Losing sight of the big issues by focussing on winning

Steve Joyce and John Key have gotten themselves into a rut…they have become poll-driven fruitcakes, focused only on winning the next election.

They have become excessively myopic and their visions is down to at best 3 years.

I am want to say that politics is the best game in town and to treat it like a sport, and in many respects it is…but on the other hand it isn’t a sport.

As Simon Barnes says at the Independent “the big issues get lost when politicians see winning elections as an end in itself, not a means to an end”.

He explains further:

Elections always made me laugh when I was chief sports writer ofThe Times. Suddenly all the people at the serious end of the paper turned into sports reporters. Who?s winning, who?s losing, blimey that was brilliant, and come on my lot, we?re by far the greatest political party the world has ever seen. Such larks!

These people always believed my job was trivial. So it was, even though I tried to deal with the trivialities in a fairly serious way. But come election time, reporters and politicians and pundits go mad with excitement, and address a mountain of deeply serious matters in an utterly trivial way. That?s because politics is a sport, and winning is an end in itself.

When David Cameron first set out in politics, his great vision of the future was ? David Cameron as prime minister. And after that? To be prime minister again. This time without help from another team. To win, and then to win again. Isn?t that enough? Cameron is like Jose Mourinho with less money and fewer media skills.

Let’s look at John Key…his great vision of the future was to be prime minister, then win three terms, then last longer than Keith Holyoake, then get a knighthood…then…who knows? Change the flag?

All of Labour’s policies that he opposed are still intact…incrementalism is so miniscule so as not to be noticed…all Steve Joyce and John Key have focussed on is not pissing people off in order to get re-elected. Except now they are, because there is little to show for 7 years of government. What we are now seeing is loads of pork…the very things we castigated Helen Clark for.

[I]t?s all deeply dismaying if you happen to get your sporting kicks from actual sport, and believe that the job of a politician is trying to make the world a better place. Or at least trying to stop it getting worse.

Naive eh? I know. It?s absurd to expect a politician to think about stuff that matters. It?s like getting a football manager to give all his time to world peace and the cessation of the ecological holocaust. Nice idea, but there?s a cup tie coming up. There always is.

An apt comparison.

The big stuff seems to be beyond the scope of modern politicians. There are plenty of important issues that worry those of us with a vote but it?s no good asking a politician about them. They?re good at winning elections: dealing with national and international problems is a secondary skill. At best.

Winston Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the others that have been tried. Admittedly in a democracy you are less likely to get slammed into jail without trial and then dropped from an aeroplane while your pre-pubescent daughter is handed over to the president ? Paraguay tried that under Alfredo Stroessner ? but there?s a price to pay for democracy and that price is short-termism. Another name for short-termism is trivialisation.

Perhaps we get the politicians we deserve. Perhaps we should expect politicians to answer ? I mean answer, rather than dance around with brilliant dialectical skills ? serious questions about serious issues. Maybe the root of the problem is the realisation that a few thousand ditherers who, by some geopolitical caprice, find themselves in a marginal constituency, are the masters of the nation?s fate.

And so we come to the Northland by-election, where the government is going to build bridges that will never meet a cost benrfit ratio in 20 years…and cancel transport initiatives in Auckland as a result. They are focussed on winning Northland but are setting themselves up to lose East Auckland.

[I]f you ask a question of genuine importance you?ll only be told how badly the other lot are doing, and that you?ll have a lot less money to spend if they get into power.

When I was a boy I imagined that politics was full of people with ideals and dreams and visions: people who wanted to lead the rest of us towards a better time, doing things our children and our great-grandchildren would thank us for. But it doesn?t seem to be like that, does it?

Cheers, Brian, yes, it?s a very satisfying win. But we?re not getting ahead of ourselves, Brian. We?re just taking each match as it comes.

Yeah, right.

Cynical but accurate.