Title: Rob Muldoon's ghost and the centre-right Credit: Craig Young Comment Saturday 4th December 2004 - 12:00pm1102114800 Article: 518 Rights
Recently, I read a psychoanalytic account of the Thatcher era in the United Kingdom. It talks about her disembodied presence, 'haunting' the Michael Howard Tory Opposition. As I read it, I reflected that the same phenomenon is not unknown here. In our case, the spectre in question is small, porcine, populist and previously known as Robert. Of course, I am talking about the late Sir Robert Muldoon, who died twelve years ago, but still haunts the contemporary New Zealand centre-right. The Little Corporal delayed homosexual law reform, repeatedly tried to deny women's reproductive freedom, and obstructed the introduction of centre-right market-centred economic and social policies. He presided over "Rob's Mob," a pack of viciously stupid, rural anti-intellectual types who prided themselves on not having a tertiary education, being disproportionately religious, and liable to project their own declining standard of living onto social outsiders. Muldoon's reign ended when his shaky regime finally collapsed due to the courage of Marilyn Waring, National's semiout lesbian Waipa MP. Because "Rob's Mob" included the Christian Right, the latter couldn't accept that the Lange Labour administration intended to do things very differently, and took longer to fade out. In fact, it's probable that the last gasp of the Mob occurred when the Christian Right fought the New Zealand gay community over homosexual law reform, and we won. Despite Muldoon's deposition and demotion, he still haunted his colleagues, even after he passed away in 1993. Even in death, his disembodied spectral presence, political tactics and constituency haunted the National Party and possessed Tauranga MP Winston Peters, who formed New Zealand First to carry on his mentor's legacy. In addition, the Christian Right was caught in long term denial when even the National Party turned its back on its previous parasitic constituency during the nineties. Bolger had learnt that bipartisan social liberalism was the best strategy to attract urban supporters, and it worked, for a while. In the late nineties, Helen Clark and Labour won the last general election of the twentieth century, and still, Muldoon's ghost haunted the National Party and centre-right. It possessed Richard Prebble, Stephen Franks and Muriel Newman (ACT), whose erratic populism and social conservative obsessions alienated social liberal voters from National's logical coalition partner. When it seemed that New Zealand First would perish at the next general election, it possessed Bill English, leading to a disastrous election result for his party, which was transformed into a pack of extremist social conservatives. In their weakened condition, they proved no match for the siren call of the populist past. It's like an addiction and a habit to them now. It has all but destroyed ACT, and it is eating into National's electoral support like acid. Send her victorious, long to reign over us. Three more years. Helen, that is. Recommended Reading: Heather Nunn: Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation: Lawrence and Wishart: London: 2002. Craig Young - 4th December 2004    
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