Tracy Watkins

Tracy Watkins is right but also very, very wrong

Like most media living on Twitter and supping from the trough inside the beltway Tracy Watkins has an opinion on the flag debate and the “refugee” crisis, and that opinion is that it is possibly, maybe, hurting John Key,

It may not have been tectonic, but the political ground appeared to shift under John Key this week.

There was suddenly a gap between Key and public opinion on more than one front – unfamiliar territory for the prime minister.

On the refugee crisis, Key was slow to wake up to the swelling consensus that it required a bigger humanitarian effort from New Zealand.

As graphic and tragic images from Europe put a human face to the crisis, the Government looked isolated in its view that New Zealand’s quota of 750 refugees a year is enough.

Key’s partial backdown on Thursday belatedly coat-tailed public opinion that we can and should do more.

On the Maurice Williamson debacle, Key’s usually reliable sniff test also failed him.

The Pakuranga MP delivered an after-dinner speech that was more strip club than black tie, with its references to oral sex and “attagirl knee pads” (you can probably fill in the blanks here).

Round the Cabinet table, Key’s ministers run a “woman voter” test over every decision before it gets the final sign off.

They know their fortunes are directly tied to the female vote which, till Key took over the leadership, was firmly in Labour’s favour.

Williamson’s boorish speech cuts across that by carrying with it the dinosaur-ish overtones that once acted as a giant turnoff to women voters at the ballot box.

But where Key is usually ruthless with MPs and ministers who step out of line, his reprimand was about as lacklustre as his defence that Williamson wasn’t acting in his capacity as an MP.

That’s a new test which MPs will be very glad to hear about. It’s a bit like excusing a police officer for drink driving because he or she wasn’t acting in their capacity as a police officer.

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Watkins blames Key for media publicising his kids

Tracy Watkins has decided that the media fascination with publicising anything John Key’s kids get up to is all his fault.

It is odd that no one has pointed out that this kind of thing is a vote winner in the selfie generation…but then again no one in the gallery would know anything about that.

They must be frustrated that after nearly a decade of trying to undermine Key the public still like him…so journalists like Tracy Watkins and Barry Soper need to target and blame him.

John Key’s enduring appeal to voters has always boiled down to one thing – he is just like them.

That’s why they forgive his goofy moments, and even the really awkward ones, like ponytail-gate.

Everyone makes a dick of themselves occasionally, right?

Yeah including journalists, yet for some reason they never show up in the pages of their own newspapers…yet.

Does Max Key posting videos of the family living the dream in Hawaii with a glamorous girlfriend at his side undermine that? Hardly.

People know John Key is rich. That has always been part of his appeal – the fact that he managed to remain a regular guy despite his rags-to-riches backstory.

And Hawaii is not unattainable. It’s not exactly a budget destination, but plenty of Kiwis holiday there.

Key’s reaction to questions about Max’s video, meanwhile, would resonate with many parents.   Read more »

Key is squandering any remaining media goodwill

Fairfax journo Tracy Watkins is letting her wishful thinking get in the way today in a piece where she posits Key is “burning political capital” over the Hager/Fisher GCSB “revelations”.

Are the latest leaked documents important? Yes, of course.

Actually, they’re not.

They detail the vast and indiscriminate store of information gathered by the Government Communications Security Bureau, including plenty that must surely breach the spirit, if not the technicalities, of the 2013 GCSB Act.

Once the media get back to the “spirit” of news reporting instead of running the country, they might actually have a leg to stand on.

The Act spells out that it is illegal for the agency to intercept the private communications of New Zealand citizens and residents, except in specific circumstances or when it is “incidentally obtained” – which, as we now know, is likely to include while they are lying on a beach in Samoa.

There are bound to be diplomatic ripples, meanwhile, over the extent to which the GCSB reaches into the Pacific.

There are bound not to be.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, are particularly unaware of how the real world works, or you have your own ‘outrage’ agenda, people 1) know their stuff is up for grabs, and 2) they truly don’t care.

We are told that the targets include friends and foe alike, though we are yet to see any direct evidence of  that claim – say, for instance, a transcript of a private phone call between the prime minister of Samoa and his mates.

Nonetheless, it is probably no coincidence that John Key will embark on a goodwill tour of the Pacific later this year, including a likely stop-off in Fiji.

Yeah, that’s right.  John Key wasn’t going on a Pacific trip until Hager and Fisher dusted off some Helen Clark era stolen documents to try and blow some life back into the same old issue.   And now Key needs to go around a tour to calm down his Pacific neighbours.   That has to be the reason.   Read more »

I’ve got bad news for Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards must have hit the crack pipe before writing his last woeful column of the year.

Apparently National had a horror year…or so the headline screams.

Yes, John Key’s National Government won a spectacular third term victory. And yesterday the Herald gave the reasons that National can be positive about its achievements – see the editorial, Govt comes out on top in colourful year.

And nearly every political journalist has awarded John Key the title of Politician of the Year – see, for example, Patrick Gower’s Politician of the Year.

But, it was still an incredibly torrid year for National, and even the PM pointed to the election campaign as one of his low moments of the year – see TV3’s Key found campaign ‘a low-light’ for 2014.

Tracy Watkins also stresses that it’s been a terrible year for the National Government: ‘His government was assaulted on every front with scandal, trouble and controversy. Ministers resigned, his coalition allies ended the year diminished, and he ended the year looking evasive and tarnished by his links to dirty tricks and shock jock blogger WhaleOil’ – see: One clear winner, plenty of dashed hopes.

Not only did the election campaign take its toll, but as I pointed out recently in another column, The downfall of John Key, the challenges and allegations of Dirty Politics were really starting to bite after the election. See also, A year of (neverending) Dirty Politics.

Even Matthew Hooton thinks the Government has suffered, especially since their election victory, and he details National’s incredibly arrogant behaviour since the election, pointing to the main offenders: John Key, Christopher Finlayson, and Gerry Brownlee – see: For John Key: summer of reflection please (paywalled).

Likewise, Duncan Garner says that although Key deserves to be the ‘politician of the year’, ‘The first few months of the new regime have been largely underwhelming. Not telling the truth about his contact with attack blogger WhaleOil hurt the prime minister. It was a royal stuff-up and he admits this privately’ – see: Key my politician of the year, but now for the third-term blues. Garner believes the Key’s reputation is on the decline: ‘It’s happening for Key, slowly. His jokes don’t seem as funny. He looks more haunted and hunted these days’.

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Cartoon of the Day

Credit:  SonovaMin

Credit: SonovaMin

Dominion Post political editor Tracy Watkins flails about wildly for relevance


Tracy Watkins, via Twitter

Tracy Watkins, via Twitter

Key’s wise-cracking has a new edge.

He used to call his opponents muppets and it would come across as disarmingly friendly.

These days it sounds more like a profanity than an affectionate put-down.

And to say National’s third term began disastrously would be an understatement.

Key continues to be wrong-footed by the toxic fallout from Dirty Politics.

He is badly tainted by his association with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, whose brand is repugnant to most voters.

I’d love Tracy to back that up with some fact.   My brand is so repugnant that I continue to build an ever-increasing audience.  But hey, don’t let facts get in thew way of trying to damage Freed by association.

The Dominion Post reaches nearly half of Wellingtonians aged 15 years and over and has an average daily readership of 234,000 people aged over 15.

I just have a little old repugnant blog with a similar following Tracy.  Wait until we start Freed!

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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?


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”:


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 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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