Tracy Watkins

Countdown’s shambles continues – Boss admits to tucking Kiwi suppliers

Yet another week of pain for Countdown. Over the weekend Jones once again ripped into Countdown, this time slating them for bringing gambling to poor communities.

Tracy Watkins then gives Countdown another round of PR headaches with her story today.

But her story has much deeper ramifications than casual readers may realise.

The comment by Countdown boss Dave Chambers should have Jones frothing at the mouth and proves all along that there was truth to Countdown’s Mafiosi tactics.

“Progressive Enterprises managing director Dave Chambers confirmed yesterday that terms with some suppliers might include retrospective payments if the agreed amount of sales were not achieved.”

What? Remember Dave Chambers comment just the other week in that Herald fluff piece?  Read more »

Tracy Watkins on Labour

Tracy Watkins writes about Labour’s lack of urgency.

It speaks volumes about David Cunliffe’s bad week that on the day John Key delivered his pre-Budget speech, it was the Labour leader who copped it on the street over the Government’s failure to make a big dent in unemployment.

Key’s speech to a much friendlier audience across town in Aucland was less of a pre-Budget missive than a stump speech aimed at setting the parameters for the election campaign around National’s well-rehearsed narrative that any spending promises by Labour would herald out-of-control debt and spiralling interest rates.

This sparked the usual war of words between Labour and National over who would leave behind the worst economic legacy. But Labour’s headache, six years on, is that National has been hugely effective at painting the Clark-Cullen years as a decade of tax and spend, compared with its own narrative of scrimping and fiscal prudence.

The reality, of course, is not quite as straightforward – despite the “zero” Budgets, government spending has continued to rise each year under National. But there is no dispute that when it came to power, the country was staring down the barrel at a decade of deficits and skyrocketing debt.

The May Budget will show that National has done a remarkable job of turning that around by bringing forward the return to surplus by some years and lowering the debt trajectory.  Read more »

Tracy Watkins on smears

Tracy muses about smears and gets right amongst it herself

Do smear campaigns work?

Short answer – of course.

If they didn’t, they would not be a time-honoured political tool.

But the trick is maintaining the appearance of keeping your hands clean. In 2008, when Labour was caught out trying to gather material to drop an “H-bomb” on John Key it backfired spectacularly. But that was in the days when smartphones were still new, and it was not so easy to plant an internet meme and see it spread like wildfire before it had been proved or disproved.

Would that story have played out differently in 2014?

When a senior adviser to Key was caught out earlier this year supplying photographs to shock-jock blogger Cameron Slater, it was confirmation that the major parties see blogs as an important outlet for stories they prefer to keep at arm’s length or don’t want their fingerprints on.

The fact that Jason Ede supplied Whaleoil with photos of rubbish from a press gallery party was less of a revelation than the fact that feeding the blogs is officially part of his job description. Key used to give a passable impression of someone who had just noticed a bad smell under his nose whenever he was questioned about National’s links to Slater. Not so now.

Key even admits to having a direct line to the blogger.

As do many other people.  From all over the political spectrum.   Read more »

From bean to cup…

I bet those “heck yeah” signs from the mana by election campaign are hard to find now…

Tracy Watkins explains:

How long before Prime Minister John Key decides Hekia Parata is a liability in Cabinet?

The only saving grace in the kohanga reo debacle has been Key’s calculated decision to leave chief of staff Wayne Eagleson behind while he is on a 10-day trip to China and Europe.

The decision to refer allegations of misspending by a kohanga reo-related company to the Serious Fraud Office – less than 25 hours after Parata assured the “taxpayers of New Zealand” that there had been no impropriety – looked like something that had Eagleson’s fingerprints on it.

Her handling of the affair has been a breathtaking disaster.

During a press conference on Tuesday night Parata blustered and bullied her way through questions about her assurance that none of the $92 million in public funding allocated to the Kohanga Reo National Trust, or paid to its subsidiary, Te Pataka Ohanga, had been misspent.  Read more »

Watkins on Cunliffe

Tracy Watkins writes about David Cunliffe and asks if it is at all possible that he can turn around the sinking ship that is Labour.

You could probably have cut the air with a knife at this morning’s Labour caucus after another poll showing the party on a slide toward defeat in September’s election.

The Herald-Digipoll has Labour on 29.5 per cent which simply confirms what every other poll has been telling the party since the start of the year.

Blame National leader John Key’s extraordinary popularity, blame the surge in economic confidence and belief that the country is on the right track, blame Labour leader David Cunliffe’s stumbles over trusts and party policy, blame the carry-over of mistrust toward Cunliffe from within his own caucus, or blame the fact that there is clearly an internal struggle within Labour over direction and strategy.

What it all adds up to is a party that is yet to put up a convincing case to voters that it is ready to govern or that there is any reason for a change from National.

Can David Cunliffe turn things around?  Read more »

Watkins on Cunliffe and coups

Tracy Watkins is the first journalist to suggest that Labour’s caucus may want to look at rolling him.

You could probably have cut the air with a knife at this morning’s Labour caucus after another poll showing the party on a slide toward defeat in September’s election.

The Herald-Digipoll has Labour on 29.5 per cent which simply confirms what every other poll has been telling the party since the start of the year.

Blame National leader John Key’s extraordinary popularity, blame the surge in economic confidence and belief that the country is on the right track, blame Labour leader David Cunliffe’s stumbles over trusts and party policy, blame the carry-over of mistrust toward Cunliffe from within his own caucus, or blame the fact that there is clearly an internal struggle within Labour over direction and strategy.

What it all adds up to is a party that is yet to put up a convincing case to voters that it is ready to govern or that there is any reason for a change from National.

This is Labour’s problem…there is simply no compelling reason to change government. Certainly not because the justice minister had a dinner in China, or National did a deal with SkyCity, because if those issues were concerning to voters then you’d see National and not Labour plummeting in the polls.  Read more »

Watkins on the Cunliffe schemozzle

Tracy Watkins has an opinion piece today about “The Enigma of Cunliffe“.

The great enigma about David Cunliffe has always been how someone so smart managed to make so many enemies among his own colleagues.

He is by many accounts a caring boss and doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t laugh at himself.

The schemozzle surrounding the Labour leader in recent days probably helps explain the unease of those among his colleagues who opposed his leadership bid.  Cunliffe’s biggest critics have always complained about a lack of self awareness as his potentially fatal flaw.

That is what causes him to swing from a caricature of himself as a gun-slinging troubleshooter to working class hero, who forgets along the way that he also lives in one of Auckland’s swankiest suburbs, Herne Bay.

It may also be what lies at the root of his failure to realise the lack of transparency around donations to his leadership campaign and declaration of financial interests was a grenade waiting to go off.  Read more »

The doubt is setting in, Labour in trouble

Privately Labour MPs don’t think they can win the election. Publicly they are all macho and putting on the face of ebulliance…but it is rather hollow.

After 3 dreadful polls showing that the party’s choice for leader hasn’t worked as they thought it would. Ther eis no great hankering for a top end of town trickster masquerading as an unreconstituted trade unionist from the 1950s.

Tracy Watkins picks up this dissonance.

Scratch beneath the bravado  in Labour these days and you will find a pessimist.

Blame it on the weather or a shortened barbecue season, but Labour MPs seem already to be doubting the prospect of a Labour win. Even the optimists don’t much bother to pretend they believe in Labour overtaking National any more. They argue instead that with the Greens votes they don’t need to.

It may be politics as MMP intended it but it is still a long way removed from the mindset that reigned in Labour under Helen Clark.

Clark’s focus first and foremost was to amass the most votes to give herself a strong hand in post-election negotiations.

Her alliance with the Greens was at best uneasy, and at its worst acrimonious. You didn’t have to be a mind reader to figure out that relations between Miss Clark and Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons were at an all time low on the 2002 campaign trail. Miss Clark’s body language during the televised debates said it all.

Constantly torn by the dilemma of whether to sidle up to the Greens or cannibalise their vote, Labour’s relationship with the Greens remains the source of internal party soul searching.

But it has been a long time since the polls delivered a scenario where Labour could do without them.  Read more »

Tracy Watkins on Labour’s shambolic start to election year

Tracy Watkins discusses Labour’s utter shambles to the start of election year.

David Cunliffe apparently spent his summer studying the likes of the British Labour party’s Ed Miliband  and New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

That provides a clue as to where Labour is drawing many of its arguments on inequality.

But Cunliffe should also have spent some time watching old recordings from the campaign trail in 2011 when John Key floored Phil Goff with the line ‘‘show me the money’’.

Ironically, Goff’s people blamed his finance spokesman, Cunliffe, for going awol in the final weeks of the campaign and leaving him vulnerable to questions about Labour’s campaign costings.

That was mostly bunkum from a team that needed a handy villain on which to deflect some of the blame for Goff’s humiliating 21 per cent election night performance.

But it was a lesson in the old adage that the devil is always in the detail.  Read more »

Gallery journalist advocates political corruption

The headline may seem a bit over the top but how else are you to read Tracy Watkins’ comment any other way other than endorsing political corruption.

John Banks – In the dog box

With the exception of his stand against animal testing, John Banks’ return to national politics has gone from bad to worse since he stepped up as ACT’s reluctant leader after winning Epsom. Banks thought he had seen off the threat of prosecution over anonymous donations to his Auckland mayoral campaign but hadn’t reckoned on serial litigant Graham McCready.  Read more »