Election Eve

Just a personal anniversary – it is 10 years today since I moved to Wellington from Auckland.

And I still think it was a great move.

When I started in journalism I remember being told (and I can’t remember where I got this from) the best way to successfully predict an election result is to make your pick somewhere between six to nine months out – and stick to it.

If that were the case I’d be calling this for Labour but it’s been such a topsy turvey couple of months, who knows? The polls have been extraordinarily volatile and its unfortunate the least volatile of all (the UMR-NBR one) wasn’t’ able to do a last one for today.

The last one though had Labour just in front, but that was before the Brethren, Student Loans dishonesty, Bob the Dildo….

I will make only one firm prediction – the Maori Party will stay out of any coalition.

They will base this on the principle of rangitiratanga: the logic being that their party is all about rangitiratanga and it is very difficult to have that when you are a small coalition partner.

So some comments on the campaign:

Maori Party – they learned fast after the TV3 Worm debate that although a lot of their followers love Tariana she turns a lot of swinging Maori voters off. Hence the emergence of Pita Sharples.
In other words, they want this and they are not being sentimental about it. I’m picking at least three seats – Turia’s Te Tai Hauauru, Tai tokorau; and Waiariki. Possibly Tamaki Makaurau (John Tamihere’s seat) although the “mafia” allegations must be hurting Sharples there.

At least three seats – at best six.

Act – I’m still hovering on this one. The last week of Parliament saw the government stick through its changes to the Resource Management Act. Stephen Franks gave an absolutely brilliant speech on what is wrong with the Act, why some of the changes being made were good but why the whole underlying thrust of the law need to be revisited.
It was a principled speech based on a clear understanding of liberal political thought and property rights and I came away thinking ‘that’s why we need you guys there”.

I’ve also been very impressed by Heather Roy’s work on health. She has plugged away at this politically unrewarding sector and shown that this particular emperor is in danger of hypothermia. Labour has thrown billions of extra spending into health, they can’t show any improvement in services, and they can’t say why.

And anyone who makes Annette King get as ruffled as that has got something going for her.

Having said that, some Act people turn me off big time.

They need to make it in Epsom. I’m buggered if I know what’s really going on up there, so the question is a leap of faith or play it safe….

Now the Nats…if Brash wins tomorrow it will be a huge personal victory – he will have more than doubled National’s voted from the last election, and he will have made it in the teeth of a mostly hostile media.

A lot of the media just don’t get Brash’s appeal and have been too keen to write him off. They evaluate him by some unannounced checklist of what makes a successful political leader which usually boils down to a strange mix of JFK, David Lange and Helen Clark.

Voters have their own criteria. Doesn’t anyone remember how gaffe-prone Jim Bolger was? Doesn’t anyone see how unprepossessing the very successful John Howard is?

Having said that, he is going to have to get sharper. A lot of the gaffes on this campaign have been almost charming in their naiveté, but voters are much less forgiving when you do that sort of thing in government.

Both Bill English and John Key have had damn good campaigns.

Labour… I’ve called it the kakapo syndrome. They have been without natural predators for so long they’re not used to being in such a fight. They also took their position, their own cleverness and their sense of their own moral superiority as a given for too long. Tom Scott’s cartoon yesterday was a brilliant summation of this. New Zealanders don’t like governments that get up themselves, and the attitude of Helen Clark and (to a lesser extent) Michael Cullen has really grated with a lot of voters.

Will that be enough to tip them out? I don’t know. I keep hearing tales of people who have voted Labour for a long time but not this time. And it’s not tax cuts which has swung them. Its things like arrogance and political correctness.

One other thing: the photo op with Jeanette Fitzsimons keeps getting written up as a brilliant move. It wasn’t. Sure, most Labour voters see the Greens as natural coalition partners. But a significant minority view the prospect with horror. Not many, I know – but in an election this close all you need is 5% to shift and you’re in trouble. That photo op was actually a big blunder.

Winston – by their fruits shall ye know them is a damn good rule of thumb, and Winston has produced very little but noise and drama ion his 24 years in Parliament. I hope he goes. But if ever a guy was blessed with a hyper-efficient guardian angel it’s this bloke. I have a horrible suspicion he will hang on.

The Greens – in trouble. Their voters are scared of a Brash-led government and are swallowing hard and voting Labour. They are more likely to be gone than Winston is.

United Future. Safe, boring – but competent and necessary. Peter Dunne may yet build up a long lasting centre party. He’s done well.

You want a prediction? Minority, fingertip Labour government, supported on confidence and supply by the Maori Party and United Future.

Or National by a significant margin, backed by United Future.

Two toasts…

…to Chief Ombudsman John Belgrave for his courageous decison to make Labour release the Treasury’s costings of the interest-free student loan policy;

and to Westpac chief economist Brendan O’Donovan for (a) pointing out this particualar emperor risked hypthermia and (b) then getting his head kicked by Cullen and Mallard for it.

The public right to know…

TV3 tried to get an interview with the rather, err, colourful, National Party candidate for Tauranga, Bob Clarkson, yesterday.

the reporter – a woman – went in to his office and discussed the matter with him and National MP Tony Ryall, off camera.

According to her subsequent news bulletin, the discussion ended when Clarkson got up and made some comment about how he couldn’t talk any more because his crotch was under pressure.

This is the sort of man we NEED in Parliament. Not only does he have the balls to wager his left testicle on an All Black win, but he freely discusses the state of the contents of his trousers with a female journalist when he is already under fire for sexual harassment allegations.

MARVELLOUS!!!

I also think we need to know what Tony Ryall made of this. Was his crotch under pressure? And if so, why?

In 1984 the wacky and fun loving people of Tauranga gave us Winston, in their bid to improve the colour of politics and the general gaiety of the nation.

There’s no doubt Winston is getting tired. This Clarkson bloke though I can see being a huge amount of fun for the next three years.

I can’t wait.

Graceless under pressure….

It seems labour’s Auckland Central MP Judith Tizard has been putting a few noses out of joint.

Unfortunately the fact the audience may not have been predisposed to liking her message is pretty irrelevant to her behaviour.

One of the things I respect Rod Donald for is that I’ve seen him, time and time again, front up to finance and investment sector talkfests when he must know almost everyone there is agin him.

But he gets up and puts his party’s case. What’s more, he doesn’t just phone it in: he’s usually taken the trouble to do a bit of research about some relevant issue.

It’s about respect for your audience. It’s about hard work. It’s also about having enough of a sense of purpose to believe that if you put your case you might change a few minds, or at least send them away thinking.

And its about not being a waste of space.

Don Brash’s secret agenda

Readers of this blog will now get tan exciting preview of the next Sunday Star Times revelation about the secret influences on Don Brash.

Emails leaked to the Sunday Star Times show a high powered right wing business group was lobbying the National Party leader to surgically extend his penis even before he become National’s leader.

This ‘hard right’ group also promised the National leader greater satisfaction and more “Girls! Girls! Girls!”

It is clear from the emails, revealed by a National Party source who is very very very upset and may yet be even more upset if they catch up with him/her, that there is a secret agenda and that Brash was being lobbied hard by shady groups even before he took over from Bill English.

In a further secret email, another business lobby group strongly urged the fledgling National Party leader to earn thousands of dollars from the comfort of his own home.

The email is silent on whether this would be ,funded by tax cuts.

Yet another top secret email form a business lobbyist requested the National leader commit New Zealand to investing in a number of ventures in Nigeria, and that he supply his credit card number to help facilitate this

And a further shady right wing organisation offered to introduce the neophyte politician to Sexy College Girls.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said this revealled the extent of National’s secret Hard Right Agenda.

More Revelations

Lo, twas on the first day of the Last Days, the Angel of the Election spaketh, crying forth that the Peoples of the Earth, or at least that part in which resides the Kiwis, the Chosen Peoples, although God has been very careful not to say what he has Chosen them for;

And the Angel opened the first Seal, and revealed unto us the First Revelation;

And I saw a figure emerge, wobbling a bit. And he said he had been mugged on some stairs, after a late night in Wellington, but he was NOT DRUNK. And ye shall know him by the Mark on his forehead, the Blumsky Mark, and it was the Mark of the BEAST.

And then on the second day, the Angel of the Election came forth, and spaketh, saying, “placeth ye thou money on Centrebet yet?”

And Lo, we were vexed, for we had not, because the Bloody Polls are All Over The Place.

Then came forth the Winston, proud and haughty, and Lo he waveth not One, not Three, but Two magical devices beforeth the ANGEL OF THE ELECTION.

And I saw that one was Red, and one was Blue.

And the Winston flashed his Winning Smile At The Cameras, performed his Roger Gascoingne wink, and spaketh, saying ‘who you Gonna Call?”

And the Voters looked on, and there a murmuring was heard, along the lines of “well we may not have made up our minds yet but we’re not going THERE again.”

And there was a Turning Away from the Winston, and he gnashed his teeth, rended his garments, and Blamed the Media.

And the Angel of the Election opened the Second Seal, out forth stepped The Long Winded One and the CommonSensical One;

And they waveth a magical paper, and crieth, ‘we have never agreed on anything before, No, Not Ever, except drugs: but we have a right to be Placed Before the Holy Worm;”

And the TV3 Oracle cried; thou shalt not go before the Holy Worm: partly because you possesseth not much in the way of support, but also because thou both art Very Very Very Boring.”

But the magical paper, which was a bit like a Community Chest Card in Monopoly, allowed them Entrance.

And Lo they were Placed Before the Holy Worm; which helpeth them Not.

And then on the third day the Angel of the Election opened the Third Seal, and lo, we saw the Abatement Regime for Families; and the Angel of the Election looked on, and saieth, ‘well, that’s not too bad, what have you got, Nats?’

And then the Nats brought forth their tax cuts, and Lo! They were better than Anyone expected, yea, excepth Roger, Richard, Rodney. the other Roger, and Ruth, and what is it with all these Rs on the Right anyway?

And the Helen One, roareth, crying, “that’s right, they do talk a lot of Rs on the right.”

And the Angel of the Election cried, “No she didn’t, you just made that up, and stop cracking bad puns”

And then the Angel of the Election opened the Third Seal, and there was a Great Shout;
for it was the audience in the TVNZ studios; and the Helen spaketh over the top of them, or they spaketh over the top of Helen; and Lo they called her RUDE THINGS which only She heareth such were her Powers; and Lo she was greatly sore.

And the Brash resembleth Daniel in the Lions Den, but we should all remember how that one ended.

And the Brash telleth the ANGEL OF THE ELECTION, “I went easy on her because she’s a Lady”.

And I heard a Great Shout of laughter; and hisses of ‘Sexist!’ from the Helen Followers;

And Lo the Voters were perplexed, and they saieth to themselves; “We haveth a right pair here –One Sets Great Store by old fashioned manners; and the other One thinketh this is sexist.” And they spaketh unto the Angel of the Election, saying “we cannot decide which of these two sad gits is more quaintly out of date”

And there was another Great Shout; because frankly we needed a drink after all this Crap; and then;

And then the Angel of the Election opened another seal, which tumbled forth secret emails and faxes, and out rode the Rs of the Right about which we shall maketh no more Bad Jokes;

And Lo they were written down by another Ruth of the SomeDay Scroll-times, although some saieth her real name is Ian Wishart, for Such was the Conspiracy she unveileth;

For she revealeth St Roger’s first email to the Brashians, and he saieth unto them, ‘I think you should have Lower Taxes.’

And the Brashians replieth, saying “we thought you would say something like that”.

And the third email of St Roger saieth; “don’t get painted too Right Wing,” and the Brashians saieth unto themselves, we’re way ahead of you there Roger, no worries.

And the fifteenth email of St Roger was fowardeth from the Brash to his IT manager. And the Brash saieth unto the Holy Techie, “You remember how you managed to block all those messages about earning thousands from the comfort of my own home and investing in Nigerian Goldmines and the Enlargement of Very Personal Organs? Well I think I’ve got another job for you.”

And then the Cullen One and the Smiling Key spoketh unto the Voters before the Wooden Suze; and they were much more Civilised; although the debate endeth with the Cullen One yelling “cuts cuts cuts cuts” at the Voters. At least, that is what he appeared to be saying.

And then the Angel of the Election cried, I shall speak Unto you of the Last Days;

And the voters cried their thanks, for this was really starting to Get On Their Nerves.

And the Angel spoke of Going Negative and the Helen One’s plans;

And the Angel of the Election prophesied, saying the Helen would speak of the Four Horsepersons of the 1990s.

And these were the Employment Contracts Act, the State Services Act, Privatisation, and the Reserve Bank Act.

And the Angel of the Election pauseth, saying, ‘hang on, weren’t those last three were started by Labour, and didn’t Clark, Cullen, and Mallard all vote for them?’

And Lo I heareth a muffled sound and a mutter of ‘shutup shutup shutup shutup shutup’.

And the Helen One Roareth, and she Crieth: “both Trevor and the Cullen One have spoken to you of the Dastardly Right Wing Conspiracy; but they cocked it up;

“It Seemeth to One that if One is to have a Decent Smear Campaign One has to Run it Oneself, and therefore I say unto you All;
“I have set new standards of conduct in my time as prime minister;’ yea verily, and I’d be doing fine if you Bastards didn’t keep holding me to those standards.

“And I vow to you, we shall revealed all the inequities of the Brashians, but it shall not be called Going Negative, for by Definition I cannot Go Negative.”

[Still to come : Revelations of the Last Days]

Beyond Treatyism

Insolent Prick has a thought provoking post on Waitangi issues. He makes some excellent arguments and while I might quibble with a minor point or two I strongly urge people to read his post which is <a href=”http://insolentprick.blogspot.com/2005/09/why-treaty-should-be-buried.html
” target=”_blank”>Here.

His comments dovetail with some thoughts I had this morning after attending a Business Roundtable forum on Maori and business.

There were pollies from most of the parties in parliament there, and what was interesting was how much the debate has shifted in less than two years.

I think the country is moving into what I’d call a “post-Treatyism” era. By “Treatyism” I mean the assumption,, amounting to religious fervour in some quarters, that the Treaty is (a) founding document; (b) an all important public policy tool; (c) a constitution or part thereof; (d) a kind of quasi-religious touchstone.

All of that puts a pretty heavy burden on a document cobbled together fairly quickly as a bit of a makeshift agreement. I’m not arguing the Treaty isn’t significant, but I’d suggest it fits only (a) above.

The Greens and the Maori Party are probably the most fervent Treatyists. In some ways the Greens are more so Tariana Turia’s group.

One comment today – from the Maori Party rep – was that you can’t just see race relations in New Zealand through the Treaty. I just about fell off my chair when he said that.

On this issue, as on so many others, Labour is trying to have it both ways, being fervently Treatyist at times and on others like a kind of watered down version of Brash.

The ground is shifting on this one. It started to shift when Don Brash did his first Orewa speech.

Whether or not Brash makes it on September 17, there’s no doubt in my mind that no Opposition leader has ever, in our history, shifted the public debate so effectively.

The best example of that is the time limit on Treaty claims. Eighteen months ago that was racist , according to Labour – now its policy for almost all the parties.

I’m not putting the shift down to Brash alone – at least one other leader has made a big contribution, for all his flaws John Tamihere’s message that the grievance mentality was getting Maori precisely nowhere, has been heard by many.

In any case, the contribution of political leaders to all this is impossible to measure but easy to overstate. The focus of today’s conference was Maori and business, and this is the key to moving on: the development of a strong entrepreneurial Maori middle class.

It is happening – yes, partLy as a result of the Treaty process we have been through but are moving beyond now. (The last three words of that sentence are the crucial bit).

The pollies talk as though they are doing this or facilitating this but, look, its happening regardless of what the pollies from any party do.
And that gives me huge hope for New Zealand’s future.

More public sector strike action – please

I don’t think there’s enough of this.

For too long there’s been a tendency for this goverment to take its public sector client base for granted.

In particular, I feel, the work of those downtrodden souls in the Inland Revenue Department has never been properly acknowledged.

It is clear what needs to be done. There must be IMMEDIATE strike action from all IRD employees. It may be a long, hard and bitter fight, but their cause is just.

They must down tools IMMEDIATELY and walk off the job RIGHT NOW.

And even if it takes years, they must hold out for their rights.

Is there a fragger?

‘Fragging’ was the term used by US troops in Vietnam to describe handgrenading or shooting from the back an officer who ordered them into the field. (‘frag’ = fragmentation grenade)

The Sunday Star Times’ story on how senior Act and Business Roundtable people were cheering on the Don Brash takeover is, on the face of it, a clear and pretty nasty case of political fragging.

The story itself is a quite overheated and conspiracy-theoryish in tone and I must say I hadn’t realised Ruth Laugeson is Ian Wishart’s new nom de plume.

Of the four main bullet points early on in the story one is old news (Barry Coleman’s paying for some of Brash’s media training); and two of the others (the interest from Roundtable people) is hardly the stuff of shock- horror.

What is interesting – because of the light it throws on the SST and Laugeson’s own politics – is the underlying assumption that all Brash’s backers were principally motivated by ideology (a lot weren’t: there were some big issues around management under the old leadership); and also that there is something sinister in business groups taking an interest in the National Party. Roger Kerr takes considerably less interest in Naational’s internal politics than a number of senior union officials take in Labour’s.

The keen involvment – which went well beyond the odd supportive email – of senior Act people is a little more eyebrow-raising. There, I think, is a legitimate story, particularly as a lot of people on the National-Act side of politics are asking ‘what the hell” questions about the quality of strategic thinking around how the two parties might work together. There seems to have been an extraordinary degree of muddleheadedness about this for some time.

So the Frag-hunt is now on within National. It’s another distraction the party doesn’t need right now and that fact alone doubles the treachery of whoever leaked the information.

The two main questions are who had access to the information, and who benefits from its release? I’ve got no insight into the first question: the second is obvious – Labour, and those within National who don’t want to see a Brash-led party win.

I’d have thought that would narrow the field considerably.

If, that is, the source is within National. The story seems to point that way. However…journalists don’t just protect anonymous sources by not naming them. That’s often not enough.

You also often have to write the story in a way which points away from those sources.

Lax Sexual Practices – the parties respond

How to deal with the crucial policy issue of the 2005 election, that of Lax Sexual Practices has been put by this blog to the main political parties.

Remember – we talk to these people so you don’t have to.

All are taking it very seriously now we’ve got this silly tax stuff out of the way, and broadly speaking, the approach reflects the political philosophy of the parties involved.

Those on the Left view Lax Sexual Practices as an unfortunate legacy of the 1990s which needs to be addressed by government action and truckloads of lecturing, finger wagging and general guilt.

Those on the Right say such practices should be left to the invisible hand and trickle down; and, by the way, the party is at their place.

New Zealand First demanded to know who was asking, and why, and whether the other parties were being asked about their preferences as regards Lax Sexual Practices. It says the most lax are immigrants and journalists who print scurrilous stories without a skerrick of evidence: the least lax are decent hard working New Zealanders over about 60.

United Future is looking for a Sexual Practices Party to merge with. There must be one somewhere.

The Maori Party believe Sexual Practices are protected by Article III of the Treaty, which covers taonga, or nappies, and that any laxness is due to colonisation.

The Greens are against Lax Sexual Practices as they might lead to free trade. Sue Kedgely is to be in charge of lecturing us on which foods contribute to Lax Sexual Practices.

Act, meanwhile, says any problems there are with Lax Sexual Practices are entirely up to the individual, and in any case will be cured by a tax cut. And a deal with National in Epsom. Real soon. Please.

Labour will set up a Task Force on Lax Sexual Practices which will then recommend a strategy which will be implemented in a whole of government fashion. It will be included in the Growth and Innovation Strategy. Probably a one-stop-shop will be involved. It will deliver this strategy through targeted relief aiming at families and spend billions on it, but in a non-inflationary way.

National is going to have a policy on Lax Sexual Practices but it doesn’t want to shout it as there are women involved.