How hopeless is National’s current situation?

Now that National seems to have settled in the very low forties in the polls, below Labour and well below Labour+Greens+NZ First, they have a big political hill to climb before next year’s election, especially with the surge in support for Labour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Even if either or both of Greens and NZ First miss the threshold next year Labour is in a strong position, with a leader who is widely liked versus National with leader Simon Bridges who appears to be widely disliked, or dismissed as not up to the job.

Which means National is in a weak position. This could change, but that would probably need a bad turn for the worse for labour, or for the economy. And it would probably also need National to find a new leader who is respected. Bridges is being written off by National leaning voters as much as anyone.

Matthew Hooton is either being realistic, or is trying to shock National into dumping Bridges: Jacinda Ardern on track for triumph in 2020

Moving towards the election, National will argue that a vote for NZ First is a vote for Ardern, which will be true as far as it goes. But just as truthfully, as more centre voters recognise National’s position as hopeless, Winston Peters or Shane Jones will be able to pitch that a vote for NZ First is a vote to keep the Greens out of Cabinet and major social or economic change off the table.

National now needs to face facts: it and Act are close to 20 points behind the three governing parties.

Bizarrely, some on the centre-right seem to take comfort from the most recent 1 News Colmar Brunton poll — completed before Ardern took the CGT off the table — putting National and Act on 41 per cent. They seem to overlook the fact that this puts them a full 17 points behind Labour, NZ First and the Greens, who were on a combined 58 per cent.

To put this in perspective, gaps of more than 15 points between opposition and governing blocs are exceptionally rare in New Zealand.

Were such a result to occur on election night, it would sit alongside the two worst political debacles in living memory.

By and large, National MPs remain in denial about how hopeless their position is, especially following Ardern’s CGT move.

They misunderstand that, in a country that is generally content, Ardern’s very flakiness on any substantial policy matter is one of the Coalition’s strengths.

That her every utterance is devoid of content and that her Government has no meaningful policy programme is exactly the way the median voter likes it.

Sadly for centre-right voters, it looks as if National will need to repeat its trauma of 2002 and Labour’s of 2014 before it wakes up to the magnitude of the task and difficulty of the decisions required to become a viable alternative government again.

There have been various reports recently about Bridges being poorly supported by National MPs, and numbers being counted.

But do they have the gumption to actually do anything? Or are they going to wait until it gets worse for them before they act?

There are suggestions that prospective alternate leaders see next year’s election as lost anyway so don’t want to try to step up before then. That defeatist approach is bad enough as a strategy – taking over from the captain of a sinking ship isn’t a very smart plan – but it also shows a lack of leadership potential.

Judith Collins is often suggested as waiting in the wings, but it seems that she is not liked by enough MPs to get win their confidence. So who else is there? Ardern wasn’t rated until she got elevated in an emergency situation. There could be someone in the national ranks who could do a good job of stepping up.

The problem with politics is showing good leadership skills – and intent – is frowned upon, especially by current leadership, so it is difficult to judge the abilities of all National MPs.

If the National caucus has any serious contenders hidden in their midst they should be showing leadership and try to take over before things get too bad,

Otherwise they look to be in a hopeless political situation, and just accepting that and struggling on makes them look undeserving of voter support.

National backs Pike River mine re-entry

The National Opposition have said they now support re-entry into the Pike River mine as they believe it can be done safely.

NZ Herald:  Politics off the Pike River table as National backs re-entry

The National Party is accepting advice that the Pike River re-entry can now be done safely, taking politics off the table on an issue that has been a bitter political battleground.

Yesterday, the party’s Pike River recovery spokesman, Mark Mitchell, met with the Families Reference Group – which represents more than 80 per cent of Pike River victims’ families – and told them National supported the re-entry plan.

Afterwards, Mitchell told the Herald the party’s position had always backed a re-entry as long as it could be done safely, but it is the first time National has told the families’ group it backs the plan.

“The advice now is that we can get in there, and we completely support that.”

As far as I can find rep-entry is planned to begin on 3 May:

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has announced that in light of the current state of preparations, the scheduled date to commence re-entering and recovering the access tunnel to the Pike River Mine (the drift) will be Friday 3rd May.

“Since I announced on 14 November 2018 that the project will proceed, there has been an incredible amount of preparation to get ready for re-entry. This has included preparing bridges for heavy loads, installing a nitrogen plant, upgrading the power supply, laying many kilometres of piping for the nitrogen, drilling more boreholes, installing monitoring equipment, and purging and ventilating the drift.

“As well as this, staff have been trained on working in a forensic environment. Worksafe have been reviewing all aspects of the planning, risk assessments and supporting documentation, in order to ensure the re-entry plan is safe.

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/pike-river-mine-re-entry

 

Simon Bridges – from back seat to boot

Simon Bridges took a back seat to Jacinda Ardern and politics last month. He had no choice with the Christchurch shootings dominating the news.

Since then thinsghaven’t improved. If anything he has slipped back to the boot, which is what he may get from the National Party leadership if he doesn’t find another formula, fast.

Audrey Young: Another lopsided week for Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges

Comparing Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges this week has been even more asymmetrical than usual.

Bridges’ support within his own caucus seems to be shrinking at the same rate as Ardern’s reputation is growing internationally.

Ardern also took the highly unusual step of leading the third reading debate on the bill to rid New Zealand of the most dangerous of firearms. It was more material for her growing international audience.

And she made a big deal of the bipartisan support from National in her speech.

While National’s young Chris Bishop did a valiant job in being first up to respond on behalf of his party, as parliamentary symbolism went it was highly asymmetrical.

Bridges was missing in action. He was not prepared for the debate because he did not know about it enough in advance.

It certainly would have been a more sincere bipartisan exercise by the Government if it had given National notice of Ardern’s intention to lead the debate. It was petty not to do so.

Ardern’s growing stature would hardly be dimmed, nor Bridges’ inflated by giving him sufficient opportunity to prepare for it.

But the gun debate was the least of Bridges’ problems this week.

Bridges also found himself the subject to a fresh of attacks from ex-colleague Jami-lee Ross.

The internal employment dispute is more problematic than Jami-lee Ross. Ross has done his worst and his allegations about donations are now in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

This an ongoing rather than a new problem. Bridges’ management of the whole Ross debacle has not been flash, but Ross has made it very difficult for Bridges.

Not so the ’emotional junior staffer’ fiasco, which is a self inflicted disaster.

The employment dispute with press secretary Brian Anderton, however, is seen by many National MPs as having been mismanaged by Bridges and his closest advisers.

The changing answers from National about why its petition against the UN Migration Pact was taken down after the mosque attacks have been widely construed as lies rather than misunderstandings.

There has been little attempt by those in the thick of it to set the record straight. The vacuum has been replaced by accusation and speculation likely to be much worse than the reality.

Bridges’ description of Anderton as an emotional junior staffer has been seen as pejorative, even though it was strictly true that he did not have the seniority to take down the petition on the night of the killings – when the whole country was in a deeply emotional state.

Essentially, Bridges is getting a reputation as a leader who compounds problems when he steps in, rather than clearing them up, and of attracting people with similar traits.

The dispute with Anderton is similar to the Maureen Pugh issue. In the eyes of the caucus, the slagging off of a colleague (revealed in secretly recorded tapes by Jami-lee Ross) as useless was unforgivable disloyalty.

Many MPs believe Bridges has not shown Anderton the loyalty that should be accorded to long-serving staff members who make an error.

It is his dealing on smaller personal issues such as Pugh and Anderton that have given Bridges’ colleagues reason to question his judgment.

Loyalty is a two way thing in life and in politics. Bridges burning loyalty has become a recurring problem.

The so-called inquiry into National’s culture ordered in the aftermath of the Jami-lee Ross saga appears to lacked rigour. No one knows who did it, no one can find anyone who was spoken to for it, Bridges says it is a party matter, and the party says it will wait until the Debbie Francis review into bullying at Parliament before it issues any comment on its own review.

A number of female National MPs were asked about about this inquiry and remarkably said they had taken no part in it.

It’s difficult turning a perception of ineptness around.

Bridges has regressed from back seat to boot this month. Next may be the trailer, and not just in the polls.

 

Reid Research party support poll

A Business New Zealand Reid Research poll on party support slipped under the radar this week. It was taken from 15-23 March, the day of and just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, so it should be treated with more caution than normal.

  • Labour 49.6%
  • National 41.3%
  • Green Party 3.9%
  • NZ First 2.3%

Labour are up from 47.5% in the RR February poll (which was up 4.5% from the previous poll). It isn’t surprising to see an (small) increase in support for Labour at the  time of a major adverse event. Jacinda Ardern’s adept handling of the attack aftermath has been rewarded in the poll.

National have hardly moved, down just 0.3% from the February poll, but had dipped 3.5% to a record low in the previous poll. They may struggle to hold even at that after Simon Bridge’s performance since.

Labour’s gain has been Green’s loss.

Greens have dropped from 5.1% to 3.9%, which must be a concern to them. James Shaw was largely unseen after the Christchurch killings, with Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman being more prominent, and they tend to be polarising – popular in part but also annoying many.

NZ first have slipped 0.5% to 2.3%, after dropping by the same amount in February. Winston Peters and NZ First fully backing the Arms Amendment Bill happened after the poll period so they could easily slip further. They have disappointed a lot of their 2017 supporters.

The Business NZ Reid Research poll of 1,000 voters was taken from March 15-23 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. 750 were interviewed by phone and 250 online.

Source NZ Herald – Claire Trevett: Poll puts Labour support up after mosque attacks but tax is back in debate

 

Simon Bridges and National on the Christchurch mosque massacres

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been the primary political focus in response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. She has done a very good job in many respects. She has been very good at communicating with the public generally in her media conferences, and she shows obvious empathy and rapport when dealing with those affected by the killings.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has been far less visible, understandably.

He and other politicians travelled with Ardern on a visit to Christchurch on Saturday, in a show of political solidarity.

There have been two official National party statements.

Friday:  Opposition Leader condemns Christchurch attack

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned the Christchurch attacks and expresses condolences to the people of Canterbury.

“Details are still emerging but the attacks are shocking.

“We stand with and support the New Zealand Islamic community.  No one in this country should live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of the National Party are with the victims of today’s attacks, along with their families and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Saturday:  Opposition Leader visits Christchurch

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today visited Christchurch alongside the Prime Minister and other Party Leaders and met with the Islamic community, some of the affected families and emergency responders.

“Now is not a time for politics. The National Party stands in solidarity with the Prime Minister and the Government in condemning the horrific and violent terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday.

“My deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all those directly affected by yesterday’s events, but also to the wider Canterbury community.

“This is not something that has happened to just the Islamic community, or just to Christchurch. It has happened to all New Zealanders.

“It is foreign to everything that makes us Kiwis, our beliefs, our values, our tolerance, how we live and get along with one another.

“We offer our support in any way we can. We are with you today and tomorrow.”

Monday: Simon Bridges on RNZ on firearm laws

Change is needed, I understand that.

I am open to any and all changes.

Be very clear, I am up for change.

The National Party will be constructive.

Do you want military style semi-automatic weapons available?

He kept responding in general terms, that he is up for any and all change.

There is a Prime Minister and a Government we are supporting on this.

He says he is now waiting until the Prime Minister comes back with proposals on law changes. It sounds like bridges may have some sort of understanding with Ardern about how to proceed on this.

He could be more definitive, but in general I think it’s fair enough to see what the Government proposes. Once that is announced, Bridges will need to be more clear.

 

 

UMR and other polls – Labour and National even

Note – at best polls are just an approximate indicator of a snapshot of political support, especially individual polls.

Here is some anecdotal and it appears actual poll information.

Matthew Hooton in Capital Gains Tax debate shows Jacinda Ardern’s weakness

National insiders say their polling has NZ First consistently below the 5 per cent threshold, the Greens dicing with death by bouncing around it, and Labour and National locked in a tight battle, both above 40 per cent and within the margin of error of each other.

Care has to be taken with ‘insiders say’ anecdotes, but this is much the same as the last two published polls:

  • Reid Research 24 January-2 February: Labour 47.5%, National 41.6%, Greens 5.1%, NZ First 2.9%
  • Colmar Brunton 9-13 February: Labour 45%, National 42%, Greens 6%, NZ First 3%

The Reid Research poll was very early in the year, before politics cranked up, so favouring Labour is not surprising.

James Last yesterday on Twitter – The latest UMR poll for its corporate clients:

  • National up 5 to 45%
  • Labour down 1 to 44%
  • Greens down 2 to 5%
  • NZ First no change on 4%

While unpublished and verified this looks quite believable, with National back virtually level pegging with Labour.

National haven’t been particularly impressive but Labour have handled the Tax Working Group and CGT poorly so may have eased a bit because of that – but it could be too son to take much from it. If we get polls in the next month they may add too the picture, unless other major issues or events take over influence.

What this means is that hal way through the term (18 months before the next election) there is little in it between Labour and National. I think we can expect ebbs and flows in their support somewhere in the forties depending on timing of polls and margins of error.

Perhaps of more significance is NZ First remaining stuck under the threshold. When NZ First was last in government from 2005-2008 they polled mostly under the threshold and ended up getting 4.07 in the 2008 election, getting them dumped from Parliament.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2008_New_Zealand_general_election

Greens look a bit safer staying just above the threshold, but are still at risk. They will be keen to be seen to be achieving significant gains on climate, environmental and social issues. They have time for that, but need to start delivering.

 

 

Can the Green door be opened to GE debate?

Greens look like remaining staunchly opposed to genetic engineering, but the national party is trying to push against this.

Last week from Newshub:  Govt blocking breakthrough technology that could make New Zealand predator-free

There’s a major roadblock within the Beehive over the role genetic engineering (GE) could play in a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has stopped any and all work being done to use GE technology, despite official advice suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.

“We want to focus on existing tools, making them better and finding new tools without being diverted down the potential rabbit hole of GE research.”

In one email, she wrote: “Please be assured that the department is clear about my expectations regarding genetic technologies. It has informed me that there is no mammalian gene drive technology research currently occurring in New Zealand.

“I have also required Predator Free 2050 Ltd to carry out appropriate due diligence on any co-funded projects before agreeing on any contracts, and have explicitly required them not to be involved in any research with genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISPR or gene editing.”

In another email, the minister made a similar comment: “I have been clear about my expectations regarding such technologies.”

Official advice also said the technology has the potential to control pests “in a humane and efficient manner without inadvertently harming other species like native birds”.

But Ms Sage told Newshub the Government isn’t blocking work in the area, there’s just been no decision to advance any discussion in the area.

“There’s no public mandate to do any work in that space – it would be a major change in Government policy.”

Alex Braae (The Spinoff):  Door opened to GE Free debate

It has been one of the cornerstone policies of New Zealand environmentalism for the past two decades. New Zealand’s GE Free status has been maintained throughout our primary sector, meaning horticulture and agricultural products can be sold under the label. But it looks likely a thorny debate is about to get underway over whether that should be continued.

Why? The National Party is pushing for that debate to start, and they’re being backed by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, reports Politik.

Sir Peter says we should be looking at relaxing rules gene editing – not quite the same thing as genetic modification, but not a million miles away either – here’s an excellent explainer that outlines the differences further down the page. It’s perhaps a bit disingenuous to describe it as a call for a debate too – intelligent people don’t call for debates on topics if they don’t intend to then win the argument.

In particular, the topic in question is a type of ryegrass currently being trialled in the USA, which when eaten by cows could reduce their methane emissions by up to 25%. New Zealand’s output of methane is a significant contributor to our total emissions, and the argument goes that finding ways to reduce that is the best contribution we could make to reducing global emissions.

It’s also entirely in line with National’s approach to climate change policy, which they want to have minimal economic impact, and be primarily driven by science and technology, rather than cutting production.

But would it actually have minimal economic impact? 

This piece on Pure Advantage’s website (an organisation that promotes cohesion between business and environmentalism) argues that any changes to policy in New Zealand could be incredibly damaging to our global brand.

It’s fair to say that the science isn’t fully settled on the full potential benefits and risks of gene editing and other related techniques. However, as the experts collated by the Science Media Centre last year pointed out, that’s because more research needs to happen, and they largely support that research taking place.

In this Stuff story, Minister Sage said there wasn’t a push from New Zealanders for the GE policy to be changed. But if a flashpoint issue were to emerge, that could change very quickly.

I doubt it will change much at all while the Greens are in Government.

National response to Tax Working group final report

Simon Bridges set the National tone to the Tax Working Group final report prior to it’s release.

NZ Herald:  National Leader Simon Bridges says a capital gains tax would lead to Kiwis leaving NZ for Australia

Speaking to media this morning, Bridges came out swinging and said such a tax would come at the detriment to middle New Zealand.

“[It would be] a recipe for more people buggering off to Australia.”

Interest.co.nz:  Bridges says a capital gains tax would cause people to leave for Australia (where there is a capital gains tax)

That point was hammered on Twitter as well.

Bridges’ initial response to the release of the report yesterday:

That has also been widely ridiculed.

A Labour friendly report that is likely to be watered down substantially by Winston Peters is not exactly an all out assault.

A prior tweet is closer to the mark:

One distinct possibility is Peters demanding a farm exemption. And possibly a small business exemption. And a hobbled CGT quickly becomes a crippled CGT, if it gets NZ First approval at all.

Regardless of this, National have been hammering the report.

Simon Bridges: More costs as tax monster unleashed

The Tax Working Group has gone much further than a Capital Gains Tax with a raft of new taxes targeting hard-working New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

There are eight new taxes including; an agriculture tax, a tax on empty residential land, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, a waste levy and a Capital Gains Tax.

“This is an attack on the Kiwi way of life. This would hit every New Zealander with a Kiwi Saver, shares, investment property, a small business, a lifestyle block, a bach or even an empty section,” Mr Bridges says.

“For farmers, who are the backbone of our economy, this is a declaration of war on their businesses and way of life. They would pay to water their stock, feed their crops and even when they sell up for retirement.

“Labour claims this is about fairness, but that’s rubbish. The CGT would apply to small business owners like the local plumber, but not to investors with a multi-million dollar art collection or a super yacht who won’t pay a cent more.

“The TWG has recommended one of the highest rates of Capital Gains Tax in the world. The Government would reap $8.3 billion extra in its first five years from ordinary Kiwis – small business owners, farmers, investors, bach and lifestyle block owners. After 10 years it would be taking $6 billion a year from Kiwis.

“It will lead to boom times for tax lawyers and accountants and even Iwi advisers, given recommendations for exclusions that include Māori land in multiple ownership.

“We believe New Zealanders already pay enough tax and the Government should be looking at tax relief, not taking even more out of the pockets of New Zealand families.

“National says no to new taxes. We would repeal a Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to the cost of living and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn.”

Amy Adams: Massive tax grab will hammer NZ economy

New Zealand might have been expecting a capital gains tax to be announced today but the full suite of taxes proposed by the Tax Working Group would threaten the very viability of large swathes of the NZ economy, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“The new taxes proposed today will create a compliance mine field, massive distortions in the market and weaken our international competiveness at the very time the Government acknowledges the international economic risks are growing,

The proposal from the Government’s handpicked Tax Working Group doesn’t line us up with other countries as has been claimed, instead it would impose one of the most onerous capital taxation regimes in the world with 100% of the gain taxed at full marginal rates, limited relief for capital losses, no inflation adjustment and limited rollover relief.

“The Capital Gains Tax proposed by Sir Michael Cullen and the Tax Working Group will hit every small business owner, KiwiSaver account, farm, family bach, lifestyle block and investment in New Zealand. It will act as a massive disincentive to save, invest or build a productive business.

“There is nothing fair about saying owners of baches and lifestyle blocks will face a tougher CGT than corporates.

“It would add significant complexity to our relatively simple tax system, likely exempt Iwi assets, require all eligible assets to be re-valued within five years and further drain New Zealand’s already shallow capital markets.

“New Zealand doesn’t need a Capital Gains Tax and the Government has to date failed to confirm this would be a revenue neutral package. The CGT alone would raise an additional $32 billion over ten years and there is no evidence any offset will be of the same magnitude.

“On top of the Capital Gains Tax, other new and increased taxes, include a vacant residential land tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, extending the waste tax.

“It is quite simple, a country can’t tax itself to prosperity.

“New Zealanders already pay enough tax and National believes if you want New Zealanders to succeed on the world stage the tax burden should be reduced, not increased.

“National has promised to repeal the Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to inflation, repeal the Regional Fuel Tax and not introduce any new taxes in our first term. Our full tax package will be released closer to next year’s election.

“The longer the Government dithers over its response to this report, the more our economy will be hurt by the fear and uncertainty these recommendations will rightly cause.”

Labour will likely have predicted and prepared for this sort of over reaction.

And what Labour ends up getting NZ First to agree to is likely to take much of the sting out of these attacks.

National’s relationship with China also under fire

A lot has been said over the last week about apparent difficulties the Government is having in it’s relationship with China, in part because of the relationship between Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. Ardern is the first Prime Minister for decades who hasn’t been on a visit to China in her first year, and that trip seems to be on indefinite hold.

But National’s relationship with China is also being criticised.

Michael Reddell (Newsroom): National’s craven deference to China?

But over the past couple of decades, New Zealand political figures, and the National Party ones in particular, seem to have binned any sense of decency, integrity, or values when it comes to Chinese Communist Party-ruled China. I don’t suppose individually most of them have much sympathy for PRC policies and practices, but they just show no sign of caring any longer. Deals, donations, and indifference seem to be the order of the day.

Over the past couple of years the depths the party, its leaders and MPs, have been plumbing have become more visible. In 2017, in government, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRC on the Belt and Road Initiative. In that document they – Simon Bridges as signatory – committed to “promote” the “fusion of civilisations”.

Plenty of people will probably dismiss such statements as “meaningless”, the stuff of official communiques. But decent people – under no duress whatever – don’t sign up to things suggesting that today’s equivalent of Nazi-ruled Germany is a normal and decent regime. Of course, they would probably dispute the parallel, but that’s just willed deliberate blindness.

Later that same year we learned the National Party had had a former PLA intelligence officer, Communist Party member, sitting in its parliamentary caucus. It seems to be generally accepted that Jian Yang, of such a questionable background, is one of the party’s largest fundraisers. Presumably the leaders (John Key and Peter Goodfellow) were aware of his past, but let’s be generous and assume that most of the caucus was as unaware as the public. But for the past 18 months, everyone has known.

But what the National Party – leader, president, MPs, and all those holding office in the party – is responsible for is the fact that Jian Yang still sits in Parliament, still sits in the National caucus, is still National’s spokesman (on a couple of minor portfolios), with the express support of successive leaders, and (apparently) in ongoing business relationships with the party president (he who trots of to Beijing to praise the regime and its leader).

A few months ago we had the egregious former Minister of Trade, and foreign affairs spokesperson, Todd McClay plumbing new depths. In an interview with Stuff, he championed the PRC regime interpretation of the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, noting that “the existence and purpose of vocational training centres is a domestic matter for the Chinese government.”

He was spinning for the CCP regime in Beijing.

No sense at all in anything Bridges – or any other National Party figure – says that the PRC itself has changed: bad as the regime always was, it has now become worse.

In his Beijing-deferential interview on the Herald website the other day, David Mahon tried to frame the current PRC upset with New Zealand as “the Chinese see it as akin to infidelity”.

New Zealand “leaders ” have been the most sycophantic and compliant, perhaps there is a sense that China can’t afford to let us get away with some renewed self-respect. That, after all, might encourage others to think and act for themselves, for the values of their peoples. Better to foster the illusion – assisted by local politicians and academics – that the PRC hold our prosperity in its hand.

It simply doesn’t. It never did.

But that’s New Zealand politics, that seems to be today’s National Party. It is sickening.

Strong words – and I have effectively toned it down with editing.

It is difficult when a major trading partner is a dictatorship with a poor human rights record.

It could be alarming if Reddell is anywhere near right about the degree of financial subservience of National to China.

And of course article this won’t help with the New Zealand-China relationship.

Greens versus NZ First and Labour conservatism

Does Labour use NZ First as an excuse to be conservative on economic and other policies to avoid being linked to Green radicalism? They do use the Budget Responsibility Rules to be conservative. They are an agreement with the Green Party to allay fears of a swing too far left in the last election campaign, but there is disagreement over having the Rules within the Green Party.

I have seen dismay expressed from the the left that the Government is nowwhere near progressive enough,.

Henry Cooke (Stuff):  The Greens are looking forward to 2020 already, and the possibility of a world without Winston

At their annual conference last year, a prominent Green Party member gave a speech which called for the party to tear up a central tenet of their partnership with Labour.

He received a standing ovation. Most of the Green MPs present, who had signed off the policy, were in the room. Several agreed with him.

The policy was the Budget Responsibility Rules a set of tight government spending guidelines Labour and the Greens agreed to ahead of the 2017 election. They have gone on to play a huge role in how the parties have governed.

The idea was to blunt the attacks from the right that a Labour-Green government would blow up the surplus and destroy the economy.

Ever since Green supporters and some MPs have been agitating for the party to get rid of the rules. In the last week this began. A “review” of those budgetary constraints has been launched, but this is just a procedural step on the way to either scrapping them or modifying them before the 2020 election.

There always seemed a likelihood that Labour and the Greens would need NZ First to give them any chance of getting into Government last election, and so it turned out.

It’s a long way from the election but there appears to be a greater chance that NZ First won’t make the threshold next year. This would give the Greens more influence over Labour, depending on how many seats they get. If Greens recovered back up to ten to fifteen seats, and were in Cabinet with Labour, they should get significantly more say and sway.

In the same week, co-leader James Shaw made the most forceful argument for a capital gains tax anyone has in years, saying the Government wouldn’t deserve to be re-elected if they didn’t implement one.

That was a big play from Shaw, mostly to his party wanting more reform from Government.

​The election is next year, and the Greens are getting ready by staking out positions on the left. At the same time, some in the party are daring to look forward to a world without Winston Peters.

Fixing this requires not just talking up wins in Government but very clearly pushing left on tax – an issue likely to dominate through this year and into the next thanks to the tax working group – as well as balancing the books. These might seem like small bore issues but they are very important to that core of committed supporters.

NZ First are likely to try to distance themselves from relying on Labour next year to try to fool voters and Labour negotiators into thinking they could go either way.

So Labour+Green will be an important consideration for voters.

Many Greens see Peters and NZ First as the reactionary laggard keeping this Government from truly transforming the country. But it has long been useful for centrist Labour MPs to blame NZ First for their own conservatism. Labour will be extremely conscious of how scared the wider public might feel about a radical Labour-Green government in 2020.

Keeping the budget deal in place might well be Ardern’s plan to placate those fears.

For Labour, yes. And possibly for Shaw. But what about green supporters disappointed with the lack of progress leftwards this term, and impatient for more radical reforms?

Possibly one of the most significant decisions for the next election will be what the Green party decides to do about the Rules, that some see as a brick wall in front of progress and real progressivism.

One thing that may make it easier for Greens pulling Labour left is the conservatism of Simon Bridges pulling National further right.

Unless the Sustainability Party gets some support in the centre.