Matthew Hooton

Hooton on the Red/Green civil union

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR about the Red/Green civil union:

One of the parties to this week’s red-green pact knew exactly what it was doing.

Since its formation, the Green Party’s political goal has always been to supplant Labour as the main party on the left. Professional politicians’ usual lust for office drives some of that.

But the Greens’ goal is also based on their belief that history is on their side: that the industrial and technological revolutions and the ascent of unrestrained consumerism have rendered the old-fashioned notion of “labour” obsolete while generating intolerable social injustice and planet-threatening environmental degradation.

The Greens acknowledge Labour had a vital role in protecting workers from the horrors of the dark Satanic mills but believe the issues of the future are all theirs.  Moreover, in contrast to the class warfare of the traditional left, part of the green message has always been inclusive: that, from Bill Gates to a Bangladeshi peasant, we’re all in it together and the politics of hate doesn’t get us very far.

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Hooton on the bumbling, fumbling, hapless Labour party

Matthew Hooton looks at the pressure on Andrew Little to move Labour to the left.

It has all the hallmarks of Matt McCarten blabbing to his mates trying to duck the blame for Andrew Little’s hapless bumbling.

The most common description of struggling Labour leader Andrew Little’s big Budget 2016 speech was that it delivered “mixed messages.” That was the kindly conclusion of reporters as diverse as TVNZ’s Katie Bradford and the Herald’s Claire Trevett.  It raises the question of how an opposition leader could have allowed himself to present such a mishmash of contradictory slogans.

In the speech, Mr Little declared Labour had a “positive plan” for “middle New Zealand” to achieve the “Kiwi dream.” This was defined as “a good job, a home they can call their own, a good school to send their kids to, healthcare if they get sick” and a “decent chance to get ahead … if they put the effort in.”

So far, so good: Elections are decided by the median voter and these are words with which three-time election winners like John Key or Helen Clark would begin a big speech.

But Mr Little just couldn’t manage it beyond the opening words and what followed was more 1980s student-politics Leninism aimed to please the quad.

Mr Little spat out the names of the class enemies: the property speculators, the land bankers, the tax dodgers. Only the kulaks failed to get a mention.

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Hooton on the rise of King Peters

Matthew Hooton was one of the first to posit that Winston Peters is aiming for a big swansong to leave politics.

The polls are pointing to that conclusion.

He’s never been Prime Minister, but wants to at least have some time in the job.

Sceptics of the Peters’ plan all miss two important points. The first is that the people of New Zealand simply aren’t stakeholders in post-election negotiations. No one voted for Mr Peters to become Jim Bolger’s treasurer in 1996 or Helen Clark’s foreign minister in 2005. On both occasions, voters would have considered the very idea laughable – and, indeed, I was laughed at on Radio New Zealand’sNine to Noon in 2004 when I first raised the idea of Mr Peters becoming foreign minister.

More recently, it’s doubtful New Zealanders have really wanted United Future’s Peter Dunne to have responsibility for tax collection or drug policy, or Act’s David Seymour to set up charter schools. But, immediately after an election, the next is a political lifetime away and the politicians go for whatever they can get, regardless of what voters think.

The second point is that a Peters-chaired government would not be seeking a second term anyway. If Mr Peters’ aspirations could be negotiated back to a single year, Andrew Little or a new National leader would have to wait just 12 months to become prime minister and would then have two full years to refresh the government and make a pitch for re-election. Sir Winston would be safely packed off to Observatory Circle or New Zealand House.

Ambitious politicians would have little doubt they could get voters to forget about the controversial origins of their government in that timeframe. Do you recall what the political controversy du jour was even six months ago? (Hint: in early November I wrote about the Royal New Zealand Navy’s invitation to the US to send a vessel to its birthday party later this year.)

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Hooton vs Salmond on UBI

Matthew Hooton and paid Labour shill Rob Salmond have been going hammer and tongs on the UBI proposal from Labour.

For those who weren’t aware of the discussion Labour put up a proposal, un-costed, with scant detail that the state pays everyone over 18 a universal basic income. The suggested amount is around $200.

There is no other detail about how such a massive welfare grant could be afforded and in the absence of any meaningful information from Labour, others including myself, have tried to work it all out.

That in turn has sent Rob Salmond, and from his reaction it shows it much to be his idea, into a mad frothing spin full of vitriol, spite and ad hominem attack against anyone who dares speak ill of the UBI.

Matthew has written a column at NBR and Rob Salmond has responded to that with another ad hominem attack against Hooton at Public Address. Salmond objects to every suggestion of David Farrar, Jim Rose and Matthew Hooton and basically calls them liars. He doesn’t, of course, put up any number at all.

Matthew Hooton’s response to that attack is brilliant, and exposes yet again the lack of intelligence from the sole defender of the UBI, Rob Salmond.

Just a few brief(ish) points.

1) For those with a subscription or working for someone who has one (and I think students at some universities), the actual column is here:

2) The column makes clear at the outset this is an idea not policy. The word policy appears only once, and in the sentence: “It’s difficult to think of a policy proposal with more going for it.” I don’t know why Rob claims I said it was Labour Party policy. The column also makes clear I support a UBI in principle and I outline the key policy benefits, especially around EMTRs, administrative savings and reducing indignity for beneficiaries. I mention the huge amount of work that Lockwood Smith did in opposition in the 2000s trying to make something like a UBI work. (In fact, and I don’t mention this, I first encouraged him to do so when he became National revenue spokesman after the 2005 election).    Read more »

Hooton on Future of Work

Matthew Hooton gives exactly one cheer for Labour’s Future of Work Commission.

It seems wrong to criticise a political party for trying to look ahead. John Key’s regime takes pride in ignoring issues beyond the current electoral cycle, most infamously the ageing population. So one cheer for Labour for its so-called “Future of Work Commission”.

Labour’s difficulty, however, is that no matter how intelligent and visionary its participants think they are, such efforts are doomed to almost comical failure, at least in terms of specifics.

Most people who try to define the future end up looking stupid, with the exception of Gene Roddenberry.

Hooton goes on to explain how dreadfully myopic and wrong he was when placed in a similar situation of predicting the future and how that future might impact on education.

I cringe when I read that “major distance-education institutions” would be using “interactive educational television, CD ROM, multi media and video conferencing” by 1998. By then, every school had the internet, and ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger were the next big things. Skype and MySpace were launched five years later, and Facebook and Bebo over the following two years. Remember all of them?

Snigger.   Read more »

Hooton on Labour’s Keytruda advocacy

Matthew Hooton looks at Labour’s new-found advocacy for Big Pharma.

Labour’s health policy czar, Annette King, has a legendary and probably justified aversion to drug companies. Not for nothing has the industry earned a reputation similar to that of tobacco, armaments, fast food and Big Sugar.

As health minister, Ms King wouldn’t even meet the drug companies or the “patient advocacy groups” they fund. She judged – again, probably correctly – that such meetings were cynical lobbying efforts to increase government spending on their particular products.

With the exception of a multiple sclerosis drug early in her term as minister, Ms King, whose medical background is as a school dental nurse, made a commitment she would not substitute her own clinical judgment for that of the experts at the government’s drug-buying agency, Pharmac.

Perhaps only Finance Mminister Bill English, another former health minister, has been as staunch an advocate for Pharmac as Ms King and for good reason: There is no doubt the agency and the model under which it operates save the taxpayer and economy a bundle that is reinvested in other health services.

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Hooton on Labour’s precarious electoral position

Matthew Hooton looks at the precarious position of Labour after their big policy launch about something we’ve all forgotten about now.

The year’s first polls are disastrous for beleaguered Labour leader Andrew Little.

According to Roy Morgan, the Labour/Green bloc is stagnant on 41.5%.  Arguably worse is TVNZ’s Colmar Brunton poll which has the axis down 3% to 40%.  This is not quite the Brashian 17% boost Mr Little hoped when he rose outside Auckland University last month to announce Labour’s ‘free’ tertiary education policy.

The policy was classic Revenge of the Nerds. Mr Little and his finance spokesman Grant Robertson began their careers as presidents of the New Zealand University Students’ Association in the 1980s and 1990s. Their belief has never been shaken that the taxpayer should pay all the expenses for school leavers to do arts degrees in political studies, philosophy and public policy as they did.

So confident were the big two that free education was a circuit breaker, the policy was kept secret from Labour’s porous caucus and even frontbenchers now claim privately they were kept in the dark.

Embarrassingly, Labour MPs are now rushing around campuses trying to sell the policy but those enrolling for the first time in 2016 know they are specifically excluded, with implementation planned only from 2019 and not completed until 2025, if Labour wins three elections.

If the political messaging reflected the actual policy, Labour MPs would instead be hanging around primary schools.

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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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