The Dim-Post

July 29, 2014

Minor Party pre-campaign pontifications

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 7:28 pm

A look at the tracking polls for small parties helps explain what’s been happening over the last few days (larger interactive version here);

smallpartypolls
The Conservatives are only slightly higher than they were last election suggesting they’ll get 2.6% max. Probably less than that now that a seat has been ruled out and Conservative voters who saw their vote wasted back in 2011 might want to see their vote count this time around.

Craig’s strategy this year has been to try and target New Zealand First voters. That’s what National wanted him to do, and maybe there was some understanding that if he succeeded they try and help him out. I dunno. Anyway, it was a terrible strategy: most New Zealand First voters are soft Labour voters and the consequence for Craig attempting to target this unsympathetic demographic are that he’s toast.

I feel ambivalent about that. Sixty-thousand odd people voted for him in 2011, he has more of a mandate than an awful lot of sitting MPs – but the only reason he reached those people was because he happens to be rich. He’s talking about winning East Coast Bays in 2017, but I don’t know how much longer he can go on sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into his political party. (That line from Citizen Kane comes to mind: ‘I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.’ But I don’t think Colin Craig is Charlie Kane rich.)

Anyway, National’s refusal to help out Craig is why we’ve seen a sudden flurry of race-baiting from ACT and New Zealand First. They’re all competing for the same small pool of conservative elderly half-witted red-necks. Hopefully those votes will stick with the Conservatives and be wasted but they might give ACT enough votes to get Whyte into Parliament.

Winston Peters is well ahead of where he was at this point in 2011, and he made it over the 5% threshold very comfortably back then. He’ll be back again. Who will he go into coalition with?

A couple of weeks ago Colin Craig and Jamie Whyte showed up on one of the weekend politics shows, and both of them announced they probably wouldn’t be seeking Cabinet positions in a National government. Now, maybe its a coincidence that both of these political masterminds both had this same odd idea on the same day, but my guess is that it was an order on high from National’s leaders clearing the way for a nice, simple National-New Zealand First coalition. I still hear people saying that Peters is ‘unpredictable’ or that he ‘wants revenge on John Key’. I think the chances of Peters flipping a coin or picking revenge and going with a Labour, Greens, Internet/Mana et al are zero. He’ll be a senior Minister in the 3rd term National government. We might see Peters go even higher during the campaign as older Labour voters decide that Peters will ‘keep National honest’ and switch to him.

Finally, Internet/Mana really seems to have momentum and I think we can assume they’ll win at least one electorate seat, if not two. But it’s really hard to guess how they’ll perform on election day. Are the polls under-sampling all those cellphone only digital natives? Or will most Internet/Mana respondents fail to actually vote? I have no idea.

I do know that I’ve talked to a couple of students who are first-time voters who are ‘voting for Kim Dotcom’. He’s their big asset which is why he’s the headline act at all the Internet/Mana ‘Party Party’ functions. But he’s also, potentially, their biggest liability. Dotcom has promised that he’ll drop a ‘bombshell” on John Key five days before the election but National seems to have a few bombshells of their own that they plan to drop on Dotcom. Internet/Mana know that this is coming and their prominent use of Dotcom indicates they feel they can manage it when it does. We’ll see. It makes their result impossible to predict.

Whyte supremacy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:58 pm

Emphatically, he says, an ACT party led by Whyte would not go to war on Treaty issues. “I’ve got no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game.”

Dr Jamie Whyte back in January when he assumed leadership of ACT. 

The ACT Party is playing the race card arguing Maori are legally privileged in this country. Party Leader Jamie Whyte has made the call in a speech in Waikato today saying Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today just as the aristocracy was in pre-revolutionary France. He says many Maori are better off, better educated and in better health than many Pakeha and these are often the Maori who take the most advantage of their legal privileges.

However official statistics show Maori are worse off in health, education, life expectancy, and have higher rates of incarceration than Pakeha.

Whyte today, via NewstalkZB

A musical interlude

Filed under: music — danylmc @ 8:26 am

Every couple of months a bunch of my friends meet up for an ‘under-appreciated music appreciation society’ in which we play each other songs based on a theme. On Sunday we covered ‘covers that are better than the original’ and I was introduced to the art of Laibach, a Yugoslavian-Serb avant-garde group and their cover of Queen’s One Vision: 

 

July 28, 2014

Risible courtier watch

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:02 am

I think there are a few interesting things going on in this John Armstrong piece sternly warning everyone about the disease of ‘gotcha politics':

It sure ain’t pretty. It sure ain’t enlightening. It is most definitely insidious. It is a creeping cancer of the New Zealand body politic.

Regardless of whether it is John Key or David Cunliffe who has the numbers on election night to pick up the reins of power, so-called “gotcha politics” is almost guaranteed to be the big winner of the 2014 election campaign.

“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.

It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.

At its worst, gotcha politics can be an old-fashioned witch-hunt dressed up in modern-day notions of accountability. None of this new, of course.
What has changed is the extent and intensity of gotcha politics.

Firstly its a nice illustration of the clueless hypocrisy of Armstrong, the Herald’s political columnist, who was happy – even gleeful – to indulge in ‘gotcha politics’ when his paper revealed that David Cunliffe had forgotten he signed a form letter twelve years ago. Armstrong instantly called on Cunliffe to resign. Now in this latest column he’s outraged that the Greens are trying to hold Murray McCully to account for his role in attempting to cover up the alleged attempted rape of a New Zealand citizen by a foreign diplomat. It’s juxtapositions like this that make Armstrong a figure of bemused mockery.

His continued fury over the Tania Billingsley case also indicates the white-hot fury that National and its admirers still feel over that episode, which dropped out of the actual news cycle about ten days ago. How dare some silly little nobody – some girl – embarrass the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister himself on national television! That’s what has Armstrong so inflamed about the ‘creeping cancer’ of ‘gotcha politics’. The actual people impacted by government incompetence have no place in his conception of political journalism, which is about Armstrong meeting very important, powerful people in their offices and writing whatever they tell him to.

Thirdly, we’ve been hearing this complaint about ‘gotcha politics’ a lot this year, hitherto mostly from left-wing commentators. Every time Labour does something stupid there’s the same collective cry on my twitter feed: ‘Why can’t the media focus on policy? Where are the real issues?’ But the basic honesty and competence of our politicians are ‘real issues’. During the 2011 election the vast majority of voters were opposed to National’s policy of asset sales, but they voted for Key and National anyway because he seemed like a far more competent head of government than Phil Goff, and the exact same narrative is playing out this election (except this time around we have no idea what National plans to do in its next term: that’d be a good story for a political reporter who wanted to focus on ‘the issues’).

Voters care about ‘gotcha politics’ ie the suitability of a political leader to run the country way more than actual policy. Mistakes, lies and gaffes are a really big deal and the media should cover them.

July 26, 2014

Billboards

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:39 pm

We drove out to Porirua today and back through the Wellington commuter suburbs: Johnsonville, Ngaio etc. There was a scattering of billboards around, almost all of which were TeamKey/National billboards. Here’s a picture of the cluster near to where I live on the lawless borders of Wadestown:

IMG_20140726_114459

The National Party one is what-it-is. The Green billboard is a miniature version of their 2011 billboard, there possibly because their volunteers are too frightened of the new billboards to touch them.

All of the Labour billboards are for the electorate candidates: Cunliffe’s face was nowhere to be seen. If you squint you can just make out the Labour logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the board. Seems like a weird way to run an MMP campaign. Especially since that’s just what they did three years ago and this was widely regarded as a catastrophically stupid move contributing to their historic defeat.

Peter Dunne’s billboard was a plain purple background with white text reading ‘Vote Peter Dunne for Ohariu. No mention of United Future, the party he’s funded $100,000 a year of taxpayer money to be the leader of, and which is registering 0% in the polls. (UPDATE: Peter Dunne advises me that the UF logo is on all of his billboards.)

No Conservative Party billboards and no Internet/Mana billboards. Yet.

July 23, 2014

Gamechangers

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 12:11 pm

Updated the tracking poll. For variety’s sake this one goes all the way back to the start of 2005. It doesn’t correct for bias and the large circles intersecting the vertical lines are election results : nzpolls20140721nobiascorrJosie Pagani wrote a ‘what should Labour do now’ thing on Pundit that I partly agree with. (Although all such posts are predicated on the idea that Labour wants to win the election, and like I’ve said before, one of Cunliffe’s major challenges is a caucus filled with MPs who hate him and don’t want Labour to win the election while he’s leading it. They want to lose the election then assume control of the party and win in 2017, against a presumably weaker National-New Zealand First coalition. That’s not something Cunliffe can fix by ‘staying on message’ or ‘focusing on what matters’ or anything like that. It’s just a horrible reality that dooms him.)

Anyway, one of Pagani’s suggestions is:

Distance Labour from Dotcom. One reason for Labour’s poor polling is people just want to get rid of Dotcom and somehow he has become Labour’s problem now. Only because he is an enemy of our enemy.  Labour should only ever say of Dotcom, “he shouldn’t be in the country and National should not have let him in. We want him and his party nowhere near government.”

About a month ago I wrote:

Now, Internet/Mana might make good on their promise to turn out loads of young low decile voters, which might not show up in the polls but will have a huge impact on the actual election – and good on them if they do. But at this point it looks like the Harawira/Harre/Dotcom contribution to the election will be to cannibalise the left vote and scare the centre vote over to National, possibly gifting them an historic victory.

If the trend continues Labour will have to take a risk (for once) and rule out Internet/Mana from a Labour government.

So why haven’t Labour done this? I think there are a couple of reasons. The friendship between Matt McCarten, Labour’s Chief of Staff, and Laila Harre has got to be a factor here. Also, if Labour rules out Internet/Mana they’re kind of ruling out hope. There is a chance that Internet/Mana will be a ‘game-changer’ that will swing the election. I think that chance is very tiny, but it is there, and that gives some purpose to the campaign that’s absent if you’re just fighting to get Labour back into opposition with slightly more MPs. Finally there’s the culture of the contemporary Labour Party which is very conservative and risk averse. No one would want to take ownership of a call like that in case it backfired somehow.

And the chance of a ‘game-changer’ (this has come to mean ‘event that generates enormous media coverage but changes nothing’, but I use it in the original context) increased slightly with Dotcom’s revelation that Glen Greenwald will be at his town hall meeting just before the election. Now, Greenwald might just show up and talk about the 5-eyes network. But he does have full access to the Snowden documents which includes Australian and possibly New Zealand intelligence material. John Key’s staff have, apparently, searched every piece of documentation they could think of to try and find a link between Key and Dotcom prior to the police raid and they’ve come up empty, which is why Key’s been so confident about dismissing Dotcom’s claims. But they can’t be sure Greenwald doesn’t have, say, a secret Australian intelligence report discussing Key being briefed on Dotcom.

That would be an actual genuine bombshell. But would it be a game-changer? Would a significant number of people change their vote because of it? I’m guessing no.

July 20, 2014

Strategic defeat

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:49 am

It’s been a shambolic couple of weeks for Labour. They had their congress and launched a major education policy, carefully designed to attack National where they were vulnerable and attract centre voters back to Labour, and they’ve spent every day since then talking about either Moas, or banning cosmetics, or Cunliffe’s ‘man apology’, or changing the burden of proof in rape cases, or Kelvin Davis’ support for the holiday highway, or te reo in schools – with some Labour MPs supporting this and some opposing – ie they’ve been talking about pretty much anything other than the huge new policy they just launched.

And this incoherent disunity is registering with the electorate. All of the polls now have Labour in the mid twenties. on Thursday Labour advisor Rob Salmond wrote:

While I think it would be irresponsible to blame single comments (whether about manhood or moas or whatever else) for the state of things, it is obvious now that there is no room for further slips. Closing this gap within 9 weeks will – at a minimum – require everyone of the left working hard, seamlessly, together, and well.

So, inevitably:

Labour MPS are disgusted by leader David Cunliffe’s skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider has told the Sunday Star-Times.

As Labour hit a new polling low of just 23.5 per cent in the latest Stuff/Ipsos poll and data suggested those numbers would climb quickly if its leader quit, Cunliffe took a week’s leave to go skiing in Queenstown. That decision has infuriated a significant number of Labour MPs, the insider claimed.

“A lot of MPs are really f….. off about it,” he said. “They are all working hard up and down the country, and f…… Cunliffe is on holiday. Guys like [Phil] Goff and [Annette] King and [David] Shearer, these guys really want it badly and they are working like their lives depend on it. And I think they are a little incredulous about what the guy is doing.”

Mallard or Hipkins? Probably Mallard. I think what’s happening here is that Cunliffe is signalling that he’ll stay on as leader after the election. ‘Helen Clark lost an election and stayed, and look how that turned out.’ His mechanism for doing so is to bring allies into caucus using the party list. So his enemies – who are electorate MPs – are cheerfully sabotaging their party’s campaign to prevent any new list MPs coming in.

What really gets me about this is that there are hundreds if not thousands of Labour volunteers around the country who are giving up time with their families to go doorknocking or leafleting or staff call centres for the Labour Party because they believe in it and its values, and all that work is being pissed away by the actual MPs, who obviously don’t.

July 19, 2014

Nah

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:19 am

Via Hamish Rutherford at Stuff:

[Winston Peters] hinted this week that he may stand in an electorate this year, something he didn’t do in 2011. Although he did not name the seat, the hint was it could be East Coast Bays, where there are persistent rumours that long time local MP Murray McCully could stand aside, with National not fielding a candidate, in a bid to gift the seat to Conservative leader Colin Craig.

“You’ve got political parties who think they can mess around with an electorate . . . They might do that [but] they might be in for a surprise in one of them if they do pull that stunt,” Peters said.

“We have the firepower to hit it on the ground with all the hoardings and the full hundred yards if that’s the case.”

Okay. So a possible outcome of National pulling Murray McCully from the ballot in East Coast Bays and ‘gifting’ it to Colin Craig is that:

  • National loses votes in the centre from voters who don’t like deals, and/or don’t like Colin Craig
  • National loses votes on the right to the Conservative Party
  • Peters wins and National loses a safe seat to Winston Peters
  • Craig doesn’t get a seat so all the votes going to the Conservative Party get lost because they’re under the 5% threshold.

I don’t know how probable all that is. New Zealand First got more votes than the Conservatives in East Coast Bays in 2011, but not a whole lot more. Winston Peters is a phenomenal campaigner though, and he’d be a tempting protest vote for people who don’t like electorate deals who can still party vote National.

Do Key and Joyce want to bet on Colin Craig against Peters? That seems like a really bad bet. I’m guessing that ‘Peters beats Craig’ scenario is so catastrophic that National’s strategists won’t give Craig this seat.

July 18, 2014

The Thing With Feathers

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:18 am

Vernon Small writes:

Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.

The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour’s biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.

Click here for full poll results in graphics.

The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour’s vote.

Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.

Actual leaders always do badly against a hypothetical ‘someone else’, because voters can all project their own values onto an unspecified alternate leader. The question for Labour is: ‘Would replacing Cunliffe with Grant Robertson or David Shearer two months out from the election boost the vote?’

I have no idea. I’m one of the idiots who thought Cunliffe was really gonna turn things around for the Labour Party and lead a victorious left-wing coalition into government. But my guess is that no, a leadership change wouldn’t be a good idea. ‘Someone else’ would still be leading a party filled with people who all seem to hate each other and feel little-to-no loyalty to the Labour Party, yet paradoxically, want to become its leader or, alternately, remain a Labour MP in perpetuity. If they dump Cunliffe they also risk a backlash from the party activists who voted him in and see the poor poll results as a product of caucus disloyalty and National smear campaigns. It’s hard to run a grass roots, mobilisation-based election campaign without activists, and trying to turn out loads of voters is pretty much their only hope.

Speaking of hope, Kim Dotcom has given Chris TrotterBomber et al something far more valuable than $3,000,000. He’s given them a dream: that a couple of days before the election Kim Dotcom will produce . . . something that will turn the tide. Again, the big advantage of ‘something’ is that anyone can project their hopes and fears onto it. And maybe Dotcom will deliver. He’s offered a huge cash bounty for any information that could help his case, and his lawyers are still trying to discover stuff to prevent his extradition. But I doubt there’s a ‘gamechanger’ there. If WhaleOil’s taught us anything about politics it’s that people who promise ‘More to come’ never deliver. So I’m predicting a 50% chance that Dotcom will have nothing substantive, a 49.9% chance that he has something newsworthy – another opportunity for the Prime Minister to not remember something, maybe? – and an 0.1% chance that he has something that will cause significant numbers of voters to change their preferences at such a late stage of the election (nine days after advance voting opens).

I do know it won’t be helpful for Labour to have Dotcom dominating media coverage during the election campaign, reminding potential voters that Dotcom and Harawira would be power-brokers in any left-wing coalition government; yet another problem a leadership change won’t resolve.

July 14, 2014

The Western District Way

Filed under: crime,Politics — danylmc @ 2:47 pm

Via the Herald:

Former Police Minister and Papakura MP Judith Collins was told there might be a problem with how police handled statistics around the same time as police were wrongly recording incidents to make hundreds of burglaries disappear – but she didn’t investigate further.

Ms Collins, who is acting Police Minister while Anne Tolley is overseas, launched an attack on Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern, calling the leaking of a report into police mistakes “politically motivated”.

A police internal investigation revealed that from 2009 to 2012, five officers in Counties Manukau had re-coded about 700 burglaries as incidents, which are not counted in crime statistics, raising questions about political pressure to keep crime figures down.

The investigation – revealed by the Herald on Sunday yesterday – found that offences should have been recorded as burglaries for 70 per cent of those incidents. Police are calling it an isolated incident, which has now led to spot audits throughout the country to ensure the integrity of statistics.

One of the reasons I think The Wire is the ‘best TV show of all time’, over say, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, is that The Wire explained to us how our own world works. Because we’ve seen Season 3 we all know that Judith Collins would never have told the police to falsify their statistics.’ Instead she would have said, ‘The budget is tough, you’re going to have to do more with less, and your staff will be promoted based on their performance at reducing crime as measured in the statistics.’ And the district commanders are left to consider that they’re (a) supposed to get crime down, (b) they don’t have any resources to do so, but (c) they get to collect and record the metrics on which their own promotions will depend. The result is a police force in which police inclined to falsify their statistics are promoted ahead of those that deliver high quality police work.

None of which is the Minister’s fault. She never told them to make 700 burglaries disappear, although she was more than happy to issue a press release and claim all the credit when those disappearing burglaries showed up in the crime stats.

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