Simon Bridges, new National Party leader and LOTO

Simon Bridges is replacing Bill English as National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition (some media and politicians say that is the hardest job in politics but I call bull on that, PM, Ministers of Finance, Health, Social Welfare, Corrections all have far more difficult jobs).

Just two ballots were required. That suggests that Bridges was close to having the numbers in the first vote, and picked up enough after the least supported candidate dropped out to get a majority on the second vote.

Paula Bennett was chosen to stay as deputy leader – not a big deal position unless the leader quits just before an election.

I wasn’t a fan of either Bridges or Bennett, but that’s who the national caucus have chosen, so I’ll give them a chance to see if the step up, especially Bridges, who has a couple of years to make a mark before the 2020 election campaign.

This puts a very different look on the National Party after the John Key/Bill English era which began when Key rose to the top of the party in 2006, just over 11 years ago.

One think I will give the National caucus credit for is their willingness to try a quite different looking ‘new generation’ leadership. They haven’t fallen into the trap Labour made falling back on an uninspiring ‘same old’ Phil Goff replacement for Helen Clark (and followed that with three more unimpressive middle aged males, Shearer, Cunliffe and Little).

Bridges fronted up ok yesterday after taking over the leadership, he looked much better dealing with PR and media than he did when he started his leadership bid, and he did a good job in his first sting in Parliament as LOTO – see Simon Bridges versus Jacinda Ardern: round 1.

Now Bridges needs to get up to speed with broad issue and policy knowledge, he needs to earn the confidence of his caucus, and he needs to hope that National won’t dip in the polls too much while he finds his feet and becomes known to the general public.

This will take time and effort, and perhaps a bit of luck.

Bridges needs to be visible holding the Government to account without overplaying his hand, opposition politicians often have difficult avoiding barking dog/passing car syndrome.

He also needs to be smart in picking policy battles – his main aim will to be to appeal to the large centre, and to not bother to much about the griping from the right fringes and the perpetually dissatisfied.

The single most important piece of advice I would give Bridges (or any political leader) is to be himself, back his intellect and knowledge and sound like his brain and his mouth are connected.

Many leaders fall into a trap of sounding like their ears and mouths are connected with little input from their own thoughts. They get pushed into poliparrot palaver by PR coaches, and the resulting bland recitals probably turn more voters off than anything in politics.

Bridges needs to be himself, good attributes and  warts and all, and sell his abilities to the country, because that’s what most voters want to see from a leader.

It will take a few months to see how well Bridges steps up, and what the polls decide about this National Party change of leadership and change of guard.

As with any new leader I’m prepared to cut them some slack and give them a fair go.

National caucus choose new leader today

The National MPs will choose a new leader today, and also a deputy leader.

This is done by secret caucus ballots – it is predicted that several votes may be required before one person has a clear majority.

That person not only becomes National Party leader, they will also become the Leader of the Opposition – a challenging role for a first term in opposition, especially with the media frenzy that seems to be getting worse over Jacinda Ardern and her personal life.

It will take time for whoever takes over to establish themselves and give the public a good idea of their aims and abilities – choosing a party leader is always a punt.

 

Has National stuffed up under MMP?

There have been criticisms of how National campaigned last election, and how they failed to negotiate a coalition agreement with NZ First (or the Greens). Some have said that National don’t get how to work under MMP.

The latest to slam National is ex-ACT MP Heather Roy (who helped stuff ACT under MMP)  in National needs an MMP Leader:

The National party should have been in government after the 2017 election. They had the most votes by a long shot. But they fought a first-past-the-post campaign. It was 21 years out of date. They don’t have any friends. It’s no longer enough to just worry about getting themselves across the line. They’d like to be alone in government but it seems to have escaped the strategists that MMP delivers coalition governments.

If ever there was an election that shows this, it was the 2017 election. So, until there is an understanding throughout the National party of the importance of playing the MMP game they are destined to be on the opposition benches.

I’m not so sure. It’s not National’s fault that the Maori Party lost votes and all their seats to Labour. It’s not National’s fault that Peter Dunne decided to retire from Parliament (perhaps preventing voter enforced retirement). It’s not National’s fault that the ACT party have made major mistakes, kept changing leader, and lost most of their support except for in the Epsom electorate over the past ten years.

It also ignore’s National’s success in putting together three successive MMP coalition governments.

The 2017 election was impacted mostly by two things outside National’s control. The first Metiria Turei’s big gamble that led to the end of her career in Parliament, and halved the Green vote, almost losing the party a place in Parliament.  And Turei’s implosion led to the second, Andrew Little giving up Labour’s leadership and Jacinda Ardern stepping up very successfully (with the assistance of an enraptured media).

National have been criticised for not doing much more in last year’s campaign to show they would be willing to work with NZ First in a coalition, rather than trying to bury NZ First and go it alone (with ACT and, it had hoped, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne).

Every party takes a gamble with their election strategy. Well out from the election Labour and the Greens gambled on being joined at the hip. After that seemed to have failed, Turei’s throw of the political dice turned to custard. Little’s big punt on an Ardern turnaround paid off for Labour. Opportunist supremo Peters always gambles on getting media coverage and support from an election issue – and that didn’t pay dividends for him in 2017, with NZ First support slipping.

National gambled on not needing NZ First support to form a government. A similar strategy had worked for them in 2014, just.

Would National have got the same level of vote (44.45%) if they had campaigned on a willing coalition with NZ First? They could have been harmed by such a strategy and lost more support than they did – Peters is popular with a small percentage of voters (less than 10%), but he is very unpopular with many.

And there are a number of indications that Peters wouldn’t have wanted to form a Government with National regardless.

He campaigned for change and against a continuation of similar governance – ” “The truth is that after 32 years of the neoliberal experiment the character and the quality of our country has changed dramatically, and much of it for the worse.” However that may have just been vote targeting rhetoric, as he is now part of a Government that doesn’t look like following a hugely different direction. He flip flopped on a number of things once in Government, like switching to support of the TPP (along with Labour).

Peters filed court proceedings against Bill English and other National MPs and their staff just before the election, accusing them of leaking his Super overpayment.

And it’s unlikely Peters would have been able to negotiate as many baubles of power – including a deputy prime ministership and acting prime ministership – with National. He had more to gain playing Labour and the Greens.

I think that National understands MMP as much as any party. They had to play their hand with the cards available to them.

Roy continues:

Next Tuesday the National party caucus has the chance to rectify this sorry state of affairs. In this leadership battle one criteria stands out well ahead of all others to me. If I was eligible I would vote for the candidate who best understands MMP and is capable of cultivating strong working partnerships with like minded politicians outside of National.

Best understands MMP like Key, Like English. Like Joyce? They were a successful three term MMP government.

Of course under MMP it is necessary to cultivate strong working partnerships outside your own party – but that depends on willing partners.

But MMP leaders to be able to cultivate working relationships with non-like minded politicians – it’s essential to be able to work with other parties, therefore with different minded politicians.

None of the five candidates is talking about the real problem – that of having no friends now, and having none in the wings. Not since 1951 has one party, under either of our voting systems, won more than 50% of the votes. No-one to work with means opposition benches under MMP.

Not since ever has a party without the highest vote (by a significant margin) led a government.

Is it’s National’s fault they have limited coalition partner parties? They have been slammed for propping up ACT and United Future.

What should National do? Set up a couple of other ‘like minded’ parties that they can work with? They would be slammed for trying to contrive a coalition. They would lose votes, possibly a lot of votes.

The 2020 election is looking like being an MMP election like no other – it’s quite feasible that either or both NZ First (currently polling below the threshold at 3-4%) and the Greens could fall out of Parliament, leaving it effectively as a head to head battle between National and Labour. If that happens neither of the two big parties are likely to get over 50%, but under MMP they wouldn’t need to. They would only need to get more votes than their main opponent.

A major party leader in National’s current situation has to be successful in a succession of quite different roles.

First, they need to get the support of a majority of their caucus to become the leader.

Then they need to be able to lead and manage their caucus, preventing faction splitting.

They need to be able to look like a Prime Minister in waiting, with their party looking capable of running the country.

They also need to get the Leader of the Opposition balance right, between holding the Government to account, but not being seen as over-negative numpties – the barking at every passing car syndrome.

Then they need to appeal to the public for sufficient votes to be in a position to be able to negotiate to form a government.

It takes an extraordinary person to be able to bring all groups together again without resentments lingering once they’ve been declared the winner. A politician worthy of leadership is one who can bring people together, either within a party or to produce a government. Same thing.

And after the election they need to be bring people and parties together, to be more successful than their main opponent, and to form a government.

It doesn’t end there – they then need to switch into being a successful manager of both the country and the coalition.

It’s important to be able to have good working relationships with other parties, but that’s only a small part of the attributes needed to being a successful leader.

Oh, and on top of all that they also need to be able to appeal to the media, to provide the media with headlines and stories and clicks that enhance their chances in election campaigns.

There’s a lot more to MMP leadership than the narrow musings of someone who wasn’t exactly successful in her own party, let alone under MMP. In her third term as an MP Roy is thought to have been involved in an attempted leadership coup, the ACT party fell apart and they dropped from five MPs to one after the 2011 election.

Before a party leader can get into a position of working with other parties they need to not be a party of their own party implosion.

If they are to be successful National’s new leader will need to demonstrate a wide range of skills – one of which is being adept at adapting to the unexpected in politics. It’s impossible to know what the likely options will be by the 2020 election.

National party leadership contest

After a lot of initial media attention the contest to become the next National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition seems to have become more of an in-house affair. This isn’t surprising given that the contenders only need to convince enough of the 56 National MPs top vote for them.

It is now expected no deal will be done and it will go to a vote in Caucus next Tuesday.

Most indications point to Amy Adams and Simon Bridges being the front runners, but both short of a majority.

Judith Collins seems to be popular amongst party members, or at least has successfully created that impression, but has few supporters in caucus.

Steven Joyce may have some powerful allies, but too few.

Mark Mitchell must have a hard task, unless his aim was to raise his profile with an eye to the future.

There is no point in trying to out-Ardern Jacinda Ardern. Her situation in rising to leadership was quite different, and her mastery of media muppets is unlikely to be matched. In addition, none of the candidates looks likely to become pregnant.

However National should be mindful of the fact that Ardern has pulled quite a bit of female support from other parties, including National.

Joyce and Mitchell are unlikely to swing that back. I have no idea whether Bridges would attract female votes but I doubt it.

Collins may get some female support but deter others.

And the Slater effect shouldn’t be underestimated. Collins has been associated with Slater in the past, and that led to a major hiccup in her political career – Slater ended up limiting the damage by claiming he had ’embellished’ stories that looked bad for Collins.

Mitchell used his services to get nominated for a safe electorate but now distances himself – however his inclusion in the leadership race has revived ‘Dirty Politics’ claims. Most of the wider public probably know or care little about Slater, but it is likely all of the 56 National MPs are well aware of his past, and his personal agendas and feuds. He looks politically toxic.

That leaves Adams. She could compete with Ardern as a successful female politician, but she can also differentiate on experience in actually achieving things. She was a high performing Minister in the last Government.

Any of Joyce, Bridges or Mitchell could provide a good balance as deputy to Adams. Joyce is way ahead on experience there, but if National want to show they are intent on rebuilding and looking forward one of the other two may be a better bet.

Adams as leader and Collins as a strong deputy would be an interesting combination, if they could work together. A double female team may be a step too far for National though.

Much may depend on how well the new leader can manage the National caucus, and keep it from splitting into factions. The MPs who choose will be wanting someone they feel they can prosper under.

Most predict at least two votes will be required, and possibly more until a clear leader is decided on.

Dr Lance O’Sullivan wants leadership of Maori Party

Prior to the election in September Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan announced that he would stand for the Maori Party in 2020.

The Spinoff: Lance O’Sullivan explains why he is running for the Māori Party in 2020

When I profiled Dr Lance O’Sullivan last year he was one of the most eligible political bachelors on the market. Courted by the big dogs on both sides of the spectrum, he eventually endorsed the Māori Party, pissing off basically everyone on all sides including some in his support base.

“I think we, as Māori, also need to realise that compromise is a part of involvement in New Zealand politics,” he said at the time.

Now, a week out from Election 2017, he’s gone a step further than endorsement, announcing on Sunday afternoon his intention to run for parliament in 2020.

Quoting O’Sullivan:

“I believe that in the history of New Zealand politics and government, the 2020 election is an opportunity to enable MMP to work its best for New Zealand.

“What would it look like if we didn’t have red and blue, left and right, Labour and National, but instead we had a coalition of centrist parties that better reflects the multicoloured, multidimensional culture of New Zealand that we live in now? Because quite frankly the ideologies of the left and right are out of date. I think the time is right to disrupt things and the mechanisms are there to allow that to happen.

“From another point of view, I believe a political party with Māori values underpinning it, which has the interest of all New Zealanders at heart, could be a very, very exciting party. I believe that the skeleton and the framework and the scaffolding is there and I think the Māori Party has done really well to demonstrate over the last nine years why MMP could work. The Māori Party has and will almost certainly always be a very well-aligned party for me.”

The election ended badly for the party as they lost their only electorate seat and therefore their place in Parliament.

O’Sullivan responded: Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s prescription for Māori Party revival

Dr Lance O’Sullivan may just be the right man to come up with the correct prescription to get the Māori Party back into Parliament.

Despite Saturday’s result, he’s optimistic about the future of the Party. “I believe they will come out of this in better shape,” he promises.

The party, formed in 2004 on the back of Maori discontent over Labour’s handling of the foreshore and seabed, confounded pundits to hitch its waka to the National whale. With Te Ururoa Flavell losing his Waiariki seat, that party is now sunk from Parliament.

But O’Sullivan has a number of ideas to get the party back on its feet: firstly a focus on youth voters, secondly moving to expand the Māori Party’s appeal beyond its core Māori voter base.

On the second idea, he believes progress is already underway, citing Manakau East candidate Tuilagi Namulauulu Saipele Esera, of Samoan descent, and Botany candidate Wetex Kang, who is of Malay and Chinese descent.

“How do you support the expansion of that, underpinned by Māori values,” O’Sullivan asks.

He says it’s also time to think beyond National and Labour, right and left, and truly utilise the opportunities available under an MMP system. “Why aren’t we aspiring to be the first minority Government? Less left and right, a technicolour coat of Government.”

O’Sullivan says that for the country that first gave women the vote, we should think big.

“Why aren’t we taking another step? The pendulum always swings left and right, so how do parties like the Māori Party say it’s not left and right, it’s wanting to be there all the time.”

Earlier this week Tukoroirangi Morgan resigned as party president and called on the party leaders to resign. O’Sullivan has advanced his political ambitions.

Maori Television: O’Sullivan wants sole Māori Party leadership position

Dr Lance O’Sullivan says he will only take a leadership role within the Māori Party if it is a sole leadership role.

Coming on the heels of the resignation of President Tukoroirangi Morgan, the front runner to be the Maori Party’s next male leader, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, says that co-leadership isn’t the way to go.

“If I had an opportunity to have a leadership role, it would need to be in that sole leadership role.” says the former New Zealander of the Year.

The Māori Party has had co-leaders since its inception 13 years ago.  Many believed Lance O’Sullivan and Marama Fox would be the next co-leader pairing.

But the doctor isn’t wanting to share that responsibility.

“I’m not a fan of co-leadership, says O’Sullivan, “I think you need a single leader and a single message coming through that’s strong and inspiring.”

“The results of this election mean that the Māori Party in entering a new stage of its evolution really, and that requires a review of the structure. Is it currently fit for purpose?  Is it as nimble and agile as it could be and should be? My answer to that is probably not.”

Rebuilding the party is a big challenge. No party without an MP or ex-MP has succeeded in getting into Parliament under MMP.

O’Sullivan awards include:

  • 2013 Supreme Maori of the Year
  • 2014 New Zealander of the Year
  • 2014 Second most trusted New Zealander (Readers Digest)
  • 2015 Communicator of the Year

Ardern adds details to timeline of becoming leader

Jacinda Ardern has adjusted the timeline on when she knew about taking over the Labour party leadership from Andrew Little.

At the time it happened Ardern claimed it had been suddenly sprung on her, but she now has given details that Little had been trying to talk her into taking over for a week before he stepped down. During the election campaign she admitted she knew 6 days in advance that Little wanted to step down.

NZ Herald:  Jacinda Ardern rejected Labour leadership ‘seven times’

Jacinda Ardern has revealed she held out for a week – refusing daily – before finally agreeing to replace Andrew Little as Labour’s leader.

Ardern said she was at a Rotary meeting in the capital on her birthday, July 26.

“I’m going to remember that day for a long time,” she said.

“Rotary gave me a great big birthday cake – and it was on that day that Andrew (Little) said to me ‘I’m worried about the polls and wondering whether you should do this job instead’.

“It’s two months, almost to the day, since that happened, and a couple of days later he made the decision to stand down and he nominated me as leader of the Labour Party.

“And I can tell you that from the 26th of July to the 1st of August, every single day I was asked and I said ‘no, no, no’.

“There were lots of reasons for that, but the moment when Andrew made that decision, then there was a role I needed to step into and there was no doubt in my mind that that was what I needed to do.”

That’s quite a different slant to what we were told at the time.

RNZ:  As it happened: Jacinda Ardern takes charge as Labour leader

Mr Little tells RNZ’s Morning Report on Monday morning he is “absolutely determined” to be the Labour leader. However he concedes, “at 24 [percent], you don’t get to form a government”.

Stuff:  Jacinda Ardern new Labour leader as Andrew Little quits

Ardern laughed, saying that she had just accepted the “worst job in politics” at very short notice.

“This was not planned, but it has not weakened my or my team’s resolve.”

“I want to be absolutely clear, the decision that Andrew made was Andrew’s decision.”

Sounds like she was right about that.

NZH:  Andrew Little quits: Jacinda Ardern is new Labour leader, Kelvin Davis is deputy

Ardern said she only found out about his plans on her taxi ride to Parliament this morning. She hasn’t yet had time to tell her parents, who live in Niue, or her partner Clarke Gayford.

“Mum and Dad are going to get a surprise.”

However two weeks ago, during the campaign, Ardern reveals Little asked her to take over leadership six days before resigning

Jacinda Ardern has revealed former leader Andrew Little first asked her to take over the reins six days before he resigned but she told him to “stick it out”.

At the Blackball ‘Formerly Hilton Hotel’ – the birthplace of the Labour movement – Ardern was questioned by a local as to why she had ended up in the job.

For the first time Ardern spoke of Little approaching her on July 26 – her birthday – and saying he didn’t think he could turn things around for the party and she should take over as leader. She refused and told him to “stick it out”.

Ardern has now expanded on that, saying he asked and she refused every day for a week before he forced things by stepping down and nominating her to take over.

Ardern’s accomplished performance at her first media conference had hinted that she was a bit more prepared for her  promotion than having found out an hour earlier.

Damian Light to lead United Future

Damian was deputy leader and the only visibly active member of United Future other than Peter Dunne so this is no surprise.

I’ve met Damian, he’s a nice guy, and intelligent enough to know how hard things are going to be for him and the party from here. But he and the party will have made arrangements to campaign so might as well at least have a go, and then reassess things after the election.

Curran wants union and party member roles ‘reviewed’

Clare Curran wants the Labour party to review the role played by unions and party members in selecting party leader.

Jacinda Ardern was installed as leader by the caucus alone because of a rule that allows this within 3 months of an election.

ODT: Selection review urged

The powerful new role played by unions and party members in selecting Labour leaders needs to be reviewed, one of the party’s Dunedin MPs says.

The system has delivered two leaders, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, who failed to connect with the general public.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said a discussion was needed about whether unions and party members should continue having a say in who leads.

”I think we do need to re-look at the way we select our leaders, but that’s a question for after the election,” Ms Curran said.

Unions get a 20% vote share under the system introduced in 2012. It took some power away from MPs, who get a 40% say in the decision.

New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was appointed in a simple caucus vote because it was less than three months before the general election.

After affiliated unions piled in behind Mr Little, he squeaked ahead of rival Grant Robertson in the 2014 selection by just over 1%.

Unions won’t be keen on this changing.

Bill Newson, a top union official, defended the unions’ role in propelling the former union boss into the role after just three years in Parliament.

”We knew Andrew closely and stand by that assessment; a very high sense of integrity and responsibility, a team player.”

Mr Newson, Etu union’s national secretary, acknowledged that Mr Little ”didn’t work out in the public eye”.

Mr Newson said Mr Little’s decision would have ”weighed heavily” on the former national secretary of the EPMU.

In 2014, Mr Little got 75% of the union’s 20% vote share. In the final result, he got 50.52% to Mr Robertson’s 49.48%

University of Otago public law specialist Prof Andrew Geddis said it was a matter for the party, but the unions’ involvement was problematic.

”The problem … is it’s not the members of the unions who [vote], it’s the officials within the unions. It’s not a popular choice by union members.”

The E tu Union donated $120,000 to Labour on 20 June 2017 (which may or may not be a popular use of members’ money). If they can’t play a part in choosing leader the union leadership may not remain this generous.

The party stands by it’s current system.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth defended the system. It selected leaders in a ”very clear way”.

”The effort that both our previous two leaders have put into campaigning has been exceptional. The fact that they haven’t necessarily won elections can’t be sheeted home solely to them.

”The members very much wanted a new system in 2012. They will no doubt look at its performance and if they want to make changes they will,” Prof Haworth said.

A lot will depend on how well Labour do in the election. If they do poorly the members and unions may not be very happy.

Ardern promises “relentless positivity”

One promising aspect of Jacinda Ardern’s debut as Labour leader is her promise of “relentless positivity”.

Andrew Little, Labour MPs and Labour activists have all tended far too much towards negativity, barking at passing cars, moaning about the Government, attacking anyone who questions or criticises them.

So it will be refreshing if Ardern is relentlessly positive

And that will contribute to a better campaign. If Ardern and Labour are positive it will make it more difficult to attack them, and negative campaigning will contrast – take note Winston.

Moaners might get some protest votes but in general I don’;t think voters are attracted by relentless whinging.

1 News: Jacinda Ardern promises ‘relentless positivity’ as Labour leader in upcoming campaign

Jacinda Ardern says she’s just taken on the worst job in politics but she’ll bring “relentless positivity” to the party and next month’s election campaign.

“I will use the next 72 hours… to reflect and take stock of the campaign plan. We will be positive, organised and ready.”

We could do with a lot more positivity in politics, and if Ardern leads the way on this then good on her.

She will need substance alongside a positive message. If she nails that then we could be in for a better campaign, and that also rub off on the next government.

I am strongly in favour of anything and anyone that promotes more positive politics.

Statement from Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern
Leader of the Opposition
MP for Mt Albert

MEDIA STATEMENT
1 August 2017

Statement from Jacinda Ardern, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party

I want to start by giving my thanks to Andrew. His announcement today and the situation we have found ourselves in is not what anyone expected or wanted
In my time working with Andrew I know one thing to be true. He is first and foremost loyal to Labour, and I thank him for the support he gave me to work alongside him and for his incredible work over the last few years; a sentiment caucus expressed to him also.

Following Andrew’s announcement, I was nominated to be Leader of the Labour Party. My nomination was unanimously accepted. Kelvin Davis was nominated as deputy, and this too was unanimously accepted.

The circumstances may not be what Labour has planned for this campaign, but that has not weakened my resolve or focus. Or my team’s. We are determined and steadfast, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to now call myself Leader, and equally fortunate to work alongside someone as committed and talented as Kelvin.

This team is about to run the campaign of our lives. Yes, we are an optimistic nation, but when you work at the coal face of politics, you have the chance to see every single day that as a country, we can do better than this. We can be better than this.

As a party, we have huge aspirations for New Zealand. A place where everyone has a roof over their head and meaningful work, where education is free and good ideas flourish, where children live surrounded by creativity not poverty, and where we build a reputation as world leaders on environmental issues.

At stake is the chance to build a New Zealand that is better than we found it. And to build a future to look forward to.

I will use the next 72 hours to reflect and take stock of the campaign plan, and additional policy announcements I would like to add to our programme. You will hear more from myself and the team on this in the future, but you will have no doubt over the agenda Labour is presenting this election. We will be positive, organised and ready.

I am privileged and honoured to be Leader of the Labour Party. I am looking forward to the challenge of the election campaign where I will get the opportunity to talk to New Zealanders about Labour’s plan for a better and fairer New Zealand. This is what Labour has always stood for and under my leadership, will continue to stand for and fight for.