Politics | National Party

Joel Maxwell: The Gucci wallet of the Right, and governing from the Koru Lounge

Leaders of the coalition government.

This article was first published on Stuff.

OPINION: Anyone who loses track of nearly $180,000 is not someone who shares the everyday experiences of the average person.

Yes, I know, David Macleod, the National MP whose political donations fell down the back of the party sofa, is from the provincial heartland. But, I mean, even now, if I misplaced $20 I’d grieve the loss for days.

There’s no suggestion the donations Macleod failed to declare, $168,000 in 2022 and another $10,000 last year, were more than the result of a mix-up over paperwork.

But this almost seems worse. What does it say about the money being tossed at National if $180,000 gets forgotten like one more Mintie in the scramble?

This is getting ridiculous. National’s party donations last year were $10.3 million! This is up from $2.8m in the previous election year, 2020.

To be fair, 2020 was an unusual time ‒ with Covid and internal problems for National. But even if we go back another election cycle to 2017, the Nats still got less than half ($4.5m) of 2023′s haul.

Seriously, I’m not sure we can chalk this up to inflation.

Stunning thing number two ‒ with all this money National still couldn’t win outright. It couldn’t even win with ACT, which itself, at $4.2m, almost beat Labour ($4.7m) for party donations. They could only limp over the line with the help of NZ First ($1.8m), a group that collectively partied post-resuscitation by snorting Metamucil off a SuperGold Card.

And even then, all three could only do it on the back of overwhelming popular ennui at Labour, plus a series of Labour MP disintegrations ‒ their sequenced implosions evidence the party’s physical reality was held together only by Jacinda Ardern’s furrowed gaze ‒ and topped off with opposition posturing against the great Māori takeover. He Puapualypse now.

Perhaps it is the Christopher Luxon factor: what is more appealing to business types than one of their own?

That our society is now run from the Koru Lounge ‒ or as Luxon would prefer, to help navigate it, the Lounge Koru ‒ shouldn’t be too depressing. The only time I got into one, I had to be practically dragged out while I gulped down a bowl of lentil soup and hid bread rolls in my shoes.

I’d like to say I don’t begrudge anybody their wealth and how they spend it. But I can’t. People struggle to buy shoes for their bread rolls, let alone visit the doctor, and here is all this money sliding around the Marmont leather Gucci wallet of the Right.

First home grants are gone, free flu vaccines for all under-12s are gone, 4500-plus public sector jobs are set to go, landlord regulations are being loosened, the $5 prescription co-payment is returning, the public transport subsidy allowed to lapse.

Let’s face it, these stingy policies don’t exactly make the average National donor choke back sobs. Tough love is needed, they say, spitting petit fours crumbs in our face.

We’re apparently in a perpetual crisis of helping everyday people, which requires a good dose of spending cuts and tax cuts as an antidote.

Joel Maxwell is an experienced senior journalist and Stuff’s kaiwhakamāori/translator.