The Dim-Post

February 17, 2015

Same as it ever was?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:53 pm

If I could distill the Labour Party’s woes over the last six years into just two words, I’d probably choose ‘bewildering stupidity’. The causes are manifold and complex, but the symptom is that Labour and its leaders often do bewildering, obviously stupid things despite the fact the things they are doing are obviously stupid. Think about David Shearer holding up dead fish in Parliament as his poll ratings flat-lined, or Goff dying his hair orange the day before making a major speech, or Cunliffe railing against secret trusts while financing his leadership campaign through secret trusts . . . The list is very, very long. And today:

Labour leader Andrew Little has hurriedly paid an overdue bill but apparently only after the Government used it to embarrass him in Parliament.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce attacked Little over his stance on employment law changes after revealing Little had not settled his bill with National Business Review columnist David Cohen.

Writing in the NBR last week Cohen confirmed he did paid work for Little to help him secure the Labour leadership but four months later was still waiting for the cheque.

It seems obvious (to me) that hiring a right-wing columnist to do your PR while you campaign for the leadership of a left-wing political party could go wrong in all sorts of ways. Being a former unionist Little has contrived for it to go wrong in a way that makes him look like a total hypocrite, by not paying Cohen, which gave Cohen ammunition for a column in the NBR and Stephen Joyce a way to mock the new Labour leader in Parliament and embarrass him on the evening news. I mean, doesn’t the former boss of the EPMU have an old and trusted ally to help him with his PR? Apparently not, but why not?

Sure, this isn’t as egregious as National’s Sky City deal, or sending our troops to Iraq so we can stay ‘part of the club’. But Key, Joyce et al have reasons for the questionable stuff they do. They have agendas. It’s deliberate; calculated. They have reasons! Labour just does random bewilderingly stupid shit for no comprehensible reason. All the time. People write columns about how Labour should ‘move to the center’, or the left or whatever, but addressing the bewildering stupidity issue should be their primary goal.

82 Comments »

  1. Who hasn’t forgotten to pay a bill, only putting it through once the reminder email arrives? Seriously, who among us?

    What a non-story.

    On the other hand, Little’s refusal to allow minor parties onto the Intelligence and Security Committee is something he has full awareness of, and is much more serious.

    Comment by George — February 17, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

  2. Who hasn’t forgotten to pay a bill, only putting it through once the reminder email arrives? Seriously, who among us?

    It’s more the baffling combination of hiring an NBR columnist, then forgetting to pay them so they can gleefully shout it from the rooftops. It’s a bit like National hiring Bomber and paying him in kugerrands. It’s just stupid.

    Comment by danylmc — February 17, 2015 @ 9:02 pm

  3. Maybe he looked at the PR people which Labour had on offer: the same ones who’ve been driving its actions for its whole time in opposition. But yeah. Stuff like this just gives free ammunition for people like Key and Joyce to divert attention from their own problems.

    It’d be tough to avoid giving them anything though, when the way the National’s PR machine works is basically to dig dirt intensively until it’s found, and then fling it over and over until better dirt turns up. In retrospect I’m surprised they took so long. Without meaning to discredit David Cohen over what might be a genuine grevience, given the context of what’s now become a political attack it’d still be helpful to see more evidence of the gazillions of emails and phone calls, like how many there actually were and what they said and where they were directed.

    Comment by izogi — February 17, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

  4. What Danyl said. It’s bewilderingly stupid.

    Comment by TerryB — February 17, 2015 @ 9:13 pm

  5. It’s more the baffling combination of hiring an NBR columnist, then forgetting to pay them so they can gleefully shout it from the rooftops

    How many journalists are available for quick hire? I wouldn’t imagine it’s that many.

    I helped a first term MP sort his election expenses. It took a fair bit of time and effort. Given that the leader of NZ’s largest opposition party is supposed to be doing just that, it’s very conceivable that something gets missed. I don’t think he forgot hiring Cohen.

    Comment by George — February 17, 2015 @ 9:25 pm

  6. It’s bewildering and it’s been going on for a while now.

    Labour don’t have a principled stance on Iraq and spend there time annoying both the anti-war left and the interventionist left.

    Why not just come up with a policy you believe in and see what people think. Can’t be worse.

    Comment by NeilM — February 17, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

  7. Lol. So true.

    Comment by simon — February 17, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

  8. Who hasn’t forgotten to pay a bill, only putting it through once the reminder email arrives? Seriously, who among us?

    What a non-story.

    Sorry but that is total bullshit and only makes Little look like a dick. If Little wants to show he’s down with small businesses this looks terrible, most small firm’s terms of payment are 20th of the month following. Realistically he would have been reminded several times before even two months rolled around, let alone four months – that is real cowboy stuff and by that stage you’d be getting visited in person by your creditors who would be wanting to make sure you hadn’t shut up shop and done a runner.

    I totally agree that this is nothing like the Sky City debacle or troops to Iraq but it is still very dumb and it would be even dumber for National not to make something of it.

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — February 17, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

  9. 8: Are you kidding? The life of a freelancer consists of sending people bills and then them not paying you for a long time. I’ve had people I’m on good terms with just not pay for two-three months – cash flow issues in that case, and there’s no point chasing people for money they don’t have. (Not paying people is pretty much the key source of short term finance for most small enterprises.)

    I agree that Little was a dick and he should have paid on time, but absent other information it’s a small scale dickishness, like not doing the dishes when it’s your turn.

    But it’s also a classic Caesar’s wife case – the opposition leader needs to Not Fuck Up more than anyone else, and that means not doing stuff like this.

    Comment by Keir — February 17, 2015 @ 10:46 pm

  10. I’d like Labour to be smarter for all the good reasons: will to win, principles, intelligence, basic grasp of politics 101, etc.

    But failing that, there’s always discipline through fear. In short, hire Heather Simpson.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — February 17, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

  11. Add Trevor Dullard’s comment on the passing of Celia Lashlie today to the long list of foot in mouth moments. “She was difficult to work with…”. The dumbarsery knows no bounds. I despair, I really do.

    Comment by Dave — February 17, 2015 @ 11:02 pm

  12. What the story doesn’t tell you is that a campaign volunteer of Little’s in Auckland dropped the ball on this one – both the hiring and the lack of payment – and he’s not dropping him it. If I were Little I would.

    Comment by Kenya — February 17, 2015 @ 11:09 pm

  13. To be fair to Little though, I don’t think he’s in the same category as Mallard and the rest of the caucus old guard. They didn’t learn or change because (in their minds) they didn’t have to – Labour had been in power for a long time, they felt they had made it happen (they hadn’t, it was Clark, Cullen, Simpson, Williams, not the leftover MPs) and so they could just ignore their supporters’ frustration and pleas for basic political competence, because they didn’t see any incompetence in themselves. They knew best.

    They probably still think that, but Little doesn’t have those delusions of entitlement, so I reckon his chances of learning and changing are a lot better.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — February 17, 2015 @ 11:14 pm

  14. “It’d be tough to avoid giving them anything though, when the way the National’s PR machine works is basically to dig dirt intensively until it’s found, and then fling it over and over until better dirt turns up.”

    Yeah, this exactly. It’s not possible for a large organisation to eliminate all trivial mistakes. This usually wouldn’t be a problem, but when you’ve got your enemies digging enthusiastically for dirt, and your erstwhile allies claiming that the only way they can support you is to eliminate every single trivial mistake, you’re kind of screwed.

    The difference between Labour post 2008 and Labour pre 2008 isn’t more stupidity, it’s the media’s laser-intense focus on every minor mistake.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 18, 2015 @ 2:29 am

  15. On that income, how hard is it to pay a bill of kess than $1k? And in that job, how hard to predict what it will look like not to do so? How difficult is it to hire people who will remind you of that?

    Together with today’s security committee snubs it seems Labour are still not ready for power, sadly for the rest of us.

    Comment by Sacha — February 18, 2015 @ 2:40 am

  16. How many journalists are available for quick hire? I wouldn’t imagine it’s that many.

    There are dozens and dozens of former Labour/former union comms people that Little could have hired.

    Here’s what annoys me. When Labour looks at the vast propaganda network that the National Party has spent years building up, they think ‘Let’s be nice to DPF and WhaleOil and the NBR columnists and we’ll win all these right-wing guys over!’ They’ve been doing it for six years now and failing, failing utterly, but its still their default position.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 7:45 am

  17. I’ll take this OTT post on such a trivial topic, along with Sacha’s fainting fit of a post, Idiot/Savant’s use of bad language and especially the arrogant, patronising and passive-agressive display on NatRad just now from Metiria Turei (a hubris which is seems to be the Green default attitude when the mask slips) as all part of the hissing sound coming from the long over-due deflating of excessive Green ego. Labour wants the Greens polling one vote over the 5% threshold. This is part of that. Deal with it.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 8:07 am

  18. Labour wants the Greens polling one vote over the 5% threshold. This is part of that. Deal with it.

    This thing with the ISC is brilliant for the Greens.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 8:12 am

  19. What the story doesn’t tell you is that a campaign volunteer of Little’s in Auckland dropped the ball on this one – both the hiring and the lack of payment – and he’s not dropping him it. If I were Little I would.

    Exactly. I worried I was being a bit presumptuous, but the more unlikely story would have been that Little was handling his entire campaign by himself. That just doesn’t happen.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 8:15 am

  20. Here’s how a similar conversation would go in the National Party:

    Aide: We’ve arranged for Danyl Mclauchlan to interview you then distill it into key messages.
    MP: Who’s he?
    Aide: He’s a left-wing blogger, his wife was a senior staffer for the Greens . . .
    MP: Let’s not use him. That’s just stupid.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 8:19 am

  21. I’ll take this OTT post on such a trivial topic, along with Sacha’s fainting fit of a post, Idiot/Savant’s use of bad language and especially the arrogant, patronising and passive-agressive display on NatRad just now from Metiria Turei (a hubris which is seems to be the Green default attitude when the mask slips) as all part of the hissing sound coming from the long over-due deflating of excessive Green ego.

    Danyl has always loved to criticise Labour leaders for trivial things. Sacha ignores that this is a simple mistake by either Little or someone in his team. I/S always swears, and people ignore his blog as a result.

    The ISC thing is a real issue that deserves consideration.

    The difference between Labour post 2008 and Labour pre 2008 isn’t more stupidity, it’s the media’s laser-intense focus on every minor mistake.

    Quite. And right now they’re looking for any kind of ‘political’ story they can find to blow the Sabin and SkyCity stories out of the headlines. Both are entirely toxic (the former potentially depleted uranium, if the shot is ever fired). Stupid stories about an unpaid bill, or the PM’s pubic hair are like gold to them.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 8:22 am

  22. “…This thing with the ISC is brilliant for the Greens….”

    Really? Why? Because a whole lot of Grey Lynn and Kelburn liberals will now rear up and bare their fangs at Labour? Some electoral force they turned out to be.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 8:23 am

  23. Hearing Little on NatRad quibbling over just what “payed” means wasn’t a good look.

    He tried that with the Iraqi FM as well – trying to maintain “not only” as in seeking not only military assistance meant “not” seeking military assistance.

    I’m surprised he’s turning out like this.

    Comment by NeilM — February 18, 2015 @ 8:29 am

  24. The ISC is an important issue. It highlights the problems Labour and the Greens will inevitably face.

    My take is that with certain crucial issues such as security Labour is much closer to National than the Greens but believes they have to pretend otherwise. And in so doing wind up making a hash of things.

    Comment by NeilM — February 18, 2015 @ 8:33 am

  25. The ISC is simply Labour desiring to de-legitimise the Greens. New Zealand politics is often a game, but seldom a grand one. More checkers than chess. Here is how it works. Labour dumps on the Greens for political gains, Green supporters make common cause with the government and corporate media over a trivial bit of dirt in retaliation. The Greens have reacted they way they have because they are middle class brats who don’t like being told “no”, the trivial incident is beat up because it is at the intellectual level our infotainment media operates at – anyone who caught Gower’s on camera gloating as he jizzed himself asking Andrew Little pointless questions last night can be in little doubt about that. The ISC issue will be good for Labour, because 85% of NZ voters don’t want a bar of the Greens, the trivial story will be repeated endlessly until the next trivial story, government scandal or Labour’s poll numbers start to rise.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 8:50 am

  26. Reblogged this on Talking Auckland and commented:
    The timing of Joyce pointing it out yesterday smacks of coincidence after Bill English got John Key to thrown Stephen under the bus on Sunday over the Convention Centre.

    But for the rest?
    As the post says: STUPID!

    Comment by Ben Ross - Talking Auckland — February 18, 2015 @ 9:06 am

  27. It was in the NBR on Friday, and no-one from Little’s office flagged it as an issue before it blew up yesterday
    That is straight out incompetence
    And they have now apparently employed a lobbyist from the aged care sector to run their research unit?!?

    Comment by Mike — February 18, 2015 @ 9:10 am

  28. “Sacha ignores that this is a simple mistake by either Little or someone in his team.”

    We’ve had 6 years of continuous stuff-ups, thanks. Their backroom seems unable to organise a pissup in a brewery. We all pay for that.

    Comment by Sacha — February 18, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  29. “Stupid stories about an unpaid bill, or the PM’s pubic hair are like gold to them.”

    Exactly, and that’s why competent political party comms managers do not serve them up on a platter.

    Comment by Sacha — February 18, 2015 @ 9:14 am

  30. Dear God, this is what political debate has become in this country? Quick someone, whip around and check all the tail lights of the Labour caucus’ cars, or the blown one will be equivocated with a 4 billion shortfall in some outstanding part of the governments finances, and the ability for this equivocation to get air will be soundly blamed on the entire political left in NZ. Isn’t it time for another Labour leadership coup?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 9:25 am

  31. Dear God, this is what political debate has become in this country?

    I’ve made this same point so many times now. Voters care about ‘valence issues’. They care about competency. Labour can keep doing inane, stupid things, then throwing a tantrum about ‘what about the issues?’ when it hits the media, and keep losing elections and slowly dying, or they can stop being morons. That seems like a really easy choice to make.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  32. There’s a pattern of Labour burying itself in the politics of scandal, with varying degrees of success landing hits on National, and National responding with a real zinger.

    Leaving Labour vulnerable having spent less time focusing on issues of more concern to the average voter.

    Maybe it’s just me but wether Key knew about Sabin in late or early December seemed not deserving of too much attention.

    In the mean time they botch their response on Iraq and the ISC.

    Comment by NeilM — February 18, 2015 @ 9:57 am

  33. “I’ve made this same point so many times now. Voters care about ‘valence issues’. They care about competency.”

    Valence maybe, but competency? If you look at what’s being offered up by the current government, it also doesn’t seem to have a shortage of competency issues in many fields and I think that’s probably been introduced by media at least as much, yet something else is different which caused people to vote to keep it. I reckon many voters probably care about something like unity more than competency, at least if it’s hard to distinguish between who’s more and less competent.

    Comment by izogi — February 18, 2015 @ 10:06 am

  34. >Labour can keep doing inane, stupid things

    Paying a bill late falls into this category? FFS it’s a fucking clerical error by a large organization. Stop the press.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 11:03 am

  35. Send me a note when Danyl writes about how badly an incompetent Andrew Little ties his shoelaces.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 11:04 am

  36. >Voters care about ‘valence issues’. They care about competency.

    I guess we’ll see. I’d be amazed to find the “average voter” remembering this next week. Unless, of course, it’s still headline news.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 11:19 am

  37. It’s not really a clerical error though – if Little didn’t have proper spending controls for his leadership campaign, that’s amateur hour, mickey-mouse, all those other pejoratives.

    Also, while getting dicked around by clients is part of life, it’s really annoying, and predictably will particularly piss off journalists who might have done freelance work or will do it in the future.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 11:38 am

  38. Paying a bill late falls into this category? FFS it’s a fucking clerical error by a large organization. Stop the press.

    It’s not so much the not paying as it is the hiring someone who is an outspoken enemy of your party and then not paying them. Read Cohen’s column. He’s completely bemused as to why someone from Labour called him up, hired him and then started telling him all this insider gossip, which he cheerfully repeats in his column. It was an absurd thing to do.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 11:42 am

  39. It was an absurd thing to do.

    Yep. The absurd bit is hiring someone like Cohen in the first place.

    Comment by RJL — February 18, 2015 @ 11:56 am

  40. >It’s not really a clerical error though

    You know this how?

    >Read Cohen’s column.

    I, like the average voter, don’t get the NBR.

    >It was an absurd thing to do

    Attempting some impartiality by using an unaligned journalist! The Horror! Probably unwise in hindsight, but perhaps they were offering him a chance to do something. Is there really any more to this story than “Journalist who hates Labour complains to high heaven about a minor cockup. Blogosphere goes wild”?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 12:19 pm

  41. Of course I could read this article for free. That’s how valuable it is!

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  42. Because if you’re running a campaign there should ideally be one (1) point of sign off for expenditure, and one (1) point of contact for paying bills. In practice you’ll get small scale spending that happens outside that control but a grand is something that should have been carefully booked by the campaign and someone (the treasurer, ideally, but someone) should have been in charge of making sure it got paid.

    That’s how you run a professional campaign that has accurate records of spending so that when you have to do the regulatory stuff it’s already all in place. It also means you don’t end up with some disgruntled creditor going to the press and causing bad publicity. It’s worrying if Little’s campaign wan’t doing that stuff because it’s a lack of discipline that can lead to fuck-ups precisely like this one and worse – it’s very much like the David Cunliffe secret trust debacle.

    Basically, it looks like Andrew Little’s campaign was doing weird, dumb, mickey-mouse stuff, and that’s a bad sign for the future. So yeah maybe the bill not getting paid was a clerical error but the whole point is that you shouldn’t let the opportunity for this kind of clerical error to exist. Also honestly mouthing off to an NBR journo about how Sepuloni’s going to be deputy? FFS, that’s just farcical.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

  43. “Basically, it looks like Andrew Little’s campaign was doing weird, dumb, mickey-mouse stuff, and that’s a bad sign for the future.”

    I’ll be keen to hear about all the other dumb stuff his campaign’s been doing… whether it’s true idiocy or if it’s more along the lines of David Cunliffe not assuming, when prompted in parliament, that his staff may have approved a standard MP-style letter umteen years ago.

    Chapter two should come out next time the government’s in the firing line again for its own incompetence. It’s funny how this works, in a depressing way.

    Comment by izogi — February 18, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  44. @Ben. Maybe it was a simple mistake. In which case, why didn’t Little simply say “mea culpua, clerical error, paid it today”. Instead he tried to John Key it and repeat “It’s been paid” ad infinitum. And the not following the law on the ISC appointment is another Stupid Labour Decision, and good for the Greens.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — February 18, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

  45. I’m a paid up member of the party. I personally agree that this is all trivial blah blah compared to the big policy issues facing the country blah blah. Don’t need to sell me on that one.

    But it looks like voters disagree and they’re the ones Labour needs to connect with, and so maybe the Labour Party could focus on not stuffing up trivial issues for a bit? It might be helpful. Like, for instance, it’s not a good idea to hire a right-wing journalist who doesn’t really specialise in the matter to provide you with communications advice, let a campaign volunteer who is apparently acting with your authority tell them a whole bunch of potentially explosive gossip, don’t even get the journo to agree to some basic confidentiality protections, and then not pay them. That’s just stupid.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

  46. Attempting some impartiality by using an unaligned journalist!

    Sure, that might have been a good idea. But Cohen isn’t one of those: that’s the problem.

    Comment by RJL — February 18, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

  47. Attempting some impartiality by using an unaligned journalist!

    Here’s fun. Go to the library, pick up a stack of old NBRs, read through a bunch of Cohen columns and then – your poor head swimming with rants about the myth of global warming, the evils of socialism and political correctness, and Stalinist evil of the Clark Labour government – let me know if you think Cohen is an ‘impartial journalist’ who was a real good hire for a labour MP.

    The National Party has built a large, enviable propaganda/media machine, and instead of hating it and fearing it, Labour MPs seem to be dazzled by it and drawn to it. The Taxpayer’s Union. DPF. WhaleOil. The NBR. They can’t get close enough to these people and institutions that basically just exist to destroy them. I don’t know why that is – it’s almost as if the party itself manifests a horrible mental illness – and its a shame to see it manifest in the new leader.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

  48. >So yeah maybe the bill not getting paid was a clerical error

    OK then.

    >In which case, why didn’t Little simply say “mea culpua, clerical error, paid it today”.

    Perhaps he doesn’t personally sign every cheque. Maybe he quite literally didn’t know because it’s so damned trivial. Maybe they don’t pay people like that, and maybe he doesn’t personally know the intimate trivial details of how the party machine sends a few hundred bucks to some hack. Maybe there is a fiddly process around how parties spend money on promoting themselves, because of years of bullshit focus on it. I don’t know and nor does any armchair general calling this inane or mickey mouse or whatever.

    >so maybe the Labour Party could focus on not stuffing up trivial issues for a bit?

    There is *quite literally* NO measure whatsoever for whether that has happened, because the innumerable ways in which a party could have a minor tiny stuff up are not meticulously tracked, nor is there any exhaustive list. In the past, that has been because they are mind-numbingly unimportant, contrasting strongly with the extremely important business of running the government.

    But whatever, this tedious drumbeat of Labour’s terrible incompetence is hardly going to stop just because it is inane and mickey mouse. It doesn’t matter that it’s coming from people who might themselves forget to pay a bill, or where all their money is, or what they wrote to someone 15 years ago. That’s the great beauty of this kind of open-ended whine – you’ll never lack evidence for it.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

  49. >Here’s fun.

    No, that would not be fun. But that doesn’t mean you might not give the guy one chance with a new leader. Maybe he’d come out all gooey for the guy who wasn’t gay. But however they came to choose him, it’s hardly a big deal. Was he hand to mouth the whole time, waiting for his cheque, or something?

    >I don’t know why that is – it’s almost as if the party itself manifests a horrible mental illness – and its a shame to see it manifest in the new leader.

    To someone holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

  50. While it was pretty dumb of Little, the whole thing does seem somewhat trivial.

    It is somewhat odd that this standard is applied by the press to Little when a real issue of competence – say for example, Brownlee pitching the Globemaster as a legitimate replacement to the Hercules transport aircraft against the advice of Defence, for roles that it is manifestly unsuited (i.e. delivering aid to small Pacific airstrips) – is treated by our press with all seriousness.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 18, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  51. Yes, this is a narrative driven thing that doesn’t directly correspond to some kind of tracked metrics. So what? Even if it’s unfair, it’s something Labour has to deal with. Labour can perform better on basics like “paying bills” and “not hiring right wing journos to give you political advice and telling them a bunch of harmful gossip”. It’s not that hard!

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 5:12 pm

  52. It is somewhat odd that this standard is applied by the press to Little when a real issue of competence – say for example, Brownlee pitching the Globemaster as a legitimate replacement to the Hercules transport aircraft against the advice of Defence, for roles that it is manifestly unsuited (i.e. delivering aid to small Pacific airstrips) – is treated by our press with all seriousness.

    Don’t worry, that’s only the potential waste of $800-1600 million (we’ll buy at least two of these machines, but I don’t imagine we’ll buy more than four). Don’t worry about the “passport hack” being used to send NZ soldiers to war either. The slightly later paid delivery of a check for $1000 is of far more interest.

    Patrick Gower is promising us an angry editorial about it tonight. Can’t wait.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 5:18 pm

  53. Yep being late paying a bill is way more newsworthy than Little breaking the law and not consulting other opposition parties before niminating himself and Shearer to the wannabe spies committee.

    Comment by Andrew R — February 18, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

  54. >Yes, this is a narrative driven thing that doesn’t directly correspond to some kind of tracked metrics. So what?

    So what? It undermines every part of the whole drumbeat, if it’s actually got no basis in fact. The whole thing is spin.

    >Labour can perform better on basics like “paying bills” and “not hiring right wing journos to give you political advice and telling them a bunch of harmful gossip”. It’s not that hard!

    Yes, it is hard, because that’s two line items cherry picked out of a potentially unlimited list. You have endless scope to repeat this with whatever damned stupid thing you think is important next, and no way of checking, nor even an intention of checking, whether these things are consistently applied. Furthermore, the triviality of the actual offences appears to not even matter – just the count of offences. This is equating mountains and molehills. Who the hell reasons like this and functions in any real world? This is beltway shit, to the max.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

  55. “…Brownlee pitching the Globemaster…”

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only person having a WTF moment when I saw that on the news.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 6:29 pm

  56. While it was pretty dumb of Little, the whole thing does seem somewhat trivial.

    It is somewhat odd that this standard is applied by the press to Little when a real issue of competence – say for example, Brownlee pitching the Globemaster as a legitimate replacement to the Hercules transport aircraft against the advice of Defence, for roles that it is manifestly unsuited (i.e. delivering aid to small Pacific airstrips) – is treated by our press with all seriousness.

    I sort of agree with this. But Little is making a big pitch for the votes of small business owners, and while defense procurement is rather occult subject to most people in that demographic, clients not paying their bills is a really really big deal to them.

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

  57. Yes, it’s spin. Being good at spin is the job, that’s why political parties hire “spin”doctors and not, you know, actual doctors.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

  58. But that doesn’t mean you might not give the guy one chance with a new leader.

    And how’s that worked out for them, given that Cohen just leaked all his emails about the bill to the Herald and 3News?

    Comment by danylmc — February 18, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

  59. >And how’s that worked out for them, given that Cohen just leaked all his emails about the bill to the Herald and 3News?

    With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, not well. Which of course everyone foresaw way back when this happened, so they could hand down their earthy wisdom about “the basics”….not.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

  60. “Cohen just leaked all his emails about the bill to the Herald and 3News?”

    Cool. So how many is “gazzillions” in fact?

    Comment by shakingstick — February 18, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

  61. >Yes, it’s spin. Being good at spin is the job, that’s why political parties hire “spin”doctors and not, you know, actual doctors.

    Glad we’re clear on that. So Labour’s incompetence is spin. Why are you commenting on the incompetence like it’s a fact, then? It must suck to not even be able to send a bill for your spin.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

  62. Which is, incidentally, why National won’t fail to pay your bill. It’s all gratis.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

  63. I had thought Little was a huge improvement on the terminally peeved he’s not taken seriously Goff and the straight out weird Cunliffe.

    He seemed pragmatic and his union credentials and focus on small business all looked good.

    But bad mouthing Robertson and Adern to a complete stranger – who also happens to be a journalist with no grest sympathy for Labour – is not a sign of good political judgement.

    Comment by NeilM — February 18, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

  64. But Little is making a big pitch for the votes of small business owners, and while defense procurement is rather occult subject to most people in that demographic, clients not paying their bills is a really really big deal to them.

    This.

    Comment by SHG — February 18, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

  65. 61, 62 – look, as a member of the party I’m totally sold on this all being a huge conspiracy by the media against us etc*. But it doesn’t matter – the solution is to Not Fuck Up, not to get better at explaining how it’s all a massive plot blah blah because seriously? the voters think that line stinks. Better discipline, better planning, and better media management can actually make you look better.

    * actually I’m not I think the Labour is actually incompetent at a lot of things.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 7:19 pm

  66. >the solution is to Not Fuck Up

    No, it’s about controlling how your fuck ups are perceived. Because everyone fucks up, and they do it all the time. I’m here helping you right now to perceive this fuck up for what it is, a very pissly one. You’re talking it up. Is that your idea of not fucking up? This is you, on the internet, a big supporter of the Labour party, not fucking up? I’d hate to see an actual fuck up.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

  67. And how’s that worked out for them, given that Cohen just leaked all his emails about the bill to the Herald and 3News?

    And emails apparently show that Little didn’t know about the unpaid bill. When he learnt of the bill, he paid it promptly. Yawn.

    The ordinary performance by the Greens at the last election really seems to be bothering you…

    Comment by Ross — February 18, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

  68. Oh don’t worry, Labour will be making one any moment now.

    Comment by SHG — February 18, 2015 @ 7:52 pm

  69. And emails apparently show that Little didn’t know about the unpaid bill. When he learnt of the bill, he paid it promptly. Yawn.

    But he knew about it. I know this because this is how it was reported (Little is late), because that’s how it was fed to the media. He’s not allowed to complain about that reporting being wrong, because then he fucks off those people even more.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

  70. No this how its done…

    Scene: In a darkened room- National MP, Aide, Danyl Mclauchlan

    Aide: We’ve arranged for Danyl Mclauchlan to interview you then distill it into key messages.
    MP: Who’s he?
    Aide: He’s a left-wing blogger, his wife was a senior staffer for the Greens . . .
    MP: Let’s not use him. That’s just stupid.”
    DM: I’m actually right here.
    MP: startled: So Danyl fancy that H plate Porsche out the front?
    DM: Looks sideways
    MP: We can be your best friend, you know
    DM: Draws sharp breath in. Stares a Porsche keys.
    MP: Winks
    Aide: Will it be a good article?
    DM: Looks sideways again.
    Aide: Johns finished with it, it needs a new Daddy.

    Scene: Blue smoke, the faint roar of a Porsche

    Comment by Grant — February 18, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

  71. But he knew about it.

    He knew about it when he paid it, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to pay it. But he didn’t know about it 4 months ago.

    Comment by Ross — February 18, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

  72. No, it’s about controlling how your fuck ups are perceived.

    Little’s fucked that up too though, that’s yet another problem. (As far as over egging it, man, it’s not like there’s any swing voters hanging out here.) Look, yeah, it sucks that the Labour Party gets the short end of the stick. Whatever. The party has to start dealing with it in a proactive way and not just whinging about how unfair it is.

    Comment by Keir — February 18, 2015 @ 8:10 pm

  73. >The party has to start dealing with it in a proactive way and not just whinging about how unfair it is.

    Yup, I think you’re fighting the good fight talking up their incompetence and saying the only way to win the game is just to never drop the ball or miss a tackle. That’s gonna help. They’ve certainly never heard that before.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 18, 2015 @ 8:30 pm

  74. @shakingstick: “Cool. So how many is “gazzillions” in fact?”

    As far as I can tell from this narrative (emails at the end, or here), it’s more than a couple. From bottom to top it does look like a mess from Andrew Little’s office, if it’s a genuine representation, both before everyone would have left for Christmas and after they returned. Repeated assurances from the office that it’d be dealt with with high/immediate priority, then nothing happening over and over until David Cohen declared on 12th Feb that he intended to get the money he was owed.

    Whether David Cohen’s determination to get his $950 deserves to push government stories from the spotlight in a world of impartiality is another matter, but he got his money.

    Comment by izogi — February 18, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

  75. “I’ve made this same point so many times now. Voters care about ‘valence issues’. They care about competency.”

    Do you really think Little’s not paying a bill in a timely manner proves he would be an incompetent Prime Minister? That’s a very long bow to draw.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 18, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

  76. “I think you’re fighting the good fight”

    Keir has at least volunteered for that party, Ben, which is more than you or I. Show some respect.

    Comment by Sacha — February 18, 2015 @ 9:09 pm

  77. Gower is getting smashed in the comments section of the TV3 story. Still, it’s good to be reminded he is just a willingly useful idiot for the PM. As for Danyl, this nonsense just confirms he is a soft touch when it comes to being played by anti-Labour stories.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 9:51 pm

  78. @Ben, the problem is how it was handled. If Little had come out and said, “yeah, I’ve had a chat with my staff and it turns out there was a mis-communication, we’ve paid now, I’ve called Cohen and we’re square”, then it would have been totally over. The whole incessant “it’s been paid, it’s been paid, it’s been paid” thing looks both *amateur* and *guilty*, ADDING TO THE PROBLEM. Starving an issue of oxygen is fine *if you control the information*, but Cohen had the data and he was able to publicise it, so another Little miscalculation.

    I get that everyone makes mistakes, but Little’s handling of a basic clerical error is *so* bad that it is news into-and-of-itself.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — February 18, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

  79. “…I get that everyone makes mistakes, but Little’s handling of a basic clerical error is *so* bad that it is news into-and-of-itself…”

    Gotta love all the pious sanctimony in the concerned trolling of this issue by Green supporters. “Well, yes, this is a trivial issue. But although it is trivial, and it hurts us as much as it hurts you, we are going to have to keep up the criticism, because you know, it is good for you.”

    The sooner the Greens are back scrambling to get over 5% the better.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 18, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

  80. Sanctuary, most Green supporters I’ve read today think this is bullshit.

    Comment by George — February 18, 2015 @ 10:48 pm

  81. Well that’s politics, these little morality tales have significance according to which tribe you belong to.

    Comment by NeilM — February 18, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

  82. “But Little is making a big pitch for the votes of small business owners, and while defense procurement is rather occult subject to most people in that demographic, clients not paying their bills is a really really big deal to them.”

    True, but you have been pretty hot on the subject of competence trumping policy on numerous occasions and Brownlee surely fails on both counts here (cf also the SkyCity palaver which has neatly exited the headlines while this faux story runs). Saying that, Little has handled this in an excruciatingly amateur fashion.

    To whit, I’d like to expand on your competence vs. policy premise slightly. It seems to be that it’s more that perceived competence (that is, competence that is packaged and pitched by the press to the public) is more important that actual competence.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 18, 2015 @ 10:51 pm


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