Armstrong rates Labour-NZ First Cabinet Ministers

John Armstrong has rated the first year performances of the Cabinet Ministers in the Labour-NZ First government (Greens are missed, presumably because their ministers are outside Cabinet).

Labour ministers:

  • JACINDA ARDERN, Prime Minister, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Child Poverty Reduction. Score: 9/10
    In short, Ardern is a class act. The public is entranced by her.
  • KELVIN DAVIS, Corrections, Maori Crown Relations, Tourism. Score: 2/10
    …has been a huge disappointment in Government.
  • GRANT ROBERTSON, Finance, Sport and Recreation. Score: 8/10
    As solid as the proverbial rock. Has done much to dispel Labour’s “spend, spend, spend” reputation
  • PHIL TWYFORD, Housing and Urban Development, Transport.  Score: 7/10
    And he may well get close enough to claim victory from the jaws of defeat.
  • MEGAN WOODS, Energy and Resources, Christchurch Regeneration, Research, Science and Innovation. Score: 6/10
    Smart and feisty, she is one to watch.
  • CHRIS HIPKINS, Education, State Services. Score: 6/10
    Walking a tightrope on teachers’ pay.
  • ANDREW LITTLE, Justice, Courts, Treaty Negotiations. Pike River Re-Entry.  Score: 8/10
    Little has flowered into being one of Labour’s ministerial stars.
  • CARMEL SEPULONI, Social Development, Disability Issues. Score: 5/10
    …it is taking a long time for anything to happen in her portfolio.
  • DAVID CLARK, Health. Score: 6.5/10
    …is not looking like ending up being a loser.
  • DAVID PARKER, Attorney General, Trade, Environment, Economic Development. Score: 7.5/10
    Labour’s wise owl. Not just smart, but street-smart to boot.
  • NANAIA MAHUTA, Māori Development, Local Government. Score: 5/10
    Pretty much invisible media-wise. But has quietly worked away…
  • STUART NASH, Police, Fisheries, Revenue. Score: 6/10
    Has hardly set the world alight. 
  • IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY, Workplace Relations, Immigration, ACC. Score: 5/10
    Prior to this week’s snafu over his decision to grant New Zealand residency to a Czech kick-boxer serving time for drug-smuggling, he had impressed as someone solid, careful and unflappable in portfolios…
  • JENNY SALESA, Building and Construction, Ethnic Communities. Score: 3/10
  • DAMIEN O’CONNOR, Agriculture, Biosecurity. Score: 7/10
    So far, his decisions seem to have been all the right ones.

NZ First ministers:

  • WINSTON PETERS, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister, State Owned Enterprises, Racing. Score: 8.5/10
    Deserving of huge plaudits for refocusing New Zealand’s foreign policy…Deserving of equivalent-sized brickbat for his obvious, but yet-to-be explained, reluctance to admonish Russia…
  • TRACEY MARTIN, Children, Internal Affairs, Seniors. Score: 6/10
    Martin stumbled badly in her handling of the inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha…Far more important as far as her party is concerned is that the flow of bad-news stories seeping out of Oranga Tamariki…
  • RON MARK, Defence. Score: 6/10
    At long last, New Zealand has a defence minister who actually wanted the portfolio.
  • SHANE JONES, Regional Economic Development, Infrastructure. Score: 8/10
    …a Comedy of Errors or All’s Well Which Ends Well. On his current form, you have to lean towards the latter.

More details:

Armstrong: Turei’s benefit fraud admission stinks

John Armstrong is scathing of Metiria Turei’s confession about benefit fraud, and also how she has handled it.

1 News: The timing of Metiria Turei’s benefit fraud admission stinks – as does her handling of it

Those standing alongside the Greens’ co-leader might like to ponder another possible motive for her coming clean about her past — one which has little to do with the debate surrounding benefit policy and social deprivation.

Turei has made little secret of her ambition to be in charge of the Social Development portfolio in a Labour-Greens coalition government.

Were she to become Social Development minister following September’s election and had she not disclosed her misleading of Work and Income, the Social Development ministry’s operational arm, the prime minister (whoever that might yet turn out to be) would have no choice but to sack her were those indiscretions to have become public.

Her honesty would be refreshing were the timing not just a few weeks out from an election. That stinks – as does the manner in which she has handled the matter.

It is difficult to reach a fair conclusion when it comes to casting moral judgment on her behaviour.

Harsh, but Armstrong has a point.

Even now it would be difficult for Turei to take on the Social Development portfolio if there is a possible investigation of her outstanding.

If she became minister would she condemn anyone else doing what she did, or would she signal that it is ok if the benefit recipient felt they needed it?

Turei has volunteered little information.

She has said she and her child lived in five different flats with various people while she completed her law degree. In three of those flats, she had extra flatmates who paid rent. She did not inform Work and Income for fear of her benefit being cut.

Her obvious reluctance to provide more detail is nothing short of a disgrace. It is also very telling.

In the absence of more detail — most crucially how much money she received to which she was not entitled — it is incumbent on her as an MP to put things right — at least as much as can be done so.

She should have fessed up a lot earlier, apologised and paid back her best estimate of how much she owed to Work and Income.

There was probably never going to be a good time to sort it all out but Turei’s timing now does raise a number of questions.

To be fair to her, what she did during her time on the domestic purposes benefit cannot be undone. Moreover, everyone has done things they later regret.

There is sympathy for her past plight and respect for her efforts in pulling herself out of it. That is why other MPs from other parties have been very careful not to be seen to be knocking her.

The absence of outcry from political quarters, however, assists her case that she was the victim of a harsh welfare regime.

Blaming the system for her cheating of the system enables her to absolve herself of all responsibility for her misleading the system.

It allows her to play the martyr. But she is doing so in a manner which cuts right across another responsibility — that as an MP she set the best example possible.

Saying that she will only pay the money back if Work and Income demands it hardly fulfils that obligation.

She has ignored the politics of gesture. That can reap big dividends. In refusing to make the right gesture, she has foregone an opportunity to redeem herself.

That shows extremely poor political judgement on her part. But it gets worse.

She endeavoured to turn her breach of the law into a launching pad for her party’s welfare policy. That is audacious. It is also the height of arrogance. It is also to enter very dangerous territory. It implies you are above the law. It says it is okay to break the law in order to try and change it.

It is hard to imagine how someone with Turei’s political experience could be employing an election strategy as flawed as the one she is running.

It is becoming even harder to understand why her colleagues are still giving her such free rein to keep doing so.

They aren’t into the old school politics that Armstrong worked with.

Again, this is harsh from Armstrong, but it doesn’t seem unfair to me.

On John Armstrong – insightful and spiteful

There’s been many tributes to John Armstrong on his retirement from regular column writing due to illness – here are many of them: Twitter tributes to John Armstrong

There’s been a number of blog posts as well. Here are two contrasting views on Armstrong – one from Lynn Prentice at The Standard and the other from Danyl McLauchlan at Dim Post.

retweeted Prentice’s post saying:

An honest piece by Lynn – insightful.

The post: John Armstrong – a person worth disagreeing with

In the pages of The Standard there is one journalist who has generated or been referenced in more posts than any other. Today John Armstrong published his swansong at the NZ Herald. He is losing his long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Like most things that John wrote, it is worth reading.

I come in this post not to praise him as a person, for I barely knew him outside of a few brief encounters at recent party conferences. I come to condemn him for being  the type of political journalist who made it hard for us to shove in a little box.

John Armstrong is an obnoxiously valuable analyst providing documentation of our local political world over the whole 8 years of this sites life. It made it hard to take the easy route, to pin a label on him and then forever to deal with him as we do with lightweight entertainers masquerading as opinion makers.

More than 500 posts out of our 17,000+ published posts have referenced John Armstrong. They were written by almost every author who has ever written at The Standard. No other journalist or opinion maker comes close.

The whole post is worth reading – it shows how it’s possible to be critical without being pissy-minded.

Prentice sums up:

But back to my reference post. Like other authors since, Steve had to revise his opinion. In fact, Steve just had to add this addendum to his post on the same day.

[Update: all that notwithstanding, Armstrong’s piece today critiquing the Treasury briefing to English is good

For me that sums up John Armstrong. You might disagree with his conclusions and his overall conservative viewpoint. But it was damn hard to disagree with him when he had one of those breath taking insights into the politics of this country – at all levels.

It is going to be missed in the coming years when he is no longer able to offer it.

In contrast McLauchlan sounds more spiteful than insightful because he sees Armstrong as a supporter of the incumbent government and of the political establishment. He has just posted Notes on John Armstrong’s final column, and in it says things like:

  • His columns generally defended powerful establishment figures and attacked and mocked their critics, and because he’s a fine writer and deftly articulated elite conventional wisdom this made him very respected in those same establishment circles. It’s not a form of journalism I admire. I think it’s the opposite of everything journalists should aspire to.
  • In his final column he articulates his belief that politics is a game and he enjoys seeing how it is played, which is a fair summary of his approach to the subject. Facts never had a place in his work. His view of politics is one in which substance is nothing and style is everything.
  • This indifference to truth and enthusiastic celebration of spin and distortion is also, I think, the opposite of everything political commentary is supposed to be about. Governments have enormous resources to spin and obfuscate. Under Key this is mainly what the government does. If the press gallery isn’t there to debunk all of the propaganda and spin then it has no purpose.
  • There’s no obvious replacement for Armstrong’s role in the political media ecosystem. Key prefers to communicate directly with voters through soft media outlets where his messaging is even less challenged than in Armstrong’s columns. This propaganda model is so effective his heirs will all do the same. Lying to a large number of voters more effectively is the kind of ‘playing the game’ that Armstrong has always celebrated, so I think he’d have to admire this change.

I suppose Prentice has been involved in establishment politics for many years, including providing assistance to Helen Clark.

McLauchlan seems more inclined to wanting a markedly different type of politics and journalism to what Armstrong has been a significant part of for the last thirty years.

He presumably prefers the Green way and anything that is different or praises anything different is seen as not just the wrong way, but a way to be despised. Therefore anyone who is a part of the wrong way should also be despised. Like John Armstrong.

It would be interesting to know what sort of  journalists McLauchlan might approve of.

Twitter tributes to John Armstrong

As posted in A tribute to John Armstrong’s last column it is Armstrong’s last day today doing his NZ Herald column – John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that.

Johns response to the tributes that follow:

Many thanks for the kind tweets and emails. All very encouraging at a difficult time. Very much appreciated.

Fellow journalists (and others) have been marking his farewell column on Twitter.

John Armstrong’s wonderful last Saturday column

a true legend of journalism and so inspiring he worked 16 yrs with Parkinson’s.

A class act pens farewell. No more “corridor caucuses” I guess? John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that.

John Armstrong: a hugely influential political journalist,a great writer and a bloody nice guy.

Thank you John. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you.

A true gentleman of the game. Got so much respect for John.

Walks softly but wields a bloody huge stick when it’s needed.

Wonderful read: John+Armstrong: A Farewell to all.

This… by @JArmstrongNZH on the morning of a leadership vote shows how brave and influential John Armstong could be.

John Armstrong’s @nzherald articles were always spellbinding in their insight. But he has saved the best till last. No words but WOW!

Must read of the day, @JArmstrongNZH on 30 years in the Gallery. As always thoughtful and smart as a box of PhDs.

In which John Armstrong signs off – my highly respected colleague, teacher and friend (and also very bad singer).

.@JArmstrongNZH leaves a huge gap in our political commentariat. He makes big calls but backs them with context and insight. One of a kind.

John+Armstrong: A Farewell to all… a great journo who makes sense of the madness – you will be missed.

What a huge contribution @JArmstrongNZH has made to politics and democracy in NZ. Thanks John. Go the tractor boys!

It’s such a shame to lose John Armstrong – a rare voice that helped make sense of the world.

Count myself incredibly lucky to have been in the gallery for even a fraction of John Armstrong’s time there.

The master bows out with grace, insight & wit.Will miss JA fix.

John Armstrong casts his verdict on best PMs, calls to change flag and offers an apology to @DavidCunliffeMP

Most important reading of all in @nzherald. NZ’s best political writer forced finally to call it a day.

Very sad to see John Armstrong stepping down. A giant of the Press Gallery and true gentleman.

Ill miss your insightful commentary @JArmstrongNZH and your wicked sense of humour!!

John Armstrong – a person worth disagreeing with…

Farewell @JArmstrongNZH but hopefully not goodbye – one of the best

John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that via @nzherald The political writer I’ve most admired bows out

Gallery legend John Armstrong signs off. All the best @JArmstrongNZH

Poignant, generous and wise – @JArmstrongNZH‘s last Herald column. Go well, John. I’ll miss you very much.

The Herald’s @JArmstrongNZH bows out with a column as well written as virtually everything he’s ever written.

An incredible read from @JArmstrongNZH I only wish I got to work with you for longer, John. Go well.

Armstrong’s Herald column this morn the best sumup of last 30 years in NZ pols I have ever read. Politics is the loser with his departure.

Please read this last column from one of the best journos of our time.

godspeed the mighty

John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that Darn good column, enjoyed its purpose, reflecting back&forward Kia kaha John.

Best of luck @JArmstrongNZH Whether insightful, exasperating or frequently both, your column was always a must read!

A great privilege to work in the Press Gallery with @JArmstrongNZH. John sets the benchmark with his writing and commentary. Cheers John.

Many thanks for the kind tweets and emails. All very encouraging at a difficult time. Very much appreciated.

Godfather of the Press Gallery signs off today. Go well @JArmstrongNZH . Thanks for your quiet encouragement & the occasional telling off.

Good luck John, you’re a bloody good man and a brilliant political journalist. I will always look up to you.

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Vale John Armstrong…

Thank you Herald’s @JArmstrongNZH for a decade of important and influential insights. Applause & Arohanui

John Armstrong signs off his farewell @nzherald column perfectly. Well-judged, open-minded and astute. Like the man.

The panel on The Nation discuss, amongst other things, John’s final column. And John of course.

Another link to John’s final regular column: John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that

More will be added as I see them.

A tribute to John Armstrong’s last column

John Armstrong’s last column is presumably in the Herald today, and online John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that.

No journalist is always at their best but I have usually read John’s columns, insights and political reporting with interest.

Image result for john armstrong

Best columnist 2013

His last column is headed with an explanation:

John Armstrong has worked in Parliament’s press gallery for nearly three decades. For a good chunk of that time he led the Herald’s coverage of politics. Ill health has forced him to quit the job he loves. In this final assignment – which he set himself – one of New Zealand’s most astute political observers reflects on the politicians he’s encountered.

Then John writes his last political commentary.

Here is a message to the anonymous Herald reader who was so angry with a column I had written that he offered to drive me to the airport on condition I left the country.

Save yourself the bother, mate. I’m out of here. I’m on my bike (or at least, would be if I could get on a bike).

For the past 16 of the nearly 30 years I have been in Parliament’s press gallery, I have been locked in what is inevitably a losing battle with the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.

There will only be one winner. And it won’t be me who stands on the victory dais. Things have reached the sorry stage that this has to be the last regular political column I will be writing for the Weekend Herald.

He then recalls some of his most memorable political events and people. It’s a longer than normal column and is very interesting.

He then gets to our current Prime Minister and our last Prime Minister.

That leaves Helen Clark and John Key. They are head and shoulders above the rest.

Both had the array of attributes that are needed in a prime minister. Like a great all-rounder in cricket, the role demands one to be as lethal with the ball as the bat. Key may just outscore Clark as a consensus builder, but she had more intestinal fortitude when it came to pushing unpopular causes. But we’re talking at the margins here. You can argue which is the best until the cows have not only come home but are back in the far paddock again.

Both were faced with the most difficult decision a prime minister has to make — whether to send military personnel into a war zone. Clark did so in Afghanistan. Key has done so in Iraq. Neither ducked for cover.

So why quibble. The trophy for best prime minister is shared. History, anyway, may judge them by the massive contributions of their respective finance ministers, Michael Cullen and Bill English. Two formidable partnerships, for sure.

Not everyone at Kiwiblog and The Standard will agree with John’s non-partisan accolades for both Clark and Key but I think he has made a fair judgement here.

He thinks out democracy is stronger now:

There is another question that deserves attention. To twist an old Robert Muldoon quip, is New Zealand’s democratic fabric stronger now than when I first arrived at Parliament? Arguably, yes. MMP has made Parliament not only more representative of New Zealand society but also less tolerant of ministerial mistakes and mischief. Ministerial resignations are much more common.

It’s far from a perfect democracy, but as the saying goes it’s better than all the alternatives.

What is worrying is the decline in voter turnout, especially among the young.

The best way of improving our democracy is to improve engagement of the people, so this is a worry. But for those who do want to engage in politics in New Zealand in some way it has never been easier.

John waves for a new flag.

A parting shot. It was never my role to express personal opinion. But speaking as someone of English nationality, for heaven’s sake, let’s change the flag. While New Zealand is a young country, it now has a much greater self-confidence.

It is time to express that confidence and the nation’s separate identity by coming out from under the shadow of what is now an irrelevant foreign ensign otherwise known as the Union Jack.

But seeing how contentious some have tried to make a relatively simple flag change process his last shot does seem to have justified despair.

And while we are about it, it is long past time New Zealand became a republic. Unfortunately, I’m whistling in the wind on that one.

And he ends with his future:

As for me, there may be a lot more tweeting and even, God forbid, a blog, and maybe even the occasional contribution to the Herald. Otherwise it’s time for fresh voices from a new generation to issue the verdicts on our politicians.

Thanks John. Your columns have long been printed in the Otago Daily Times as well as the Herald so I have read a lot of your work. Your balance and insight have been laudable.

You have helped interest me in politics. And despite what the bitter and twisted at The Standard and The Daily Blog have said about you because you didn’t emulate Pravda I’ve enjoyed and benefited from what you have shared with New Zealand.


Armstrong: “That must surely be to his political cost”

John Armstrong sums things up fairly well in PM’s behaviour ‘fun and games’ – pull the other one.

In the Court of King John, someone needs to tell the Prime Minister when he is behaving like a jerk.

Someone in John Key’s inner circle needs to take the traditional jester’s role of being the fool who can tell the sovereign he is a fool when everyone else is too obsequious, too obliging or too deferential to do so.

It would also be a good idea to suggest to the Prime Minister that he gets his pigtail fetish under control.

No one prepared to tell him to pull his head in (or pull his hand in) when it’s obviously advisable.

It goes without saying that Key’s repeated pulling of the hair of a waitress at an Auckland cafe he frequents was utterly inappropriate.

His claim that the “horsing around” was all meant to be light-hearted and part of the “fun and games” at the cafe does not wash. That is an excuse for something for which there is no excuse.

Despite the efforts of some here there is no excuse.

At the end of the day, any contact that a Prime Minister has with anyone involves a power relationship where the power is all or almost all weighted on one side.

That is just the nature of Key’s job. But many people find that intimidating and would feel powerless to act if they were likewise so harassed, as the waitress felt she was.

Key’s inappropriate behaviour put the waitress in a very uncomfortable and difficult situation.

Has she over-reacted? That doesn’t matter. Key overstepped boundaries repeatedly. He brought the repercussions on himself.

One reason why Key is so popular is that he has sought to cut through the barrier between Prime Minister and public by being approachable, never talking down to people no matter their status, and never letting his high approval ratings go to his head.

That is why people reading the waitress’ account of the hair-pulling will wince. They will find the whole episode odd, cringe-making and seemingly very much out of character for Key. His sending the waitress a couple of bottles of pinot noir from the Otago vineyard he part owns as an apology will be seen as equally crass.

From what I’ve seen there’s been a lot of genuine wincing.

Giving her wine may have seemed like a good way to express regret at what he did but what did he expect – that she get drunk and forget about what had happened?

While his behaviour is also a function of the kind of self-delusional belief in one’s invincibility that infects all politicians the longer they are in power, Key basically crossed a line between informality and over-familiarity.

His punishment is to be left squirming and stewing under a huge pile of embarrassment, including copious quantities generated by international media coverage.

Despite diversions and denials from many on the right – see Kiwiblog full of excuses and blame diversion – this is embarrassing for Key and the country.

the worry for Key and National is that this unseemly episode is of such magnitude and as something that forces people to take a position could severely jolt positive perceptions of Key, especially among female voters who flocked to National after he became leader.

David Cunliffe got into trouble for apologising for being a man. The Prime Minister has been forced to apologise for failing to be the man most people thought he was. That must surely be to his political cost.

There will be a political cost.

Picking your fights versus a ‘gotcha’ frenzy

There was a brief media frenzy over what John Key knew and when he knew about the Sabin police investigation. It was legitimate raising eyebrows over some aspects of Key’s handling of it.

Labour leader Andrew Little had a quick kick when he was pushed into saying he thought Key had lied. Then he wisely backed off. It wasn’t a fight worth getting involved in, yet at least.

In his weekend column John Armstrong says Frenzy over Key’s knowledge of Sabin affair pathetic. He has a point.

Put to one side reform of the Resource Management Act. Ignore the Reserve Bank’s warning that the Auckland housing “bubble” is about to burst. Stop trying to picture the Greens without Russel Norman. Don’t fret about the safety of our soldiers when they eventually head for Iraq.

It truly beggars belief, but when it comes to assessing what is currently the most pressing issue or matter dominating New Zealand politics right now, a visitor from Mars, observing the copious amount of coverage of the subject, would have to pick the frenzy which has the media and some Opposition politicians pointing the finger at John Key and demanding he reveal exactly when he was first told of the “personal issues” which prompted one of his lesser-known MPs to suddenly resign from Parliament a week or so ago.

With discussion of the actual story being apparently suppressed by the courts Key’s opponents set about thrashing trivial aspects.

They tried the well worn and rarely successful approach – little political damage could be inflicted through the main story so they tried to nail key on trivial points, especially on his handling of the story.

It became the classic attempt at ‘gotcha’ politics.

There is one word that adequately describes this latest instalment in Key’s enemies’ long-running fixation with typecasting the Prime Minister as being nothing more than money merchant turned political huckster who, at times, enjoys a strange and somewhat strained relationship with the truth.

That word is pathetic.

There’s certainly a degree of patheticness alongside ongoing desperation to demolish Key.

Cue Labour’s revival of the old game of “what did the Prime Minister really know and when did he know it?”

The same old approach that has failed far more than it has succeeded. And the accumulation of failures contributed to the big failure in last year’s election.

Sure, there have been times when Key’s behaviour has resulted in him falling well short of being Saint John.

He has fumbled and bumbled on the Sabin issue but that was never going to be career ending.

Key, however, is not the only one who could usefully take a lesson from Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics. It is a lesson that Labour and other Opposition parties seem reluctant to take on board: pick your fights with Key very, very carefully.

Given the centre-left was well and truly thrashed by John Key-led National in last September’s election – not to mention the two previous ones – you would have thought it would have dawned on those occupying that part of the political spectrum that devoting time and energy to catching the Prime Minister out has not been very productive. If anything, it seems to be counter-productive, reinforcing Key’s standing, rather than undermining it.

The common sense involved in picking one’s fights with care is lacking further to the left. It sounds like The Standard will be thrashing this again with yet another post today.

That Key gets away with things that trip up other (and lesser) politicians is a source of immense frustration for the centre-left.

It is one reason why Key is not just disliked by Labour activists. He is detested. Finding the means of destroying his seemingly hypnotic hold on Middle New Zealand has become an obsession for Labour.

And more of an obsession with the further to the left activists who are so desperate to strike a mortal political blow they fail to see the futiluity in fights that don’t really matter beyond a short news cycle.

As it is, the Labour leader called Key a liar – a sign that he thinks he must confront him on the strongest possible terms.

Key expressed disappointment that Little was going down the same path as other Labour leaders in choosing to resort to personal denigration.

Key’s “disappointment” was actually delight. In calling Key a liar, Little had effectively vacated the moral high ground.

Little realised he had gone too far and refused to repeat the accusation when questioned subsequently.

Little has shown a number of thimes he has the perceptiveness to realise when he pushes things too far, and he has an ability to learn from these over-eggings.

The paucity of information has wiser heads withholding judgment on Key’s handling of the matter.

More information may emerge that damns Key sufficiently to strike a damaging blow or two.

But rehashing bugger all is self defeating. If much ado keeps being made about very little when something worth holding Key to account over comes along there’s a risk of it being lost in the ongoing noise.

In fact Key is adept at capitalising on these ground hog day attacks. When something more embarrassing comes up he just shrugs it off as ‘same old’.

Key’s opponents have instead seized what might have seemed an opportunity to castigate him which was, in fact, never there.

They have allowed themselves to be dragged into a dead-end street by the seductive siren calls of the media whose threshold for news is still set at a silly-season low and whose appetite for politics is determined more and more by its capacity to be a blood sport.

Expect the left to continue trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.

Occasional fights well fought are far more effective than numerous skanky skirmishes.

‘Gotcha’ frenzies usually end up doing little more than frustrating the frantics.

Labour’s double edged social media

Social media plays a significant part in politics now, but  as John Armstrong says in Labour’s brutal week reveals Achilles heel, it can be a double edged sword.

With the left of the party running its own agenda which puts purity ahead of pragmatism, Labour’s appeal is shrinking. Those voters whom Labour needs to capture will see Jones’ exit as a further narrowing of Labour’s appeal.

Those voters will also view the disdain shown towards Jones and accompanying calls for the purging from Parliament of such Labour stalwarts as Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard as pretty solid evidence that Labour’s disunity is such that it is not yet fit to govern.

Much of the arguing of the past few days has taken place in social media and the blogosphere. Too late Labour has discovered these tools can be double-edged swords. They are fine when it comes to disseminating a message. But not so fine when the protagonists in a digitally-sourced debate start hanging out their party’s dirty washing simply to score points against a competing faction.

I’ve posted a comment on this at The Standard – the normal response there would be to diss the messengers and deny.

Hopefully they will also digest. Social media can help Labour but only if it dispels the image of disarray and damaging dissmania.

Another indication of the pros and cons of social media is a post at The Standard celebrating a very creditable 14,000 posts. I’ll voice my congratulations here, if I say anything there it’s likely to attract detracting reactions.

lprent comments:

I tend to view a site like this as largely to make people aware of how others of similar viewpoints are thinking. It means that the surprises are limited and people can make decisions based on how they know others will react.

Then they act on their similarities rather than their differences and despite their known differences. The effect is a more concerted action rather than dissipating effort in pointless dissension. They know that they will be listened to (and disagreed with) rather than simply ignored.

If that’s their aim then it’s up to them, but it probably explains why non-similar viewpoints are often unwelcome there, and reactions are often very negative if ‘similar viewpoints’ are challenged or criticised.

But if they want an effective ‘concerted effort’ they need to be able to deal with dissent that any political forum invites, and in particular they have to be aware that negativeness and nastiness can impact more on potential allies (and voters) than on opponents.

Miravox commented:

Thanks also to the well-reasoned, and sometimes very funny, commenters who provide great examples about how to discuss a political point in the real world.

There’s quite a lot of that, but it often gets clouded amongst the negative noise.

I guess I should also say I appreciate some of the heated debate as well – good for confirming, or not, certain views and being aware of the other sides of an argument.

This is a very good comment. Healthy politics needs healthy and robust debate. Some of the more vocal opponents of differing views at The Standard could do well to take this on board – for the good of their own impressions as well as the greater good of presenting a positive and effective edge to their political sword.

Voters (and especially non-voters tend to be repelled by the negative and nasty approach.

Poll pall for Labour after Jones exit

Labour have had a bad week, and it could get worse unless they make major improvements.

John Armstrong at NZH has bad news in Labour’s brutal week reveals Achilles heel:

Senior Labour figures are bracing themselves for an expected hit in the opinion polls, but are confident it will be shortlived.

Before this week’s disasters, Labour’s own pollsters were said to have been registering the party’s vote at around 30 per cent. That is very close to the 29.5 per cent recorded in the most recent Herald-DigiPoll survey.

However, usually reliable sources say National’s private polling over the past week points to the real scale of Labour’s horror story with support crumbling to a mindblowing low of just 23 per cent.

Even thirty is not flash, and not enough. If Labour take a hit in the next poll or two – and Roy Morgan will have been polling right through this week – it could be shortlived, but that will take a lot of work and a significant improvement from Cunliffe, his PR team and the Labour caucus.

Shane Jones will be out of the picture by the election. An inability to manage things well will be the big picture unless it is rectified.

Labour from top to bottom need to stop denying their faults, they need to stop lashing out and blaming others. They need to own the problem and address it positively. It will take time, effort and a bit of luck, but somehow they have to stem the haemorrhaging.

Internet Party faces questions on extradition

The Internet Party and it’s motives (or more particularly Kim Dotcom’s motives) regarding Dotcom’s pending extradition are being raised, and are likely to keep being raised.

Judith Collins explained the extradition process.

Once the court has determined an individual is eligible for surrender, the matter is referred to me, as Minister of Justice, for the final decision on the surrender. As Minister I decide whether to issue a surrender order, taking into account humanitarian considerations and other factors contained in the Extradition Act.

If this decision is not made until after the election in September and if National doesn’t form the next government then there is likely to be a Labour Minister of Justice who decides whether to issue a surrender order.

This issue is already being raised. John Armstrong in Step right up for the Dotcom political joke:

Even more dangerous in political terms is the suspicion — quickly fuelled by National — that Dotcom’s purpose in setting up the Internet Party is solely to make it a bottom-line of any post-election talks that whoever is Minister of Justice quash any court ruling which would force his extradition.

Fran O’Sullivan in Dotcom puts Harawira’s principles on the line:

Dotcom is clearly gambling that a successful foray into national politics could result in a post-election outcome to stop his extradition to the United States to face charges of money laundering, racketeering and copyright piracy.

Chris Trotter in The Orchestration Of Hate: Why are the elites so afraid of Kim Dotcom?

Let us not forget that the reason New Zealanders know so much about Dotcom is because he is the target of a major investigation by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Few other organisations on the planet possess the investigative capabilities of the FBI and even fewer are as sensitive when it comes to institutional failure and humiliation. But, failure and humiliation are precisely what lies in store for the FBI should Dotcom succeed in delaying the extradition procedures initiated against him by the US Attorney-General long enough to allow an electorally successful Internet Party to negotiate favourable political interventions on his behalf.

While Labour might have some sympathies towards some aspects of Dotcom’s case it would be extraordinary if they negotiated politically to direct a Minister of Justice what to do in a specific case. It would be an extremely bad look for a new government domestically, and it wouldn’t be good for NZ-US relations.

The Internet Party needs to make it clear what their position is on Dotcom’s extradition.

UPDATE: Kim Dotcom has just been on The Nation in a recorded interview saying that he’s disappointed that his extradition case has been linked to the party. He stated that if the court determines he is eligible for surrender to the US the Minister of Justice should not overrule that ruling.