Matthew Hooton

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

Hooton on Trump’s win and how the far left should be celebrating

Matthew Hooton writes at NBR:

We should not be under any illusion about how radical Mr Trump’s policy programme is, if his pre-election statements can be taken seriously. The wall between the US and Mexico is only the most symbolic.

On trade, Mr Trump’s prescription could have been written by University of Auckland law professor and far-left anti-globalisation activist Jane Kelsey. It includes not just abandoning the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) but also pulling the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, scrapping any talk of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) with the countries of Central and South America – which puts his policy in line with that of the lunatic former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez – and even walking away from the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which has done more to assure world peace than any intergovernmental body in the history of the world.

Read more »

Hooton on Goff

Matthew Hooton writes for Metro magazine about Phil Goff:

There are many Phil Goffs. There’s the long-haired student radical protesting the Vietnam War and paying his way working at the freezing works. There’s the short-back-and-sides 30-something Rogernome of the 1980s, introducing student fees and explaining why unemployed freezing workers were just part of the necessary reform process.

There’s the 90s version, certain Labour turning left was a mistake and working to undermine Helen Clark. There’s the 2000s Phil Goff, who loyally carried out her foreign policy, signed the free-trade deal with China and launched the negotiations with the United States for the Trans Pacific Partnership. And then of course there’s the version of the 2010s: first being pushed by the Labour left to front the most left-wing Labour policy programme since Norman Kirk and then — despairing of Labour’s further march to the left under David Cunliffe and Andrew Little — winning the Auckland mayoralty wearing National Party blue (while holding on to his seat in Parliament in the meantime, just in case).

Read more »

Hooton on de-risking to win MMP elections

Matthew Hooton explains the risk averse nature of MMP politics.

All MMP elections have been horrendously close.

Just tens of thousands of votes stood in the way of prime ministers Phil Goff and David Cunliffe being real possibilities, and David Shearer would almost certainly have become prime minister in 2014 had the unions and the Labour left allowed him to lead the party to the election.

In 2005, the numbers existed for Don Brash to form a National-Act-United Future-New Zealand First-Maori Party hybrid. Even in 2002 a National-Act-United Future-New Zealand First government under Bill English was just four seats short of being a possibility.

Today, according to John Key’s pollster David Farrar’s weighted average of polls, the Labour-Green axis is just 1.6% behind National, with Winston Peters clearly the kingmaker. This is why the union bosses and far-left activists who surround Andrew Little remain relatively chipper, even as Labour’s more mainstream staff continue to walk out the door. With any deterioration in National’s support, they are confident they will be able to manoeuvre either their man into the prime minister’s office or Mr Peters on their behalf.

The electoral maths is also why Mr Key’s government appears so lazy and visionless as we enter what is best seen as the 18th year of the Helen Clark regime. Nevertheless, until a future Labour leader recognises that the easiest way to beat Mr Key is by outbidding him on economic ambition rather than playing to the gallery of left-wing Wellington social justice warriors, Mr Key’s lot is as good as it gets.

What’s more, right now Mr Key’s government is perfectly adequate as reasonable growth, low inflation, rising wages, low unemployment and improving surpluses suggest. All things considered, its default do-nothing political strategy targeted at the median voter makes sense.

Moreover, a few of the things it actually is doing at the edges – such as Mr English’s social investment strategy, Anne Tolley’s complete reform of Child, Youth and Family and Simon Bridges’ policy work on Auckland congestion pricing – are even worthwhile. While she will ultimately be forced to back down, Hekia Parata’s attempts to improve the school funding system are also commendable.

Read more »

Bob Jones on Matthew Hooton

Matthew Hooton is the latest person to draw the ire of national treasure Bob Jones.

After explaining some travesties of reporting against him by various media outlets he then sets about excoriating Matthew Hooton.

Despite my comments, I love newspapers and specially the Dom. But I give it maybe five more years due to the short-sighted Fairfax cost-cutting destroying all their publications. The latest newspaper circulation figures show it suffered a disastrous 14.4% drop in sales last year. Every newspaper is experiencing steady drops but none as bad as that.  Staff lay-offs have become a regular feature of late. These sackees are being mopped up by the Weather Office where their creativity has proven a boon to the forecasting department. The sole New Zealand exception is The National Business Review, which alone deservedly enjoyed a growth in sales.

Still, when it comes to fiction-writing, nothing surpasses NBR’sMatthew Hooton’s July effort headed “Bob Jones’ right-hand man set to save Labour.” Over a full page it described how Greg Loveridge was to be the next Labour leader. Apparently he was about to abandon his $9 million Auckland home and recently acquired $3.5 million Waiheke week-ender and shift to Wainuiomata for God’s sake, to pursue Trevor Mallard’s seat, as a first step to taking over the Labour leadership. Hooton backed all of this with an extraordinary NBR radio interview in which he outlined this virtually as a fait-accompli.   Read more »