The Dim-Post

April 23, 2014

‘I told ya so’ of the day, Shane Jones edition

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:06 am

I got a bit of stick during the Labour leadership contest for my criticism of Shane Jones, so I have to indulge myself a little here. Now that we know this contender for the leadership of the Labour Party was (a) being funded by a senior member of the National Party (b) being funded by NZ Oil and Gas and (c) has left Labour five months out from the election to go and work for the National government, I feel that criticism was validated.

I never saw it, but ‘Jonesy’ must have had a way about him. Almost every senior (male) journalist who went out for beers with him walked away with the notion that ‘the Jones boy’ was going to be our first Maori Prime Minister. And I’ll admit he had a unique style: in a time where most political quotes are cooked up by anonymous staffers, Shane Jones spoke in a voice that was uniquely his own: an odd, nineteenth century mode that often referred to himself in the third person, peppered with latinate tags – just yesterday he denied that Hekia Parata was his ‘benefactrix’. The press gallery – with its usual acumen – decided that speaking like an eccentric Victorian-era Oxford don meant that Jonesy was ‘connecting with working class kiwis’. I never saw any evidence of this. Jones performed poorly as an electorate candidate during multiple elections: actual voters were never as impressed with him as the gallery were. During the Labour leadership campaign Jones’ support among Maori voters was only 37% – which strikes me as shockingly low, considering they’re being offered the chance to endorse a contender for first Maori Prime Minister. It reflects – I suspect – Jonsey’s incredibly low support among female voters across the board.

I guess this is ‘bad for Labour’. It makes them look weak and disorganised, and the gallery will run around wailing that Labour have just lost their brightest star. (I think they’ve lost an undisciplined, waffling misogynist who probably cost them more votes than he ever won.) And it’s good for Grant Robertson, obviously, who may now run for Labour leader unopposed after the election.


April 15, 2014

I went to the Northern Club once. Really classy toilets.

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:54 am

Via the Dom-Post:

Prime Minister John Key says there is nothing unethical or inappropriate about charging guests at a Maori Party dinner $5000 a head to sit with him for part of the evening

It has been reported that 15 Maori leaders were charged $5000 a head to attend a dinner with Key at Auckland’s exclusive Northern Club. Maori TV’s Native Affairs is screening footage of the event this evening.

Guests were reportedly promised face time with Key. Key’s office this evening did not deny that, but said there was nothing inappropriate or unethical about the practice.

Part of the deal was that Key would change his seat often throughout the evening so everyone had a chance to talk to him “confidentially”.

To me the significance of this fundraiser is that National has four preferred coalition partners who they’d like to go into government with instead of doing a deal with Winston Peters. ACT, United Future, the Conservative Party and the Maori Party.

Now, those first three parties will rely on National giving them an electorate seat. And now the Maori Party is reliant on National to raise money for them so they can afford to campaign, because they can’t attract funding by themselves.

April 13, 2014

Winston is actually a really sweet guy. You just don’t know him like the Labour Party does

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:27 am

Matthew Hooton writes in the NBR:

For two years, the average of polls has shown that if Winston Peters’ NZ First misses out on 5%, Mr Key will be re-elected. If NZ First gets to 5%, Mr Peters chooses the prime minister.

Increasingly, Mr Peters is tilting toward Labour.

While John Armstrong writes that Labour’s positioning with the Greens is dictated by their relationship with New Zealand First:

Key likes to wind Peters up; Cunliffe risks looking like he is being cowered by the veteran politician.

Labour’s pursuit of power dictates, however, that Labour be hostage to Peters for the next five months despite knowing such obedience will not make even the tiniest bit of difference as to whether he ultimately favours the centre-right or centre-left.

And Martyn Bradbury also comments on this dynamic:

Cunliffe can only become PM by unifying the opposition and the Greens are a major part of that opposition and right now they need to be working out how best to approach Winston so that they can uphold their side of the responsibilities of being such a major part of that opposition.

There is a Government in waiting, Cunliffe has identified it, now the leaders of the opposition have to lead and forge dialogue between one another or John Key gets a third term and we all end up sitting on our hands for another 3 years.

It’s conventional wisdom among political pundits that Winston Peters is impossible to predict. ‘He’s too wily! You never know which way Winston’s gonna go!’ But Peters political strategy is actually orthodox and entirely predictable.

Consider the 1996 election campaign. Peters campaigned against the incumbent National government and indicated that he would go into coalition with Labour and ‘keep them honest’. After the election he formed a coalition with National and became Bolger’s Finance Minister and Deputy PM. In 2005 when Peters was again in the position of kingmaker he campaigned against the Clark Labour government and promised his voters that he would not form a coalition with either Labour or National because ‘he did not seek the baubles of power’. After the election he went into coalition with Labour negotiating a position as Clark’s Foreign Minister.

Nothing Peters says prior to the election has any bearing on what he’ll do after the election. All statements made before the election are about maximising his vote. Nothing more. After the election he’ll seek whatever outcome benefits him personally. If anyone questions him about his pre-election promises he’ll roar with fury that he never said any such thing.

So if Peters is moving closer to Labour that doesn’t mean he’s favoring a coalition with Labour. It doesn’t mean he wants to get rid of John Key. It doesn’t – as poor old Bomber thinks – mean that Winston is ‘uniting behind David Cunliffe as the leader of the left’. What it means is that Peters thinks there’s votes there, and as usual when it comes to political strategy Winston Peters is right. He’s picked up about 50,000 votes off Labour in the last few months.

Obviously Peters needs to be able to pretend he’ll go into coalition with Labour – that strengthens his bargaining power with National. But Peters will want a stable government that can guarantee him his knighthood and posting to either London or Washington at the end of it all, and no hybrid of Cunliffe-led Labour-NZ First-Greens government will deliver that to him.

April 11, 2014

Hypothesis o’ the day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:12 am

Lots of debate around the blogosphere about whether Labour’s refusal to campaign alongside the Greens was a good or bad idea. I think bad, but obviously don’t know for sure.

I have been forming a hypothesis though, based on poll movement in the first few months of this election year. I think that voters might respond to signals about coalition partners, far moreso than they seem to respond to scandals or policy announcements. When Key announced that he wasn’t ruling out Winston Peters back in January, National dipped a bit and Peters shot up. (It is hard to see National’s dip in retrospect because they were picking up voters from Labour around the same time). Likewise when Labour indicated a preference for New Zealand First over the Greens, Labour dipped and Peters went up more.

This might all be a meaningless coincidence but it is testable: if the polls over the next few weeks see large shifts in support for the Greens – either up or down - with inverse impact on Labour’s ratings then we’ll (a) know if Labour made the right decision re a pre-election deal but (b) more importantly, see whether my theory stacks up or not.

April 10, 2014

Jaw-dropping risk of the day

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 12:10 pm

The Herald carries the details of the Greens attempt to form a more formal coalition with Labour:

Labour yesterday rebuffed a proposal by the Green Party to present both parties as a coalition Government in waiting during in the run-up to the September 20 election.

Labour leader David Cunliffe indicated that such a pre-election arrangement could have posed problems with post-election negotiations with other parties, such as New Zealand First.

Which might not seem like a big deal. But if you look at what’s happening in the polls over the last few months you see a pretty consistent pattern. Labour are losing votes to National and New Zealand First. But they aren’t losing any votes to the Greens.

nzpolls20140410Now there could be a bunch of reasons for that but my guess is that most Labour voters who are sympathetic to the Greens – and according to the Colmar Brunton poll that’s about 70% of Labour voters – don’t feel the need to switch because ever since the NZPower launch there’s been a kind-of-consensus that a vote for Labour is a vote for a Labour-Greens coalition. Labour’s announcement that this isn’t the case and that a vote for Labour could also be a vote for a Labour-New Zealand First coalition seems like a big risk. I can see why they took it: they want to win back those votes from National and think its going to be tough to do when they’re in a formal alliance with the Green Party. But I’d also note that Labour’s high-point during this electoral cycle came after the NZPower Labour-Greens co-announcement back in 2013, suggesting that center voters are less repulsed by the idea of a coalition than Labour’s caucus are.

April 9, 2014

Furthermore . . .

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:06 am

Via the Dom-Post today:

Wellington is home to more public servants than at any time since at least 2000 – and the capital has the greatest share of the bureaucracy since National took office in 2008.

Although National pledged and then made efforts to reduce “core” public servants in favour of “frontline” workers, the number of fulltime public servants based in Wellington rose by more than 900 in the year to June 30, 2013, to 18,493.

It is the largest number since at least 2000, and probably since major state service reforms of the 1980s.

Figures from the State Services Commission show that the number of public servants grew by 1155 to 44,500 in the year to June 30, with the vast majority of new positions in Wellington.

Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Modern states are complicated and you need a lot of people to run them properly. But it is kind of surprising since National spent their entire time in opposition screaming and clawing at their eyes about the number of public servants, and dour, prudent Bill English spent his last six years in government with a serious expression on his face explaining that he was being sensible and getting tough and cracking down on the public service who needed to tighten their belts and do more with less and actually that was all just bullshit too.

The other point I’d add to my previous post is that it kind of surprised me to learn that National had borrowed $50 billion. I knew it was a lot but didn’t know the exact number. And I’m pretty sure that if a Labour government had borrowed $50 billion dollars I’d have known all about it, because Key and English would have been on TV every night for the past four months bellowing about Labour destroying our economy and dooming generations of unborn kiwi children to slavery by borrowing $50 billion dollars, while the Herald and NBR would all be publishing their print editions in red ink to symbolise Labour’s irresponsible debt and the life-blood of the country that they’d gutted with their insane borrowing. Instead its just cicadas chirping and the only mention of the figure that I’ve seen was a Green MP’s twitter feed.

April 8, 2014

Politics, lies and the Economy

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 1:20 pm

From Russel Norman’s twitter feed:


Does borrowing fifty billion dollars over the last six years mean the Nats are bad with money? I don’t think so. We had an external shock in 2008 (the GFC) and then a massive earthquake, both of which had a huge negative impact on our economy. Interest rates for the government to borrow on the international markets were super-low during this time, so borrowing money was actually a really smart thing to do. We probably should have borrowed more and invested it in infrastructure instead of selling our energy companies and frittering money away on National’s tax switch, which cost billions and totally failed to stimulate the economy.

And I suspect Russel Norman would agree with that. What Russel is responding to here is the massive gap between National’s economic rhetoric and the stuff it actually quietly does. Yes, John Key and his Finance Minister Bill English have borrowed $50 billion dollars from overseas investors over the last six years. But John Key and Finance Minister Bill English have also spent the last six years roaring with horror at the economic plans of Labour and the Greens who want to BORROW MONEY from OVERSEAS INVESTORS! That’s why asset sales are so important, according to English – it’s the prudent, sensible alternative to BORROWING MONEY from OVERSEAS INVESTORS which will wreck the economy, except for the $50 billion he borrowed which was FISCAL and PRUDENT.

Likewise government spending. Interest rates went up recently and the Governor of the RBNZ has forecast more rises over the next two years, so we’ve heard some very stern warnings from English and Key about how the policies of Labour and the Greens will CAUSE INTEREST RATES TO GO UP! We’ve also heard a lot of dire warnings from Bill English about GOVERNMENT SPENDING. So here, via Treasury, is English’s record of government spending over his tenure as Finance Minister:


Again, having the government spend money during an economic down-turn and period of national crisis is a good thing to do. You just don’t get to do it while simultaneously thundering about how the opposition parties want to spend money, which will destroy the economy. Or rather, National does for some reason.

The point I’m trying to make here is that almost every statement Key and the Finance Minister make about the economy is nonsense, pure disinformation dipped in hypocrisy, sprayed with drivel and then airbrushed dry with horrible fucking lies. That’s not part of the conventional wisdom though, especially among political commentators who all have Bill English as a straight-talking dour, fiscal, prudent conservative instead of a big-spending, big-borrowing outrageously dishonest hypocrite who vomits out floods of obvious lies every time he opens his mouth.

It’s a big problem for the opposition. In macro terms National has done pretty-much what Labour and the Greens would have done – with some obvious exceptions like the tax cuts – but pretended that they’ve done the opposite, and warned the country that Labour and the Greens are going to introduce fiscal policies which are basically identical to National’s but which National warns will destroy the economy. It’s all such a gigantic, egregious yet successful lie that countering it is all but impossible.

April 2, 2014

On popularity

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:38 pm

Simon Wilson at Metro writes:

It’s a political truism that when you’re up you’re up, so none of your stumbles knock you off your feet. And when you’re down, every little misstep takes you closer to your grave. Prime Minister John Key is so up, he’s dancing on air. How did this happen?

I blame his critics — his political opponents especially, but also independent commentators. As spectacular mis­judgments go, it’s hard to think of anything greater than the nature of their complaints, especially in the early years of his leadership. He was, they said repeatedly, gauchely inept in his speech patterns and his vocabulary, embarrassingly off kilter in his sense of humour, insultingly dismissive of real concerns about various policies.

The result was profound. Key connected to a whole range of New Zealanders who did not see the world the same way as those critics. Their mockery both reinforced his popularity and discredited the people who engaged in it. And, perhaps because the critics did not change their line of attack, that discrediting came to define them.

It has been clear for at least five years now that when Key is mocked, a large part of the electorate reads the very existence of the ridicule as further evidence that he is the right guy for us and the jokers are irrelevant fools. Labour, in particular, while obviously having had its own problems finding the right leader, has added immeasurably to its malaise by misreading the nature of Key’s popularity.

Key’s breakout, unprecedented levels of popularity are part of the conventional wisdom of New Zealand politics so I decided to look at the data and see if it was a real thing. Here’s a graph showing the Preferred Prime Minister ratings from the TVNZ and TV3 polls for the first 62 weeks of both John Key and Helen Clark’s tenures as PM. For Clark this takes us from late 1999 to April 2005, and for Key it takes us from late 2008 until April 2014, ie right now.


Key was very popular in his first term, especially compared to Clark and I think his performance here would compare very well compared to any western leader after the Global Financial Crisis. But second term Key – which starts at week 36, pretty much tracks along with second term Clark. He’s a bit more popular but not amazingly so, and not – I think – to a degree that he can’t be criticised because the public love him so much they’ll turn on any of his critics.

The other thing Wilson touches on, and that I’ve seen other people discussing around the traps is the discrepancy between the public’s evident reaction to Cunliffe’s trust and the Oravida scandal. Cunliffe and Labour have dropped in popularity while National has gone up, even though the Oravida issue seemed like a more serious offense. What’s up with that?

Wilson thinks this has to do with Key’s popularity, and other people attribute it to a biased media or an ignorant public. The mistake many politics junkies make here is that they regard Key and Cunliffe as approximate equals. One leads National, the other Labour. Shouldn’t they get equal treatment in the eyes of the public?

But if you’re a member of the non-politics-obsessed public then – I think – you see them very differently. Key has been running the country for almost six years and seems pretty good at it and Cunliffe is this guy you’ve never heard of who wants Key’s job, but the very first thing you heard about him is that he had some kinda dodgy secret trust and wasn’t straight-up about his first policy launch. It’s a bit like having an old friend and a total stranger dressed in a pirate costume both turn up at your house and ask to borrow your car. Who are you going to give the keys to?

Here’s my point. It’s supposed to be hard to change the government. Now, Key is not magical. He’s not unbeatable. Clark almost lost the 2005 election on popularity ratings only marginally lower than his. But the public doesn’t have to give the opposition leader the benefit of the doubt. They don’t have to listen to him. If they’re given the choice between a known quantity who has been running the country for six years and some new guy who seems kind of bumbling and untrustworthy then that’s an incredibly easy choice and people are making it.

April 1, 2014

Why are MSM poll stories bivariate?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:57 am

Lots of discussion around the blogosophere about polling yesterday. One thing that struck me is that political bloggers like to present polls as time-series data going back to before the last election while the mainstream media outlets that pay for all this data present them as cross-sectional, and generally only compare them to the previous poll that they conducted. Why is that? In my experience people like to be able to look at ‘the big picture’ and see the trends. TVNZ (for example) has conducted fourteen polls since the 2011 election. They’ve spent a load of money on them: why not throw that all up on the screen instead of just comparing the new poll to the one before it?

March 31, 2014

Updated poll chart and various observations

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 8:55 am

Bias corrected aggregated poll of polls below. Non-bias corrected graph here.


Safe to say that Cunliffe isn’t working out as Labour leader. He’s losing voters to National and he’s also trending down in the preferred Prime Minister rating.

Not shown, but ACT are on 0.5%. Their new leader Jamie Whyte was on Q & A this morning debating climate change with Russel Norman. We’ve heard a lot (mostly from the New Zealand Herald) about how Whyte is an intellectual giant who will rebuild ACT and restore it to its future glory. Based on his performance during the live debate I predict that ACT under his leadership will not reach 1% and he will not be elected as an MP.

National has a tricky decision to make regarding the Conservative Party. The bias-corrected poll has them on 2.9%. That’s three or four MPs IF National throws them an electorate seat. But if they do that then they might lose some voters to the Conservatives and a whole lot of center-voters might panic and switch to Labour, New Zealand First or the Greens.

I wonder what David Shearer thinks when he looks at the gap between National and Labour since the election? At the time I thought ditching Shearer was the right thing to do, but its starting to look like it was a horrible, horrible mistake.

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