Losing the unlosable election?

Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater are launching a book on the recent Auckland local body election. It has a curious title, considering Lusk was managing the campaign of one of the mayoral contenders.

Losing the Unlosable Election – How the Right Lost Auckland Again

unlosableelection

Yes the centre-right to right was fragmented and did poorly in Auckland. Again.

In 2011 John Palino was an odd contender for the mayoralty. He was the best of the rest but came a distant second to Len Brown.

Then just after the election there was an attempt to discredit Brown and have him dumped – the discrediting worked but Brown remained to see out his term. Palino was seen as linked to the virtual coup attempt even though I don’t think he could have stepped up if Brown had stepped down. Both Brown and Palino came out of it severely tainted.

So it was odd to see Palino stand again with Lush as his campaign manager. Slater tried to talk up a consolidation of the right wing candidates – which appears to have favoured Thomas and Crone stepping aside to give Palino a better chance against Phil Goff.

Palino never stood a chance, even if it was just him versus Goff. So Lush helped split and fragment the centre-right. And now he seems to be complaining about it.

The Auckland mayoralty was pretty much an unlosable election – for Phil Goff. As soon as he announced he was standing the media installed him as front runner and that’s how they played out the whole campaign, never seriously reporting a contest.

The media ended up giving a bit of consolation coverage to Chlöe Swarbrick, probably to try and inject some interest into a contest they had decided months previously.

There has been a lack of serious centre-right or right candidates in Auckland for some time. John Banks (versus Len Brown) in 2010 was hardly a great new talent, and Palino never looked like getting close in 2013.

This time the mayoralty was virtually unlosable for Goff as soon as he stepped forward.

And it was unwinnable for Palino, even if Lusk has persuaded the centre and right to back him exclusively. He was never going to be seen as a Trump.

To win mayoralties, especially in major cities, you need a credible candidate with good name recognition and a strong campaign team.

The Lusk formula might succeed in knocking a few contenders down, but it’s always going to struggle to get a top candidate and widespread support, even from the right.

But if you want his advise on how to not win an election – New book being launched Nov 7, pre-order now.

Greens would stand aside for Labour in Mt Roskill

Greens have announced they won’t stand a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election, should Phil Goff win the Auckland mayoralty and resign from Parliament.

Stuff: Greens won’t stand candidate in any Mt Roskill by-election

The Greens will not stand a candidate in a Mt Roskill by-election if Labour incumbent Phil Goff wins the Auckland mayoralty and vacates the seat, the party has announced.

The deal is part of a memorandum of understanding the two left-wing parties signed earlier this year – but the Greens say the move has “no bearing” on its plans for the 2017 election.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party had decided not to stand a candidate in the seat “after several weeks of internal discussions”.

“The Mt Roskill by-election will be closely contested, and we don’t want to play any role in National winning the seat.” 

Turei said the decision showed the success of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties, which includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

The party was making the announcement now to be clear with its supporters and the public, given the “considerable interest” in a likely Mt Roskill by-election.

I think the timing of this announcement is odd, before the results of the local body election are known.

The Greens risk a backlash over this – perhaps this is a deliberate test of what the reaction might be in advance of next year’s general election.

Last election Barry Coates stood for the Greens in Mt Roskill. He will soon replace Kevin Hague as next Green off the list in Parliament. A by-election would have given him a chance to raise his profile but he has to defer to a party decision to stay away.

The Greens may think that not standing in order to help Labour candidate Michael Wood will give them and their MoU with Labour good publicity, but it could just as easily backfire. I guess it’s best to test this now before taking a bigger risk in next year’s election.

ACT’s David Seymour is highlighting the change of attitude to electorate jack-ups by both Greens and Labour.

Mt Roskill arrangement shows hypocrisy of opposition

The Opposition’s hypocrisy over ‘dirty deals’ is brazen, says ACT Leader David Seymour as the Green Party confirms that they won’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill as part of an arrangement with Labour.

“Michael Wood’s campaign in Mt Roskill is set to be a brazen display of hypocrisy,” says Mr Seymour. “Two years ago he was bemoaning John Key’s endorsement of a vote for me in Epsom as a ‘dodgy deal’. Now look at him.

“The Greens ought to be just as embarrassed, with Julie-Anne Genter having called John Key’s Epsom endorsement ‘undemocratic’. Clearly, this was nothing more than faux-outrage.

“Strategic voting is a reality of MMP, but hypocrisy is optional. Labour and the Greens have shown how cheap their words are by participating in a deal that far eclipses the electoral arrangements they criticise every election.”

Wood stood for Labour in Epsom last general election and has been selected as Labour’s candidate in Mt Roskill should Goff resign.

It will be interesting to see if ACT stand a candidate in Mt Roskill. That would give them more opportunity to bash Greens and Labour with a hypocrisy hammer – but it could also jeopardise the National candidate’s chances.

ACT didn’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill in 2014.

Possible by-elections

There’s a couple of probable and several more possible by-elections in store before next year’s election (NBR’s Rob Hosking has suggested John Key should call an early election for later this year but I don’t see that happening).

It’s expected that Phil Goff will win the Auckland mayoralty so a Mt Roskill by-election seems very likely.

Maurice Williamson has just been appointed Consul-General in Los Angeles. Williamson had already indicated he would retire at the next election but now a by-election in his Pakuranga electorate looks possible, but RNZ says that “his start date is expected to be set late enough to avoid triggering a by-election”.

There has been speculation (but no definite sign) that Nanaia Mahuta may resign from Parliament. If she does that well before next year’s election then there would be a by-election in her Hauraki-Waikato electorate.

If the Auditor General comes down hard on Murray McCully over the Saudi sheep deal then McCully may bring forward his exit from his East Coast Bays electorate (he has announced he will step down at the next election).

It ‘has been rumoured’ (according to Matthew Hooton) that David Shearer might be offered ‘a senior appointment’ and leave his Mt Albert electorate. Shearer is at odds with Labour leader Andrew Little, regarded as too right wing.

Hooton is also speculating that Stuart Nash, another non-left Labour MP, may jump to the NZ First waka (there has been alternate party speculation and rumour with Nash for years). That would put his Napier seat up for grabs (I think that’s unlikely before the next general election).

 

‘Living wage’ promise from the other side of Goff’s mouth

Just after posting on Phil Goff’s vague ‘promises’ to reduce rates rises – ‘Reduce rates’ promises – he is now speaking out the other side of his campaign mouth:

RNZ: Goff promises push for council staff living wage

Former Labour MP Mr Goff said he wanted all council staff earning at least the living wage.

Mr Goff estimated about 1500 of the more than 9000 council staff were being paid below the living wage and said the council should be leading by example.

“People are struggling to look after their families properly when they’re on the minimum wage. I can’t do much about the vast majority of those people but as mayor at least I could meet the obligation of being a good employer, to pay a decent living wage to the people that at the moment are barely on the minimum wage.

“Auckland is the country’s most expensive city to live in. We have to recognise that in how we treat our staff.

He said it would be just for staff directly employed by the council, but he would look at broadening that to contractors in future.

At a cost of $4 million it would not be funded from increasing rates but through cutting council costs, Mr Goff said.

Which costs Goff would cut to fund this increased expenditure are not specified.

“Now this isn’t something I can do unilaterally, it would require a vote of a majority on council and I’m conscious of the fact that it was voted down by councillors,” he said.

“But I believe if we relate the living wage solely to those employed directly by the council and we fund that out of efficiencies that we find then I can get a majority of councillors to support this.”

“Fund that out of efficiencies that we find” – yeah, right.

From Goff’s policy:

Where new expenditure is sought, the expectation will be that funding should be secured by the discontinuation of lower value activity, rather than simply assuming the continuous growth in functions and expenditure.

There is no mention of a living wage in his policy at the moment. On staff costs:

As a first step each department within Council will be set an efficiency target, averaging 3-6 percent across total Council expenditure to contribute toward future cost pressures. 

Areas where staffing and expenditure are very high or have increased disproportionately, such as in governance and communications, will be expected to find higher levels of savings.

He may have to factor in a disproportionate increase in wages of $4 million now. Or he could just ignore it and hope no one notices the conflicts.

Like many political candidates Goff talks costs and rates reductions out of one side of his mouth and spending promises out of the other.

‘Reduce rates’ promises

Political promises are Clayton’s promises – they are promises that are not really promises. They are statements of ‘I’d like you to think I would do this if elected but it depends…’

In local body election campaigns ever escalating rates inevitably attract promises but the promises never seem to be delivered.

NZ Herald: Auckland’s would-be mayors offering same old hoary chestnuts

The triennial “silly season” is upon us. Most of the mayoral candidates and many of the council aspirants are trotting out the hoary old chestnuts, reduction of rates, for example, or capping rates. Remember those promises any other times? Remember any rates reductions, or “caps” staying in place?

Does anyone remember anyone actually drinking Claytons, ‘the drink you have when you’re not having a drink’?

…please look at the website showing press statements of Phil Goff…

From Goff’s policies:

  • Rate rises will be kept low and affordable at an average of 2.5 percent per annum or less, if current Council fiscal projections are correct and the CPI stays low.

Rates are high now so can’t be ‘kept low’ by allowing them to continue to rise faster than inflation. And Goff has two out clauses so this is not a promise, it is political snake oil.

Vic Crone delivers fairly similar, glib statements, including “keeping residential rates low”. She will also “cap rates”.

So Aucklanders can expect that their rates will remain high and will be capped at whatever the mayor and councillors think they can get away with without being run out of office.

Crone, like Goff, also proposes to make savings (“at least $500million”) and increase efficiency by reducing “back office waste” and by “efficient procurement”.

Meaningless mumbo jumbo.

Mark Thomas…

…has a more varied menu of options, such as: “freezing rates for a year with targeted options” or, “two further options of targeted growth involving an average rates increase of ‘around’ 2-4 per cent including a version of targeted rates”.

No sign of anything different there.

John Palino proposes to…

“…reduce rates by 10 per cent across the first term” by reducing spending on “non-core” and “wasteful spending”, “discretionary activities”, “payroll costs”, bringing these down “to a more normal level”.

At least Palino doesn’t pretend that rates are currently low, but I don’t know how anyone can believe he can get the support of councillors to reduce rates by 10%.

Penny Bright still doesn’t pay her own rates.

Voters are likely to remember things like this: Len Brown breaks election rates promise

Auckland Council’s budget committee has voted 16-7 for a proposal to increase rates by 3.5 per cent for each year of a new 10-year budget.

The proposal got the backing of Mayor Len Brown, who promised voters to hold rates at 2.5 per cent this term.

Nearly one in four households face rates increases of more than 10 per cent, largely due to big rises in property valuations.

 

Auckland mayoral poll – two leaders

In two ways of looking at an Auckland mayoral poll there are two leaders – Phil Goff easily leads the other contenders, but ‘Don’t Know’ easily leads Goff.

But care needs to be taken with this poll – it has been done by a pollster with an unknown record and was done entirely online with none of the traditional polling being done.

The Spinoff: Exclusive: new Spinoff/SSI poll shows Phil Goff with huge lead in Auckland mayoral race

A survey commissioned for the Spinoff’s War for Auckland pop-up site puts the Labour MP well in front of his nearest rival, Vic Crone, just weeks out from voting. But many remain undecided.

Comparing the contenders (decided voters):

  • Phil Goff 60.3%
  • Victoria Crone 15.5%
  • John Palino 7.9%
  • Penny Bright 4.6%
  • Mark Thomas 3.3%
  • David Hay 2.8%
  • Other 5.6%

This is a big lead for Goff. Being the only one with well established name recognition the lead isn’t a surprise but perhaps the size of his lead is.

Crone has a huge job to try and close the large gap.

Palino stood against Brown last election so should be known, but his campaign has failed to impress since it launched.

But the numbers look a bit different when adding one significant number.

 

  • Don’t know 43.7%
  • Phil Goff 31.2%
  • Victoria Crone 8.0%
  • No intention of voting 4.6%
  • John Palino 4.1%
  • Penny Bright 2.4%
  • Mark Thomas 1.7%
  • David Hay 1.4%
  • Other 2.9%

 

Despite the large lack of certainty – about half chose none of the candidates – that is still a huge lead for Goff. As ‘don’t knows’ get to know other candidates the gap may close but this looks like it is Goff’s campaign to lose. This seems unlikely as he is likely to run a fairly bland campaign.

However the accuracy of this poll is unknown. It was conducted by am international pollster with no phone surveying done.

Survey Sampling International conducted an online survey of 760 Auckland residents 18+ with quota applied for gender, age and Auckland region. Polling took place August 17-19 and there is a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

From the SSI website, About:

SSI is the premier global provider of data solutions and technology to drive business success.

As the premier global provider of data solutions and technology for consumer and business-to-business survey research, SSI reaches respondents in 100+ countries via Internet, telephone, mobile/wireless and mixed-access offerings.

 

Goff distancing himself from Labour

In a local body election where Labour (and the Greens) are more actively and openly supporting candidates it is interesting to see that current Labour MP, Phil Goff, appears to be trying to distance himself from Labour in the Auckland Mayoral contest.

Phil Goff steps out in National Party blue-and-white <& his latest policy has the same hue

cpscclvvuaah3ln

There are obvious mixed political messages there. And that will be deliberate.

Goff’s website is also absent any Labour links – and doesn’t seem very left leaning:

“A city that thrives on talent and enterprise
– where talent and enterprise can thrive”

 Meanwhile Goff’s opposition…

CroneBillboard.jpg

Similar blue plus some Labour-like red.

PalinoBillboard

 

Another similar blue plus some read highlights.

Has anyone hear about any polling done for the Auckland mayoralty? Whale Oil claims that Crone and Mark Thomas are lagging but spoiling Palino’s chance of competing with Goff by splitting the right wing vote. Poll rumours are notoriously unreliable.

Goff is not promoting himself as left wing anyway, far from it.

 

Candidate vows to reduce council costs

An Auckland mayoral candidate has vowed to cut council costs. Wow. A unique approach that would stand out would be to vow to increase costs, but no one seems to try that.

NZ Herald: Phil Goff vows to cut council costs

Labour MP Phil Goff vows to cut fat, introduce road charges and cap rates rises at 2.5 per cent if he wins the Auckland mayoralty in nine weeks.

His fiscal policy, out today, contains a pledge to restore public confidence in the management of ratepayer money.

His fix involves capping rates at 2.5 per cent or less, cutting council spending by between 3 and 6 per cent and introducing road charges.

“Vows to cut fat” will probably, and rightly, be viewed with some scepticism by voters.

But I think there is more to question here.

If spending is reduced by 3-6% and road user charges are introduced how come there is a capping of rates at 2.5% or less? Shouldn’t that read reducing rates by 2.5%?

Ok, no one would believe that, but how does Goff’s maths work? Reduce costs, increase user charges and still allow for rates increases? Something doesn’t add up to me there.

Another point, bot in relation to Goff’s policy and also relevant to the Wellington mayoral candidates who on The Nation all appeared to say they would limit rates rises to about 3%.

Inflation is under 1%, and has been low for some time with no sign of a major change to this.

Why are candidates happy to propose that rates continue to grow significantly ahead of inflation rates?

And thirdly, pledging to cap rates doesn’t make sense. Should inflation suddenly take off does anyone expect that rates caps would remain?

 

Cosgrove to work for Mayor Goff

Duncan Garner tweeted this morning:

Hat tip; Clayton Cosgrove to work for Phil Goff when he becomes Mayor of Akld. 

I heard that somewhere a while ago too, so maybe this is a thing.

In April Cosgrove announced he wouldn’t stand again at the next election. He lost the Waimakariri electoratein 2011 and has been a list MP since.

RNZ in April: Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove to leave politics

He said he wanted to take on new challenges and opportunities and was looking for opportunities in the business sector. He did not rule out resigning his seat before the election.

Working for a mayor is not in the business sector. Working for an ex-fellow MP sounds like jobs for mates.

I’m not aware of Cosgrove having much of a connection with Auckland.

Lining Cosgrove up alongside Goff makes it look less like the independent bid for the mayoralty that Goff has tried to portray, and more like an attempted Labour Party takeover.

Goff is probably still hot favourite to win the Auckland mayoralty but Goff + Cosgrove gives his opponents more of a shot.

The ladders of democracy should be equal

Democratic processes should be as even handed and equal opportunity as possible. The Auckland mayoralty contest seems to be far from fair.

Quinton Hogg at Whale Oil pointed out something I have been meaning to post on:

I attended the EMA candidates meeting last week where Ms Crone, Mr Goff and Mark Thomas spoke. And Penny Bright stood outside in the cold as she wasn’t let in.

Of the three Mark Thomas was the most impressive. I had heard Ms Crone previously without being impressed and Mr Goff wandered through the platitudes.

Slater added:

The EMA refused to allow John Palino to participate.

This stinks, regardless of how anyone may rate candidates at this early stage of the pre-campaign campaign.

It is sad to see the Employer’s and Manufacturer’s Association picking and choosing candidates to give exposure to.

Penny bright may have limited appeal, especially to an EMA audience, but she’s prepared to put herself forward and should be given an equal opportunity in a democratic contest.

John Palino (who has Slater as an adviser) and got off to a poor start with a launch that was treated as a bit of a joke by media, but he is one of the choices so should be in the mix at any election meeting.

But this does have some irony as Whale Oil is not exactly an equal opportunity blog for candidates. Slater seems to have been quiet on Palino but has been predictably critical of Goff, and frequently very critical of Crone who happens to have a good chance of keeping Palino out of the contest.

Slater is also often critical of ‘the media party’ and how they influence politics, but this is even more ironic given his claim to be serious media but is far more biased and attack orientated than the MSM are ever likely to be.

The Auckland mayoralty and democracy are being poorly served all round.

The ladders of democracy should be as even as possible.