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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Rehabilitating the National Party – Part Three: The question is not who will replace Bill English…

NZ's very own game of thrones begins now!

I would like to think that it was my recent post about Bill English that made him see the light and decide to quit the leadership of National now rather than waiting while polling slips and the greater problems behind him continue to fester but I would only be deluding myself.

It would also be fanciful to think that the media frenzy just before the recent party retreat also had anything to do with English hanging up his spurs because, as we have noted previously, the current leadership challenge for who gets to front National started the nano second joking John Key quit politics in December 2016 and English got to be caretaker PM (while Key ran off laughing all the way to ASB bank) only by virtue of Keys endorsement.

However Kang and Kodos to Bill English for going now rather than dragging out the inevitable as this shows that either Bill was big enough to see the writing on the wall or smart enough to realize that if push came to shove he would have to follow orders and fall on his sword, whether he liked it or not. Like him or not English has always been a loyal soldier in the National party ranks.

But let’s not slide our tongues down the back of Bills trousers just yet, as while it was expected that he might get some kind words from his own party and even some opposition politicians in the wake of his announcement, some of the talk of Bill being a “great” politician coming up in the media bordered on hagiography and I vomited in my mouth when I read that “even more so than his predecessor, Sir John, English will leave a huge hole in National”; Tracy Watkins how could you?

An honest assessment of Bill English’s legacy would be that he was the calm cool technician of the National Party for the nine years of National being in government. He was Adolf Eichmann to John Key’s Reinhard Heydrich; a capable efficient second banana that made sure that the paperwork was always in order so that Key could gallivant around working his folksy magic on the public and the media.

But second banana he was and second banana he was always going to be; his leadership of the party in the early 2000s showed he did not have the mettle to lead in opposition, fend off leadership challenges (and by proxy retain the faith of the National party board) and it was only because he was a safe stopgap PM, who could keep the various party factions at bay in the wake of Key bolting, that he got the job in 2016.

In reality, Bill English was never able to get out from the gargantuan shadow that Key cast as (unlike Key) he could not glib his way out of a sticky situation or shake his media mojo and distract from the real issue. This most painfully showed when Bill desperately took to social media in the lead up to the 2017 election in a series of ill-conceived promo spots that can only be described as the political equivalent of s**t mist being sprayed on your romantic meal by some evil, dead faced, ghoul in a business suit and badly coordinated tie*. They were supposed to replicate the magic of Keys own media moments (think Key planking, eating a hot-dog, his various radio “skits” etc) but instead they stank.

However we are not here today to discuss those now dead and buried or even those, who now having plunged the knives into English’s back, are lining up to like contenders for the Iron Throne.

Despite what the media is saying with its “who would you vote for: National Party leaders” poll (and at the time of writing the last one I looked at had Judith Collins out in front at 24%) the most pressing problem for National goes well beyond who will be the next leader, although Audrey Young of the NZ Herald is right in declaring what’s to come as a “brutal blood-bath” but that’s really stating the obvious while Bryan Gould (also writing for the Herald) is probably closer to the mark by saying that National needs to “come to terms with the election result” but again that’s still stating the obvious and only really skimming the surface of what’s going on with National at this time.

As I stated in my previous post about the Party, what’s “going on” in National is less a struggle for leadership and more a fully-fledged fight for what form the National Party is going to be, not just for the 2020 election but for the larger future.

If the party is going to move forward into the future it’s going to have to deal with the past, not just the election loss (although heads are going to roll over that to be sure) but the painful comedown from 30 year ideological high of free-market orthodoxy (where National got heroically stoned on Neo-liberalism and ran around like someone on ecstasy for the first time shouting "I love capitalism" again and again and again) which helped to create sludgy toxic rivers; the unsustainable white gold rush of dairy farming; the housing hernia; disgraceful child poverty; the bungled Christchurch rebuild; Tourism as a substitute for actual economic progress; selling of NZ like it’s a fire sale; Chinese spies infiltrating the party; increasing inequality and all the other dirty, greasy stains which have marred New Zealand for the last decade**.

On the scale of these issues the rather trivial matter of who is going to be the face of the franchise pales in comparison.

And at the core of any decision making that effects the National party is not the MPs or the Public but "the nine" figures who make up the National Party Board (hereafter known as the Nazgul***) and the more shadowy network of lobbyists and vested interests which have infiltrated the party over the last 15 years.

As it sits today, National is organised, structured and run like a corporate business with a board of directors (The Nazgul) running things on behalf of the shareholders (the larger business interests, via lobbyists), MPs as management and rank and file employees (depending on position) and with the public as the paying customers. And if we consider English to have been the temporary CEO after Key left, its now clear that the shareholders are looking at the balance sheet, noting the declining returns under English and have given him the push (with the attendant Golden Handjob as severance) before advertising the now vacant position.

This sounds somewhat hyperbolic I know, but it is essentially true as both my National party contact, T, and consummate Wellington insider (and good friend) Q, have confirmed this while I have heard similar with my own ears from members of National themselves (after having infiltrated two National Party soiree's in the last few years*4). 

Unlike Labours slanted/weighted party vote process, National run a performance based ship where the primary prerequisite to be captain is a certain ruthlessness to be leader and "not to run the ship aground"*5.

So the question is not "who will replace Bill English" but "who can sail National out of the political doldrums"; and for any potential captain to chart a course out of the same political Sargasso Sea that Labour was adrift in for eight years they will need a map showing the way home.

The problem for National is that there is a lot of Terra-incognita on that map and much of that great dark unknown comes from the position National has sailed itself into by relying on John Key (and his dark magiks) to cover for its larger issues rather than building up its policy or personnel. National now finds itself politically and ideologically isolated on the Right, bereft of any real policy prescription which is not "more of the same" and with grade-Z monkey meat as many of its senior MPs (the Gang of Five).

And in some ways National having a leadership selection based on sheer merit, rather than a Labour style weighted popularity contest, may actually prove better and quicker at getting the right candidate for a job that Labour struggled to do for eight years (and four leaders) before Jacinda ascended to role.

Thus the decision of the National Party board will not be a "who leads" but "which direction"; further to the Right or continue to steer a moderate course, and the process of "who" gets to chart that direction is not based on popularity but on the strength of their application (with attached business plan to rescue the declining share price) for the "recent vacancy" of leader of the National Party.

But as we are in a liminal*6 gap (as described in a previous post) nothing is set at this time and there is a good crop of contenders lining up, with a range of values on display and all will be stating their case to The Nazgul for why they should be the new leader of the National party.

And once the direction is decided the pieces will quickly fall into place as to the "who leads?" question.

It is worth warning here that there are no quick fix solutions for the situation National is now in, it may have to let "nature take its course" for at least one election to battle-test the new captain and crew before they are really ready to compete on the hustings and undo the damage that has been done by the eight years of John Key (and the one year of Bill English).

We will discuss the contenders in our next post but its important to make clear that National cant just change its face and be done with it, it needs to embrace a greater change to get across the gap and out of the doldrums its sailed itself into and that change will be decided by the party board which will then influence the choice of leader. John Key, for all his guile, was just a change of face and part of his legacy is the toxic leftovers from the early 2000s which should have been cleaned up by now but which instead, have continued to fester and sour the party (think how its now become the only political party on the Right wing of NZ politics). 

So next post we get to discuss the actual candidates for Leader, including the Gang of Five, Nationals liberal faction (yes they have one but not as you might imagine) and the young-bloods who are aspiring to be the next John Key or Jacinda Ardern.

Until then, Vootie!

*-And as a aspiring fashion maven myself I usually found the suits and ties English wore just a little too “off” in the Beau Brummell sense of the word to look good. Despite being able to afford good tailoring English often seemed to look like a Southland cow-cocky arriving in the big smoke for the first time to my eyes
**- although if we are being honest it’s really the last 30 years
***-read the link if you have not figured out why yet
*4-I will say this about National, they put on better parties than Labour and have far better food, including an amazing seafood selection
*5-An actual quote from a somewhat drunken member of the party to me on how things are
*6-My spellchecker keeps trying to change this to "criminal" in a rather overt display of synchronicity 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Three very undemocratic (and uncool) things happening right now in NZ

Despite being busy saving the heart and soul of the National party in the last few weeks (no that’s ok, no thanks needed) three other things caught my attention which I am not down with.

First up is the proposed Waka-jumping bill which is currently slithering its way through parliament.

Despite newly minted Attorney-General, David Parker, saying it will have a “chilling effect” on MPs this extremely anti-democratic piece of legislation may actually make it through the house and be passed into law, although not with National or Green support by the look of things.

And it’s clear that this is one of the prices Labour has had to pay for getting Winston to support them but it’s a pretty high price.

In effect the means for a political party to remove a MP from their seat completely destroys the link between the MP and their electorate because under MMP an electorate votes for the party via the party vote and the MP via the electorate vote.

So if a MP is earnestly representing their constituents but that position happens to disagree with the party line then the party would have the means to remove them and keep the seat while inserting a more compliant individual and bugger what the constituents think.

As pointed out in the Spinoff, this shows “how far our political parties in Parliament have wandered away from us, the voters” and it’s pretty hypocritical coming from Winston himself given that had this law been in effect when he jumped ship from national in 1995 his political career would have ended there as National could have stripped him of his then seat in Tauranga.

One of the key ideas of Democracy is that of representation, our MPs represent us in parliament and if that ability is threatened or removed then an essential democratic link is destroyed.

And if you think that is not an issue think about the last time you spoke to your MP, they are the human link, your voice in parliament, imagine if you and your electorate wanted your MP to act on an issue important to you but the MP could/would act not due to the threat of being removed from their seat by their party if they did so.

Not cool, very, very not cool.

Also not cool is that NZME and Fairfax are appealing the High Court’s decision against their planned merger of the only two mainstream media outlets in NZ into one entity.

And again having all mainstream print and electronic media in NZ under one roof is bad for democracy as it’s hard to imagine a free and independent media when it’s all coming from one source.

The argument from NZME and Fairfax that this will be a good thing, and no one will lose their jobs is hard to imagine. Also hard to imagine is this merger doing anything positive for diversity of political reportage in mainstream media when the mainstream media is all one blobulus entity desperately relying on advertiser dollar to keep afloat and an age of declining MSM media revenue.

Add to the fact that one centralized media outlet is the hallmark of dictatorships and one party states around the world and you can see why this merger is only good for shareholders and not, in any way shape or form, the public, free speech or democracy.

Thank goodness that the blogsphere has picked up on this as not only myself previously but others like Pablo over at Kiwipolitico can see a major problem with this and its deeply ironic that bloggers  would be championing a diverse media landscape more than those MSM organisations themselves.

Or maybe it isn't but either way, very uncool.

However what is cool is the current petition to strip “sir” Bob Jones of his knighthood for his racist outburst in the NBR.

Jones always was a dinosaur and a good example of why giving rich businessmen a public platform, just because they are rich businessmen, is not a good idea, as Jones represents the same kind of people I noted in my post about Don Brash, Colin Craig and JonKey a year ago; the kind of people who desperately want a time machine to get back to the 1950s when Maori, minorities and anyone not a clone of them were silent and their desperately narrow set of (undemocratic) norms and values ruled.

And while the two other issues in this post are clear threats to democracy so too is giving people like Bob Jones a mouthpiece purely on the basis of his wealth, as just like Trump and Oprah in the US, the idea of the rich and wealthy being any good at leadership or running a democracy or having any desire for the country to be democratic is dangerous to the extreme, just as the very basis of their wealth has now become the very cancer eating away at democracy around the world.

The fact that Jones has sought to sue the organizer of the petition shows exactly the same mentality as Colin Craig, and the afore mentioned others, when their precious wealth and privilege are threatened and while we can’t take away his wealth (yet) we could take away his title and that would be just deserts for a man who once wrote a book called “NZ the way I want it” where the way he wants it would be would be us all kowtowing to scaly lizards like Bob Jones.

And the petition has been extremely successful so far so it’s clear that again Jones, like others of his kind, has lost touch with reality and has retreated into that soft, safe, reality distorting, bubble that extreme wealth wraps around a person when the rest of the world disagree with their vile opinions.

Find and sign the petition to remove his title here.

All of these three things are highly undemocratic and attack directly the idea of free speech and democracy in NZ and people always worry about dictators taking over and NZ losing its freedoms as one large grand actions (ala some takeover or coup like Smiths Dream) when instead its creeping moves like these above that eat away at democracy and leave us exposed to the predators.

If you value free speech and democracy overall, oppose all three.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Rehabilitating the National Party – Part II: Bill English tries to jump the Liminal Gap

 In our last post we looked at why the 46% National currently enjoys in the political polls was not worth dookie and in reality is little more than a fig leaf (or band aid) covering up the issues that bedevil the party in the wake of the recent election loss to the Labour/NZ First and Green coalition.

So in this post lets rip aside that fig leaf (or rip off that band-aid) aside and see what turgid horrors lie beneath*.

The National Party, as we know and love it, is now starting to seethe with rebellion, if the media can be believed, in the wake of the recent election loss (although to be fair they did not loose the election they lost the coalition negotiations - but more on that next post) and those rumbling are becoming very public with discussions about how long Bill English will remain as leader.

Of course National has always conducted it's business behind closed doors (unlike Labour) and the means and the process of leadership selection (be it drawing names from a hat, blood sacrifice or some other method) remain mostly unknown to us except for it seems to boil down to numbers plus influence.

What we do know is that despite its facade of unity National is in fact comprised of various factions which fight a shadow war with each other for both control and leadership of the party. However these conflicts have not always remained in the shadows and have often spilled over into the public area on more than one occasion; usually in the form of one side leaking emails and documents to the public and media which in the end makes both both parties look bad.

For example the information and documents which Nicky Hagar used to write The Hollow Men in 2005 came from six National party insiders; or the Collin's/Joyce spat from 2012, which again saw embarrassing details and info leaked; or the counterrevolution against political adviser Simon Lusk in 2013 (where Lusk tried to exterminate the less right-wing elements of the party); and Todd Barclay scandal in 2017, where the political rupture was so severe and public it lead to ex-tobacco lobbyist Barclay leaving politics and destroyed Bill English’s reputation as an “honest man”.

All of these, and other lesser moments, show that National is not the broad church it paints itself as under that roof of 46% popularity but is instead riven with infighting and rivalries on par with the inner working of the Third Reich**. For example, John Key, as supreme leader, utilized his own Fuhrerprinzip to keep the various lesser members of the party competing with one another, and not plotting against him, while steering the overall direction of the party during his time.

And with the election now over and National facing a possible nine years in opposition there is nothing left to hold back the various factions from squabbling for the top job and taking control of the party.

However, before we delve too far into that conflict let’s take a moment to note that almost all of the last 20 years of National party info that has been released to the media shows that  the core of this struggle is between those who want to take the party further to the Right (making it more like ACT) and those who want to steer a more moderate/centrist course or, to be clearer, those who want to continue the Right Wing reforms National has championed for the last 30 years and those who see the damage that following such a path has done to the long term chances of the party (and, in their estimation, possibly NZ).

Not sure what that damage is? Well read this link from the Standard, it’s there in black in white all the way back in 2012. National is now the entirety of the political right*** and its economic views and opinions favor its rich-list supporters and MPs (who are often very rich as well) over anyone else and its only been a concerted Right-Wing smear campaign against the left (ala Dirty Politics) and Labours own ineptitude which has kept National as a viable political contender when inequality, the Housing Hernia and FukYoo Politix are rising by the day.

But if that analysis is too heavy for you look at it like this: In the age of personality and centrist politics (which we are in now but possibly not for much longer) ideology prevents people from viewing a political party with an opposing ideology positively. And if that party's ideology (be it left or right) is unpalatable, then your average swing voter is not going to swing that way which means that any voter with a shred of left or centrist thought will veer away from National and towards anything else (be it Labour, the Greens or, heavens forbid, NZ First).

And now, with the election over, the knives are again being sharpened, the struggle for where the party is heading has stated up again and this time it’s Bills Head that’s being lined up, like John the Baptist, for the platter.

Under Jolly John Key, the party moderates were in charge as after the disaster of the Brash Coup in 2003 and Nationals continued support for the death camp march of free market reform (see the Hollow Men) the party was headed for meltdown as it was reduced to playing the racism card via Don Brash’s now infamous Orewa speech, and while it produced a polling boost it was still ultimately far too ugly for the general electorate (hence National loosing the 2005 election) and it was only the astounding political popularity of Key which carried the party through 2008 and for the next nine years.

And when Mr J quit  in December of 2016 the spell he had cast over the party and its factions was broken and it was only Key's personal intervention before Bill English was anointed, by his holiness himself, before stepping up as caretaker PM until after the election. 

And I say "caretaker" because anyone who thought otherwise was only ever fooling themselves (and possibly Bill) as the moment John Key stepped aside the various factions in National started jockeying for power again only to be brought together for the sake of pre-election unity and the promise of another three years in power if they win.

So now, with the election over (and lost), the battle for the soul of National has resumed with a vengence and in the transition period (the liminal gap*5 if you will) between government and opposition; between moderate social conservatism and extreme economic fundamentalism; between the rabidly high personal popularity of John Key buoying up the party and the dullard antics of English and the rest of the gang of five*4 dragging the party down; there is this space, this time, between the end of one era and the start of another, where anything is possible and nothing is set.

In this zero space between one paradigm ending (that of the Key years) and another starting (take your pick) there is a power vacuum and as we all know nature abhors a vacuum and so apparently do National party MPs.

Key was, no pun intended, the keystone of National party strategy for the last decade and his mana was such that they stuck his face on everything, making him not only the face of the party but in essence the party itself. It was as if Ronald McDonald stopped being the mascot and now ran the company lock, stock and barrel.

Now, without Key, the same problems that were boiling up under Brash are back coming to the surface again and the only thing holding them back in the wake of Key leaving was the promise from English to get them back into power in the 2017 election.

Well that did not happen and only fools are betting on English being around in 2020 because to do that he has to get across that “gap” that I mentioned before and to make it safely across the liminality gap of National Party and NZ Politics English would have to carry out the kind of born again, Jesus rebirth that few, if any, politicians can do: I mean who does he think he is: Winston Peters?

Long story short, English is neither the face of the extreme right wing of National nor the kinder gentler moderate face of National (given how badly he has been tarred as a liar and general political waste of space in the last 12 months) and sooner or later the new paradigm will coalesce into the next phase of National and English, nothing more than the sad shadow of John Key, will need to be replaced by either another economic acolyte (ala Don Brash) or centrist (ala John Key).

Bill English has always been portrayed in the media as a “safe pair of hands” but safe pairs of hands are not what leadership is all about and with predators like Judith Collins circling (and my National party source, T, confirms that such is the case) it’s only a matter of time before one of the pretenders to the throne plucks up the nerve and the numbers to make their move.

We can discuss the possible leadership issue in the next post but no matter what the future of National is Bill English is not it, as he has neither the super-star popularity of Key or Ardern nor the political stones (or the political credibility) to be leader of the party in opposition.

And recent coverage in the media has summed it up nicely so I will just say “what she said” when it comes to assessing why it’s better for English to go now, while the parties fortunes are still high rather than piss it away, like he did in 2002, by refusing to see the inevitable.

Thus I end here with this quote from Oliver Cromwell who, I think, sums it up best:

"You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

*-And both definitions of the word can apply in this context
**-un-tense your fingers and go read about how the Reich was run before you git pissy about this comparison
***-unless you include ACT, but who would do that? Oh wait, National does/did (see their recent idea to clone itself).
*4-Brownlee, Collins, Smith, Joyce and Bennett
*5-I did not make this concept up but finding a source to attribute to it was not possible so i will just admit that here

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Rehabilitating the National Party - Part I: Why 46% don't mean jack s**t!

This is part one in a multi part series where we look what is eating Bill & The B team and try and figure out how to rescue the party's political fortunes. Your welcome, no thanks needed.

However before we get into this let me explain my reasons for wanting to see National back in the game  because despite whomping the party more than once in past blog posts I understand the need for a democratic opposition, even over my own distaste for the many decrepit characters which infest the party like head lice at a sleep over.

National provide a conservative balance to the liberal values of Labour and the Greens and in doing so restrain the more wilder schemes of those parties which, if let off the leash, could do just as much damage as any right wing machinations. 

Thus Democracy in NZ needs a full spectrum of political parties to be healthy and vibrant, and as much as the Left can get all twisted up about that, the alternate is the loss of dynamic tension so vital to democratic debate and we end up with some sort of one party state where all snowflakes are equal but some snowflakes are more equal than others.

And with that out of the way lets get down to things.

So, you won’t read about it elsewhere (actually you might) but the National party has a problem, actually not just one problem but lots of problems (which we will get to in our next post) that, at the end of the day, have all rolled together into the glutinous mass that now affect the party of Blue's political fortunes.

“What!?” I hear you say, as you spit your coffee all over the monitor or tablet screen, “That’s not true, that’s impossible. National does not have a problem, what in Keith Holyoake’s name are you talking about?”

Search your feelings Sparky, you know it to be true, because when you take away that 46% in the polls, that I know you’re going to try and use as justification for the argument that all is well with Bill & Friends, what else is there to show that National is fine and dandy?

And lets pause here while you take a moment to think about it...

That's right, there is nothing else going to say that Big Blue is doing good (except perhaps the vague hope that the new coalition government will somehow implode). Politics is a zero sum game as far as getting into government is concerned and while in government people are often willing to overlook the problems that a party has: they are less inclined to do so when the same party is in opposition. 

National has had a lot of issues in the last nine years (child poverty, water issues, immigration, housing, labor laws, sucking up to multinationals, infestation by lobbyists, dodgy MP's, dodgy (but popular) PM, Bill English's face, scandals ahoy etc etc et-f**king-cetra) which are going to come back to haunt it as Labour rapidly dismantles Nationals free market house of cards, rolls back all the laws it passed and moves to start addressing (as it has already done with its 100 days plan) all the issues that national created or ignored while on its watch.

And there is no reason to be embarrassed about this as its better to fess up now than be like Labour in the wake of Helen Clark (2008 to 2017) where it spun its wheels for well over eight years while trying to figure out what it was doing, where it was going who was going to drive.

Thus there are good reasons why Nationals 46% is not sufficient to justify claiming all is well for the party: let us count them shall we.

First, National is out of office after losing the 2017 election to Labour, NZ First and the Greens; meaning that after nine years with their hands on the levers of power National is now in the political wilderness and no longer the organ grinder but now the dancing monkey. No more ministerial perks, no more fawning civil servants and no more having the power to make or change the laws as you wish. 46% looks good on paper when your'e saying you are the most popular party but it has not translated into power, which is the whole reason for playing the game.

46% was not enough to form a government in the age of MMP and National, still clinging to a FPP mentality (where getting a sheer majority of the vote was all that mattered rather than concentrating on cultivating the political alliances needed to build a stable coalition government) killed stone cold dead its coalition chances with its failed hit on Winston Peters (via leaking his Superannuation over payments to the media) in the run-up to September and thus rendering that 4 and 6 all but useless when it came time to do the coalition math*.

Second, 46% is really only useful when its election season where such numbers can be used to translate into seats via the ballot box. Outside of elections, political polling does not effect change in government unless it’s catastrophically bad polling (think Thersa May and Brexit) and with Nationals 46% being beaten by the coalitions 50% such conditions do not apply here.

Worse still is that with Bill English dropping sharply in the preferred PM stakes (down 9 to 28% to Jacinda’s rise to 37%) the one poll number that could offset being out of office is clearly against them. No one is clamoring for Bill to lead the nation and at this time and I would bet a round of drinks that Jacinda’s baby would poll higher than him as preferred PM. 

Political polling is the barometer of the public's mood but you can’t point to it and claim just because its sunny today it’s going to be sunny forever.

Which brings us to our third, and by no means least, point: 46% today does not mean 46% tomorrow. In the early 2000s National was polling in the low 20s (which coincidentally was the last time Bill English was leader of the party) and the separation between its current polling and the abysmal 22% it was scraping by on in 2002 shows exactly how much swing potential there is between the hard core of the party and those who happen to vote National this election but might just as easily vote for Labour next**.

So National (and you) can point to that 46% all you like but at the end of the day it’s not in government, has almost zero chance of seducing NZ First (its only possible coalition partner now) away from Labour, its agenda is off the political menu and its going to have to fight against the greater public image and message of the current government: none of this bodes well for Bill & Co.

If the path of NZ electoral politics retains any of its past consistency then National is likely to face three terms in opposition and spend much of that time, like Labour previously did, politically stunted (due to the political castration that occurred during the Key and Clark years respectively) and still dreaming of its halcyon days in office when it should be using the time to be an effective opposition and preparing for the next election***.

As PM, Bill English commanded a certain degree of respect from the public and media. As leader of the opposition Bill is just another voice in the mass of voices shouting for attention. Sure he gets a few perks but almost everything he (and his party) does is in response to what the government is doing; its the mental equivalent of shifting from an active, or offensive, posture to a reactive, or defensive, posture, the mindsets are different and must to change for a party to survive.

And the key to accepting that change is to listen to the hard truth that National lost the 2017 election, is out of government and that its 46% in the polls does not mean a thing when your in the political wilderness for the next three years.

So that's it for Part I: next up we scrape away the pancake makeup and take a warts and all look at the National party to assess its political health. bend over and cough!

*-political math 101: 46% for National < 50% for the Coalition government
**-Or the Greens, NZ First and even [shudder] ACT.
***-Which we will get to later in this series of posts

Friday, 26 January 2018

And now, a few words from the new spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy and McDonalds: Bill English

Daily Blah- 26th Jan 2018

At a moderately attended press conference yesterday, leader of the opposition and former prime minister of New Zealand, Bill English, announced his new role as spokesperson for the Chinese embassy and fast food giant Mcdonalds.

Speaking from the steps of 6 Glenmore Street in the upmarket Wellington suburb of Kelburn Mr English outlined his new duties as embassy and corporate spokesperson which would consist of promoting the views and opinions of the Chinese government and the fast food conglomerate to the public of New Zealand.

“This is a great opportunity and I am proud to have accepted these roles” Mr English gushed “I have looked to both Xi Jinping [the president of China] and Ronald McDonald for years, their leadership styles have been models for my own and the similarities between Dipton, Beijing and the Ball Pool at happy land are amazingly close so I think that has helped me get in tune with my inner Chinese and inner Clown.”

When questioned if his work for the Chinese Embassy or McDonalds might conflict with his role as leader of the opposition and member of Parliament Mr English looked confused before responding that it had “not been a problem in the past” when he was the Prime Minister “so it should not be a problem now”.

Fingering his Mao Tse Tung lapel pin, while dressed in a clown suit and flanked by members of the Blue Dragons Mr English pledged to “return New Zealand to its Marxist roots” and emphasised the need “to build New Zealand with franchise characteristics” before being escorted back into the embassy while 2 for 1 vouchers for happy meals were handed out to the crowd.

The above situation has not played out exactly as in our mock media release but for all intents and purposes the above happened this week when Bill English went into bat for his constituents (the Chinese government) by arguing that the ban on foreign home buyers would not be compatible with Chinese interests  and New Zealand’s trade agreement with China AND avidly defending McDonalds when referring to Labour's repeal of the 90 day contract law.

And it’s nice to see Bill being consistent in his undermining of New Zealand’s sovereignty, as both Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, while continuing to shill for the Chinese and corporate interests over average Kiwis.

But then again what’s new in this situation; National might as well move their party headquarters to Beijing or Oak Brook, Illinois and just be done with it given how connected the party is with Chinese and foreign interests.

If it’s not the JinYang spy scandal, still bubbling away, it’s just the fact that China wields a lot of influence in NZ and is not shy about it OR its NZ labor laws set up with no real reason but for exploitation of workers; and the conclusion that most would draw from watching these antics is that Bill and National are clearly puppets for parties other than the NZ public.

I suppose that in some ways it must be hard as leader of the opposition in the first term of a new government. Clearly all the wind has been sucked out of Nationals sails as Bill has been uttering all manner of statements to any reporter willing to listen for weeks now in increasingly desperate attempts to get oxygen for the party and its cause*. However, as he is no longer in the position to make deals for access he has ended up being reduced to desperately shilling his services like some demented Suzanne Paul via ongoing petty point scoring in the media.

Of course, some might argue that is what the Opposition does, and has to do, when out of power but its helps when the political alignment of statements are for the country you happen to be a member of. So unless Bill has Chinese passport in his back pocket (and at this time I would not put it past him or at least 50% of National to have one) then these kind of statements ring petty treasonous.

It also helps when your shilling for "the Man" aligns with what "the Man' is thinking and his other comments recently about the repeal of the odious 90 days contract law and how it will affect McDonalds ability to employ staff was immediately refuted by McDonalds itself; who obviously did not want to hitch their wagon to the struggling engine of National and the B team**.

And it’s the blatant language and angle of Bills utterances that has motivated me to write this post as its becoming clear that Bill is desperately doing what he can to prop up his flagging popularity in the preferred PM stakes. In one case it’s sucking up to China like there is no tomorrow (and no shortage of chapstik) or cuddling up to McDonalds (possibly in the hope of free hamburgers) only to have his clingy advances brutally rebuffed.

Lobbying for your constituents is one thing but when your constituents are foreign powers or multi national corporations that's another.

But as I have said before, Bills days are numbered and he knows this. He has failed to lead the party to victory in two elections now and I severely doubt that the National brain trust is willing to gamble a third time on the Dip from Dipton when the rise of Jacinda has shown what a fresh face can do for a party’s fortunes.

And in that frame of mind I am suggesting the same thing to National for Bill that I did for Labour last year in regards to Andrew Little; put the aged hack out to pasture while there is still time and get to work on re-building the party with someone younger, smarter and more resonant with the public***.

I was right about Andrew and I am right about Bill.

*-which may be characterized as riches for the rich and death to the poor while corralling the middle class through manipulating things like the property market to hide the fact that wealth disparity and inequality in this country are rising
**-Although I do find it amusing to imagine McDonalds choosing to employ recently stomach stapled Paula Bennett as some sort of Jarrod Foggle like spokes person for the slimming benefits of their healthy choice menu
***-Like Jin Yang for instance

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Iceberg ahead: Labour and the new TPPA agreement

I got a funny feeling this morning when I read that the TPPA, now renamed the CPTPPA (with the C & P meaning “Comprehensive and Progressive”, was soon to be signed by NZ and 10 other nations in the wake of the US pulling out and previous problems to make it work without them.

However the “funny feeling” had a lot less to do with the TPPA itself and more to do with the fact that the Greens still oppose this agreement, the opinion of NZ First was currently unknown and National supported it.

Don’t get me wrong I am still not sold on the TPPA (nor are others in the blogsphere) but many of the changes, post US exit, seem to have softened the worst aspects like the intellectual property, pharmaceutical and the odious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses, that have been amended to take out the sections which seemed hell bent overriding state sovereignty at corporate behest (driven it appears by the heavily infiltrated US trade delegation) and have made it a lot more palatable to the public: as trade agreements go.

No, whats giving me this strange sensation is the thought that if the Greens and NZ First oppose the TPPA and then Labour goes with National and gets it passed we may be faced with the first real rift in the relationship between the three coalition partners.

Of course, if Labour has been smart, all of this will have been thrashed out in the various parties’ coalition agreements, where somewhere in the depths of those documents there are certain clauses setting out how this situation will be handled and who will bow to whom.

So far so good but as the Greens are already opposed and it would be hard to imagine NZ First getting behind it given their previous comments we come to the crux of this potential issue because the TPPA being good or bad will pale into insignificance if this becomes a bone of contention between the three parties currently making up our government.

But wait, according to former Trade Minister Todd McLay Winston will “toe the line” and dance to Jacinda’s tune when it comes time to vote, perhaps as a price for getting to be deputy PM as the article seems to insinuate.

And maybe that’s why the NZ First/Labour coalition agreement document is secret as while Winston might be willing to stand behind Jacinda will the remainder of the party and its supporters be behind the CPTPPA?

In sports I think this is what they call “the moment of truth” where the star quarterback is under pressure, about to be sacked by some thuggish looking linesmen and has to get the game winning throw off in time, and with accuracy, to the receiver, to make the touch down, win the game and get back his childhood sweetheart.

Meanwhile over in National, now wallowing in opposition, you can almost smell the grins emanating as this has win/win written all over it for the party.

Think about it: National always wanted the TPPA to go through, even in its most evil form, but will obviously settle for getting it through in a diluted state, so it can please its foreign and domestic backers, BUT if this does not go through it’s a rather convenient stick, for them,with which to beat Labour and Jacinda around the head with for the rest of the term.

So here is the situation and what needs to be watched: is the mood of Winston, NZ First and its supporters, amenable to being bent over and made to think of Aotearoa while the TPPA gets signed and then deal with the potential fallout in a political climate where the mood is increasingly become anti-free trade*, anti-foreign ownership and where economic nationalism has been part of Winston’s stock in trade for as long as we can remember?

And while we are speculating, has Labour read the mood of its voter base well enough when a big part of what got them elected was the fact that “they were not National”? It’s been all honeymoon period and baby showers for Labour since October last year but with parliament set to convene on February 13 and the business of government kicking back off after the summer hols this is a potential first test of how resilient our three headed government actually is.

It’s also worth remembering, as has been pointed out, that Labour was for the TPPA in 2008, opposed it for the majority of the National government, flip flopped on it while under Andrew Little before now swinging back to being in support of it; albeit with amendments to its worst clauses, and with the housing hernia starting to go bad (but no bust as of yet) and business confidence slumping while inequality in NZ rises, a thing like the TPPA is not a done and dusted matter just because someone says its so.

The potential for backlash here is real and, as noted above; National would like nothing more than to see Labour get knocked back on this matter, even as they give them a helping hand by agreeing to support them in passing it.

*-Or what passes for free trade but is really anything but free

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Who's your daddy?

First up, congratulation to Jacinda and Clark as babies are cool, you cant beat having kids.

That said, its interesting that the conception of said baby came in the wake of the 2017 election but supposedly before the coalition negotiations had completed in what I can only assume was a conscious decision to have a child*.

And if you cant see the potential symbolism of that decision then take a moment to consider the following:

  • The PM of NZ will have a child while in Office
  • The PM will carry out her duties while obviously pregnant
  • After the birth Jacinda will return to her duties
  • Clark will be a stay home dad
  • The child will likely be born out of wedlock 
  • Winston will get to be be temporary PM 

Our PM, will be a working mum while Clark will be a stay home dad and for all intents and purposes our First Family** will be a rather modern take on what family is in NZ when you compare it to our previous PM (Bill English).

Bill English and his wife, long married Catholics with children, reflected the kind of traditional family values that were less common in NZ than might have been 50, 30 or even a decade ago and their appearances in women's magazines always seemed to drive that home.

But now we have a different take on what a family might be and I cant believe that this decision was not made with some consideration of the above points and the message they might send.

So am I taking issue with the potential politicization of Jacinda and Clark having a child in this manner and situation?

No I am not!

Just as Bill English and his family life was a reflection of a particular set of values and ideas, and don't say it wasn't because all those pictorials in those magazines were all set with a clear tone and style, so too is the soon to be expanded Clark/Gayford family will be a reflection of a set of values to which I fully agree.

I have been a stay home dad, my kids were born out of wedlock and I am down with both of those things but I am also not a high profile politician and no one is looking at my lifestyle/work-life choices while many will be with Jacinda and Clark and taking notes.

So where am I going with this post?

To be honest I am not so sure as while not disparaging of deciding to get knocked up post election (as there is no right time to start a family) I cant ignore the fact that its the PM getting knocked up and I wonder if at any point in the "lets have a child" discussion that inevitably took place there was any thought given to the potential political aspects of the situation.

Still kids are always a good thing and in the end you cant beat them so I wish the couple all the best and look forward to seeing our PM carry out her duties while heavily pregnant.

*-the alternate being some sort of post election celebration where things got carried away
**-not the best term but I cant think of a better one at this time but i will take suggestions