The year of a politician who swapped jobs

In old rich Europe and United States, 2016 has been the year of the populist in politics.

Brexit and Donald Trump “surprised” and “shocked” snoozing “elite” commentators. Globalisation had lifted a billion or so out of poverty in “emerging” economies but for hundreds of millions in the rich world prosperity stalled or reversed and they are reacting accordingly.

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The post-Key balancing task facing PM English

Bill English and Paula Bennett are now assembling their ministry. Their task: to continue the Key government without Key but also to demonstrate they are not the Key-government-without-Key.

That is no small feat. Policy lurches would disorient supporters and look like a government no longer in control of the agenda. Too much of the same with minor tweaks would leave voters stuck in the Key era but without Key and highlight his successor’s popularity deficit compared with the real thing.

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The world might get more disordered this weekend

On Saturday there is the Mt Roskill by-election. On Sunday there are two votes that could have a far bigger long-term effect.

John Key has campaigned hard in Mt Roskill to get Parmjeet Parmar up and get back the majority with ACT alone that last year’s Northland by-election took away.

Labour’s stakes are at least as high. It has slid in opinion polls this year, which a Mt Roskill loss or narrow win would compound.

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Green is the new blue. Can blue be the new green?

[Comments to Bluegreens forum with environmental organisations]

Green is the new blue. Or will be for those who want to be politically relevant in the 2020s.

When the Green party started out as the Values party in 1972, green was a “nice-to-have”. It was local. It mostly didn’t get in the way of expanding gross domestic product – except when tweed-jacketed conservatives joined with radicals to block the high dam on Lake Manapouri in 1970, as they did again in 2010 when Gerry Brownlee wanted to dig up conservation land for minerals and metals.

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Surprised? Get ready. More might be on the way

Donald Trump got it right: the United States presidential election was rigged.

He got fewer votes than Hillary Clinton but got elected because the system is distorted. We know about that: in 1978 and 1981 Labour got more votes than National but National ruled. MMP fixed that.

Trump was helped also by onerous registration and voting requirements, particularly in Republican-dominated states, which racial minorities and the less-well-off are least likely to meet (though the courts quashed some restrictions). Long waits to vote didn’t help.

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The standard-bearer of democracy no longer

For seven decades after 1945 United States proclaimed itself the global standard-bearer of democracy — and broadly was. No longer.

Deeds did not always match words. There were nefarious actions in Latin America — undermining the democratic Allende regime in Chile, for example — and at the interface with the Soviet Union — Vietnam, for example. In 2003 it jettisoned international law to invade Iraq, again proclaiming a democratising mission. (Wow!).

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Labour meets, needing to chart a forward path

This is not a great time to be a social democratic party in most rich liberal democracies. Can Labour start to climb out of that fug at its conference this weekend?

Look around. If old-Democrat-elitist Hillary Clinton wins the United States presidency next week, she will do so only because Donald Trump turns off more than she does. Large numbers see Democrats, once the party of social security, as complicit in their 2010s insecurity.

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