Will National’s support solid through leadership changes endure?

Support for National has remained fairly substantial and solid, despite the stepping down of the popular leader John key, and also the retirement of his replacement Bill English.

The current leader Simon Bridges has been far less popular, and party support has dropped a bit over the last couple of years that is to be expected for a party relegated to Opposition. National Party support seems to not be affected very much by leadership changes.

Here is how the polls have tracked since the last election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Bridges’ leadership doesn’t seem to have impacted much on that.

It’s still half a year until the election and anything could happen in that time, but especially with the diminishing of small party support National looks likely to get a reasonable share of the vote again this year (but may struggle to get enough to get back into government).

Josh Van Veen considers  Simon’s Dream: The enduring appeal of National in the Twenty-Twenties 

National supporters might look back wistfully on the early 2010s. But they long ago dispelled the notion that the party’s fate rested with one individual. In that regard, the National Party of 2020 is ‘Tolstoyan’… Despite losing the 2017 election, National remained the largest party by a wide margin. With 44.5 percent of the party vote to Labour’s 36.9 percent, English could boast of having led his party to an impressive result.

For a third term in government party that was a good result, not a lot down on the 47.04% that National got in 2014.

While Bridges’ personal support languishes behind that of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, National continues to poll higher than Labour. It is clear that a significant number of New Zealanders would vote for party over leader. Almost three years to the day of Key’s resignation, a 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll forecast a National victory. If an election had been held in December 2019, according to this poll, Simon Bridges would be the country’s 41st Prime Minister. The poll can’t be dismissed as an outlier. It was the second consecutive poll to indicate the same result. Not only that, but numerous other polls have suggested a tight race. At best we can say the odds are even.

I think that the outcome is certainly too hard to call at this stage.

So why is National still popular? Ask a journalist or commentator and they will most likely tell you that it is because the new government hasn’t delivered. Labour’s promise to fix the housing crisis and end child poverty turned out to be empty. Not to mention the incompetence of certain ministers, bad communication and disunity between the governing parties. They say “Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.” This explanation would be more convincing if Labour had won a numerical victory in 2017. There would be ground to lose to National. In fact, the numbers suggest that nothing much has changed since election night.

A more plausible explanation is that National’s appeal runs deep in the New Zealand psyche. To understand this, we have to forget about policy details, sensational headlines and the day-to-day vagaries of social media. In practice, there isn’t much difference between the way Labour and National behave in office. One is slightly more generous when it comes to the redistribution of wealth, the other has a reputation (deserved or not) for being meticulously scrupulous with public finances. Where ideology is concerned, Labour and National have both converged on the liberal centre. That is to say, the two major parties share a moderately liberal outlook on issues of public importance. Both have embraced globalisation, diversity, environmentalism, the redress of Treaty breaches, and poverty alleviation.

Beyond political rhetoric the actual policy paths of both National and Labour are much more similar than different. The current Government has tweaked more than lurched.

So perhaps it should be unsurprising if the party of John Key, Bill English and Simon Bridges can be identified with a vaguely utopian belief that New Zealand is still a land of plenty where rugged individuals can prosper – with just a bit of help from the government. According to this cherished belief, there isn’t much wrong with New Zealand.

To National supporters, few things are more repugnant than denying the archetypal New Zealander the fruits of his or her labour. But even more insulting is the imposition that those who ‘got ahead’ by hard work and enterprise should feel guilty about others left behind. To suggest that homelessness is a societal problem is to implicate everyone who has in some way profited from the housing market. To say that child poverty exists because we don’t pay enough tax is to accuse people of being selfish.

Yet there are no reasonable grounds for assuming that a National voter cares any less about impoverished children than a Labour voter. According to the 2017 New Zealand Election Study, 86% of National voters agreed with the proposition that “the government should provide decent living standards for children”. A majority (67%) also believed that the government had a responsibility to provide decent housing to those who could not afford it.

Perhaps that is why it has become fashionable in right-wing circles to dismiss talk of kindness as mere ‘virtue signalling’. Ardern might have spoken with more empathy than English but they both professed a moral conviction that it was their duty to help the poor. Most voters agreed. The crucial difference is that English did it without offending the sensibilities of New Zealanders who believe that wealth is acquired only through hard work and sacrifice.

The enduring appeal of National can’t be explained by Labour’s failure to deliver or brilliance on the part of Simon Bridges. Rather, it is due to the million or so voters who find some emotional coherence in what the party represents on an individual level. It would be a mistake to dismiss these voters as reactionary bigots or selfish boomers. While such people undoubtedly exist, few lack a moral compass and concern for others. Just about everyone is offended by the sight of human suffering.

But the simple truth is that most New Zealanders are comfortable and few understand material hardship. They have difficulty accepting that strangers doing it tough can’t just go to Work and Income for help. Homelessness and child poverty, while troubling, only exist in the news media. For them, New Zealand is still a land of plenty. Any statement to the contrary is a personal attack.

I think there may well be many who see not much wrong with Aotearoa as it is – for those prepared to work.

When leftists say “tax the rich to feed the kids” and demand justice for beneficiaries, it is as if they are speaking a different language to everyone else. Ardern’s decision to permanently rule out a capital gains tax confirmed that National, not Labour, is closer to the mythic New Zealand ideal. Whatever his shortcomings as a leader, Bridges’ sense of history is clear. He knows that National can win in spite of any one individual.

Labour must now make a difficult choice: whether to rely on NZ First and the Greens or go head to head with National in a contest for the political centre. This choice will define New Zealand politics for the next decade. To get it wrong would be Simon’s dream.

Labour is moving more towards being reliant on the Greens at least – the Labour-Green ticket. And they will also need to grapple with how much to associate themselves with NZ First as an  essential part of their continued coalition chances.

National may not manage to lift their support to get into power later this year, but they are still seen as a large single party with solid support.

 

Newshub/Reid Research poll – February 2020

The first political poll of election year is of interest but doesn’t change much.

  • National 43.3% (down from 43.9)
  • Labour 42.5% (up from 41.6)
  • Greens 5.6% (down from 6.3)
  • NZ First 3.6% (down from 4.0)
  • ACT Party 1.8% (up from 1.4)

No surprises there, all margin of error movements.

On those numbers National/ACT are short of getting a majority but not far away and if NZ First miss the threshold it opens possibilities.

Labour+Greens are close to a two party majority of seats.

The others:

  • Maori Party 0.9% (up from 0.7)
  • New Conservative Party 0.7% (down from 1.0)
  • The Opportunities Party 0.6% (down from 1.1)

None of those parties look like getting anywhere near the 5% threshold. The Maori Party are going to contest seats to try to avoid needing the threshold.

Stated margin of error: 3.1%

Newshub: National and Labour neck-and-neck in new Newshub-Reid Research poll

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 38.7% (up from 38.4)
  • Simon Bridges 10.6% (up from 6.7)

Newshub poll: Simon Bridges breaks 10 percent as preferred Prime Minister

Polling period 23 January – 1 February, before Bridges ruled out NZ First from any coalition deals, and before Waitangi Day week.

Their last poll was in October 2019 – Newshub Reid Rese

Polling for this term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

NZ: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies?

Does  apply US: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies? to New Zealand politics? Will it affect this year’s election here? Is the outcome of our election virtually determined already? (Going by our history of rarely dumping a first term government, quite possibly).

Our politics is much different, far less polarised than in the US, and less red and white due to MMP.

Maybe with less polarisation and demonisation  (and demons) swing voters, candidates and policies play a bigger part here.

But the theories in the above article probably favour Jacinda Ardern success. Apart from some frothing on the fringes there doesn’t seem to be a strong anti-Ardern sentiment here. There also doesn’t seem to be a strong anti-Green sentiment.

Sure National have already been campaigning along anti-Labour lines, but one of the most consistent criticisms of the Labour led government is that they are under performing. This is actually helpful for there chances – the more conservative voters who don’t like radical change probably won’t be strongly motivated to replace Ardern and Labour.

Climate change policies are mostly long term with wide support, some strong and some soft, with few fears about what changes they will force on us.

The economy is not causing any great concerns, with Grant Robertson hardly being seen let alone being feared by the right.

I think there’s likely to be more motivation to stay with what we currently have than to switch right to National.

The noise over NZ First may not matter very much. Most voters are not motivated for or against them. Whether they survive or not will depend on whether a small niche of voters want them to remain enough, but I doubt there are strong feelings on that. And whether NZ First survives or not may not make any difference to Ardern’s and Labour’s overall chances.

There’s unlikely to be a strong anti-National/Act motivation here, but neither is it likely there will be a strong anti-incumbent motivation.

With all this in mind and National lacking in coalition options then Labour+Green looks to have the inside running, with a side issue of whether NZ First is retained or dumped, and if they survive whether Labour need them to govern or not.

Ardern’s positive politics pledge

I’m all for more positive politics (and less negative, dishonest and divisive politics), so Jacinda Ardern’s pledge for “a positive, factual and robust campaign” sounds very good. But, unfortunately, Ardern has a history of not matching rhetoric with actions.

From labour.org.nz:

Running a positive, factual and robust election campaign

This week Labour MPs descended on Martinborough for the annual Labour Caucus retreat. It was here that Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern set our intention for the year ahead – to run a positive, factual and robust campaign.

Speaking to caucus, Jacinda Ardern said: “New Zealanders deserve a positive election. I don’t want New Zealand to fall into the trap of the negative fake news style campaigns that have taken place overseas in recent years.”

In light of this, Jacinda Ardern took the opportunity to announce that the Labour Party is signing up to Facebook’s new advertising transparency rules.

“It means voters can see who is behind paid advertising online, how much they are spending and who they are targeting. The measures help avoid anonymous fake news style ads,” said Ardern.  “These rules are compulsory in the US, UK, Canada and the EU amongst others, but not here. We think it’s the right thing to do to voluntarily adopt them anyway and set a clean tone for the election.”

Ardern also confirmed Labour will have its major election policy costings independently verified so voters can be sure of what they are voting for.

So, sounds good – in theory.

But I hope that this time, Ardern (and Labour MPs and the party) deliver.

At this same time last year Ardern promised a ‘year of delivery’ – “”For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

“2019 I think for us as a team is going to be characterised by the word ‘delivery’. 2018 was obviously a huge year for us: bedding in as a new Government, setting up the infrastructure for a significant change in direction for New Zealand, reinvesting in those core services – health and education and housing in our budget.”

“That work has now been set in place. 2019 is now the year that a lot of delivery will be required of us and is actually already underway.”

“We do not claim perfection but we do claim a considerable advance on where we have came from.”

The Government has delivered on some things, as any government does. But at least as notable are the things that haven’t been delivered. The big election promise and post election commitment, Kiwibuild, has largely been a failure and has been dumped. The light rail commitment seems to have been so lightweight it has floated away.

Ardern campaigned last election on ‘openness and transparency”. In her government’s first year Ardern was embarrassed by her minister of Openness and Transparency, Clare Curran, being secretive and misleading. Ardern dumped her.

This government seems no better than the last in it’s abuse of the Official Information Act that is supposed to ensure openness and transparency.

Ardern seems impotent when it comes to the negativeness and determination not to be open by NZ First ministers Winston Peters and Shane Jones, but she should have an influence on her own Labour ministers and MPs.

Will there be no more Labour MP references to ‘9 years of neglect’ and misleading claims of National Government reduced spending?

Will Labour MPs more openly share facts with the public, especially when asked?

Will this year see a turnaround of the toxic politics of the past? Will we get a positive campaign, by Labour at least?(National’s negative attack politics is another disappointing story).

I hope so. Ardern has time to plan her campaign this year, and time to make it clear to her MPs, candidates and party promoters that she wants a positive, factual campaign. She has no control over some in social media like on Twitter and The Standard, but her and her party’s campaigning really is positive and factual perhaps that will filter down and influence the actions of Labour leaning activists.

Perhaps she can lead by example, and lift the quality and tone of this year’s election. If she and Labour can deliver on that it is likely to improve their vote and their chances (and Greens), especially if it contrasts with NZ First and National attack campaigning.

Labour’s election support by district under threat?

From Harry Jamieson@graveyjones5

The Labour party managed to form a coalition government after this election, making @jacindaardern the 2nd youngest PM in NZ history. They performed best in cities (Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson ect) as well as in rural areas with large Maori populations (East Coast).

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This excludes special votes but should be approximately the same.  It is done per district rather than per electorate.

Māori support was strong, but that could be challenged this year.

RNZ: Whānau Ora head warns minister over funding allocation

Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare can kiss Māori progress goodbye if he continues to allow other agencies to dip into its funding, the organisation’s head has warned.

It comes as distinguished Māori leaders seek an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing over the government’s handling of Whānau Ora funding.

It received an $80m funding boost over four years in the 2019 Budget, but North Island commissioning agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said not all of that money was going to Whānau Ora.

“From what we have seen, particularly in the last 12 months, we believe that the government is starting to undermine Whānau Ora,” Raukawa-Tait told RNZ’sCheckpoint.

She – along with Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Tariana Turia, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi – wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in November last year expressing their concerns, but said they had not had a response.

They are now seeking an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing, claiming the government has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by refusing to adequately and transparently fund Whānau Ora.

Of the $20m extra funding Whānau Ora was promised last year, only about $5m was received by the commissioning agencies.

Raukawa-Tait said that did not make any sense, and she had a message for the Minister of Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare.

“Be the minister that we want to have confidence in. At this present moment we do not.”If he does not understand his role and our expectations of him than you can kiss Māori progress goodbye for the next two decades.”

She said if he continued to allow government agencies to use its funding, Whānau Ora faced destruction by stealth.

Henare denied any of the Whānau Ora funding was going to other government agencies, and said the move was politically motivated.

He’s referring to the move to challenge the funding of Whānau Ora – of course there’s politics involved, that’s how the Government is lobbied, especially in an election year.

It’s hard to know how Labour support will be generally this year, but it should actually increase. In the 2017 election they got 36.89% of the party vote, but since then have mostly polled in the 40s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

That trend my be a bit of a concern for Labour.

Their poll support peaked at 50.8 in June 2019 (Newshub/Reid Research), but the same pollster had them at 41.6% in October and three polls since then (two from Colmar Brunton and one from YouGov) were 40%, 41% and 39%.

A generally sound economy with promises and money available for big spending boosts this year will be in Labour’s favour, but influential coalition partner NZ First is best known this term for dishing out dollops of money to the regions, and the Greens are pushing for even higher levels of borrowing and spending,

Labour will need to try to get the balance right between buying voter support (with voters’ money) without appearing too financially reckless.

Corbyn claims “we won the argument’

The UK Labour Party had their worst election result since 1935, getting  little more than half the seats that the Conservatives won,  but twice unsuccessful leader Jeremy Corbyn claims that they “won the argument”.

Guardian: We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change

The political system is volatile because it is failing to generate stable support for the status quo following the financial crash of 2008. As Labour leader I’ve made a point of travelling to all parts of our country and listening to people, and I’ve been continually struck how far trust has broken down in politics.

The gap between the richest and the rest has widened. Everyone can see that the economic and political system is not fair, does not deliver justice, and is stacked against the majority.

That has provided an opening for a more radical and hopeful politics that insists it doesn’t have to be like this, and that another world is possible. But it has also fuelled cynicism among many people who know things aren’t working for them, but don’t believe that can change.

I saw that most clearly in the former industrial areas of England and Wales where the wilful destruction of jobs and communities over 40 years has taken a heavy toll. It is no wonder that these areas provided the strongest backlash in the 2016 referendum and, regrettably for Labour, in the general election on Thursday.

Despite our best efforts, and our attempts to make clear this would be a turning point for the whole direction of our country, the election became mainly about Brexit.

We now need to listen to the voices of those in Stoke and Scunthorpe, Blyth and Bridgend, Grimsby and Glasgow, who didn’t support Labour. Our country has fundamentally changed since the financial crash and any political project that pretends otherwise is an indulgence.

Progress does not come in a simple straight line. Even though we lost seats heavily on Thursday, I believe the manifesto of 2019 and the movement behind it will be seen as historically important – a real attempt at building a force powerful enough to transform society for the many, not the few. For the first time in decades, many people have had hope for a better future.

I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate. But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.

There is no doubt that our policies are popular, from public ownership of rail and key utilities to a massive house-building programme and a pay rise for millions. The question is, how can we succeed in future where we didn’t this time?

The media attacks on the Labour party for the last four and a half years were more ferocious than ever – and of course that has an impact on the outcome of elections. Anyone who stands up for real change will be met by the full force of media opposition.

The party needs a more robust strategy to meet this billionaire-owned and influenced hostility head-on and, where possible, turn it to our advantage.

We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it. Labour will soon have a new leader. But whoever that will be, our movement will continue to work for a more equal and just society, and a sustainable and peaceful world.

He says that “We must now ensure that the working class, in all its diversity, is the driving force within our party”.  It is more than a little ironic that the working class north of England rejected Corbyn and Labour more than anywhere.

So Corbyn thinks that Labour got their policies right and while he says “I take my responsibility” for a heavy defeat, he blames it more on Brexit and the media.

The media are far from perfect, but they are an overworn scapegoat for the failings of political leaders and parties.

It wasn’t so much Brexit that caused Labour’s defeat, it was Corbyn’s poor positioning on Brexit.

And in particular his general unpopularity.

New Statesman: Why Labour lost – and how it can recover from an epic defeat

Labour entered the campaign with far too many weaknesses to ever have any hope of supplanting the Conservatives.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.

Corbyn’s unpopularity had many facets: he was never trusted to manage national security (his response to the Salisbury poisoning did particular damage) or the economy, and even polled behind Johnson on public services. He presided over a permanently divided party, many of whose MPs never regarded him as fit to be prime minister, the scandal of anti-Semitism wounded his claim to moral authority, and his equivocation on Brexit undermined his promise of “straight-talking, honest politics”.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Corbyn was right about the popularity of individual policies.

Labour’s individual policies, as Corbyn and John McDonnell have been swift to point out, were often highly popular. As I noted in 2018, for instance, a poll published by the Legatum Institute and Populus found that voters supported public ownership of the UK’s water (83 per cent), electricity (77 per cent), gas (77 per cent) and railways (76 per cent). Around two-thirds of voters supported policies such as higher taxation of top-earners, increased workers’ rights and a £10 minimum wage.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.

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Serious claims against Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi

It may be coincidence but the Broadcasting Minister could be in serious trouble, again, the time Kris Faafoi, who has been accused of abusing power in trying to do a favour for a friend over an immigration application.

The first Minister of Broadcasting in the current Government, Clare Curran, resigned in September 2018 after she made a mess of her job. That wasn’t a surprising crash and burn as Curran was seen as a weak link.

In contrast Kris Faafoi has generally been as one of Labour’s best junior ministers, until now. But yesterday Newshub reported:

‘I’m on it bro’: Messages show Kris Faafoi offering help to friend Jason Kerrison over immigration case

Text messages obtained by Newshub show Faafoi appears to have breached Cabinet rules by offering to help Kerrison with his family’s declined immigration case.

An offer to “speed things up” was among reassurances made by the former Associate Immigration Minister to Kerrison, who spoke to Newshub in October about his step-father’s partnership visa application being declined.

Messages Faafoi sent to the singer of Kiwi band Opshop ask for details of the case before he says he has a plan and promises to talk to the right people.

In one communication on Facebook, Kerrison sent a direct message to Faafoi drawing his attention to a post with Newshub’s article.

Faafoi replied: “Hey bro – I will make a call on Monday. I know it is genuine as I know you travelled for the wedding a few years back. I will talk to the people that can speed things up.”

Kerrison’s mother, Jude Kerrrison, and Mich Obadiah met online in 2009. She’s visited him in Kenya eight times, and they were married in an intimate ceremony more than two years ago.

But Immigration NZ questioned the legitimacy and credibility of their relationship.

“I understand his personal situation to be genuine and I think he did have a case, which is why I offered to speak to his local MP,” Faafoi told Newshub.

Facebook messages between Faafoi and Kerrison show them discussing the immigration case, but he denies offering to do an immigration favour for a friend.

But Faafoi asked Kerrsison to “Yes – can you please send me surname and immagration nz file number [sic]” – which Kerrison did, before the conversation moved to texts.

Faafoi and Kerrison also discussed the case in a Facebook phone call.

When Kerrison thanks him, Faafoi replies “Whanau whanau brother.”

In November the conversation moves to text. Faafoi assures Kerrison “Im on it bri… o (BRO).”

But Faafoi may have a ‘Shane Jones’ defence – that his impropriety didn’t lead to a successful outcome.

But then things go cold.

Kerrison asks: “Hi bro how’re we doing”… “Where are we at” and repeats back to Faafoi “Whanau whanau mate.”

It’s after that on November 15 that Faafoi assures Kerrison, “Bro, its moving. I can’t put anything in writing”.

Faafoi told Newshub on Thursday: “I think he’s been trying to contact me but I haven’t been responding because it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

But while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems impotent when it comes to NZ First ministers she may be compelled to take action against a Labour minister.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub she has “clear expectations of her ministers to uphold the highest standards at all times”.

In practice that only seems to apply to Labour ministers. Ardern may want to be seen as tough at least with her own.

 

Labour/Government spending on schools

In her Speech to the 2019 Labour Party Conference Jacinda Ardern gave details of plans provide money to all schools for maintenance.

…next year almost every single state school in New Zealand will receive a one-off payment of up to $400,000 to upgrade their classrooms and facilities.

This is the biggest cash injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

It will create jobs in every community in the country while helping to make our schools the special places they deserve to be.

Every school will get a payment of $693 per student, capped at a maximum of $400,000, while no school will get less than $50,000 regardless of how small their roll is.

@henrycooke: The funding maxes out at $400k per school but also has a $50k floor. This creates some wild ratios, eg: Auckland Grammar, with 2421 students, will receive the max of $400k – $165 per student. Papanui Junction School, roll of 7, will receive the minimum of $50k – $7k per kid.

Be it classroom upgrades or extensions, ensuring classrooms are warm and dry so our kids can learn, replacing coal boilers with new clean and energy efficient heating, improving play areas with resurfacing and landscaping, replacing roofing and guttering – this money is to ensure that the projects that schools have often had to defer can now get done.

But this isn’t just about schools – it’s about jobs. And especially trades jobs.

We want schools to engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, landscapers – this is an opportunity for work at a local level in every town and city in the country.

Now this is just the first part of our infrastructure package, and one element of our work to rebuild New Zealand.

And it will leave a visible mark on every school in the country.

Now I know that what happens to our school buildings is one thing but what happens within them matters even more.

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She also announced a Ministry of Education offer to pay all school support staff at least ‘the living wage’.

So I want to finish by acknowledging that on Friday, the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the school support staff collective agreement, which, if accepted, will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage.

Today, I can also announce that we intend for the Ministry to extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

A lot of people will like this expenditure, and many will benefit from it. It won’t do any harm for Labour’s election chances next year either.

Who’s got the best team – Ardern or Bridges?

Post from Gezza:

Labour needs to be more than just Jacinda Ardern

The booklet for this weekend’s Labour Party conference features 13 separate photos of its leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and none of any other MP. Grant Robertson gets in to one picture on the side, but only alongside his leader.

Leaders are always important to political parties, but the degree to which Ardern defines Labour is extreme. This is a party supposedly built on the backs of cooperation between workers and not a single person, no matter how strong their brand is.

The Labour Party is still in need of some rebuilding after nine years of atrophy. A large part of that rebuilding will be standing up convincing and exciting candidates in every single electorate for next year’s election.

Labour is of course never going to win Clutha-Southland, or many over deep blue seats. But you get party votes everywhere, and Labour is not strong enough in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to win whole elections there.

The image of Labour as a party that only has strength in big cities is unfair, but only by a smidgen. The conference is in Whanganui this weekend, a seat Labour thinks it could win next year.

But an email sent out to Labour supporters said the conference was in Whangarei – a town with a somewhat similar name that is hundreds of kilometres away. Mistakes like this – probably made by someone in Auckland or Wellington who would only ever fly over these places – fulfil every stereotype of Labour as an uninterested urban party. Standing uninteresting candidates in hard electorates would set those stereotypes in stone.

Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.

This makes sense for some people. Young lawyer Steph Lewis in Whanganui increased the party vote by 5000 in the last election, and is exactly the kind of candidate Labour will want to put itself forwards with.

There are some other choices that are less obvious. Rachel Boyack significantly underperformed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. Unionist and party senior vice president Tracey McLellan has been selected for Port Hills despite being tarnished by her involvement in the assault allegation mess earlier this year. There’s something to be said for experience – but also the excitement of the new.

More notable is the absence of flashy well-known people from outside. There is no one of Chris Luxon’s stature running for Labour. Some of the most qualified people in the party’s orbit have picked other jobs – like new president Claire Szabo, who would have made an excellent MP.

To be fair to Labour, recruiting big names doesn’t always work out. John Tamihere’s career in Parliament is proof of that. But right now Ardern’s modernising influence on the party is not very apparent in its candidates. And it seems unlikely she will exert much influence on safe seat selection races like the one in Dunedin South.

Ardern herself is uncomfortable with how much the party’s fate rests on her shoulders. Ironically, fixing that will require her getting even more involved.

Henry Cooke puts his finger on a problem with Labour.

But the media itself (& especially television news) puts so much focus almost entirely on the party leaders & PM of the day that party spokespeople & even Cabinet Ministers often don’t get much attention & promotion.

National was basically John Key, John Key, John Key, before he became Sir John, with the occasional Cabinet Minister getting public attention when they got uncomfortably pushed into the limelight by some crisis (like releasing beneficiary details, or tv news showing people living in cars) or some other event that the news media fastened onto for its shock or entertainment value, like a thrown dildo.

Labour has some senior Ministers who aren’t very eloquent & stumble in dealing with Pakeha media (like Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis), or who just seem to come across as clowns, (like Willie Jackson, & Phil Twyford), so pushing them more to the fore is probably not a good idea because the media sharks can make make mincemeat out of them.

Grant Robertson & David Parker on the other hand for example, generally do well handling media interviews.

Shane Jones’s eloquence has become legendary (as he obviously intended) to the point where he can now even upstage Winston Peters at times; not an easy thing to do. But he doesn’t seem able to convince many people that his overall responsibility for the PGF is delivering much if anything in the way of measurable worthwhile results. Pork barrel politics & Jones seem to be always-associated words.

Polls show that, as John Key was for National, Jacinda Ardern is still Labour’s biggest asset. Their party vote polls however suggest her Ministers are perhaps viewed with less public approval & confidence.

National has the reverse situation – the party still polls well but Bridges doesn’t. My own gut reaction to Bridges’s announcements & media appearances is nearly always unfavourable (although I like to think I don’t allow gut reaction to decide my vote). To me he’s relentlessly negative (as Andrew Little was when Labour’s leader) appears disingenuous & I have no great confidence he’d be a good PM (but the awful grating nasally sound of his voice & his seemingly contrived body language may be driving that!). His team doesn’t generally really inspire me much either.

However, it’s noticeable that in their Law & Order policy paper National has made a particular point of including pages from each one of their Law And Order Team. So they seem to be onto the idea of marketing themselves as a team now – their government-in-waiting.

Will this make a difference to their polling? Will Bridges stand back & let the spokesperson team do more of the talking in the coming months? Will the media co-operate?

Is this what Henry Cooke’s suggesting Labour needs to do, to counteract National’s strategy? Could they pull that off, with their Ministers?

Stuff/YouGov poll: Labour 41%, National 38%

Stuff have started political polling again, this time with YouGov, who are new to New Zealand polling. With no record to give any idea how they compare to other polls analysis of this poll should be even more cautious than normal (not that media or parties treat polls as they should).

  • Labour 41%
  • National 38%
  • Greens 8%
  • NZ First 8%
  • ACT 2%
  • Maori Party 1%
  • TOP 1%
  • Other 1%

The poll was conducted between 7 and 11 November by YouGov so events over the past two weeks are not reflected in these results, of particular note the revelations last week about a secretive foundation that handles party donations.

Labour and National shouldn’t be too worried bout this result. Greens will be happy. Winston Peters usually slams polls and had a major hissy fit against media last week, but should be relieved with the timing of this poll.

There’s a glimmer of hope there for ACT, who may benefit from David Seymour’s hard work and success over the End of Life Choice bill.

Stuff: Labour ahead while National dips below 40 in new Stuff poll

Labour and its coalition partners are riding high while National have dropped below 40 per cent support in a recent Stuff/YouGov poll.

That is a mediocre summary. National are down on other polls but have not dropped under YouGov polling, which is untested in New Zealand. Labour, Greens and NZ First together look strong, but that could have changed last week.

It is the first poll published by Stuff from YouGov, a global polling firm who run regular polls for The Australian, The Times, The Economist, and CBS News.

A spokesperson for National leader Simon Bridges said the poll did not match their own figures and was incorrect.

The poll isn’t incorrect, it is the results YouGov got. There could be a variety of reasons it differs from National’s own polling – and without publishing National’s polling it’s impossible to compare anyway, politicians are notorious for promoting their own polling (when it suits them) without showing any evidence or details.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was “encouraging”, as it showed Labour building on its election result.

“It’s really encouraging to see all of the coalition parties up when we compare the numbers against the last election. We’ve taken on some big challenges but we’re making good progress — I’d like to think this poll reflects that,” Ardern said.

Ardern may like to think that but it’s also nonsense. It shows only what those who were polled thought 2-3 weeks ago.

Labour is widely seen to be making mediocre and disappointing progress. The poll is more likely to reflect the lack of progress Bridges is making with his negative, whiny dog whistle strategy.

Leaders’ favourable/unfavourable rating:

  • Jacinda Ardern +35%
  • Simon Bridges -37%

Winston Peters was about -23% (30% favourable, 53% unfavourable, but that was before last week’s Foundation/donation revelations.

That’s good for Ardern and bad for Bridges, but unsurprising.

The methodology for the YouGov poll is different to other political polls in New Zealand, which rely on phone-calling or a mix of phone calling and online responses. It is conducted entirely online by a panel of respondents, as other YouGov polls around the world are.

Certainly YouGov is untested in New Zealand, but Reid Research (for Newshub) have already been using part “online methods” (along with “Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing”)

We need to see several YouGov poll results alongside the other public polls from Reid Research and Colmar Brunton, and at least one general election, before we can see how close to or distant from reality they are.

Campbell White, YouGov’s head of polling and public affairs for Asia Pacific, said online sampling was the best way to make sure a wide variety of people were polled.

“The reason is over time we are better able to represent the population online. Rather than just the people who answer their phone and don’t use call screening,” White said.

The sample has quotas, so various demographics are represented, and the figures are scientifically weighted to match the voting population.

Phone surveys also screen respondents to try to ensure they poll a representative sample of demographics are obtained.

I don’t know there is any research or evidence to show whether online only polling is any more accurate than other polling or not.

Mrgin of Error stated as +/-3.1% which is standard for 1005 respondents.

It’s good to see another public political poll, there has been a lack of polling over the last few years. YouGov results will add to the mix, but need to be viewed cautiously until they build a track record.