The Dim-Post

May 3, 2015

Bobbleheads

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:03 am

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Bill English is a no-nonsense and well-grounded politician. He has built a strong reputation for prudent fiscal management since he became Finance Minister

I don’t think English’s failure to reach surplus means much, because the goal was always just a meaningless PR gimmick. But imagine what O’Sullivan would say about a Labour Finance Minister who borrowed $100 billion dollars, ran seven deficits in a row and failed to achieve their primary economic ambition after running an election campaign around it. She’d be on the streets throwing molotov cocktails at riot police, trying to save the nation from the lunatic wrecking the economy, not openly fantasising about them becoming Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, and whatever National Party spin-doctor wrote Rodney Hide’s HoS column this week have convinced themselves – or, at least, are trying to convince everyone else – that National’s humiliating defeat in the Northland by-election was a disaster for . . . the Labour Party. The logic here is that the two polls subsequent to the election have Labour down, slightly, and Winston Peters is just below Andrew Little as preferred Prime Minister. Northland was a tactical victory, Farrar explains, but a strategic failure.

I still think the big tactical and strategic failure here is the National government giving up its parliamentary majority only a few months into its term by losing one of the safest seats in the country. Spectacular failure, in the face of which Labour’s dip in the polls two-and-a-half years out from an election is as meaningless as, well, English’s budget surplus. We saw this stuff from Hooton, Farrar et al during the Goff and Shearer leaderships. Next it’ll be ‘Trading on iPredict shows a coup is underway in Labour!’

I don’t think Labour minds Peters’ current ascendancy. Their thinking is (I think) that Labour needs to win votes off National, but that those swing voters are very wary of the Greens without whom Labour can’t form a government. So a robust New Zealand First as a potential coalition partner might be good for Labour.

Update: Matthew Hooton is bewildered by my scepticism. Isn’t Little’s blunder really obvious? Wouldn’t it have been smarter of him to tour Northland in a big red bus getting great exposure talking about poverty and economic development?

The answer is no. If Little spent the Northland by-election campaigning in an electorate he wasn’t standing in and split the vote handing the seat back to National, every commentator in the country – including Hooton and David Farrar – would have called him a moron. And if the polls dipped afterwards, for whatever reason – economic data, statistical noise – then there would be very loud questions about his leadership in the aftermath of such a catrastrophic blunder, instead of a bunch of National Party activists making trouble.

48 Comments »

  1. So Matthew Hooton is no longer the most effective critic of the government? Or is he just on holiday? I’m confused.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 3, 2015 @ 7:09 am

  2. Yes david farrar is partisan but so are you. He (farrar) is quite accurate unlike most blogs I could name. but until the next election we won’t know for sure but at least we won’t hear about the missing million left wing voters anymore.
    Also a rise of Nzf stuffs the greens try and explain that one away

    Comment by Graham — May 3, 2015 @ 8:04 am

  3. Yes, Graham, I agree that most of the things David Farrar writes is pretty sensible most of the time. However some pieces make more sense when not viewed as a semi-objective analysis, but part of the Nationals party coms strategy, i.e. spin.

    And his analysis on Northland is nothing but spin.

    Comment by eszett — May 3, 2015 @ 8:14 am

  4. I love the smell of denial in the morning…

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 3, 2015 @ 8:15 am

  5. Northland was a tactical victory, Farrar explains, but a strategic failure.

    Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that Labour/W-J Prime had campaigned all out in Northland and won (say) 7500 votes – thereby giving Osbourne victory in the seat. Now, write the Kiwiblog post castigating Labour for its stupidity in failing to recognise the benefits of tactical voting, putting short-term goals ahead of long-term thinking and allowing its fear of Winston to overcome the importance of stopping National being able to get whatever legislation it wants through the House.

    The criticism of Labour all seems to assume that had the party gone out and fought hard in Northland then (1) anybody outside of Northland would have noticed, and (2) this would have given a poll bounce to both Little and Labour. But if Labour had done this, then the polls would show Osbourne as going to win the seat (which is what everyone expected to happen), so the coverage would have been about the same as that paid to Botany in 2011. Remember the big bounce that Labour (and Phil Goff) got nationally when it increased its share of the vote by 7.39% in that by-election? Yeah … thought not.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 3, 2015 @ 9:05 am

  6. Yes, the post-hoc criticism of Labour in Northland is stupid, but the overall point that Labour’s ‘do nothing’ media strategy is not working is reasonably valid. The momentum that Little built up at the end of last year seems to have faded away completely.

    Comment by Mike — May 3, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  7. the overall point that Labour’s ‘do nothing’ media strategy is not working is reasonably valid.

    Maybe they’re doing things, but it isn’t “sexy” enough for the Wellington journos? John Key pulling someone’s hair got more negative coverage for the government than any issue in the last year.

    Comment by Fraud — May 3, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  8. Andrew/Danyl

    This is just amazing and supports my growing belief that the left is in big trouble.

    You have a government that is clearly corrupt, arrogant, visionless, tired etc etc

    But it is polling at circa 50% and has a new obvious coalition partner on the rise in NZ First.

    Meanwhile, Labour is well below 30% and its leader is polling worse than Goff, Shearer or Cunliffe did, and may be surpassed by Peters.

    Yet Labour seems to think all is fine and dandy and should minimise its media coverage (that is the strategy, as you know from your sources, who are probably the same as mine).

    This risks Little becoming seen as a joke. As an anecdote, on Friday night Jono & Ben hilariously took the piss out of Key for ponygate. But went on to mock Little for invisibility.

    Yet you two seem concerned about what Farrar and I may have said under a counterfactual!

    Frankly, what we say (or you two say) is irrelevant politically. We are all read by partisans. You should worry more about the real political situation, not how you think political bloggers and columnists, who are read solely by committed voters, might write about things.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — May 3, 2015 @ 9:36 am

  9. John key got stick over the ponytail hair pulling as he deserved. But the media over did the attack and people ended up feeling sorry for him.
    Now I may be a tory but I have labour voteing in-laws and friends because in the real world most people don’t give a s##t about politics.
    The feedback I get from the lefties I know is the hate john key rubbish puts them off labor not national

    Comment by Graham — May 3, 2015 @ 9:38 am

  10. Yes it’s spin about northland but don’t we all “spin ” in life.
    It’s about seeing the positive in day to day life otherwise why would you get out of bed.
    Like yes the payout gone done and man that hurts but over the last 6 months I have gone over my business and looked for new ways of doing things

    Comment by Graham — May 3, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  11. “…This is just amazing and supports my growing belief that the left is in big trouble….”

    As opposed to the right, who appear to have forgotten how to count? To recap: Before the Northland bye-election, National had an absolute majority (don’t give me any bullshit about ACT being an independent party). Now they don’t.

    Farrar, who has become increasingly arrogant and shrill in his warmed over 1980s ACToid pontifications since the election, and the rest of the political right took a blow in Northland. All this rubbish about Labour being the real loser is just a frantic attempt to re-gain control of the framing of the debate, a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” segue into New Zealand First having always been the natural coalition partner for National in the light of a “dysfunctional” Labour.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 3, 2015 @ 10:17 am

  12. The feedback I get from the lefties I know is the hate john key rubbish puts them off labor not national.”
    That may be so but your alternative is to sing Key Praise and ignore the bad things that happen. You Graham, subscribe to forbidding the lad to calling out that the Emperor has no clothes.
    And this would give you self-belief that anyone who is critical of the Key lot, is wrong to say so.
    Bad foolish Leftish people we are!

    Comment by xianmac — May 3, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  13. As an anecdote, on Friday night Jono & Ben hilariously took the piss out of Key for ponygate. But went on to mock Little for invisibility.

    Anecdotes of equal value: Phil Goff was brilliant – really fluent and funny – on both “Jono and Ben” and “Seven Days”, David Shearer was very good on “Would I lie to you?”, Rodney Hide was prime time value on “Dancing with the Stars” … net result of all this on people’s votes at the ensuing election, zero.

    Little could be less “invisible” by PR stunts (bad idea), making more negative and personal attacks (bad idea), announcing big policy early (bad idea), or … he could just be smart and realize that for the last six years Labour made plenty of headlines, and they were mostly bad.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 3, 2015 @ 10:22 am

  14. “…its leader is polling worse than Goff, Shearer or Cunliffe did…” Really?

    Comment by Paul McMahon (@McMahon4SH) — May 3, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  15. At the moment everything is going wrong for National so Labour should just stand back and let National hog all the resulting headlines. If they get involved they just distract the attention from National and some of Nat’s bad publicity rubs off on them.

    Once the MSM journalists start smelling blood in the water; once the politician start needing the journalists (rather than the other way round at the moment), once Hoskings goes one step too far, then National are going to be stuffed.

    Comment by mpledger — May 3, 2015 @ 11:38 am

  16. Yes Winston is first cab off the rank for Labour.

    I happen to think that is a bad move. And every time Winston rants about Muslins just makes think how badly Labour wants to win at any cost.

    Comment by NeilM — May 3, 2015 @ 11:48 am

  17. @Matthew,

    If Labour has a general “say little, be seen little” (gettit?) strategy (and I have no “sources” on this … honest!), then I’d agree that it seems a bit daft. But that’s not the same issue as “should Labour have campaigned hard in Northland?” Conflating the two is unhelpful.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 3, 2015 @ 11:55 am

  18. Oh, and as for this …

    You should worry more about the real political situation, not how you think political bloggers and columnists, who are read solely by committed voters, might write about things.

    Why? As you say, the only people who pay any attention to what us folks say is each other and people like us (less than one decimal point of the population, at a stretch?) So why shouldn’t we spend our time sniping at each other, scoring points and generally indulging in our petty squabbles? It’s not as if it really matters one way or the other.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 3, 2015 @ 11:58 am

  19. I’m doubtful that the cohort of swing voters – probably 15% of National’s support? – actually care that much about politics at the moment, given that we just had an election. If you just voted for National six months ago, it seems unlikely you would tell a pollster you made a mistake because of ponytailgate, or a by-election loss in a region you don’t live in, or missing a fiscal target that is, like Danyl said, a marketing gimmick.

    It would be interesting to see if these polls asked specifically about these events. However when I worked at TNS doing polling as a poor student (like a 21st century sweatshop btw) I don’t recall the questions being that specific. Probably because that they aren’t generalisable across other surveys.

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — May 3, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  20. So Matthew Hooton is no longer the most effective critic of the government? Or is he just on holiday? I’m confused.

    Hooton has never been the most effective critic of the opposition🙂

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — May 3, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

  21. I’m not normally one to take the Kumbaya view on these things but there’s a perfectly respectable argument that everyone except ACT got a little something out of the Northland by-election. It was best seen as sequel to the 2014 election – Election 14 Part II – Revenge of the Dwarves. All the left wing parties got to gloat that at last they had a victory over the evil one and that they had worked together (sort of) to bring it about. Even Peter Dunne got a touch more leverage in his relationship with National. The latter got to console itself with the fact that it took the combined armies of the left to inflict a minor victory on them after how many years in Government? And it made little or no difference to their ability to govern. David Farrar is also correct when he says that Winston’s victory puts him in the prime position to determine who will government next time round and that National is going to have as good a chance as any to make that deal if it wants to, but that’s been true ever since Winston jumped ship in 1992. Pretty much everyone was a loser as well. The victory reinforced the Greens position at the very bottom of the left wing hierarchy, the kids no-one at school wants to play with because of those weird lunches their mothers make and their dorky clothes. Winston has the horror of having an electorate to service when it looks like he has neither the stamina nor desire to do so, Labour suffered the minor humiliation of deferring to Winston but – from the caucus point of view – this is infinitely better than having to spend their lunchtimes with those crazy Green kids. National of course suffered the humiliation of losing and ACT no longer gives the Government its majority.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 3, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  22. @Fraud: “John Key pulling someone’s hair got more negative coverage for the government than any issue in the last year.”

    I’ll agree that the Prime Minister’s repeated pulling of a waitresses hair received negative coverage, but if you think that’s the worst coverage they got then you must have been seeing some very different coverage of the government in the past year compared with what I was seeing.

    Comment by izogi — May 3, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

  23. It is interesting to me how this debate appears to illustrate an ideological rift. on one side, some argue that the by-election inflicted a serious wound on the present government under John Key and dismiss any other view as ‘spin’, on the other, some argue that this has inflicted a serious wound on the ‘opposition’ and Andrew Little, and they, too, dismiss any other view as ‘spin’. Let’s imagine the wounding is equal and is represented by one pint of ‘blood (in or out of the water)’.

    But forget not, that one Party (Key) may be likened in size, to an elephant, while the other (Little) to a Horse. The political system is like to the Serengeti (or somewhere tough to survive in, with thorns, and snakes and stuff). Let’s pretend each animal Elephant and Horse) represents the last ‘sires’ of their species. Therefore, the survival of the species is kind of important to them.

    Is it possible to claim that the political rejuvenation of Winston Peters (Hyena) and NZ First has been equally damaging for both Elephant and Horse? On balance, this would only be true, if we consider which animal could most afford to bleed, if each equally shed one pint of blood.

    Survival is a series of choices and strategies each animal must choose. However, Elephants are bigger than horses, so they can afford to get it wrong more often than Horses can. Let’s assume each animal’s chosen (different) survival strategy is tested by a potentially dangerous sharpened stick, disguised to look like something both horses and elephants really like, which each runs at with some enthusiasm.

    On the balance of all scenarios,running at the strategy represents the most immediate danger to the animal that was least able to afford the loss of one pint of blood. Although each animal may have abandoned its instinctive tendency to stay out of danger, each ran at their respective stick and each lost a pint of blood. However, the Horse got more seriously injured in on the basis that elephants have more blood to spare than horses do.

    This indicates that even though each respective survival strategy was ill-advised for each respective animal, it has resulted in more damage and comparative loss of blood, for the Horse. In a hostile environment, in which survival means getting to pass on your genes to the next generation, the Horse would now, be on the endangered species list.

    But of course, any Hyena worth its salt would have worked that one out, like ages ago.

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 4, 2015 @ 7:12 am

  24. To me this whole thing just illustrates the inadequacy of FPP as a voting system for electorates.

    Comment by izogi — May 4, 2015 @ 7:53 am

  25. I stopped reading Fran O’Sullivan a while back. She is outrageously dishonest – and i don’t use that word lightly – in her world view and how she deploys it. She is every bit as one-eyed as you say WRT the history of National’s fiscal management.

    The evidence could not be more clear: National’s tax cuts were unaffordable by any objective measure. Without them we would now be in surplus and would have been for several years.

    No…this deficit is about dismantling the state and feeding mountains of taxpayer cash to cronies through contracting out state services via the rumps of the various departments that used to do the job. It always was.

    Comment by Steve — May 4, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  26. Prudent fiscal management.

    Impudent egotistical tangent.

    Comment by Neil Miller — May 4, 2015 @ 8:51 am

  27. @Lee: That metaphor was a total trainwreck.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2015 @ 9:00 am

  28. That metaphor was a total trainwreck.

    Inspired by watching The Lion King while off one’s face on some kind of veterinary tranquilizer?

    Comment by Joe W — May 4, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  29. @Lee,

    Imagine the National Party is an elephant and the Labour Party is a tiger shark and Winston Peters is armed with a hunting knife. Put the three of them in a caged pit with 4 feet of sea-water in it. Which one of them would come out alive? Now lets imagine the elephant is blind in one eye, but the shark has lost its left stabiliser fin, and Winston Peters is drunk. Who wins now? And then lets say that the cage is electric, but the elephant is really two tigers wearing a suit and … .

    Fun and games for the whole day!

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 4, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  30. Winston Peters was the winner of the Northland by-election.

    Winston is a cooperatively orientated politician and will go into coalition with anyone. The Greens are a highly moral party and have standards. The National Party has 2.5 years to drive a wedge between Winston, Labour and the Greens.

    What will it be? Modifying Marsden point to become a fully fledged gas fired power plant? Expansion of the Whangarei/Marsden Port to compete with Auckland? A further extension of the Wellsford motorway extension? All of the above?

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 4, 2015 @ 10:08 am

  31. It’s a bit difficult to achieve the surplus when you have the Christchurch Earthquakes and you have a global economic recession.

    However, I’ve never been a fan of the borrowing-billions-of-dollars and selling-off-state-assets-at-the-same-time economic way of doing things. History has shown us that selling off state assets brings short term gain but long term pain.

    I do admire the fact that this year’s fiscal deficit is expected to be 70% less than last year’s, but I do not like the fact that these are artificial figures. Simply because so many billions of dollars has been borrowed by the Government, proves that surplus or deficit figures under that particular Government are artificial to an extent.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — May 4, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  32. “It’s a bit difficult to achieve the surplus when you sustain unviable tax cuts for ideological reasons forcing the State to borrow to support core services and have the Christchurch Earthquakes and you have a global economic recession.”

    Fixed.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 4, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  33. ‘It’s a bit difficult to achieve the surplus when you have the Christchurch Earthquakes and you have a global economic recession.’

    Easy enough to promise it though.

    Comment by Adrian — May 4, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

  34. If Labour had run a soft campaign in Te Tai Tokerau at the general election, then there would be two more MPs on the opposition benches and Key’s government would be rather more circumscribed.

    Comment by richdrich — May 4, 2015 @ 12:50 pm

  35. If mana was in parliament I don’t think winston would have won in northland.
    Because they could kick national in the nuts and still have a national government they voted for winston

    Comment by Graham — May 4, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  36. If Mana was in parliament I don’t think Winston would have won in northland. Because Winston would already have been in coalition with National.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 4, 2015 @ 1:17 pm

  37. Thankyou for the additions Flashing. Kalverson I assume you mean a metaphorical train-wreck? Joe, although I appreciate that The Lion King was inspired by Hamlet, the scenario I’m visualising may be closer to Macbeth – with Winston wearing the dress, and Andrew as the hapless protagonist.

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 4, 2015 @ 1:17 pm

  38. If Labour had run a soft campaign in Te Tai Tokerau at the general election, then there would be two more MPs on the opposition benches and Key’s government would be rather more circumscribed.

    No, there wouldn’t be. There would be one less Green MP and one less Labour MP and 2 Mana-Internet MPs in their place. We may argue whether this is a good or bad thing in itself, but it wouldn’t change the overall balance of votes in the House.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 4, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

  39. “There would be one less Green MP and one less Labour MP…..”

    Fewer!

    Comment by Tinakori — May 4, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

  40. No, there wouldn’t be. There would be one less Green MP and one less Labour MP and 2 Mana-Internet MPs in their place. We may argue whether this is a good or bad thing in itself, but it wouldn’t change the overall balance of votes in the House.

    I have it as one less Green MP and one less National MP.
    ref: http://www.electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2014/e9/html/e9_part2.html

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — May 4, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

  41. Graeme,

    You’re right … there would be one not so mucher Green and National MP … I hadn’t realised National and Labour switched places on the allocation after specials!

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 4, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

  42. @Lee: As opposed to a literal trainwreck?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

  43. “If Labour had run a soft campaign in Te Tai Tokerau at the general election” it would have demonstrated the political maturity required to run an MMP coalition.

    Comment by Sacha — May 4, 2015 @ 6:05 pm

  44. “The evidence could not be more clear: National’s tax cuts were unaffordable by any objective measure. Without them we would now be in surplus and would have been for several years.”

    Um, no. With low govt debt the current fiscal settings are affordable (ref NZs credit rating). Running surpluses for the last several years when the economy has so much spare capacity and inflation has been so low sounds like a strange policy to me.

    Comment by Matthew W — May 4, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

  45. As opposed to analogous horses and elephants, kalvarnsen, I suppose.

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 4, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

  46. @Lee: Basically, your analysis is at core rubbish, and the metaphor you used to convey it was crap.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

  47. @Daniel Lang “It’s a bit difficult to achieve the surplus when you have the Christchurch Earthquakes and you have a global economic recession.”

    It think it’s the promise of surplus and staking the whole house on it last election campaign that’s the reason they deserve to get beaten with this particular stick. I’m all for counter-cyclical stimulus spending, but Tories aren’t – National campaigned in 2005 and 2008 against Labour for counter-cyclical saving!

    The earthquake, on the other hand, is not a cause of the deficit. It is capital neutral (at worst) for the government because the vast majority of it is covered by insurance and the rest they are trying to get out of. The tax take from the rebuild is massive.

    Comment by Paul McMahon (@McMahon4SH) — May 4, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

  48. In fact, Little is polling HIGHER than some of Cunliffe’s and Shearer’s Herald-DigiPoll ratings as Preferred PM, and lower than others. He’s also, for the most part, polling higher in the latest Digi than the former 2 Labour leaders in the Colmar Brunton and Reid Research (although, to be fair, they use different methodologies). So the Hide/Farrar/Hooton notion that he’s polling “worse” or “below” former leaders is just a bit too dogmatic and crude for my liking.

    Comment by swordfish — May 7, 2015 @ 8:17 am


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