Tim Sturm sees some interesting parallels between the British Tory Party and the New Zealand National Party.
UK Conservatives concerned with the current leadership battle might take note of similar events in New Zealand, where the NZ equivalent, the National Party, has just voted in Don Brash1, former Governor of the Reserve Bank, and a classical liberal, as its new leader.
The similarities between National and the Conservatives are many:
- National has been the dominant party since at least WWII and considers itself the natural party of government
- It is currently floundering in the polls in its second consecutive term in opposition
- It is unable to counter the lefty backlash against the ‘Thatcherite’ reforms of the 80’s and 90’s and is apparently unwilling or unable to articulate any clear policies or principles.
- It appears to be self-destructing through infighting and ineffectual leadership.
Hopefully much of this is about to change.
The elevation of Brash to the leadership role can be seen as a firm pronouncement of principle, even if a reluctant one for some. Brash is not necessarily the best politician in the tactical sense, but he is certainly the highest profile man of principle the party has.
For instance, he is unashamedly supportive of the earlier reform programme. His central bank reforms were a key part of that programme and became a model (albeit flawed) for central banks around the world.
What’s more, his principles are generally quite good. In his maiden parliamentary speech, he said:
People are generally in the best position to make decisions for themselves and their families. This argues for the maximum amount of freedom for the individual.
(Brash also, incidentally, subscribes to and has occasionally written for The Free Radical, New Zealand’s premier libertarian magazine).
National has finally therefore drawn a clear dividing line with the ruling Labour government, which is staunchly antagonistic to the earlier reforms and to free markets in general.
It remains to be seen whether this attack of principle will be successful in lifting National out of the poll doldrums. Frankly I do not care about that. The long term future of conservative politics lies in principles, not in random shifts of sentiment that National and the UK’s Conservatives have been hoping for.
I only hope the Conservatives are watching.
1 = The linked article overstates Brash’s ‘social conscience’. Brash has written extensively for a reduction in the size of the welfare state. See for example here.