Looking at some of the trends here and around the world, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the Mana Party, despite its present lack of representation in Parliament, is in a unique position in relation to some of the changes happening in society.
What are we to make of the events in the United States, where self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, who initially was thought not to have a chance, has gained spectacular public support and still has a chance of surpassing Hilary Clinton? I certainly hope Sanders wins, but even if he doesn’t his rise points at the very least to a groundswell of opinion that is deeply disillusioned with the status quo, the inequality, the still-growing gap between rich and poor, the homelessness and hopelessness of many. Even the rise of Donald Trump, at the other end of the political spectrum, is surely symptomatic of a sense of alienation by many from the political mainstream. Likewise the success of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, surprising to some but symptomatic of an underlying trend of dissatisfaction.
Many people have become much more aware in recent years of the influence of the banks and big money in government and their effect on society, but what to do about it? Awareness of the problem may be more than half the battle, but ultimately this must be focussed into political change, which is why Mana’s role is not only to raise awareness through activism but cement these changes by bringing its policies into parliament.
Mana is the most purely progressive of all the parties on the left, its ideals totally undiluted, unlike the Greens, and not compromised by trying to obsessively capture the middle ground, like Labour whose policies are mild at best and whose reversals and knee-jerk reactions at times make it border on the untrustworthy and arguably right-wing. Mana is the party most opposed to inequality, racism, war, and corruption and corporatisation in government. Mana and leader Hone are also unconventional in political terms for their total lack of reliance on political spin, going for straightforwardness and honesty instead. Very many people believe in the things Mana stands for, but not many people realise it. A few did when they did the vote compass at the time of the last election and realised that the policies they agreed with made them natural Mana supporters.
This puts Mana in a unique position as the party to provide the expression of what so many people feel is wrong in society today. The conditions in New Zealand may not be quite so extreme as in some other countries, but they’re getting there. Inequality continues to grow as ceos get 12% pay rises while workers average 3%, and unaffordable house prices and rents force increasing numbers into sleeping in cars, garages or the streets. And the rich, including the rich in government, seem to see nothing wrong in this but are content to keep pushing it further.
Just a matter of weeks ago Andrew Little proposed the idea of free tertiary education, as Bernie Sanders has in the US. Many people around the world agree with them, and the reasoning supporting this idea is sound, and many people here discussed the idea quite reasonably and were quite open to it. Yet this has been Mana policy for years, and has been laid out with much more supporting detail than Labour’s exploratory efforts. Likewise the idea of a financial transactions tax to stop the rich avoiding paying their fair share. If Mana had brought this up first, many people would have derided it as ‘radical’, yet the idea is the same.
What after all is ‘radical’? It is a measure of how the goalposts have changed over the last thirty years that what was once seen as what most decent people believed in is now seen as radical and outside the right-wing, greed-obsessed norm. But the more people are repeatedly exposed to Mana’s policies, the more they will see them as the purest expression of what they believe in. If you’re against inequality, homelessness, child poverty and the TTPA, Mana is the one that opposes them most fully, the one to vote for.