It is very safe to say that 2020 was an absolutely abysmal year for the Right. National, New Zealand’s centre right party, recorded their worst result ever, winning only 33 seats, down from 56 in 2017. Not only this, historically safe blue electorates flipped red, in turn, landing a lethal blow to Veteran National MP’s such as then co-leader Gerry Brownlee, and Nick Smith. In my opinion, this result sends a clear message, that the Right is in need of a major revolution. In order to win back voters, the Right must modernize their policies and get with the times, as their old fashioned and outdated way of doing things are no longer viable in the current political climate.
The Right must first draw inspiration from the Left, which with Labour winning over 50% of the vote, plus the Greens winning 7.5%, is obviously doing something right. So what has been making the Left so successful? In short, the Left has been connecting voters a lot more, creating an actual movement instead of a short term political campaign. The Left has identified many emerging trends and monopolized on them, focussing on the economic and social issues that really resonate with everyday New Zealanders. Compare this to National’s campaign run by Judith Collins in 2020, which striked an 18 year old like me as more of a boomer brigade instead of a movement encompassing all New Zealanders. Times are changing faster than ever, and the Right needs to adapt just as fast if not quicker if they have hopes of winning voters back.
First up is how the Right goes about their economic policies. The left has somehow managed to convince younger generations that socialism is how New Zealand can end poverty, even though capitalism has been responsible for lifting more people out of poverty than any other economic vehicle in the history of humankind. It is true that New Zealand is currently far from a socialist country, but the early seeds are being planted. The thing is though, the left isn’t necessarily wrong that our current economy is not working for everybody. As times change, so should our economy. What we need is an updated version of capitalism, one that champions innovation but at the same time leaves no kiwi behind. Unfortunately, National are still trapped in the 1980’s Rogernomics and Reaganomics mindset, where neoliberalism, a form of capitalism that champions the free market, minimal regulations and major tax breaks to large corporations reigns supreme. Kiwis can see how much damage this has done to society. The housing crisis, China’s takeover of our economy and out of control inequality can all be linked back to these neoliberal policies put in place in the 1980’s. This is the reality of trickle down economics, something the Right has tried to champion and sell to the public for decades. Trickle down economics has not worked, and has tarnished the name of capitalism, giving the Left the opportunity to spread the popularity of socialism. It is now time for the Right to champion ‘trickle up’ economics, and in my opinion it all starts with Universal Basic Income (UBI).
UBI is still a relatively new idea, only brought recently to popularity by figures such as democratic nominee hopeful Andrew Yang, Businessman Elon Musk, and recently even Barack Obama. The Opportunities party had a solid UBI policy, which I’ll use as an example. This UBI proposal aimed to pay out $250 a week ($13,000 a year) to each and every New Zealander aged 18 and older. This would be paid for by a 33% flat tax rate (Businesses and individuals pay the same percentage of tax regardless of their income level). At first glance, this seems like more of a left wing idea (although Andrew Yang and Barack Obama would most likely be considered Right wing in New Zealand). However, in my opinion, UBI is the ultimate Right wing economic idea. Yes, it is true that the proposal stated above would raise the current business tax from 28% to 33%, which at first seems to go against the Right’s philosophy of Business first, but think about it. Basic income would lessen the need for the government to constantly increase the minimum wage, thus immensely helping out small businesses and allowing them to survive in the economy. It also opens up the doors for more ordinary kiwis to become more risk averse and start to open their own small businesses, as they now have $13000 per year to fall back on if all goes wrong. A true free market can’t allow monopolies to take up large percentages of the economy, as it means ordinary people and small businesses are pushed out of the marketplace as they can’t compete. Furthermore, yes it is true that UBI is paid out to everyone regardless if they work or not, which at first seems to go against the Rights prized philosophy of ‘personal responsibility’. When you think about it however, UBI encourages more personal responsibility than almost any other policy on offer. It is up to the individual to decide how they want to spend their UBI, whether they want to use it towards their Uni fees, afford better quality food or use it as extra income in retirement. The individual always has a better idea of how to spend money to benefit their own lives than the government, which is why policies such as first year free tertiary education, the winter energy payment and government kiwi saver contributions wail in comparison to basic income. It is important for New Zealand to remain a capitalist country, as without capitalism wealth is not created and innovation is non-existent, which ultimately makes every citizen poor in the end. The time has come for the Right to get rid of the horrid neoliberal policies they have been clinging on to for too long. It is time to get voters excited about what capitalism has to offer: Innovation, prosperity, freedom. It all starts with the Right championing UBI.
Next is how the Right tackles social issues. Take it from an 18 year old, the times of social conservatism are well and truly over, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum. Lets compare the ACT and New Conservative parties for example. ACT is New Zealand’s LIbertarian Party, at least under David Seymour’s leadership. This essentially means ACT stands for freedom in every which way. Economically it makes them New Zealand’s most right wing party, but socially it puts them on par with Labour and even the Greens on many issues. New Conservative on the other hand, take more traditional and old school stances on Social issues, while not actually being too extreme economically. The differences were that ACT for example was pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-cannabis pro-marrige equality and mostly atheist. New Conservative on the other hand was against all things mentioned above, including marriage equality as the party was deeply religious. The result? ACT won 8% of the vote, despite their arguably extreme economic positions, while New Conservative was nowhere near close to making it into parliament, only winning 1.4% of the vote. This along with the fact NZ First crashed out of parliament shows that social conservatism doesn’t fit into New Zealand society anymore, and good riddance.
National are currently in a dilemma, as their party is split between the more ACT like social liberal types and the dinosaurs that take a more socially conservative approach. Under Todd Muller and then Judith Collins, National definitely fell under the social conservative label. Judith Collins for example had a Donald Trump like presence about her, which made her come off cold, smug, arrogant and unpleasant. She had the caucus to match too! Nearly all of the Nationals list were Pakeha, male and christian. Todd Muller arguably took this to the extreme, as not only was he anti-abortion, euthanasia and cannabis for example, but he actually had a MAGA hat displayed on his desk! No Todd, New Zealand doesn’t want to draw it’s political inspiration from the shit show that is the United States of America! The heartbreaking thing about all of this is at the start of 2020, National was polling at 46%, well above Jacinda Adern’s Labour party which at that time was experiencing failure after failure. Who was in charge of the party at this time? That’s right, Simon Bridges and Paula Bennet, two highly educated and successful Maori citizens who had had humble upbringings and achieved massive success. This again shows how social liberalism is the way of the future, so how should the Right adapt?
First things first, the Right needs to tie Social Liberalism to its prized philosophy of small government and liberty. It amazes me how conservatives can skyte about how the government shouldn’t tread on anyones rights, and then for example be anti-abortion, which in turn essentially gives the state full control of a Womman’s reproductive rights. It amazes me how conservatives can claim to champion free markets, then turn around and be against legalizing marajuiana, which would create a huge industry and give the government hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxpayer money to play around with. Small government, individualism and Liberty are ideas that make me proud to be right wing, but our politicians must actually carry out these ideas, instead of power tripping minorities and vulnerable members of society. Recently for example, Conversion Therapy has been a huge issue amongst the LGBTQ+ community. During the election campaign, LGTBQ+ members put Labour under enough pressure to commit to banning Conversion Therapy, a practice that although barely seen in New Zealand, essentially makes it ok under the law to torture someone with the intention of changing their sexuality back to ‘normal’. Unfortuanately, Jacinda Adern is EXTREMELY hesitant to actually bring in legislation that would ban conversion therapy. This is the PRIME oppotunity for National to put pressure on Labour and come out in support of banning conversion therapy. After all, conversion therapy goes against the princibles of individualism and small government. This is the time that the right should be showcasing these amazing principles, and standing in solidarity with the LGTBQ+ community. Judith Collins however, being the conservative she is, essentially said in response that National don’t have a position on Conversion Therapy! Way to drive people away from the right and confirm to young people that anyone who is remotely right wing is bigoted, racist, sexist and homophobic, which of course is entirely untrue (but thats the image of the Right these leaders project).
Astonishingly, National recently had a laughable attempt at trying to appear more progressive. Judith Collins announced that National would once again contest Maori seats in 2023. The first time since 2005 when then leader Don Brash refused to run any candidates in maori electorates for the name of equality. The public called this sick stunt out for what it was, tokenism. Is it true that the right needs more diversity? Yes, but tokenism and virtue signalling is not the way to accomplish that. Diversity must happen over time, as more and more people are exposed to the Rights ideas and how amazing these principles are. It must happen naturally, take for example the current Labour caucus, the most diverse caucus ever seen in the Beehive. Labour did not achieve this diversity by handing out positions to people in the name of Tokenism to appear diverse, it was a natural occurrence. Even on the right, ACT leader David Seymour is Maori (although many leftist try to call him a privileged white male for some reason), did he get handed his position? No, he worked his way up and has led ACT to their best result ever. Heck, even the New Conservative list was more diverse than National! The reality is, you can’t have a diverse caucus if one of your main ideologies is social conservatism. The right must go back to its roots and put the work in on the ground. Tie social liberalism to the incredible principles of liberty, individualism and small government. The Right must completely change it’s image, but it won’t happen overnight. The Right must have a long term vision and create a movement that can carry out that vision. If done successfully, The Right theoretically will become more diverse than the left. Winning over voters old and young, gay and straight, transgender and cisgender, maori and pakeha, atheist and religious.
These are probably the most important things that the Right must start doing to win back voters. There are many more things however the Right must start focussing on unless they want to be a relic of the past. Although the left has monopolized the environment as a key area of concern, there is no reason the Right can’t champion environmentalism as well. There is still so much political capital to be seized in terms of genetic engineering, Nuclear energy, and other innovative ways of tackling climate change. There is an opportunity for the Right to champion Local Body Government, which has been neglected by all sides of the political spectrum for too long. Overall, the Right has to modernize their approach to politics. We are living in an exciting period and it’s time to think more innovatively about the ideas that can improve New Zealand and humanity. It will take a monumental effort to bring the Right into the 21st century and to influence people to turn to our side. With Jacinda Adern looking like she is going to hold on to power for a long time, now is the chance for the Right to work in the shadows and completely revolutionize politics as we know it. The Left shouldn’t be the only side bringing new ideas into the political landscape, the Right should be bold enough to do so as well. It is the difference between the Right’s future or their downfall.