Ardern and the ‘COVID election’

In her speech launching Labour’s election campaign Jacinda Ardern emphasised it being ‘a COVID election’ – her published speech notes emphasised COVID (in capitals), mentioning it fifteen times. She also referred to a much promoted pandemic phrase ‘team of 5 million’ five times.

She and Labour chose to campaign on one of Ardern’s strengths, crisis her management skills, but also to use the pandemic as a focal point of their campaign. This is smart politics, but it is also cynical use of a crisis for political purposes.

I don’t believe conspiracy theorists suggesting that the Covid outbreak this week was a political set up, but Ardern and Labour have merged it with their campaign.

Ardern has emphasised that politics is inextricably intertwined with the Government and Ministry of Health Covid response.

She is insisting her governing right to front Covid media conferences, which gives her a considerable campaign publicity advantage – she fronted two media conferences that would have had great public interest yesterday.

This could be to her and Labour’s significant campaign advantage, but it has it’s risks.

Ardern’s Labour Speech: Labour Campaign Launch 2020 included:

Thank you for all your work over these last few months, which has made this gathering possible. In a COVID world, our team of 5 million has been a steady ship and I am so grateful for that.

Whether it was March 15, or Whakaari White Island, or even COVID-19 – these three entirely different events that devastated in very different ways – they drew out a response from kiwis that was the same.

They applauded Ardern’s handling of them.

Some have asked me whether this is the COVID election.

No one wants it to be.

Yet she has embraced it as her prime means of self promotion.

And so yes, there is no denying that COVID has changed New Zealand, and therefore it will inevitably change what we talk about this election.

And there is a lot to talk about.

There wasn’t a playbook for COVID-19. That means there was no pre-written plan for how a country should respond to a one in one hundred year global pandemic. But respond we did.

COVID has undoubtedly created many friends for us to worry about, and we know there are tough times ahead.

Our team of 5 million’s approach to fighting COVID means there is huge willingness in our business community to avoid unemployment rising by taking on new staff where they can, but many just need a little bit of extra support which this package provides.

It will act as a strong incentive to support those who have been hit the hardest by COVID, and provide additional support to businesses who might not otherwise be in the position to take someone on long-term.

It will act as a strong incentive to support those who have been hit the hardest by COVID, and provide additional support to businesses who might not otherwise be in the position to take someone on long-term.

Ultimately though, there is no costless response to COVID, but Grant Robertson’s excellent management of the books means we went into COVID with lower debt relative to GDP than almost any other OECD nation, and look to come out in a better position than Australia, the UK, Canada and the US.

And so, when people ask, is this a COVID election, my answer is yes, it is.

But that does not mean that there aren’t still choices to be made. It does not mean there aren’t ideas to be debated, or plans to be discussed, policies to be announced.

In fact, it’s the very reason why this is election is more important than ever.

It’s about the future. It’s about leadership and it’s about values.

It’s about whether we stop and change to another team, or whether we keep those we know and we trust.

Ardern has emphasised that politics is inextricably intertwined with the Government and Ministry of Health Covid response.

She is insisting her governing right to front Covid media conferences, which gives her a considerable campaign publicity advantage – she fronted two media conferences that would have had great public interest yesterday.

She is getting extraordinary publicity this week over the new outbreak, which is frustrating other parties who have had to suspend their campaigns due to newly imposed lockdowns.

While Ardern withdrew from regular Covid media conferences over the past couple of months she is fronting them again now big time, and insisting she has a right as Prime Minister to do this right up to the election despite protests by political opponents.

This could be to her and Labour’s considerable campaign advantage – not that Labour needs it, they are currently well out in front – ,but it has it’s risks.

If Covid turns to custard here, and if the election goes ahead as planned next month, Ardern and Labour could suffer a backlash. If there is too much bad news expect Ardern to distance herself and leave the delivery of that to Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins again.

But for now Covid gives Ardern a huge advantage, and she is using that for all it’s currently worth.

Labour launch Jacinda/Covid campaign

Labour launched their election campaign yesterday. For obvious reasons Jacinda Ardern was prominent. A lot of confidence was on display – there were comments that they looked like they were celebrating already.

RNZ: Labour launches re-election campaign with $300m plan to create thousands of new jobs

The Labour Party has launched its re-election campaign today with a promise to invest $311 million to help unemployed New Zealanders into jobs.

The government’s existing Flexi-wage scheme – a wage subsidy to help employers hire those on a benefit at risk of long-term unemployment – would be revamped and expanded under a re-elected Labour Party, with the average amount a business can access to hire a worker more than doubling.

The party believes scaling up the scheme could enable 40,000 people to be employed.

Jacinda Ardern, speaking at the launch today, said $30 million will also be ring-fenced to help unemployed people start a business through an expanded Flexi-wage self employment programme, which will provide the equivalent of the minimum wage for up to 30 hours a week.

Trying too address things that the Government has been trying to address for the last few months. Unemployment could be a big issue as the campaign progresses and the wage subsidies run out.

A lot of us would prefer not to become unemployed in the first place.

Martyn Bradbury: Labour Party Campaign Launch tone deaf

So the Labour 2020 Election Campaign Launch was a tad disappointing.

We have just endured the worst pandemic for a century, there is fear and there is genuine worry about what happens as early as September and what was the tone Labour struck with their launch?

A slam poem that came across as a religious sermon mixed with an arts festival variety show which is not what worried NZers are wanting right now.

They are wanting to know how the bloody hell we get out of this mess.

Singing and dancing can be done once we’ve won folks, but the pandemic has reset everyones reality and the immediate future in a way not seen outside of World War 2.

Labour’s variety show came across as tone deaf and smug.

Labour are celebrating before they’ve won.

Labour’s lack of major policies and lack of ambition (except their ambition to win) is being noted.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): Labour launch an extremely centrist campaign

This was Labour’s campaign launch and first real policy release. Finally, after three years of only promoting things that could pass the Winston Peters’ test, Ardern had a chance to release some properly Labour Party Labour policy, the kind of “transformation” stuff she had been itching to do all term but couldn’t get away with.

Instead, she launched a hiring subsidy so centrist that the National Party already built it in 2012, albeit in a different form. And it isn’t even new spending: The whole $311m package comes from left-over money unspent by the extension to the wage subsidy.

The hiring subsidy may well be good public policy.

But what it isn’t is particularly Labour. BusinessNZ were effusive in their praise for it, and even Judith Collins was only able to muster a “we did it first”. This was Ardern’s first chance in a long while to set out what her party stood for, outside of the binds of Winston Peters, and she released a policy that you would probably get 119 votes for in Parliament. Indeed, it’s hard to see why the Government wouldn’t just do this policy before the election, if it was such a good idea and the money is just lying around unspent.

It makes total sense for Labour to campaign from the centre. Centrism is probably the route to keeping that huge swath of voters Ardern won over during lockdown on their side through September 19. The party’s base loves Ardern and hates Collins enough that they would probably be out door-knocking if Ardern announced a business tax cut next.

But voters do deserve a contest of ideas, and not just one fought between the Green Party and ACT, who have put out policies that really tap into the ideologies of each party.

There is no doubt that Ardern is a very good image marketing politician.

But she seems very unambitious when it comes to delivering on transformation, progressiveness, reform, anything much apart from promoting a popularity contest.

Even The Standard did little to promote Labour’s launch. A few hours afterwards a post appeared: Jacinda’s speech to the Labour campaign launch

And comments there were generally fairly muted and mixed. Maybe they believe they can coast to victory.

Perhaps Muttonbird summed things up:

Except apparently Jesus actually did a bunch of stuff for the poor.

Ardern: “When people ask, is this a COVID election, my answer is yes, it is,” 

Campaigning a lot on what they have done (recently), and little on any plan or vision for the future.

For Labour this election is all about three things – Jacinda, Jacinda, Jacinda.

NZ First campaign launch back to the past

Winston Peters was cheered and adored as he always is at the NZ First congress campaign launch yesterday, but the campaign slogan ‘Back the Future’  may be more appropriately called ‘back to the past’.

Not only has Peters relaunched old NZ First policy on immigration, pledging to clamp down on numbers like they did last election, it will be noticed that Peters didn’t do much about it during this term, with immigration levels not changing a lot until they were stopped altogether by the Covid pandemic.

This time Peters says a ‘bottom line’ is for a NZ First MP to be Minister of Immigration.

RNZ: NZ First’s campaign promises old and rehashed policies

New Zealand First is sticking to the tried and true as it fights for its survival at this year’s election.

The new campaign slogan is ‘Back Your Future’, which screamed more ‘Back to the Future’ when party leader Winston Peters took to the stage to the same theme songs and announced the same policies from years gone by.

More than 250 members and those interested in catching a glimpse of Peters in full campaign mode packed into the Highbrook Convention Centre in Auckland yesterday afternoon.

But there was nothing new about what Peters was promising – even his suit was from his younger days, after weight loss following recent surgery.

Immigration and frontline police were his two big policy announcements – one is a rehash from the last election and the other has been promised and delivered on twice before.

The immigration reset is that no more than 15,000 people come into New Zealand each year – and that they’re all highly-skilled workers.

Peters said one of his MPs must be immigration minister for that to happen.

It’s a bottom line.

Peters does bottom lines like they’re going out of fashion during election campaigns, but the bottom falls out of them once elected.

“Because we were bringing (immigration) down – but not nearly fast enough – because we weren’t in charge. That’s why we want the immigration portfolio.”

Peters said the definition of highly-skilled will change, but he’s light on detail.

“We plan to create a much smarter one… one that doesn’t have the OECD saying that your policies are a failure, (and) you’re bringing in low-skilled workers.”

He warned increasing unemployment as a result of Covid-19 and the economic slump will bring higher crime rates, and so Peters also promised another 1000 frontline police officers in three years, if re-elected.

That’s one pledge from the last campaign that was actually done. I’m not sure why he sees the need for another big boost.

Senior MP Tracey Martin also announced a universal family benefit.

It would mean all families in New Zealand, with children under 16, would be provided a weekly allowance, no matter their income.

That policy is a return to the old too.

”Well the counter of that is you have to be patient and wait for the rest of the campaign,” Peters said.

”I didn’t come here to announce the whole policy in one day. Be patient and you’ll hear some explosive new ideas.”

On Q&A he was asked why there were no policies on the NZ First website. Peters said that he knew what they were and they would be announced.  It does say on the website:

At the core of New Zealand First’s policies are our “Fifteen Fundamental Principles”, which emphasise accountable and transparent government, common-sense social and economic policy, and the placing of the interests of New Zealand, and New Zealanders, at the forefront of Government decision-making.

But even they don’t seem to be available on their website.

The full Q+A interview here: Winston Peters denies Ihumātao deal in fiery exchange on Q+A

Mr Peters appeared on Q+A this morning in a heated interview with host Jack Tame, where he was asked about Ihumātao, a trans-Tasman bubble, coalition partners, cameras on fishing boats, his party’s policies, and stimulating the economy.

Mr Peters listed previous policies and accomplishments, such as the reinvigoration of KiwiRail and the billion trees promise, as well as the stopping of light rail to Auckland Airport.

NZ First also wants to remove an MP’s personal vote on conscience issues and replace it with a binding referendum.

“We are the only green party, in reality, in this Parliament because we put flesh around our dreams not just talk. That’s what we’ve done,” he said.

Yeah, right.

It was classic combative Peters but looking same old and backwards, with trademark indignation when asked things he didn’t want to answer.

It was similar on an interview on RNZ this morning, more Peters battling against the media and the world.

More from 1 News:  Winston Peters outlines NZ First achievements opposing ‘woke pixie dust’ in Government, announces election promises

“We have opposed woke pixie dust,” he said of his party holding its Coalition partners to account.

“Whilst the rest have been politically correct, we’ve set out to correct politics.”

Voters will judge that in a couple of months.

So far it’s just back to the past from Peters, and he hasn’t yet come up with anything that stands NZ First out from past campaigns.

What NZ First may have to rely on to survive is for Peters to jump on a campaign issue and hope the media gives him some saturation  coverage, as has happened in past campaigns.  But for NZ First supporters it could be like hoping for a lotto win.

‘Let’s keep moving’ and the Jacinda movement

The Labour Party are launching their election campaign this weekend. It’s no surprise to see it based on Jacinda Ardern – framed as ‘Jacinda and our movement’.

But their ‘Lets keep moving’ campaign slogan seems a bit uninspiring.

Today Jacinda Ardern announced our slogan for the 2020 election campaign. Our plan to rebuild New Zealand is already in action, so on September 19 let’s keep up this momentum, and let’s keep moving

Ardern’s personality and charisma drastically turned the Labour campaign around from pending disaster to recovering enough to be able to form a government in 2017, and her popularity kept the party polling up through this term, until both soared on the back of Ardern successfully fronting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their Facebook launch promotes the slogan and Ardern:

As does their new pinned post:


The slogan has been spun off their Covid recovery promotion from last month:

Getting New Zealand moving again: June 2020

We wrapped up the first half of 2020 with a busy month, taking additional steps to support New Zealanders as we continue with our economic recovery. We rolled out targeted packages to support key industries like tourism and construction, helped create jobs in the environmental and  agriculture sectors, and set out our plan to support Kiwis to retrain and upskill with free trades and apprenticeships training.

Ardern was always going to be central to the Labour campaign. If Covid remains under control recovery from the effects of the lockdown will also continue to be promoted.

An unknown is how the New Zealand economy will look in two months as the campaign climaxes and an extended voting period begins.

If there is a surge in job losses after the wage subsidies run out that could impact but the effects of that may not be clear until after the election.

Ardern will give her conference/campaign opening speech this afternoon.

Trump campaign ads with Nazi symbols

I had seen mentions of this story and thought it may have been a but over blown, but on looking at it in more detail it looks more bizarre and more concerning than I had thought.

RNZ: Facebook pulls Trump re-election ad featuring ‘Nazi’ symbolism

Facebook has removed ads from Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign that featured imagery the social network says violates its policy banning “organised hate”.

The ads featured an upside-down triangle, which anti-hate groups said was strikingly similar to notorious Nazi symbols denoting political prisoners in World War II concentration camps.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organised hate,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Variety.

“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

The triangles are bad enough. But seems that it’s worse than that.

It has been reported that there were 88 ads posted on Facebook (now taken down).

ADL General Hate Symbols: 88

88 is a white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.” H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler. One of the most common white supremacist symbols, 88 is used throughout the entire white supremacist movement, not just neo-Nazis. One can find it as a tattoo or graphic symbol; as part of the name of a group, publication or website; or as part of a screenname or e-mail address.

And from Facebook takes down Trump ads featuring symbol used by Nazis to mark political prisoners

Additionally, the first sentence of the ad has 14 words, a number that is used as shorthand for a famous white supremacist slogan and often combined with 88.

It is entirely possible that the numbers of ads and words in their first sentence are a coincidence, and the Trump campaign declined to comment.

It would seem odd if all of that is a coincidence.

Tamihere/Fletcher Auckland mayoralty bid: “Shake it up and sort it out”

As widely indicated since yesterday, John Tamihere has launched a bid for the Auckland mayoralty, alongside current councillor Christine Fletcher. If Phil Goff stands for re-election this will be a challenge to him, especially if it splits the left leaning vote and a credible centre or right leaning candidate also contests the election.

Stuff:  John Tamihere and Christine Fletcher team up to challenge Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Two-term Labour MP, former talkback host, and social agency leader John Tamihere has launched his bid for the Auckland mayoralty.

Tamihere has teamed up with former National MP and Auckland City Mayor, and current councillor, Christine Fletcher, in an unusual move to campaign with a ready-made deputy-mayor.

Tamihere pledged to “open the books and clean the house”, and said it’s not clear how ratepayers money is being spent.

Tamihere has called for more democratic control over public assets and wants to appoint councillors to the boards of all council-controlled-organisations such as Auckland Transport. That would require a law change.

The only endorsement so far on the campaign website, is from Tamihere’s running mate Christine Fletcher.

After promising yesterday…

There is nothing more on twitter yet, but he has a presence on Facebook:

The launch:

The campaign website: JT For Mayor

1. Open the Books and Clean the House

Aucklanders pay billions in rates and charges, but where does all that money go? Auckland has ended up with the most council staff ever, the biggest wage bill ever – and yet the most out of touch and secretive management ever. I will open all the doors and open all the books. We will find out who the billions are being paid to, what it’s being spent on, and why.

2. Return Democracy to Neighbourhoods

Too much power in our city is controlled by faceless managers in central Auckland. Control of the city must go back into the hands of the people. I will return local resources and decisions to local elected boards and their communities.

3. Bring Public Assets back under Democratic Control

Three quarters of Auckland Council’s assets are controlled by bureaucrats with no accountability. I want all Council owned organisations under democratic control. As a first step I will appoint elected councillors on every Council business board to ensure openness and oversight.

4. Crack down on Waste and Incompetence

Aucklanders deserve accountability and high performance from their Council. I will establish an Integrity Unit to investigate corruption, unacceptable conduct, and incompetence. This unit will report directly to me as your mayor. Aucklanders can be confident that their serious complaints will come to my desk for action.

5. Proper Partnership with Central Government

Aucklanders pay a huge part of the government’s costs. So why are Aucklanders forced to pay an extra fuel tax when no other region does? The present mayor should never have agreed to that. The huge infrastructure pressure on Auckland is the direct outcome of Central Government’s unplanned immigration, and Auckland ratepayers shouldn’t have to pick up the entire bill. As the new mayor representing a third of the country, I will expect a more equal partnership especially with transport and housing.

Labour’s fiscal plan was never realistic

Labour campaigned with a fiscal plan last year, and it was the centre of a controversial claim by Steven Joyce that demonstrated an $11b fiscal ‘hole’.

The reality is that the fiscal plan was not a plan as it could never have been implemented – there was virtually no chance of Labour governing alone. And this is Labour’s excuse for budgeting $12b more than specified in their plan, the cost of governing arrangements with other parties.

This is an obvious reality of single party campaign policies in an MMP environment where single parties have never governed alone, so it may be more a problem of how parties (and media) portray campaign policies.

NZH: Labour’s first Budget vs its campaign plan: Does it match up?

A comparison of Labour’s campaign fiscal plan with its first Budget shows things are not tracking quite as Labour planned during the campaign, something it put down to its coalition agreements and higher costs than expected.

Analysis by NZ Herald data journalist Keith Ng shows total Crown spending is forecast to be almost $12.5 billion higher over the five years to 2021/22 than Labour forecast in the “fiscal plan” it campaigned on in the last election.

That takes it to $24 billion more than National had planned over that period.

Labour campaigned on its fiscal plan against criticism from National that it had not allowed enough to cover the costs of its policies as well as increases in Government spending such as wage increases.

The higher spending also indicates the cost of securing the support of NZ First and the Green Party was higher than Labour allowed for in its fiscal plan and some policies were costing more than expected.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Budget should not be compared to Labour’s fiscal plan because it was based on Labour Party policy while the Budget reflected the Government arrangement with NZ First and the Greens.

In one way that’s a fair claim by Robertson. Labour was never likely to govern alone.

But did Robertson make it clear that his fiscal plan was not a plan?

He could not know which parties Labour may combine with to form a Government. But he must have known his fiscal plan would never remain intact in an MMP government, and should have expressed it with that clear proviso.

Will this happen next election? It’s likely to be glossed over again, or at least Labour may try that, but having been in Government with two other parties it should be much harder to get away with.

Unless Labour campaigns with the expectation that NZ First and Greens will miss the cut and won’t impact on Labour’s fiscal plan.




Trump ‘campaign spy’ claim refuted

As has become normal, Donald Trump made a big claim via Twitter on Friday based on what appear to be nothing more than vague rumours.

And as usual, this seems to have been somewhat embellished.

NY Times: F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal.

Trump has never been bothered much about evidence when making accusations and claims, but he is demanding an investigation

Fox News: Trump to ‘demand’ Justice probe whether feds spied on campaign for political purposes

Promoting a theory that is circulating, Trump quoted Fox Business anchor David Asman and tweeted Friday: “Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.”

But Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani cast some doubt on that.

On whether there was an “informant” in the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani told CNN, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one,” though he said they have long been told there was “some kind of infiltration.”

Perhaps another investigation would clarify the extent of the FBI attention given the trump campaign, but it would also add another ring to the Trump circus.

How solid are campaign policies and pledges?

A lot of attention is given to policies and pledges and promises and hints during election campaigns. Parties argue for their own ‘if we are in Government’ pitches and examine and criticise opposing parties’ promises.

But how much weight should we put on campaign statements? The way MMP works, especially when there is a balance of power play like now, parties have to compromise, they have to give up some of their own policies and accept others.

Already we have seen that Peters appears to back off Maori seat referendum pledge.

If he stood by that pledge it would rule out governing with Labour (or so Labour have said before negotiations begin) so what would reduce his bargaining power substantially.

The way our MMP works all policies are negotiable after the election.

The cynical amongst us might think that some of the ‘promises’ are made to be broken by a junior party accommodation.

Greens knew that would have to have Labour to get into Government, so would have to give up some of their own policies and accept some of Labour’s.

Even though Labour and Greens had a Memorandum of Understanding to present a combined bid for government a core part of that agreement was to be able to have different policies. Even if Labour+Greens had been able to form a government on their own neither would be able to fulfil all their promises.

Peters has already made an adjustment, and with only 7-7.5% of the total vote will have to accept that many of the NZ First policies won’t (or shouldn’t) hold sway no matter which way they go.

There should always be big caveats considered on all campaign policies and pledges.

This is the last day of the campaign!

Today is the last day of the election campaign for 2017. I’m sure many politicians, candidates, journalists and others such as myself will be relieved when it’s over.

All billboards and other public advertising must be removed by midnight and out of sight by election day (ridiculous given the number of advance votes these days), so campaign teams will be busy today cleaning up their efforts to entice voters.

If you want to promote any candidates or parties here get it done today, because you won’t be allowed to tomorrow because of electoral law.

I won’t be doing any posts on New Zealand politics or the election during the day on Saturday, to reduce the risk of anyone breaking the law and putting the site at legal risk.

I will put up an election night post for anyone who wants to comment after voting closes at 7 pm.