Matthew Hooton

Hooton on Hager and Stephenson

Matthew Hooton’s NBR column is a cracker:

As well as their alleged sources in the SAS and New Zealand military, Mr Hager and Mr Stephenson say they have been able to confirm their story with sources in the Afghani military. They also say they have spoken to and remain in contact with people who live in the two villages, even though they – and the New Zealand human rights lawyers who now claim to represent the Afghani villagers – have not been able to visit the actual settlements as they are now under the control of the Taliban.  This has contributed to disagreement between the Defence Force and the authors even over the names and locations of the villages.

In fact, nobody involved in this battle by media here in New Zealand claims ever to have visited the two villages, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad.   

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Hooton thinks Nikki Kaye was being mean to Labour’s snowflake Jacinda

Matthew Hooton thinks that Nikki Kaye was being a bit mean to Jacinda Ardern:

NBR political commentator Matthew Hooton says the attack by National MP Nikki Kaye on Labour’s newly-elected deputy leader Jacinda Ardern was a mistake.

The gloves came off during Parliament’s general debate in the House yesterday with National MP Nikki Kaye fronting the attack on her former opponent in the Auckland central seat.   Read more »

Hooton on English’s super scam

Matthew Hooton discusses Bill English’s super scam:

Is it better if it was a cock-up or actually planned?

The kindest thing to say about Bill English’s superannuation announcement on Monday is that it is jolly sporting of him to try to even things up a bit with Labour-Green.

Evidence is that Mr English’s proclamation the government intends to quickly raise the age of retirement over two years from 2037 was entirely an exercise in PR. No government or Parliament can bind its successor, let alone one seven elections from now. Nothing Mr English and Finance Minister Steven Joyce said this week will have any impact whatsoever on Budget 2037 – or even Budget 2018, unless it causes a change of government.

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Hooton: Make Jacinda leader now

Matthew Hooton thinks Labour would be best placed for the election if Jacinda Ardern were to replace Andrew Little as leader of the Labour party…now.

Labour’s position has never been more desperate.

New Zealand’s oldest political party has been in worse polling troughs before but not even in 1990 were things so bleak 200 days from an election.

According to the admittedly suspiciously volatile Roy Morgan poll, Labour is on just 26%, well below its 30% in February 2014 and 33% in February 2011, before the inevitable election-year slide in the main parties’ support.

If the 2014 and 2011 patterns are repeated in 2017, and Labour and National lose support to the likes of NZ First, the Greens, Act and whoever else pops up, Labour risks threatening the 21% National scored in 2002 under Bill English 1.0 as the worst major-party election result for at least a century.    Read more »

Hooton on English and the media

Matthew Hooton looks at new prime minister Bill English and his media persona:

Mr English has some cheerleaders in the daily print media but he has always struggled with the electronic media, both radio and television. Partly this is because of his sometimes awkward speaking style and Dipton drawl.

Far more importantly, Mr English lacks a certain respect and rapport with the likes of TVNZ’s Hilary Barry and Jack Tame, NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking or Morning Report’s Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson.

Paradoxically, though, he also seems to think he has an obligation to answer their questions as fully and honestly as he can.  It is a recipe for a prime minister to come across as weak, indecisive and even bullied by popular media personalities on whom vast numbers of voters rely for their daily or weekly steer on politics.

Worst of all, Mr English’s approach allows the very people he lacks respect for to set the daily news agenda – along with those who quite legitimately feed them with stories aimed at damaging him, including the Labour-Green axis.

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Hooton on this year’s nasty election

Last election the left wing hacked, and used criminals to promote their agenda as they sought to hijack an election.

This year the left-wing are unhinged after the devasting loss of their corporate idol Hillary Clinton.

Matthew Hooton thinks this year’s election is likely to be the nastiest election yet.

Partly, a vicious campaign is certain simply because the tone of each election tends to be worse than the one before. It is compounded by opposition politicians having observed Donald Trump’s crude rhetoric, fake news and outright lies successfully overcoming first the Bush dynasty, then the remainder of the Republican establishment and finally the Clinton machine.

But, in New Zealand – in contrast to the US – the inevitability of a nasty campaign is also a function of the strongly positive economic outlook. The prime minister will undoubtedly want to highlight the positive legacy of his eight years as finance minister but, when the economy is strong, opposition politicians and even governments are forced to find other issues with which to demonstrate points of difference.   Read more »

Hooton has some advice for Labour and their renewal

Matthew Hooton makes some bold suggestions for Labour to assist with their renewal.

It goes without saying that Labour cannot hope to win an election based on a head-to-head contest between Mr Little and Mr English any more than it could have with Mr Key.

In terms of his retail political skills, the new prime minister might not have the extraordinary talent of his predecessor but he will manage perfectly well to swan round suburban shopping malls and provincial A&P shows taking selfies. If there is a complete social dolt among our main party leaders it is not Mr English.

Labour’s fortunes, then, depend on achieving the necessary renewal in its team to positively contrast with National’s and make the relative merits of the leaders less important. The election of 36-year-old Michael Wood in Mt Roskill in place of the 1980s-era Phil Goff was a start. Today’s minor Labour reshuffle might make a further tentative step.

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Hooton on English’s next steps

Matthew Hooton writes about Bill English’s next steps once he is installed as Prime Minister.

It’s odd that John Key abandoning the prime ministership has been interpreted as noble.

Certainly, the decision makes sense for Mr Key. He leaves office the week of the best economic and fiscal forecasts of his prime ministership and with his poll numbers still strong. He has sidestepped any blame should either head south.

But whereas a week ago there were questions about whether Labour could even survive as a major party, the main effect of Mr Key’s resignation is to radically raise the probability of the Labour-Green menace taking power next year. That risk has only been compounded by Mr Key’s uncharacteristically clumsy attempt to seamlessly transfer the prime ministership to his deputy and maintain the hegemony of his inner cabinet of Bill English, Steven Joyce, Murray McCully, Gerry Brownlee and Paula Bennett.

Broadly, the plan was to continue the Key government without Mr Key. Mr English would become prime minister, Mr Joyce would take over as finance minister, Mr Brownlee would return to MBIE, Mr McCully would carry on as foreign minister and Ms Bennett would be social policy czar and deputy prime minister. Everyone else would stay roughly where they were, perhaps with the exception of English loyalists Nick Smith, Nathan Guy and Michael Woodhouse, who could expect a little bit more.

Securing acquiescence from National’s backbench relied on shock and awe and there is no doubt the shock part occurred on Monday. National MPs who have never known anything other than Mr Key’s leadership, and have never really understood that true power lies in the caucus room, initially reacted like the distraught children of divorced parents: daddy had just walked out and they were desperate that mummy, in the form of Mr English, not desert them too.

As the week developed, they worked out it might be time to grow up and take over the running of the household themselves. The irony is that assertiveness on the backbench should ultimately be to Mr English’s advantage.

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Hooton on Labour’s crisis

Matthew Hooton wrote his NBR column before Micahel Wood won Mt Roskill. Hooton did expect that and so his column about the crisis still facing Andrew Little and Labour is valid.

Fortunately, Andrew Little will and has claimed this as the beginning of the end of John Key, so nothing will change inside Labour.

Labour is close to revealing the maximum life expectancy for a major political party in New Zealand.

By legend born of working men in the West Coast mines in 1916, Labour has governed the country five times, including introducing the welfare state under Michael Joseph Savage, leading New Zealand through World War II under Peter Fraser, saving the economy under David Lange and restoring confidence in the political system under the first-term Helen Clark.  There is now no prospect of another name joining the list of Labour’s greats.

Eight years into John Key’s National-led regime, every poll now has Labour under 30%: UMR on 29%, Colmar Brunton on 28%, Roy Morgan on 23% and Curia also within that range. Labour is now as many as 10 points behind where it was three years ago, 10 months before its 2014 debacle, the worst since 1922.  In the long history of both the Labour and National parties, neither has ever been doing so badly eight years into its opponent’s term in government.

The future looks worse.

In working class Porirua, former Labour mayor Nick Leggett has announced plans to run for National. Across the Cook Strait in Nelson, Labour members have resigned en masse in protest against plans by the party’s Wellington bigwigs to abandon the seat to the Greens.

It is a mark of Andrew Little’s desperation that he will try to present this weekend’s win by a deeply unimpressive party apparatchik in the safe Labour seat of Mt Roskill as some kind of victory for his leadership and platform for renewal. In fact, no opposition has ever lost a seat to a government in a byelection in New Zealand’s history. More pathetically, if the Roy Morgan poll corrects next month and has Labour back up to the mid-to-high 20s, Mr Little will claim some kind of prescience.

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Hooton on Labour and Little’s chances

Matthew Hooton explores the predicament that Labour have gotten themselves into by sticking with Andrew Little:

Steven Joyce’s greatest political achievement will always be to have so quickly dubbed Andrew Little “Angry Andy.”

We do not know if Mr Joyce picked Mr Little’s fatal flaw through astute personal observation or just a tip off from disgruntled former staff at the EPMU. Either way, like Donald Trump’s “Crooked Hillary,” Mr Joyce’s “Angry Andy” has the virtue of being true but also the additional rhetorical qualities of alliteration, rhyme and identical syllabification.

Now, within a year of the last legal date for the election and 10 months before the likely date, Labour faces an existential crisis.

Both National’s Curia polling firm and Labour’s UMR again have Labour below 30% and National heading up, and that was before John Key’s sadly well-practised response to the most recent earthquakes. Both companies’ polling suggests there is a strong belief New Zealand is heading in the right direction and that the overall economy and individuals’ standard of living will improve over the year ahead.

Almost all of what remained of Labour’s moderate faction, personified by former Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, has now permanently left the party. After a recent exodus, Mr Little’s office is now staffed entirely by middling former union organisers, half-baked academics and left-wing journalists from the Wellington echo-chamber.

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