The Dim-Post

May 3, 2012

Left-wing dead rats

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:06 pm

Here’s a question: When John Key became leader of the National Party he spent his time leading up to the 2008 election ‘swallowing dead rats’, ie promising not to scrap Labour Party policies that were so popular he couldn’t get elected if he didn’t: interest free student loans, government control of KiwiBank, KiwiSaver and Working for Families.

Are there any equivalently popular National Party policies? Is there a single Key National-Party initiative that a Labour leader would benefit from promising to keep it?

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43 Comments »

  1. I’d say Welfare reform and “Tough on Crime” policies tend to be quite popular.

    Comment by JB — May 3, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  2. I would also say student loan reform will be popular with public

    Comment by sthnjeff — May 3, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  3. The Resource Consent Act was a National party policy that Labour never overturned.

    Comment by Hugh — May 3, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  4. Promising not to increase tax – it worked for Labour in Britain back in the 90s.

    Comment by Nick R — May 3, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

  5. Not raising GST.

    oh wait….!

    Comment by Gregor W — May 3, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  6. The National policy of keeping the Labour policies that are popular sounds like a policy that a Labour leader would benefit from keeping?

    Comment by Richard — May 3, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  7. There’s a bill going through at the moment on a version of the RMA for the NZ exclusivie economic zone. I don’t know that it would be that popular, but it would be nice to see that kept. With a promise to completely revamp it so it actually has some teeth.

    Comment by Ben — May 3, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  8. I comfortably predict no repeal of the following key legislation:

    Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Act 2009
    Commodity Levies (Tamarillos) Order 2010
    Te Waikoropupū Springs Scenic Reserve Bylaws 2011

    Comment by Gregor W — May 3, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  9. I think that your point is that there is very little identifiable policy or action that warms anyone. Can’t think of any. But National Standards are claimed to be popular – not.

    Comment by xianmac — May 3, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  10. Will Labour promise to repeal the three strikes legislation? Will they promise to restore the vote to prisoners? Will they promise to scrap national standards? That’s three which I’ll be interested to see if Labour touches. Also will Labour hike tax rates? Will Labour restore public sector staffing to 2008 levels?

    Comment by dpf — May 3, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  11. Nationals Capital Gains Tax policy springs to mind

    Comment by ihstewart — May 3, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  12. @2 – it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. I would have thought that this would only be popular if the public thought graduates were rolling in money and not bothering to pay off their loans. I wouldn’t have thought that was the case.

    I can’t imagine Labour would dramatically increase the size of the public service, if anything maybe some targeted expansion in areas where they identify problems. Unless (or until) there is some solid evidence that Whanau Ora is a flop (or theres a big scandal) I think they’d retain that. Labour doesn’t seem as keen on the tough on law and order bandwagon now they dumped Goff, but I suspect they’ll retain most (or all) of what National has put in place, but not offer more in that direction. In particular, I think they’ll retain private involvement in public prisons unless or until there is a scandal (however, the awful results first up might be the start of such a scandal).

    I’d be surprised if Labour’s polling and focus groups don’t look at this pretty regularly – what policies are the public strongly in favour of. My guess is that the answer is, nothing in particular, which is part of why they struggle to respond to National.

    Comment by BeShakey — May 3, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  13. @10 – those seem fairly straight forward to me. 3 strikes takes a long time to have significant effects, so that can be left to a second term. Prisoner voting rights is only an issue for a very tiny minority, so is, at most, second term.
    National standards is slightly tougher. I’d see them significantly amending it (they’d probably overstate the level of difference between them and national, but thats politics). Tax rates – a new top tax rate would be a goer with their voters. The messing with the current top tax rate would be tougher. Promising to restore public service numbers to 2008 levels would? Help them win Wellington Central by more? The real question is whether they would get rid of the sinking lid, and/or announce significant increases in any area (e.g. via a policy that required additional bureaucrats).

    Comment by BeShakey — May 3, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

  14. Returning to Surplus in 2014. Labour wouldn’t have achieved that without national cutting the fact and making the promise.

    Comment by Andrew — May 3, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  15. As a home owner in Wellington planning on leaving some time after 2016 I will be voting labour for the first time in my life. Basically the housing market is a buyers market and I need the public sector to bloat again to maximize the house value on sale.

    Comment by Jack — May 3, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  16. @13 “Promising to restore public service numbers to 2008 levels would… Help them win Wellington Central by more.”
    But that could cost them votes around the rest of the net taxpaying country?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 3, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

  17. @dpf: “Will Labour promise to repeal the three strikes legislation? Will they promise to restore the vote to prisoners?”

    I doubt they’ll “promise” to do this at the 2014 campaign … but equally I wouldn’t see them as untouchable policies in the same way as WFF or Kiwisaver are. I suspect that the whole “tough on criminals” competition may be running out of puff, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a future Labour-led Government felt able to do some significant tinkering in this area (probably under the cover of a Royal Commission on Prison Policy, or the like). The latter would be an easier reversal than the first, of course.

    “Will they promise to scrap national standards?”

    Depends, I suspect, on their perceived usefulness by parents over the next couple of years. Frankly, I haven’t been interested enough in the whole issue to find out what it is actually about – but a reliably lefty middle class friend of mine in Wellington with school age kids likes them, which makes me think they might be here to stay.

    “Also will Labour hike tax rates?”

    This is a real challenge … will Labour feel they must accept the fiscal constraints imposed by the 2008-2009 cuts (which, in turn, will hamper any new social initiatives they may want to pursue)?

    But I’m surprised dpf didn’t raise the assets sales issues – any chance of Labour promising to fully renationalise Mighty River, etc (at the original price paid or otherwise)?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 3, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  18. Actually, having just written the previous screed, it occurs to me that the challenge is being interpreted wrongly. Danyl asks: “Are there any equivalently popular National Party policies? Is there a single Key National-Party initiative that a Labour leader would benefit from promising to keep it?”

    So it’s not enough to suggest policies that Labour might not reverse in practice once in Government, rather just choosing to quietly ignore the issue. It instead has to be a policy that is so popular that, in order to improve their chances of winning Government, Labour must actively promise NOT to reverse it (so as to allay electoral concerns about their future intentions). That is a much harder task … .

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 3, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

  19. Labour will majorly overhall broadcasting and communication, they’ve got one of their sharpest minds as current spokesperson.

    Comment by NeilM — May 3, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

  20. Whatever happened to reversing the benefit cuts from the Mother of all budgets?

    Comment by Richard — May 3, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

  21. @13 – “Prisoner voting rights is only an issue for a very tiny minority..”

    I disagree. Denying anyone the right to vote is (or should be) an issue for everyone in a healthy democracy.

    Comment by Laura — May 3, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  22. National is discovering in its second term that a re-run of the policies of Birch and Shipley are no less miserable, divisive and unpopular for being done in slow motion and having an affable front man than they were in 1997-1999. The only remotely popular thing they have done is cut taxes for those who feel beseiged by first world problems. Labour will probably have to accept the National tax cuts, but they’ll have to address Bill English’s recklessly irresponsible structural deficit. Maybe they’ll introduce a Robin Hood tax, a CGT, and some sort of new top tier to PAYE.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 3, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

  23. Oh yes and I think Labour will decide to keep national standards, but then quietly destroy them by doing something like making adherence to them fiendishly bureaucratic and voluntary. Then they can wait a while, get the PPTA to run a report on them, and declare them a poorly implemented failure.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 3, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

  24. @18 Whatever happened to reversing the benefit cuts from the Mother of all budgets?

    Cynically, but probably not cynically enough, Labour may not swallow too many dead rats, but it will conveniently forget a good many live ones running around. “Did we promise that? Really? Oh, well, that’s a pity. It’s pretty dreadful really. I suppose we should do something about it… I guess we will then… In fact it’s our policy that we’ll do something about it in our next term! There, see? That’s a definitive statement to show that we’re committed! Now run along now and don’t forget to vote for us, because Labour (TM) is the party that cares about you!”

    …Three years later…

    “Sorry, who were you again? Oh yes, right! Remember, we care! We’ll deal with it right away, um, sort of. Don’t worry, it’s top of the list!”

    Comment by Rhinocrates — May 3, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

  25. I can’t think of any policies in particular but Labour will have to be brave not to maintain the popular positions that the current National government espouses on beneficiaries, crime, tax, reducing regulation (whether or not these have resulted in policy or legislation). Which I think is strongly indicative of how things have played out in the first term.

    Oh – unless you count the breezy non-politician style of John Key as a policy. That’s one dead rat Labour seem to have chowed down with gusto

    Comment by dgee — May 3, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  26. Maybe they should try to persuade Ryall to stay on as Minister of Health?

    Comment by minimalistme — May 3, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

  27. Hugh – most of the RMA policy work was done under the 4th Labour Government. It was much more one of those things that the subsequent National Govt continued on with for the good of the country.

    BeShakey – whether Labour can get away with a top tax rate depends significantly on what high-earning opinion-makers decide is in the public interest.

    Andrew – any chance of Labour promising to fully renationalise Mighty River? With a leader who can’t even decide if he’s on the side of port workers, there’s no chance of that. In any case, Labour doesn’t do such things. It hasn’t in 40 years.

    Comment by George D — May 3, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

  28. “Hugh – most of the RMA policy work was done under the 4th Labour Government. It was much more one of those things that the subsequent National Govt continued on with for the good of the country.”

    Oh right, I guess it doesn’t count if it’s done “for the good of the country”. Silly me.

    Comment by Hugh — May 4, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  29. Will they promise to scrap national standards?

    They wouldn’t need to scrap it, just do it properly. Shouldn’t be any hardship to promise that…

    @16: yep. The question is: what’s National done that’s so popular Labour wouldn’t be able to touch it? I can’t think of any items to include in that list, but perhaps there are some.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 4, 2012 @ 6:11 am

  30. “…In any case, Labour doesn’t do such things. It hasn’t in 40 years…”

    They reversed the privatisation of ACC.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 4, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  31. They reversed the privatisation of ACC.

    ACC wasn’t privatised. No-one owned shares in ACC, and the government hadn’t sold it. What Labour did was reinstate its monopoly. A lefty thing to do, for sure, but not in the league of compulsory acquisition/nationalisation.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — May 4, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  32. Here we go … Labour is essentially accepting National’s line on the Superfund: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10803473

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 4, 2012 @ 10:13 am

  33. Labour is essentially accepting National’s line on the Superfund

    See, this is the kind of shit that keeps us haters sniping at Shearer. He’s pre-pre-emptively compromising on an issue there’s no immediate public pressure to compromise on (and there may never be), while doing nothing to define Labour’s identity distinctly from National. Meanwhile, we don’t know what the local and global economy will be like in 2014, we don’t want bond rates will be, we don’t know what the balance of private and public debt will be like, and Shearer’s already boxing Labour into a one-size-fits-all fiscal policy. One can only presume he’s trying to piss off Cunliffe.

    Comment by bradluen — May 4, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  34. This seems to me like the type of policy decision that only those in the beltway will get wound up about, and who cares what we think. On the other hand, it’ll provide some fiscal room for policies that will genuinely appeal to broad groups of voters (up to Labour to come up with those policies and then do a decent job of selling them though).
    It might be the case that most of the public and the commentators are economically illiterate, but Labour is likely to have more success accepting this and working from there, rather than wringing their hands about it.

    Comment by BeShakey — May 4, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  35. Laura @ 21, I’ve always wondered why the vote was withdrawn. Once you withdraw it from one group, you begin to look around at who is next. Fat people, people who insist on driving SUV’s, people who go to church, p who don’t go to church, people who’d travelled to the USSR, Israel, homosexuals. Don’t laugh, that pendulum could swing again.

    George D @ 27 “any chance of Labour … renationalise Mighty River?… Labour doesn’t do such things. It hasn’t in 40 years.”
    Unless you count Kiwirail and Kiwi bank, eh? I’d argue that Kiwi bank and ACC are a type of nationalisation.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 4, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

  36. Give the Nats a chance. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the Labour policies they swallowed were mainly massive election bribes to buy Labour a third term. National hasn’t had a chance to get the chequebook out to buy the next election yet.

    If they do I suspect Labour will be doing more swallowing than at a bukake party.

    Comment by King Kong — May 4, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

  37. Labour is essentially accepting National’s line on the Superfund

    Rat number one, or perhaps Bold Choice number one as Shearer’s press release was titled – Bold choices for a successful country

    He’s been going round the country looking for inspirtation and finally found it in the Beehive.

    (I actually don’t have any objection to Shearer changing the policy, but they opposed this most vociferously – did they really oppose it or was all the noise just opportunism).

    Comment by NeilM — May 4, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

  38. @16 – the point I was trying to make was that the only advantage of promising to increase the number of bureacrats is that they might win wellington central by more. Thats a pretty crappy payoff for a policy that, as you point out, wouldn’t win them any friends elsewhere. I’m surprised this was even raised as it seems a no brainer that the most they’d do is accept that they might need to hire some people in relation to some specific policy or other.

    @35 (and 21) – the point I was making is that ‘the mainstream’ doesn’t care about rights for prisoners. Maybe they should, but they don’t. In terms of who might be next, only other groups that can be kicked for votes, e.g. none of the people you suggest.

    @37 – this just looks like politics. Do you really think the Nats either weren’t really opposing WWF or it was just opportunism? Ditto here – the opposition was genuine, but they’re choosing their fights. In the Nats case it was not opposing things that would lose them votes, in Labour’s case its not doing things that will cost $ and not get them any votes.

    Both of these are cases where handwringing in the beltway is probably a good sign for Labour.

    Comment by BeShakey — May 4, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  39. Never mind swallowing dead rats. They need to kick out their own dead rats first first.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — May 4, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

  40. Labour have already swallowed their first dead rat, by agreeing not to reverse most of National’s tax cuts (even though this will make it harder to solve the deficit problem).

    I agree that reversing the public service cuts wouldn’t get them much support outside Wellington at the moment, but that may change as the public sees problems stemming from public service cuts. In 1999, Labour promised to rebuild the public service to improve its competence and reduce its reliance on expensive consultants, and they won.

    Comment by kahikatea — May 6, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  41. It will be interesting to see what happens with some of the items in the NAT-ACT Confidence and Supply agreement on the Welfare Working Group. Placing ‘social’ obligations on beneficiaries is likely to be wildly popular, but a policy clusterfuck that most in labour would not want. Maybe a dead rat to swallow, depending on how National implements it.

    Comment by DT — May 6, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

  42. You can also add AirNZ to the re-nationalisation list, even if it only happened as a last resort.

    There’s one very-much-living rat that Shearer can safely train his guns on: the Holiday Highway. He just needs to say that it shouldn’t cost $3bn+ to fix a few blackspots.

    Comment by deepred — May 6, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

  43. I thnk that dpf is right in asking
    Will Labour promise to repeal the three strikes legislation? Will they promise to restore the vote to prisoners?

    The first is hugely popular with voters – especially the hypothetical “Waitakere Man” of West Auckland that represents all the low to medium wage workers that Labour needs to capture. They would repeal this at their peril.

    Restoring the vote to prisoners on the other hand is not a major issue for most – it has no real effect on the lives of all but the prisoners themselves, and I would say that Labour could get away with quietly repealing this without causing themselves undue damage

    Regards
    Peter J

    Comment by Peter Jenkins — May 6, 2012 @ 10:58 pm


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