Tracy Watkins

Tracy Watkins needs to stop drinking the gallery Koolaid

The problem with the Press Gallery is they are generally actually out of touch with what actually happens in politics.

Preferring to talk about factions and plans and conspiracies when none actually exists. They are particularly tits at these prognostications with the National aprty.

We often see stories about faction wars inside National when none exists. We know they don;t exists because if there were factions then i’d be in one of them and if there was a war there would be bodies floating down political rivers.

Tracy Watkins embarks on another gallery fantasy…that political parties groom future leaders.

Helen Clark’s mistake in being too slow to rejuvenate her caucus left a very deep impression on Key. He has been far more proactive, creating an expectation that there is no room in the caucus for seat warmers.

The departure of a slew of National MPs at the last election is evidence of his more ruthless approach, as is his approach to Cabinet reshuffles.

For the first time that anyone can remember Key has made a practice of demoting ministers for performance issues, rather than the more traditional route of sacking minister’s only when they have transgressed.  This has given him room to constantly renew his Cabinet. Key rang the changes with a reshuffle which he hopes will mitigate the effects of third-termitis.

Elevating the likes of Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges up the Cabinet rankings also shows Key has a succession plan in place – along with Steven Joyce, they are being looked to as the next generation of National leaders. Will the drive for renewal reach even higher to the leadership and deputy leadership?

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A dignified exit? How about political seppuku?

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David Cunliffe’s extreme narcissism is hindering his thought processes. Since the election he has resolutely and steadfastly refused to resign.

His caucus hates him, yet he stands there staring them down in the misguided belief that he is right and they are wrong and if he can just make it look like they are nasty bastards then he can appeal tot he members to continue to support his leadership.

The problem the membership and Cunliffe have is that they are disconnected from reality.

For months on end we have been told the polls would close up….they didn’t.

Then they claimed that people just didn’t get to know David…we did, and voted accordingly.

Now they are echoing both of those by insisting that Cunliffe remains as leader. That somehow the polls and voters were just wrong, and that eventually, if they wear us all down then we will really, really like David Cunliffe and Labour and they will return to their rightful position is government of this nation.

The problem with all of that is that is treat voters as though we are stupid.

We know a stupid, lying, double talking faker when we see one.

So how do you get rid of the fool?

Tracy Watkins examines this.

David Cunliffe’s resignation from the Labour leadership is certain. It is only the matter of his going that is yet to be decided.

In the old days he would have been gone already.    Read more »

Tracy Watkins: Situation normal

Tracy shares her “campaign diary”:

TUESDAY

Sometimes you just have to throw the script away. John Key surprises us at the Press leaders debate by striding onto the stage unannounced.

Press editor Joanna Norris had planned to bring him and Labour leader David Cunliffe on separately after some words of introduction. Outside, Cunliffe must have wondered what on earth just happened when a huge cheer erupted before any of the introductions were given.

A peek backstage beforehand painted a picture of two very different campaigns. In an empty classroom 10 minutes before the debate Key was alone, and pacing the room, his hands held together in front of him. Even his long-time adviser, Paula Oliver, had left the room.

As he left, Key scrawled a thank you note to St Margaret College students for letting him usetheir classroom.

Up one floor, Cunliffe was crowded into a room with a team of four or five advisers including press secretary Simon Cunliffe and strategist Rob Salmond.

One of the team was spotted earlier at the Mecca Cosmetica counter at Ballentynes seeking advice about stage make-up for Cunliffe.

Key has ex-TV3 reporter Sia Aston with him so has that one covered. The debate is fast, rowdy and fun. Read more »

Unfortunately Tracy there is nothing to like and even less to trust

Tracy Watkins writes about The Cunliffe and his likeability and trust issues with the electorate.

Labour leadership is a brutal job. If Helen Clark had been made of different stuff she never would have survived Opposition.

Her colleagues tried to roll her just months out from the 1996 election and with good reason.

Labour’s polling under Clark was disastrous. Support for her as preferred prime minister was laughable. Voters thought she was arrogant, aloof and out of touch.

Everything about Clark – her hair, her teeth, her mannish voice – was picked over and dissected as another reason for voters to reject Labour. They were the worst years of Clark’s life. But when a delegation of Clark’s colleagues knocked on her door asking her to resign she stared them down.

There is said to be a desk somewhere around Parliament that still bears the scars from Koro Wetere digging his fingernails into its surface during their faceoff.

The story even had an (almost) happy ending when Clark took Labour close to winning the 1996 election – though perhaps not as close as her supporters believed on the night.

It was largely thanks to Winston Peters and MMP that she was able to keep Labour’s hopes alive before Peters opted to do a deal with National. But it was enough to secure Clark’s leadership. Three years later she led Labour to a sweeping victory and nine years in power.

Is Clark protege David Cunliffe made of the same stuff?

The difference between Helen Clark and David Cunliffe is two-fold. She had balls and a spine, both things that are sadly lacking from The Cunliffe. His self doubt is immense and hasn’t been helped with former leaders knocking on his door at parliament and assuring The Cunliffe that he shouldn’t worry, the polls will come right, chin up.

Labour’s poll ratings have sunk like the Titanic under Cunliffe’s leadership. The latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos political pollhas Labour marooned in the mid-20s.

Forget about winning – avoiding an old-fashioned drubbing has become the priority. Only MPs with seats in Labour bastions like Manukau seem safe.

It is not at all far-fetched to imagine Labour sinking to National’s low point in 2002 – 21 per cent.

Under that scenario the damage to Labour could be immense. Unthinkably, even finance spokesman and number two on Labour’s list, David Parker, could be at risk. So too would stars like Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little.

The only difference between now and 1996 is the election date. When Clark’s colleagues knocked on her door in May 1996 the election was still five months away. Even if Labour wanted to change its leader now, it probably couldn’t. Voters would punish such a visible display of panic and disarray just two months out from an election. Many in Labour’s activist base would revolt.

Cunliffe was their man, their nuclear option against a caucus that did not reflect their world view. A change of leader now would bring to the surface all the things voters reject – panic, a party in disarray and disunity.

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When will we see #bringbackshearer ?

Given Labour’s sinking lid poll ratings and the rolling maul of stupidity from David Cunliffe, might we be seeing a call from within the party for David Shearer to be brought back.

Tracy Watkins looks at his recent performances.

Amid the frenzy over a Malaysian diplomat whipped home after being accused of attempted rape, the performance of Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer has been a revelation.

Shearer has been forceful and effective.

His colleagues must be wondering whether body-snatchers were at play during Shearer’s stint as leader and replaced him with an inarticulate doppelganger.

Cunliffe will be under huge pressure at this weekend’s Congress to show he’s capable of turning around his poor poll ratings and public image. Privately some of his colleagues must be wondering if they should have held their nerve on Shearer and given him time to grow into the role.

David Shearer is actually a good bloke, one you can have a beer with happily. Whereas David Cunliffe is just an unpleasant, awkward, narcissist.  Read more »

It is Canon Media Award winning “dysfunctional twit”…thank you very much

Winston Peters is a crook

Karl du Fresne notices the chill wind blowing for Winston Peters as it becomes obvious that he is bewildered and out of touch.

Winston Peters cops it with both barrels in today’s Dominion Post. In his weekly column, former TV3 political editor Duncan Garner launches a withering attack on the New Zealand First leader and concludes that the public is tired of his games. On the same page, Dom Post political editor Tracy Watkins says New Zealand First is a clock that has been slowly winding down since the 1996 election. (Remember? That was the pantomime when Peters kept the country in political limbo for six weeks while he went fishing.)

Both commentators are especially critical of Peters’ vicious and cowardly counter-attack against his former protégé Brendan Horan, whom he likened – under parliamentary privilege – to the serial child abuser Jimmy Savile.

It all tends to reinforce a perception that Peters is losing his mojo. Certainly there has been a marked change in the tone of media coverage of him in recent weeks, starting with his failure to deliver on the promise of a killer blow to Judith Collins.  The press gallery was almost unanimous in its scorn for him over that, which leads me to wonder they’ve finally had enough of his bluster and bullshit.

Yes they have, as have I.

But before those of us who abhor Peters’ political style get too excited, hang on a minute. Yesterday he held a public meeting in Masterton, and out of curiosity I went along. The room was packed long before the guest of honour arrived. I counted more than 100 heads, nearly all of them grey. The meeting was chaired by octogenarian New Zealand First stalwart George Groombridge, who deferentially referred to Peters as “the Boss”.

For Peters, the 2014 election campaign is already underway. He spoke, mostly without notes, for nearly an hour. It was vintage Peters, delivered in that characteristic hoarse staccato bark, and it pushed all the usual buttons.

We have a government that grovels to wealthy foreign interests. Immigrants are placing huge demands on housing and infrastructure, which the rest of us (meaning real New Zealanders) have to pay for. Australian banks are robbing us blind. The Budget was a big con; the only good thing in it was the extension of free doctors’ visits for children, and we all know where Bill English got that idea. Honest, hard-working Kiwis in places like the Wairarapa are being forced to subsidise the Auckland super-city, which even Aucklanders didn’t want. We wouldn’t sleep at night if we knew how few police cars were on the job (and this after New Zealand First heroically pushed Helen Clark’s government into increasing police numbers by 1000). Wealthy Chinese donors to the National Party who can’t even speak English are demanding that we change our immigration policy (“Just try that in Beijing!”). Twenty-one of Barfoot and Thompson’s 25 top real estate agents are Asian. We’re an economic colony of China and Australia. John Key was the only person in New Zealand who didn’t know in advance of the raid on the Dotcom mansion, and he’s the minister in charge of the SIS and GSCB. The free market is a total nonsense. Cameron Slater is a dysfunctional twit who knows nothing about politics. (Journalists were repeatedly scorned, but only Slater was paid the compliment of being mentioned by name.) The most profitable investment in New Zealand is a donation to the National Party. Chardonnay-drinking clowns have nothing but contempt for the concerns of ordinary people – “but we’ve got news for them, and it’s all bad”. And so on, and so on. You get the picture.

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Tracy Watkins on the nasty stuff

Tracy Watkins comments on the nasty stuff flying around.

MPs are now bracing for what they believe will be the nastiest campaign ever.

There has been plenty of evidence so far it will be dirty; Green MP Jan Logie has been vilified on social media for her tweet stating: “John Key says Bill English has produced as many budgets as children . . . begs the question who he has f … d to produce it” [sic].

Logie is not the only offender. Remember National MPs Anne Tolley and Judith Collins attacking Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei for her $1000 jackets and being out of touch with the poor? Or Labour MP Trevor Mallard calling Chris Finlayson “Tinkerbell”? But such behaviour is hardly new. In past Parliaments we have had punchups, Judith Collins labelling Labour MP David Benson Pope a pervert, Labour’s various attempts to smear John Key – including the H-bomb debacle – and in return National spent most of the 2005 campaign labelling Helen Clark a liar and likening her to despot Robert Mugabe.

The difference these days is that social media and the 24/7 digital news environment magnifies such behaviour a thousand-fold.   Read more »

Is Winston First dead on its feet?

Tracy Watkins seems to think so in her article in the Dompost.

She is alone in the gallery in thinking Winston’s time is over, a smart observation, but one that will ignored by the lazier members of the gallery who hold onto the hope that there is one last hurrah in the old not so wily dog. I think 4 months will be sufficient time for Tracy Watkins to be proved right.

Anyone who kids themselves that there is life after Winston Peters for NZ First only had to watch the party floundering in the absence of its leader this week.

Frantically trying to head off an attack by their former colleague, expunged NZ Firster Brendan Horan, Peters’ front bench achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making Horan look good by comparison.

They were clueless in the face of Horan’s determination to extract utu from his former party by tabling documents he claimed showed improper use of the taxpayer funded leader’s fund.

Whether the documents do show what Horan claims remains to be seen; the Speaker is investigating although the explanation offered by Peters suggests the spending complies with the rules. But we know from long experience that politicians have a collective interest in not inquiring too deeply into the use of leaders’ funds.

There is certainly no reason to be confident that they have cleaned up their act since an Audit Office inquiry several years ago found most parties treated it as a slush fund for party political activities. (NZ First was one of the parties pinged for unlawful spending to the tune of $158,000).

Regardless of the ins and outs of Horan’s allegations, however, one thing seems clear: Horan is hellbent on using his last remaining months in Parliament to try to take Peters and the rest of NZ First down with him.

Even if he succeeds he will only be hastening by a few years what increasingly seems inevitable.

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Scurrilous, dirty attack by parliament’s biggest ratbag

 

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Winston Peters is a scurrilous, shameless, ratbag.

Last week he pronounced to all that Judith Collins would be gone with what he has. It turned out that he had nothing, as usual.

Yesterday in the house he went again, and again had nothing, but that didn’t stop him hurling a scurrilous smear at Brendan Horan.

Tracy Watkins reports:

Open hostilities have erupted between independent MP Brendan Horan and his former boss after NZ First leader Winston Peters today referred to Horan as “Jimmy Savile”.

Peters twice made reference to Horan as Savile, the late BBC presenter accused of sex crimes against children.

The first reference followed Horan attempting to table NZ First board meeting minutes which he told Parliament “point to improper use of taxpayer money”.

Peters responded: “This House should not be used in that way particularly by the Jimmy Savile of New Zealand politics.”  Read more »

Brain Drain reversing and the opposition don’t like that either

Labour has made much of the brain drain in opposition, criticising the government for driving people off shore.

Nevermind that the same thing happened under their watch and never mind that these things are cyclical.

Now however it appears the brain drain is reversing and the opposition don’t like that either.

Tracy Watkins reports:

A big turnaround in the trans-Tasman brain drain is poised to put new pressure on house prices and has the Government scrambling to build new classrooms.

Experts are predicting that, by the end of the year, the number of Kiwis heading across the ditch will be outpaced by the number returning – which has not happened since 1993.

Bank of New Zealand economist Tony Alexander said yesterday he expected the crossover point to come this year. The main driver was fewer Kiwis leaving for Australia “because the allure of Australia has diminished quite a bit”.

“A lot of chooks have come home to roost in their federal budget management, in their manufacturing sector and also their resource sector, coming off an exceptionally high level so . . . a big reality check.”

Alexander said the migration surge would likely add pressure to house prices – making it less likely the Reserve Bank would ease restrictions on the size of deposit required for mortgage lending.

Auckland house prices rose on average by 38 per cent between January 2009 and July last year and that was during a period of “slightly below average” net migration gains.

“If they’ve got this extra boost to the housing market coming along from accelerating population growth, it’s pretty unlikely they will be making any great change in those rules later this year.”

The predictions of a reverse brain-drain compare with two years ago, when the exodus across the Tasman reached record levels and there were fears it would only accelerate.

The speed of the turnaround appears to have taken officials by surprise – last week’s budget predicts a net migration boost of about 40,000 as a result, a rise of 12,000 on December forecasts.

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