Straddling the political divide

Some see politics as a big division between one thing or another but in reality there’s far more fairly common ground than there are extreme differences.

But today the ODT chose to call their editorial Straddling the political divide, looking ahead to the year in Parliament kicking off. However i think what they are referring to is more of a divide between what the public would like to see of their Members of Parliament and how those MPs present themselves in Parliament.

Parliament resumes tomorrow with the Prime Minister’s statement taking precedence over other business.

While official business takes centre stage tomorrow, the political year started earlier with the State of the Nation speeches by political leaders.

Mr Key can take all the time he needs as his statement has no limit in length. The debate in reply has a limit of 14 hours but the Government can, if it chooses, and it probably will, adjourn the debate and get on with other business. The year needs to start strongly.

The debate in reply begins with the Leader of the Opposition moving a no-confidence vote in the Government and moves on from there into the Opposition parties trying to score some political points against the Government in general and Mr Key in particular.

Mr Key has been untouchable for seven years and will point to the achievements of his Government as he outlines parliamentary priorities for the year ahead. In the past, Mr Key has deviated from his set speech to get a march on the Opposition, which has an advance copy of his address.

Tomorrow can really be the time for Mr Key to put aside the political agenda of trying to make his opponents look silly and provide some uplifting goals to which he aspires.

The Opposition can use their time to avoid making personal attacks and focus on providing some alternatives to what it sees as damaging policies.

All of this seems sadly unlikely and New Zealanders will again be left frustrated on the sides of the political divide.

As I said at the start, I think one of biggest divides in New Zealand politics is  not left versus right (the main parties are often called National Lite and Labour Lite) but a divide between how our Members of Parliament behave in Parliament and how the public would like them to behave.

Robust debate with opponents and challenging policies are very important aspects of a democracy.

But far too often our politicians resort to petty attacking and opposing for the sake of opposing rather than based on common sense.

The tone of our politics and of Parliament must be set from the top, by the party leaders. When did we last have a leader who led by example?

John Key has been a very successful leader but I don’t think he has yet been a great leader. He often tries to be a person of the people, quite successfully going by the polls but that’s probably as much to do with a lack of strong opponents.

Andrew Little is yet to step up as a credible leader.

The party leader I’ve been most impressed with over the annual Waitangi debacle is Winston Peters, who spoke honestly about the core of the problems. Perhaps the wily old campaigner can rise above his usually futile game playing and end his career on a respectable high.

Is Key capable of providing ‘some uplifting goals”?

Or will he continue to massage the masses with meanderings, policy-wise?

Likeable (to half the population) but with modest achievements who eventual fades away? Or can he become a leader of our times? If he aspires to the latter he will need to do more than just wave a flag.

Can Key find a way of straddling the divide between successful politician and aspirational leader? Does he want to?

Hooton lobbying or stirring over National leadership?

When a lobbyist floats leadership change of the governing party I’m naturally sceptical.

Bryce Edwards has tweeted about a paywalled column in NBR where by Matthew Hooton either promotes a National leadership change or is trying to stir one up.

Hooton has been floating ideas about Key needing to go or is due to be replaced for quite a while.

Matthew Hooton: “Joyce associates openly talking about leadership change” (paywalled) –  Rumours of Joyce becoming PM

Hooton says Nats caucus too docile to challenge if Key hands power over to Joyce: “MPs are not encouraged to ask questions or even speak.”

Hooton says National caucus now docile: “Caucus meetings are shorter than ever and are dominated by briefings by Messrs Key and Joyce”

Hooton: John Key’s “knighthood depends on him handing over to a National prime minister rather than losing an election to Labour”

It would be sad if Key’s leadership decision is based on the best way for him to get a knighhood.

I don’t think a knighthood would suit him. Would he still goof around?

If Key & Joyce waited til “Paula Bennett was out of the country, they would have a good chance of presenting a handover as a fait accompli”

Joyce “is sure he could do the retail aspects of the prime ministership – clowning around on commercial radio and so forth – as well as Key”

I don’t see Joyce in that role at all.

Hooton: Murray McCully “may seek the chairmanship of World Rugby, formerly the International Rugby Board, when it comes up in May”

I don’t know about the Chairmanship of World Rugby but it’s time for McCully to move on from politics.

And Joyce responded:

@bryce_edwards All complete rubbish from a commentator who has proven once again he is as close to the National Party as Catherine Delahunty

Collins/Slater power play or just a fundraiser?

It looks like Judith Collins and Cameron Slater are making a power play. Or two independent coincidental power plays.

Collins has been quietly trying to rebuild her political career after being demoted as a Minister leading into last year’s election, in no small part due to her friendly relationship with Slater.

In the meantime Slater has been increasingly critical of John Key’s leadership with what has seemed like daily attacks and sometimes multiple attacks a day in post at Whale Oil.

Collins has had a weekly column alongside Phil Goff. Until now she has written about general topics. But yesterday: Judith Collins: Centre voters just the core, the action is on the fringes:

Elections are never won or lost in the centre. Yes, the vast number of voters are in the centre but they won’t bother to change their vote (much less get out to vote) unless they actually have something to vote for. Mobilising the centre to move to the left or to the right, is what wins elections. If you want to stay in power, then the centre is what keeps you there.

Politicians of all stripes need to be fearless, creative, interested, questioning and most of all listening to the electorate. Polling goes to show the centre doesn’t really say much and therein lies the danger of the echo chamber. But the edges of the electorate are always talking.

Winning elections is about engaging people and actually presenting an alternative. Galvanising the centre to be interested enough to vote will not happen simply by prescribing more of the same, albeit with a different coloured tie.

Goff responded:

Judith’s column this week is the opening shot in her campaign to succeed John Key as National’s leader.

It’s a not-so-subtle attack on the well-known fact that John Key is not driven by strong values but rather the results of weekly polling and focus groups.

Judith is inviting you to contrast Key’s soft positions with her post-demotion outspokenness on issues.

You can’t blame her for that or for her antagonism towards Key. After all, he sacked her and is refusing to put her back into Cabinet.

Goff could be perceptive. Or he could be mischievous. Or both.

Matthew Hooton responded to a comment on this at The Standard:

“when it came to Phil Goff’s reply, Collins probably got a lot more than she expected”

I reckon she got exactly what she expected (and hoped for) from Goff.

Today at Politik it looks like Collins is busy getting her message out there in JUDITH COLLINS SAYS IT’S TIME FOR POLITICIANS TO STAND FOR SOMETHING.

She set out a summary of her views in the Sunday Star Times and one Labour politician did have something to say.

Phil Goff said the column sounded like the start of her campaign to become National leader.

But in a lengthy interview with POLITIK she chose her words carefully and avoided any head on challenge to the National Party leadership who have shunned her since she resigned from Cabinet over her connections with Whaleoil.

Nevertheless her message is clear.

“It’s better to make a difference than to sit in Parliament and occupy a seat,” she said.

“You are actually elected to do something.

“If you don’t do something then get out of the way and let someone else do it.”

She worries that the general public all round the world is sick and tired of politicians who say just what they think the electorate wants them to say.

“Actually ultimately you are never going to get anything done unless you change the status quo and you can’t do that from a position of fear or a position of let’s not rock the boat.”

She is suspicious of focus groups.

“The problem with focus groups is that you are asking them a question; you are defining what they can talk about and what they are interested in and sometimes I think you have just got to stand for something.”

She says she doesn’t use focus groups but relies on knocking on doors and what people tell her in her electorate office.

“In my electorate there are probably quite a lot of people who aren’t necessarily National voters but what they like is if you are straight up with them.”

It’s often claimed that John Key is guided by focus groups

Face to face contact is important but it can be self selecting – only people who want to talk will talk – and they can adjust what they say to suit their audience.

There will be many who will scrutinise the comments here and in the Sunday Star Times column for signs of dissidence, for some hint that as Mr Goff claimed, she has begun her campaign for the party leadership.

But what she is saying is more general than that.

It looks more like the beginning of what  may be a long debate defining what the post-Key National Party might look like.

Meanwhile, coincidence or not, Slater has been continuing his campaign. Yesterday his anti-Key posts continued: Losing our Religion – A letter from a reader…to John Key

The letter may or may not have been from ‘a reader’, it can be hard to tell on Whale Oil what’s genuine and what’s part of the campaigning and what’s paid for commentary. Slater added his own comments:

I’m not sure he is listening…but his minions are reading. Maybe the message will get through, either that or we will soon see a series of posts on cat fancier, arts, travel and lifestyle blogger, David Farrar’s blog about the stunning achievements of a John Key led government in a bid to counter “negative” posts here.

I am no sycophant and will tell things as I see them or as my readers emails.

Things aren’t right within National, they have allowed a cult of personality to develop and those never end well.

More posts generally criticise National.

He has followed that up today with specific references to the Collins publicity, first on her Stuff column in Judith Collins on Corbyn, and winning the centre.

This is the quiet changing of religion that I speak of…people turning off and not bothering because politics has become shades of brown and as appetising as cardboar

People get tired of the same old view of politicians and eventually they seek a change, any change, so long as it is not who we have now. They certainly don’t subscribe to TINA…that is the false hope of incumbents.

TINA is There is No Alternative, seen as one reason for Key’s sustained popularity, but Slater has been trying to establish a meme that there is an alternative – from within National. I wonder who he thinks that should be. Note that for some time he has strongly criticised Bill English,  Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Then later today he posted on the Politik interview with Collins – Collins expands her discussion on the centre. In agreeing with Collins he said:

She’s dead right about that and MMP has created a situation where seat warmers are the politicians of the day. If you have a look at Helen Clark’s legacy it is nothing but banal social policy. John Key’s legacy is shaping up to be not much better, with the prospect of the flag being retained that particular dream is in tatters.


Straight shooters have always done well in New Zealand politics, and it is a shame that John Key has changed from that perception of a straight shooter to a perception that is much less than that.


What is funny though is the left wing getting all excited that Judith Collins will attempt to do what they have failed thus far to achieve…topple John Key. They should be careful what they wish for, because I doubt such an event would go well for them and their union pals.

So it is easy to see this as a two pronged attack on Key by Collins and Slater.

What sort of support would Collins have in the National Caucus? I don’t know.

But one this is for certain – she has a whale sized millstone hanging around her neck.

Eighteen months ago a campaign like this from Slater may have been seen as a serious threat. But his political credibility has plummeted.

I think a Slater orchestrated leadership bid is unlikely to cause anything but trouble for Collins. Sure it may damage National, and Slater has been trying to do that since he fell out of favour. But His alternative is unlikely to be looked on favourably.

Something not covered in Collins’ column yesterday nor in her Politik interview was whether she was being invoiced by Slater for his advice and his Whale Oil campaigning. This could be as more a fundraiser for him than a serious leadership bid.

Anyone as knowledgeable about politics as Slater claims to be (he was praising his predictive abilities last week, see the poor me/clever me post LOSING YOUR RELIGION) would know that  Slater+anything is currently seen as toxic.

And the Slater attacks on National don’t even seem overly popular at Whale Oil. From his Saturday diss Hooton: ‘Thanks John, time to move along now’ he explains his TINA theories:

John Key is still popular because people still believe in the false premise of TINA (There Is No Alternative).

Logic suggests that TINA is not valid. If John Key were to be mowed down by a bus driver on Lambton Quay on Monday morning it is certain that there would indeed be a replacement. When he does finally step down or is knifed, or gets voted out there will be an alternative. There is always an alternative…whether or not an alternative is apparent depends entirely on the vision of the person stating TINA.

The belief that TINA is real…suggests these people think John Key is immortal and can reign forever…neither are true…politically or in reality. There is always an alternative.

But if you have a look at the upticks on the comments in LOSING YOUR RELIGION it seems clear his audience isn’t captivated or convinced by Slater’s campaign.

Note: I’ve done a few edits and additions to this in the half hour after posting.

Tony Abbott leadership challenge

It looks like Tony Abbott’s leadership is being challenged in Australia.

Turnbull to challenge Abbott for leadership

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be challenged for leadership of the Liberal Party, the senior partner in the ruling conservative coalition, after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked him to step aside on Monday.

Turnbull said he informed Abbott he would challenge him for the leadership after losing confidence in his management of the economy.

“The prime minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs. He has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs,” Turnbull said.

“We need a different style of leadership.”

A style with far fewer stuffups would help.

I saw a report that said it could got to a vote and be decided “as early as tomorrow”.

That’s a bit different to UK Labour’s four month leadership process.

UPDATE: It’s all on. SMH reports:

Liberal leadership: How the spill motion will work

Malcolm Turnbull has announced he intends to challenge Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Mr Abbott will declare the leadership and deputy leadership of the party vacant at a party room meeting to be held Monday evening. He said he intended to contest the ballot and expected to win.

There may yet be another candidate beyond Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott, though this would be unexpected.

If, on Monday night, it becomes clear one candidate has the support of the majority of the party, the losing contender may decide not to contest the ballot.

Corbyn wins UK Labour leadership

As predicted Jeremy Corby has won the leadership of UK Labour.

BBC Reports: Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest and vows “fightback”

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to lead a Labour “fightback” after being elected the party’s new leader by a landslide.

The veteran left-winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

He won on the first round of voting in the leadership contest, taking 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast – against 19% for Mr Burnham, 17% for Ms Cooper and 4.5% for Ms Kendall.

Mr Corbyn was a 200-1 outsider when the three-month contest began.

But he was swept to victory on a wave of enthusiasm for his anti-austerity message and promise to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons and renationalise the railways and major utilities.

He told BBC News he had been a “bit surprised” by the scale of his victory but his campaign had showed “politics can change and we have changed it”.

They have changed politics within Labour.

He will now select his shadow cabinet. Labour has confirmed Rosie Winterton will return as chief whip, but a string of existing cabinet members including Ms Cooper, Tristram Hunt and Rachel Reeves, have all ruled themselves out of serving on the front bench.

And some of the changes haven’t bee positive.

It remains to be seen whether they can change governments. Winning wide support within Labour is one thing, but translating that to sufficient votes to win an election will be a lot more difficult, especially when Corbyn is expected to take Labour leftward.

He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.

“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they were “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted – we have to, and must, change that”.

Mr Corbyn added: “The fightback now of our party gathers speed and gathers pace.”

“Open your your hearts. open your minds, open your attitude to suffering people, who are desperate and who are in need of somewhere safe to live,” added the new Labour leader.

While Corbyn has gathered significant support from the wider party he might find it tough to get his caucus behind him. BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg points out:

There are problems everywhere for Labour’s new leader. He has always been an outsider, an insurgent in his own party.

How can he expect loyalty from his colleagues, unite the party, when he has rarely displayed it himself? MPs have been discussing ousting him for weeks. There is likely to be initial faint support from most. Don’t expect a rapid coup.

But don’t doubt most smiles behind him at the despatch box will be through gritted teeth. And shadow ministers’ resignation letters have already been written.

Congratulations and a warning from other party leaders:

SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Mr Corbyn and offered to work with him to oppose the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons and against “Tory austerity”.

But she added: “The reality today is that at a time when the country needs strong opposition to the Tories, Jeremy Corbyn leads a deeply, and very bitterly, divided party.

“Indeed, if Labour cannot quickly demonstrate that they have a credible chance of winning the next UK general election, many more people in Scotland are likely to conclude that independence is the only alternative to continued Tory government.”

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood congratulated Mr Corbyn but said his election “cannot alter Labour’s dismal record in government in Wales”.

Corbyn gathered support surprisingly easily in the Labour leadership race. But now the hard work begins.

They have just had a general election in the UK, in May 2015, so with a five year term the next isn’t due until 2020. That’s a long time to build support. Or lose it.

See also: On Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

The difficulty with the Left’s leadership

I thionk there’s two key things that many voters look for in political parties and in potential coalitions – a perception of competence, and capable and strong leadership.

The Left have problems in particular on leadership.

So far Andrew Little has failed to inspire as a leader. This is a significant problem for what should be the lead party in a potential coalition.

Winston Peters seems to be setting his sights high. It’s been reported as high as being Prime Minister for at least part of the next term. Peters seems to despise inexperienced wannabees leapfrogging his seniority. He seems to see himself as the de facto Leader of the Opposition.

New Zealand First is currently the smallest of the three Opposition parties. The Greens would presumably and understandably not be happy if Peters took a greater leadership role than them in a three way coalition.

But the Greens have a problem too – their dual leadeership might suit them in at a party level, but at a coalition level it dilutes their leadership.

Peters would not be happy sharing deputy leadership with two Green leaders who were at primary school when he first entered Parliament in 1978 (Shaw was five, Turei was 8).

It’s quite likely that the next election will be contested by John Key, undisputed leader of National, versus Little, Peters, Turei and Shaw, all competing for ascendancy.

When it comes to a leadership contest four versus one could be difficult to sell.

What now for Labour and Little?

The Labour Party and Andrew Little are in a difficult position – partly due to National’s strengths and the Northland opportunity that Winston Peters whipped out from under their feet, but made substantially worse by their own efforts which at times border on abysmal.

Peters outmanoeuvred Labour in the Northland by-election, but Labour and Little compounded the problems by rolling over and opted out of Opposition leadership.

National have outmanoeuvred Labour with their policies announced in last week’s budget.

Again Labour and Little compounded the problems with an awful response – the criticisms have come from everywhere, most notably (and widely) from the left.

So what now for Labour and Little?

Changing leader again shouldn’t be an option. They are onto their fourth leader since Helen Clark. Labour’s problems are wider and deeper than at the top. Getting a new leader seems to just repeat the same mistakes.

So the time has come for Andrew Little to show whether he the ability to become a leader. He showed some raw glimpses of this capability last year when he took over but this year so far looks like an accumulating train wreck for him.

One of Little’s biggest problems is that he seems to have been taken over by a Labour remodelling committee and has become no more than a puppet – with incompetent string pullers. Really, it’s starting to look that bad. Little’s budget speech last week was awful.

David Shearer in particular – remember him? He was three leaders ago. David Shearer in particular seemed to follow the same path as Little – initial raw promise of being something different but quickly becoming a bumbling follower of foolish strategy.

David Cunliffe did similar but he also had inherent problems that put off voters.

So can Little recognise the problems and rise above them and become a leader of Labour rather than languish as a limp Labour lackey?

It looks like Little needs some fresh advice from outside the waning whining party mindset.

And he needs to lead. Become himself at the head of the party, look like himself.

The only way Labour will look better than National is by looking better than National. They are a long way from this.

They seem to have resigned themselves to trying to make National worse – which they have overdone incessantly for the last seven years with no success.

And they seem to have resigned themselves to trying to fool voters into thinking that they can somehow look better despite relying on either NZ First or Greens (or both) to take them over the line.

One major problem with this is that Russel Norman and Winston Peters have both looked stronger opposition leaders than the procession of Labour attempts.

Their situation looks as dire as it has during the post-Clark era.

The Labour Party badly needs to reinvent itself and look like a competent alternative. Their recent track record is of repeat failures.

Andrew Little has to step up and present himself as a leader and carry a revitalised Labour with him. This year he seems to have taken the opposite approach.

So can Little reverse his slump? If he’s learned lessons he could, he has time to do it but he really needs to come alive and lead soon.

If that’s possible.

Andrew Little’s pre-budget speech

Labour leader Andrew Little gave his pre-budget speech yesterday to an audience at Mac’s Brewery in Wellington.

It is also being promoted to a wider audience it has been posted via Labour’s website. The intro:

Thanks for reading my pre-budget speech. In it I talk about how National has broken so many of its economic promises, how it has failed to prepare us for the future and why so many New Zealanders feel they are missing out right now.

Due to an awful layout it’s hard to read through, there are too many changes of format and font. And as this intro suggests it concentrates on slamming National.

The most reported line was :

A lot of effort has gone into glossing over the broken promise. But I see it for what it is — one of the biggest political deceptions in a lifetime.

That may have attracted attention but  it was More than a Little over the top – especially considering that in Little’s lifetime the Lange/Douglas Labour government is famous for a far bigger flip in the 1980’s than failing to quite reach a preferred economic target.

Little’s intro also says:

We need to create more wealth and share it — that means putting jobs front and centre, investing in a more diverse productive economy and boosting our regions.

He gets to what he thinks National should have done about two thirds of the way through his speech.

What they should have done

So, what would a responsible government have done between 2008 and today?

I say there were four major missed opportunities.

  • First, a responsible government would have laid the foundations to diversify the economy.
  • We should have used the economic growth of the last four years to increase our investment in innovation. The government ignored that approach.
  • The third missed opportunity is that a responsible government should have revitalised New Zealand’s regions. Instead, this government ignored them.
  • Finally, this government should have reformed tertiary education to prepare for the coming tidal wave of change in the future of work.

Then he gets to what his vision is. I won’t put this in quotes to retain the formatting.

New Zealand’s next government

I began today by telling you that it is rare for a budget to profoundly affect people’s lives. But that’s the sort of Budget we need now. This could have been one of those budgets. With good growth and low inflation, this is the moment for visionary thinking.

So what is my vision?

I want a New Zealand where neither your postcode nor your parents determine the success you can achieve in life, only your effort does.

I want a New Zealand seizing the opportunities of new ways to do business this century, not struggling to catch up as the world moves on.

A country that trains its young people for the jobs they’ll actually do, not the jobs their parents did.

A country where we reward the risk takers, the innovators, the unafraid.

Where we celebrate growing wealth, and where everyone who works for that success shares in the rewards.

A country where owning your own home is still an achievable dream.

None of this will be easy. The deep, structural problems we face in New Zealand don’t have any quick fixes. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fraud.

Tackling New Zealand’s problems takes commitment, perseverance, vision, and the willingness to take risks. Doing the right thing for New Zealand requires focus, not focus groups.

That’s why our Future of Work Commission, led by our finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, is a two-year commitment where we listen more than we talk, and we come to pragmatic solutions that will guide our policy in the decades ahead.

The Commission is a model of the way we’ll approach all the big issues. We’ll listen, we’ll deliberate, and when we act we’ll make a real difference. That’s the only kind of government I want to lead.

The challenge ahead

We’ll be holding this Government to account on New Zealand’s big issues next week and beyond, in the House and around the country.

That’s our job, that’s what we do.

But there’s a role for you, too.

After the budget each year, Ministers hit the road.

John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce will be speaking to businesses many times in the coming weeks.

That’s the opportunity for everyone to raise the issues the Government hasn’t delivered on.

Hold them to their word. Ask them:

· Why haven’t we hit surplus?

· Why are we still so reliant on so few commodities?

· Why are you still ignoring the housing crisis?

· Why are you still neglecting the regions?

· And, most importantly, where’s the plan to diversify our economy?

Put these questions to the Government, and see if they have any answers.

Next Thursday, this government has an opportunity to start answering these questions. They have a chance to chart a new course for the New Zealand economy.

It is imperative that they take it.

It’s not unreasonable for every New Zealander to want the best for New Zealand.

· We deserve a government in surplus

· We deserve a solution to the housing crisis

· We deserve vibrant regions

· And most importantly, we deserve a plan to diversify the economy, bringing good jobs to all.

That’s what a responsible government would deliver.

Thank you.

We deserve less exaggeration and nonsense claims about what National have done and haven’t done.

We deserve some detail on what Little and Labour would actually do different

That’s why our Future of Work Commission, led by our finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, is a two-year commitment where we listen more than we talk, and we come to pragmatic solutions that will guide our policy in the decades ahead.

Opposition parties should listen and learn. But they also need to give some indication of what they would do.

Labour have had the last six and a half years to listen and to come up with pragmatic solutions. It sounds like we’re going have to wait another two years to find out what their policies will be.

The Commission is a model of the way we’ll approach all the big issues. We’ll listen, we’ll deliberate, and when we act we’ll make a real difference. That’s the only kind of government I want to lead.

It doesn’t sound much like leading. As much as people like to think they are being listened to they ultimately look for leadership.

All Governments try to ‘make a real difference’. There’s too much vague speech writer babble.

And too many clashes with reality. For example how much have Labour consulted and come up with a pragmatic solution to low voter turnout? Labour proposes withholding tax credits unless enrolled to vote may be a policy in progress but it’s been reported that not even the Labour caucus was consulted about that.

And in being so vague and promising to listen there’s risks. Little’s speech was to a business audience. If the business community say they and the country would benefit from lower business tax rates what sort of ‘pragmatic solution’ would Labour come up with? Pragmatic for whom? New Zealand businesses? Or party appeasement?

This speech seems too long, too negative, too vague, and clashes too much with reality.

Too much blah blah blandrew.

What happened to the blunt, direct, believable Andrew Little of the first few months of his leadership?

He seems to have been transformed into just another package of palaver dominated by pissy pouting.

As one person remarked, this looks like a speech by committee. Labour has lacked effective leadership since 2008. After a brief glimmer of hope it looks like the party under Little is back in it’s rut.

Key remains committed

John Key has told National’s Northland regional conference that he’s as determined to still lead National in 2017 as he was in 2008.

NZ Herald reports John Key determined to stick around.

Prime Minister John Key has scotched speculation he could stand down this term, telling National Party faithful in Northland that he is just as determined to lead National in 2017 as he was in 2008.

Mr Key’s speech to National’s Northland regional conference at Waitangi was his first on home soil after a torrid fortnight dominated by questions about his pulling a waitress’ ponytail.

He avoided directly referring to that incident in his speech but made it clear he did not intend to quit: “I am just as committed today to leading National to victory at the next election as I was when first taking up the role as your leader in November 2006.”

Mr Key also gave a behaviour pledge of sorts, referring to the need for hard work, oversight and good judgment.

He said he did not take the high levels of support in the polls for granted. “You have my strong commitment that I will do everything I can to lead a strong Government and a strong National Party as we face the next two and a half years until the 2017 election.”

This will please staunch National supporters and dismay the left.

It may also dismay some on the right. Judith Collins played down her comeback ambitions on Q & A yesterday:

Judith Collins is happy as Larry in her role as member for Papakura and dismisses any chatter of a come back.

The former justice minister says she’s getting on with her work, having fun, and leaving it up to the Prime Minister when/if she will re-enter Cabinet.

“Obviously I would like to be back in Cabinet,” Ms Collins told Q A this morning.

Asked if she was planning a come back, Ms Collins fired back, “what come back?

But fanboy Cameron Slater seems to have different ideas. Yesterday he posted:


When the media regularly speculate about what is to happen after you’re gone, it is an indicator that you are in the autumn of your political career.

It continues to amaze me how little political journalists understand of the National Party’s internal leadership processes.

They continue to confuse the apparent outward popularity of an MP with the public as a critical factor.

Not so.

But that aside, the talk about “after Key” has started.

Slater has been talking about “after Key” ever since Judith Collins was dropped from Cabinet.

Unusually for him he posted the full transcript of Collins’ interview in JUDITH COLLINS INTERVIEWED BY HEATHER DU PLESSIS-ALLEN ON Q&A.

But if Key stands again in 2017 and wins then time is running out for Collins’ (or Slater’s) leadership ambitions. By 2020 Collins will be a politician with a long past – she was first elected in 2002 and is seen as of Key’s generation.

Even if Key loses in 2017 National may look to a new generation of leadership. Paula Bennett is often talked about as a potential successor to Key.

But anything could happen. Slater may become a credible power broker.

In the meantime Key looks set to continue and Collins herself looks set to bide her time and see what opportunities may arise.

Green leadership contenders

There’s been no more nominations for the male co-leader position vacated by Russel Norman so there will four contenders:

  • Kevin Hague
  • Gareth Hughes
  • James Shaw
  • Vernon Tava

I think the leading contenders will be Hague – experienced and reliable – versus a contrasting new hope for the future, James Shaw.

My pick is the safer option, Hague. Shaw’s time will come – he had initially said he wouldn’t stand this time due to only being an MP for a few months but changed his mind.

Tava has some interesting ideas but with no chance of being an MP for the next two and a half years, and has said he doesn’t know if he will stand for the Green list in 2017, so I don’t think he has much chance.

Hughes may appeal to some Greens with his ‘do what members choose’ approach but his reliance on ‘hey Clint; guidance must count against him, ultimately people like leaders who are prepared to lead.

There’s been just one nomination for the female co-leader position. Metiria Turei has tweeted:

Whew! Reckon my chances are pretty good…

But she points out there’s still a vote:

Yep.  We have a no confidance option for delegates who dont want to vote for me (or any candidate)

I don’t know if the vote is made public but I’d expect Greens to avoid controversy over Turei being elected without a solid endorsement.

The voting will be done at the Green AGM on 30 May so that’s another 6 weeks in leadership limbo with Norman phasing out.

And Turei has had a low profile over the last month, maybe contemplating her own future, maybe not wanting to dominate the leadership as Norman fades away.


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