A favourite meme of disingenuous rightwinger commenters is that no one likes the Left/the Opposition because we’re so negative. “You just say ‘no’ all the time, why not stand for something positive?” they say, being very concerned about our political fortunes.
Yet less than a year into his third term as PM, it’s John Key who seems to be saying “no” a lot.
No, you can’t have 26 weeks paid parental leave – it’ll cost too much, and no, we don’t want to look at your costings.
No, you can’t give all workers the right to elect health and safety representatives.
No, you can’t have the flag you want, you have to have the flag I want.
No, we can’t take more refugees, the system is too stretched already – and no, we can’t increase funding for that system either.
Time and again the government will make the bare minimum gesture possible. 18 weeks’ paid parental leave – all we can afford, really. All workers in large workplaces or small workplaces in “high risk industries” will get H&S reps – just don’t expect him to have a coherent idea of what those industries are. On the flag, we’re meant to accept that Key’s hands are tied, because they’d have to change the law to introduce a new option – except that’s not true, and anyway, isn’t changing the law kind of his job?
And on refugees, it’s not even a thousand. It’s 150 from our current quota, plus 100 this year, and maybe 500
jars of jam tomorrow over the next two financial years.
John Key couldn’t even bring himself to a one-off doubling of our quota, because God forbid it look like he’s listening to a suggestion made by the Opposition.
When our Prime Minister was thunderously declaring that the Opposition needed to “get some guts” and support a military deployment to Iraq, he nicked a line from his 2011 campaign song – “it’s time to stand up and be counted.” His charade of a consultation process for selecting a new flag kept asking New Zealanders what we “stand for”.
Right now, it doesn’t feel like John Key stands for anything – except saying “no”.