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The First Post
4 November 2005

Political correctness — the backlash

Some politicians in NZ think minority causes have gone far enough, explains Ruth Dudley Edwards

"IT'S political correctness gone mad" is the cliché of our times but in New Zealand some sufferers are fighting back.

Since he became leader of the conservative National Party in 2003, Dr Don Brash - ex-governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand - has challenged the "drift towards racial separatism" that accelerated under the famously politically correct Labour prime minister Helen Clark.

An unlikely ally was Labour MP John Tamihere, a Maori, who worries about Maori problems such as welfare dependency. He has also complained of his party's domination by the "Wimmin's Division... bagging cops that strangle protestors they should be beating the proverbial out of. I don't mind front-bums being promoted," he added tactfully. "But just because they are (women) shouldn't be the issue. They've won that war. It's just like the Maori - the Maori have won, why don't they just get on with the bloody job."

While the debate, raged, Dr Brash's academic lawyer colleague, Dr Wayne Mapp, gave a thoughtful lecture in which he contrasted liberalism with political correctness.

"Firstly," he said, "political correctness is a set of attitudes and beliefs divorced from mainstream values. Secondly, the politically correct person has a prescriptive view of how people should think and what they are permitted to discuss. Thirdly, and most importantly, political correctness is embedded in public institutions, which have a legislative base and coercive powers. It is this third aspect that gives political correctness its authority."

In September's election, the National Party vote went up by 18 per cent; it won just two seats fewer than Labour, who took office again. Last week, Dr Brash appointed Dr Mapp as party spokesman for "political correctness eradication".

"It's anti-political correctness gone mad," said one commentator.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards