The Dim-Post

April 30, 2012

Cunliffe shores up the base

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:35 am

Yesterday David Cunliffe gave a speech to the New Lynn branch of the Labour Party, ostensibly about economic development (his portfolio) but it is an overt challenge to Shearer and a signal of where Cunliffe would take the party if he was in charge. The speech is a critique of neo-liberal economic policy, wedded to a revisionist theory that voters didn’t support Labour in 2011 because they were a party of neo-liberalism (even though they actually ran on a very left-wing policy platform, mostly copied from the Green Party.)

When the right-wing party says that it’s going to cut your leg off, voters want the left-wing party to say that it’s not going to cut your leg off. Voters don’t want to be told that the left-wing party is also going to cut your leg off, but cut it off a bit lower down and give you some anesthetic.

It’s a very good speech. Cunliffe has only posted it to Facebook, so I’ve reproduced it here below the fold.

(more…)

April 27, 2012

First mover advantage

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:20 pm

DPF wonders why people still vote for Labour, as opposed to the Greens. I think tribalism is a major factor – political scientists think that most voting is expressive (‘I vote for this party because of who I am’) rather than instrumental (‘I vote for this party to have these values advanced, or these policies implemented’) and so people vote Labour (or whoever), because ‘they’re a Labour supporter’.

But a huge difference between the parties is that Labour have electorate MPs and the Greens don’t, and probably won’t have any for some time. Having a well-funded advocate for an electorate who will one day (probably) be part of the government is a big advantage.

There’s a theory that the Labour Party is in decline, destined to be eclipsed by the Greens, and pretty much everything that happens in contemporary NZ politics strengthens that case. But it’s hard to see how the Greens could try to capture many/any electorate seats off Labour without splitting the vote and handing almost every electorate seat in the country to the National Party. (Of course this problem goes away if we transition to a proportional voting system in the electorate votes.)

April 26, 2012

Strategy and tactics

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:50 am

This Herald article gives an insight into the strategic thinking behind David Shearer’s first four months as Labour leader:

Mr Nash and, to a lesser extent, John Pagani – another of Mr Shearer’s advisers – are understood to have disagreed with his chief press secretary, Fran Mold, about the extent to which Mr Shearer should lead attacks on the Government rather than refuse to be drawn into oppositional politics.

Mr Nash is believed to have been keen for Mr Shearer to focus on building up his “non-politician” image, focusing on being optimistic rather than engaging with National.

And how’s that non-political politician, non oppositional opposition leader approach working out?

A Roy Morgan poll at the weekend boosted National to 49.5 per cent, up 5.5 on last month.

The results show Mr Shearer has made little headway.

Rumblings over splits in his backroom team and speculation on a Left-wing blog left deputy Grant Robertson denying he was preparing to mount a challenge.

Mr Shearer said the poll results were “sort of surprising”.

Not really.

My sentiments over the past few months, informed by chats with those few Labour staffers/members who still talk to me have been (a) excitement when Shearer became leader (b) apprehension when he appointed Nash as his Chief of Staff – you want the CoS to lead you into the next election, not leave six months out from it to go run for office himself (c) appalled stupification when he re-appointed Pagani, who (fairly or unfairly) seems to be regarded as the architect of Goff’s worst blunders (d) deflation when it became apparent that Shearer didn’t have any sense of direction and (e) resignation that Shearer isn’t working, became leader far too soon, and that there will be a leadership coup, but that the caucus isn’t ready for it yet so short of a crisis there will be another six months of drift.

April 20, 2012

Hon Paula Bennett vs Lord Alfred Tennyson

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 4:36 pm

I wrote a quick cut-up script to merge Tennyson’s Ulysses with Paula Bennett’s instant classic, Address to New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. See if you can guess who said which line.

It is a pleasure to be here to speak to you all.
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
I am the Minister of Social Development, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I hope you have had a successful conference to date and that you have shared ideas, problems and solutions.
All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
Much have I seen and known: For example; if a woman on benefit had another child when their youngest was 18 they would automatically get another 18 years on benefit.
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all; And this is just the start.

I admire the work you do in our communities, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
There are moments in my job when I sincerely feel the pull to be working at the grass roots level.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end of well over 200,000 children living in benefit dependant homes.
They were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From Maori who looked after each other and fought for what they believed in.
A year later and some changes had been made but not enough for this gray spirit, yearning in desire
To stand still is to stagnate, so surely we should take the best of what we have known, the best of who we were and look to who we can be… But I digress beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This afternoon I want to talk about who we were, who we are and most importantly about who we want to be as citizens as New Zealanders.
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This is fair, especially when you consider that 50 per cent of New Zealand sole parents and 69 per cent of partnered women are already working.
A few weeks ago Family and Community Services announced that five providers would not have their contracts renewed this year.
I will subdue them to the useful and the good.

There had to be change and I would spend more time and money supporting that change.
There is over $550 million of contracting for services that MSD does and we are demanding that they all be up to a high standard.
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
The first change for those on DPB, That ever with a frolic welcome took
is that they will be expected to be available for part time work when their youngest is five and be in full time work when their youngest is 14.
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The new system will not punish people who can’t find work. If someone can’t find a job their benefit will not be cut.
The days of a passive system are over. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The next logical question is why?
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It was also for those who were cruelly widowed and there was no such thing as being born into welfare.
That which we are, we are; it is not who we were. It is who we are. But is it who we want to be?
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We were a proud nation.
Moved earth and heaven,
One third of women currently on the DPB started on the benefit as teen mums. That is more than 30,000 people.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

April 16, 2012

The DIY Recess Diary of Finance Minister Bill English

Filed under: polls,satire — danylmc @ 10:43 am

Monday

Right. There’s a huge amount of work to be done renovating the house and restoring efficiency to the living areas. I have a clear and comprehensive program to achieve that, but there are going to have to be sacrifices if we want a strong, stable house and a brighter future in the downstairs family room.

First order of business is to carpet the hallway. Now some silly people think that the best way to do this is to measure the area of the hall and buy an equivalent amount of carpet. That’s just nonsense. You don’t see businesses in the private sector going around figuring out what they need and then purchasing it. So I’ve sourced a book of carpet samples and left it in the linen cupboard. I’m confident that left to itself the carpet will grow to match the space required within the next twenty-four hours.

Tomorrow. Re-puttying the dining-room windows.

Tuesday

Still no growth in the area of carpet, but I’m confident that left to itself it will increase in size within the next twenty-four hours.

Puttying the windows is an important part of keeping the overall structure weather-tight. If you get cracks in the putty then you get water in the frame, and that rots the wood. After taking advice from Treasury I’ve decided to apply the sealant with a hand-held circular saw.

The result is a slightly less intact window-pane than I would have liked, but that’s due to poor decisions and planning when the window was first installed by the builder. I’m satisfied that future circular-saw applied putty jobs will be more robust.

Wednesday

Fixing the gutters. Some of the nails attaching the guttering to the wall have rusted and come loose. They need to be replaced. This is a tricky job – you need to keep your gutters level or you get water run-off down the walls. Once again the circular saw performs well, and I’m reasonably happy with the results, although the gutters and the walls behind them under-perform. I note once again that these walls were installed by the previous home-owner.

Thursday

Still no growth in the area of carpet, but I’m confident that left to itself it will increase in size within the next twenty-four hours.

It rained during the night and I wake to find several centimeters of water flooding all the downstairs rooms, having come in through the broken windows and gaps in the walls. The rain is an external factor beyond my control, but it will need to be addressed. I put together a high-level task force to provide strategic leadership on the issue, and appoint Murray Horn and John Sherwin to run it. The initial cost of the task-force is $1.5 million dollars over two years, roughly $1,499,000 more than I budgeted for these renovations, so there will have to be cutbacks made in other areas. I unplug the refrigerator.

Next I clean a bit of mould off the gazebo. The next door neighbor stops by to complain about the sound of sawing, and while he’s here he suggests I put tarpaulins up over the broken windows, which – he claims – will keep out any future rain. I explain to him that I’m operating in a tight fiscal environment and that all that tarp would cost dozens of dollars. You can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it.

Friday

Carpet growth still softer than I’d like, but there are signs that it’s picking it.

Today I wall-paper the study, carefully stripping back the old paper and then applying the paste. I’m satisfied with the results, although yet again the environment created by the previous home-owner leads to under-performance, and a lot of paper, paste, plaster and wood gumming up the blades of the circular saw. Not quite the outcome I would have liked, but this house is still better off than comparable homes that never even had a study to start with.

In the afternoon I head down to Bunnings to replace the saw blade – I need it tomorrow to replace the old washers in the laundry – and the sales clerk tries to sell me an insulating blanket for my hot water cylinder, claiming it will reduce my electricity bill and pay for itself within six months. That’s just nonsense. You don’t see businesses in the private sector investing money to provide a greater return than the cost of the investment.

Saturday

Carpet size is holding steady, with growth tracking roughly median performance – which I’m happy with, although obviously I’d like to see it pick up.

The Why Is My House Full of Water task-force published their interim report today. Now we’ll see some progress! It’s excellent, challenging stuff, and they’ve identified some real problems with the house and signaled the way forward.

Their top priority is to address the strategic issue of the basement. This is filled with large concrete pillars sitting between the earth and the bottom floor of the house. As they say in their executive summary, ‘An effective, efficient house should support itself. These concrete piles will have to be removed if this house is to remain competitive with other dwellings on this street.’

Now we have a real road-map as to what an effective, twenty-first century house will look like. I contract in Goldman Sachs to sell the piles on my behalf, at an initial investment of $75 million dollars. This should be recouped when the piles are sold, but until then we’ll just have to tighten our belts and press on. I siphon all the petrol out of my wife’s car. We’re all in this together.

Sunday

Success. The ratio of carpet to hallway has now reached the optimum level. I reject criticisms that this is because the hallway has collapsed – it’s true that it’s not performing to the levels I’d like, but it’s still a space inside the house between the kitchen and the TV room.

Today is a day of rest. It’s been a productive week, and the next seven days are critical in establishing my plans for a super-room, which combines the pantry, shower and garage. I need to build on the momentum I’ve established, and really hammer home the inefficiencies.

Tomorrow: back-office functions. Moving gas fittings to the front-line, outsourcing sewerage, and migrating the storm-water drains to the cloud environment.

April 6, 2012

Two polls

Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 11:06 am

Maybe it’s my built-in left-wing bias, but I found the recent TVNZ poll – which showed National gaining popularity over the first three months of the year – to be simply unbelievable. I don’t think the ACC scandal has really sunk in, but I was pretty sure the Crafer farms issue cost them a lot of votes. So I’ve been waiting for the Morgan poll to see if it confirmed the trend.

It doesn’t. According to Roy Morgan the Nats are on 44%, Labour 30% and the Greens 17%.

The first two results continue the trend showed by their previous polls for the year: National declining, Labour largely static, both of which seem credible to me given recent events: the Nats can’t catch a break, and Shearer’s big speech had minimal impact outside of provoking Gerry Brownlee into creating a diplomatic incident by insulting Finland.

But the Greens on 17%? A 35% increase in three weeks is hard to believe, and I’ll want to see more data before I buy it. If the Greens are surging it’d be interesting to know if it’s because the Nats are losing support to them, or if they’re losing support to Labour, who are then losing left-wing votes to the Greens.

April 2, 2012

Exit Strategy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:28 pm

Today the Cabinet agenda included deliberation over whether it would fund Judith Collins’ defamation suit against Radio New Zealand and two Labour Party MPs. The outcome of that deliberation is that Collins has ‘chosen’ to fund her defamation suite by herself, presumably because the Cabinet was advised that suing two MPs protected by qualified privilege and a media outlet for broadcasting a live interview would be an incredibly expensive exercise in futility.

Collins is in a tricky position. If she backs down she forgoes her reputation as ‘Crusher’, and becomes a Justice Minister with a reputation for empty legal threats. If she goes ahead and loses then she looks even weaker, and becomes a Justice Minister with a reputation for vexatious litigation.

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