National Party

Chris Trotter on why changing leaders won’t be enough for Labour

Chris Trotter is a wise man of the left, more’s the pity that they don’t listen to him more often.

WHY DOES LABOUR do this to itself? Yes, they have just suffered an unprecedented (post-1922) election defeat, but that’s only because the 2014 General Election was itself unprecedented (post-1951).

And, besides, I’m tempted to say ‘so what?’ In 2002 the National Party suffered an even more embarrassing result when Bill English led his party to its worst defeat ever. National’s Party Vote plunged from a bad 30.5 percent in 1999, to an even worse 20.9 percent in 2002. (A whopping percentage point slide of 9.6, compared to David Cunliffe’s 2.8.)

The interesting thing about that debacle, however, is not what the National Party did in response, but what it didn’t do.

For a start, it didn’t change its leader. National understood (as Labour apparently does not) that a debacle on the scale of 2002 has many more contributing factors than simply a poor performance by the party leader. Defeat on such a scale is clear evidence of systemic – as well as personal – failures. Which is why the first priority of National’s hard-headed businessmen and farmers was to give the party organisation a very solid kick in the bum – not to sack Bill English. (He would keep.)

In the months following its 2002 defeat National thoroughly renovated itself: achieving for the Right what Jim Anderton, between 1979 and 1984, had achieved for the Left. Namely, the transformation of an ageing party into a vehicle more appropriately aligned to the economic, social and political context in which it operated.

Crucial to the success of such operations is the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of those best equipped to wield it. Under MMP, one of the most important functions to streamline is the formation of the Party List. National has achieved this by means of an all-powerful board of directors; the Greens by giving the job to their party members. For Labour, however, the list formation process remains the Party’s Achilles’ heel.

Bluntly, party list formation in the Labour Party is a colossal rort; a travesty of democratic principle on the scale of the “rotten boroughs” that once allowed the British aristocracy to control the composition of the House of Commons. More horse-trading takes place during this dangerously opaque process than at an Irish county fair – with considerably worse outcomes.

It’s ironic really, because Labour once boasted the most ruthless and centralised mechanism for selecting candidates of all the political parties. Seventy years ago it was the selector representatives of the all-powerful Labour Party Executive who called the shots – and they seldom missed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then National, when renovating its structures, post-2002, paid Labour the most fulsome of compliments.

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The Ohariu and Epsom rorts are paying off nicely

Tova O’Brien has the dirty details

The ACT Party’s David Seymour can look forward to a string of Parliamentary perks and funding worth more than $500,000.

That’s because Prime Minister John Key has signed deals with ACT and United Future, giving them plum jobs which come with plum benefits.

Mr Seymour’s been given the role of undersecretary for education. It means he gets a bit more say in two portfolios, and a lot more cash.

More importantly, he also gets no say in parliament, can’t be questions on any portfolios, and isn’t subject to Official Information Act requests.   Talk about being put into the parliamentary creche…

Because ACT failed to get its actual leader Jamie Whyte into Parliament, Mr Seymour gets Parliament’s perks – including $100,000 plus party, member and other funding.

Add that to Mr Seymour’s allowance just for being an MP, and his undersecretary salary – which is nearly $30,000 more than your average back bencher – and he’s pulling $585,028 a year plus extra staff.

It’s all thanks to Mr Key doing a deal and gifting Mr Seymour Epsom – and the MP admits he couldn’t have won the seat without the Prime Minister’s support.

Nope.  It’s a rort.  Strategic voting under MMP is one thing, but this is quite the welcome package for the 31 year old newbie.  Read more »

And the criticism still mounts…

The Nation was brutal this morning.

This is what Jim Anderton had to say about Labour’s party vote campaign strategy.

Lisa Owen: We saw Mana, Mt Albert, Christchurch there, where the party vote was seriously eroded. What do you think went wrong there on the ground? What was wrong?

Jim Anderton: Well, there’s two serious points you haven’t mentioned — one is that 13 of the Labour electorates got less than 15% of the party vote, and in the strong Labour electorates, mostly the Labour vote went down in the party vote. In truth, we had more people not on the roll or not voting than the entire vote that the National party vote got or the entire vote of all the parties opposing National. Now, that’s a very worrying trend for the first time. And the worrying thing for Labour is that this isn’t the worst result that’s ever been had. I mean, the National party had a worse result in 2002; they got 22% of the vote, but in the three years following that, they caught up and nearly beat the Labour party in 2005, and in the three years since 2011, when the result was not good for Labour, they’ve done even worse. So this is really a very major problem to face.

Lisa Owen: It took them two terms to come back, and we’ll talk more about that later, but I’m interested in what your thoughts are and why these people didn’t come out and vote. Why couldn’t they be bothered?

Jim Anderton: Well, I think the Labour party are very wise to have put a stamp on having a very careful root-and-branch review of what actually happened, and I’ll give you one example — 10 months ago, a young Cook Island girl, if she wouldn’t mind me calling her a girl, probably woman, from Auckland came to Christchurch and thrashed the National party in Christchurch East, thrashed. They got a hiding to nothing. And over 60% of the vote; she actually polled more votes than a very well-respected long-time member, Lianne Dalziel. Now, how come 10 months later, in the whole of Christchurch, the vote in Christchurch was lower than the national average? Now, that’s a very serious question to answer. I have one idea about it, and that’s organisation. I was a campaign manager for that by-election, and I said to Labour, ‘The reason that we’re doing well here is that we’re highly organised. We’ve focused on the policy.’ And I agree with Helen about reflecting to people what they really need and what their aspirations are and working out specific policies that meet those needs. Now, that’s exactly what we did in Christchurch East, and I don’t think that was done in this election.

Lisa Owen: I just want to do a round robin here.

Jim Anderton: And one of the reasons for that is that Labour no longer has the mass membership of a party that can accomplish that. It can do it in one by-election, but you can’t do it across the country, and that’s the lesson from this election.

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Realists and Dreamers, why Labour is screwed

The Labour party is in dreadful trouble.

The problem they have is a large amount of their supporters think they have nothing to be ashamed of, that they should keep on keeping on doing what voters have rejected for 3 elections now.

Looks at the attitudes of Len Richard’s, the man who famously attacked a protestor with a megaphone.

More than a decade of dirty politics aimed at demonising and destabilising the Labour Party by well-organised and well-funded opponents have taken their toll. The opinion polls reflect the public mood deliberately created by the spin doctors of the right, and the very poor election results for Labour over the last three elections reflect the polls.

They can’t have it both ways.For years the left wing said the blogosphere was irrelevant, especially me…now we are responsible for the demise of the Labour party.

Deluded is a kind word for people like Len Richards. Dinosaurs is appropriate.

Suggesting Labour lurch further to the left when more than 60% of the voters voted centre right is serious delusion.   Read more »

National continues to enable the despicable ACT rort

Let’s be honest.  ACT has been on National life support for a while now.   They could have stood a goat as a candidate in Epsom and it would have gotten in.

And now, National are making sure ACT are handsomely rewarded.

Act’s 32-year-old sole MP and parliamentary newcomer could be up for a salary of $226,300 and a sizeable package of funding to run his office and Act’s parliamentary operations if Prime Minister John Key gives him a ministerial portfolio.

Mr Key gave his strongest indication yet this week that Mr Seymour would get a ministerial portfolio despite being a new MP, because it would give support partner Act greater resources — “otherwise we’d have an MP pretty much on his own with an [executive assistant] and it is very difficult to manage that party-to-party relationship”. Read more »

Money doesn’t buy political influence

Here’s something interesting from Hamish Rutherford

A wealthy Waikato businessman who switched allegiance from National to the Conservatives donated $750,000 to Colin Craig’s party just days before the election.

Despite a high profile campaign and polls suggesting it was close to reaching the 5 per cent support required to bring MPs into Parliament, the Conservatives polled just over 4 per cent on election day.

While party leader Craig personally donated millions to the campaign, Electoral Commission records show Laurence and Katrina Day made two donations totalling $750,000 – on September 12 and 15. That brought their total since April 2013 to $1.425 million.

A long time supporter of the National Party who was chairman of the Hamilton East electorate for four years, Laurence Day switched his support to the Conservatives over its plan to make referendums binding on the government if backed by two-thirds of the voters. He did not return requests for comment last night.

The story of the Days and their departure from the National party is one that is still to be told one day.    Read more »

Things are pretty bad for Cunliffe & Labour when Brian Rudman attacks

Brian Rudman usually saves his columns in the Herald to call for subsidies for the arts or the building and/or restoration of his favourite theatre.

A dyed int he wool cloth cap socialist spending his last days in print typing away interviewing his keyboard he sometimes comes up with a ripper.

Yesterday he excoriated David Cunliffe and Labour:

Late Saturday night, while Labour Party workers were still cleaning up the blood from the worst electoral thrashing the party had received since 1922, leader David Cunliffe was busy on his computer trying to save his skin. In a mass mailing to members and supporters he said, “Let’s congratulate ourselves” on “a campaign well-fought” and declared his intention to stay on as leader.

Just how he can declare himself “immensely proud” of a campaign that resulted in Labour receiving 22,353 fewer election night votes than in 2011 against a two-term National Government is a mystery. Only measured against the 2011 election night calamity when Labour lost 165,000 votes on its 2008 result, does Saturday’s result start to look less than a total disaster.

After the 2008 debacle, leader Phil Goff immediately fell on his sword, to be replaced first by David Shearer, and then when he was judged to be under-performing, by Cunliffe. Now it’s Cunliffe’s turn. His departure seems inevitable.

It was a disaster. Nowhere int eh world, generally, does a government win a third term on an increased vote, and certainly not ever before under the mMP system, let alone majority. The scale of the disaster for the left has yet to be realised.

It took National two election to recover from Bill English’s disastrous 2002 election campaign. I suspect it will take Labour much longer. Especially as their fool leader won’t quit.

Whether kicking and screaming or gracefully is over to him. The problem for Labour is, who next? The retread, David Shearer; the steady back room policy wonk, David Parker; or the new generation team of Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern?

Labour’s challenge is not just solving its leadership problems. It also has to decide whether it wants, in two years’ time, to celebrate its 100th birthday celebrations as the generally accepted, centre-left “broad church” alternative to the National Party. Under MMP, this is no longer a given. Since the election, both Green co-leader Russel Norman and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters have made claims to the leadership of the Opposition. A try-on for sure, but with Labour stuck in its present doldrums, is it any wonder the mice are playing?

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Using tax cuts to revive the economy – How the poms see NZ

The opposition likes to talk down the economy and the government, yet New Zealand has recovered faster than the rest of the world from the global financial crisis, without the need to slash and burn.

Our economy is the envy of the world.

Even the Poms see that:

In New Zealand, John Key’s National Party romped home to victory on a platform of cutting taxes and balancing the budget, trouncing a Labour opposition that promised to put up taxes. Slashing the top rate of tax has revived the economy, and been rewarded with electoral success as well. True, there are lots of differences between New Zealand and this country. And yet the truth is, there are a fair few similarities as well – and if tax cuts can work there, they can work here.

For a small place a long way from anywhere, New Zealand has a fine history of leading the way with radical experiments in economics. While we were battling over Thatcherism, and the Americans were debating Reagan-omics, the Kiwis had “Rogernomics”, created by the Labour finance minister Roger Douglas. What had been a very 1970s, state-dominated mixed economy was swiftly transformed under Douglas into a laboratory for free market ideas. Financial markets were deregulated, the money supply was brought under tight control, the currency was floated, and industries were privatised. It was a mix that was to become orthodoxy by the 1990s, but Douglas was implementing it while our Labour Party was still planning to nationalise the top 100 companies.

Now it is doing it again – except this time without any encouragement from the US or the UK. Ever since the financial crash of 2008, even centre-Right governments have followed a very narrow path, buying into high taxes, and near-zero interest rates, and allowing budget deficits to balloon, even when financed by printed money, to keep the economy afloat. No one has strayed far from the orthodoxy. Except, that is, New Zealand.

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Teacher Unions still whinging, time to consider de-registration

The teacher unions are never happy.

Despite a resounding majority victory, the first in the world under an MMP electoral system, the NZEI is claiming that John Key doesn’t have a mandate.

The largest teachers’ union in the country says it will continue to fight against the Government’s plans to reform the education system, despite the weekend’s historic election landslide.

In winning 48 percent of the vote, National became the first party to win an outright majority in Parliament under MMP. But New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) national secretary Paul Goulter says that doesn’t necessarily give them a mandate to implement the $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) scheme.

“I don’t think there could be any evidence at all to say that parents and communities and teachers in any way support it on the Monday after the election, compared to the Friday before the election. There’s just no evidence of that,” he said on Firstline this morning.

Mr Goulter says parents voted on “bread-and-butter matters”, not individual policies.

Under IES, expert teachers will get up to $20,000 extra pay, and principals up to $40,000. The catch is they would have to spend time away from their usual school to help out others the Government deems are struggling.
In August, 93 percent of NZEI members who took part in a vote on IES rejected it. Three-quarters wanted it dumped altogether, with the rest wanting it retooled.

Mr Goulter says the Government might have a mandate to push ahead with IES if it supplied evidence that it will actually improve educational outcomes.

“The evidence that they’ve bowled up so far is quite frankly pathetic,” he says. “As far as we’re concerned, things like mandates have to be subject to evidence and bringing parents and communities along, and that hasn’t happened.”

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Gareth Morgan contemplates a true BlueGreen party

People like me should be Green party supporters.

I enjoy the bush, rivers, and oceans. My hobbies involve the environment…fishing, hunting, camping, tramping, kayaking and swimming. We are all a bit green, in that we all want clean rivers, oceans, air bush and mountains.

We aren’t Green party supporters because simply put their socialist, or should I say communist, roots just scare the pants off most people.

For most of the election cycle the Greens bleat on about socialist issues, and for 6 weeks of the years present themselves as caring environmentalists. The problem they have is most people just see the mentalist part.

If the Greens were smart they’d abandon their socialism, focus on the environment and come to a governing arrangement with John Key. He’d entertain it for sure.

Gareth Morgan, who I rarely agree with (except on cats), takes this one step further. He thinks there should be a BlueGreen party.

The election hasn’t provided answers for people concerned to keep the Kiwi way of life – including those who voted National. On socio-economic issues National is most deserving, but on environmental issues it most definitely has not made the grade. With its intended RMA reforms, National threatens to propel NZ even further toward environmentally-degrading economic growth rather than the ideal of strong economic growth in harmony with environmental protection.

Labour’s ongoing slide confirms that in the voters’ minds at least, its offerings have become less and less relevant to the needs and aspirations of modern day New Zealand. But for me, the most frustrating aspect of the election result is the entrenched inability of the Green Party to grasp that the environmental message is something that appeals to middle-of-the-road New Zealanders, not just Lefties.

Sadly the Green Party’s policies for environmental sustainability have always come with a nasty fishhook – the out-dated edict that social justice can only be achieved by rehashed socialism. This has rendered the Green Party a real melon to mainstream New Zealand – a watermelon to be precise, far too red on the inside for middle New Zealand to stomach.   Read more »