Green MPs “a really busy and positive year”

The Green Party have good reasons to be fairly happy with their year.

James Shaw has settled in as co-leader after Russel Norman’s exit in 2015, they secured a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, there’s been no major embarrassments or stuff ups, John Key stepped down, they gained a second new mid-term MP (Barry Coates), and two more MPs indicated they would step down next year making room for more fresh faces (if they at least maintain current levels of support).

The loss of one of their most respected MPs, Kevin Hague is a negative but not a major considering how everything else has gone for them.

Metiria Turei reflects on 2016 and looks ahead in Well, THAT happened: reflecting on 2016 and beyond:

2016 for our MPs

Green MPs have actually had a really busy and positive year working on the nation’s most pressing issues: poverty and inequality, housing, climate action, inclusive education, safe drinking water and clean rivers to name a few. We’ve been talking with people up and down the country, promoting legislation, setting out the solutions, and, where possible, working with other parties in Parliament to achieve progress.

They have done as much as could be expected from Opposition, and have been visibly more active on policies and issues than NZ First and probably Labour most of the time. The are far more organised and persistent in social media.

2016 for us and Labour

In May, the Green Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour. It’s the first time political parties have reached such an agreement before an election, and means we get to have a conversation with New Zealanders about why we are working to change the government.

We worked constructively with Labour on the Homelessness Inquiry and early in 2017 you’ll see us working together on a range of other issues.

The Greens got what they wanted with the MoU and are happy with it, but it’s yet to be seen whether it will help their cause. They are very reliant on Labour to get into Government and are keen to do what they can to make that happen – but they also want to increase their share of the party vote relative to Labour to give them more leverage.

2016 for me

For me, this year has been one of consolidating my work on housing and inequality because I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that families have the resources they need to nurture their babies.

We need mothers educated, healthy, and secure so that they can shape the future of our nation. It will be women that determine the fate of our country next year, make no mistake.

I don’t know how that will work, there are about as many male voters as there are female.

So, I’ll be spending the summer resting and getting ready for a busy 2017. I want to spend time doing craft, reading, walking my dogs and connecting with my whānau so that next year I can run hard with the Greens to change the government.

‘Change the government’ has been repeated a lot by the Greens and Labour already, trying to get voters thinking about it being time for a change.

Turei is well supported and respected amongst her own. It’s yet to be seen whether she can appeal to a wider constituency so that Greens grow their vote (they failed to do that last election) and so that Andrew Little and Turei (plus James Shaw) look like a viable alternative to run the country.

If Little continues to try to appeal more to the left than the centre Greens and Labour may end up competing for the same votes – unless they can find the formula for inspiring current non-voters to back them, a strategy that failed last campaign.

But with Bill English taking over from Key next year’s election is wide open.

Greens thought they had their best shot in 2014 and that didn’t work out for them. They get to have another go – and it may be Turei’s last shot at making it into government.

Turei: “a very radical economic and social agenda”

In an end of year interview with Stuff  Green co-leader Metiria Turei claims that National have “a very radical economic and social agenda” that will become more obvious now “they don’t have the friendly face of John Key to soften its blow.”

The most common criticisms of the National dominated Government led by John key and under Bill English’s economic management has been that they haven’t done enough, that they have been a do nothing ‘steady as she goes’ Government.

I think that more people will see Turei as the one with a very radical economic and social agenda.

That’s why National have been getting in the high forties in the last three elections (44.93%, 47.31%, 47.04%) and Greens seem to have plateaued (6.72%, 11.06%, 10.70%).

I think there is a fairly strong voter resistance to a government strongly influenced by the Greens even under Russel Norman’s attempts to present a moderate, fiscally responsible party. Turei has always been seen as a radical.

Stuff: There’s a new political landscape now, and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is here to play

Solving child poverty is so obvious…if only leaders didn’t cheapen the seats of power and the media calmed down a bit.

We should all calm down, let Turei wave a Green wand and all our social and environmental problems will be fixed without any adverse impact on the economy. Heaps of money redistributed to the poor and no oil for the rich.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has some choice words about the political year past.

It delivered some shock results, one shock resignation and a “disgraceful” lack of progress on social issues like poverty and housing, she says.

There has certainly been challenges for the Government on housing, but they have been criticised for not doing enough, not for being radical.

There has also been growing pressure – by political design and aided by media – on inequality and child poverty, and again National have been criticised for not being radical enough.

“John Key never had a commitment to public service. For him, it was never about the best public welfare. I think he saw it as a challenge for him personally and I think he enjoyed quite a bit of the job, at least until these last couple of years.

“He certainly made the role of Prime Minister a much more superficial one than it’s ever been before.”

The public/media side of Government and Prime Minister has always been superficial. Key has generally done well with that, but that doesn’t mean more in depth things haven’t been done with less publicity.

However, Turei offers some praise for Key’s decision to leave when he did.

“I’ve always thought politicians should go at the top of our game…rather than getting kicked out and carried out, walking out on your own two feet is a much better thing to do.

“It was wise the way [Key] did it for himself. What he hasn’t done is leave a genuine legacy for the country.”

It’s too soon to judge Key’s legacy. But Key has succeeded where Turei has failed – they both became MPs in 2002, Key by ousting a sitting MP and winning an electorate, Turei as a list MP.

Key spent 6 years in opposition, then the last eight years leading the Government.

Turei has been 14 years in opposition. The Greens have increased their vote since she has been co-leader but seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

She may still get to experience the realities of being in government, and discover that rapid radical economic and social changes are not as easy to implement as she seems to think. And not without adverse effects.

Next year’s election could be make or break for Turei’s legacy.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting election, because changing the Government is so possible this time around,” she says.

It’s certainly possible – but it was also possible in 2014 and the Greens were very confident of growing their support significantly so they would have a big say in government, only to be disappointed – so much so that Russel Norman decided to opt out.

But if Turei talks too much about others being very radical on economic and social issues she risks drawing attention to herself and her own ideals, and they are far from conservative.

“A very radical economic and social agenda” probably describes Turei more than any other MP, and certainly more than any other party leader.

Most voters probably see Turei as a Mad Hatter compared to TweedleDumLabour and TweedleDeeNational.

Political awards

I’m not going to dish out political award – like that vast majority of New Zealanders I have no idea how our MP’s actually work beneath the vanity veneer of PR and the fog of media wars.

Journalists have been somewhat distracted this month with actual political news to deal with but some have managed to review the year.

Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small: Didn’t see that coming: A year of political bombshells

It was the year no-one saw coming. A year when everything we thought we knew about politics was tipped on its head. Brexit. Donald Trump.

No one sees what’s coming, but Brexit and Trump certainly went against most predictions.

Brexit means major changes for the UK and for Europe.

Trump looks like meaning major changes for the US and potentially for the world.

John Key quitting. So much for a quiet year between elections.  There wasn’t a Beehive staffer or Press Gallery journo who wasn’t wilting in the final week before Christmas.

While Key’s resignation excited the local pundits in what is usually a wind down period it is not anywhere near being in the same league.

So far the only changes are a few tweaks to Government under a Prime Minister who was already a major influence, and a few tweaks to ministerial responsibilities that most people won’t notice.

It perhaps opens up next year’s election a bit, but despite Labour’s glee it may not end up making much difference in what was already regarded as an uncertain election. Everyone is still predicting Winston will be ‘king maker’ – and even that’s no change from the last couple of elections.

Watkins and Small name Key as Politician of the Year – for resigning?

Apart from that it was a fairly uneventful and unremarkable year for Key. Most notable was his lack of success in changing the flag and despite getting the TPP over the line it now looks to be dead in the US  water. I wouldn’t say that Key had an award winning year.

They dish out a number of corny awards, but there is one that looks to be a deserved mention:

Backbencher of the year. National MP Mark Mitchell. He chaired the Foreign Affairs and Trade select committee through the divisive Trans Pacific Partnership legislation and helped turned hearings from being fractious to respectful, and even good-natured. On top of that he seems to have earned a reputation as an all-round nice guy, even from his political opponents, and got his reward with a ministerial promotion.

Most of the public probably haven’t heard of Mark Mitchell let alone are aware of his quiet achievements in Parliament.

There are 121 MPs in Parliament most of whom (if not all) are working hard and doing their best. Voters get to see little of this – all we usually see is a few attention seekers granted coverage by media who tend to accentuate the absurd and exaggerate a few issues and events.

If I was to do any award it would be not singling out a single person, it would be for the quiet achievers in Parliament who make a difference without being noticed by most of the people most of the time.

These MPs are the unsung backbone of our democracy.

Dotcom claims leaked data for election

On Twitter Kim Dotcom has been hinting at disruption and another attempted hit job on next year’s election in New Zealand, and claims there is a mass of emails waiting to be leaked that were the reason for John Key’s resignation, and will be seriously damaging for the National Government.

National looks in a very strong position, especially compared to the alternatives.

Is he claiming to have been responsible for all of those?

Really? That was an overplayed embarrassing fizzer for Dotcom and is likely to have contributed to the poor election result for the Internet Party.

I think he is overrating his influence a bit there.

Yesterday the Spin Bin posted Bombshell Kim Dotcom Exclusive: 2TB of Leaked Govt Data Will Stun New Zealand In 2017 which included:

You have tweeted that an expected release of government information will take down the National Party in the next general election in 2017. What types of material can we expect to see?

Kim Dotcom: Why do you think John Key resigned? This wasn’t about his family. It’s more likely about the next election and 2 terabytes of emails and attachments that were taken from New Zealand government servers. I heard from a reliable source that the Podesta emails seem like cotton candy compared to the amount of disgusting dishonesty the National government will see leaked at the next election.

Why would ‘a reliable source’ tell Dotcom about this (if it is true)?

Key must know. He’s taken the parachute. He can’t stomach the kind of embarrassment that Clinton had to endure with daily releases of dirty emails. And this time even his media cronies couldn’t have saved him. The Internet and alternative media of reputable truth-telling websites are taking over. Leaks are the new political reality. Over time this will be the cure against dishonest politicians. They just can’t survive in this new environment of information.

So hackers and political activists will decide elections, including next year’s New Zealand election?

Despite the drip feeding of emails by WikiLeaks into the US election it was still a close win for trump, and that was probably swung by James Comey’s intervention.

Many people believe that Donald Trump may be of the same ilk as Hillary Clinton. Would a Labour-led coalition government in New Zealand really be a material difference to your case or any significant improvement for the wider public in general?

Current polls suggest that Labour is nowhere near credible as an alternative government. Dotcom/Wikileaks/whoever would have to seriously discredit National and Winston Peters to ensure a Labour+Greens win.

And there would be a good chance of it backfiring, as happened last election where despite Nicky Hager’s book and Dotcom’s ‘Moment of Truth’ the Internet Party flopped and Labour dropped to a record low.

Kim Dotcom: Donald Trump and Brexit are the punishment the elites deserve. Will the Donald drain the swamp? We will have to wait and see. The swamp is exactly what led to the unlawful destruction of my business and the military-style raid and illegal spying against my family.

A Labour government in New Zealand would have no incentive to drag out the monstrosities committed by John Key and his Attorney General Chris Finlayson against my family.

If so what good would it do helping Labour into power? Dotcom just wants to disrupt everything?

The Attorney General is using every tool of power at his disposal to prevent the unavoidable legal victory that is coming my way. He will fail and he might end up in jail himself.

I won’t stop until the truth about the real Mega conspiracy is fully unearthed. And I expect a Labour government will want an independent inquiry into my case which will see the National Party in disarray and embarrassment for years to come.

That’s contradicting his “no incentive” claim – unless he intends giving Labour an incentive via some generous donations?

This will be a brutal and costly experience for New Zealand but it will also be necessary so that something like this can’t happen again.

Something like Dotcom’s legal and extradition problems?

It appears as if he is prepared to ‘disrupt more than ever’, be brutal and inflict a ‘costly experience’ on New Zealand for his own purposes. I’m not sure how voters would view that but I doubt they will play his game for him.

Dotcom lost credibility last election and failed. On election night he admitted his brand was a significant problem with voters. I don’t think that has changed – all that has changed are his tactics.

I don’t know how he will engineer an electoral swing as big as his ego.

Cabinet to be announced Sunday

Bill English has said he will announce his Cabinet on Sunday. The last sitting day in Parliament is tomorrow so new and rearranged Ministers will have a quiet time to settle in.

Sam Lotu-Iiga has announced he will stand down from Cabinet and will quit at the next election. So far that’s two current ministers out (John Key is the other) so there’s some room for English to manoeuvre already.

 

PM changes “do not bode well”

Today’s Herald editorial says that history shows that leadership changes while in Government do not bode well for Bill English and National – but the current situation is quite different to past failures.

Leadership changes do not bode well

The National Government today takes the greatest risk of its tenure – a leadership change. This has happened many times in our political history and not with happy results.

They list:

  • Holyoake lost an election after taking over from an ailing Sydney Holland in mid-term.
  • National was defeated after Sir Keith Holyoake finally handed over to Sir John Marshall (Holyoake was effectively forced out).
  • The Kirk-Rowling Government did not survive the change forced upon it by Norman Kirk’s death.
  • David Lange stood down for Sir Geoffrey Palmer in 1989 and he gave way to Mike Moore the following year (Palmer was rolled), six weeks before the election which it lost.
  • The National Government replaced Prime Minister Jim Bolger with Dame Jenny Shipley (Bolger was rolled by Shipley) and was defeated at the next election.

If Bill English is contemplating this history as he prepares to be sworn-in this afternoon, he may take some comfort from the fact that none of New Zealand’s previous Prime Ministers left office in the same circumstances as John Key.

All quite different circumstances.

The Key Government was most certainly not heading for defeat when its Prime Minister announced his retirement a week ago.

That’s very debatable. It looked unlikely that National would get in again without at least getting NZ First support and that’s far from a given. And polls have at times had Labour+Greens competitive with National.

Key is handing his successor a party still polling high in a third term of office, a growing economy with low unemployment and rising budget surpluses that offer possibilities for additional investment in productivity and infrastructure at the same time as more rapid debt reduction and income tax cuts for the lower paid.

English has been well set up to win the election due later next year, which gives him plenty of time to establish his leadership too.

Not really. English has been given a fairly good opportunity, but a lot depends on how he manages the transition to leader, how the voting public views him in charge and the changes he makes to Cabinet, and many possible outside influences.

There is no direct comparison in history of a handover of leadership that we are just seeing – nor of how weak Labour currently is, requiring at least the Greens or NZ First to get back into power with  a reduced proportion of the majority.

A lot can happen between now and whenever we have the next election (anywhere between March and November next year).

 

New Prime Minister and deputy today

A lot going on in Parliament in what would normally have been a wind down week, with John Key officially resigning this morning, followed by Bill English being sworn in as the new Prime Minister, with Paula Bennett as his deputy.

NZ Herald: Reshuffles for National and Labour ensure political frenzy right up to Christmas break

This week was meant to be a quiet end to the Parliament year but instead a new Prime Minister will be sworn in and reshuffles will take place in both Labour and National before MPs slink off for the summer break.

Bill English will be sworn in by the Governor-General as Prime Minister today with Paula Bennett as his deputy after a special National caucus meeting yesterday morning to anoint the pair as National Party leader and deputy.

The pair met at Parliament yesterday for initial talks while John Key was also at Parliament with wife Bronagh to pack up the rest of his office

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English has already said Steven Joyce will be his finance spokesman and is expected to announce his full new Cabinet before Christmas. English, Bennett and Joyce all declined interviews yesterday.

So that could take a few days still.

Andrew Little has also indicated he will reshuffle his shadow cabinet later this week on the presumption that David Shearer will get the UN job and resign from Parliament.

Most of the plebs will probably be more interested in preparing for Christmas and holidays.

‘Rumours’ about Key

As soon as John Key announced his retirement ‘rumours’ (or deliberate fake news attempts) started to do the rounds.

There were claims that Key resigned just before a book that was ‘very critical’ of him was published, he’d had an affair, he was fleeing a huge earthquake that was about to happen, Key was leaving to take up a job at the head of the IMF. At one stage Key was asked about these claims and he denied them.

The Spinoff listed Theories on why John Key resigned, ranked in order of stupidity:

7. There is going to be a huge earthquake on December 13 and John Key is fleeing

6. John Key had an affair with *insert name of anyone he has ever met here*

5. “Hidden economic reasons” (that only Winston Peters had foreseen)

4. Key was scared of a book AKA The Bomber Theorem

3. John Key wanted to spend more time with family

2. He wanted to spend more time with anyone except the MPs of the National Party

1. He wanted to make way for Prime Minister Valerie Adams

He said he really did want to spend more time with his family. No evidence has supported the rest so appear to be bunkum.

I saw another rumour variation yesterday – that the issue of North and South due out had a damaging article about Key. That has been debunked (by a strong Key critic):

The ‘big, secret story’ in North and South tomorrow is about Scott Watson, not about John Key being a shady bitch

Even though he is stepping down now the Key clobbering machine keeps swinging – and missing, except perhaps where stupid jokes are believed and get social media traction.

English to be Prime Minister

In what Peter Dunne as referred to as “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall” Bill English was confirmed as the next Prime Minister this afternoon as endorsements from National MPs kept rolling in through the day, and then Judith Collins conceded early this afternoon, followed by Jonathan Coleman late this afternoon.

So it is confirmed that English will take over from John Key, presumably as planned early next week.

His deputy is still to be decided by the National caucus, possibly by vote on Monday, but it looks like his heir apparent Paula Bennett will get that spot.

English has already indicated that Steven Joyce will take over from him as Minister of Finance.

There will be a lot of interest in who English names in his Cabinet, with special attention on whether Collins and Coleman will retain or improve their rankings or get demoted, and how the carrots get dished out to supporting MPs.

National should benefit from having been seen to have at least some semblance of a contest rather than an uncontested passing of the PM batten, but this was a quick and ruthless leadership change.

Soon Parliament will shut down for the summer break so that will give English and his new team (which may contain more than a smattering of same old)  to sort themselves out ready for an election year.

With a likely by-election if David Shearer leaves for a UN job in South Sudan talk of an early election has increased, but I suspect English will be wanting to take advantage of improving financial conditions and get a budget under his Government’s belt.

Time will tell how well the National caucus works with their new leader.

Key’s last Question Time as PM

Key attended his last Question Time as Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday – he doesn’t do Thursday’s in Parliament.

Labour had wisely chosen to look ahead and focus on National’s leadership contenders, but Winston Peters and James Shaw addressed questions to Key.

Both Peters and Shaw set themselves up for free shots from a relaxed looking Key, who obliged.

Peters and Ron Mark started flashing scorecards during questions but this was stamped on by the Speaker.

But Key set himself up by interjecting into Andrew Little’s first question.

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Does he stand by his statement—

Rt Hon John Key: Oh, God, I’m irrelevant already.

ANDREW LITTLE: John, it is all over. It is all over, brother.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, as I said yesterday, I can sense the excitement in the air, but we will still conduct question time under the normal rules.

ANDREW LITTLE: It is not the excitement; it is the relief on the face of the Prime Minister.

3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?

It turned out to be a swipe at Bill English, Jonathan Coleman, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, and gave Key the opportunity to praise them. The exchange concluded with:

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly have confidence in all of his Ministers when all we are hearing from his answers and from the spills coming out of caucus is terrible instability, feuding, backstabbing, fighting, all sorts of secret calls—so much so that it has fallen to New Zealand First to look like the epitome of stability?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, when you have a caucus of one, it is reasonably easy to be stable. But the member may have noticed that on Monday—the last time you held up a sign it said “No” and it should have said “Yes”.

Shaw also tried some lame jibes at Ministers who are contenders for promotions.

7. JAMES SHAW to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence in Jonathan Coleman, and does he even know what he looks like?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. I am pretty sure he is the one that is just over there. But, you know, given he has been in quite a number of my Cabinets, and I am awake for most of them—absolutely.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence that if Judith Collins becomes Prime Minister, New Zealand will not wake up one day and find itself tied with Zimbabwe on the Transparency International corruption index?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have absolute confidence in Judith Collins, and I have absolute confidence in all of my caucus and my Cabinet colleagues.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence that if Steven Joyce becomes the finance Minister he will not lose the entire surplus on one of those roulette wheels he gave to Skycity Casino?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Here is a prediction: when the Skycity Auckland Convention Centre opens in, I think it is, 2019, from memory, it will be a sparkling asset used by many convention-dwellers, both internationally and locally. It will not cost a cent of taxpayer or ratepayer money, and, if it is true to form, the Labour Party members, who will still be in Opposition, will be coming over to the opening, just like they did when they objected to the hobbits and so many other things in the past.

James Shaw: Is the real reason that New Zealand’s productivity is so low because every working-age New Zealander has been bored to death listening to Bill English?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If that is his test, then I should introduce him to his own caucus colleagues. Man, they are not exactly people I want to party with when I leave Parliament—let me give you a clue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I dealt with the showing of those visual aids by New Zealand First earlier. If it continues again from any of those members, they will be leaving the Chamber. I do not want to have to issue that warning again.

James Shaw: Now that he knows who his likely successors are, is he tempted to turn round and say: “Actually, Bill, I’ve changed my mind.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Definitely not. As I said on Monday, it has been a great privilege to be Prime Minister of New Zealand for the last 8 years and to lead such a fantastic Cabinet and caucus. I am immensely proud of what this Government has achieved, but, as I said on Monday, I have called time on my own political career, and I will not be turning back on that decision.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: In his long and successful tenure as Prime Minister over the last 8 years in this House, does he recall a day when the Greens have put more effort into their questions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but it is good to see that they are getting the hang of it, because they are going to be asking questions for a very long time.