Friday, July 01, 2005

How Irrelevant Is Rodney Hide?

It seems to me that whenever I write something, I manage to lose a friend.

It isn't my habit to kick a sturdy right-winger when he's down, but in this case, I come not to praise Rodney, but to bury him. And there my Mark Anthony performance finishes, because firstly, I can't be fucked, and secondly, Rodney's survival is beyond even Shakespeare's rhetoric.

There was a time, at the peak of Jim Bolger's centrism, when Act served a useful purpose. Made up of mainly former Labour Party faithful who did more to improve New Zealand's economic landscape than any of their Muldoonist National counterparts, Act was a party to be admired. They were the backbone. The conscience of the Right. Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas were iconic. Heroes for all those who believed in minimum state intervention and maximum individual economic liberty.

But times have changed. Roger and Richard went quietly into the night. Rodney is raging against the dying of the political light, but it is Rodney himself who has blown out the candle. Whereas Douglas and Prebble will be remembered for their economic reforms, for restructuring the public sector, and for changing the way New Zealanders understand the role of the state in their daily lives. Rodney will be remembered for exposing Jonathan Hunt's taxi chits.

Which, admittedly, is more than most MPs achieve in their political lifetime. Certainly, Rodney has had a far greater impact on the New Zealand Parliament in the last nine years than has Richard Worth in the last six in Epsom. But that isn't the point.

To lead a minority back-bone party, Rodney has to be associated with a brand that is distinct from National. Rodney has to prove to New Zealand that without him keeping National honest in government, there would be no distinction between National and Labour. He has to establish that Parliament, and Government, is outstandingly better for National voters to break away and support him, rather than their own party. And most of all, he has to get voters to take him seriously.

Sadly, Rodney has squandered that opportunity. He has occupied himself with trivia, while National has successively recruited genuine heavyweights who have had a major impact on New Zealand economics and business outside of their political careers: Don Brash, Tim Groser, and John Key. Together they bring experience and integrity to their arguments that the economy is better managed by National, rather than Labour.

And in the economic policy debate, crucially, Rodney doesn't even make it to the top of the table, let alone show any interest in being anything other than a sideshow. National voters know that for the first time in more than a generation, National possesses an economic "dream team" that cannot be matched by either Labour, or Act's ginger group.

This election is about fundamental policy differences between National and Labour. The electorate doesn't need Act to accentuate those differences.

So farewell, Rodney. It's been a fun ride. But like all roller coasters, this one is coming to an end.

4 comments:

Rob Good said...

Don't rule Rodney out yet....

Rob Good said...

Rodney needs to pull something memorable out of the bag right now, but as you mentioned he is better for the Epsom electorate and NZ than Mr Worth.... I think that if Winston is going to be in a power playingg position we need Rodney there to keep him honest...

coge said...

Putting it quite simply, a vote for anyone other than Rodney is a vote for continued socialism.

Anonymous said...

You say that like its a bad thing Coge :)