Christian party split from National?

There has been quite a bit of speculation that MP Alfred Ngaro is considering splitting from National and setting up a Conservative Christian party. He would possibly stand in the Botany electorate, a safe National seat currently held by the now independent Jamie Lee Ross.

There has been no strong denials, suggesting that it is an option being seriously considered, and not opposed by National who badly need partner parties

Ngaro would probably be a fairly moderate conservative, and a largely  uncontroversial MP, so would be well suited to this if it happens.

If Ngaro wins an electorate then the party wouldn’t need to reach the 5% threshold to get a few list MPs into Parliament with him.

I think this would be a positive move. There is an obvious constituency for Christian conservatives. In the  past Christian parties have got up to 4%, even with oddball leaders like Colin Craig. They should be able to be represented in Parliament.

I don’t see much chance of the New Conservative party getting anywhere near serious contention, so a new party is the obvious option to take.

I’d actually like to see more party splits. Under MMP the ideal set up is a large party with multiple small party options in governing arrangements. This avoids the tail wagging the dog type scenario (which is happening currently to an extent with NZ First), and ensures generally that majority will gets it’s way.

Conservative and Labour MPs resign from parties in UK

Two days ago seven MPs in the UK announced they were resigning from the Labour Party: ‘We have all now resigned’: seven Labour MPs quit party – video

A small group of MPs have resigned from the Labour party in order to sit as an independent group in parliament. The MPs delivered an attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the party for being ‘institutionally racist’ and betraying its members over Brexit

More from the Guardian – Labour: Watson tells Corbyn he must change direction to stop party splitting

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has told Jeremy Corbyn that he must change direction or face a worsening Labour split after seven MPs quit to form a new movement in the party’s biggest schism in nearly 40 years.

Watson’s emotional intervention came as a number of Labour MPs were poised to follow the founders of the new Independent Group – and after reports on Monday night that some Conservatives were also ready to defect.

Saying that he sometimes “no longer recognises” his own party, Watson urged Corbyn to ensure Labour remains a broad church and reshuffle his shadow cabinet to reflect a wider balance of MPs.

The announcement of the group founded by Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna represented the most significant challenge to party unity since the “gang of four” senior figures quit to form the Social Democratic party in 1981.

But on a day of drama, recrimination and occasional chaos, Corbyn loyalists derided the MPs as fringe figures who were out of touch with the public.

Now another Labour MP has split from Labour, and also three Conservative MPs have joined them. Missy comments:

This morning three Conservative MPs resigned from the party to join the new Independent Group of MPs. It will be interesting as to how these MPs work together, essentially the only thing they all have in common is that they want to stop Brexit, and want the public to have a second referendum now we know more about Brexit, and have seen how things have changed.

Interestingly they don’t want their constituents to have a second vote now things have changed and they are no longer in their party, many vote for party regardless of the candidate, however, these MPs who want to give the electorate the opportunity to change their minds on Brexit aren’t so keen to give their constituents the opportunity to change their minds on their MP.

Guardian:  Eighth Labour MP quits party to join breakaway Independent Group

Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to resign and join the breakaway Independent Group, claiming Jeremy Corbyn’s party has become “infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”.

Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, said she had been a member for four decades but could no longer remain as a Labour MP.

Echoing Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Ryan blamed what she claimed was the Labour leadership’s “dereliction of duty” in the face of the “evil” of antisemitism, for her decision to resign.

In a stinging resignation letter, she said: “I cannot remain a member of the Labour party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn – a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred of Israel that now afflicts my former party – is fit to be prime minister of this country. He is not.”

BBC:  Three MPs quit Tory party to join Independent Group

Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen wrote a joint letter to Theresa May to confirm their departure.

The three held a press conference, criticising the government for letting the “hard-line anti-EU awkward squad” take over the party.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Soubry criticised Theresa May for being “in the grip” of the Democratic Unionist Party and the pro-Leave European Research Group, and allowing Brexit to “define and shape” the Conservative Party.

She said: “The battle is over, the other side has won.

“The right wing, the hard-line anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every leader for the last 40 years are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe. They are the Conservative Party.”

The pro-Remain trio will join the new Independent Group – made up of eight Labour MPs who resigned from their party over its handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism – saying it represented “the centre ground of British politics”.

The PM said she was “saddened”, but her party would “always offer… decent, moderate and patriotic politics”.

Brexit continues to split parties in the UK.

Conservative and liberal views of science

GMO=genetically modified organism

This is in the United States. I would guess we don’t  as many (proportionally) or as conservative conservatives here as in the US, but have nothing to base this on but observation.

It’s interesting to note that here the Greens have been strongly against GMOs.

It comes from this thread on Twitter:

 

Source: Conservative and Liberal Views of Science, Does Trust Depend on Topic?

 

How right wing or conservative

I’m not much into political labels, but they are often used, sometimes to describe someone’s political alignment, but more often as a form of put-down.

Robert Guyton has labelled me as right wing several times recently but I don’t care much as his credibility is poor – he has often made things up about me, here, and since ceasing commenting in a huff has continued to make digs false assertions at The Standard (he was at it again yesterday). With Robert I don’t know if it is through ignorance, through seeing most people as ‘right wing’ from his fairly far left perspective, or if he is deliberately trying to provoke and smear, as he often does.

But another comment at The Standard was curious:

He is tribal conservative but has reached a position where he thinks the centre provides the best result in a goldilocks sort of way.

That was from mickysavage (Greg Presland) who is fairly straight up and doesn’t join the bash wagon at The Standard, so I take this as his genuine perception of my political leanings. But being described as “tribal conservative” is quite a laugh.

Last century I tended to vote Labour (never National). Early this century I voted Green, and Labour in 2005 to help help Don Brash out of power. I don’t know how tribal conservative this record is.

I approached Labour in 2009 thinking I could contribute to them rebuilding, but didn’t follow through because they (primarily Clare Curran) gave me the impression they wanted workers but not thinkers or contributers.

I have never considered being involved with National or NZ First. I have considered Greens but while I’m in line generally with their environmental ideals am not in favour of their radical social goals – in particular because they are unproven ideals.

I don’t think “the centre provides the best result in a goldilocks sort of way”. I considered myself centre-ish for a while, but my preferences are wider than that, depending on the issue.

I was never a fan of Colin Craig’s Conservative Party, and what I’ve seen of the New Conservative Party leaves me cold, they are not my thing at all.

My political preferences are similar to the more liberal National MPs like Nikki Kay and Chris Bishop and also similar to moderate Labour MPs – certainly not in line with conservative National MPs (including Simon Bridges). I agree in part with others more leftward, like James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter.

I’m sure I have some conservative-ish views, but on social issues I think I am usually not conservative aligned at all.

Homosexual law reform – strongly in favour, the laws up until the 1980s were terrible.

Smacking children – strongly against, except in very mild cases (tap/smack and not whack/smack). I voted against the smacking referendum. I am strongly anti-violence in the home.

Marriage equality – I supported the civil union law reform as adequate, but shifted to supporting full marriage equality after talking with people at a gay group meeting.

Marriage generally – I guess I’m conservative on this to an extent, I value marriage as a way of showing commitment to a partner. However I ‘lived together’ for several years prior to both my marriages – this is commonly accepted practice this century, but was quite a bit more radical first time round in the 1970s and certainly not conservative.

Abortion – I strongly support moves to make our abortion laws line up with our abortion practice, scrapping the ridiculous requirements women have to comply with now, making it women’s choice up until about half term.

Euthanasia – I support euthanasia in principle, and i think i will probably vote for if it goes to a referendum, depending on what we actually get to vote on.

Cannabis law reform – I have strongly support cannabis law reform and have campaigned politically on this. The current drug laws are not working, causing more problems than they solve. I want the legal, medical and social mess cleaned up. I have never used cannabis or any other recreational drug except alcohol.

MMP – I have supported MMP as a better than most of the rest option, albeit flawed. I oppose FPP. I strongly support lowering the MMP threshold, preferably to 2-3% if not scrapped entirely. The priority should be put on making as many votes count as possible. The 5% threshold is a large party imposition to protect their positions by excluding small parties, I think this is appalling and undemocratic.

Tax and benefit reform – I support a major rethink of our tax and benefit system. I’m disappointed by the timidity shown by the current Government with their hobbled tax working group – with the economy currently strong it would be a good time to change things more radically. I’m interested in some sort of universal basic income. I have some reservations, but in a total reform package it should be considered in the mix.

I’m interested to hear why Greg thinks that I was or am ‘tribal conservative’. I really doubt he has any real idea, my views have been generally heavily clobbered and misrepresented at The Standard – since I started commenting there thinking it might be the political blog most in line with my thinking about ten years ago.

A fatal mistake of conservatives – character does count

Those who see themselves as conservatives end up with dilemmas, especially when someone like Donald Trump becomes a candidate, and then becomes president.

Bret Stephens writes in Why I’m still a never Trumper:

And want to preserve your own republican institutions? Then pay attention to the character of your leaders, the culture of governance and the political health of the public. It matters a lot more than lowering the top marginal income tax rate by a couple of percentage points.

This is the fatal mistake of conservatives who’ve decided the best way to deal with Trump’s personality — the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness — is to pretend it doesn’t matter. “Character Doesn’t Count” has become a de facto G.O.P. motto. “Virtue Doesn’t Matter” might be another.

But character does count, and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.

Maybe you think the Russia investigation is much ado about nothing. Yet Trump brought it on himself every step of the way, from firing James Comey after the former F.B.I. director wouldn’t swear fealty, to (potentially) admitting to obstruction of justice with that tweet about Mike Flynn’s firing.

Or maybe you regret the failure to repeal Obamacare. But that had something to do with the grotesque insults Trump lobbed at John McCain, the man whose “nay” vote sank repeal.

Look at every other administration embarrassment (Scaramucci) or failure (the wall, and Mexico paying for it) or disgrace (the Charlottesville equivocation). Responsibility invariably lies with the president’s intemperance and dishonesty.

Now look at the culture of governance. Trump demands testimonials from his cabinet, servility from Republican politicians and worship from conservative media. To serve in this White House isn’t to be elevated to public service. It’s to be debased into toadyism, which probably explains the record-setting staff turnover of 34 percent, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution.

In place of presidential addresses, stump speeches or town halls, we have Trump’s demagogic mass rallies.

In place of the usual jousting between the administration and the press, we have a president who fantasizes on Twitter about physically assaulting CNN.

In place of a president who defends the honor and integrity of his own officers and agencies, we have one who humiliates his attorney general, denigrates the F.B.I. and compares our intelligence agencies to the Gestapo.

Trump is normalizing all this; he is, to borrow another Moynihan phrase, “defining deviancy down.” A president who supposedly wants to put a wall between the U.S. and Latin America has imported a style of politics reminiscent of the cults of Juan Perón and Hugo Chávez.

Everyone must have some concerns about some of Trump’s behaviour. Some choose to downplay it or try to ignore it because they put other gains as more important.

Conservatives may suppose that they can pocket policy gains from a Trump administration while the stain of his person will eventually wash away. But as a (pro-Trump) friend wrote me the other day, “presidents empower cultures.”

Trump is empowering a conservative political culture that celebrates everything that patriotic Americans should fear: the cult of strength, open disdain for truthfulness, violent contempt for the Fourth Estate, hostility toward high culture and other types of “elitism,” a penchant for conspiracy theories and, most dangerously, white-identity politics.

But but but tax cuts, Mexican wall, immigration, terrorism…

This won’t end with Trump. It may have only begun with him.

It hasn’t just begun with Trump, he and his strategists have just found a way of successfully exploiting and magnifying things that were already in place. So far.

But his support seems to have shrunk in his first year in office, and concerns have grown at least as much as support of his successes.

Trump is very contradictory. There is some validity to questioning media coverage and raising the issue of inaccurate news. But, especially when under the presidential spotlight, major media admit and correct their mistakes.

It is well documented that Trump has made many false claims and accusations. Whether they are deliberate lies or through ignorance the fact that Trump does not concede mistakes or correct in accuracies is a problem – and conservatives, and others who like some of Trump’s policy successes,  should have concerns about this sort of behaviour.

If Trump has enough people continuing to make excuses for his bad and hypocritical behaviour he may survive, and coukd possibly even win another term. If that happens Stephens may be correct, this could be just the beginning of a new normal, where only the end matters no matter how dishonest and immoral the means.

“Can I still call myself conservative?”

Simplistic labels can be problematic when applied with the complexities of both human nature and politics are involved.

What sort of person calls themselves a conservative?

How conflicted are they? Ask those who supported Colin Craig and his Conservative Party in New Zealand, or Roy Moore in the recent election in Alabama in the USA.

In a column at NY Times Bret Stephens asks: Can I still call myself conservative?

The answer depends on your definition.
Here’s one I’ve always liked: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” said the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To which he added: “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
Conservatives used to believe in their truth. Want to “solve” poverty? All the welfare dollars in the world won’t help if two-parent families aren’t intact. Want to foster democracy abroad? It’s going to be rough going if too many voters reject the foundational concept of minority rights.

And want to preserve your own republican institutions? Then pay attention to the character of your leaders, the culture of governance and the political health of the public. It matters a lot more than lowering the top marginal income tax rate by a couple of percentage points.

What is ‘a conservative’? It depends on how it is applied – in general or as a political leaning, or as a member of a political party.
Oxford defines it:

1 Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values.

‘they were very conservative in their outlook’

So theoretically someone who held on the traditional socialists  values and was averse to change could be described as conservative.

1.1 (of dress or taste) sober and conventional.

‘a conservative suit’

Again that could apply to anyone across the political spectrum. James Shaw dresses quite conservatively (as do just about all male MPs and most female MPs in the New Zealand Parliament).

2 (in a political context) favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.

That combines two distinctly different attributes. Someone who favours free enterprise and private ownership may not have socially conservative ideas. Roger Douglas and David Lange’s government from the 1980s were quite radical in the way they introduced free enterprise and private ownership policies, and were supposedly a left wing government.

‘Conservative’ can be applied as a description of someone’s specific opposition to change, but as a political label I think it’s far too fuzzy to be very useful.

And at times it is quite contradictory – Craig’s and Moore’s behaviour was at odds with their conservative label. Leader of the Conservative Party British Theresa May acted unconservatively in calling for an ill-fated snap election, and the UK exit from the European Union is not conservative, it will mean a large amount of change for the UK.

Specific behaviour can be described as conservative. Views on a specific policy can be conservative – I have more conservative views on law and order (in particular sentencing) and the use of binding referenda than Craig’s Conservative Party.

But anyone who labels themselves a ‘Conservative’ will soon find their ideals compromised. Much like a ‘Socialist’ would, especially in a country like New Zealand where most political views tend to be quite moderate – a pragmatic blend of conservatism, socialism and a few other isms.

I see myself as conservative in some ways, for example I willingly and happily got married – but as it was my second marriage after the first became practically untenable some conservative people may frown.

Maybe I could agree with one label – antilabelism.

 

An example of the genuine divide

Coincidentally at RealClear Politics were two posts side by side, one that made a case for sincere beliefs on both sides of the US political divide – see Each political side sincerely believes – while another illustrated the divide in action, not between left and right but between conservatives with different views on Donald Trump.

Dennis Prager:

Why Conservatives Still Attack Trump

When people you know well, admire, and who share your values do something you strongly oppose, you have two options:

1) Cease admiring them or 2) try to understand them and change their minds.

In the case of my conservative friends who still snipe (or worse) at President Trump, I have rejected option one.

That means my only choice is option two. But to try to change their minds, I must first try to understand their thinking.

I have concluded that there are a few reasons that explain conservatives who were Never-Trumpers during the election, and who remain anti-Trump today.

The first and, by far, the greatest reason is this: They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake.

While they strongly differ with the left, they do not regard the left-right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do.

A genuine belief that explains to an extent why some pro-Trumpers react adversely to any criticism of the president.

That is why, after vigorously opposing Trump’s candidacy during the Republican primaries, I vigorously supported him once he won the nomination. I believed then, as I do now, that America was doomed if a Democrat had been elected president.

With the Supreme Court and hundreds of additional federal judgeships in the balance; with the Democrats’ relentless push toward European-style socialism — completely undoing the unique American value of limited government; the misuse of the government to suppress conservative speech; the continuing degradation of our universities and high schools; the weakening of the American military; and so much more, America, as envisioned by the Founders, would have been lost, perhaps irreversibly.

The “fundamental transformation” that candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 would have been completed by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

This sort of desperation seems odd to me but I see it in politics here too – it’s common to see comments at The Standard and The Daily Blog who believe that New Zealand is doomed if National remain in power, if it isn’t beyond repair already.

To my amazement, no anti-Trump conservative writer sees it that way. They all thought during the election, and still think, that while it would not have been a good thing if Hillary Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe either.

It is unlikely to have been a catastrophe, just as Trump hasn’t been a catastrophe. There are things to be concerned about, but the sky hasn’t fallen yet.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Many conservatives, including me, believe that it would have been close to over for America as America if the Republican candidate, who happened to be a flawed man named Donald Trump, had not won. Moreover, I am certain that only Donald Trump would have defeated Hillary Clinton.

That’s far from certain. Clinton was a poor candidate and ran a poor campaign, and the Us had had eight years of a Democrat president, so a decent Republican candidate would have had a good chance of beating Clinton.

In other words, I believe that Donald Trump may have saved the country. And that, in my book, covers a lot of sins — foolish tweets, included.

That’s why some are willing to forgive or ignore Trump’s obvious flaws and possibly a lot of sins – as long as it’s not Clinton just about anything is excused.

Had any Never-Trump conservative been told, say in the summer of 2015, that a Republican would win the 2016 election and, within his first few months in office, appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court; begin the process of replacing Obamacare; bomb Russia’s ally, Assad, after he again used chemical weapons; appoint the most conservative cabinet in modern American history; begin undoing hysteria-based, economy-choking EPA regulations; label the Iranian regime “evil” in front of 50 Muslim heads of state; wear a yarmulke at the Western Wall; appoint a U.N. ambassador who regularly condemns the U.N. for its moral hypocrisy; restore the military budget; and work on lowering corporate tax rates, among other conservative achievements — that Never-Trump conservative would have been jumping for joy.

So, why aren’t anti-Trump conservatives jumping for joy?

Because Trump. He isn’t Clinton, but there are plenty of legitimate causes for real concern.

…these people are only human: After investing so much energy in opposing Trump’s election, and after predicting his nomination would lead to electoral disaster, it’s hard to for them to admit they were wrong.

To see him fulfill many of his conservative election promises, again in defiance of predictions, is a bitter pill.

It’s far too soon to judge whether those who feared a Trump presidency were justified in their concerns or not.

But if they hang on to their Never-Trumpism and the president falls on his face, they can say they were right all along.

That’s quaint but also pathetic. Many people with concerns about Trump don’t want the presidency and the US to turn to custard, that’s why they have genuine concerns.

That means that only if he fails can their reputations be redeemed. And they, of course, know that.

Prager started by saying “try to understand them and change their minds” but he’s about as far from understanding as he could get. He’s trying to shame them into ignoring crap and fears of crap because it’s less crappy than Clinton may have been.

They can join the fight. They can accept an imperfect reality and acknowledge that we are in a civil war, and that Trump, with all his flaws, is our general. If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.

I beg them: Please report for duty.

Talking up a civil war seems bizarre but it helps me understand how Trump supporters are so staunch and react badly to any criticism.

But while Prager has made his point badly he does make a valid point – perhaps more conservatives need to report for duty.

Trump himself still looks like an egotistic deluded loose cannon. The best way of minimising the risks and doing the best with what they have been lumbered with is for competent conservatives to let the president ponce on his pedestal and step in and do the hard work for him. Some, like Secretary of Defence James Mattis, are doing that.

But that won’t be easy.

Boris’s bid bumbled and burned

Boris Johnson’s bid to become Conservative leader and British Prime Minister has been badly bumbled and has now crashed and burned.

The Mirror has reported that Johnson has not put himself forward as a candidate.

Live: Boris Johnson has ‘ripped the Tory Party apart’ storms Lord Heseltine after he quits leadership race

It is just one extraordinary week since voters went to the polls in the EU referendum – and the twists keep on coming.

Five Tory MPs put themselves forward to be the leader ahead of the noon deadline – but Boris Johnson is NOT among them.

Lord Heseltine launched an astonishing attack on Boris for “leaving the battlefield”after his departure but others launched furious rants at Michael Gove, who stabbed his pal in the back to take his place on the ballot.

And Michael Gove has dumped on Johnson and is standing for the top job himself.

BBC: Michael Gove: Boris Johnson wasn’t up to the job

Michael Gove has said he chose to run for the Conservative Party leadership after deciding “reluctantly but firmly” that Boris Johnson was not capable of uniting the party or the country.

“It had to fall to someone else… I felt it had to fall to me,” he said.

The justice secretary was set to back his fellow Leave campaigner. Mr Johnson pulled out after Mr Gove’s switch.

In an interview with the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Gove, explaining his reasons for standing, said following last week’s Brexit result he felt the country needed a leader “who believed heart and soul in leaving the European Union”.

“I also believed we needed someone who would be able to build a team, lead and unite. I hoped that person would be Boris Johnson,” he said.

But he added: “I came in the last few days reluctantly and firmly to the conclusion that while Boris has great attributes he was not capable of uniting that team and leading the party and the country in the way that I would have hoped.”

Johnson was always going to be a contentious candidate.

The Mirror suggests that Johnson effectively brought his bid to an end with one self-inflicted sentence in his Daily Telegraph column:

British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down.

The Mirror says:

This single sentence may have killed Boris Johnson’s leadership bid.

The former London mayor angered Brexiters by performing what appeared to be a massive U-turn on Monday.

After weeks of hardline campaigning about migration in the EU referendum, he wrote [the above sentence].

He was forced to backtrack on it, with friends telling the Times it was written too quickly and he would make clear he wanted to crack down on free movement.

But by that point the damage may already have been done.

So Boris’s leadership ambitions are over. As Martin Kettle writes at The Guardian:

Boris Johnson would have been a disaster. Bring on Theresa May

Once again the Conservative party has proved why it has a PhD qualification in political ruthlessness, while at the same time the Labour party is struggling to even manage a GCSE retake. When most of us were cleaning our teeth this morning, Boris Johnson was still the bookies’ favourite to win the Tory leadership and succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

Yet by lunchtime Johnson was a political corpse with Michael Gove’s lethal stiletto between his substantial shoulder blades.

The Johnson bubble was always going to burst. Some of us said this long ago. The only question was whether it happened before or after his leadership bid. Luckily for the Tory party, they made it happen now.

Everything about the supposed public appetite for Johnson as leader of the nation was potentially damaging for Johnson himself, for the Tory party, for the country and for politics. He would have been a disaster.

Where does one start? With the flawed character himself, perhaps. All politicians have ego, but Johnson is a narcissist. He’s a lightweight, a first-degree self-publicist with a second-rate mind. He has a shabby back story, with the truth, with details, with responsibility and with women, any one of which could have ruined his prime ministership if he had been allowed to get that far, and may have had something to do with what happened to him on his way to work.

So Kettle isn’t a Johnson fan.

Regardless, Johnson is out of the contest to take over leadership of the Conservatives and the UK.

Liberal versus Conservative

Jamie posted this in comments, I thought it was worth it’s own post.

Liberal vs Conservative (from Louis CK’s “Horace and Pete”)

We could all learn something from this.

Trotter on Collins and Key

In his weekly Stuff/Press column Chris Trotter writes Judith Collins a sop to National’s base.

What is National’s ‘base’? I expect that with close to 50% support continuing their base is quite diverse and broad.

Trotter makes a number of unsubstantiated claims.

Was John Key’s decision to stand down his Justice Minister, Judith Collins, critical to his 2014 election victory? The National Party was hemorrhaging votes as a result of the extraordinary revelations contained in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. Collins featured prominently in the book, making her, in the eyes of many, a symbol of all that was wrong with the National-led Government.

The bleeding ended abruptly when, pending the outcome of an investigation into yet another spate of allegations, the Prime Minister decided to stand Collins down.

The polls leading in to the last election don’t reflect Trotter’s claim that National was ‘haemorrhaging votes’ after Dirty Politics was launched and recovered after Collins stood down.

As shown in Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014 closer to the opposite occurred, with if anything a lift in the polls after Dirty Politics (13 August) and a drop off after Collins stepped down into the election (30 August).

There were other significant things happening as well, like David Cunliffe’s campaign performance (note Labour’s poll slide), and probably more significant was the rise and fall of Kim Dotcom and Internet-Mana, including Dotcom’s ‘moment of truth in mid-September.

Does Trotter have access to some secret polls? Or is he making things up?

But, if the standing down of Judith Collins played an important part in securing Key his third term…

A big ‘IF’ about the importance of Collins in the election result.

…why bring her back into his Cabinet? In her new role as Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections, Collins is once again displaying all the headstrong and abrasive qualities that made her so unpopular during her first, controversial, stint in Key’s cabinet.

I think she was generally quite popular, except amongst Trotters far left, until Labour and Winston Peters decided to target her and try and bring her down.

I don’t see any obvious sign of major unpopularity now either, except at The Daily Blog and The Standard, and there’s few votes for National there.

What Trotter seems to struggle with, like many on the left (and right for that matter) is separating their own feelings from those of the general voting population.

Many political scientists would dismiss this question as naive. They would argue that Key brought Collins in from the cold in order to appease National’s “base”.

I expect that ‘many political scientists’ would think and argue a wide range of things and wouldn’t be confined to Trotter’s narrow band of thinking and assertions.

Collins has become the poster girl for a great many of the deeply conservative National Party voters living in rural and provincial New Zealand.

Has she? I don’t know how in touch Trotter is with the “many of the deeply conservative National Party voters living in rural and provincial New Zealand”. I doubt many of them frequent his favourite cafes and bars in Auckland.

Many of them also belong to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, a powerful lobby group committed to securing harsher penalties for criminal offending and a more Spartan regime for prison inmates.

How many Chris? Can you quantify this at all? Or are you guessing?

The accusation that Key has adopted a “Labour Lite” strategy for remaining in power strikes a very resonant chord with the party’s conservative base.

I see that at Kiwiblog and The Standard but I don’t think many of National’s ‘conservative base’ comment at either. I think those strongly anti-National are more likely to be Conservative or Mana Party supporters.

Indeed, it was almost certainly that back-bench intervention which persuaded Key to bring Collins back under the protective umbrella of collective cabinet responsibility.

Almost certainly that is a big guess too, and I doubt it’s accuracy.

Once Collins was cleared in the investigation into allegations made against her I think it was widely expected that Collins would be one of the first in line to be appointed to Cabinet in Key’s next reshuffle, and I think Key signalled this. It was not a surprise when she was reinstated.

National’s base doesn’t care. For rural and provincial conservatives, the tougher the prison regime, and the longer the prison sentence, the better they like it. There is deeply punitive streak running through these voters that is apparent not only in relation to crime and punishment, but also in their expectations of welfare and housing policy.

Sweeping generalisations like this looks like little more than another raft of baseless assertions.

Sure there will be some amongst National’s base, and amongst their rural and provincial supporters, who fit Trotter’s descriptions but I doubt he has any measure of how many. Half a dozen perpetually disgruntled Kiwiblog commenters does not a base make.

John Key, raised by a cosmopolitan Jewish mother in New Zealand’s second-largest city, and with years of residence in Singapore, London and New York, has little genuine affinity with National’s traditionalist base.

Key’s ongoing popularity suggests he has an affinity with quite a bit more than National’s traditionalist base – which is wider than rural and provincial, especially with extensive urbanisation over the past hundred years.

Judith Collins is his sour sop to the snarling Cerberus of social conservatism.

Collins is one of a diverse twenty or so Cabinet Ministers.

The sour and snarling seems to be from Trotter.