching that bitch in Wellington and making John Key prime-minister,” he’d inform his drinking-buddies in the lead-up to the 2008 election “would be to police the liberals – and liberate the police.”

Waitakere Man values highly those parts of the welfare state that he and his family use – like the public education and health systems – but has no time at all for “welfare bludgers”.

“Get those lazy buggers off the benefit”, he’s constantly telling his wife, “and the government would be able to give us a really decent tax-cut.”

On racial issues he’s conflicted. Some of his best friends really are Māori – and he usually agrees with the things John Tamihere says on Radio Live. So long as the conversation stays on sport, property prices and fishing, he doesn’t really notice the colour of a bloke’s skin. It’s only when the discussion veers towards politics, and his Māori mates start teasing him about taking back the country, treaty settlement by treaty settlement, that his jaw tightens and he subsides into sullen silence. Though he didn’t say so openly at the time, he’d been thrilled by Don Brash’s Orewa Speech, and reckoned the Nats’ “Iwi-Kiwi” billboards were “bloody brilliant!”

Winning over Waitakere Man turned out to be a great “twofer” deal for the Right. To its immense satisfaction, the highly-skilled, upwardly-mobile working-class Pakeha blokes who began trooping into National’s camp in the run-up to the 2008 General Election brought their wives with them.

One does not need to be a psephologist or, for that matter, a social psychologist, to understand just how decisively Waitakere Man broke with Labour last Saturday. Ever since the “Thank-You Jacinda!” election of 2020, when all of his beefs with the Labour Party were momentarily forgotten, he’s been growing angrier and angrier.

Keeping his business afloat has kept his stress levels dangerously elevated for three straight years. In 2021, he and his wife had both rebelled against what they saw as “Jabcinda’s” unwarranted limitations of their rights and freedoms. In 2022, the sympathy they’d felt for the people occupying Parliament Grounds had surprised both of them. By the time co-governance reared its divisive head, Waitakere Man’s and Waitakere Woman’s patience was fast running out. It disappeared altogether when Chris Hipkins either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, tell them what a woman was.

They won’t be voting Labour again for quite a while – if ever.

Neither will the Indian immigrant community. Back when Helen Clark led the Labour Party, her election night celebrations in Mt Albert would not have looked out-of-place in Suva or New Delhi. Indian Fijians’ gratitude to Labour for offering them a refuge from indigenous Fiji’s wrath in the 1980s was as enduring as it was genuine. When immigration from the Indian sub-continent surged in the Twenty-First Century, that loyalty proved contagious.

It took a great deal to alienate Labour’s Indian supporters but, between them, Ardern and Hipkins managed to do exactly that. To discover how they did it, one has only to offer the proprietors of the small trading enterprises so many Indian New Zealanders have made their own, two potentially fatal words: “Ram” and “Raid”.

Labour’s failure to adequately protect business owners and their property produced a similarly alienating effect among Chinese New Zealanders. Recent immigrants from the People’s Republic of China must have found it extremely disconcerting to encounter a state so utterly useless at intimidating its more unruly citizens into obedience. Disorder in the PRC has consequences – serious consequences. Those raised under the stern gaze of the Chinese Communist Party, have clearly found it difficult to fathom – let alone forgive – the New Zealand Labour Party’s apparent indifference to enforcing social discipline.

Helen Clark’s tight management of the Labour Party for a period spanning 15 years was a record Chinese New Zealanders could respect. “Jacinda’s” and “Chippy’s” cut-price cultural revolution – not so much.

Given that the Right already commands the loyalty of New Zealand’s farmers and businesspersons, the electoral defection of skilled working-class Pakeha, along with New Zealanders of Indian and Chinese descent, threatens to be decisive. Statistics New Zealand calculates the European plus Asian share of the New Zealand population at 85 percent, adding for good measure that nearly 30 percent of New Zealanders were born somewhere else. While the Right clearly does not command the entirety of those demographics, the Left’s hold on what remains: essentially, the Professional-Managerial Class, Pasefika and Māori; is unequal to the task of reclaiming the power it has lost.


What the Right has won it is unlikely to lose any time soon.

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you