The Dim-Post

February 17, 2012

Haruspicy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:52 pm

New Zealand politics is suddenly interesting! I don’t have time to write about a tenth of the things that are happening – but I think one of the reasons it’s suddenly so watchable is that the long-term outlook for New Zealand politics is totally opaque.

Things have been pretty predictable for the last six years. For most of their third term it was obvious Labour was doomed, and National was guaranteed a second term, and only the incidental outcomes were really in doubt: what would happen to ACT, the Mana Party, the Labour leadership etc.

But the outcome of the 2014 election is shrouded in uncertainty. So I thought I’d write a little about where I see the parties as they currently stand.

National: If they have many more weeks like this last one then it’s hard to see them ending the year on >40% support. If the economic situation worsens considerably then it may be lower. A huge part of Key’s popularity stems from his image as a business guru who can ‘fix’ the domestic economy. If we get to the end of the second term and find ourselves worse than where we started, with only a succession of sweetheart deals benefiting various international corporations to show for it, I think he’ll be unelectable, and his legacy will be one of failure and wasted opportunity.

So assuming he loses support, where will it go?

ACT:One of National’s challenges this term is to rebuild their Potemkin party to attract votes off the Conservatives and New Zealand First. Maybe they’ll cut a deal with Colin Craig in which he retires his party in 2014. There’s around 2.5% right there. But Winston Peters is an amazing opposition MP, so I doubt he’ll lose many votes to a minority party in government.

The challenge will be to attract conservative/red neck votes while still maintaining the ACT Party activist/funding base of libertarians, and prevent the launch of a new liberal party that could lead to more wasted votes. I think most votes to ACT will come from National. Which would be fine – they’re functionally the same party, after all – if National could occupy ‘the center’, and prevent losing too many votes to Labour.

Labour: Their new leader David Shearer is a huge source of uncertainty in trying to predict medium-term outcomes. I was optimistic when he was elected. Now I’m less enthused. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I have no idea what Shearer stands for, or what his goals as leader are. His statements have been awful vague, along the lines of: ‘what we have to do is figure out how to figure out what we have to do’. Some measure of introspection is fine, but this doesn’t scream, ‘leadership’. And it wasn’t reassuring to read this column by Vernon Small:

[Shearer's] Christmas non-fiction reading included Mr Blair’s biography and the writings of Philip Gould, Baron Gould of Brookwood if you please, who died late last year.

Gould’s 1998 book The Unfinished Revolution – how the modernisers saved the Labour Party was the strategy bible penned by the man who was a key adviser and pollster to UK Labour in the general elections of 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Mr Shearer himself does not shy away from the parallels.

He freely admits he is not ideological Labour. Like Mr Blair he is keen to set aside the road blocks to a return to power. His guiding mantra “whatever works” flatters John Key with imitation.

Blair? Gould? It’s a little like those US army officers who went into Vietnam boasting about their mastery of the theory of tank warfare.

Labour’s policies, (nominal) values and political positioning make it the natural beneficiary of a National Party decline. But it still suffers from the character problem of its MPs, many of who are unlikeable, untrustworthy people who the public doesn’t want to vote for (do I really need to cite a recent example of this?) If they have a successful leader and some party discipline then that problem diminishes, but we have yet to see any indication that Shearer can fill that role. To me he’s starting to look like a character from The Wire: someone trying to reform a dysfunctional organisation, but reliant on the support and patronage of the people responsible for the dysfunction.

The Greens: Is Labour a dying party slowly being replaced by the Greens, or is the Green Party currently at the peak of their success? What percentage of the electorate are ‘persuadable’ Green voters? They did manage to increase their vote in 2012 even though they appeal to younger voters, who turned out in abysmally low numbers, which they must find encouraging. Another odd thing about the Greens: they increased their party vote by moving to the center, which then bought in several MPs who are on the left of the party.

One possible outcome of the current trends is that we eventually see a left-wing coalition that’s actually a coalition. A Greens ~20%, Labour ~30% government would be completely different from anything we’ve seen under MMP so far.

New Zealand First: I think I’ve mentioned this before: I think of Winston Peters as analogous to the Mule from Asimov’s Foundation. He’s completely unpredictable. Will he function as a high performing opposition MP? Will he conjure some Winebox-style conspiracy that bewilders the country for months or years? Will he engage in a pointless, destructive war with the media? Will he retire at the end of this term?

The only thing I’m really sure about is an irreversible decline in Key’s popularity. But what fills that vacuum?

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47 Comments »

  1. Key is finally being seen for what he is by the chattering class that pass for journalists in this country.

    Even the ever infatuated Armstrong is expressing concerns about his poster boy puppet.

    The difficulty for any opposition party is to glue together enough discontent (of which there is plenty) in the electorate around credible policies. Labour managed to alienate enough of its “natural” supporters (I blame focus groups and a cautious concern for the “centre” that allowed them through six years but killed them in their final term.) They never fought National on tax reform or parity with Oz. Both issues were bullshit and won the election for National. Fiddling with gst was never going to cut it.

    The three year election cycle we have is brutally short for any ruling party and any opposition party.

    It is early days but Shearer is going to have his work cut out to make a lot of impression in the time remaining.

    However National is floundering. Both Turia and Sharples could soon depart. Clark has left.
    The way is opening up for a coalition around Green. Labour, Mana, Maori Party (and, God help us, Winston).

    It would not take much to bring down that 47% to 35%

    Comment by peterlepaysan — February 17, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

  2. The Labour caucus should have voted in Cunliffe. At least he has a point of difference to Key’s poll-driven, bland style of womans-weekly politics. The only difference between Kate Windsor and John Key is that she has smiled a bit more in the last three weeks. Shearer is missing in action. Useless.

    If the current Labour coterie had had the courage to do something more than try and replicate Key, but leftwards, then perhaps their erstwhile voters would have retained some respect for them. As it happens, a distinct lack of courage and foresight has been exhibited.

    Comment by KH — February 17, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

  3. a coalition around Green. Labour, Mana, Maori Party (and, God help us, Winston).

    sounds like a recipe for Key’s third term.

    Personally I would like to see a change of govt next time from centre right to centre left. I’m of the view that it’s not a good idea to have any one party in power for too long and it is a good thing to have a balance of centre left and centre right policies.

    So ideally I would vote Labour next time round and I had thought Shearer might be the one to convince me of that. Now i’m thinking David Parker.

    Comment by NeilM — February 17, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  4. ACT cannot gain the conservatives from Colin Craig unless they reposition around the social values of new leader John Banks, which would lead to Bank’s ouster or the desertion of the liberal membership. So not gonna happen.

    Shearer’s reading list is incredibly revealing – both of his ideological values (the free market capitalism of Roger Douglas & Tory Blair) and his apparent lack of preparation for assuming a leadership role (he’s only just thinking about what Blair did to grasp power now?).

    Mostly it shows how morally bankrupt Labour are – still trying to sneak nutty free trade deals past the noses of the public. Which is why I’m appalled you would even suggest Danyl, that Labour just need better party discipline and control of their MPs:
    “If they have a successful leader and some party discipline then that problem diminishes…”

    The last thing NZ need is more of the same capitalism that gave us the GFC, from Clark-Key-Goff-Shearer drones of the LabNats.

    Mostly, what we need is reform of our systems, to regain democracy, accountability and transparency. Like recall referenda for (at least electorate) MPs who act out of line with their constituent’s views.

    Comment by bob — February 17, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

  5. they increased their party vote by moving to the center, which then bought in several MPs who are on the left of the party.
    Which puts paid to the theoretical argument that the middle reaches of parties lists are drivers of the vote and therefore carefully aligned and constantly refreshed…

    Comment by garethw — February 17, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

  6. Winston will flourish in opposition, but can he keep his other MPs from being a circus? So far, so quiet. But if I were Joyce, I would have them in my sights and be ready to make the most of any whiff of scandal.

    Comment by MeToo — February 17, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

  7. I think I’ve mentioned this before: I think of Winston Peters as analogous to the Mule from Asimov’s Foundation.

    Heh. Nice comparison.

    Comment by Steve Parkes — February 17, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

  8. Fluff and grit and the odd sock, but occasionally a $2 coin’s been lurking under the bed and will rattle the hose. Come back Hels, for christ’s sake.

    Comment by ak — February 18, 2012 @ 2:01 am

  9. “It is difficult not to write satire. – Juvenal I”

    Where is the satire?

    Comment by stephen — February 18, 2012 @ 5:31 am

  10. Often when I read remarks about Key’s inevitable doom, I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s remarks about rumours of his demise being greatly exaggerated. In this I mean that a constant refrain of ‘left-leaning’ commentators is based around the blithe assumption that Key is ‘lightweight’ or ‘smile and wave’ or ‘lacking substance’ etc. It’s as if they like to infer that his support is garnered from the stupid, and that at some stage even ‘the stupid’ will ‘see through’ Key’s inadequacies and turn on him as if he is some kind of false messiah or exposed purveyor of false potions. This ties in nicely with the idea that he is merely a ‘money-trader’ who somehow ‘got lucky’, and is not a ‘real politician’.

    This is the politician who knifed Brash and saw off Helen Clark, and lately Phil Goff even as his critics were seeking to expose his false credentials to the world, while signally failing to acknowledge that they were capable of formulating a strategy to topple him.

    The reason I mention this is because I feel that historically, this obsession with trying to ‘expose’ John Key as a ‘failed politician’, will possibly go down as one of the greatest strategic own-goals of this political generation, as clearly, if we are looking at actual results, John Key is more than just what his detractors like to imagine. This unimaginative left-narrative of Key smells of intellectual arrogance.

    When Key’s detractors get off this tired narrative and actually take Key seriously, perhaps then they may begin to make some progress in eroding his support, until then many of their accusations seem to be hot air. Perhaps secretly they are waiting for Helen Clark to arrive on a white horse to rescue the nation, who knows? It certainly seems easier than actually knuckling down and creating a credible opposition.

    Comment by Eric Blair — February 18, 2012 @ 6:28 am

  11. Geez Eric if you keep up that kind of talk you’ll be trucked off to re-education camp at 155 The Terrace.

    Comment by stephen — February 18, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  12. What Eric said…

    Comment by cheesefunnel — February 18, 2012 @ 8:01 am

  13. Yep, Eric’s summed it up well.

    If you look at what a few say here, most say at Red Alert and the crazed core of The Standard keep repeating and repeating and repeating, there’s a mix of intellectual and political arrogance on the left. And the normal reaction to anyone suggesting their bubbled bumbling blindness is personal attacks, often aimed at the sort of people who are essential voters for any sort of Labour revival.

    Comment by Pete George — February 18, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  14. “Where is the satire?”

    Echoes my thoughts, Stephen.

    Comment by DT — February 18, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  15. Where is the satire?

    I refer readers to comment 13.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 18, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  16. The tide turned for Key over teagate. You don’t prosecute a journalist (even a freelance one) on the state purse and raid media offices a few days out from an election, and expect the media honeymoon to continue.

    Add to that, mistakes accumulate. It doesn’t matter who the politician is. Key has to decline, he can’t stay on top of his game forever. And teagate was the turning point.

    Point taken about Labour’s ineffectual performance in opposition, but to a certain extent, it is a waiting game. Even Winston would have struggled to land points against Key during his first term. It will be much easier for everyone this time around and if Labour fails this term it will be entirely their own fault.

    Comment by MeToo — February 18, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  17. Over/unders for end of 2012 polling should be something like NAT 44, LAB 32, GRE 14, though there are big margins of error on all of these.

    The Nats have already shed their softest votes; they’ll shed more but it’s hard to see them plummeting without a Major Event (the Teapot doesn’t count). Meanwhile they’ll get credit for even a minor recovery, while the only way things would get worse economically is Eurogeddon, in which case all bets are off.

    Not clear that there are a lot more votes for the Greens. At this point they’d have to sell to the folks who’ve called them hippies/Commies for years.

    Labour are the least predictable in terms of support, though we can be sure that Shearer is going to err on the side of not doing anything for a while, unless Labour are polling so badly that his job is threatened.

    Comment by bradluen — February 18, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  18. National: When someone enquired after the policies of his war government, Georges Clemenceau replied “My home policy: I wage war; my foreign policy: I wage war. All the time I wage war.” If we were to paraphrase M. Clemenceau to John Key’s first term, it would have been “”My home policy: I win re-election; my foreign policy: I want to be re-elected. All the time I want to be re-elected.” Within that context the Nact party had a policy agenda of crony capitalism, parochial toryism, and tired neo-liberalism. “Get us re-elected, then you’ll see!” was the blank cheque written by the hollow men like Steven Joyce and John Key. Now they’ve got their second term the impatience of the elites, as evidenced by the spitefully triumphal and splenetic recent outbursts of the likes of Fran O’Sullivan and Paul Holmes, to cash the cheque is becoming palpable. National therefore has a problem – funnily enough, one it shares with Labour. Neither party has yet woken up to how deeply unpopular and how deeply discredited their tired variations of 1980s economic and political philosophy actually are. Now it is proposing re-starting the revolution, National is now getting a whiff of the depth and implacability of opposition it will face as it tries to square the revenue circle crisis of its own creation with the hated policies of the past. My prediction is Key will increasingly revert to the iron fist of the authoritarian that everyone knows is under the velvet glove of the corporate world view he has made central to his government’s culture. Bill English will increasingly be revealed as the most over-rated finance minister in our history, an ex-treasury junior with the mentality and imagination of a small town Tory shop keeper.

    ACT: Completely finished. They’re politically brain dead, kept alive because National has for now agreed to pick up the hospital respirator bills. National will do a deal with Colin Craig’s conservatives up on the high veldt of the North Shore, and all the chicken run happy-clappy Jaapies who think the blicks and the poor are getting to good a deal will have their voice heard. Epsom will revert to a quiet uber-safe National backwater, which is I am sure how they would like it.

    Labour: Labour still has time. If Shearer has made no impact by this time next year, Cunliffe will roll him. Labour’s biggest danger is that none of leadership candidates has yet really shown the ambition and appetite required to for the job. Someone will have to. The other big problem with Labour is the same as National’s alluded to above. The generational lag in politics means the top echelon of the party haven’t a clue how out of fashion and discredited the Blairite and third way accomodation of neo-liberalism is and how much people are looking for solutions to problems that don’t involve deregulation, privatisation and tax cuts for the rich.

    Greens: The Greens have reached their high water for the time being. Most of their new support came from Labour-inclined swing middle class voters who didn’t like Goff – voters who will switch back to Labour given half a reason. They should concentrate on their on-the-ground organisation to get out their youthful supporters and try and win at least one general seat, but they won’t.

    New Zealand First: The party that consistently tells us it is attractive to politically unfashionable views, but unfortunately (and fortunately) led by the biggest charlatan in NZ political history. The continued electoral success of NZF can no longer just be put down to guillable old people falling victim to the charms of a well practiced snake oil salesman. I have no doubt that a populist, anti-elite, anti-establishment and nationalistic party appealing to Joe and Jane six-pack on Struggle street with a seige mentality policy mix of railing against duopolies, monopolies, rent taking, elite cronyism, foreigners, and bludgers has a solid 10% future in NZ politics. The corporate media and fat cat elites will hate it, but if Winston can find a suitable leader to replace him then NZ First is here to stay.

    And finally a party I am surprised you haven’t mentioned.
    Mana: The Maori Party is finished. It is winding down as a political force. Sharples in particular is more and more an embarassment – he appears borderline senile at times. Turia has lost interest – her primary concern is now making sure her legacy of Whanau Ora is put in place. She will be bitterly disappointed. The rest are as invisible as their party organisation. Perhaps it is still a little premature, but Hone Hararwira’s controlled fury in his measured and dignified response to Paul Holmes disgraceful racist rant in the Herald shows he is growing in stature and what he can achieve if he keeps his temper in check and stays away from his mum. If Hone continues to grow, I pick Mana to win five or six of the Maori seats in 2017, and a general seat in 2020.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  19. Neither party has yet woken up to how deeply unpopular and how deeply discredited their tired variations of 1980s economic and political philosophy actually are.

    Most people don’t care about obscure political philosphies. They vote on much simpler current day issues, like (as you say) the anti-establishment Winstonites, that have no idea or don’t care what a charlatan he is.

    The last election was won by National because they were seen as a steady handy in a struggling economic situation, and Labour were seen as flaky and too much risk of blowing out spending.

    Most people kinda like Key, it’s only a few who are desperate to regain sone centre ground they thing is owed to them who despise him. The tea thing (and the parliament jumper) were just minor blips in his credibility, there’s a lot more accumulating of bitsy negatives to go, and then Labour still have to try and accumulate some positives..

    Comment by Pete George — February 18, 2012 @ 10:46 am

  20. Voters are self-interested and prepared to give parties time to fix things, but seldom like to give parties long term tenure. Labour remains National’s best asset. Greens and Winston enjoyed the support of Labour voters ( non-senile and near-senile respectively ) tired of supporting under-performing clowns.

    I hoped Shearer could sort the mob out, but it’s becoming obvious why he never won an electorate seat – he’s lazy. I suspect that outcomes from more focus groups and local visits will have minimal effect on former Labour voters. Labour need to regenerate within the next twelve months to give voters tired of John a viable option next election. National allowed Helen a third term by not presenting an attractive alternative. John, provided he decides to stay and be the smiling mask hiding National’s MPs, will win by default.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — February 18, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  21. “…I hoped Shearer could sort the mob out, but it’s becoming obvious why he never won an electorate seat – he’s lazy…”

    Howler of the day, dude.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  22. 1. NZ First now has Richard Prosser as an MP, which will slowly morph the party into a more centre-right party.
    2. David Shearer will become a hugely popular Labour leader and will win the 2014 election.
    3. The Green Party will not replace Labour, at least in the foreseeable future. Green support will drop as they have lost their old ideals, and Mana support will rise, to around 1.85% in 2014 and close to 3%, if not more, in 2017.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 18, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  23. Has there been any new polls?

    Comment by K2 — February 18, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  24. David Shearer will become a hugely popular Labour leader and will win the 2014 election.

    Labour needs to do a lot more than wait hoping Shearer becomes popular – the whole approach of MPs and supporters could do with an overhaul, modernisation, and humblisation. Credibility has to be earned, it doesn’t flow from one party to another based on the hopes of the faithful.

    Comment by Pete George — February 18, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  25. I just reckon Shearer is biding his time and in my view there is no harm in that right now especially as there appears to be the beginnings of a schism not only between National and the Maori party but also National and Dunne. Labour certainly need to get rid of some of its established dead wood and they should concentrate on doing that as quietly as possible right now while Winston lands some punches on Dunne and the Maori party over asset sales. Never forget that the middle ground is where elections are won and lost and that’s where Shearer needs to be heading. Although many want to hear some sort of call to arms from Shearer I reckon this isn’t the right time to be making grand standing vision speeches.

    Comment by The Fox — February 18, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  26. Sanct,

    Thanks for the correction, my error – due to poor language. He obvioulsy retained Mt Albert for Labour. I was thinking of the Whangarei seat, as the Mt Albert seat has always been Labour, and they could probably won with any sentient candidate.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — February 18, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  27. “crony capitalism, parochial toryism, and tired neo-liberalism” said Sanctuary @ 18.

    Proletarians of all countries, unite!

    Comment by stephen — February 18, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  28. Also, the Crafarms legal curveball could well prove to be Key’s equivalent of the Court of Appeal’s foreshore ruling. Being a no-win issue for Helen Clark, the foreshore ruling was one of the big turning points for her political fortunes. And right now, Key finds himself in the same boat.

    @ Bruce #26: for Shearer it was a combination of actual hard yards, and the Nats candidate Melissa Lee scoring an own goal during the by-election.

    Comment by DeepRed — February 18, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  29. We also have to keep in mind re: the National Party that the most recently available polls (RM poll, unless I’m mistaken) indicates that there is a significant downward trend in National Party support, from around the Rugby World Cup final*. Nicky Hager stated shortly after the election that he believes we’ve seen the high point of Key’s popularity and that he’ll start his decline. So far, there hasn’t been much to suggest otherwise.

    Right now, we’re seeing a government floundering hard and they’re not getting away with what they did in the previous three years. Does that mean they’ll continue to flounder for the next three years? Probably not, but in all likelihood, there has been some significant damage already.

    Is it enough to lose National the election in 2014? Maybe, maybe not, but so indications so far suggest that a third term probably isn’t likely. Still, early days, right?

    *It’s here, if you want to take a look at it. There are the limitations based on sample size and methodology, but it does provide some food for thought. http://www.roymorgan.com/roymorgan/library/n77960_8.jpg

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 18, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

  30. The best opposition to National is New Zealand First. Pete George, I voted for Winston for one reason, I don’t like John Key. I voted for Key in 2008 because he was suppose to do the following:

    Get rid of the Maori seats
    Not raise taxes but to stimulate the economy by lowering them (no gst rise)
    Key’s experience in business gives him the know how to solve the economic crises facing New Zealand
    He would spend less than Labour hence start the reduction of government spending
    I could trust him.

    So far, he has done the opposite on everything. He isn’t getting rid of Maori seats instead gives Finlayson ( a iwi lawyer) job as Minister of Treaty affairs giving huge amounts of money to corporate iwi and the revision of the foreshore and seabed act will divide this country for sure.

    Raised gst gave the top 10 percent a tax reduction, also caused a deficit of 1.2 billion for all of us to pick up.

    He is a wall street derivative trader, worked for Merril Lynch. He was head of derivatives in Europe and helped get Ireland to where they are today. Key even talks about getting more banks into New Zealand paying 0 tax liability. They were parisites in Ireland. So, no he doesn’t know how to create a business and grow it, instead just sell the shares to it.

    He has spent 8 billion more than Labour, keeping just about all of Labour’s policies. This is even before the natural disasters that hit New Zealand. He has not cut government spending and the cuts you see in bureaucracy now is patchwork to keep his supporters. Don’t get me started on South Canterbury Finance;… Key cost us 1.6 billion but his mates made a quick buck on us taxpayer.

    No, I would never trust the man. He won in 2008 because he was the only option at the time. I voted for Winston in 2011 and am glad to see Winston do what I voted for him to do. I am afraid Shearer doesn’t quite know the ropes and is not a very good opposition leader.

    Comment by jack — February 18, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  31. Ouch. Philip Gould? The man who in his last months openly repented the way New Labour had neglected public services? There’s something a little vulgar about a deathbed conversion, but I’ll take this one. If Mr Shearer wants to read a Gould he should try Bryan rather than Philip. And if our newly-fledged Labour leader learns anything from examining Blair’s auto-hagiography it should be a) to beware the bottomless depths of self-delusion, and b) that a party can be both an electoral success and a political disaster.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — February 18, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  32. I also have to confess myself stunned at the implication that Tony Blair was “not an ideological thinker.” Blair had an ideology alright. It was just a shit one. I’m starting to wonder whether David Shearer is the top-drawer brain everyone took him to be.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — February 18, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  33. Surely, even the most ardent of Blair’s critics can concede that there is something to be learned in how he turned Labour around and made them a dominant political force in Britain after a long and sustained Tory government.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 18, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

  34. If winning three elections on the trot is your measure of success, then everyone has to admire Blair’s unquestionable triumph. But looking back at it from the other side, it’s not at all easy to say what New Labour’s actual political achievements in power were. In large part, the 13 years of New Labour government look practically indistinguishable from the preceding 18 years of Tory government, though perhaps with a more likable face at the helm. Now, with Labour in opposition again and with no prospect of power anytime in the near future, it’s hard to refute the argument that Labour didn’t achieve a bloody thing when they were in office.

    Moreover, the cost of making Labour “a dominant political force” is emerging only now: the selling of honours, complicity in a morally corrupt media empire, pandering to the banking sector, a disastrous and destructive Atlanticism, and the creation of an economy built like a house of cards. That’s Blair’s legacy. But hey, he was very good at winning elections (that Labour would almost certainly have won anyway).

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — February 18, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

  35. jack @30 – curious that you don’t trust John Key yet choose to vote for Winston Peters. WP might be the best bet option for an anti government voice, but his track record of trustworthiness is not very flash.

    Peters is also not as strong as he was, he always blunderbussed a lot, but he is now often vague, confused and less than incisive. He’s not performing very consistently already, I think there’s real doubt if he can last the term with anything like his current party support or remaining credibility. The media keep flocking to him but persistent public exposure may not do him any favours over time.

    Comment by Pete George — February 18, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  36. Higgs evaluation of Blair is spot on though in his early years he helped create peace in NI and outlawed fox hunting. But their bungling of health and education by meddling with score cards and results driven tests and his decision to invade Iraq has left his reputation in tatters.

    In NZ there seem to be quite a few Key detractors who recently voted for him. Myself, I’d never be so stupid but I anecdotally I’m hearing naturally conservative types saying how
    Useless he is and boating the asset sales. The next labour leader has it in the bag. Hopefully they won’t follow Blair’s example and become centre right.

    Comment by Myles Thomas — February 19, 2012 @ 1:41 am

  37. Boating asset sales doesn’t make sense. That was supposed to be bemoaning asset sales.

    The real power brokers in NZ politics are the news media. The natural rightishness of our newspapers and especially radio means that all centre pollies have to be reactive rather than rational. Hence Clark’s Foreshore stance which ultimately lead to her undoing. And the sustained popularity of Key.

    I wish we had news media with morals, or just one news outlet of real independence – oh yes Radio NZ but that’s it, and let’s face it, they’re pretty mellow.

    Comment by Myles Thomas — February 19, 2012 @ 1:51 am

  38. Myles, your assertions are all based on your view of centre, left and right. I mean how can you possibly say, as you are effectively doing, with a straight face that Clark’s undoing was those horrid right wing media types rather than her Governments fall from grace with the electorate due to an increasingly weird disconnect with the national psyche.

    And real independence shown by Radio NZ, pull the other one it has bells on.

    Comment by stephen — February 19, 2012 @ 5:46 am

  39. What will Winston do?
    Have a heart attack? A fatal accident? Pick up an odd disease in Asia? No chance of his going missing while taking a swim….

    Comment by sunny — February 19, 2012 @ 6:01 am

  40. The real power brokers in NZ politics are the news media.

    To an extent that’s the correct, the media have a significant political influence and there’s little to hold them to account.

    The natural rightishness of our newspapers…

    And others who don’t like what they do bemoan the ‘natural leftishness’ of the media.

    And some have a bob each way – journalists leftiies, management/ownership righties. That’s probably closer to reality. The reality is that media don’t preach the good message for a lot of politicians, so something other than the politicians (or their supporters) must be to blame.

    I’ve heard often enough that the media are to blame for Labour not being understood and supported enough. Yeah, right.

    The media don’t retire past-their-used-by-date politicians, theyn don’t choose the list, they don’t choose the key policies, and they don’t do election strategy for Labour (it could be argued that no one does).

    The media do report things like Trev shooting himself in both feet, repeating but they didn’t buy nor sell the tickets.

    The media don’t report Shearer much, but there seems little of substance to report. The Standard hardly even promotes Shearer, and you couldn’t get much more biased towards Labour than they are.

    And Red Alert?? I searched for ‘Shearer':
    – most recent hits February 8 i-Predict, January 31 i-Predict
    – most recent non-i-predict hit January 2 (comment)
    – most recent post about Shearer December 21

    Comment by Pete George — February 19, 2012 @ 7:51 am

  41. Sorry Pete, looks like everybody overlooked one prediction, perhaps because of how obvious it is: nobody gives a toss about Peter Dunne & United Future.

    Comment by Hobbes — February 19, 2012 @ 10:45 am

  42. @Pete George: It’s not so much the limited coverage of Shearer’s Labour, but rather that a major part of Key’s strategy is not to tell the whole story about himself and his manifesto.

    Media barons definitely have excessive influence in Britain. Does the headline, “It Was The Sun Wot Won It” come to mind? And where Neil Kinnock failed to break Newscorp, Hugh Grant and Nick Davies are succeeding. And we haven’t yet discussed the News of the World’s bobby bribery and the latest law swoop on The Sun. As for mining tycoon Gina Rinehart’s increasing stake in Fairfax, we don’t know where that’s going to lead.

    Where was “Democracy under attack” when the police were called in to shut down the Teapot Tapes?

    And it’s been revealed the ratings figures for TVNZ7 were wilfully fiddled with to justify its impending cancellation. And the outlets involved have refused to acknowledge their mistakes.

    Once again, a Royal Commission styled on Leveson and Finkelstein can’t come soon enough.

    Comment by DeepRed — February 19, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

  43. >>I think I’ve mentioned this before: I think of Winston Peters as analogous to the Mule from Asimov’s Foundation.

    >Heh. Nice comparison.

    The Second Foundation will sort him out. To think: Robots dreamed the whole idea up in the first place.

    @jack @30 Nice summary of Key

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 20, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  44. I’m thinking David Shearer may be Lieutenant Jimmy Asher

    Comment by Augie — February 20, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  45. “the whole approach of MPs and supporters could do with an overhaul, modernisation, and humblisation”

    Humblisation? Good luck getting that one into the OED.

    Comment by Hugh — February 20, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

  46. “Bill English will increasingly be revealed as the most over-rated finance minister in our history, an ex-treasury junior with the mentality and imagination of a small town Tory shop keeper.”

    Indeed. If National were really competent managers of the treasury, they would be screaming about the current account deficit and looking at sorting that out. It never appeared anywhere during the election.

    The Greens may surprise people IF they can make the shift to the next level…a party that can guide the country through the major resource and social challenges of the next 20 years. Neither National or Labour (maybe Cunliffe+Parker) have got anything different to offer. Slash and burn or tax and spend. No understanding of the shifting sands we are standing on.

    The challenge for the Greens is to mobilise the younger vote…..social media and changes in voting processes will help this, so expect Nat/Lab to resist any shift to text or online voting technologies. However, they do need to bring in some more mainstream candidates. It was a great shame that James Shaw didn’t get in….they don’t want to be a team of policy analysts forever…it doesn’t connect with the voters.

    Comment by Raf — February 21, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  47. “Credibility has to be earned, it just doesn’t flow from one party to another based on the hopes of the faithful”

    Actually it does. Why do you think National won in 2008 and again in 2011? Because of the faith put in that party by a majority of the voting public. It’s not as though John Key has been a politician for decades and has therefore “earned credibility.”

    Why do you think Clark got a third term? Credibility? I think not.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — February 21, 2012 @ 12:10 pm


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