‘Brexit’ and political instability in the United Kingdom; ongoing prime
ministerial instability in Australia and presidential unsuitability in the United States
define the main symptoms of the disruptions elsewhere in the Anglosphere. The central
question for tonight’s discussion is, therefore: might New Zealand also face an electoral
disturbance like that recently experienced in these three other Anglosphere countries?

To answer that question I intend to identify, from a leadership perspective, three
dimensions of populist disruptions that I believe have been under-emphasized or ignored
altogether in orthodox analyses: namely, the disruptive effects of end-cycle politics; an
unrecognized but underlying leadership stability, and; the contributory fault of mundane
leadership failures. What then follows is an analysis of the leadership challenges faced by
four Anglosphere countries–the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. This will show
that faddish generalizations about a populist wave undermine accurate diagnoses of each
country’s different institutional and constitutional weaknesses, or barriers to offering
competitive and unifying national leadership.

Notwithstanding these differences, I’ll also address the common problems facing
leaders across Anglosphere countries and then turn to disruptions that have already taken
place in our domestic politics and discuss the forces that I believe will underpin election
’17, before ending with a handicapping of possible election outcomes.

The driving hypothesis in this paper is that while populism has been on the rise,
and represents one of the premier symptoms of alienation from, and anger at, politics and
the perceived unfairness of the market economy, it only attacks where institutional or
constitutional weakness exists. Like a virus, populism attacks when and where the host
body is weak and this varies from country to country. In New Zealand’s case, however,
populist reaction has already largely played out and so for those who believe that the
conditions exist for a populist uprising here I will be arguing that they are, in effect,
waiting for Godot.

You can read the full paper here.

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