In early December two new National MPs were welcomed as heralds of the new multi-ethnic National Party. The maiden speeches of Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa LeeÂ were the perfect showcases of a new look party: ethnic heritage, community languages, younger faces, respect for the tangata whenua. Yet despite the effort National has put into the semblence, today’s party is no more more inclusive than it was under Brash or English, it’s just a little less out-dated in its conservatism.
Lotu-Iiga, with his Auckland Grammar schooling, his Cambridge MBA and his career in Finance and Law is not typical of New Zealand Samoans. Lee’s career as a TV journalist is far from the experience of most Asian immigrants. They are as unrepresentative of their communities as Key is of state house kids.
Don’t misunderstand me, this is no criticism of either of them â€“ they’re clearly bright intelligent successful people who may well be outstanding additions to Parliament. But signs of National becoming a diverse party of social inclusion they are not.Â National has not started representing mainstream New Zealand â€“ with our working class jobs, our trades qualifications, our disabilities, our rented cold damp homes and our struggle to access health services and education.
All that has happened is that National â€“ traditionally the party of the wealthy, of business connections, of the 5% â€“ has finally realised that, despite the policies of the right, a handful of Pacific and Asian immigrants have clawed their way into that privileged few.