Matthew Hooton

Trotter on Hooton and why he wants better dinner guests

Chris Trotter sums up Matthew Hooton nicely.

[Simon] Wilson has a newshound’s nose for a shift in the political winds. As a Metro writer, he’d correctly predicted John Key’s comprehensive electoral victory in 2008, and two years later used his new position as Metro’s Editor to deftly reposition the magazine as the voice of the socially liberal, economically conservative and aggressively acquisitive Auckland middle-class. Nowhere was this repositioning more in evidence than in his choice forMetro’s political columnist. Where the magazine’s founder, Warwick Roger, had turned to New Zealand’s best left-wing journalist, Bruce Jesson, for political commentary, Wilson’s choice was the National Party’s leading ideological skirmisher, Matthew Hooton.

Those skirmishing skills were displayed to considerable effect from the get-go on Tuesday night (9/2/16) when Hooton accused the writer of seeing the 4 February anti-TPPA demonstrations as “the beginning of a revolution”. It is precisely this acidic mixture of smile and sneer that makes Hooton such a formidable opponent. That, and his ability to master a complex political brief very quickly and then fashion it into a political argument that is at once simple and subtle. Hooton, when he’s in control of himself, is both a superb manipulator of the truth and a master at identifying his opponents’ weak spots.

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Hooton on the extreme left cuckoos in Labour’s nest

Matthew Hooton explains how it is that Labour has allowed itself to be hijacked.

My friend Matt McCarten, now Andrew Little’s chief of staff, introduced me to the word “entrism” some years ago.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “the policy or practice of joining an organisation with the intention of subverting its aims and activities.”

“Entrism” was first used by 1930s French Trotskyists when dissolving their own radical organisations and joining moderate parties to steer them towards Leninism. It became recognised in English in the 1960s and 1970s to describe the subversion of the UK Labour Party by Militant Tendency, which the party then spent 20 years eradicating to make itself electable again.

Since its election defeat in 2008 and the departure to New York of the firm hand of Helen Clark and Heather Simpson, the New Zealand Labour Party has been the latest victim of the tactic. In the past fortnight, that has reached fruition ,with Labour’s lurch to the extreme left over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its abandonment of the middle ground over student fees.

While the moderate centre of the party – as personified by Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Parker, Stuart Nash, Clayton Cosgrove, Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis – plan to launch an offensive against the party’s direction in May, they have no chance of success.

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Hooton on Andrew Little

Matthew Hooton, in his first column of the year, is brutal in his assessment of the ‘success’ of Andrew Little.

Before the year is out, Labour will face an impossible choice over its leadership.

As the Labour-aligned media has been so keen to point out, incumbent Andrew Little has had some successes since the unions imposed him on the party after David Cunliffe’s 25% debacle. Most significant is that Labour has kept its bitter internal divisions largely hidden from the public – the first time it has achieved that through a whole calendar year since Helen Clark’s departure. Unpopular yet pointless policies – such as Labour’s ineffectual capital gains tax – have been abandoned. A new party president and secretary-general believed to be loyal to the leadership have been appointed. Mr Little’s speech at the Labour Party conference was well received by activists.

But these are the achievements of a loser: the sort of thing Bill English might have crowed about in the early 2000s. In reality, Mr Little’s personal poll ratings are atrocious. The party finds itself five points below where it was at the same time in the last electoral cycle and the Greens have flatlined. Of the major parties, only National is up, five points ahead of where it was three years ago, with Winston Peters also up a point or two.

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Hooton on Collins’ revival and leadership contenders

Matthew Hooton discusses the rehabilitation of Judith Collins.

Right now, if some personal tragedy were to befall Mr Key, there would be a period of shock and mourning and the prime ministership would pass to one of his close lieutenants, most probably his deputy Bill English.  Were there a more managed transition over the next four or five years, with Mr Key still popular, incoming Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett, Energy and Transport Minister Simon Bridges or even Justice Minister Amy Adams would be contenders.  A premium would be placed on a record of loyalty to the current regime.  (Despite the big-noting of his associates, Steven Joyce would never have the numbers.)

Ms Collins is not preparing for those circumstances.  Her moment comes if and when the public develops fatigue with Mr Key’s blancmange style of politics and perceives his government’s lack of a serious reform programme will only ever deliver slow relative economic decline, out of the first world and into the second.

Steve Joyce hasn’t a chance, and despite the claims of Hooton, Garner and others neither does Paula Bennett. I’m prepared to put money on that…the only rider on that is the feeling that caucus might want someone to take one for the team in the chook and in that case Paula Bennett will qualify ably in that regard.

Over the past year, Ms Collins has proven herself a highly astute political player.  To force her return to government, she adopted the doctrine that “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil” – a strategy that seldom fails with the risk-averse poll-driven fruitcakes running Mr Key’s government.  Ms Collins pursued the strategy with aplomb, never crossing the line into outright sabotage.

Ms Collins also made clear to her supporters on the right of the party, in the Auckland business community and among the law-and-order brigade that she was more one of them than the wets and corporate-welfarists who currently dominate Mr Key’s circle.

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Has Hooton fallen off the wagon…again?

Matthew Hooton has a mad rant about National’s leadership woes in the NBR.

There is a problem though with his mad rant…there aren’t any leadership woes. Nor is there a coup, or a plan to replace John Key. It seems Matthew Hooton has interviewed his keyboard, or more likely dictated his fantasy to an intern.

The rumour goes that Mr Key, like his idol Richie McCaw, will want to go out on a high and on his own terms.  His knighthood depends on him handing over to a National prime minister rather than losing an election to Labour.  And while his poll numbers are still strong, he now consistently rates below the National Party, with about a quarter of National voters naming someone else as their preferred prime minister.  For the first time, a campaign based solely on “Team Key” would drag National down.  The next election campaign will need to be less focused on the leader, which Mr Key may not enjoy.

For his part, Mr Joyce backs himself as a great communicator, especially on radio but also on TV.  He is sure he could do the retail aspects of the prime ministership – clowning around on commercial radio and so forth – as well as Mr Key.  He is a more enthusiastic bureaucratic manager than the incumbent.

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Hooton on Labour’s disconnect with US ship visits

Matthew Hooton provides some facts behind the proposed US ship visit…turns out it isn’t just US ships invited, but others from nuclear nations as well, but Labour has only focussed on US ships.

Whoever briefed TVNZ couldn’t have done a better job of driving a wedge, a week before its crucial conference, between the Labour Party’s Phil Goff faction and its foaming-at-the-mouth activists who want the local party to emulate the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn by heading off to the extreme left.

Perhaps to appease the latter, acting leader Annette King bizarrely went on the attack when first asked for comment on TVNZ’s story.  What she could have done is declare victory for Labour’s 30-year-old anti-nuclear policy.

It turns out the navy has asked 30 countries to send ships to its party.  This includes the US and at least four other nuclear powers, China, Russia, the UK and France, whose naval vessels have been happily received in New Zealand since the anti-nuclear legislation was put in place in 1987.  It is not clear if invitations have also been extended to the navies of India and Pakistan, also declared nuclear powers.

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After beef to India is Labour’s next big thing going to be pork to Iran?

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Andrew Little is showing almost daily what a complete tool he is.

His latest brain fart is to suggest that we ignore the US for beef exports and instead send our beef to India…you know where cows are sacred.

Mr Little has suggested trade negotiators and exporters of dairy and beef products should turn away from the TPP region and instead focus on India and Indonesia.

It appears the pretender to the prime ministership is unaware New Zealand already has an FTA with Indonesia as part of the historic Asean-CER deal, launched by Helen Clark in 2004 and completed by Mr Groser in 2009. As a result, bone-in meat is already tariff free and boneless cuts will become tariff free in 2020.  For dairy, almost all tariffs are now below 5% and falling.  Tariffs on wholemilk powder, butter and cheese are zero.

Maybe Mr Little thinks a Labour trade minister would have done better but, even were that so, it’s hardly an argument not to take what the TPP has put on the table.   Read more »

Hooton: ‘Thanks John, time to move along now’

Matthew Hooton asks the Prime Minister to move along in his NBR column.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Key has no interest in the prime minister’s job of the sort that legitimises someone holding it.

Asked to name the government’s achievements since the last election, his sidekick Steven Joyce named “good achievements in the economy,” Tim Groser’s free-trade agreement with Korea, increasing welfare and free GP visits for under 13s.

Given several platforms in Parliament by Labour and the Greens to boast of his government’s achievements, Mr Key declined, instead chronicling the failures of the Clark regime, including not funding Herceptin. He appears either unwilling or incapable of following his chief of staff’s advice to stop prattling on about the flag to every audience.   Read more »

Hooton on Act

Matthew Hooton in the NBR explores what Act must do to climb back into relevance.

John Key’s government has become as addicted to interventionism as Muldoon’s, as bad as Helen Clark’s and should be kicked out. But a Labour-Green nightmare is unthinkable.

The most likely alternative to the current near-monopoly National regime is a coalition with NZ First but, for the intrinsically linked sins of interventionism and venality, that would be even worse. It’s therefore vital Act re-emerges as a serious small player rather than a one-seat National plaything.

Act’s rump is very aware of just how dreadful the government it supports has become but also its lack of leverage. Epsom MP David Seymour is forced to vote for corporate welfare and poll-driven electoral bribes that are anathema to his values but he knows he has no choice while he remains its sole MP and his party’s poll ratings below 5%.

This is no criticism of Mr Seymour: after one disaster following another, Act has ended up quite by accident with a leader well suited to relaunching the party. At just 32, Mr Seymour is the first genuinely Gen X party leader on the right, and second only to Greens’ Metiria Turei across the wider spectrum.

He has been a believer in free-market economics and social liberalism all his life and has never flirted with other parties.

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Judith Collins: time for a serious discussion about euthanasia

Judith Collins has a column  in the Sunday Star-Times that has made it to online.

She says it is now time for a serious debate on euthanasia.

My dad died 20 years ago from cancer.  He’d kept working on the farm until he was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer about three weeks before he died, just short of his 76th birthday.

As soon as he was diagnosed with cancer, which his oncologist thought he’d had for years, he started saying goodbye. Every day, Dad dressed to receive his visitors as his surviving mates from the RSA came to say goodbye.

He made out that he’d finally given up smoking – he hadn’t.  What was the point?

He conducted himself with all the dignity and courage I would expect.  I hope to do the same one day.  He made his death relatively easy for us.

Three weeks after his diagnosis, Dad’s body started to close down.  He collapsed at home and was taken by ambulance to hospital.  I’m told by one of my family that on arrival, Dad asked for morphine.  He was asked if he had pain.  He said, he just wanted morphine. We, his children, stayed with Dad.  The hospital gave him morphine.  He got more and more as the day and the night went on. He asked for it and the next day he died.

He’d seen a lot of death during World War II.  He wasn’t afraid of it but he would have hated losing his dignity. He died with his mind intact.

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