Bridges and Bennett say they want ‘drug reform’ debate but would vote no anyway

National leader Simon Bridges has announced that Paula Bennett will take on a new role as National’s spokesperson on ‘drug reform’. This could end up being a positive move, but Bridges has tainted the announcement with political niggles that don’t set things off on a positive non-partisan footing.

Simon Bridges: National announces spokesperson for Drug Reform

National Leader Simon Bridges has appointed Paula Bennett to the new position of Spokesperson for Drug Reform as the Government pushes ahead with its agenda of drug decriminalisation, to signal National’s commitment to holding them to account.

This is disappointingly negative from Bridges. Re-evaluating New Zealand’s failed drug laws is long overdue, and there is a lot of public support for some sort of reform, but Bridges has chosen partisan niggling.

“New Zealanders expect their Government to be firm but fair. When it comes to drugs we need a well-thought through and evidence-based approach to drug reform that balances public safety with the need to help vulnerable people.

“This Government’s confused and dangerous commitment to decriminalisation and its soft approach to crime shows it’s not up to that task.

More petty swipes.

“Our work creating a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime shows we are and that’s why I’ve created this new portfolio which will coordinate the work being done across our policy teams in health, education and law and order.

“It will build on our significant work in Government around the Meth Action Plan, cracking down on drug dealers and stopping trafficking at our borders, while ensuring those who need rehabilitation get access to the best services.

“There is no better person than former Police Minister Paula Bennett who has a thorough understanding of the issues to coordinate this work.

Paula Bennett also took a negative approach:  Coordinated approach to drug reform needed

A coordinated approach across health, education, law and order and border control is needed to counter the complex issues around drugs in New Zealand, National’s new spokesperson for Drug Reform Paula Bennett says.

“The Government’s confused, contradictory and ad hoc policy on drug reform is likely to cause more harm and shows that a measured, sensible and coordinated approach is needed.

“As we see changes coming in by stealth, along with the upcoming referendum there are many unanswered questions and no evidence that the Government is thinking them through.

If it is decided by public referendum, probably in about 20-22 months, with a lot of discussion and debate already, then it can hardly be ‘by stealth’.

In an interview yesterday Bennett conceded that the Police already took a very light handed approach to enforcing current drug laws regarding cannabis use – this was happening under the previous National government.

“When it comes to legalising marijuana, there are serious questions around drug driving, the effects of younger people accessing and using, youth mental health, and how this fits with our ambitions to be smoke free.

These things are already being widely discussed.

“What would a regulated industry look like? Will gangs be able to grow and sell marijuana? Will THC levels be regulated? Will drug testing be done on the roadside? What will the legal age be?

“There is evidence from other jurisdictions that have legalised marijuana that road deaths have increased, younger people have increased consumption and there are negative neuro-psychological issues for teenagers that use marijuana while their brains are still developing.

“National has shown that it understands the issues around drugs through our Members Bill around medicinal marijuana which was widely recognised as superior to the Government’s legislation.

This is partisan crap.

“We welcome a debate on legalising marijuana however I am concerned that the Government has gone into this half-heartedly and as a distraction. The debate needs to be informed and at this stage all we have seen is an announcement by the Prime Minister about a referendum without her even knowing what the question will be.

“I will be holding her and the Labour-led Government to account.”

Bennett and Bridges seem more intent on trying to score petty political points here than working together for the good of the country.

Bennett raises some valid issues, but her language is laden with negatives.

And it gets worse.

Stuff:  Paula Bennett appointed National’s drug reform spokesperson

Bridges, meanwhile, told reporters he’d never tried the drug.

The Opposition leader said the new portfolio was intended to hold the Government to account ahead of a binding referendum on personal cannabis use at the 2020 general election.

“Let’s learn from Brexit. Let’s not have a simple ‘Yes, no,’ thing, and then after that go through and answer all the complex, hard questions. Let’s have that debate beforehand.”

Bridges said he was likely to vote against legalisation, and that without major debate, the referendum risked being a “cute distraction” from more serious issues.

Bridges is insisting we “have that debate beforehand” (which is already happening), but seems to have already made up his mind to “likely to vote against legalisation”.

Bennett, too, said she was tempted to vote “no”.

“When it comes to legalising marijuana, there are serious questions around drug driving, the effects of younger people accessing and using, youth mental health, and how this fits with our ambitions to be smoke free,” she said.

“I’m one of the more liberal, and if the vote was tomorrow, based on all of these questions that we’ve got that haven’t even been answered, I would be voting against it.”

She says she would vote against something that is not defined yet. That’s a very poor position to take.

Bennett was worse in an interview where she scaremongered, suggesting the possibility of drug laced lollies. Newshub:  Paula Bennett gets new drugs portfolio in National Party shake-up

She issued a series of warnings over the legalisation of cannabis on Tuesday morning, saying cannabis-infused ice creams and lollies have been sold overseas.

This is a very disappointing start in her new role, and Bridges is just as bad.

This is a very poor start to the political year for National – not just on their drug reform stance (more like anti-reform), but also on their partisan approach. They look to be out of touch with wide public support for reforming our current failing drug laws.

Mixed messages from Jamie-lee Ross

Newshub gave Jami-lee Ross top billing on their news tonight with an exclusive interview.

He gave mixed messages, saying that he didn’t want to throw bombs or be vindictive, but he wants to put his side of stories forward, which targeted Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett, who both disputed his assertions.

Ross also raised a police investigation of the MP who he had had a relationship with and who texted him saying she thought he deserved to die, which is apparently being investigated as possible incitement to self-harm.

Ross also said that the people of the Botany electorate ‘didn’t deserve’ the cost of a by-election, but clearly a by-election wouldn’t cost them anything. Ross won’t want a by-election as it would likely mean the end of his career as an MP.

This doesn’t look like the end of the Ross saga, but he has a lot to do to get some credibility as an MP back. His return to Parliament in a few weeks is likely to be quite awkward for him.

It is notable that the journalist who started the unravelling of Ross, Tova O’Brien, was the one who secured this interview. her role in all of this has been justifiably been questioned.

UPDATE: Ross has followed up this news spot with a lengthy statement on Facebook. See JLR: “…didn’t get everything right. I am sorry. I will do better.”

Female looks and male ‘beer test’ competing with substance in 2019 politics

Political PR presents politicians in ways they think will appeal to voters, but ultimately substance should be a primary focus in 2019 in New Zealand.

Too much fluff and illusion can eventually backfire if the PM, Ministers and the Opposition don’t deliver.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff):  No amount of photoshop will paste over broken promises or scandal in 2019

Problems arise though, when the photoshopping – both metaphorical and literal – is carried out with a bit too much gusto.

Just ask Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who found himself the butt of ridicule when his staff botched an unnecessary photoshop job, by pasting hip new sneakers over his tired old kicks.

(Funny – see Scott Morrison Photoshopped shoes)

More seriously, the gaffe served to highlight the level of detail a leader’s army of press secretaries will go to, to control their image.

New Zealand’s politicians are no different in that regard.

Whether it’s Clark Gayford breaking a month-long Instagram hiatus to poke self-depracating fun at his “christmas belly”, National leader Simon Bridges guzzling a beer in a floral shirt, or Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signing on for a round of soft media in the gossip mags.

None of this PR appeals to me (and I successfully avoided “christmas belly”, I have no desire to have a beer with Bridges, and my recent experiences at The Standard and Kiwiblog cannot be described anything like soft social media).

Sadly, in the case of women, it’s more closely aligned to the subject’s looks. But as it applies to male political leaders, it could perhaps be more accurately described as the “beer test”, as in “he seems like a good guy to have a beer with”.

Hence the beer gut, the drinking shot, and myriad softly-lit photo shoots.

But that only gets a politician so far and this is the year where the rubber hits the road for the leaders of both major parties.

The matey drinky PR spin does nothing for me. Simon Bridges will probably be battling to keep his job as National leader this year. He has to smarten up his media image, and come up with some policies and positions that will appeal to mainstream voters.

So far he has tended towards more conservative (and less popular) stances on current issues like drug law reform, euthanasia and abortion – all of which could be included in referendums alongside the general election next year.

This is the year that Jacinda Ardern and her Government will have to come up with some substantive progress on pressing issues.

The Government’s stalled as long as it can with sundry working groups. The trouble with appointing experts to these things is that they’re incredibly earnest in their responsibilities to come up with solutions.

Solutions which cost money, of which the Government has plenty but still not enough to fulfil the promises it’s made.

Kiwibuild will have to look like thousands of houses that wouldn’t otherwise have been built (without Government investment) are at least in progress.

An actual plan for progress on climate change will be needed to show that James Shaw and the Greens can go beyond vague targets and ideals (Shaw doesn’t seem to do the PR poncing though).

Health, mental health, education reform, justice reform, public service pay, climate change and tax issues are all crying out for bold decisions and tankers of cash.

They were crying out for that a year ago.

A lot will depend on the budget in May – a number of Ministers seemed to be stalling, waiting for a commitment of money from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who was prudent last year, but will have more pressure on him this year.

Make or break year for Simon Bridges

It’s difficult taking over leadership of a political party, especially one of the two parties, and especially after previous long term popular leadership.

Labour had a lot of trouble finding a popular leader after Helen Clark left after losing the 2008 election. They went through four struggling leaders before circumstances forced a shock shift to Jacinda Ardern, who benefited from an impressive first impression and a short campaign – and then from the support of Winston Peters.

Bill English was a capable replacement for John Key, but was saddled with the difficulty of holding onto power after three terms in Government, a dearth of parties they could try to form coalitions with, and had to compete with the mass of media coverage that helped the sudden rise of Ardern.

English stepped down and National chose Simon Bridges to lead them and to lead the Opposition, both big challenges.

In his nearly a year as National’s leader Bridges has struggled to impress or appeal. Overall there has been little praise and a lot of criticism, and that that sums up my impression of him. He often doesn’t come across well in media. He has had a bit of barking-at-cars syndrome. And I don’t like some of his policy choices, like on drug law reform, abortion and euthanasia (these should be conscience votes but a leader can influence his party MPs).

The only major plus is that while Bridges has failed to fire in ‘preferred Prime Minister’ polls his party support has mostly held up surprisingly well. This may be despite him rather than due to his leadership.

One of Bridges’ biggest practical problems is it seems that most media have started to write him off, which like it or not can have a significant influence.

He has to start the year (later this month) with, somehow, a new outlook, a new plan, and a better way of delivery his messages. It’s hard for a politician to turn around a negative image, but it can be done, as Helen Clark proved. But that was last century. The media and the social media pundits demand instant success or the knives and pens and keyboards are quickly sharpened.

I’m not ready to write Bridges off yet. He and his advisers must be aware of his problems, and must be trying to work out how to address them and turn things around. So Bridges may take a new approach this year – if he does it will take time to prove whether it might work for him or not.

But if he continues much the same as last year then I think he is not going to cut it, and if he doesn’t step down for the good of the party he may be pushed.

This year is probably make or break for Bridges.

Can National rebuild itself for the future?

The National Party seems complacent due to sustaining quite remarkable support in polls – probably more to do with their opponents not earning more support yet. More of the same old (party), with a new but more conservative leader failing to inspire, is not a good formula for future success.

E.A. Blair – KiwiFirewalker:

National can not get itself out of the political doldrums that they now listlessly drift in as leader or no the party is only marginally representative of the political landscape in NZ (and only the most idiotic believe that a new leader will change that around).

Simon Bridges cops most flak as leader but he is not the core problem, the National Party is what needs to change, significantly.

They could do with a major rethink and rebuild into a party of a future government, but they look little different to how they were when they failed to retain power in 2017 except having a less popular leader.

As leader Bridges should lead a revitalisation, but so far there is no sign of anything like that happening – if anything he is pulling National back to a more conservative party further out of touch with modern New Zealand.

Bridges may come back next year with exuberance and a grand plan for a modernised party of the future, but that would seem out of character for both Bridges and National.

 

119-1 support for Child Poverty Reduction Bill

All parties except ACT (David Seymour) voted in favour of the third reading (and final vote) of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill in Parliament yesterday.

NZ Herald: Child Poverty Reduction Bill passes third reading

The Prime Minister’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament with near unanimous support from political parties on both sides.

The bill, which will set measures and targets for reducing child poverty, inform strategy to achieve that and require transparent reporting on poverty levels and introduce accountability for governments, was a cornerstone of Labour’s election campaign last year and on the list of achievements for the coalition Government’s first 100 days in office.

Speaking in Parliament today, Ardern said it was no longer just a Labour Party bill.

“This is now an initiative that has been led by a coalition Government with the support of New Zealand First and the Green Party.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft recently praised both National and Labour for supporting the bill.

“That was a game changer … having a cross-party accord is historic and the bill is about to be passed any day now and it will be all systems go and I will be watching very closely,” he said.

Ardern:

“And it also is an initiative that has had the support of the National Party. I want to acknowledge that. This is this Parliament’s collective challenge, and the groups that have come together in Parliament today to support it in this House mean that it will have an enduring legacy”

National’s social development spokeswoman Louise Upston said the legislation gave the Opposition and the public the opportunity to measure the progress of the Government.

National agreed in October to support the bill to become law, with some amendments after Ardern and National leader Simon Bridges worked behind the scenes to come to an agreement.

Party leaders constructively working together does not often get reported, and deserves credit (to both Ardern and Bridges).

 

 

 

Ardern finally fronts up on Hardcore re Sroubek

Jacinda Ardern made things difficult for herself for nearly two months by evading questions over her connection to Richie hardcore, who is connected to Karel Sroubek and his attempt to avoid deportation.

Ardern finally saw fit to provide what sounds like a reasonable explanation in Parliament today:

This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Most of the exchange in Question Time in Parliament today.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and season’s greetings to the member.

Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. Will she release the precise content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already indicated in public interviews, I am concerned around precedent setting. Obviously, I receive hundreds of messages from members of the public on issues where I have no clear involvement or decision-making role. I have, however, given an indication of the content of that text. I’ve acknowledged that Mr Hardcore acknowledged to me that he knew Mr Sroubek and, of course, that he agreed and commended the decision because he knew Mr Sroubek. I’ve also acknowledged that I did not respond and that I received the message after the decision was made and after it was in the public domain.

Hon Simon Bridges: What exactly did the text message say?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve said, I wish to seek some advice from the Ombudsman on the handling of information that I receive from members of the public, because I receive hundreds of messages. Indeed, on this case, I have received over a hundred messages—obviously, some not so favourable. I am seeking some guidance from the Ombudsman as to how I handle each of those individual pieces of correspondence.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was it a thank-you text?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we went down and advised ourselves that I had received that message—openly—I acknowledged that it commended the Government on its decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many text messages has she received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just simply cannot answer that. I have said from the outset that I’ve known Mr Hardcore for a number of years. My recollection is primarily that it was through his role with Community Alcohol & Drug Services as an anti – drug and alcohol campaigner based in Auckland, and subsequently his involvement as an anti – violence and sexual violence campaigner. My understanding is that he’ll know a number of members on that side of the House, as he does in Parliament generally.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is this the only text message she’s received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister: one solitary text message about Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve already acknowledged that I know Mr Hardcore through a range of his work and functions and roles. I’ve already acknowledged that publicly. This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t she directly answer Susie Ferguson’s question today on Richie Hardcore on Morning Report: “How would you characterise him? Is he a friend or a family friend?”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would not characterise him as a family friend. He’s someone I’ve known for a number of years, and I’ve been very open about that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know why he has repeatedly, in the recent past, described her as someone he’s lucky enough to call a friend?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no qualms about him doing so. What is at question and in play here is whether or not I had any engagement with Mr Hardcore over this case, and as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the answer is no. In fact, when his name was first raised in Parliament, it was myself and my office that proactively acknowledged that I had received a message from him.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Iain Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to decide the Sroubek matter?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, and this raises the contradiction in the member’s line of questioning, he has consistently criticised the Minister for making the decision the same day he was informed of the case but, at the same time, has tried to imply there was inappropriate involvement from other members and Ministers. The fact is the Minister has always acknowledged he made the decision on the day it was given to him, the first time he was told of the case, when he was in a closed room with officials.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept that the Minister of Immigration has now made a decision that would lead to the deportation of that individual.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Richie Hardcore made representations for Sroubek that are on the deportation file the Minister considered?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can only rely on what the Minister of Immigration has said in this House because I am not aware and do not know who made representations, but my understanding is that last week in the House, the Minister of Immigration ruled out him being involved or making representations on this deportation order.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she knows that same Richie Hardcore well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that in the House; I’ve made no secret of that. I have known Mr Hardcore for a number of years in a number of guises.

If Ardern had been as explicit as this weeks ago she would have avoided a lot of hassle and speculation.

Binding referendum on cannabis in 2020

The Government has left it as late as possible but have now confirmed there will be a referendum on personal use of cannabis alongside the 2020 general election. I’d have preferred it sooner but at least this allows for proper legislation to be agreed on by Parliament (if this is how it is decided it will work, and pending the referendum result) and for a proper debate to take place.

There have been some complaints )for example from Simon Bridges) that it is a cynical distraction from the next election but I’m sure people are capable of deciding on multiple decisions at the same time. It will still be much simpler than a local body election.

RNZ:  Binding referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use to be held at 2020 election

It’s not actually clear what the referendum will be on.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Electoral Commission will now get on and start planning for it.

“Having made the decision now, the Electoral Commission has put together a budget bid for the budget process next year. So … we’ll now process that budget bid. It obviously will attract budget confidentiality, so we’ll know about that next May.”

Chlöe has been doing a lot of work in helping this happen.

We will have to see how this will work, but it is a big step in the right direction.

National Party leader Simon Bridges questioned the government’s motivation for holding the referendum at the same time as a general election.

“I’m pretty cynical that you’ve got a government here that wants to distract from the core issues of a general election like who’s best to govern, their actual record in government over the last three years, and core issues around the economy, tax, cost of living, health, education, law and order.”

FFS, we can deal with more than deciding which politician is the least dweebie and lame, or which party is up with changes on drug laws happening all around the world. .

And he said the government had already effectively decriminalised cannabis through the medicinal cannabis bill.

“Now you’re allowed loose leaf out on the streets and the truth is they’ve said to police, you don’t need to prosecute this so right now, if someone’s smoking cannabis outside a school what are the consequences? What’s the message?”

This is a pathetic attempt at scaremongering, nearly as bad as Bob McCoskrie.

Bridges may pander to people most likely to vote national anyway, but he risks alienating a lot of swing voters, and especially younger voters (voters under 70).

There is obviously no guarantee which way the vote will go, but at least this means that people should get to decide. At last.

Sroubek -> Hardcore -> Ardern – pressure builds for full disclosure

The Opposition have been pressuring Iain Lees-Galloway and Jacinda Ardern on the Karel Sroubek deportation issue for over a month. National have obviously been trying to connect Ardern to the original decision by Lees-Galloway not to deport Sroubek after he completed his current prison sentence.

Today in Parliament, and immediately afterwards,  some dots were joined.

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek’s lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister’s decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I can confirm that amongst the information I considered on 19 September were letters of support from family, friends, business associates, and fellow sportspeople. Alongside the letters of support were sworn statements by a private investigator and a lawyer in the Czech Republic regarding the Czech justice system in Mr Sroubek’s circumstance. I do not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support or information regarding Mr Sroubek. Some have requested anonymity, and I consider it likely that naming people would expose them to unwarranted attention. None of those who made representations were known to me; none were MPs or former MPs, or MPs’ partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

That sounds carefully worded. Later:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Prime Minister confirming that there were no “direct” representations to him; and, if so, what indirect or informal representations were made, including from MPs’ staff or supporters?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: None.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did Richie Hardcore, a former martial arts champion, make representations in support of his application not to be deported?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals, and I’m not going to do it by a process of elimination either.

 

Afterwards from NZ Herald: Karel Sroubek supporter texted PM after residency initially granted

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text from a Karel Sroubek supporter after the Czech drug-smuggler was initially granted New Zealand residency, but she did not respond.

During Question Time today, National’s immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse asked Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway if Richie Hardcore, believed to be a friend and supporter who met Sroubek through kick-boxing circles, had supported Sroubek.

Lees-Galloway would not answer, citing a lack of public interest, but after Question Time a spokesman for Ardern confirmed that Hardcore had texted the Prime Minister after news broke of Sroubek being granted residency.

“The Prime Minister received a text message from Richie Hardcore following media coverage of the first decision about Karel Sroubek that acknowledged the decision. She did not respond to the text.”

The spokesman said that Ardern and Hardcore were acquaintances and she had known him for years through his public advocacy work.

She did not know whether Hardcore had advocated for Sroubek, the spokesman said.

So that is a new development, but Ardern appears to be being not entirely open and transparent with her disclosure.

Muay Thai. Boxing.Drug & Alcohol Harm Reduction.Public Speaking. Occasional Media Comment Maker. Politics.Punk. Hardcore. Hip Hop. Day Dreamer.Idealist

Early last year, the Greens had political connections with Hardcore.

From 4 April 2017: Greens unite celebs and Kiwis in ‘fresh’ campaign video

Continuing its push to engage the younger voter, the Green Party’s new campaign video features plenty of fresh, recognisable faces amongst its regular roster.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople‘s Taika Waititi pops up via an iPad, as well as social commentator Richie Hardcore and comedians including Chris Parker and Alice Brine.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said the campaign signals a “fresh, new look” for the party.

The video features a surprising array of Kiwis for a political campaign. As well as actors and celebrities, the party says it went on the road to include regular New Zealanders in the video.

“The people who were keen to be involved and the resulting campaign is testimony to the incredible range and depth of Green supporters in this country. This campaign demonstrates who we are and what we stand for,” co-leader Metiria Turei said.

20 August 2017:

 and 

Phil Twyford’s Facebook page from 16 August 2017:

Join Jacinda Ardern​, Richie Hardcore, Carmel Sepuloni and Phil Twyford at ZEAL in Henderson this Saturday 2pm at Let’s Talk with Jacinda​ – an event organised for West Auckland youth by West Auckland youth. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the future. It’s time to talk! #LetsDoThis
(Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160 Willis St, Wellington.)

Hardcore’s Facebook page 26 August 2017:

Richie Hardcore
Oh my god I love the way Jacinda conducted this interview; she’s so intelligent and articulate, I can’t wait for her to be our Prime Minister leading a Labour Green Government. ❤️💚

@RichieHardcore 23 April 2018: @NZClarke Welcome home bro, rise above and all that! NZ’s a terrible place to have more than 4 people know your name! Stay positive! 💛

Remember that lees-Galloway said in Parliament today:

I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

This may just be a bunch of coincidental connections, but I think that Ardern needs to provide a full disclosure (open and transparent) about what sort of association she and Gayford have had with Hardcore, and whether there has been any link via Hardcore to the Sroubek deportation decision.

NZ Herald:

National leader Simon Bridges said tonight that Ardern had not been upfront and it was time she told the whole story.

“She’s only told us this much because of our relentless questioning. It beggars belief to say that this would be the first contact that she has had with Richie Hardcore about this case.”

Bridges said Ardern should release the full text message, and asked why Hardcore would have sent a text if she didn’t know who Sroubek was.

“For total clarity, the Prime Minister should appear in the House tomorrow and make a Ministerial Statement about her associations with Richie Hardcore, Sroubek and any of their other associates.”

Ardern has avoided addressing this openly, which has increased speculation and suspicions. Last week in Parliament when Bridges accused her of ducking and diving the Speaker Trevor Mallard stepped in and kicked Bridges out of the House.

But National are likely to keep coming back to this until Ardern fronts up openly and provides credible disclosure. Otherwise, it will look increasingly like she has something she wants to hide.

 

Labour leaks targeting Bridges

There have been a series of leaks of internal information obviously designed to damage Simon Bridges and National.

This began with the odd expenses leak just a few days before the information was due for public release, followed by the onslaught from Jami-Lee Ross as the now ex-National MP self destructed. There have been further anonymous leaks of historical information that look suspiciously like a continuation of that attack.

There has also been what looks like a Labour campaign to discredit Bridges and destabilise National heading into the holiday period.

Leaked UMR polling information has progressed from whispers to journalists to drip feeing of poll graphics. I posted on this one yesterday –UMR polling history – which notably was monthly polling with the last result from October, so without the latest poll. One could presume someone is only able to get old data, or the November poll didn’t fit the hit.

There is also a word cloud floating around – Stuff reported on it here How public view Simon Bridges – that was purportedly ‘sent to corporate clients in late November’ and has just popped up. This also indicates it is October data – from the time of the Jami-lee Ross saga, so an out of date targeted hit on Bridges.

Ex Labour staffer Neale Jones, now working for a ‘public affairs company, specialising in Government Relations, Strategic Communications and Campaigns’, keeps tweeting a stream of criticisms of Bridges and National. Whether that is personal or part of Strategic Communications and Campaigns is not clear.

And The Standard has a steady diet of anti-Bridges/National posts. Over the past week:

Mostly this is preaching to the converted, and several authors are involved, but it looks like they have more interested in damaging the Opposition than promoting the Government.

Over the same period there are three posts on Labour/Government bills.

Will all of this have any overall effect? It’s hard to say, but even though there has been a string of media ‘opinions’ from political journalists dumping on Bridges the consensus is that a leadership challenge would be unlikely with National polling higher than Labour (apart from the leaks of cherry picked UMR polls.

In the meantime Jacinda Ardern and Labour keep polling reasonably well – but news of Government progress has not been prominent. Perhaps that’s why there is more focus on attacking National.