Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Brexit… Let’s learn from the experience

By Ron Mark
NZ First list MP

The vote by Britain to leave the European Union (EU) was carried only by a small majority.
However, not everyone voted and for many it wasn’t necessarily about staying in, or leaving the EU.
Among the 18-24 year olds, some of whom were scolding the elderly for voting leave and crying that this might mean Nandos would be shut down as a result, less than 36 per cent voted. Could the result have been different if this group had voted?
Maybe, but that’s what happens when people are apathetic and so they will never know.
Post-Brexit commentary suggests the vote to Leave was not really a reflection of optimism about Britain’s future outside the European Union, “but a howl of pain and frustration from ‘left behind’ parts of the country”.
Hmmm, sounds familiar – I am hearing similar cries from people in rural and provincial NZ.
But if the vote to Leave was an economic vote of protest, what precisely was the economic grievance?
Wages, say some. Not surprisingly, the areas where average wage growth has been weak for the past two decades were more likely to vote Leave.
Jobs, say others. Again, there was a strong correlation between relatively low employment levels in an area and a tendency for that area to Leave.
Another theory is de-industrialisation – the UK areas that swung to Leave were also areas that had experienced the biggest “import shock” over the past quarter century, with local manufacturing workers thrust into brutal competition with Chinese firms who are not subject to the same labour market or Occupational Safety and Health regimes as British manufacturers are.
So, we may not have a “Brexit” situation here in New Zealand but many of the issues that led to the Brits voting to leave the EU are very similar to what we are experiencing in New Zealand.
Our governments, both current and past, have always tended to follow the UK.
Why? It clearly isn’t working. We are still waiting for the long promised “trickledown effect” from big business that was trumpeted by Maggie Thatcher and Ruth Richardson.
Just like the UK, in New Zealand parts of the country receive the lions’ share of the benefits and government handouts – at the expense of the provinces which are the wealth generators and benefit the least.
Like the Brits I know there is pain and frustration here in God’s own and people are feeling more and more disconnected and less and less listened to.
So, what are we going to do about it?
Might I suggest you start researching what the political parties are offering so you are prepared for next year’s General Election.
Make sure their policies reflect what you want, don’t just blindly vote for the colour you have always voted for if you truly want change.
At a local level, our council elections are fast approaching. Several new candidates have already indicated they will be standing. Make sure you get to know who these people are, what they stand for and who you want representing us.
Community is important. Being heard is important. Make sure you are enrolled and vote for what and who you believe in.
Like Brexit, your voice could well create a huge change for your local community.

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