First vote on UK Conservative Party leadership

Missy reporting from the UK:


On Monday the Conservative Party leadership campaign officially began. Ten MPs officially entered the race, they were:

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Mark Harper.

This morning was the first round of voting by the Parliamentary Party, after a change of rules a couple of weeks ago candidates must get more than 16 votes from fellow MPs in order to progress with the candidates with the lowest number of votes being eliminated if all are over 16 votes, as opposed to previous rules which stated that only the candidate with the lowest number of votes was to be eliminated at each round regardless of number of votes of second lowest. The new rules mean that multiple candidates can be eliminated at once.

In today’s voting Boris Johnson received a higher number of votes than originally expected, this could be due to some polling this week which shows that Boris is the candidate most likely able to win a General Election.

The results from today’s vote is:
Johnson: 114
Hunt: 43
Gove: 37
Raab: 27
Javid: 23
Hancock 20
Stewart: 19
Leadsom: 11
Harper: 10
McVey: 9

The odds for Johnson winning have been slashed to 1/5.

Gove’s campaign suffered a bit earlier this week after he admitted over the weekend to using cocaine about 20 years ago. The admission came ahead of an unauthorised biography due to be released that details his drug use.

Tory leadership contest

Media frenzy over National leadership

Yesterday the political media were persistently pushing for declarations of trust from Simon Bridges and declarations of loyalty from Judith Collins, knowing that neither would be frank. This is political theatre at it’s worst.

The National caucus had a longer than usual meeting yesterday, prompting the attention after doubts have grown about the ability of Bridges to hold on to the leadership.

Newshub claim to have some sort of scoop:  Newshub understands Sir John Key has shown support for Judith Collins

Newshub understands former Prime Minister Sir John Key has shown some support behind the scenes for Judith Collins to be National leader.

Key would not confirm this to Newshub, only to say, “I don’t comment on leadership issues” – but because of his standing in the party, MPs still go to him for advice and he commands huge respect in the National Caucus.

An endorsement – or even a subtle nod – could be a game-changer.

Or not – Key has no vote on the leadership, and he should be reluctant to get involved in leadership issues.

Newshub was also leaked details of the National Party’s Caucus meeting on Tuesday, which included a specific warning to MPs not to talk to Newshub.

Simon Bridges survived another day as leader of the National Party as well as his first showdown with MPs after some started laying the groundwork for a coup in favour of Judith Collins.

National’s Caucus meeting was Bridges’ first face off with all his MPs in two weeks and since some of them started seriously stirring against his leadership, saying the numbers are firming up for Collins.

National MPs holed up for more than two hours in the meeting, and Bridges emerged victorious.

This is emotive language in lieu of actual news. ‘They are ‘holed up’ for every caucus meeting.

Bridges didn’t emerge victorious, he came out with no change to his leadership.

The rest of the Newshub report is not deserving of being repeated. It is poor nonsense from political editor Tova O’Brien.

This from Politik (prior to yesterday’s meeting) is more reasoned:

It is.clear that National’s membership is becoming impatient; that it wants to see the party produce a plan for the future and engage less in day to day brawling with Labour.

There has been an amount of credible media speculation that this is

There was almost a tacit acknowledgement of that yesterday with a lengthy defence of his leadership by his deputy Paula Bennett.

“There are things you want in a leader,” she said.

“I want somebody who is intelligent.

“I want someone that is going to work harder than me, because that is what I expect in my leader.

“And without sounding it, I work pretty bloody hard for this party and this country.

“But he works harder than I do.

“He works harder than any of our other MPs.

“I want someone who has a vision for this country and puts that first.

“And someone who knows that whatever discussions we are having in the caucus are not about who is sitting in what seat but what is best for this country.

“That is what I want in a Leader, and that is what you have got in Simon Bridges.”

National has three more regional conferences to go. There were signs in Hamilton that the grassroots party members want change, possibly big change. The challenge over the next three conferences will be for the leadership to demonstrate that they are listening. Otherwise those standing ovations will become even more reluctant.

Working harder is not good enough if it is simply not working, and that’s how it appears with Bridges. Too many people cringe whenever he speaks on television.

Some of the media sharks smell leadership blood and are more than circling, they are trying to force bites.

National will take their own time to work out what to do about Bridges, who shows no sign of giving up.

 

 

Bridges highlighting ‘discipline and unity’


When a leader sees a need to publicly demand unity and discipline in their caucus I think they have major problems.

National leader Simon Bridges speaks out on leadership, discipline and unity

National leader Simon Bridges is expected to deliver a strong message to his caucus on Tuesday that the only path to power is through discipline and uniting behind his leadership.

He said the message he got from delegates at the first of four regional conferences he attended at the weekend, in Hamilton, was the same.

The issue of leadership had not been raised specifically with him, he said.

“But there was a clear and strong message that in addition to holding the Government to account in developing our plans, we win back power by being disciplined and unified,” he told the Herald. “That came through loud and clear.”

“I think there is a mature understanding that this is a new Government and the country has rallied around it in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks,” Bridges said.

“But National is still in the 40s, within striking distance of Government with a good campaign.”

Bridges is either fooling himself or trying to fool the public. Either way, he just seems foolish.

Asked if the speculation about his leadership inevitably destabilised it, Bridges said: “Whilst none of that was raised [at the conference], it is very clear from members of the party that they know to win we need certainty about leadership, we need discipline and unity.”

“Our members are proud that National has defeated the capital gains tax although they are anxious that they are going see more attempts at cash grabs from the Government to pay for slushy machines and [NZ First MP] Shane Jones’ slush fund.”

There was a strong view that there had been a real lack of delivery from the Government from housing to transport, where no new road had begun under this Government.

“They talked a big game but aren’t delivering.”

Unity and discipline are relatively easy under strong leadership. They become a problem under failing leadership.

Publicly talking about them shows signs of a major problem.

Bridges appears to be flogging a dead leadership.

Jacinda Ardern – leadership by example, with some wee mistakes

Jacinda Ardern has been widely applauded throughout New Zealand and around the world for the way she has handled the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March. She has deserved this praise – she claimed “I just think I’m displaying humanity”, but she has also lead by example, with most of the country following her lead.

Stuff:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the week

“I don’t think I’m displaying leadership. I just think I’m displaying humanity.”

Leadership by example is one of the most effective forms of leadership.

“Even off the back of today, you’ve had thousands of people exposed to a faith they may not have been exposed to. It’s really a bringing together of communities. In that regard, I think we are all forever changed. In many ways, but particularly that.”

“In politics we can choose to model behaviour. That’s part of the reason I was very deliberate in choosing to not name the terrorist, and to call it terrorism. But ultimately it will be up to every individual, media outlet and politician to take responsibility for our positions and language.

Not naming the terrorist was strongly symbolic from Ardern, although many had chosen not to name him before that. I had already chosen not to name him, and have continued with that stance for now.

But the media have a responsibility to report facts, and names of murders and terrorists are basic facts, so should be recorded in public.

She was confident she reflected the values of the majority, and the public response would confirm she was right, but while “this attack was brought to us by someone who was not a citizen”, we cannot hide from the fact that the ideology also existed here.

The non-naming was reflecting an already established practice of many. Ardern was perceptive to that, and as a leader amplified what others were doing.

“I genuinely believe that all I am modelling are the values of New Zealanders. On every occasion when I’ve had an opportunity to share words, all I’ve reflected in my mind is ‘what are New Zealanders feeling right now? What are the words I’m hearing expressed around me? How do we all feel?'”

She can’t and hasn’t reflected how we all feel. There have been many feelings, emotions and reactions.  But I think there is no doubt that Ardern captured and boosted the feelings of the vast majority of New Zealanders.

“One of the things we can all do is never allow New Zealand to be an environment where any of that hostility can survive. [But] terrorism doesn’t have borders, we’ve seen that now. So we can do our bit in New Zealand but actually we need to try and play a leadership role too.”

Which she did admirably. If you read comments at Whale Oil and Kiwiblog, some on twitter and Facebook, and some here, not everyone admires how Ardern has done things. Some people will never like her regardless of what she does, that seems to be ingrained in some in politics. And some seem to resent her success at leading the country in a time of real need.

One think in particular Ardern bashers have been going about is her wearing of a scarf. I think criticisms have been misguided and in some cases way over the top. Ardern did not make it compulsory, she chose to do it herself, as did some others. I’m sure she was acting on considered advice.

I presume Ardern will have heard some of the criticisms, but she continued to wear a scarf or head covering on other occasions. She was obviously comfortable that she was in the main doing something that was appreciated by those who mattered the most, the victims of the shootings, which included the whole Muslim community. So I applaud her to sticking with her symbolic gesture.

It wasn’t a mistake to antagonise people who would have found something to feel offended about whatever she did. They are a part of ‘all New Zealanders’, but a small minority.

(It’s interesting to see the predominance of ‘New Zealand’ and ‘New Zealander’ over the past week and a bit).

A separation between Whale Oil and Judith Collins is evident on this issue. Collins in Parliament on Wednesday:

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the work she did on Saturday. I thought it was outstanding. I know there has been unfortunate comment on the internet about the fact that she chose to wear a scarf. I wear a scarf, and I do whenever I enter other people’s places of worship, where that is appropriate. It is a mark of respect, and I thought it was the right thing to do.

While the most prominent, Ardern is not the only politician who has shown leadership over the Christchurch terrorism. Most other Members of Parliament have also stepped up and shown leadership. Collins in that same speech:

One of the things I know is that Muslim New Zealanders have been with us since 1850. Islam is part of New Zealand, as all other religions are that are here, and those who don’t have religion, because it is something that people have as a belief system and it is part of who they are.

We are very lucky in New Zealand that with our 220 ethnicities, we have not had anything like this before. I hope that when we get to the bottom of what could be done in the future to help stop this happening again, I think that we will have a much safer and a much better community from it.

Another issue that Ardern showed leadership on was addressing our inadequate firearm laws. She ensured that we acted quickly, and she made sure she had the other party leaders working with her on making changes. Credit to all of them on that.


I think Ardern did make some mistakes in the heat of the moment. She delved into legal and procedural issues that are not her place to be.

Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern considering deporting alleged gunman

The Prime Minister is considering legal options to deport Brenton Tarrant, but says the alleged gunman will face justice in New Zealand.

“In cases where you have seen deportation, it’s generally at the conclusion of a sentence being served,” she told media. “He’s not going anywhere until he’s faced justice here”.

“Absolutely charges and the trial itself will happen in New Zealand. As for the remainder, I’m seeking advice. He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand.”

I don’t think deportations are the Prime Minister’s call to make.

Ardern also made comments about how the trial of the terrorist might bee run to deny him publicity, and she also tried to influence the media on how they would cover the trial.

From NZ Herald:

This raised the prospect of Tarrant conducting his own defence at trial and using the high-profile prosecution to promote his beliefs, which were detailed in a manifesto before Friday’s shootings.

Speaking to media this morning, Ardern said this was “something that we need to acknowledge and do what we can to prevent the notoriety that this individual seeks”.

This is not an area she should be involved in.

“Lifting his profile was one of them. That’s something that we can absolutely deny him.”

But when it comes to the alleged gunman’s court appearances, Ardern said the media had a part to play in preventing the wider public from hearing his extremist views.

Neither this.

Asked what could be done to prevent the accused from having a platform, Ardern said this was something that was “very early on” in her thinking.

“I’ve only had beginnings of conversations – that’s something I think we really will be looking to the media around its kind of coverage.

“Of course, people will want to know what is happening with the trial. But I would hope there are ways that it could be covered without adding to the notoriety that this individual seeks.”

She should not be getting herself involved in how the police and how the courts conduct the trial. There should be a clear separation between that and politicians. At least she acknowledged this.

She said any decisions about having the trial behind closed doors was not up to her.

“That’s why, as I say, this is a conversation I think really the media can play a strong role in.”

The media will do things as they see fit – and some journalists also made statements in the heat of the moment that may be put aside when the reality of responsibility of covering the trial goes.

Ardern should play no part in either how the media covers the trial, or how the trial is conducted – that is up to the prosecution and the court, ultimately primarily the judge.

I’m sure she understands that and will back off from this.

But in general she has done a very good job of leadership and promoting humanity.

 

 

Media intent on popularity politics dump on Bridges

Political journalists are focussing on Simon Bridges – on how well he is doing as Leader of the Opposition, and whether there is someone in the National caucus who could do better. With National polling very well it would be odd for them to dump their leader, but when in Opposition there will always be MPs looking for an opportunity to step up into the top job.

Audrey Young (NZH): Can National’s strong performance survive the strong death-wish for Bridges?

Who wishes political death on Bridges apart from media wanting some headline stories?

…it is extraordinary that a party on 46 per cent in last Sunday’s 1 News Colmar Brunton poll should be ending the year being subject to speculation about who is going to replace the person who got them to 46.

Who is doing the speculating? Journalists. Why?

Under Sunday’s poll result, National was literally one point away from having the numbers to govern. That is a stunning result for an unpopular leader.

But the political death-wish for Bridges is so strong, especially among some media, that one colleague declared that National’s 41 per cent in the party-commissioned poll was the “real” rating, not 46 per cent.

Young admits that it’s ‘some media’ wishing for a political funeral to report on. Perhaps they want someone more celebrity-like to report on.

The notion that a party could be polling high while its leader is polling as low as 7 per cent is unusual, so unusual that there seems to be a move to “correct” it.

If Bridges is finally forced to step down before the 2020 election, it won’t be because of the large gap between the party and leader but because the campaign against him has forced down the party vote.

After a hiatus, the campaign against Bridges has resumed.

It certainly looks like someone or some people are feeding the media morsels to try to dump on Bridges. And journalists like to feast on leaks, especially ones they get ‘exclusively’.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): National’s dilemma – can someone do better than Bridges?

Is it a dilemma for National? Or do journalists have a dilemma over who to promote as an alternative leader? Do they want someone more colourful (or at least less bland) than Bridges?

I haven’t seen any media consider how someone like Bridges might perform as a potential Prime Minister. Capability for the job seems to be unimportant compared to reporting either scandal or celebrity.

After an extraordinary, and turbulent, few months there are more brutal calculations to be made – such as whether Simon Bridges can carry them back into power. And if the answer is no – which seems to be the growing consensus – can anyone else do better.

Growing consensus amongst whom? Journalists? It shouldn’t be up to them to make decisions on future political prospects and dump on those they judge to be not up to their requirements.

This is what Bridges’ MPs will be weighing up between now and February.

Some opposition MPs will no doubt always be on the lookout for ways of advancing their political careers, and a few will no doubt think they could be doing better than Bridges. That’s normal with politicians with egos and ambition.

Does it matter if Bridges isn’t popular?

Yes of course. Politics is a popularity contest, after all.

I’m alarmed by that. Of course popularity matters, to an extent.

But isn’t politics supposed to be a contest of ideas, a contest of policies that will affect the well being of the nation and of the people?

Isn’t competence important?

Have journalists been caught up too much in conducting popularity contests – where their popularity with politicians in order to be fed stories (that politicians want to promote) is what matters, and where independent analysis and investigation doesn’t matter any more?

The job of Opposition is of course to oppose. But doing so while giving hope that you offer something better? That’s the hard bit.

Key nailed it. Ardern nailed it. Bridges is running out of time to nail it.

That’s nonsense. Bridges has another year at least to ‘nail it’ (as a potential Prime Minister) – except his problem right now seems to be not his lack of nailing it, but rather getting a hammering from media who seem to have dumped on Bridges.

Is the real problem here that Bridges is not popular amongst political journalists? Do they prefer destabilising leaks – they certainly seem to be encouraging them, if not be design by their actions – more than the honest toil of someone trying to lead the Opposition?

When Bridges became leader it was assumed the chances of his making it to the election were slim. It’s the way the cycle works. But those chances are getting slimmer all the time.

That’s alarming crap – alarming because journalists seem to be trying to build a case for slimming Bridges chances nearly two years before the next election.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in that time. Personally I’m not a fan of Bridges, but I’m less of a fan of journalists trying to influence what may happen in party leadership. I think that’s a far bigger problem than who is leader of a party not in Government.

 

National’s problem with uninspiring to inept Simon Bridges

I think that the National caucus should be seriously reconsidering having Simon Bridges as their leader.

Choosing a new leader for a political party is always a risk. It is impossible to know how they will step up and measure up.

Labour had four failed attempts to find a successor to Helen Clark before having no choice but to give Jacinda Ardern a go heading into last year’s election. Some Greens must be wondering whether Marama Davidson was a good choice to replace Metiria Turei.

While National party support had held up remarkably well (there hasn’t been any polls for quite a while to see if that’s still the case) Bridges has always failed to impress many if not most people. His ‘preferred Prime Minister’ results were poor, around 10% compared to Ardern around 40%.

An apt description of Bridges public performances is ‘damp squib’, although “much less impressive than expected” may overstate initial expectations.

I know I’m not alone here or elsewhere in finding Bridges’ public speaking not just uninspiring, it is often a turn off.

It was bad enough having a leader that didn’t appeal or inspire, but with his handling of the standing down from duties of MP Jami-Lee Ross, Bridges has added ineptness to his repertoire.

I don’t think it’s necessary to show examples here, but from what I’ve seen across media and social media, and across the political spectrum, there has been universal condemnation of Bridges.

I don’t see how he can recover from this – he was starting from ‘poor’ anyway, but has dragged that down with ‘appalling’.

Insisting on an inquiry into the leak of his expenses a few days early could be seen as a self inflicted cause of his failure but it if that hadn’t proven his unsuitableness something else would have.

At least National have plenty of time to choose a replacement leader, there is two years until the 2020 election.

Will they act now? Some say that a party shouldn’t replace a leader if the party support is remaining steady ahead of their opponents, but letting Bridges limp on would be a risk.

If support starts to slide a successor would not only have to prove their own worth, they would have to try to turn around a loss of voter faith in National.

I think they have to reconsider Bridges’ leadership position sooner rather than later.

Who should they turn to? The only virtual certainty is that Jami-Lee Ross is out of the running.

Australian politics: breaking, breaking, breaking

11:20 am

11:33 am

: Malcolm Turnbull has won back Australia’s leadership after declaring it vacant

11;55 am

: Malcolm Turnbull’s rival Peter Dutton has quit Cabinet after failing to win a challenge for Australia’s leadership

The Nation – Jacinda Ardern on brave leadership

On Newshub Nation this morning: Prime Minister talks about brave leadership as she sits down with in one of her final interviews before her maternity leave

This interview focussed mainly on criminal justice and the 3 strikes strike out this week.

Prime Minister

“Ultimately, we’re all united in the fact that we don’t want to see more victims, and the best way to prevent people becoming victims is to reduce the number of offenders we have in the first place.”

On our prisons being a ‘moral and fiscal failure – “What we’ve been bold enough to say is, ‘What does right look like for New Zealand?’ Because we are not the US, and yet our numbers look pretty close to the United States’.”

On the possibility of being a one term Govt -“We need to bring people with us. That’s the whole point. If you end up being a one-term government as a consequence of changes you’ve made, you probably haven’t brought people on that journey”.

On prison reform – “When we have a static crime rate but an ever increasing prison population, is that the kind of country we want to be?”

Stronger leadership required from Ardern as Government wobbles

It has been a wobbly few weeks for the Government, with problems and embarrassments involving all parties, Labour, NZ First and the Greens. A common factor is what looks like weak leadership from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has supported her own faltering MPs and dismissed problems from her support party ministers, saying mistakes will be made and they just need to be learnt from.

RNZ: Govt ‘will try to weed out mistakes’ – Ardern

Jacinda Ardern said mistakes will happen from time to time.

“With all of these cases they are, within context, issues that easily occur when you have an extraordinary amount of workflow coming through”.

“We will try to weed out mistakes wherever they may occur and prevent them from happening.”

“Ministers of all stripes make mistakes we’ve just got to make sure we correct them quickly.”

To an extent she is right, mistakes will happen and they need to be corrected – but too many mistakes are surfacing in a short period of time. The Government (and Ardern) risk an air of incompetence taking hold.

The most prominent mistake maker recently has been Clare Curran, who has featured in a lot of news for two weeks now. And it may not be the end of it yet, if RNZ’s Richard Griffin is forced to hand over a phone call recording.

ODT editorial: Fuller explanation needed from Curran

Ms Curran had nine years of Opposition in which to formulate her strategy in her much-beloved broadcasting and communications roles. Her role in open government and transparency was expected to pave the way for easier access to official information.

However, this has not been the case.

Ms Curran has survived in her job, despite at first not owning up to what was a planned, rather than casual, meeting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted Ms Curran’s explanation she was not seeking to undermine the RNZ chairman Richard Griffin, a National Party appointee, or chief executive Paul Thompson.

New Zealanders are still in the dark about exactly what Ms Curran was planning.

It behoves Ms Curran to  set the full record straight. She seems to be hiding details, and a senior RNZ executive has resigned. Ms Ardern has been tolerant and could well have made an example of Ms Curran.

Unless she takes some firm action before she takes maternity leave, the situation may become even worse when NZ First leader Winston Peters takes over as prime minister in her absence.

The ODT also points out other problems:

Ms Ardern is being badly let down by those around her. Apart from Ms Curran, New Zealand First ministers Shane Jones and Ron Mark have been called to account for their comments or actions. The Green Party Minister for Women, Julie Ann Genter called for old white men to make way in boardrooms. And the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Dr Alan Freeth was called before a select committee to talk about his interactions with Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.

More from Stuff’s Below the beltway: The week in politics

Down

Clare Curran

The Prime Minister is maintaining she is still confident in Curran, and to Curran’s credit she’s continued to front the media to discuss the ongoing RNZ saga. But calling board chair Richard Griffin – even if the call was as innocent as she claims – about his select committee appearance smacks of political interference. It was also a great way to give legs to a story that was beginning to die out.

Phil Twyford

Twyford is one of the more reliable ministers to deliver wins, but his big transport re-alignment was badly signalled and badly managed. By announcing the excise tax increase as “10c over three years” – instead of “3c a year for three years, just continuing what the last guys were doing” – he handed the opposition an easy attack line. Combining this news with the ambitious transport plan just meant the actual transport plan got lost in the conversation.

Eugenie Sage

Sage is another minister one doesn’t expect to see in trouble very often. But emailing the head of the crown entity a critical opinion piece about their chief scientist with the subject line “great article” is a good way to get yourself into trouble, especially if the opposition found out. Giving Nick Smith a chance to look good attacking you is quite an achievement.

Add to that the Young Labour camp sexual harassment allegations – any inquiry into that may be reported on while Ardern is off-duty, with it being likely the Party management will try to handle outside of the parliamentary wing.

So there are a lot of mistakes to be corrected – and there is no clear sign that that is happening. Ardern is increasingly looking like more talk than action.

As has been mentioned, she is planning on stepping aside in June for six weeks when she has her baby. That’s just two months away, with her government’s first budget due out in later May. A lot will be riding on how that is presented and how their spending plans shape up.

And there is no guarantee that the baby will wait until June. Ardern has a busy life, which raises risks of stress, pregnancy complications and possibly an early birth.

One would hope that a Prime Minister could step aside for any reason and the Government would keep functioning without any problems, but it’s hard to have confidence this will be the case.

Winston Peters will take over as Acting Prime Minister. He has been a problem for Ardern over his odd motives over Russia. Three of his MPs have featured in the wobbles – Ron Mark, Jenny Marcroft and especially Shane Jones, plus an unnamed Minister (alleged to be involved in the Marcroft incident). Peters has been just trivialising these problems.

There are more weaknesses in Labour below Ardern. Kelvin Davis has been virtually anonymous as deputy since he made a mess of supporting Ardern during the campaign last year. He also has to make what is likely to be an unpopular decision soon on a new prison to cope with growing numbers locked up.

Robertson will be busy before and after his first budget, and is yet to prove himself.

The only Labour MP I can think of with sufficient experience and credibility to step up is David Parker, and as Minister of Trade he spends a lot of his time travelling around the world.

So Labour and the Government are looking weak, almost out of their depth in turbulent water, and especially given the ongoing revelations of mistakes they are vulnerable to falling from favour.

Ardern needs to show some stronger leadership, and hope that in her absence not too many mistakes are made.

We may get through this ok, but at the moment the Government wobbles are looking worrying, with a real risk wheels may fall off.