Saturday, June 3

Christopher Luxon is out of step with most New Zealanders, can he really challenge Ardern? | Morgan godfery

In in the end, the business party chose the businessman. Former National Party leader Simon Bridges is out, again, and former Air New Zealand CEO and Botany MP Christopher Luxon is in.

In hindsight, it seems like it was always a done deal. Sir John Key, a former prime minister and leader of the National Party, was a prominent supporter, while outgoing leader Judith Collins was pursuing an “all but Bridges” policy, effectively handing over the leadership to Luxon (and holding him hostage to her and the demands of his faction in the process). Political commentators were choosing Luxon as their future leader before entering parliament, and just a year later, here he is.

That captures the central problem of the new leader of the National party: He was always a big fish in a small pond. The C-suite executive. The skilled communicator. The anointed one whose rise seems less organic and more orderly. Jacinda Ardern was the perpetual MP: she stepped aside for Grant Robertson and Andrew Little before the events (polls crashed in 2017), a desperate bunch (the election was a few months away), and her own sense of duty ( there was literally no other viable candidate) reluctantly led her to the party leadership. That humility meant that the public came to her with a degree of goodwill.

However, Luxon came to work with “future leader tags” attached to his tailored suit. It is the supreme predator of the National Party and, like all large fish, it comes with a number of smaller fish that feed on its guts, be it the conservative Christian right wing who are probably literally praying for his prime minister or journalists. invested in the “narrative.” “Of his promotion. This is a difficult space for any leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.

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Where Ardern came to the opposition leadership with policies that were remarkably “indistinct” – he was just kind – Luxon comes with an awkward track record. In 2019 He told the media that he was against the decriminalization of abortion and the reform of the euthanasia law. As of this week, he is refusing to say whether he will whip his group into voting to ban conversion practices (personally, he supports the ban), although he is pledging not to go ahead with abortion law reform again.

These positions, which are changing rapidly as he uncovers the demands of leading a centrist party, constitute Luxon’s first test as a leader. Do you keep faith in your evangelical base, continuing to take socially conservative positions in line with your beliefs? Or do you put your personal ambition first, supporting socially progressive reforms in accordance with the views of the vast majority of New Zealanders? So far, it’s a line the former CEO is crossing quite clearly, emphasizing the sense of mission that his Christianity bestows while at the same time trying to separate it from his political decision-making. However, the media will always invite you to stumble upon that line, and sooner or later you surely will.

But genuine Luxon faith is not their preferred selling point. Instead, it’s your business experience.

“I have built a career reversing the fortunes of underperforming companies and will bring that real world experience to this position,” he told the media after the successful leadership vote. The argument is that, as a former head of Air New Zealand, you can get the job done. In a sense, that seems quite reasonable. CEOs can be excellent politicians. Both roles share a commitment to ruthless discipline of the message, lest one scare shareholders or voters. Both roles also require experience in making high-risk decisions. But in another sense it is a cliché and, like any other, it collapses on inspection.

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Does it take a corporate genius to run a state-owned company with an effective monopoly? CEOs use their talents for private purposes. Politicians, in theory at least, care about the public good. But CEOs find it difficult to break this habit, and they tend to confuse the ease of doing business with a strong economy and a healthy society. Witness Luxon, millionaire and owner of seven houses, protesting this year’s minimum wage increase, a raise that earned a full-time worker an additional $ 40 a week. At first glance, this is difficult to square with Luxon’s commitment to a “more secure, aspirational and prosperous future.” Hard to square, of course, until you realize the unspoken implication: National wants to pursue a more secure, aspirational and prosperous future primarily for business owners.

Perhaps this makes Luxon another “neoliberal” leader. You can take this in the economic sense, as a general description for a conservative leader that your left-wing correspondent disagrees with. But it has a more serious meaning than that. If you choose the main policies that make up the neoliberal family (privatization, destruction of unions and reduction of personal and corporate taxes), what they have in common is that they transfer wealth from the workers to the owners of capital. It could be said that neoliberalism was never a coherent political or intellectual project. It was just a scam. So the neoliberal leader is not necessarily a pathetic Friedman or, like Judith Collins, an enthusiastic Thatcherist, but someone whose policies will continue or accelerate the transfer of wealth to the owners of capital.

The minimum wage increase opposing Luxon seems to fit that bill quite well.

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But this makes him a man out of time. The world is facing a pandemic, runaway climate change, and all kinds of democratic and authoritarian upheavals. And among them, Christopher Luxon surprises one like the man of yesterday, both in his beliefs and in his business experience. Is this really the man to defeat Ardern?

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