The Revenge of the Managerialists: Hipkins It Is

Well, that was a disappointment. As of today, the New Zealand Labour Caucus opted for Chris Hipkins as our new Prime Minister, and I cannot help but let loose a cynical cackle.

(Yes, I am aware that the usual online hacks are praising him to the skies. I like to think I have a smidgen of integrity, so I’ll say this: my expectations are so low that anything meaningful out of the remaining term of this Government will be a pleasant bonus).

For the record, I could not care less about Hipkins’ gender or ethnicity, though I would note that he is the first male Labour Prime Minister in over 32 years. Similarly, he is the first Labour leader to represent a non-Auckland electorate in over 29 years. No, my distaste for him comes from what he represents: the smirk of Wellington bureaucracy stamping its managerialist boots upon the face of New Zealand. It is a victory for middle-class technocracy over soul, and while I thought Ardern was often ineffective at achieving her Big Dreams, at least she inspired.

Is Hipkins “efficient”? Sure. Is he a “safe pair of hands?” Certainly. But as Education Minister he has left Students’ Associations (both University and Polytechnic) to rot under a membership system dreamed up by ACT and imposed by National in 2011. Hipkins used to run a Students’ Association. He used to advocate for Student Issues. And yet everything he has done as Education Minister in the Ardern Government is to keep the neoliberal boot firmly planted over subsequent generations of young politicians. He is the Education Minister who also presided over the breaking of the 2017 Fees Free and Postgraduate Student Allowance promises. My irritation has hitherto manifested itself in a couple of grumpy posts:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2022/02/09/dear-chris-hipkins-new-zealand-wants-the-border-closed/

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/party-like-its-1989-bait-and-switch-is-a-bad-look-mr-hipkins/

In short, he is the sort of Labour leader who will die in a ditch to defend a neoliberal status quo. Not just the status quo from 1984-1993, but the status quo from 2008-2017. We now live in a world where even a return to 2008 is unthinkable. Which in turn means that Labour’s strategy for 2023 will be to ignore Leftist Apathy and compete with National under the mantra of At Least We’re Competent (and to be fair, Hipkins is more competent than Chris Luxon – who himself is running on a policy-free At Least I’m Not Labour position). A Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, both named Chris, both reduced to claiming I Am Not the Other Chris.

Charming.

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