The Nation interview with Bill English

Patrick Gower interviewed Bill English on The Nation this morning. He spent the whole time questioning English about the Todd Barclay saga, what he knew, when he knew it and why he didn’t do more about it sooner.

Generally English handled it fairly well, and despite The Nation’s excitement when they thought they had scored a headline there wasn’t anything new revealed. That was pointed out to them on Twitter and that line seems to have been dropped.

This was their eventual story:

It ended up being a bit of a wasted interview.

Video: Interview: Bill English

Full interview transcript:


The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Bill English

Headlines:

Prime Minister Bill English now says there’s no evidence that his MP Todd Barclay actually did make recordings of his colleague, Glenys Dickson.

English says he’s satisfied that the issue has been handled as well as it could. He says no one comes out of it looking good, but he hasn’t let voters down.

Patrick Gower: Prime Minister, thank you for joining us. Now, this interview is all about trust – whether you can be trusted. It’s about your integrity and your standards. I want to start by asking you to be clear. When did Todd Barclay tell you that he made these recordings? When exactly did he tell you?

Bill English: In a conversation which was related to the police when I was asked about it.

Do you remember when it was? Like how long ago?

It was after the events that occurred, I think, in early 2016. The police inquiry began in March or April I think.

Yeah, but we know from that that you called Glenys Dickson on 6th of February, on Waitangi Day, in 2016 and told her Todd Barclay had a recording of her. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I can’t comment on that in detail.

Sure. But we do know that you did send that text to Stuart Davie on February the 21st where you said in it, you knew there’d been a recording and that you knew there’d been a privacy breach and a pay up. That was on February the 21st 2016. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I told him what had been told to me, letting the electorate chairman, who’s in charge of the local National Party, know what I knew.

So at that point, which is 16 months ago, you knew what had gone on. There’d been a recording, a privacy breach, you’d spoken directly to both sides. Let’s look at some of your public statements that you made after that, because less than a month later, on the 1st of March, asked by media if you’d talked to any of the parties involved, and I’m going to quote you here, you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ Was that a lie? Because you’d spoken directly to both sides.

Look, no. In the first place—

Was it a lie or not?

In the first place, the fact of a recording has never actually been established. The police investigated, came to no conclusion, no court decision.

This is about your question where you’re asked, ‘Had you talked to any of the parties involved?’ And you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ But we know from your own statement that you’d spoken to both parties directly. Did you lie?

At the time there was a confidentiality agreement around the settlement of an employment dispute and a police investigation. I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t say. I did not want to compromise either of those pretty serious processes.

But you could have said that instead of saying what you said, which was potentially a lie, wasn’t it?

I could have explained it better, but that’s 20/20 hindsight. At the time, information that I had I’d passed to the electorate chair and subsequently to the police when they were asking questions.

Okay. So from that day that you knew about the recordings until this week, which is actually 16 months or more—

Well, again, the fact of the recordings has never actually been established. The police investigated it over 10-12 months.

So from the time that you told of the recordings by Todd Barclay and by the person who believed she was being recorded, 16 months or more have gone by. Now, this week, you said that that behaviour was unacceptable. Do you remember saying that? That that behaviour was unacceptable?

Well, it’s referring to what was a whole lot of behaviour going back to early 2015, so over a couple of years.

Yeah, but you said that the recording was unacceptable this way.

The fact of the recording has never been established. But the behaviour I was referring to was over a whole period of time. This is a sad situation — the breakdown of the relationship—

You said the behaviour was unacceptable in reference to the recording.

I said it was unacceptable. The behaviour—

The question here is anyway, there’s unacceptable behaviour and for 16 months you sit by and do nothing. Was that the right and honourable thing to do, Prime Minister?

I think you need to understand here that we had two people that I both knew. Good people who fell out very badly. A difficult employment dispute grows out of that. I was not a part of that dispute at all. That had to be resolved between the employer and employee who both had obligations. Then there was a police investigation. So the matters involved in this would be dealt with appropriately by the people who needed to — the employers. And when the police complaint was made, the police were dealing with it.

But when it happened and you found out about it, you obviously knew then – you surely knew then — that Todd Barclay had potentially done something illegal when he told you about that recording that he’d done.

I wasn’t aware that the activity, whether it was legal or not. I’m not a lawyer. I was concerned about the broader picture of an employment relationship that had gone in a bad way.

Yeah. But when he said, ‘I’ve recorded her,’ you must have known that was potentially illegal. Everybody in New Zealand politics remembers the Teapot Tapes and what happened there. Everyone knows the ramifications of secret recording. And, in fact, you yourself have been recorded secretly before in a National Party conference. You must have known when he said to you, that he’d potentially done something illegal there. You must have known.

When I was recorded there was no legal or criminal action arose.

When the Teapot Tapes happened, Police raided media, you know that. So you must have known there were some potential ramifications.

I’m not a lawyer, and when the matter did arise, it was fairly quickly in the hands of the police. In New Zealand, the way our system works, the police investigate, they then lay charges, then it’s up to a court to actually decide whether the act was actually criminal. That process has not occurred. In New Zealand people are presumed to be innocent till proven guilty. I’m not a lawyer. All that process, the opportunity for that did unfold. It didn’t come to a conclusion.

Sure. So let’s look at the police investigation part of this. On the 27th of April 2016, that was when you gave your police statement, wasn’t it? So, if we look at your public statements about that, on the 21st of March this year, you were asked to clarify your involvement in the police investigation. You replied that you knew the people and did not want to comment further. ‘All I know is that the matter has been resolved.’ Why didn’t you say then that you’d been interviewed by police? Were you trying to hide something? Were you effectively there lying by omission?

This was a police investigation that had gone on for many months through 2016. It came to a conclusion that they weren’t going to lay charges, and in that sense, the issues had been resolved.

Yeah, but you were asked to clarify your involvement. You had been spoken to and interviewed, and you chose not to say that? Were you trying to hide it?

No, I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I was trying to ensure that the processes that all these events had been through, a significant employment dispute, then a eight or nine-month police investigation were respected. Because until these people have charges laid against them and it’s a public matter, or a court decides it’s a criminal matter, they’re innocent of the allegations.

Sure. Let’s look at another statement that you’ve made as well. Because when you were asked, in March again, if Barclay had acted inappropriately you said, ‘All I know is the police investigation is come to an end, so the matter is closed.’ But you knew that he’d told that he’d made the secret recordings, so you much more than the fact that the investigation had been closed.

What I knew is that I had, in response to questions from the police, given them that information. This idea that somehow giving information to the police is a cover-up is ridiculous. The police investigated the whole matter. I don’t know what actions they took. I don’t know what evidence they saw. I don’t know who they spoke to. What I do know is there is no more thorough way for the allegations to be investigated than—

Than with the New Zealand police.

…than to have the New Zealand police.

But what we’re looking at here are your public statements when you’re asked about your involvement, and here’s another from this week. You said you couldn’t remember who told you about the taping when it was later revealed, as you know, that your police statement clearly said it was Todd Barclay. Is that really credible to say that you forgot who told you? Can you understand how people just don’t believe you?

Well, I said what I thought. I went and checked the police statement.

No, but you forgot. Do you think people believe that you forgot?

Paddy, did you want to hear what I had to say? I said what I thought. I went and looked at the police statement, and I clarified the matter as soon as I could.

Here’s another one, then. On your way to Parliament this week in the press conference, you said that you reported this to police. You didn’t. They came to you. Why did you say that?

Well, that was a generalised use of the word, but, again, I’m quite happy with the view. I answered questions from the police and in the course of that I confirm—

But you didn’t report it to police. They came to you.

And I didn’t mean to give the impression that I had initiated it, but the police did already have the texts that I sent, quite appropriately, to the election chairman, letting him know what I knew. Then the police came and asked me, and, really, the interview simply confirmed the content of the texts.

The point that I’m getting at here is these all these public statements that kind of don’t match up. It’s like you’re dodging things. It’s like you’re being shifty, Prime Minister. Were you being shifty all this time?

No, I wasn’t. As someone who wasn’t party to this dispute right from the start, but you all knew the people involved, trying to ensure that the confidentiality of the agreement was respected and that the police investigation was accepted and the result of that was accepted as a thorough investigation of the circumstances, after which no charges were laid. And that sense, there wasn’t an issue. If the police investigate it and no charges are laid, then the assertion that criminal activity occurred appears to be wrong, because there was no criminal process that came to any conclusion.

But with all due respect to all of that, and, actually, I agree to some of that, this is about your answers to these questions. And the thing is some of your answers have just been plain wrong. How can anybody trust anything you say on this?

Look, my role in this is clear. It’s on the record. The material I’ve supplied has been investigated by the police. The issue has now been resolved at a political level. Todd Barclay, as a young guy, has made a brave decision to leave politics because of the situation as it’s unfolded. Our job is to resolve what is actually messy personnel issues within our party, do that effectively so we can get on with governing. I’m not a lawyer.

But aside from your own failures here, basically, to own up to your own role, you also sat by and watched Todd Barclay lie publicly; he lied to senior National Party figures, he lied at his reselection. Is that ok with you that you just stand by?

You’re making that assertion. It’s never been established that the alleged incident around the recording actually occurred. In any case, the discussion around—

He told you it happened.

His selection was carried out because of these events, and all the facts were known to his local electorate. In our system there was no charges laid. There was a confidential settlement of the employment dispute in our system. And local electorate is responsible for the selection of the candidate. They were aware of the background and went ahead and selected him.

Do you not feel that you’ve owed voters more on this now that you look back and we look at all these statements? Do you not feel that, ‘I let the voters down here’?

No, I don’t feel that. I feel that these issues have now been resolved. The original dispute is just between two good people who fell out very badly, and it’s actually been an internal personnel matter. It’s been thoroughly investigated.

Why did he have to leave Parliament, then? Why did Todd Barclay have to leave Parliament? Because nothing had changed in all of this that whole time, except you got caught out. That’s all that’s changed.

No, I don’t agree with that. Todd made his own decision about retiring at the election. I think he came to the view it would be difficult to represent his constituents against the background of all the publicity around this and the different interpretations of the facts of the matter. That was his decision.

Do you feel that you’ve let down your own standards — your own standards of credibility, your own integrity — through this?

Well, look, other people will make a decision about that. I’m satisfied—

No, but what do you feel? Do you feel like you’ve let yourself down?

I’m satisfied that in a difficult situation, knowing the personalities better than a lot of people, that this has been handled about as well as it could. It’s sad. No one comes out of this better than before the events occurred. It’s a shame, a real shame. And I feel that more than most people because I know them, because it was my electorate. The matters have now come through to this point where Todd Barclay’s leaving Parliament. My job as the prime minister is to deal with these issues effectively — everyone knows that employment disputes are messy — and get on with governing in the interests of New Zealand. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’ve got a National Party conference this week about an election in three months.

You said then no one’s come out of this, sort of, well, have they?

No, and that’s just because of the basic depth and bitterness of the dispute and the consequences that have flowed from that.

And do you include yourself in that, Prime Minister?

Well, look, it’s much better not to have to deal with these issues. I don’t see any benefit in it at all. But my responsibility as a leader is to make sure they are dealt with, whatever the imperfections of everyone involved, and get on with the job that the public have for us. Because, actually, the public aren’t that interested in our internal employment disputes; what they’re interested in is good government that provides good jobs, incomes and opportunities.

But they’re interested in your integrity, aren’t they?

Well, yes ,they are.

All right, that’s a good place to leave it. Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

Thank you.

 

 

The Nation – time travel

I’m not sure how serious this item will be on The Nation this morning.

And is heading to NZ for in a few weeks… he talks to about time travel.

The Nation usually ends with “what’s in the news next week”. Perhaps they are investigating time travel so they can actually report the news before it happens.

James Gleick…

…is an American author and historian of science whose work has chronicled the cultural impact of modern technology. Recognized for his writing about complex subjects through the techniques of narrative nonfiction, he has been called “one of the great science writers of all time”.

His first book, Chaos: Making a New Science, reported the development of the new science of chaos and complexity. It made the Butterfly Effect a household word, introduced the Mandelbrot Set and fractal geometry to a broad audience, and sparked popular interest in the subject.

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

Gleick has written a history of time travel.

He says it’s real but just in our heads.

It’s not possible to step in a machine to travel to a different time, either in the future or in the past.

The classic grandfather paradox – you couldn’t travel back in time and kill your grandfather. There are millions of similar paradoxes.

If you could would you go backward or forward in time? Gleick prefers forward but says some people would prefer go back due to pessimism about the future.

Worm holes are completely hypothetical speculation. Handy for science fiction workers but not much else.

“People love Jacinda” and headline hacks

Praise piled on think for Jacinda Ardern:

People love Jacinda. National can’t understand it, but they do.

I can see what National was trying to do – get Ardern’s equal, Kaye, to lead the attack.

It is all routine attack politics but it may well be failing. It has let Ardern grab the moral high ground which fits with her brand of a “new style of politics”.

We will discover in the coming weeks and months just how popular Ardern is and how powerful Brand Jacinda can become.

You might think that can from The Standard or Chris Trotter or Martyn Bradbury, or from Labour Party PR, but no, it is from an ‘opinion’ piece of journalist Patrick Gower.

Major media (not just Gower) seem to be trying to talk Ardern up into some sort of phenomenon.

Is Arderrn an equal of Nikki Kaye? Kaye has beaten Ardern twice in what had been a safe Labour seat, Auckland Central.

The above quotes are cherry picked but there is more context, trying to portray National as panicked in fear of the threat of Ardern – something that has been claimed at The Standard  see Nats’ attack on Ardern backfires.

The way National has revved up its attack machine to take on Jacinda Ardern shows just how worried they are.

But what should be more worrying for National is that the attacks are backfiring and may be empowering Brand Ardern rather than weakening it.

First, Nikki Kaye had a go in Parliament saying Ardern was all show and no substance.

Then Paula Bennett tried to double-team Ardern on the AM Show this morning by saying she was “condescending” in her response to Kaye’s condescending attacks – which only served to make Bennett look condescending.

It is all a tactic of course. It shows us National is worried about Jacinda. And it makes them look more than a little desperate.

I’ve been around Parliament for a while and the “attack” by Kaye on Ardern wasn’t really up to much in my view – Labour called John Key out in a similar way for years for being all photo ops and no substance.

But it was the way Ardern’s supporters leapt to her defence which shows she potentially has that untouchable aura that National should recognise all too well – because John Key had the very same thing.

People love Jacinda. National can’t understand it, but they do. People loved John Key. Labour couldn’t understand it – but they did.

For years Labour and the left attacked John Key and it only made him stronger.

Now National faces the danger that its attacks on Ardern will only make her stronger.

It may just be that Brand Jacinda is the same as Brand Key – no wonder National is so panicked.

One thing about them is the same – their first names begin with ‘J’.

We will discover in the coming weeks and months just how popular Ardern is and how powerful Brand Jacinda can become.

Is Ardern really as big a threat to National as John Key was to Labour?

Key was elected at his first attempt (to a safe Helensville seat) in 2002. Four years later he became Leader of the Opposition, and in another two years in 2008 election he led National to victory.

Ardern lost her first election (in Waikato) in 2008, then lost two elections to Kaye in 2011 and 2014 but got in each time on Labour’s list. After eight years in Parliament she was appointed Labour’s deputy leader.

Do National fear the rise of Ardern? I’m sure they are wary of what effect she may have in this year’s election.

It’s not unusual for parties to criticise opponents, often far more than Kaye and Bennett have done this week.

Bennett herself has often been attacked and criticised, in part because she has been suggested as a possible future leader and Prime Minister.

Judith Collins has also been hammered by Labour – Phil Goff travelled to China to try to find dirt to use against her, and she started defamation proceedings against Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little in 2012 – see Judith Collins defamation case settled.

Collins had been seen as a prospective leader for National.

So the reaction against National by some political opponents, saying a bit of criticism in Parliament is unfair and panicky, should be viewed with a bit of ‘same old politics’ in a relatively mild way.

But why are journalists like Gower supporting the ‘poor Jacinda, Jacinda is great!’ meme?

It may be panic on their part – panic that Bill English and Andrew Little will be too boring for them, another meme some of the media keep pushing.

Perhaps that’s why they have chosen to promote Ardern – not so much as a politician but as a celebrity.

New Zealand politics is served poorly by headline hacks who confuse journalism with political activism.

Paddy praises Labour-Green vibe

Patrick Gower gives a glowing rteport of the vibe at the joint Labour-Green ‘state of the nation’ event yesterday.

Newshub: Labour-Green combo best Left vibe in years

If it is “all about the vibe”, then the Labour-Green alliance has nailed it from the outset of election year.

My first question after seeing them onstage together at the joint State of the Nation was, “What took you guys so long?”

The vibe at the Mount Albert War Memorial Hall was the best I have seen on the Left for years.

The leaders gelled, and so did the crowds. Labour benefited from the Green energy. And the Greens benefited from the extra size of Labour.

They both looked better together. But the most important thing was that it felt real.

The Green supporters liked Andrew Little. The Labour supporters liked Metiria Turei. They clapped each other like they meant it.

There’s no doubt the joint campaign is for real. Despite it looking like the game changer some hoped for last year Labour and the greens have doubled down and committed themselves to it being their main campaign focus.

Sure, there are lots of hard questions about the Labour-Green alliance. They will come.

The pundits and the public will ask more questions than the parties’ faithful.

But the way the two tribes came together is crucial. The reality is, that in the liberal left stronghold of Mt Albert, red and green are the same. This election they are together.

Today it did not look like a political marriage of convenience – it looked like the reality.

Sure there were no policy details, but today was all about the vibe.

And the vibe for the Labour-Green alliance was the best vibe I have seen in years.

But is it a vibe that voters warm to? Time will tell.

I have seen the vibe generated by Kim Dotcom at Internet-Mana meetings, and I have seen the vibe of Winston Peters at last year’s NZ First conference. That doesn’t make them government-in-waiting parties.

We should get a bit of an idea after two or three months of polls this year. If they don’t improve then the Labour-Green vibe could be under threat. If they do improve then their joint confidence could keep growing.

English favourite but not confirmed

Last night Patrick Gower called English as the next Prime Minister, citing a ‘senior MP’ claiming 45 MPs backed English.

I’m very sceptical about this – anonymous sources with vested interests in leadership contests, trying to push a majority five days before the caucus vote takes place, shoukld be viewed with extreme caution.

Yesterday afternoon:

Ok, no mucking around, Paddy Gower will name the new Prime Minister tonight on live at 6.

And Gower went full bore on his big scoop of 45 for English. Matthew Hooton has just called this ‘a big lie’.

RNZ is more factual and feet on the ground in Bill English appears front-runner in National leadership contest:

So far 14 MPs, including Mr Key, have publicly declared they are putting their weight behind the finance minister for the top job.

That’s about half what English needs – but there is no guarantee they will all stick with that public position.

National Party MPs will meet at Parliament on Monday to vote for a new leader and deputy.

It’s a secret vote.

Barry Soper remembers some history involving English in Support for English could easily become daggers of defeat:

Ironically it came when they were doing the numbers after his disastrous election defeat of 2002 when the dapper doctor Don Brash was sharpening his knife the following year.

Holmesy asked me if English was a dead man walking and I said no, more like a twitching corpse. Within minutes the phone was ringing and the invective flowed. When the torrent eased, he was told the numbers for him holding on to the leadership were stacked against him, but for a man who is obviously good with numbers, he insisted they weren’t telling him the same thing.

Later that day Don Brash was installed as leader and Bill English rightly felt cheated, he’d been lied to by some of his colleagues, and gave serious thought to calling it a day and going back to the farm.

The point is, those running for a political job determined by their colleagues can never know for sure of the support they’ve got until the scrutineers do the count, and even more so if the winner’s in the position to determine their future, like a Prime Minister contemplating his Cabinet.

More than half of National’s caucus are looking for favours, they haven’t had the call up for Cabinet and they’ll be sounding out the candidate who can offer them the most.

So it’s not a done deal until the votes are counted next Monday.

English is the front runner for sure, but there’s time for back bench discontent to grow, especially away from Parliament over the weekend.

There could be a backlash over what looks like a jack up – English as Prime Minister, Paula Bennett as deputy and Steven Joyce as Finance Minister looks like a small cabal at the top of National manipulating the leadership.

While they would probably be a competent rearrangement of the same old minus Key it is hardly a fresh new look.

And Brexit/.Trump – there is growing discontent with the political establishment in other parts of the world. Is there any chance of rebellion in the National caucus?

Monumental and colossal media

Containing the euphoria… my cartoon in today’s

czaksxuukaavepr

This is something the media dreads. They rely on controversy and sensation. A boring Bill English led government would not be good for clicks, nor for journalist self-aggrandising.

Ironically Patrick Gower wrote on Monday: John Key resignation: Patrick Gower says ‘this changes everything’

John Key’s resignation is a colossal and monumental moment in New Zealand politics.

The enormity can be judged by its impact: it changes everything.

I guess a Boring Bill led government would mean that Gower would have to change how he exaggerates things so much.

Right now, a political reset button has been hit. The force that has driven New Zealand politics for ten years is gone.

Key is not even gone yet. He’s going. Next week he steps down from being Prime Minister. Next year he will resign from Parliament.

But the other 58 National MPs remain, until next year’s election at least.

Especially if English takes over the Government is likely to continue steady-as-she-goes, which has been a characteristic English’s influence as much as Key’s for the last eight years.

It is a monumental and colossal way for John Key to exit. It was a monumental and colossal political career.

Key’s political career was successful, but it was most noted for that lack of monumental and colossal change.

The only monumental and colossal change in politics in New Zealand over the last decade was when Gower took over as 3 News political editor from Duncan Garner in 2012.

This was emphasised in a video clip in 2014 where Gower asserted his colossal and monumental importance:

Back to Gower on Monday:

And now, there will be monumental and colossal change in New Zealand politics.

Perhaps post-Key, especially if Boring Bill takes over, journalists will have to dig out and report on actual news of importance rather making sensation and themselves the focus of their stories in places like libraries and parliaments.

Now that would be a monumental and colossal change.

If Paddy really wanted to be a media person who the masses noticed he should switch to advertising fast food, cars and Christmas/Boxing Day/New years Day/Next day sales.

“We are the reporters…this camera in my hand”

An interesting article about the new power of social media in politics that features Patrick Gower.

“It was social media wot won it”

Trump bypassed mainstream media and won and there’s no coming back

By Peter Bale, President of the Global Editors Network

Donald Trump’s insurgent victory upends the media business and journalism as much as it does politics.

We were already worried about what Silicon Valley types call “disintermediation” — the destruction of traditional media networks and models by new technology — but he has shown that break is far deeper and dangerous than anyone realized.

At least half the American population chose not to listen to what the media was telling them: no matter how factual, passionate or full of the warnings of history.

It wasn’t a failure to get the message out. It was that the audience didn’t want to hear it.

The man was the message and the message was the man.

And this is illustrated with a story about Patrick Gower.

For me the determination of the audience to ignore the medias powerfully illustrated in a bizarre confrontation between a group of Trump supporters at a rally and a New Zealand television journalist who tried to interview them.

Paddy Gower, the unassuming and pleasant host of the Newshub show tries gamely to ask a couple of Trumpists what they think only to get this shouted reply: “I’m not talking to the Clinton media, you guys are sellouts. You’re part of the lying media.”

I’m not sure that everyone in New Zealand sees Gower as “unassuming and pleasant”.

Paddy vainly explains he is from New Zealand.“What’s Zealand?” one guy replies.

In the background, a Trumpist with a “The Deplorables” T-shirt on to mock Hillary Clinton’s unwise attack on those who hitched themselves to Trump, videos the whole incident on his iPhone declaring: “Social media is the future, the mainstream media is going downhill. You guys are like the newspapers of the 1980s. It’s almost over for you. We are the reporters…this camera in my hand.”

That is the reality of the failure this election.

What we don’t know is whether the social media revolution, something that has been predicted for years, will work the same in New Zealand.

Facebook is a dominant medium for sure here. And that presumably has the same flaws in feeding people news and false information that they want to hear – confirmation bias.

But we will have to wait until next year’s election to see how much effect this will have here.

Facebook is under increasing pressure to limit the use of ‘fake news’ as a deliberate campaign tool.

And as far as I’m aware New Zealand doesn’t have anything like the fake news sites that have become a major thing in the US. No doubt some will try, but New Zealand is a much smaller place and dirt and lie propagators may find it harder to gain traction.

The most prominent New Zealand website dabbling with Breitbart style bull and bluster to try mangle the message had it’s fins clipped in our 2014 election campaign thanks to Nicky Hager and his ‘Dirty Politics’ book.

That failed to swing the election, but it significantly diminished the influence of Whale Oil, and that will struggle to recover.

There was some dabbling in social media in this year’s local body elections, but the only candidate to get any traction, Chlöe Swarbrick, benefited when she was picked up and promoted by main stream media as a novelty in an otherwise boring Auckland mayoral election.

The current by-election in Mt Roskill seems to be attracting little public attention. It’s possible Facebook is flaming away but the main contenders there seem fairly old school with the back of traditional old parties.

And ordinary New Zealanders seem to be far less passionate about politics than Americans. Politicians are far more likely to be ignored than adored.

A political force may emerge in social media next year but it’s yet to be seen.

TPP a victim of US election?

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may be a victim of the presidential campaign in the US.

If the US doesn’t ratify the TPPA it fails.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both speaking strongly against the TPP in their campaign rhetoric.

President Obama’s hopes of slipping it through ratification in the lame duck session between the election on November 8 and the inauguration of the incoming president on 20 January 2017.

Patrick Gower has been attending both the Republican and Democrat conventions and writes: Opinion: The TPP is dead and gone

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is dead and gone and it is thanks to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Trump is dead against it.

Sanders is dead against it.

I’ve actually been really surprised at the level of visceral opposition towards the TPP from both sides here.

Each time both Trump and Sanders have bagged the TPP, there have been huge roars from the Republican and Democratic Convention crowds. 

And the power of both the Trump and Bernie movements mean it would be political suicide for United States politicians to go against them right now and ratify the TPP.

Powerful sectors of both sides of politics are against it – and you never, ever hear anything from its supporters in either the Republicans or the Democrats.

The TPP has been burned on the political firestorm that is raging here.

Big numbers of Republicans are dead against the TPP.

And I can tell you that huge numbers of Democrats are against the TPP.

If Hillary wins, she won’t want to deepen the divisions with her party by passing it.

As for a Trump win, well – say no more.

TPP supporters will bang on about all the possible machinations but the simple fact is this: The politics in America is against the TPP – and politics always wins in the end.

Maybe an ‘adjusted’ deal will re-emerge but the TPP as we know it is dead and gone.

Perhaps the other eleven countries will have to do it without the US. It was always going to be difficult getting it ratified there due to huge commercial lobbying interests trying to protect their markets and subsidies.

But that will take a lot of time, if there is any appetite to restart negotiations.

It looks like the TPPA could be a dead duck, blasted by a double barreled election shootout.

Government ‘incompetent on housing’

There has been a lot of over the top and unsubstantiated nonsense spouted about the ongoing housing issues – property prices, state housing and homelessness – and there are complex issues involved, but regardless of that the Government handling of various aspects has been very  poor.

Patrick Gower calls them incompetent: ‘Diddly squat’ – Govt incompetent on housing

The Government is now officially politically incompetent when it comes to dealing with housing.

Its response to the crisis/challenge has been useless for a while now, but it has reached all new levels with Nick Smith’s claim there is “diddly squat” evidence that foreign buyers are a problem.

Today the BNZ joined ANZ and Westpac in putting restrictions on lending to foreign property buyers.

To use Nick Smith’s own bizarre language, the Government looks as if it is doing diddly squat on housing.

Its response is chaotic, and it appears out of ideas.

I have never seen this Government so out of sorts.

Nick Smith in particular and the Government in general have had difficult issues to deal with but they have looked incapable and incoherent. It’s not hard to see how it may look like incompetence.

We all know the housing issue is big and complicated. But instead of being honest with the New Zealand public and accepting there is a problem, the Government instead fudges and parries and denies. It looks dishonest — it looks as if it is making things up.

I agree with the Government that there is no silver bullet on housing.

So let’s forget about the philosophical issues about what exactly it should be doing, and look purely at the political approach where the Government’s normally slick communication is failing abysmally.

It appears to have a siege mentality when it comes to housing. It looks under siege and it acts as if it is under siege. It looks as if it has no plan; it acts as if it has no plan.

I agree to an extent at least with Gower.

I think housing issues are a much bigger threat to the popularity of the Government than a vague and impotent Memorandum of Understanding amongst a couple of opposition parties.

I think that national have to replace Nick Smith in the Housing portfolio, but there probably isn’t anyone else willing to volunteer.

Paddy’s flag crisis

Patrick Gower and Newshub seem to have concocted a flag crisis, claiming that the National Party is divided over it. It’s been obvious since the beginning and publicly known for months that National MPs have a variety of views on whether to change the flag or not.

Newshub ‘broke’ the news in dribs and drabs on Twitter.

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National MPs hold crisis meeting over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National Party leak about crisis meeting shows internal division over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 3m3 minutes ago
BREAKING – National Party leak shows numbers of MPs in support of flag change – and it is not good for John Key. More soon at Newshub

Newshub Breaking ‏@NewshubBreaking
#LEAKED: @maggiebarrynz’s emailed @NZNationalParty MPs urging them to join her for a meeting about a campaign to support changing the flag

Newshub ‏@NewshubNZ
.@patrickgowernz: Are @NZNationalParty MPs divided over @johnkeypm’s NZ flag change? http://bit.ly/249bIcI

That got a response:

Audrey Young ‏@audreyNZH
@NewshubNZ @patrickgowernz Yes, they are. See Isaac Davison’s poll on it. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11581277 …

That links to a January Herald article that details flag preferences of a number of MPs, including various preferences by National MPs.

After about twenty minutes Newshub linked to a news item:

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 24s24 seconds ago
National Party flag crisis meeting leak http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/leaked-nationals-flag-change-crisis-meeting-2016021714 …

This was initially very brief and was gradually added to.

Leaked: National’s flag change crisis meeting

Leaked National Party emails show its MPs are divided over John Key’s flag change and that a crisis meeting of MPs has been held to give the campaign a boost.

Of course key, Barry and other National MPs have denied there is any crisis, and it’s hard to see how it could be seen as a crisis.

An email obtained by Newshub shows that only 32 out of 59 National MPs were invited to a meeting about changing the flag today — meaning about 54 percent of Mr Key’s Caucus is in support.

It seems that most MPs were initially emailed and this email was to those who expressed an interest. Wow.

The email follows a Caucus meeting yesterday where the flag was discussed.d_maggie_email_17_02_new4

 

The meeting was later moved to Ms Barry’s office at the last minute.

d_maggie_2nd_email_17_02

(A 9.00 pm email for a 7.30 am meeting is hardly last minute).

Is it of public interest that some National MPs are having meetings about the flag? Slightly perhaps?

Is it a crisis? It’s very hard to see that. Ok, as Gower said on the 6 pm Newshub news it’s a bit newsy to political wonks that someone within the National caucus seems to have leaked him a couple of emails but he’s overdoing things somewhat.

The National caucus doesn’t even make any decision over the flag, MPs have no more voting power in the referendum than any of the rest of us.

Sure Key has a bit or a problem getting his flag change over the line with any sort of credibility. It was at best going to be close, neither he nor the flag panel have done great jobs, and opponents chose to make it a political shit fight rather than a genuine contest over flag change.

How can the National caucus be divided when there was never any claim or requirement for them to be united on the flag anyway?

Without a major shift in sentiment I think we will be stuck with drab old rag for another few decades at least, giving an important decision to people to decide has been hobbled by self interested parties and trashed by political activists. So those interested in a genuine democratic flag retention/selection opportunity have been shat on by those with political interests.

My take on this is that more direct democracy and power for the people is doomed due to the lack of responsibility and maturity of politicians and social media warriors.

People don’t deserve more power if they choose to trash opportunities to decide like adults like this.

The Herald have followed up Gower’s story with I don’t know what all this nonsense is about’ – John Key shoots down claims flag referendum is dividing caucus