A problem with Kelvin Davis

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern stepped up into the role of Labour leader, and stepped up further in post-election negotiations, as new Prime Minister and generally in her role in international politics (Manus aside).

Not so Kelvin Davis. It seemed to be a good idea to appoint him deputy to Ardern, he had appeared to be a good prospect, he complimented Ardern and he strengthened Labour’s Maori mana.

But Davis always seemed uncomfortable in the role. Some initial swagger was swept aside after he made some poor comments, and he slipped into the background, probably by design of Labour’s campaign.

He has been forced into the foreground again over the last week as acting Prime Minister when both Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas. Davis was unimpressive fronting for the Government in Parliament this week. He stonewalled without conviction.

Jo Moir at Stuff talks tough: Labour has a problem – the trainwreck of acting prime minister Kelvin Davis

For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, have been cutting deals and forging relationships on the international stage in Vietnam and the Philippines, Davis has been left back in New Zealand to handle the day-to-day business.

Before embarking on this week-long mission, Davis was pretty cool and calm about the whole thing and even described the role as a “figurehead” position.

In this column a week ago, I congratulated Davis for doing an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing, but nobody seriously thought that was a strategy Labour could keep up.

Roll on to Tuesday and Davis was back in the House facing Opposition Leader Bill English on statistical steroids as he did what he does best – stringing together sentences with enough jargon and numbers to make a Treasury report look like child’s play.

National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.

Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.

I hadn’t noticed that. Question 1 from Tuesday:

You can see it at times here, with Robertson prompting Davis on some answers and appearing to act as his minder.

The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.

It was like a seriously bizarre game of Chinese whispers that started at Twyford and ran along the front bench until the message was received by Davis.

That wasn’t noticeable on video but must have stood out from the press gallery.

Wednesday arrived. It was a new day; perhaps a new strategy? Not a chance.

There were only two political stories anyone was interested in that day – North Korea and the Government’s net debt target, economists having warned billions would need to be borrowed over the coming years.

As the media gathered on “the tiles”, where ministers are questioned on their way into the House, Davis strode across the bridge toward journalists on his own.

Davis got thrown to the pack and desperately tried to keep his head above water.

Asked what year Labour wanted to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by, Davis stumbled around before spluttering “over the economic cycle”.

Unconvinced, the reporter asked again, yes, but what year?

Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.

This is a key policy of Labour’s and, yes, it’s hard to remember lots of numbers and years but Davis was presumably well prepped on this topic and still didn’t get across the line.

Was Davis prepped? Or is he just being left to flounder by Labour?

Things didn’t get much better in Question Time. The Opposition had not one but three questions lined up for Davis to put him under pressure in a number of portfolios.

But that’s not before he had made a clarification to the House, after saying the week before in answer to a question about the cost of additional police that “those costs have been finalised”.

Actually, “those costs have yet to be finalised”.

This isn’t just a problem with Davis. There seems to be a problem across Labour with different stories on a number of topics – there appears to be a lack of communication and knowledge on key policies.

In Question 1 on Wednesday Davis tried a different strategy – he gave all his answers in Maori, which mewant that many people listening would not know what he said, but again they were vague and ‘in due course’ answers. Nothing answers.

The problem Labour has is that Robertson is the obvious person to be acting prime minister and actually there’s no reason he can’t be.

Peters is barely ever going to fill that role because chances are if Jacinda Ardern’s out of the country, then, as foreign affairs minister, he’s likely to be too.

Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.

A smart campaign strategy – once they worked out that Davis needed to be kept in the background. But not so smart it seems when it comes to governing.

But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.

Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.

Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.

If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.

Labour obviously has a problem with Davis, who is more than struggling.

They have wider problems with mixed messages over a number of policies, so overall their policy decisions and communication needs to improve.

Ardern and Peters are back in the country so the Davis problem can be forgotten for a while, but if Davis can’t step up into a leadership role then Labour need to seriously look at his position.

Robertson must be frustrated, he looked like he was squirming in Parliament each time Davis got up to speak.

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82 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  November 18, 2017

    ”National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.”

    I stated that liability a while back on this blog – words to the affect that Jacinda would be behind him in the china shop, with a calculator, tallying up the damage.

    National next ploy must be to work on the Jacinda/Peters relationship. If you view their relationship dispassionately you can only come to one conclusion…they are two different people separated by many different values. They have a relationship held together by a piece of paper.

    There’s so many angles National can broadside Labour from. They are spoilt for choice. They need to pick their targets and hit hard. Forget the scatter-gun approach.

    • Gezza

       /  November 18, 2017

      * words to the effect Corks, not affect.
      No need to thank me.

      I watched Thursday’s Questions in The House last nite. Was too crook to watch it live on Thursday. Paula’s a bit noisy.

      Trev’s still handing out extra supplementaries & taking them away, depending on which side of the Chamber has just offended. All good stuff tho.

      The Opposition is getting frustrated with the bland answers to everything from goverment Ministers. Even Trev pointed out one of Grants didn’t answer the question so Steven could ask it again. Although poor Stevie had a Point of Order whinge beforehand that his primary Question had been truncated in the Clerk’s Office as Trev said it had commentary not needed for the Question.

      But yeah, Kelvin was just pathetic again. It’ll be Grant in the Acting Role next time.

      • He has been a disappointment. His insisting on speaking only Maori seemed like showing-off and being PC when the time could have been better spent. This is Parliament, the place where the country is run. Point-scoring is out of place.

  2. Pickled Possum

     /  November 18, 2017

    Aroha Mai Kelvin Is all I can say.
    oh no something else …
    Kelvin your swimming with sharks now. So get your White Pointer persona out.
    Te Ururoa where are you?
    Interesting enuff mango ururoa means white pointer shark.

    Kelvin will shine when defending te whanaungatanga in corrections.
    Make sure they don’t get treated badly. Human Rights and all of that.

    • Corky

       /  November 18, 2017

      Can you please translate that.

      • Gezza

         /  November 18, 2017

        I’ll have a go for you Corks.

        Possum sends her love and best wishes to Kelvin.
        She reminds him the Opposition are like sharks, so he better wake up, harden up, & get staunch with them, like a white pointer shark.
        She approves of Kelvin using Te Reo Maori, & laments that Te Ururoa Flavell is not there also for more of such korero.
        She mentions in passing – or en passant – as the French say – and as a point of possible interest to others that mango uruora means white pointer shark – which explains his strength & resolve.
        And she confidently expects that Kelvin will come into his own & do his best to help his Tangata Whenu in prisons as Minister of Corrections. His aim is is reduce the number in Prison, which will mean working with other Ministers to find ways to reduce the number being sent there.

        That would be my interpretation.

        • Gezza

           /  November 18, 2017

          * Tangata WhenuA, soz.

        • Pickled Possum

           /  November 18, 2017

          Jez Gez That is so darn righteously correct bro.
          Do you think He is serious about no comprehenday bout my korero or was he just being pedantic. Oh never mind … The wind is blowing off all the cherries hope the birds had a good feed.
          Any wayz Gez we have in the North these men to rep us
          Shane (medicine man) Reti
          Matt (retired policeman) King
          Shane (Harvard boy) Jones
          Kelvin ( ex Principal) Davies
          Out of all of them I would pick Kelvin
          Yep I know he is a bit parli awkward but once he loses his whakama he will be better than all of those others. Ardern shoes are hard to fill. So while she is away with Winnie, he is doing his best for the Party. imho

          • Gezza

             /  November 18, 2017

            Corks? Hard to say. Could be puzzled , or could just be being a nasty prat again, like he’s always standing there in his glass house, accusing others of being.

            • Pickled Possum

               /  November 18, 2017

              I’ll go with puzzled, sounds kinder.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Aw … you’re a good un 👍🏼 ❤️

            • Corky

               /  November 18, 2017

              Gezzas interpretation is being kind to you to, PP. Your posts remind me of the ” Bone People,” Written by some sheila who smoked a pipe. Liberals raved over the book. When asked what it was about nobody really knew. The main point was the author had some Maori blood. Kapai.

              I think you should keep Gezza as your interpreter/
              .

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              Cheer up Corky – Maori have a new bloke on the rise who I’ve high hopes for…

            • phantom snowflake

               /  November 18, 2017

              Yeah can imagine Lance O’Sullivan in politics. He has passion and charisma; has been great when it comes to setting up innovative health initiatives. Although I found him very average as a GP, usually seemed distracted and unfocussed.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Vision, smarts, good communications skills, Medical science degree, cares about Maori, believes in them, has the drive & determination to know what he’s doing & can foot it with the brightest in Parliament and anywhere. Just what they need more of. I agree with PDB.

          • Corky

             /  November 18, 2017

            I wont thank you again.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Why not?
              You don’t know yet how many other favours I’ll be doing you.

          • unitedtribes2

             /  November 18, 2017

            Its going to be interesting watching him put less people in prison with 1800 more police.

            • Blazer

               /  November 18, 2017

              more Police,more visibility=less crime.

            • Corky

               /  November 18, 2017

              Yep, and all those crooks coming back from Aussie.

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              Don’t worry Corks – Davis has promised more cuddles & obligation free money for them now Labour are in govt. Will totally change their lives around.

  3. “Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.”
    He did what! – honesty??? The political world is in a turmoil – honesty!!!
    Honestly!

    • Corky

       /  November 18, 2017

      Honesty. A valueless political commodity. Perception is political gold. Davis ain’t morally bankrupt; he’s politically bankrupt.

      • robertguyton

         /  November 18, 2017

        Honesty. A valueless political commodity. Perception is political gold. Key* ain’t politically bankrupt; he’s morally bankrupt.
        *English, Joyce, Bennett, Collins et al.

        • Corky

           /  November 18, 2017

          Still on about Key. He’s retired. Time to move on.

          • robertguyton

             /  November 18, 2017

            His mates are still following his lead, behaving as he did. Forget about those 9 years of deception? Hardly! His legacy will serve to illustrate every situation where National, in Opposition, behave “Keyly”.

            • Corky

               /  November 18, 2017

              What mates?

              ”Forget about those 9 years of deception?”

              What deception? You mean that crap Hager wrote? Well, the voters saw
              through that.

              National, in opposition, will be the least of your worries come the monthly poll results. Failure, breeds failure.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  November 18, 2017

              As you know, nothing Nicky Hager wrote in Dirty Politics was ever proven wrong. Your objection to him is merely (political) tribalism. But that can’t be, because you despise tribalism. (apparently)

            • Corky

               /  November 18, 2017

              Correct. Like I said before, I’m talking things into reality. I’m down ticking you for not paying attention.

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              Lots of things Hager had wrong in the book Dirty politics – Judith Collins was cleared of any wrong-doing, Rodney Hyde was wrongly accused in the book etc. Hager’s whole premise that National was running a dirty politics campaign through whaleoil was a nonsense with no smoking gun – a fact the voters took into account when returning National back into govt.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 18, 2017

              Because he is a sleazy creep who implies falsehoods without saying them directly.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 18, 2017
            • robertguyton

               /  November 18, 2017

              What deception?
              That’s too, too funny to respond to reasonably:
              “I didn’t see any deception!

              Lordy!

          • Corky

             /  November 18, 2017

            No need to respond. You were already behind the 8 ball…as usual.

    • Being honest about being out of his depth is not a great look for an acting PM.

      If Winston was given second spot perhaps the Greens deserved to have been given 3IC. Would James Shaw have done a better job of stepping up?

      • Gezza

         /  November 18, 2017

        They’re not in the coalition or Cabinet. So James can’t fill an Acting PM role.

        • I know. But they could have been and he could have been if it had been negotiated.

          Greens are probably best where they are gaining experience sort of in Government but on the periphery. Davis has missed out on that step, and it shows.

          • I find the selfrighteousness of those who blandly assume that others are dishonest and incapable of acting in a way that doesn’t solely benefit themselves rather sick-making.

            Or are they simply judging everyone by their own standards of thought and behaviour ?

  4. Fight4NZ

     /  November 18, 2017

    Still better than putting up with J Key, B English, et al and the monotonous stream of dad jokes. That was a disgrace.

  5. Tipene

     /  November 18, 2017

    Another tokenist cultural appointment that ranks race above competence.

    And the Labour party strategist and board didn’t see this coming?

    Morons.

    • Gezza

       /  November 18, 2017

      Just needs more mentoring.

      • Gezza

         /  November 18, 2017

        More road cones then?

        • PDB

           /  November 18, 2017

          He may as well wear a road cone on his head to complete his comedy routine. The guy is, and always will be, a boof-head.

          • Gezza

             /  November 18, 2017

            Well, Gerry Brownlee is too, to be fair. And when they say “no man is an island”, looking at Gerry, I’d say he is.

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              At least Brownlee speaks well & knows his stuff.

              When you have a ‘rock’ and an ‘island’ on your team you’re on pretty solid ground.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Gerry’s pretty solid, I’ll grant you that. They don’t come much more solid. Maybe Kim Dotcom?

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              I’ll give Kelvin 6 months to shape up before I call donkey, I think, PDB.

  6. Blazer

     /  November 18, 2017

    No worse than Key-‘can’t recall’..’brain fade’..etc..Bennett..what do youknow about climate change?..’nothing’..could go on all day.Davis can only get better.

    • He was a lot worse than Key was in Parliament. He needs to get a lot better, and fast.

      • Gezza

         /  November 18, 2017

        Labour are being vague a lot of their answers. The stock standard answer now when asked about whether they’ll stick to any figures in their pre-election fiscal package is we’re now in a coalition & the final cost will only be known after everything has been through the budget process. They better hope the public will put up with that until budget time, because it’s got National gnashing their teeth & almost crying tears of frustration that’s all they can get out of Grant.

      • robertguyton

         /  November 18, 2017

        Again, from Sanctuary:

        Another day, another round of MSM trommelfeuer against the government – this time kelvin Davis is in the firing line. Oh, if they’d only ever held Key’s ministers to such account in their nine year love fest of being insiders to a culture of complacent, smug arrogance.”

        • Should there be no criticism of Labour or the Greens or the Government?

          What about from you Robert, do you think Davis has been looking like leadership material?

          • Gezza

             /  November 18, 2017

            From my perspective he’s not acting PM material, but he can’t be clueless, he should be capable of becoming a good Minister, there’ve been plenty of wobbly new Ministers who’ve gone on to do well when they’ve got the hang of it & had a bit of smartening up by offivials & PR minders.

          • PDB

             /  November 18, 2017

            Far easier to deflect criticism than address it I suggest.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Have you forgotten the unintelligible beaucratic-gnome-gibberish Hekia used to come out with where everyone would shake their head & say WTF does THAT even fkn MEAN? She got better.

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              Hekia though was intelligent & therefore capable of improving…

          • robertguyton

             /  November 18, 2017

            Oh, yes, by all means criticise Labour and The Greens although gratuitous criticisms such as Alan and PDB provide are worthless. It seems Kelvin Davis has not been able to adroitly manage his role in these early days, though keeping “mum” while “mum’s away” seems sensible; he ought to improve with experience. I suspect it’s no great issue really and given the headless-chicken clamouring that flares up from you righties over the most minor issues, it’ll soon pass and be forgotten.

            • ” you righties”

              Please don’t dump everyone here in the same bucket. There’s quite a range of leanings and party preferences among those who comment here. Blanket disses are strongly discouraged, they are nothing more than cheap lazy shots.

        • PDB

           /  November 18, 2017

          Having a bit of a cry Robert? Fact is this new govt has started very poorly in a period where new govts usually enjoy a honeymoon period with the MSM.

          Fiscal holes in their numbers, little talent within the Labour ranks and the realities of running a country are already starting to bite. So far more reversals than an Italian tank on key issues.

          • robertguyton

             /  November 18, 2017

            PDB see above. “Having a bit of a cry” is infantile.
            🙂

    • Blazer, time for you to let go. Remember YWWL. Some here are in danger of being like this government – looking more like they are an Opposition.

      • Given that keeping mum* means keeping quiet (nothing to do with being a mum) it seems that this might be appropriate to his behaviour

        * it is related to mumble.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 18, 2017

    A Government that doesn’t even know what it is going to do hasn’t the faintest clue about what it is going to achieve – especially when all the unintended consequences kick in.

    We are watching “Yes Minister” on steroids. Tragi-comic. The children are in charge of the country.l

    • PDB

       /  November 18, 2017

      To be fair ‘Yes Minister’ did have some people with some idea on how to run a govt.

      • Gezza

         /  November 18, 2017

        Well, Jacinda’s making a total mess of our relations with Australia over the Manus Island regugees – completely head in the bloody clouds there.

        • Gezza

           /  November 18, 2017

          * bugga. refugees. Whatever. You know what I mean.

        • PDB

           /  November 18, 2017

          Yep – die in the ditch stuff by her with no real upside.

          • Gezza

             /  November 18, 2017

            Local survey round the neighbours here – 4 of them over a beer, None of them wants these guys.

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              Will be interesting to see the next polls, especially NZL First’s vote.

              I think in the end people like Robert will in be relieved in hindsight that Winston has put the Greens into an outside/subservient role as they will be somewhat protected from the fallout of the big two in the govt. I see the Greens going back up over time at the expense of Labour, whilst National will get back those upset voters of Winston and some soft Labour vote.

            • Gezza

               /  November 18, 2017

              Dunno. Greens would support Manus Island cock up.

        • Fight4NZ

           /  November 18, 2017

          Got to agree. Squandering $3M on Manus lot. Very poor judgement. Winston should have stepped up too.

          • PDB

             /  November 18, 2017

            Winston got what he wanted and ran away on the first of many junkets he will take over the next three years.

    • Blazer

       /  November 18, 2017

      English plodded on for 9 years with no clear direction.’There is no silver bullet’…was his stock answer when asked about policy for the future.

      • PDB

         /  November 18, 2017

        Seemed pretty clear to most – get us through the earthquakes/GFC, get the economy booming, and now pay down debt whilst in a position to do so. Instead we have a Labour-led govt intent on borrowing far more to pay for ‘nice-to-haves’.

        • Blazer

           /  November 18, 2017

          get the economy booming’=stand by and encourage runaway house prices,and ramp up immigration numbers….brilliant!

          • PDB

             /  November 18, 2017

            House prices up 113% under Helen’s reign and only 69% under the last National govt. Also keep in mind the rise under Helen was tracking for far more until the GFC hit and dropped prices.

            Please continue with your alternative facts though.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 18, 2017

              2nd time this chestnut has come up. Please elaborate. Are those NZ wide figures? Do you have Auckland only figures? Do you have absolute figures?

            • PDB

               /  November 18, 2017

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/national/election-2011/98475352/Labour-governments-have-overseen-greatest-house-price-inflation-data-shows

              As I mentioned under Helen prices were rising even higher than 113% but the GFC at the end of her reign pushed prices down a bit. National’s 60% rise started with the house levels below their peak but this fairly quickly recovered to Labour’s highs and this accounts for some of their total rise.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 19, 2017

              Read that article and the comments.
              So when you say 113% rise there was approx $250k to $550 k. So, yes alarm bells should have rung. Very disappointing they didn’t. Might have saved us from the devastation of the last 9 years where moving to $1M was the economic strategy. A sort of privatisation by proxy really because selling of pubic assets could really only be hyper spun once. As long as wealthy kiwis own a home or 2 don’t worry about the rest.
              Please continue your self serving, statistically impaired interpretation though.

  8. A crafty solution (unlikely to be used):

  1. A problem with Kelvin Davis — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition