Popular Prime Ministers

There’s been some interesting charts published of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition poll popularity.

Dim-Post On popularity:

Helen Clark was a widely respected Prime Minister who won three elections and led Government for nine years. John Key has ranked high in the popularity stakes since becoming Prime Minister.

Clark and Key have tracked very similar paths over their second terms.

Leader’s of the Opposition struggle to get recognition in polls. David Farrar at charts this at Kiwiblog in Opposition Leader in the Preferred PM poll:

Clark languished as low as 2% for her first three years as Labour leader and then shot up, presumably around the time of the 1996 election which Labour came close with 34.68% to Bolger’s National’s 35.05% to be thwarted by NZ First siding with National in coalition.

Key started much higher and kept rising until and after National won in 2008.

Phil Goff started much lower until a late climb for the 2011 election but withdrew from leadership soon after.

David Shearer had modest ups and downs before pulling the plug on a position he never looked comfortable in.

David Cunliffe picked up from there but has slid since. He’s got time to recover and challenge Key in September – but not much time.

“Labour face disaster at the next election”

Labour have struggled to make an impression since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen departed after their 2008 election loss.

They struggled under Phil Goff.

They struggled more under David Shearer.

And they continue to struggle under David Cunliffe.

It must be more than a leadership deficit. The Labour caucus and the Labour Party machinery seem to be in perpetual struggle mode.

In the last few days alone – launching their election year, a time when it was essential Cunliffe and Labour made a strong impression – Labour have lurched from embarrassment to stuff-up.

Their ‘baby bonus’ launch has been overwhelmed by controversies. As well as strong criticism for offering people on high incomes a baby benefit the policy has been beset by controversy and David Cunliffe has had to admit he made mistaken claims.

And amongst this Dunedin North MP David Clark, once promoted as a fast riser in the Labour ranks – Shearer promoted him to 12 in the Labour rankings – has made a major blooper suggesting the Government should be able to threaten to ban use of Facebook if the multinational didn’t pay enough tax.

3 News reported:

Banning Facebook was an extreme suggestion from Labour Party MP David Clark – and it took party leader David Cunliffe just 24 hours to shut it down.

Mr Cunliffe has now ruled it out completely, but ridicule from the Government still came hard and fast.

Just 24 hours? That was far too long, this embarrassment should have been dealt with swiftly. It wasn’t.

In yesterday’s post David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce ‘Goldie’ commented on the litany of Labour errors.

The comment by Kiwi in America is spot on.

First, it underlines the lack of talent in the Labour caucus. Dunedin is a Labour stronghold, so the MPs should be the stars of the party – instead you have Clare Curran and David Clark.

Second, it shows the lack of discipline in Labour – there is absolutely no way, when the policy focus should have been the “baby bonus”, that Clark should have been permitted to talk on anything else. Cunliffe’s office is not operating as it should. It lacks grip over its MPs, and can’t control its own issues (witness the speed with which the “baby bonus” policy got derailed).

Third, Labour have not been able to uncover a single major scandal on the Government and Labour have not been able to make a single policy that has not been widely shredded within days in three years. It says to me that the political machinery behind the scenes – the party researchers and advisers – have become “hollowed out”.

In contrast, the Greens are busy, focused and confident. They have the great advantage of not needing to appeal to either centre or apathetic voters, but only to people who are going to vote left anyway. As National look increasingly like they will win the election, left-leaning voters will have less reason to stay disciplined to Labour, and will “shop around” (like what happened to National in 2002).

Labour face disaster at the next election.

It’s very early in election year but Labour, who desperately needed a strong start, have stuffed up again. And again.

Unless Cunliffe can transform himself into a strong and positive alternative (too many mistakes and too much sneering snark), unless the Labour caucus can look united and competent, unless the Labour media machine can provide competent advise and support and unless the Labour Party can function effectively then it’s on the cards that Labour could face disaster at the next election.

If that happens it will be bad for New Zealand politics. We need strong party leadership and performance, especially from the large parties. Labour is losing it’s way, losing credibility. If this continues we all lose.

Update: It appears to be continuing unabated. Good grief. David Parker this time, in Parliament yesterday. See Labour says Apple et al plundering NZ economy.

Government utilising Shearer’s strengths

Ironically David Shearer’s strengths are being utilised by the National Government for the good of the country, in contrast to Labour’s disastrous elevation of Shearer to a role he totally unsuited to and didn’t like.

Newstalk ZB reports David Shearer taps his UN contacts:

David Shearer is back on his old stomping ground in New York, pushing New Zealand’s case for a seat on the Security Council.

He’s doing so at the request of Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who’s asked him to tap his old UN and diplomatic contacts.

Mr Shearer says he’s working in the country’s best interests, and a bipartisan view is needed.

The last time New Zealand had a seat was in 1994, when Mr Shearer was in Rwanda.

“And we took a very strong stance against Rwanda and what was going on. People really acknowledged and recognised it and I felt as a New Zealander being on the ground there incredibly proud.”

Mr Shearer says New Zealand can do the same again.

This was a smart move by McCully who has recognised Shearer’s strengths, and it’s good to see Shearer putting the interests of the country before the petty politics many opposition MPs indulge in.

Like all MPs Shearer was elected to represent and work for the country. This enables him to make a worthwhile contribution.

The country benefits. Shearer also benefits – apart from doing something useful he is gaining valuable experience. Should Labour lead the next Government Shearer will be better prepared to step up to a ministerial role.

This sort of bipartisan co-operation may (or may not) be common but it isn’t seen by the public.

An important role of opposition MPs is to hold Government to account and question problems and bad policies. But that doesn’t mean they should be always negative, nitpicking, opposing just to be contrary.

All MPs in Parliament should be working for the best interests of the country as a priority.

So it’s good to see Shearer doing this.

Street clarifies aid money question

On Thursday Radio New Zealand reported that Maryan Street, Labour’s associate foreign affairs spokesperson, was critical of the Government campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Labour criticises UN bid as Shearer lobbies for support

The Labour Party has criticised the Government’s UN Security Council campaign at the same time as its foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer is in New York lobbying for support.

I posted on this yesterday – Labour foreign affairs disconnect.

Maryan Street has responded to that:

I didn’t criticise the SC bid. I support it. I think Shearer is doing good work in NY right now.

What I did ask, in case you are interested in the facts, was whether or not there was a firewall between our disbursement of foreign aid and the SC bid campaign. In other words, has McCully been using aid money to lubricate our SC bid. A legitimate question.

John Allen said no, he hasn’t. Good answer.

Radio NZ reported it as criticism and it could be seen as a dig at McCully and raises an issue that wouldn’t help the bid Street makes it clear she accepts Allen’s assurance that it isn’t happening.

Street also makes it clear that she supports what Shearer is doing and supports the Security Council bid.

Labour foreign affairs disconnect

Another example of two Labour MPs working against each other, but this time it’s the spokesperson and the associate spokesperson for foreign affairs at odds.

Labour criticises UN bid as Shearer lobbies for support

The Labour Party has criticised the Government’s UN Security Council campaign at the same time as its foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer is in New York lobbying for support.

At a parliamentary select committee, Mr Shearer’s associate foreign affairs spokesperson, Maryan Street, raised questions about the Government’s use of foreign aid in its campaign for a seat on the Security Council in 2015-16.

Mr Shearer was, meanwhile, lobbying representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Somalia, among others, at the United Nations. He says New Zealand’s bid is based on its reputation as a small country with an independent foreign policy.

The chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, John Allen, dismisses Ms Street’s suggestion aid is being used to win a Security Council seat.

What is the official Labour position? Who speaks for Labour on this? Or do individual MPs say whatever they like.

Labour on drilling – Yeah, Yeah-Nah, Nah

There has been many confusing messages from Labour on oil drilling, ranging from Yeah! to Nah! with a number of “yeah, nah” in between.

Another Labour statement on oil drilling yesterday, yet another vague position. David Parker has sort of clarified but also added to the confusion over Labour’s position on deep sea drilling. Especially confusion over Shane Jones’ promotion of drilling, seemingly supported by Andrew Little, which seems at odds with a number of colleagues.

Summaries of positions:

David Cunliffe – yeah, nah: “We are not opposed in principle”, “we’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis“.

David Parker – yeah, nah: Labour supports Anadarko’s drilling, would not close down existing consents, “all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval”.

Shane Jones – Yeah!: says Anadarko has a statutory right to be there, “we mustn’t assume that Anadarko doesn’t have the necessary expertise on hand”, “if oil is discovered we can use that to benefit New Zealand and create job opportunities for our young people in this industry”.

Andrew Little – yeah: Toured Taranaki in July talking to the oil industry with Jones who was reported saying “Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

Moana Mackey – Nah!: Appears to back protesters and said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

Phil Twyford – Nah: “protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling”.

David Shearer – alternatives policy: Is Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson “renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours”, clean energy versus fossil fuel industries is a “logical choice” and aims to make it policy.

Green Party coalition partner – NAH!

Details of these stated positions:

NZ Herald reports: Labour split on deep sea drilling:

Mr Parker said Labour did support Anadarko’s drilling.

“It’s legal and we’re not saying we would close down existing consents.”

“I’m not saying Anadarko’s doing world’s best practice because I simply don’t know. What I’m saying is we acknowledge that what they’re doing is legally in compliance with the law but we’re going to tighten the law to ensure that world’s best practice is met and that all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval.

“The industry tells us they’re confident they can meet that standard. We’re not reversing current approvals or banning duly approved drilling into the future.”

He denied his party’s position had changed.

“Our position is that we’ve been saying that the existing consent processes for deep sea drilling in our view are opaque and lax and it’s unclear that New Zealand’s got the response capacity if something goes wrong.”

David Cunliffe told NZ Herald late last month that Labour’s position was that it would potentially support Anadarko’s drilling if it met best-practice and environmental and clean-up standards, but it didn’t yet.

Cunliffe was pushed by Duncan Garner to clarify his position on drilling and eventually confirmed it was Yeah, Nah for n0w – Cunliffe would stop deep sea drilling.

Garner: So you’d put a moratorium on all deep sea drilling until you were satisfied as Prime Minister.

Cunliffe: No, I haven’t said that Duncan, I haven’t said that…

Garner: You’ve effectively said it…

Cunliffe: I’ve said based on what we currently see in the public domain, I’m not convinced that those standards have yet been met.

Garner: So would you stop deep sea drilling as Prime Minister until you saw something that gave you confidence to let it go ahead?

Cunliffe: Yes we would need see material that gave us confidence on a case by case basis.

Garner: So you would stop it until you saw that?

Cunliffe: We are not opposed in principle, we are absolutely up for a mature discussion with the industry…

Garner: Are you opposed on current standards? And I think this is very important…

Cunliffe: No no, we are opposed to the current standards. The EEZ legislation under which this is happening is currently too weak. We have jettisoned a lot of the jurisprudence under the RMA and it needs to be tightened up.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson Moana Mackey has contributed to Cunliffe’s anti-drilling position information. In September – Block offer 2014 premature without protections:

“Labour has repeatedly stated drilling should only take place if we have the capability to manage a disaster and once robust safeguards are in place.

Labour’s Wellington MPs are also concerned about the considerable expansion of the Pegasus-East Coast Basin with an area of 75,136 square kilometres now up for consultation.

“A Labour government will ensure there are strong environmental protections and listen to affected communities concerned about environmental risks,” Moana Mackey says.

Stuff reports this week: Drilling could split Labour

But Mackey appeared to back the protesters and blamed the Government for Greenpeace’s announcement that it intends to challenge the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Anadarko to carry out deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast .

She said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

She also accused the Government of being desperate to expedite deep sea oil and gas exploration because it had no plan B for jobs – which also puts her at odds with Jones, who believes mining is a potential boon for jobs.

From that same stuff report Shane Jones seems to be at odds with Labour colleagues on drilling.

Labour MP has backed oil drilling giant Anadarko in a move which puts him at odds with other members of the caucus, including environment spokeswoman who today called for a slow down in the mineral exploration programme. …

Speaking on Maori TV’s Te Kaea tonight, Jones was outspoken about attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said the protesters should remember that the company had a statutory right to be there.

“Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”

Shane Jones (and Andrew Little) in July – Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth:

Controversial Labour Party bigwig Shane Jones has moved to position the party well clear of the Greens and their “anti-development” message.

In Taranaki for a two-day visit with party justice spokesman list MP Andrew Little, the regional development spokesman spent much of the first day pow-wowing with oil and gas industry players.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

David Shearer hasn’t made any media comments as spokesperson on Energy and Resources – http://www.labour.org.nz/people/david-shearer – but he has posted on his Facebook page:

26 October

As Labour’s energy spokesman I’ve had some great meetings with experts in renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours.

International research shows that an investment in clean energy creates two to four times as many jobs as the same investment in fossil fuel industries #logicalchoice

He also answered a comment:

Robyn Harris-Iles Make it Labour policy, David!

David Shearer yes, that’s the aim

Phil Twyford protested against drilling last weekend. He tweeted:

I’m at Piha protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling risking Gulf of Mexico spill with Dads Army response capacity

Shane Jones versus Labour on oil drilling

Shane Jones seems to be at odds with Labour colleagues on oil drilling. Stuff reports: Drilling could split Labour

The standoff over deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast is threatening a split in Labour.

Labour MP has backed oil drilling giant Anadarko in a move which puts him at odds with other members of the caucus, including environment spokeswoman who today called for a slow down in the mineral exploration programme. …

Speaking on Maori TV’s Te Kaea tonight, Jones was outspoken about attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said the protesters should remember that the company had a statutory right to be there.

“Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”

Shane Jones (and Andrew Little) in July – Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth:

Controversial Labour Party bigwig Shane Jones has moved to position the party well clear of the Greens and their “anti-development” message.

In Taranaki for a two-day visit with party justice spokesman list MP Andrew Little, the regional development spokesman spent much of the first day pow-wowing with oil and gas industry players.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

Labour’s Environment spokespersdon Moana Mackey is a part of the “anti-development” message on the East Coast. Mackey in September – Block offer 2014 premature without protections:

“Labour has repeatedly stated drilling should only take place if we have the capability to manage a disaster and once robust safeguards are in place.

Labour’s Wellington MPs are also concerned about the considerable expansion of the Pegasus-East Coast Basin with an area of 75,136 square kilometres now up for consultation.

“A Labour government will ensure there are strong environmental protections and listen to affected communities concerned about environmental risks,” Moana Mackey says.

And in the Stuff report:

But Mackey appeared to back the protesters and blamed the Government for Greenpeace’s announcement that it intends to challenge the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Anadarko to carry out deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast .

She said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

She also accused the Government of being desperate to expedite deep sea oil and gas exploration because it had no plan B for jobs – which also puts her at odds with Jones, who believes mining is a potential boon for jobs.

David Cunliffe seems to agree with that position – see Cunliffe would stop deep sea drilling. Cunliffe seems to have aligned with Mackey and there has been no sign of him supporting Jones’ aims.

David Shearer hasn’t made any media comments as spokesperson on Energy and Resources – http://www.labour.org.nz/people/david-shearer – but he has posted on his Facebook page:

26 October

As Labour’s energy spokesman I’ve had some great meetings with experts in renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours.

International research shows that an investment in clean energy creates two to four times as many jobs as the same investment in fossil fuel industries #logicalchoice

He also answered a comment:

Robyn Harris-Iles Make it Labour policy, David!

David Shearer yes, that’s the aim

Not specifically anti-drilling there but a definite leaning towards renewables.

It appears that Jones is at odds with Cunliffe, Mackey and Shearer. It’s unknown if Little has changed his leaning since touring Taranaki with Jones.

And remember that this is just within Labour. If they make it into government next year they will be reliant on the Greens who will presumably do everything they can to oppose drilling new oil wells.

“Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

In an NZ Herald article on David Shearer’s demise as Labour leader a sad observation is made:

The Mana Party’s Hone Harawira said he always found Mr Shearer to be “very, very friendly and very open”.

“I think that was probably his downfall. Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

That’s how Harawira sees it, and I know others in politics see it that way. I was this told myself recently on Whale Oil.

It’s rubbish.

This sounds to me like it is an attempt to excuse bad behaviour, to excuse politicians who act awfully.

Some of the longest standing politicians in Parliament are widely regarded as decent, nice people – for example Phil Goff and Peter Dunne, both MPs since the 1980s.

There are also long serving MPs with reputations of being not so nice at times, like Trevor Mallard, Winston Peters and Clayton Cosgrove.

Politicians can be strong and still by nice. That means standing up and challenging the nastiness, and make it clear it doesn’t belong in Parliament. MPs are the people’s representatives, so they should represent decent and honourable behaviour.

Politics needs more nice guys and women. Strong and principled works best with nice.

Shearer resigns – sadness and hope

David Shearer resigned today, after going on gardening leave yesterday – or more accurately, he visitied Seddon. He may have felt more at home in a natural disaster zone than a caucus made one.

It’s sad to see this, but it was inevitable. Almost certainly the revelation of the secret meeting with Key over the GCSB bill was the tipping point, the fact that it happeend and seems to have been kept from colleagues, and the way Shearer blundered the revalation, giving John Key a free shot in question time on Tuesday. See Shearer-Key secret meeting stuns mullets.

But there is also hope. Perhaps FINALLY Labour will realise the have to work together and seriously begin rebuilding a party that has floundeed since Helen Clark’s exit in 2008. Ironically (or tellingly) Clark was reported to be visiting Wellington today.

Labour have a difficult month or two finding a new leader, unless caucus quickly decides on an unchallenged successor.

Then they have difficult fifteen months buillding into a credible alternative and at the same time showing significant signs of renewal.

Labour’s self laid GCSB minefield

Labour may have created huge problems for themselves should they lead the next Government. They chose to take a political approach to the GCSB bill rather than follow the convention of cross-party cooperation with legislation on national security.

They have promised to dump the new bill and base any replacement law on an inquiry.

The current law is not much different to the previous 2003 act put in place and used by Helen Clark’s government. If Labour lead government again after next year’s election they will either have to stick with something similar to what we have now, and similar to what was supported by all major parties over the last decade, or they will have to make radical changes to how we use the GCSB and SIS.

The latter is the expectation of many activists on the left. There are calls (from a minority) to dump the GCSB altogether.

Lyn Prentice at The Standard:

This Act has a short lifetime.

I think that we should have a serious look at killing the GCSB at the same time. Throughout this debate I haven’t heard of *anyone* giving some coherent reasons for the retention of their excessive budget or what return we have or are likely to get from it.

Not a single person. All you ever get is fear mongering without any detail. Looks to me like it is an arm of the US intelligence community. Time for it to depart for another country and stop distorting our laws.

Prentice is a long time Labour and Clark supporter but has vowed to vote Green next year. In the same thread he describes The Standard:

The site isn’t a democracy, it is an anarchical cooperative.

The Standard has been prominent in it’s involvement in opposing and undermining David Shearer (by some authors and most commenters).

And on the left wing activist Daily Blog Martyn Bradbury tries to rally ongoing action in The GCSB Bill has passed – if you refuse to accept that, here’s what I think we should do next :

1: Repeal the Bill at the 2014 election:
Call upon every opposition MP to signal before the 2014 election if they will vote to repeal the legislation. Every week until the election the Blogs will post up the names of all those opposition MPs who will repeal the legislation and all those who won’t. We will advise people not to vote for those opposition MPs who will not repeal the Bill. Take the public Town Hall speaking tour around the main cities and provinces in the lead up to the election culminating in Auckland in the week of the election.

This is a part of Bradbury’s grand campaign plan – he’s a paid adviser for the Mana Party. If he gets enough support for this agenda Mana may increase their vote, but that’s most likely to be at the expense of Labour’s vote.

If successful this could cripple Labour and drag it left, something Bradbury and Mana may like, but they won’t be so keen on the fact that it may make a Labour led government unelectable.

‘Bomber’ Bradbury seems intent on blowing up Labour in next year’s election.

It’s worth noting here a Fairfax/IPSOS poll result from yesterday:

53.6% said they trusted the Government to protect their right to privacy whilst maintaining national security.

If Labour survive the election blast they then have to try and cobble together a coalition with Greens and Mana, who both oppose the bill and oppose the GCSB. That could result in some fiery negotiations.

If Greens and Mana (and perhaps NZ First) manage to agree to coalition deals that survive this then Labour’s promised inquiry (unless they simply let the inquiry in 2015 required by the new law) could be a political minefield.

If the inquiry recommends retaining the GCSB and SIS similar to how they are now would Labour have to get support from National to fulfil their promises? It’s hard to see Greens and Mana voting for it, that would blow up those parties.

And Labour can’t hope that the GCSB will just fade away from public interest. The new legislation requires a 2015 inquiry, so if they do nothing else about the GCSB that will come up anyway.

Labour chose what they thought was a populist political approach to the bill that has just been passed.

It’s hard to see them winning a popularity contest over this over the next two years. They have turned their backs on the half of the voters who support GCSB security. And they will find it very difficult to please the hard left.

Labour seem to be caught in a minefield laid by their own strange strategies.

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