Hard rain’s a-gonna fall

datePosted on 00:14, February 3rd, 2011 by Lew


The past week has illustrated in clear terms the New Zealand Labour party’s decline as an effective opposition party. In the opening moments of election year 2011, John Key has stepped up to demonstrate the full extent of the National government’s apparent impunity. He has done this in three ways.

First, by fronting Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Campbell Live and other tier-1 hard-news media to outline his intention to partially privatise SOEs. Privatisation, since the Fourth Labour Government, has been a ‘third rail’ issue; one the NZ left is unequivocally opposed to. By going into bat for privatisation personally, and in considerable policy detail, Key confounded criticism which has been (justly) levelled at him throughout the electoral term so far that he often refuses to show up on hard media, while continuing to keep regular spots in soft formats like Breakfast, and on less rigorous media such as Newstalk ZB. He also invested his own (considerable) political capital in the enterprise, making privatisation a matter of his own judgement and credibility.

Second, he sought out and is revelling in the controversy caused by his “Liz Hurley is hot” stunt, undertaken on Radio Sport with convicted back-breaker Tony Veitch. In political terms, the first bit was no meaningful risk; Key has played the ‘frankly, I’m a red-blooded Kiwi bloke’ card several times before, always to good effect, and most notably when he informed a press scrum he’d had a vasectomy. The decision to undertake an interview with the disgraced Veitch was a considerably more risky proposition because of the nature of Veitch’s offending against his partner, combined with the subject matter of their conversation, and the fact that Key’s political appeal to women has been considerably stronger than previous National leaders. This seems clearly calculated to demonstrate what he can get away with; and the gamble has in fact paid off so well that Phil Goff today felt compelled to follow suit, suggesting a slightly sad “me too, me too” narrative.

The third of Key’s big moves was today’s dual announcement that the election would be held on 26 November, 10 months away and following the Rugby World Cup; and that he would not consider a coalition arrangement which included Winston Peters. Coupled with ruling out working with Hone Harawira outside his present constraints in the māori party, this declaration will provide considerable reassurance to National’s traditional base, and will scotch any possibility of wavering conservatives casting a hopeful vote for Winston Peters as an each-way bet. It is a risky proposition, though — Peters remains a redoubtable political force, and it is not beyond possibility that he returns to parliament. However I think Key has read the electorate well; he knows that while a small number of people love Peters, and a small number loathe him, many of those in the middle are vaguely distrustful of him. As Danyl points out, he’s managed to link Peters to Goff in a way which emphasises both leaders’ worst attributes: Peters’ polarising tendency, and the general unease and disdain with which voters view Goff. The decision to call the election so early is also bold. It means relinquishing the incumbent advantage of being able to control the electoral agenda; being able to determine when ‘government as usual’ ceases and ‘campaign season’ begins. This is an intangible but valuable benefit, and it has been traded off against another piece of reassurance: the sense that Key and his government are “playing it straight” with the New Zealand public; that they intend to run an open and forthright campaign and to seek an honest mandate for their second term. The choice of election date isn’t entirely selfless, of course — the All Blacks are odds-on favourites to win the Rugby World Cup, and even if they don’t, the tournament, its pageantry and excitement and revenue boost will bifurcate the campaign. The traditional campaign period will mostly be drowned out by this event, save for the last few frantic weeks.

In most election years, swapping agenda-setting rights for a “playing it straight” feeling would be a poor tradeoff. In most election years, a sexist stunt with a known and publicly reviled wife-beater would be a poor start. In most election years, running a campaign based on privatisation would simply be a non-starter. While the paragraphs above read somewhat like breathless praise of Key’s status as a political playa, that’s not my intent. I think he’s good, but mostly John Key just knows what he can get away with. The reason he can get away with all of these things is because there is no credible opposition to prevent him from doing so. Anyone half-decent can look sharp when playing against amateurs.

It has been Labour’s job to prevent the government from reaching the state of near-impunity they now enjoy, and their failure to do so means there is now a real danger that Key will get the genuine and sweeping mandate he seeks. To a considerable extent they were doomed in the task of preventing this from the outset, because they didn’t think it was possible that he’d ever achieve it. Clark Labour throughout 2008 fundamentally misunderestimated Key, writing him off as a bumbling lightweight, and this was a crucial error. Since well before the election — this example is from July 2008 — I’ve been arguing to anyone who’ll listen that instead of taking easy pot shots at Key based on his weaknesses, any critique should focus on his strengths. Quoting myself, from the above:

Key’s strengths [per the Herald bio], which enabled him to succeed as a currency trader: Decisiveness. Determination. Patience. Ice-cold calm under fire. Willingness to risk it all. Ability to follow through. Remorselessness.
If you want to attack John Key, draw attention to what might happen under a Key government. Given his history, he’s not some motley fool who won’t make sweeping changes – he hasn’t gotten where he is today by being timid. I think he has the wherewithal to roll out a sweeping programme of political and social change the like of which we haven’t seen since Lange, but I think that, unlike Lange, he won’t get cold feet. If you don’t like Key’s politics, I suggest you begin thinking about what might happen if the guy is given the power he seeks.

The delusion that John Key is a hapless fool who’s somehow mysteriously gotten his hands on the reins of power remains very much alive within New Zealand lefties; this was the tired old line I got spun as recently as this afternoon, by one of the internet’s best-known Labourites (with a nice dollop of ‘if you don’t praise Labour, you’re a rightie’ for good measure).

But this tendency to misjudge and underestimate Key is only part of the problem. Denizens of The Standard aside, anyone within the loop who has a modicum of reason has figured out that Key is not the lightweight he was — quite willingly — framed as. But now the narrative is set: it’s That Nice Man John Key, who drinks beer out of the bottle while tending the barbecue with Prince Harry, and thinks Liz Hurley is hot. They don’t have a credible counter-narrative, but they have to say something against the health cuts, education cuts, tax cuts, ACC cuts, pending privatisation and so on — and so they fall back on their usual tired old cliches, which, while superficially looking like what an opposition is supposed to do, lack cohesion and run counter to the established wisdom about Key and his government — wisdom laid down, in the first place, by the Labour party in its 2008 campaign.

The lack of narrative cohesion is so dire that the party claims that privatisation of SOEs is repugnant to the voting public of New Zealand; and almost simultaneously puts out a press release saying that it’s a cynical ploy to “cling to power”. The manifest incompatibility of these two propositions — cynically promoting an unpopular policy to retain power — speaks for itself.

If the inability to construct a viable narrative is symptomatic of a wider lack of ideas and direction within Labour. Election-year spin aside, their policy offering is weak as well. Their big blockbuster kicking-off-election-year policy of a $5000 tax-free zone was big enough to draw plenty of criticism about cost and targeting (including from people like Brian Easton), but timid enough that nobody was made to sit up and take notice for any other reason (sidenote: when Brian Easton, John Shewan, Chris Trotter and I all oppose something, I think you can be pretty sure it’s not a winner).

This is just the most recent example of what we’ve seen throughout the past two years: Labour’s vision, and its execution, simply aren’t up to scratch. I have no internal knowledge of the Labour party, and I don’t know whose fault this is. I guess the leadership blames the strategists, the strategists blame the policy wonks, the policy wonks blame the spin-doctors and the spin-doctors blame the MSM™. All that’s just excuse-making for losers. There are no socially-just power-redistribution schemes in politics, and if there were they would be rorted. There is no fair. The job of being in opposition is to win despite the odds being stacked against you; to do and say things worthy of the news media’s time, worthy of the government’s concern, and worthy of the electorate’s endorsement. If you’re not doing that, you’re not up to the task.

As the title implies, the political weather this election year is not going to be a warm drizzle. John Key wants a mandate; he wants a strong and broad mandate which will permit him to wreak widespread social, economic and political changes upon New Zealand’s landscape, and he is prepared to put a lot on the line to gain it. He is playing for keeps, and my instinct is that an opposition who couldn’t keep pace with ‘smile and wave’ is going to be crushed by the rampant beast which is currently girding for war. What’s more, by all accounts Key is actually, genuinely coming to the New Zealand electorate with a transparent policy offering in good faith, keeping his promise that nothing would be privatised without his first having sought a mandate to do so, which robs Labour of their strongest symbolic weapon: the “by stealth” bit of their catchcry “privatisation by stealth”. Time will tell if this holds, but at present the Key government is doing exactly what it says on the box. Labour can’t claim they haven’t known about this all along. Privatisation has been the bogeyman about which they’ve been warning the New Zealand public for at least a decade, which makes the incoherence of their recent response all the more unforgivable. That National would consider running an election campaign on this cornerstone issue, loathed and feared by so many New Zealanders, is surprising. That they can expect to do so without trying to get their agenda through on the sly is shocking. That they reasonably expect to do all that and win is unthinkable. Let there be no doubt: if Key wins this election on these grounds, it is because Labour, by failing to adequately discharge their role as a competent opposition, have permitted him to do so.

Perhaps it is not too late. Perhaps Key has overplayed his hand; perhaps Goff has a secret weapon. Perhaps a young Turk is fixing to roll Goff and his cadres and make a break for it. I do not think any of these are likely. So it may be that the one good electoral thing to emerge from 2011 is a heavy and humbling loss which would see the Labour party reduced to a meagre husk. An exodus of the lively and creative thinkers of the party to another vehicle; or the enforced retirement of the deadwood responsible for the present state of affairs; or both would clear the way for a thoroughgoing rejuvenation of the movement’s principles and its praxis and its personnel. While it would be cold comfort to the generation of New Zealanders who will bear the brunt of the Key government’s second and third-term policies, it would be a crucial and long overdue lesson in political hubris, never to be forgotten, and infinitely preferable to another narrow loss and the moribund hope that next time it’ll be different.

L

43 Responses to “Hard rain’s a-gonna fall”

  1. Will de Cleene on February 3rd, 2011 at 01:15

    I guess the leadership blames the strategists, the strategists blame the policy wonks, the policy wonks blame the spin-doctors and the spin-doctors blame the MSM™.

    Labour have historically proven that they are adept at rationalising their failures.

  2. gingercrush on February 3rd, 2011 at 01:23

    Excellent post Lew. Though I suspect it’ll get ignored. Mind you the right at Kiwiblog remain delusional about Helen Clark so both sides are equally guilty of it.

  3. Pat on February 3rd, 2011 at 01:26

    Good post. Not sure I agree about the word “wreak”, but that depends on your politics I suppose.

    John Key’s National have already implemented some fairly major changes, such as the structural changes to the tax system and the 90 day bill. Labour has screamed doomsday every time, but in doing so has looked like the boy who cried wolf. They haven’t been able to back up their protest with much in the way of actual evidence (the CTU campaign of 90 day bill victims was farcical) and this lack of credibility has not dented the public confidence in Key.

    Kevin Rudd fell from grace seemingly overnight, so anything is possible 10 months out. But I think Key might have learned a little from history.

    If Key wants to campaign openly on specifics in order to get a mandate, then all power to him. Election campaigns under MMP have usually ended up being a collection of vague promises and maybes.

  4. Phil Sage on February 3rd, 2011 at 01:30

    Excellent analysis Lew. I feel very much happier about the direction New Zealand is travelling in.

    John Key has established his bona fides. This election is not about holding onto power. It is about arguing and winning the debate about what direction to take New Zealand. You will find it is not just privatisation that is being discussed.

    If New Zealand is too timid to take the steps needed to put it back on a path into the top half of the OECD then my assessment, supported by your analysis, is that John Key would prefer NOT to win the next election.

    There will be nothing done on the sly. Key will be completely upfront.

    That is why he is getting trivia like the election date and coalition with Peters out of the way now. He does not want that diverting the debate about New Zealands future that needs to take place.

  5. Hugh on February 3rd, 2011 at 01:32

    I really have nothing to add Lew. You’re quite right. I’ve got to say though that I feel this ideological incoherence is the norm for Labour – even at their high points, from 1997 to 2004, they weren’t so much united behind an all-encompassing narrative as just managing things very effectively. So the answer is probably better management first, and more ideological coherence second (and not at the cost of better management).

    Of course the solution to everything in politics is “better management”, so I won’t claim I’m wielding any real insight here.

  6. mickysavage on February 3rd, 2011 at 08:28

    Morning Lew

    Do you get worried when Gingercrush agrees with you?

    My comments yesterday were to disagree with you mainly on the suggestion that Labour was ineffectual. I guess they are in a Crosby Textor sort of way but I did not expect you to agree with the type of politics the country is seeing right now.

    In that Key commands extraordinary attention by listing the women he perves at and by taking positions of “principle” by refusing to negotiate with Winston while he will negotiate with a party such as ACT he is a success. But politics should be about content and not superficiality. According to your test George Bush (both of them) Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher were good leaders.

    Yet at the same time you criticise Goff for not releasing fully developed policy at his state of the nation speech. There is an avalanche of policy that will be drip fed during the year. If you read the speeches from last year’s conference the themes will be clear, radical economic reform and improving the plight of children. But why should Labour release all the details now? A staggered release will maximise effect.

    And you suggested that Labour had conflicting positions on privatisation and cite David Parker’s press release as suggesting Labour thought that National’s privatisation policy was to gain popularity whereas Goff said it was not. If you read Parker’s statement carefully he was talking about the position being popular amongst National’s core supporters, not generally.

    Your criticism that Labour is not getting cut through is valid. When the MSM is jammed with discussions on hair dyeing, lists of desirable women and who will or will not do a deal with Winston then the intricacies of the damage of privatisation will never be reported on.

    Perhaps Labour cannot keep up with good old smile and wave. But aren’t you even slightly concerned that the right nominate the type of political making decision they want and the left then buy into the argument?

  7. Craig Ranapia on February 3rd, 2011 at 08:49

    But why should Labour release all the details now? A staggered release will maximise effect.

    When that well-known neo-liberal market fundamentalist Brian Easton is calling bullshit on your costings, I have to agree that the effect is being “maximised”. Just not in the way you intend, I suspect.

  8. Scott on February 3rd, 2011 at 08:53

    I have not lost all hope of Labour doing something useful before November to dent Key’s lead in the polls, though it’s hard to imagine a Prime Minister Goff. Goff is politics’ unlucky man. Most of the media attention he gets is negative, and he is almost always on the defensive. But, to use a cliche, you make your own luck, and Goff hasn’t shown a great deal of skill in managing the media. It’s not clear whether his failure is in heeding the poor advice of those around him, or in ignoring the sound advice people are giving him. Either way it is a failure of leadership.

    The Labour leadership is a poisoned chalice, and it may be that nobody else wants it this close to an election. I don’t see many obvious candidates at the moment, though there are some potential stars in the making. Labour needs a fresh face, someone without baggage from the previous Labour government, someone who can say with hand on heart when accused of policy u-turns: “that was in the past and I wasn’t involved”. A Little or a Robertson might be the answer.

    Lew, you mention in your post the possibility of an exodus to another vehicle if Labour is smashed in the election. It would be nice to imagine the formation of a new political party free from the baggage of Labour’s failures. But it is hard to imagine a breakaway party surviving for very long. Would it be another Alliance or New Labour?

  9. [...] has an election preview post up which I heartily agree with, in which he argues that John Key’s recent strategic moves: [...]

  10. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pbmcbeth and Scoop Business, Lew. Lew said: My 'more in anger than in sorrow' pose, for Labour: http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2011/02/hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/ [...]

  11. [...] the “delusions we have no intention of correcting” department. The delusion that John Key is a hapless fool who’s somehow mysteriously gotten his hands on the [...]

  12. Berend de Boer on February 3rd, 2011 at 09:38

    Lew, distributing around what’s been left of the NZ economy is not a winner anymore. There’s not much left, many already have left, and this country either drops out of the OECD top 30 and with it the entire welfare state, or a miracle happens and this country starts growing the cake.

  13. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 10:10

    Thanks all.

    Pat, KRudd’s fall was widely presaged, and resulted from a deep disjuncture between how he dealt with the Australian public, and how he dealt with his own people. Within the Australian political-media complex it was very well known indeed that his calm, reasoned façade was purely cosmetic, and this was an integrity problem for him. I don’t see any such analogue with Key, who (by all accounts) isn’t faking anything very much. So that provides me no cause for hope, either.

    Micky, to be perfectly frank I would rather the endorsement of my ideological foes who are at least rational about the state of the political environment, than that of my delusional ideological allies. The best case, of course, would be if those allies would lay aside their blind loyalty for long enough to get a reasoned perspective of the objects of their affection, but I’m done waiting for that.

    Aside from that point. I dealt with most of this argument yesterday at TS. Don’t cuss out the media — Labour knows (or should know) how they work, and have in the past proven adept at playing the game. You single out the Veitch interview as a case where Key received an unjustified profile and character boost. I covered this in my post, did you read it? That Key felt emboldened to do that indicates he is cognisant of the opposition’s inability to present a credible threat. Instead of blaming the media for doing what the media does, ask yourself this: how, in New Zealand in 2011, does the Prime Minister get all matesy-blokey with one of the country’s best-known wife-beaters and not get crucified by the opposition for doing so? After all — it’s not the media’s job to crucify him; and goodness knows the National party isn’t going to crucify itself. Only one bunch of people has responsibility for bringing the wood and the nails, and banging them all together, and that’s the opposition. They didn’t even try; the only response was from an isolated 70s feminist from a minor party who’s widely regarded as a bit of a crank and is retiring at the end of the year in any case. Nobody is to blame for that absence of response but Labour. The same goes for the other feeble excuses you make. The opposition’s job is to give the media something more appealing to cover than haircuts, celebrity babies, hotties, also-rans and political kiss-and-tell. If it can’t do that then it has no business taking up space which might be occupied by someone who can.

    I didn’t criticise Goff for not releasing fully-developed policy; as I explained to you yesterday, I criticised him for releasing policy which, even in its preliminary state, was manifestly poor. As I say: it got bagged for cost and targeting, and a resounding ‘meh’ for its beneficial impact. You can disagree with that argument if you like (and you have a platform upon which to do so) but the fact remains that that’s how it was received. By definition, that makes it poor electoral policy.

    Likewise, regarding privatisation: you can argue that the two positions aren’t in technical conflict as much as you like, but that won’t change the fact that anyone who hears them together will think ‘hmm, something about that doesn’t really make sense’. Technicalities don’t matter. Wonkish policy detail doesn’t win elections.

    You talk about what politics ‘should’ be about, ignoring the facts of what politics is about. This is the No True Scotsman fallacy. In point of fact, Thatcher, Reagan and one of the Bushes were good leaders — among the best of the 20th Century. Whether you agree with their politics or not (and as you know, I do not), their political quality is unarguable (Bush Jnr is the arguable exception; his popularity was artificially inflated by 9/11, and although he won a second term unlike his father, it was in a weak field — whereas GHW had an impossible legacy to follow, and faced an opponent who was another of the great leaders; Clinton). Your whole line of argument here, that a political movement should respond to some arbitrary, imaginary notion of what politics ought to be about rather than facing the uncomfortable reality of what politics is about is a certain ticket to electoral oblivion. To change the game you must play the game. To control the game — to wrest it away from those who presently control it — you must play it and win it. If a political party doesn’t want to play the game which is being played, they should vacate the field and make way for someone who can, and will.

    Scott, indeed, any such new party would likely be doomed. The ultimate demise of Labour would be a terrible event in New Zealand political history. But ultimately if the party won’t sort its act out, then perhaps we’re better off without it.

    Berend, way to utterly miss the point.

    L

  14. Chris on February 3rd, 2011 at 10:33

    Your criticism that Labour is not getting cut through is valid. When the MSM is jammed with discussions on hair dyeing, lists of desirable women and who will or will not do a deal with Winston then the intricacies of the damage of privatisation will never be reported on.

    Maybe Goff et al need to talk of hair jobs, and lists of hunky men / women, and in the same breath say “and I also believe in state ownership of assets, and support for early childhood education” – forever painting those who have hair jobs, and discuss lists of hunky men as believers in state ownership of assets and support for early childhood education – of which not an inconsiderable number would actually disagree.

    Just thinking out aloud here…

  15. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 10:37

    Micky Savage, one more thing.

    My assertion, that the Labour opposition is ineffectual, is supported by a wide variety of both hard and soft data: poll and by-election results, media coverage, policy and political critique, and the government’s apparently fearless approach to the election, as detailed above. You say you disagree with that assertion. Upon what grounds do you disagree? You are welcome to a guest post to make the counter-case, if you like, on one condition: that you argue what is, rather than what you wish was. Argue Labour’s case, if you can, on the basis of the good and effective things they have done, their successes and the ways they have credibly constrained and hindered the government.

    L

  16. Ray on February 3rd, 2011 at 11:12

    Good stuff Lew
    A pity Labour seems to have forgotten how well Miss Clark managed the media in her first two terms
    Being in government helped, bringing a new approach helped but it was the hands on, reporters being on her speed dial that swung it
    It’s not brain surgery, just face to face stuff

  17. Steve Withers on February 3rd, 2011 at 11:47

    What all that very good analysis tip-toes around but doesn’t mention is: What does the average voter know – or think – of all this?

    If all they know about politics is john Key is a “nice guy”…and they know nothing of the policies sending their jobs overseas, depressing their wages and work conditions and wasting vast sums on white elephant infrastructure that will be more and more useless year on year as we move away from oil addiction…..then there isn’t much anyone can do.

    I do blame the “MSM” a fair bit. The NZ Herald essentially suppressed all news about climate change in the lead up to the 2008 elections….unless it was how much an ETS would add to the cost of living. It doesn’t matter what any political leader says if the media don’t cover it. One need only read MP press releases….then scan the newspaper…to see what we don’t hear about…..but should.

    Obviously, I can’t vote for National because I see their policies as retrograde in many important respects (environmentally, energy-wise, transport) , wasteful in both execution and intent (“private” is often more expensive, incompetent and inadequate and with insufficient accountability). After 30 years of watching them in action they are, to me, the worst of all parties for shaping policy and expenditure around lining the pockets of cronies. None of that attracts me and I can’t support it….whoever the leader might be.

    Which brings us back to the Kiwi voter. If they don’t actually understand how the world they live in works….they can’t possibly make sensible rational judgments about who might run it on their behalf.

    Anyone who has tried knows that voters have their filters set very high where learning anything new is concerned.

    I’m not sure we can blame Labour for that. National would have exactly the same problem were the shoe on the other foot…and did for 9 years.

    What changed was a move to wedge politics based on emotive issues….pumped up hard by the foreign-owned “MSM” – particularly Fairfax and APN. We ‘re watching a replay of the same tactics that have allowed the GOP in the US to destroy America in the name of saving it.

    Who do we blame for the dumbing down that has clearly occurred? How do we expect anyone to overcome the effects of it?

  18. Pete on February 3rd, 2011 at 11:56

    Thanks Lew – all good stuff, and I can’t argue with it. As a voter who naturally aligns with the Left I’d suggest that Labour supporters/staffers in particular reflect on your post and consider the ‘what if’ alternatives.

    What really gives me the sh*ts is the so-called ‘mandate’ that National will get when* they are elected (for those salty policies like SOE part-sales etc), even though calling “mandate” after a General Election is not really how I see the vote going down generally. Particularly when John Key is elected, Presidential-style, on the basis of his so-called ‘everyman’ persona.

    *I say when because I agree with Lew’s position above and no longer trust Labour to get their sh*t together – though I believe in their policy and what were their principles more than I could ever truly trust the direction of National (and particularly a National ACT coalition – especially in the next term).

    C’mon Labour, sort it out – until then my party vote ain’t yours to have.

  19. WH on February 3rd, 2011 at 12:17

    What all that very good analysis tip-toes around but doesn’t mention is: What does the average voter know – or think – of all this?

    Sigh – its not the publics fault. Not everyone obssesses about politics, just like not everyone obsesses about the super 14, Glee and facebook.

    Take a leaf out of Apple’s playbook. The Ipod was not the first MP3 player, or even technically the best. But for the public most importantly it worked, was easy to understand and they could get on with everything else that matters in there lives. Which is where most people spend there time on, such blowing raspberries on there babies tummy and having giggle time.

    Lew – back to your rugby analogy of some time ago. I would amend the single game perspective and look at it from a competition e.g. super 14. At present the Crusaders (National) have all the points and although the bounce of the ball has favoured them, they are making there own luck. Auckland (Labour) are near the bottom of the division looking at relegation/franchise collapse but are focussed on sending out lost patrols.

    If Ipredict had a stock up, I would punt money on a three term national government.

  20. marty mars on February 3rd, 2011 at 13:55

    great post lew that I also agree with.

    I was thinking that key was overconfident but he is just confident and cruising. Perhaps some opposition to him can be formed but it seems unlikely. A hard rain is coming indeed I can feel the spits already.

  21. TBD on February 3rd, 2011 at 15:10

    I look forward to the day you apply a critique with a quarter of this vigour to the MP!

  22. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 15:13

    BD, a couple of reasons why I haven’t. First, a lack of data. They’ve barely been around two electoral cycles. Second, they’re in flux at present — with Hone kicking up a ruckus, plenty could change, whereas Labour are static. Third and most crucially, they’re nothing like a quarter as relevant as the Labour party.

    L

  23. SPC on February 3rd, 2011 at 16:23

    That Key felt emboldened to do that indicates he is cognisant of the opposition’s inability to present a credible threat. Instead of blaming the media for doing what the media does, ask yourself this: how, in New Zealand in 2011, does the Prime Minister get all matesy-blokey with one of the country’s best-known wife-beaters and not get crucified by the opposition for doing so? After all — it’s not the media’s job to crucify him; and goodness knows the National party isn’t going to crucify itself. Only one bunch of people has responsibility for bringing the wood and the nails, and banging them all together, and that’s the opposition. They didn’t even try; the only response was from an isolated 70s feminist from a minor party who’s widely regarded as a bit of a crank and is retiring at the end of the year in any case. Nobody is to blame for that absence of response but Labour.

    The Green Party only has the profile allowed it by the media – but all the same they are larger than any one spokesperson.

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2011/02/02/can-you-pick-the-odd-man-out/

  24. SPC on February 3rd, 2011 at 16:31

    PS I do hope pablo improves his behaviour on his latest thread – earlier I linked it over to the above thread at frogblog.

  25. SPC on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:17

    Lew given you are the arts major maybe you can explain what the nasty personal attack here is? See pablo’s latest.

    “Given your penchant for accuracy in use of terms is well known I was just trying to be helpful.

    So that’s pedantic from others, when you’re the one being corrected on matters of fact. And we’ve heard the common usage line being challenged by you in areas of your academic speciality … so it’s a surprise that this is apparently valid in your eyes when its not the main topic. So you are also an expert on the importance and relevance of terms in areas outside your speciality?

    By all means clarify what words mean in academic terms and the way in which you are using them (as dstinct from common usage), but also note that others will debate topics using common useage meanings – as this is not an academic setting for them to be corrected in.

    As to inferring some attitude on my part, no it’s all otherwise … .

    And as for the summary dictate about how we are to put up with your own foibles or else, that I suppose is the experience of all people where there is a power imbalance and those with power imply terms of sufference for the powerless. Now that I suppose is an area of your academic speciality and also relates tothis topic.”

  26. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:21

    SPC, would you mind explaining in a couple of short sentences what the hell you’re on about?

    As far as I can figure I’ve not addressed or referred to you even once in this thread, much less to insult you. Though if you carry on this way that could change.

    L

  27. Pablo on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:24

    Sorry Lew. He is referring to me, not you, stemming from an unpleasant exchange on the other thread.

  28. aj on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:27

    I wonder why the media has focused in Liz Hurley, and not his desire to be Tiger Woods, with all the ‘fringe benefits’.

    Hmmm.

  29. SPC on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:43

    Lew – I hoped mentioning pablo’s latest would have directed you to the latest pablo thread and that would have explained relevance.

    Pablo refused to repost it there – despite accusing me of a nasty personal attack and thus its removal (which apparently is suppospedly something he infers about his past, its about politics pablo – the exercise of power, your acedemic speciality as related to the use of words was part of the debate. And all of the descriptive adjectives about the person have been made by you about me pablo).

    I thought it better to put the deleted post here than elsewhere (there is an indirect link back here from a frogblog post on this topic).

    I hope I am mounting a more vehement contention, to the extent I am allowed, of the regime in power than Labour is towards National.

  30. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 17:44

    I see.

    SPC, I’m not interested in arguing the toss between you and Pablo. If you clog up this thread with empty whingeing as you have the other, it will be deleted without notice. If you want to cry repression, tell it to Michael Palin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xd_zkMEgkI

    L

  31. SPC on February 3rd, 2011 at 18:17

    No problem – I only wanted the evidence of the post available – given the assertion that I had made a personal attack, when he only imagined it.

    If you think the issue is “empty whinging”, I have to say I disagree and I think the underlying issues are relevant to the topic of that thread. And I will continue to discuss them there, to the extent that I am allowed.

  32. marty mars on February 3rd, 2011 at 19:03

    It won’t be long until key is actually calling himself “smile and wave” and revelling in it – He is absolutly unafraid of labour and goff. He’s into it already – trying on all black uniforms and so on. What strategy have labour got for the world cup? Hopefully not follow key around like a pet but what else can they do – what do you think lew? Is there any counter or strategy that labour could employ?

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/sport/national-sport/4614912/Prime-Minister-John-Key-tries-Rugby-World-Cup-kit

  33. jcuknz on February 3rd, 2011 at 19:22

    and tonight he walks the cat-walk .. I wonder whaat Keith Holyoake would think of that.

  34. mickysavage on February 3rd, 2011 at 20:12

    Gidday Lew

    You say you disagree with that assertion. Upon what grounds do you disagree? You are welcome to a guest post to make the counter-case, if you like, on one condition: that you argue what is, rather than what you wish was. Argue Labour’s case, if you can, on the basis of the good and effective things they have done, their successes and the ways they have credibly constrained and hindered the government.

    Sure thing. I will work on something over the weekend and send it to you for your consideration.

  35. Lew on February 3rd, 2011 at 20:15

    Great news, Micky. Looking forward to it. My name @ thisblog.com

    Cheers,
    L

  36. peterquixote on February 3rd, 2011 at 22:07

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about., there’s no meat at all in the Asset sales it is a weak program .
    Where is the compulsory superannuation, the tax credits for private health insurance, and the capital gains tax.
    Berend at 09.38 says correctly,
    ” There’s not much left, many already have left, and this country either drops out of the OECD top 30 and with it the entire welfare state,
    or a miracle happens and this country starts growing the cake.” ; quite so,
    but Lew dismisses this as ;
    “Berend, way to utterly miss the point”.
    and then later Steve at 11.47 says
    “Which brings us back to the Kiwi voter. If they don’t actually understand how the world they live in works….they can’t possibly make sensible rational judgments about who might run it on their behalf.”

    Yes thats right great intellects we are all the rest of us stupid, we know nothing, we are rednecks for liking John Key spoofs, we don’t think Veitch should be locked away from Society forever
    and its surprising we are allowed to vote.

  37. Andrew W on February 4th, 2011 at 05:26

    Ten out of ten Lew.

    I’m happy to see Key in for a second term, I look forward to the changes he intends to make, with our increasing debt we need a government focused on improving economic performance rather than social issues. If he gets a third term Key, like previous PM’s, is a candidate for third-term-itis.
    But that is not this day (in keeping with your LOTR picy).

  38. Not « The Dim-Post on February 4th, 2011 at 07:39

    [...] is on fire these days: Don’t cuss out the media — Labour knows (or should know) how they work, and have in the past [...]

  39. Craig Ranapia on February 4th, 2011 at 10:10

    Which brings us back to the Kiwi voter. If they don’t actually understand how the world they live in works….they can’t possibly make sensible rational judgments about who might run it on their behalf.

    @Steve: With all due disrespect, if you — and way too many Labour folks of my acquaintance — treat voters with undisguised contempt when they don’t vote the way you think they should, a parliamentary democracy probably isn’t an agreeable mode of government.

    Democracy’s a bitch, but she’s my bitch so watch your mouth. :)

    I would rather the endorsement of my ideological foes who are at least rational about the state of the political environment, than that of my delusional ideological allies.

    Thanks for the compliment, I think. :) And you know something, it’s not as if National hasn’t been in the same place. In 2002, National got its lowest share of the vote in the party’s history for a reason. Blame the media, the stupid voters, and the black magic of the Liabore Dykeocracy all you like, the incoherent campaign and policy void had a little something to do with it.

    I’ve just listened to Phil Goff on National Radio, and I’m sorry if this sounds concern troll-ish but I felt embarrased for my Labour friends. I’m also far from impressed, because while it may serve my partisan interests to have an opposition that couldn’t organise a gang-bang at a sex addict’s convention, it’s not actually very good for a functional democracy.

  40. [...] [...]

  41. Dan on February 7th, 2011 at 12:57

    Great post, how many more Kiwis will cross the ditch if Key gets his mandate and starts privatising everything?

  42. [...] group that might viably do so: the New Zealand Labour Party.* So I return to an argument I’ve made before: the government gets away with all this is because the opposition lets it. In this case, Bennett [...]

  43. [...] on it, lacks a mandate to proceed with asset sales is utter nonsense, as I wrote when the campaign kicked off. Labour and the Greens have decided the mood of low-level dissatisfaction with the plan that failed [...]

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