Pressure about to go on Peters

Winston Peters seems to have enjoyed the last two weeks, being the focus of media attention but having a good reason to keep fobbing them off. As I have said a number of times, he was justified in waiting for the final election results, due out at 2 pm today, but it is debatable as to how well he has conducted himself in the fortnight of limbo.

But once the results are known today, and if there is no degree of closeness or concern that could prompt a recount or judicial review of the results, then the serious business of negotiating a new government begins.

I think this will put a lot of pressure on Peters. This is likely to be his last shot at making a mark in government.

Both times Peters and NZ First have been in government, in 1996-1999 and 2005-2008, the terms have ended in controversy for Peters. He is likely to be doing his utmost to avoid a third time disaster.

Despite his game playing when in opposition, Peters has respect for Parliamentary traditions and I think he craves respect. He will only earn respect if the negotiations are conducted well, and whatever the resulting government arrangement that it operates for a full three year term without major controversy.

Peters not only has to do a deal that is good for NZ First, he has to get things right for the country, both in the formation of a new government and in the conduct of that government for three years.

Winston’s legacy has been mentioned frequently lately. I think the pressure is on him to make it one of respect and acknowledgement that he has the goods as one of the top political dogs of the era.

He may be remembered most for this last stint at government, and he will want to leave a lasting and positive impression.

Green MP’s “disgusting legacy”

Steffan Browning hasn’t got the most illustrious of legacies in his parliamentary career. He has been in Parliament since 2011. From a video on his party profile:


Browning has put a big brown stain on his career and on his Green Party with a dirty response to John Key’s valedictory speech.

From the Newshub report:

Green MP Steffan Browning scorned Mr Key’s “disgusting legacy”, posting an image of a glass full of a pale red liquid on his desk in Parliament.

“Thought John Key might like a little more blood for his valedictory speech, the day that we get confirmation of the raid he approved was responsible for innocent civilian deaths,” he wrote.

Mr Browning’s post was made on his private Facebook page, not his verified MP page – but he did tell Newshub earlier on Wednesday he wouldn’t be looking back on Mr Key’s time fondly.

“I don’t have a favourite memory of John Key, and I’m alarmed he’s not being held to account on the issue with our part in the wars in the Middle East – Afghanistan in particular,” he said.

“There’s nothing too good at all.”

This reflects poorly on Browning, and by association on the Green Party. He is another MP who has never been near being in government who has no idea about the realities of having the responsibility of running the country.

I hope the Greens distance themselves from this inappropriate gesture.

Browning won’t be standing for re-election from the Green list this year. If he had put himself forward again he would have struggled to get a good enough position on the Green list to get back in.

His most notable effort as an MP was in 2014 when Browning, while Green spokesperson for natural health products, signed an online petition supporting the use of homeopathy to treat the Ebola virus. That would risk more lives than John Key’s actions did.

Greens seem to have ditched a role of spokesperson for natural health products and are likely to have ditched Browning if he hadn’t indicated he would stand himself down.

Obama’s legacy

As Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House obituaries for his presidency are being rolled out.

It should be remembered that he took office just as a major financial crisis hit the United States and the world. At least under Obama the US avoided the Global Financial Crisis becoming the worst ever rather than the worst since the Great depression.

Obama’s greatest achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens (although, another 20 million are still uncovered_ – but this is likely to be dumped by Trump.

Otherwise Obama is best known for underachievement and lack of delivery.

ODT: A legacy unravelling

Barack Obama started his tenure as the President of the United States with such hope. The first black president of the US is a skilled orator who promised so much, not only for African Americans but for voters who felt disenfranchised and left behind.

Along with his wife Michelle, Mr Obama was living proof African Americans could achieve every goal to which they aspired, as long as they overcame the obvious racial barriers still prominent in the US.

As he prepares to leave office next week, the adulation is flowing for Mr Obama but how will history view him?

The legacy Mr Obama will leave is already being unravelled by critics on both the left and right of the American political spectrum.

He failed to deliver on a lot of promise and promises.

Cornel West at The Guardian: Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama

Our hope and change candidate fell short time and time again.

Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikesunintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.
This is a depressing decline in the highest office of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism.Is there really any hope for truth and justice in this decadent time? Does America even have the capacity to be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

The Us didn’t do well under GW Bush, with Iraq being a major blot and he ended his eight years in office handing over a financial crisis.

Obama negotiated through the GFC but didn’t unblot the Middle east misadventure and did little else of lasting note.

Trump may suddenly stop being a flip flopping buffoon and become a responsible reforming leader for his country and he may take the world by diplomatic storm, but predictions he surely must stop playing the fool as he gets into positions of responsibility have proven to be false in the past.

One way or another Obama’s legacy is likely to be overshadowed by Trump’s (that’s already happening before Trump takes over), and it’s unlikely to enhance memories of Obama’s tenure as President.

Obama hasn’t tipped the US over a precipice, but he has overseen his country’s slide to the edge.


Key’s legacy

Journalists and pundits have rushed into writing about John Key’s political legacy.

Public response has ranged from cheers and jeers to tears. For some people politics is very personal, and there are extreme views and feelings.

Media coverage of key’s legacy has been mostly favourable. Key was a very successful Prime Minister and communicator in some ways.

Of course Key, like any Prime Minister, has made mistakes and has done things he won’t be proud of, but on balance I think most people will see his tenure as being pretty good through some tough times – like the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes.

Some people will never have seen any good in Key because he is not on their political side of a deep divide. Bitter bollocking has continued after the news of Key’s retirement.

Key has said that one of his main ambitions was to leave politics with New Zealand a better place than when he started as Prime Minister.

He took over as New Zealand transitioned from local recession to global financial crisis, and he, Bill English and their Government got the country though that better than most countries, with the added burden of the massive Canterbury earthquakes.

Our economy is emerging from years of deficits and the prospects are now looking much better. Housing is a major problem but that is not unique to New Zealand. In retrospect Key’s Government should have addressed land supply and the RMA sooner and more drastically, but they didn’t know the property bubble would blow up so much and for so long.

Key and all of us with mortgages and loans have benefited from a transition from high interest rates (mortgage rates were over 10% in 2008) to record lows of less than half of that. Some international influences are good, some are bad.

Key hasn’t dramatically transformed New Zealand, he hasn’t introduced one signature policy that will be remembered fondly for decades.

This is more positive than negative. Some people want revolution, they want to transform the country into their idea of some sort of capitalist or socialist nirvana.

But most people prefer stability, they don’t want their country lurching from one government to another, from one failed reform to another on the off chance one reform will make things better.

Governing a country is far more complex than many people seem to understand. Many tweaks are generally safer and better than a few major transformations. Big change is as likely to introduce new big problems as it is to solve the existing problems.

I think quite a bit more time and reflection is necessary to properly judge Key’s tenure as Prime Minister.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and some of the people will never be satisfied no matter who is in charge.

But I think in general New Zealand under the John Key led government of then last eight years has done pretty well, and our prospects overall are pretty good, albeit with some ongoing difficult issues like housing, drugs, violence and the struggling poor still needing more attention.

Like anyone Key had his flaws but I think he did a lot and he did his best and most of us are probably better off due to his efforts.

Key’s secret

Key successfully kept his plans to resign secret,  by telling very few people.

According to reports:

  • Key had discussed the possibility of retiring with his wife Bronagh since last Christmas.
  • He told Bronagh about his decision in September.
  • He told Bill English just after that.
  • He told his children two weeks ago.
  • Close staff were told on Sunday.
  • Ministers were called individually, presumably on Monday morning.
  • National backbenchers were told by conference call 30 minutes before Key went public.

Limiting his secret like this enabled him to spring a surprise on the nation.

Inevitable leaks did occur, but just prior to Key’s announcement. Some people in politics can’t be trusted to keep their traps shut, and can’t be trusted to do the decent thing and let Key make his own announcement.

I’ve seen a couple of journalists say they were tipped off a few minutes before Key’s media meeting at 12:45 yesterday. But in general Key’s announcement caught media completely by surprise – they had no idea what the special press conference was about in advance.

Two people who I won’t name but who were closely associated with ‘Dirty Politics’ tried to grandstand, one via Twitter just before Key’s announcement – this was quickly removed – and one in a blog post. Their own egos are more important to them than  doing the decent thing and allowing Key to make his own announcement.

Until yesterday Key and those he trusted did very well to keep his secret.

A suggestion for Key’s legacy

There have been some suggestions that flag change was an attempt by John Key to leave a legacy. If so that’s a fairly modest sort of legacy, and it’s looking like a failed one anyway.

There’s a much better legacy that Key could leave, and there’s nothing to stop him from achieving it, if he wanted to do.

By leading by example he could turn around the niggly attack politics that he has been adept at, but which came back to bite him on the flag process.

In his daily roundup Bryce Edwards looks at ‘personality politics’:

It could be that John Key is simply becoming less likeable. Certainly there’s an increasing awareness of Key’s tendency to participate in put downs and personal digs at opponents.

Earlier in the month the NBR’s Rob Hosking gave Key advice in his paywalled column, What Key must do now, which amounted to: “the prime minister would be advised to keep the trolling to a minimum”.

He explained that “Key is inclined to use Parliament primarily as a forum for partisan sledging”, but with increasingly polarised politics he needed to play a role in creating harmony rather than division, in which case Key “would be more prudent to emphasise gravitas”.

He could do more than that [- he could undo some of the damage and turn things around in a more positive direction.

NBR subscribers seem to agree with Hosking. A poll showed “more than two-thirds – 69% – of respondents said they would like more substance and less snark from the prime minister while 31% don’t believe he needs to change anything about his approach” – see Nick Grant’s NBR subscribers to PM: Pull your head in (paywalled).

69% of NBR subscribers is a big proportion of a demographic that should be Key friendly.

These are the sort of people that could be instrumental in kicking Key and National out if they get fed up enough. It wouldn’t need many to just not be bothered voting for him any more for Key to go out on a losing note.

If Key took a more positive approach he could still easily match anyone with his intellect and broad knowledge of issues without needing to resort to needley, nasty negative nonsense.

Little would have little choice but to match him in a more leader-like approach to leading.

Key could go out as a larrikin who finally pissed too many people off.

Or he could be remembered as a distinguished Prime Minister who stemmed the toxic toss pot slide.

Little’s legacy the retention of the Union Jack?

Josie Pagani made an interesting point in a RadioLive interview with Duncan garner about Labour’s and Andrew Little’s stance on opposing everything about the flag change despite it being contrary to party policy.

Patrick Gower had just talked about it being Key’s legacy policy followed by Garner suggesting yesterday Key almost seemed to be conceding on flag change..

Yeah he’ll be worried about cause you’re right Paddy, this is his legacy policy, and he can’t just be stuck with his war on weeds or his cycle pathway, you know he’s gotta have something a bit more iconic so he’ll be really worried.

Key’s known little for those things and far more for other achievements but that’s a side issue.

Personally I think he’s made a really good case for the change in the flag, and I think it’s a shame that the politics, the sort of gotcha politics between Labour and the Nats has sort of got in the way of this.

And Labour will be worried too, cause they don’t want their biggest achievement in Opposition to be preserving the Union Jack.

Both Garner and Gower agreed that that was a really good point.

If Labour succeed in helping retain the current flag it may be a long time before they can credibly try carry out their own policy to change the flag.