Red Claire writes a blinder

Claire Trevett has written a thoroughly sensible article, for once.

One that closely correlated to reality.

The reality check that is Moving Day will happen this weekend for the National Party.

In National some MPs seem to genuinely believe the sense of umbrage among its voters about the outcome is such that it will regain the government benches in three years’ time.

Even English, who should know better, seems to half believe this.   

For the time being English is still benefiting from the good will and pity of National voters who believe he was dicked by NZ First.

But that will wear off.

It will wear off when the phone stops ringing and the press gallery stop asking them for comment…which will probably start Monday morning.

National is not quite in the same situation as Labour was in 2009. The tide against it was not as large – it was merely spritzing its toes rather than swamping it.

That is largely due to the efforts of English.

But it was an incoming tide and would soon have been knee level. That tide will not reverse now either, unless things get very hairy indeed.

So for English, 2017 is likely to be as good as it gets.

I’ve been talking to National MPs…a lot of them, which is funny since most of those were too gutless to talk to me before, but are now happy to sing a merry tune. They mostly think the polls will stay for them, and Bill English will remain the preferred prime minister.

Well, I’ve scheduled a conference call for them all with well known Australian realist and political analyst, Darryl Kerrigan, to disabuse them of this notion.

For his own ego, it might have been better to leave now with the legacy and respect he garnered intact.

English is no idiot and is not as affected by high estimations of his own wondrousness as others are.

He presumably knows he is in a King Canute situation.

I don’t agree with Claire Trevett on that. If Tuesday’s caucus meeting was anything to go by he really does have a high estimation of his own wondrousness.

But he also knows in the short term at least, his leadership will be critical for National to adapt to Opposition quickly.

English has been in Opposition before and by the end of those nine years, he was very good at it.

Well he certainly extended opposition for National when he last tilted at PM in 2002.

He knows it can only be effective when tearing the other side to shreds, rather than ripping yourselves apart.

He also knows the morale sapping effect it has.

English has pointed to National’s size as an advantage in Opposition. Unless carefully tended, that is also a recipe for chaos. The more MPs, the more factions can spring up and the more people to foment mischief.

And I will happily inject my own fomenting and mischief into the mix.

It might also pay for National MPs to stop blaming Peters’ decision for the plight they are in.

National needs to learn to be nice to people…especially those they might need to form coalitions with…and NZ First is their only option right now for the future with the demise of other partners and the sad irrelevance of the ACT party.

The coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour highlights just how improbable a New Zealand First – National coalition ever was.

Most elements of the agreement are Labour policies dressed up to make it look like NZ First was getting its way. That is more because Labour has changed over the last nine years than because NZ First has.

That includes on immigration, foreign buyers, economic reforms and even the regional development fund – or as it will no doubt come to be called, The Winston Northland Re-Election Fund.

Despite all of that, among National’s considerations should be its approach to NZ First. It can try and kill it off altogether, and that will be tempting.

The problem is NZ First could still be National’s best chance of getting back into Government in the future.

That may not happen while Peters is leader – and despite the chatter about the ‘succession’ Peters himself has shown no sign he is ready to leave.

But his successor will not be as driven by obsessions, peculiarities and betes noire as Peters – all of which have piled up over the years into seething toxic rage against his National homeland.

In the meantime, English will have enough to do to tend to his own party.

Had National managed to regain the government benches, English would have had to deliver on change. He had recognised that and promised to do so during the campaign in areas such as poverty and the environment.

He made lots of promises when he bribed caucus to become leader. He promised all sorts of ministerial portfolios. I bet those fools who bought that bill of goods feel somewhat foolish now. He promised to change how caucus was run…never did a thing. Bill English makes loads of promises but the only thing he ever delivers is election losses and jobs for his mates.

Change is even more important in Opposition – and will need to go beyond policy to personnel. English will do his own reshuffle soon.

English should look more to his juniors and mid-benchers to re-forge the party’s policies and the face it presents. Some of the older hands will fall away of their own accord. Others may need to watch few re-runs of Maggie Barry’s gardening shows.

In those, they will learn that when winter comes, an ailing rose bush needs a jolly hard prune to help it flower again.

Some of those rose bushes need pruning at ground level. Bill English won’t do that though, he never has, unless out of spite like what he did to Maurice Williamson in 2002.

Perhaps some journalist might like to call Williamson up and get him to reprise his “lancing of the boil” comment from then?


-NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.