Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 24. 28th September 1972
Fly Informal Voteways
Fly Informal Voteways
"Jack Marshall, Jack Marshall lend me your Muldoon,
For I've something to do, and I need the poltroon.
An election to fight, on behalf of the Right,
Against Labour, Manapouri, Tim Shadbolt,
Barry Mitcalfe, Tom Newnham, Stan Rodger
Brian Edwards, Trevor Richards, old uncle
Tom Skinner and all. Old uncle Tom Skinner and all.
—traditional New Zealand folk ballad circa 1972.
I was staring moodily into my fourth cup of coffee last Saturday, and absentmindedly tormenting the cat, when there came a knock on the door, and there stood a youth of sober mein. "May I come in," said he?
"I don't want an encyclopaedia," I cried.
But it was too late. He had leapt over the threshold and slammed and bolted the door. "I am from the Labour Party," quoth he, forcing me back into my chair and shining a bright light directly into my eyes. I wish to ask you some questions. And so he did, such as: If the election was held today would you vote Labour or Labour and: Do you keep a canary (see Kornplaster and Phibbs: The Keeping of Cage Birds as a Determinant of Voting Behaviour Among Trade Union Organisers: Proceedings of the Bratislavian Congress on Congress, 1971). And then he was gone. A friendly soul I thought, but what a funny way to spend a Saturday. Then it struck me in a flash of blinding light. In a mere two months there will be an election. Feeling like Saul on the road to Damascus just after his unfortunate accident, I rushed outside to where my good wife was pensively hanging out the washing. "Good wife," I cried, "there is soon to be an election, and who will win?"
"McGovern, I hope," returned she, and suitably crushed I slunk back indoors, fell back into my chair, and imagined how it would be.
In a badly appointed public lavatory labelled Trades Hall, in the meaner part of town, in the offices of the Transept and Genial Wankers Union, dressed in tattered overcoats, and crouched over a guttering candle, sat Normal Kirk and his band of trusty followers. "Brothers," he croaked, "I have here the Labour policy for the forthcoming election. A hundred-weight of coal in every bath" There was silence for a moment, and then a thousand hobnailed boots beat ecstatically on the floor and the Red Flag was on all lips. In the midst of this rejoicing Normal blenched. "The intellectuals are coming," he whispered hoarsely, and fled panicstricken into the night.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, in the luxurious suite of the Notional Potty, tastefully decorated with Comalco shares and imported Japanese beechwood furniture, Gentlemanly Jack Marshall was reading his orders from the Employers' Federation. "I will open my campaign," he purred to the assembled jackels of Wall Street, "with a mass rally at the Nelson Cotten Mill, followed by a whistlestop tour of Nelson province, and an address to the miners at Dobson. There will be a visit to the famous drowned village at Te Anau, a week's rest and recreation at the Paremoremo Tourist Hotel to see the first night of: Riots — A Comedy in an Infinite Number of Acts, and then I shall return to Wellington for cocktails with the French ambassador, Baron Piere Chateau-Mouton-Rothschild who has promised to show me that there is no danger from the atom bomb by exploding one in his own rose garden, and only the town belt will suffer." Polite applause rippled around the room, making a sound like the rustling of new banknotes. There was no doubt about it. The man was brilliant. There was a disturbance in one corner of the room, as Robert Muldoon (what a pretty name) lurched to his feet, overturning several bottles of Gilbey's Gin. "But we have no policy," he snuffled.
"Sit down," cried the contingent from the RSA, showering him with withered wreaths removed from war memorials all over the country last Anzac day, "we have never had a policy in the past. What need have we of one now?"
But enough of these stereotypes. In November this year you will be exercising your vote along with about a million other souls. Pause, gentle reader, to consider what is going on here. This tiny lump of Victoriana in the Antipodes shelters several sorts of voters, and of one of these you make one.
To begin with there's your blue collar worker, traditionally a hairy person who lives at the bottom of sump. About 70% of him votes Labour, and there's less of him than there used to be. Then there's your clerks and whatnot, and some of them vote Labour and some for the other lot, and there are about the same number of them as there used to be. Next your farmers, and I don't have to tell you how they vote. The same with administrative and managerial workers (whoops, sorry, personell).
And we've got about the same number of lawyers and accountants and teachers and doctors and clergymen and that, or more correctly we've got too many accountants and lawyers and not enough teachers and doctors and it all comes out in the wash, isn't free enterprise lovely. Oho, says some smartarse mathematician, if the population is going up and most groups stay the same in proportion to population and some groups are declining, who are these other people?
I'm glad you asked that question, madam. They are horrid, wicked people called technocrats who have arrived on the stage of history through a trapdoor labelled electronics technology and all who sail in her. They are computer programmers and television producers and scientists doing peculiar things, and designers and admen and all sorts. The political future of New Zealand belongs to them and they have no political home because almost no-one is aware that they exist. The Labour Party has never heard of them and can't understand why it isn't winning elections, and blames it all on the media, except for the left-wing of the Labour Party is an interesting case, by the way, because it has a vested interest in everything getting worse. They would weep bitterly if everything improved (especially under a Labour Government); they are like the nuns who broke down and cried because there were no more lepers. They also have a death wish. Two of its thicker lads are currently preparing a booklet entitled: Why Labour Lost in '72. I wouldn't mind but they're bound to get it all wrong because their categories of thought belong to Europe about forty years ago. So it goes.
Most members of the National Party are completely unaware of the existence of these technocrats too, as shown by the selection of Jack Marshall as leader. He represents the old coalition of farmers and nineteenth century urban middle class to whom the future does not belong. Jack Marshall is too softcentred for the technocrats. Their man is your friend and mine Robert Muldoon, because he is the only person in the community today who has an eye for the future, jaundiced though it might be. Technocrats want to be loved and he's prepared to love anyone who will support him - a sort of poor man's Huey Long. So you see it doesn't really matter who gets in in November and my good wife was quite right to go on pegging out the washing with no display of political enthusiasm. National or Labour, Muldoon wins. If National gets in he gets to grind the faces of the poor for another three years. If Labour gets in it won't have a clue what's happening and will blunder from crisis to crisis (a la Wilson), and end up in a daze singing twenty verses of Oh Jesus, I have promised, as the 1975 election approaches. Muldoon is probably the only member of parliament who does know what's going on and has a bit of style with it. What he does with his knowledge and style frightens the hell out of me, but in opposition he'll murder Labour. And he would get a bonus in the form of another stab at Jack Marshall's back, exposed by the failure of National.
It isn't a pretty thought and the only thing left to do is to make like the pig. Not the pig as in Muldoon, but the pig as in the story about the drunk lying in the gutter with a pig. A passing lass said you could tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses, and the pig got up and slowly walked away. Why don't we all just get up and slowly walk away.