I'm glad to see that other bloggers are getting excited about it (here and here (1)) but I'm finding it hard to muster up enthusiasm for this latest round. Perhaps this is because - though I'm a committed leftie - as an immigrant I'm not fanatically partisan for one party or another. Lacking this tribal loyalty, I can't get fired up about a choice between a party that will do anything in power, no matter how contrary to its supposed ethos (2), and a party that will say anything to get into power, no matter how contrary to its ethos (3). A plague et cetera, et cetera.
Also, the fight this time is a lot less amiguous. Barring some massive revelation or cock-up, National will finish the campaign as the largest party. The minor parties are roughly divided along partisan lines, so there isn't much amusement to be had there. The only real question is whether their lead is enough to beat off the challenge of a likely Labour-Progressive-Green alliance.
With the spectacular demise of New Zealand First taking place over the campaign, another point of interest is gone. There is no tension as to which way Winston will jump as Winston is unlikely in parliament in a few weeks time. This is, of course, a Good Thing, but the collapse of his party robs the election of another crucial possibility - would John Key, inspite of his recent declaration (4), be willing to swallow a final rat by cuddling up to Winston, if he needed the numbers?
I know it is arguable that it is a choice between slightly crap and potentially demonic (you are entitled to apply the labels to which ever parties they think best) but that has never been a choice likely to inspire enthusiasm. For me, the FTA with China is a massive rat to swallow. I don't know if I can vote for a party that would make support such a deal, (which means Labour, the Progressives, United Future and New Zealand First are out - admittedly the last two were never viable options for me) and I'm even less inclined to vote for one that would brag about it as if a complete lack of moral judgment was something to be proud of. Nor am I sure I can vote for a party that will go into coalition with a governemnt that makes deals like that. Which rule sout the Greens. And I'm not Maori.
WHich then pushes me toweards the fundamental choice - do I swallow the rat? National, obvuiously, won't cancel the FTA with China. Even if they were ideologically inclined to, Key's so used to ideologiacal somersaults that he'd probably announce himself in favour of it out of habit. So it will stand, no matter who wins - unless Winston somehow becomes Prime Minister. Does that make things easier?
In theory, pragmatism should compel me to vote for the lesser of two evils, which is obviously Labour. In the end, it may come down to blunt socio-economics - the difference between the number of babies that would die under (hypocritical, soft) left- and right- wing governments and and the for example (here and here (5)). Some principles have to be forgotten so others can be kept. The view from the moral high ground looks remarkably similar to the view from the opposition benches, and while little ill can be accomplished in opposition, neither can any good.
There are plenty of persuasive arguments in favour of this super-pragmatism. The problem is, the person I imagine making them has the face of Tony Blair. And that doesn't inspire anything other than revulsion.
1 - "Possible election date announcement," posted by David Farrar on Kiwiblog, 12th of September, 2008,(http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/09/possible_election_date_announcement.html), and "Game On!" posted on 08 Wire, 12th of September, 2008 (http://08wire.org/2008/09/12/game-on/).
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-zealand-secures-infamous-first-fta.html.
3 - "Key in family scheme U-turn," by Tracey Watkins in the Dominion Post, 28th of July, 2008. Reproduced on
4 - "Nats won't shift position on Peters - Key," unattributed NZPA article, 31st of August, 2008. Reproduced on the National Business Review website (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/nats-wont-shift-position-peters-key-34647).
5 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/07/21000-dead-babies.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/08/sdsds.html.