“But He Hates Democracy”

Idiot Savant has his say on John Key’s recent speech. What a mess, where do I begin?

In his speech on Wednesday attacking the Electoral Finance Bill, John Key cloaked his criticisms in a passionate defence of democracy. There’s a number of ironies in this. Firstly, there’s the obvious point that Key seems to have stayed silent when other New Zealanders were speaking up for democracy in South Africa, East Timor, and right here at home during the 1993 campaign for electoral reform;

So it’s “Obvious” yet he only “seemed” – maybe it wasn’t so “Obvious” then.

Then you have the fact that most New Zealanders’ would support democracy in these countries, but would not necessarily have joined in campaigns that at times were more than a little cracked. Not to mention that these campaigns are a very interpreted view of “campaigning for democracy” – the 1993 campaign in particular had nothing to do with democracy, just how it was designed.

I just searched for “Venezuela” on NRT, and could find nothing at all condemning Chavez’s recent crack downs on independent media. So he doesn’t even stand up to his own measure.

It’s one thing to throw yourself into an impossible campaign for democracy in a foreign country that doesn’t give a hoot, and quite another to stop and existing democracy from being seriously undermined. Let’s make sure we are not going backwards before we push other countries forward.

instead, his newfound interest only seems to have been sparked when the ability of his rich mates (those same rich mates who vigorously opposed MMP, I might add) to undermine our democracy by buying elections is threatened.

Wonder what mates that would be? The Exclusive Brethren that screwed up National’s campaign, or the anonymous donations that National supports scrapping – both of which National wants to get rid of. Of course, let’s quietly forget that National has by far and away the largest membership of any New Zealand political party – heaven forbid the party that IS hates get more donations!

But secondly, there’s the example he used. In his speech, Key praised New Zealand’s democracy, pointing out that we were one of only 27 “full democracies” in the world:

Next year, like many of you, I will be watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. I want you to remember when you see the flags of almost 200 countries come marching past that only 27 of those countries are full democracies. Only 27 countries, encompassing only 13% of the world’s population, are full democracies, with universal suffrage, with free and fair elections between competing parties, with freedom of association, and with freedom of speech. New Zealand is one of those countries, and New Zealanders are part of that 13% minority.

This 27 (actually 28) full democracies comes from the Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy [PDF].

Nice slight of hand, changing the number to tally with his own source, which he then quotes:

Interestingly, the country whose election finance laws we are ripping off, Canada, rates higher than us.

Woops! Canada uses a system of FPP. That would be the system that John Key (might) have campaigned against (or maybe he was silent, or maybe we just don’t know) – so is that democracy or not? By IS’s own admission, the standard he holds John Key are starting to contradict themselves.

The country Key would have us emulate in the area of third-party spending, the USA, rates lower than us.

Funny, I don’t see that in his speech (another slight of hand). Actually, IS needs to put aside his own biases, and take a good look a the American system. He might find several features he likes.

So while claiming that he wants to defend our democracy, Key actually wants to move us down the rankings towards a US-style cloaked plutocracy – yet another example of National’s “bait and switch” tactics, where the policies work in exactly the opposite directions to the slogans and PR.

Somehow, I think he wrote this paragraph first, then worked his way back.

But it’s also worth exploring Key’s new-found fervour for full democracy. Contrary to his assertions, it’s not just about universal suffrage, free elections, free association, and free speech

Oh no?

– it’s also about whether there are effective checks and balances, distributed media ownership, and a government which refrains from invoking new threats such as terrorism to curtail civil liberties – all things we do badly at.

Nice how he puts a legitimate thing in with the ones he makes up. In this day and age, we have very little to fear from concentrated media ownership – a red herring of the left who always seem to forget non business outlets like the BBC and Radio NZ. Of course, he’s not worried media independence from government. (The issue in Venezuela.)

Of course, he also throws in the whole “terrorism” thing. Sigh. That’s a whole new discussion, and I’m not opening it here. Suffice to say, far fewer civil liberties are impinged by terrorism than IS’s ilk would have us believe.

Does Key has anything to say about this, or how we might improve our democracy?

And the award for “Best use of a Straw Man” goes to…!

Another criteria is the level of public faith in political parties – something hardly helped by Key’s continuing pursuit of a policy of strategic emptiness and unwillingness to be pinned down on what he actually stands for.

Yea, stop stealing Labour’s strategies, and let Labour steal your policies!

Finally, there’s also the level of faith in government – something the Electoral Finance Bill would enhance by preventing rich groups from buying power and influence, but which Key thinks should be shredded. Some democrat!

At this point, we start laughing if we haven’t already. Clearly IS has not even read the bill. If he had, he would know that it does nothing to stop anonymous donations – the biggest concern (on the left – for some reason they don’t care about breaching spending caps and stealing money to do it…), and something that had universal support until Labour flip-flopped and realized that it was going to need it to save it’s hide.

It would be nice if John Key was really interested in democracy, but from his past

…heavily interpreted and “supposed”

and present


behaviour, it doesn’t seem like he is.

Funny that.

Instead, his only interest in it is as a rhetorical prop, a “yay-word” to distract the public from his real goal of allowing the rich to continue to buy elections.

Funny how this claim of “rich people purchasing policies” is repeated several times, but no evidence is ever supplied…

And that is a deeply undemocratic position to take.

I have to say, this piece has bought down my opinion of IS a lot. He doesn’t even seem to have read the bill. He’s put up straw men, contradicted himself, and worst of all, insisted that motives can only be interpreted exclusively under his world view. Clearly, he is only interested in attacking National, not in actually addressing hard issues in the real world.

But then, we must make allowances – after all, he is on the left.

Update: Clarified claim above – it’s “rich people purchasing policies”.


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