Go on Andy Pandy, listen to Aunty Audrey and see where it gets you

Audrey Young has some advice for Andrew Little.

Well, I wouldn’t really call it advice, kind of like your old Aunty piping up in the middle of a family dispute with unwanted suggestions.

Nonetheless, in the absence of any other suggestions Little is likely to listen to it.

Little is the best leader the party has had since Helen Clark because he has controlled the factions.

He does that by not recognising them – of course it helps that the right faction (they prefer to be called moderates or pragmatists) is shrinking in number; Clayton Cosgrove will be the next to exit.

Little will stay leader until the next election, of that there is no doubt. If he is not Prime Minister after the 2017 election, it will be Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern’s turn. But until then, the caucus will remain loyal in a way they weren’t to former leaders Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe.

Not that they didn’t have failings. Goff was too soon after Government; Shearer was too inexperienced; and David Cunliffe was just too David Cunliffe.

Goff was rolled when he lost an election, his personal ratings topped out at 15%, David Shearer topped out at 15%, David Cunliffe managed to get to 14%. Andrew Little started on 12% and has slid down to 7%…and Audrey Young thinks Labour should keep him on? Little is polling under half where the other leaders were when they were rolled.  

To put it in perspective, the 28 per cent in TV One’s poll this week is exactly what they got two elections ago, under Goff, but it is better than the 25 per cent they got at the last election under Cunliffe.

And to add further perspective because Audrey either left it out or the subbies deleted it, Labour always slips about 5-8% in polls in the final weeks. So Andrew Little, “the best leader the party has had since Helen Clark” is likely to score less that David Cunliffe managed.

The poll results are a reflection of the long-running identity crisis and Little’s recent exacerbation of it.

The party that began TPP under Clark rejected the done deal then tried to be the farmers’ best friend.

The party seeks respectability in the business community but contemplates a return to Muldoonist regulation of interest rates.

It wants to be the party to target inequality but toys with the idea of giving the rich and poor the same universal basic income.

Flip, flop, flap. Labour is the party that vacillates.

Little, however, has not let the poll dent his confidence. On the contrary, he has used it as a licence to exercise more power.

The quickest way to deal with Labour’s identity problems over policy is to forget the policy and make it about the leader.

So at the Distinction Hotel, he was mandated by colleagues to rely on his own judgment more, to be bolder and make an impact, instead of trying to achieve consensus within the party.

That approach was in action this week with Little’s extraordinary attack on John Key’s so-called moral compass – according to Little, he doesn’t have one – in the wake of the Panama papers.

Establishing a negative impression of Key is everything; nuance is non-existent and facts are a luxury in this new clobbering approach of Little’s.

Labour is not bothered that Key has no foreign trust, that there is no evidence of any unethical behaviour by Key or his lawyer. It is apparently enough that he was a currency trader, that he is wealthy, that he waited for a week before ordering an inquiry into the 12,000 foreign trusts in New Zealand in order to cast him as the Prime Minister only for the privileged and greedy end of town and a person of “no moral compass”.

Key’s instinctive defence of New Zealand’s reputation over foreign trust law (ipso facto, the dodgy dealers who use them) was a move Labour will seek to exploit for weeks and months to come. But it is not without risk, which was illustrated neatly in a perceptive tweet by comedian Guy Williams this week: “The opposition is always desperately trying to find a John Key scandal! How about we think up good policy and attack on issues.”

That is just retarded politics. Labour have tried hammering John Key for 9 years straight. It has never worked and it isn’t working now. It was made worse by the defamatory attack on John Shewan by Andrew Little and Trevor Mallards intemperate defamation of John Key.

Labour risks looking desperate, and coming worse off than 28 per cent.

If Little’s attacks fail to ring true, the public will stop listening on other issues.

On his side is the fact that trusts are deeply mistrusted, and not just the tax-dodging ones here with foreign settlers.

Audrey, dear, we are talking about trusts and they have settlors, not settlers.

Yes, they can be benign and convenient vehicles to establish, for example, a tertiary education fund, for kids. But they have been used as vehicles to shelter income and assets for tax purposes to access, for example, Working for Families or to reduce matrimonial property settlement obligations.

Their disclosure rules are so loose that the Law Commission can’t actually say how many there are in New Zealand – between 300,000 and 500,000, it estimates.

Labour’s primary aim, however, is not to get better disclosure rules to the trust laws, laws it introduced in Government, but to associate Key with a reluctance to change them.

And if Key gives him an inch, Little will try to clobber him a mile even if he damages himself in the process.

With about 18 months to go before his only shot at power, Little is willing to take that risk.

Egged on by old duffers like Audrey Young. That strategy will fail, as Labour will again look like they are sweating the small stuff and not actually delivering anything for the middle. So far Labour attacks this cycle have been to support Kiwi criminals in Australia, criminals in prisons here, the work shy, and every other special interest group clamouring for recognition of some perilous policy that affects their small party of the community. They are the party of the margins, and it is the centre that wins elections.

Until Labour develops policy that represents the middle of New Zealand rather than the political chattering classes then they won’t see that poll gap close at all.


– NZ Herald

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