John Armstrong

John Armstrong on Labour’s impending civil war

Armstrong’s pegged it right:  the War Room won’t be so much used to take down the National Party instead of causing a severe amount of collateral damage to their own side

Having turned its caucus room in Parliament Buildings into a war room staffed almost around the clock by policy wonks, political strategists, experts in social media, plus assorted press secretaries – all in readiness for the coming general election – the Labour Party may find itself with another war on its hands before then. Or something close to it.

The “enemy” on this occasion will not be National. Neither will it be Act. Nor United Future. Nor Colin Craig’s Conservatives. Nor even Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party.

No, this war will be of the internecine variety where the combatants all come from the same neck of the (political) woods.

It will have been sparked by the seemingly endless positioning and posturing ahead of September’s election which will count for little in the aftermath. But this week it all turned ugly for the Greens. And things may yet get uglier still.

It may be that fate has decreed that the power struggle between Labour and the Greens takes centre stage at the worst possible time for the centre-left.

It may not come to open warfare. But the dismissive, almost contemptuous attitude displayed by David Cunliffe with regard to a supposed ally is bound to rankle deeply wherever Green Party members gather.

You can be assured there will be a response; that there will no longer be any scruples about upstaging Labour on the hustings.

Labour are not so much in a war mongering mind set as they are in a siege mindset.  This is all about survival of those at the bottom of the party list.

David Cunliffe and his “strategists” know that a friendly face towards the Greens before the election will result in job losses for Labour, and increased power for the Greens.

If you were in Cunliffe’s shoes, what would you do?  Maybe get a chance to take down National as an equal coalition partner, or preserve your own power base as best you can?   Read more »

Armstrong on Circe du Dotcomme

You can’t fool John.  He’s seen more than most, and with Dotcom he sees right through it

To help the left remove John Key, the internet mogul has to attract voters that are beyond the reach of Labour and the Greens. Indeed, the best chance for the Internet Party to establish itself as a viable political force and (eventually) get anywhere near the 5 per cent threshold is to position itself in the centre of the political spectrum or slightly to the right, just like New Zealand First, but targeting a much younger catchment of voters.

While Dotcom’s persona can be used to make the introductions, if the Internet Party is to secure votes it has to convince voters that it is much bigger than its founder — and that it will not fold the moment he and the party’s main source of income move offshore through being extradited to the United States to face trial.

If it cannot do so, the party will be deemed to be nothing more than an expensive ego trip by a political neophyte who thinks he can buy his way into Parliament even if only on a surrogate basis. As it is, the Internet Party risks being viewed as little more than a personality cult. The onus is on its founder and high-powered staff members to prove otherwise.

Truth is this is a terrible time to launch a new political party.

Kim doesn’t have a choice.  The extradition clock is ticking.   Read more »

Armstrong on Labour’s appalling strategy

John Armstrong provides some strategy advice for Labour.

It is sound but because Armstrong writes for the NZ Herald I suspect that Labour will have cloth ears to the message and instead label him a shill for corporate tory media interests, an accusation that is as daft as it sounds.

As the countdown to September’s general election becomes ever more frenetic, one thing is becoming increasingly obvious: those parties that stick to their knitting and produce fresh, even visionary, ideas and viable policies stand to be the big winners.

Voters are not of such a negative mood as to tolerate endless whining, cheap hits on opponents and petty point-scoring generally.

National worked this out long ago. The Greens have since worked it out and are now refocusing on fundamentals. Labour has had the most difficulty in shedding opposition for the sake of opposition, but is coming to the same realisation, with David Cunliffe now thrusting himself forward as the Apostle of Economic Intervention. And not before time – in a strategic sense, at least.

The exception to this requirement to accentuate the positive is New Zealand First whose function in domestic politics is to stress the negative and thus offer refuge to the angry and the alienated.

But even a politician of Winston Peters’ calibre is finding the going tough and – to borrow David Lange’s famous observation of Jim Bolger – succeeding in only stirring up apathy.

Outside of Wellington or political tragics all of the so-called scandals that Labour is investing enormous time and energy into have fallen flat with not a single dent in the polls for National’s constantly high ratings.   Read more »

This mate is not for turning

The NZ Herald has gone all in on Judith Collins, deploying everyone to write articles about how terrible it is to support exporters, have a dinner and a glass of milk.

John Armstrong has this headline:

mates

WONKY HEADLINE: John Armstrong shows he knows nothing of caucs sentiment

Well I have news for the tragics of the press gallery…this issue has done nothing of the sort….certainly not from this mate.

Mates don’t go septic with their mates because the media have a bunch in their panties. If anything this has strengthened the resolve of Judith Collins and her political mates.

The more they go on and the more they attempt to ‘get’ her the stronger she becomes. They have now unwittingly given her a massive name recognition boost, successfully shown themselves and the opposition to be hypocrites and bullies, and at the same time managed to soften Judith Collins image and show her as human and not an automaton.

Far more column inches have now been written about a dinner and a glass of milk and words that the minister neither wrote nor approved than any other political story in recent months or even years.

The talk of a leadership war between Steven joyce and Judith Collins is merely wishful thinking on the part of gallery journalists who usually sit in the gallery waiting for a messenger from which ever minister’s flunky or opposition spokesman is wanting a story or lines run.  Read more »

Sorry, not buying the narrative as media attempt to beatify a leftwing tax-dodging ratbag

Many commentators, especially those of the left persuasion are framing the narrative that Matt McCarten is an organiser extraordinaire and will be able to “get out the vote”.

I think they are misguided. Even John Armstrong falls for this hooey:

One question is on everyone’s lips: is this move a “game-changer” for Labour?

McCarten’s campaign skills should help draw voters back to Labour in its metropolitan strongholds. The real test is whether his input can break National’s stranglehold on provincial New Zealand, as well as broaden Labour’s appeal among lower middle, middle and upper middle income earners.

Given the country’s present conservative disposition, the initial impact may be the reverse. Regardless, winning over those voters to Labour’s cause is likely to require him to compromise personal beliefs, something that has not been part of the McCarten fabric.

I think this is lazy commentary and accepting the framing without any credulity of the claims. The people I have spoken to over the years who go to the dark Alliance days tell me of a man who thought he was the supremo but who never actually delivered. Some of those old New Labour types will quietly be scoffing into their beers and wines and looking at the beatification of Matt McCarten with incredulous eyes. Read more »

Armstrong on Shane Jones

Shane Jones was a stand out performer in parliament last week and really delivered some strong traditional Labour party leadership.

David Cunliffe meanwhile copped a shellacking in parliament, continued his long list of falsehoods and made stuff up all over Facebook.

John Armstrong has taken notice and comments on Jones’ strong performance.

The applause from his colleagues ought to be long and loud when Shane Jones arrives for Labour’s weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday. This week was Labour’s by a country mile thanks to Jones’ carefully conceived, astutely timed and precisely targeted blitzkrieg-style offensive on Countdown, the Australian-owned supermarket chain.

In the space of just a few minutes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Jones made an extremely serious allegation regarding Countdown’s business practices. In doing so, he also entrenched Labour as the White Knight on the frontline of the Supermarket Wars.

It’s all about repositioning Labour more firmly in voters’ minds as the consumer’s friend who will confront big business greed rather than being a corporate lap-dog like National.   Read more »

Bryce Edwards summary on Dotcom and his corruption of NZ politics

Bryce Edwards summarises just how bad it has become for kim Dotcom, the Green party, Russel Norman, Winston Peters and all the Labour MPs who have trotted out to sit on Kim Dotcom’s lap.

Political chickens are coming home to roost. Having Kim Dotcom on speed dial is now a political liability and career ending.

Allegations of ‘corruption’ and ‘dirty deals’ are being thrown around over the relationship between some of our political party leaders and wealthy internet businessman and wannabe politician Kim Dotcom. It all relates to the fact that various politicians have been courting Dotcom’s favour, while at the same time discussing whether they would intervene to help prevent Dotcom being extradited to the United States by fighting in government to overturn any judicial decision. According to some commentators there is, at the very least, an issue with the perception of inappropriate and opaque electoral deals being made.

The strongest condemnation of the potential links between party policy and support for Dotcom have come from rightwing blogger David Farrar, who claims that some politicians are ‘saying they will over-turn the courts in his favour at the same time as they meet him to discuss political strategy. That is pretty close to corruption’ – see: Would Labour and Greens over-rule the court for Kim Dotcom?

Farrar explains the problem, as he sees it: ‘Russel Norman has been out twice to meet Dotcom, and ask him to support the Greens instead of setting up his own political party. And in return he is offering that a Labour/Greens Government would basically corruptly over-turn the decision of the court in Dotcom’s favour. Cunliffe is not ruling out that he would also over-turn any court decision. We also learn Winston Peters has been out to meet DotCom multiple times’. Farrar warns that ‘We head towards corruption if people can buy themselves a different decision’.  Read more »

Russel Norman has a brain fade over secret Dotcom meetings

On top of that John Armstrong writes about the unfolding political corruption scandal surround the machinations of a fat German crook to avoid prosecution for his crimes.

The Greens are the dirtiest party in NZ politics.

Collusion with law breakers and fraudsters for their electoral gain is nothing new.

It’s a pity John Armstrong can’t see it. But he’s getting closer:

It is bad enough that the Greens are naive enough to sign up to the fan club which accords Kim Dotcom the folk hero status he clearly craves, but scarcely deserves as some modern-day Robin Hood of cyberspace.

Much worse, however, is that it now turns out that party is blithely willing to play politics with New Zealand’s courts, the country’s extradition laws and its extradition treaty with the United States.

Were John Key to allow some right-wing businessman facing extradition to stay in New Zealand in exchange for him abandoning his plans to establish a political party which might drain votes off National, then the Greens would be climbing on their high horses at break-neck speed and leading the charge in slamming the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms. And rightly so.

Yet the Greens seem to be so blinded by Dotcom’s aura that they seem to see nothing wrong with Russel Norman talking to Dotcom about the risks of the latter’s yet-to-be-launched Internet Party wasting centre-left votes, only for the party’s co-leader to subsequently declare that the Greens will probably fight Dotcom’s extradition.

It is all very murky and hypocritical – at best.  Read more »

Left demanding changes to MMP they want, how about the other changes?

John Armstrong goes full noise against the coat-tailing provision of MMP…labelling what is actually law ‘gerrymandering’.

Predictably Labour is also pushing hard to try to get the provision of the Electoral Act reversed showing their naked partisanship.

They all point to the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to remove the coat-tailing provision.

But National’s refusal last year to implement the recommendation of the Electoral Commission to rid MMP of the unnecessary, unfair and deeply unpopular one-seat threshold provision should forever be a large blot on John Key’s Government.

Of course, eradicating this legal loophole, which exempts a party from having to meet the 5 per cent threshold if it wins an electorate seat, would have been to National’s major disadvantage in making it much more difficult for its minor party allies to bring extra MPs into Parliament.

The one-seat threshold survives simply because it could yet be the difference between National staying in power and going into Opposition.

But that does not make it right.

The media and the opposition are trying to paint coat-tailing as anti-democratic, yet it has been part of the law since the day MMP was implemented. Now they are suggesting the law and MMP is anti-democratic.  Read more »

Armstrong on the state of the parties

John Armstrong’s column is strong this morning.

For the great bulk of the people, politics does not matter most of the time. They have other things occupying their lives.

The remoteness of politics is a critical factor in answering the question which will be really taxing the minds of politicos over the summer holidays: which party is going to win next year’s general election?

Anyone who looks at the polls now and assumes Labour are a shoe in is dreamin’.

The spotlight is yet to come on David Cunliffe and when it does it won’t go well for him. Labour tactics meanwhile aren’t working at all.

National’s opponents have long worked on the assumption that John Key’s Government – like all Administrations – will inevitably be ground down and worn out by the failings which destroy all Governments ultimately – namely the accumulation of mistakes, embarrassments, duplicity, expedience, arrogance and (the real killer) the feeling that from the Prime Minister down the Administration is no longer listening.

Things reach a tipping point where a clear majority of voters deem a Government has reached its use-by date. At that point it is as good as being all over. There is no way back.

Labour and its allies have seen their task as one of hastening that decline and ultimate fall. Because Key is the embodiment of National’s ongoing success, Labour has devoted considerable effort to pinning the blame on him when things go wrong or look dodgy.

In order to ping Key, Labour has become far too consumed by the minutiae of day-to-day political conflict which largely passes most people by.

Unfortunately for Labour, the Prime Minister – assisted by poll data – has an instinctive and almost always accurate ability to diagnose what is really unnerving voters amid which issues he must tackle and those he can safely afford to ignore.

And that means not being too prissy about how he goes about it.

It means ensuring that in their portfolio work, Cabinet ministers are almost always on the side of majority public opinion.   Read more »