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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Rookie Mistakes: Alfred Ngaro and James Shaw

So what are we to make of these two big mouthed fools?

Were these just cases of  foot in mouth (that we all make from time to time) or were these little sentences more Freudian slips of greater political meaning.

Lets take a look.

First up it is spooky how their topics to which they shot their mouths off about were closely aligned with their political positions or related issues.

Currently National is desperately trying to smother all talk of the swelling housing hernia as it has found itself caught between the ongoing, and increasingly frustrated, cries of the many Kiwis denied access to the housing ladder (not to mention those who just want a roof over their heads that is not that of a garage, motel or car) and statements of doom from economic authorities like the OECD about house prices being way to high and that there is a near 50% chance of a crash in the next two years.

Add to this that National, in what can only be described as one of the most blatant attempts at political plagiarism ever, have stolen Labours housing policy which after a new cover sheet (and a lot less actual content or houses to be built) shoved it through the door to peddle its ass out on main street NZ in the lunatic hope that more political gibberish, spun now like candyfloss, will somehow placate all the frustrated renters and homeless out there rather than an actual place of their own.

With this feeble political play National would  like NZ to conveniently forget that it has been refusing to acknowledge the perilous state of housing in NZ for so long now and with such stubborn insistence that no-one was remotely surprised when it turns out that most of the party (and most MPs in parliament) were property speculators of the highest order with more than one property and therefore going to protect their housing investments over the welfare and security of all others.

And into this dogs dinner of a situation wades Alfred Ngaro (Nationals new token Island minister now that Sam Lotu-Liga has been disgraced for the Serco/Fight Club scandal)  with his implicit (damn near explicit) threat to brutalize anyone who dares to speak out against Nationals  "rich get richer/poor (and soon to be poor) can get stuffed" agenda.

So how serious was his comment to close off funding to any person or group that dares speak out against the government? 

Very bloody serious given the speed with which Bill & Co moved!

They censured him, made him apologize and then set about doing everything in their power to exercise damage control (including a review of his previous decisions) which given how National usually behave when faced with bad behavior by its ministers and MPs shows that Ngaro exercising his stupid glands in public on such a politically sensitive issue, just when National had swiped the oppositions related policy (after endless refusal to acknowledge the situation), was a majestic stuff up of the highest order.

And while Ngaro is still junior minister for social housing his career in politics is likely to go the same way as Lotu-Liga with an eventual demotion, political obscurity and a sure fire warning to keep his mouth closed at ALL times in the future on ALL matters.

The fact that Ngaro said what he said in what could have been considered a safe setting and in words that could be open to interpretation do nothing to reduce the damage his arrogant asinine comment did in an age when the microphone is always on.

What was he thinking?

But if National looks bad for letting one of its junior ministers say something hideously stupid in public how do you think the Greens look when their co-leader, James Shaw, says something which is the political and intellectual equivalent of a shortcut to thinking by invoking Goodwins Law right from the get go in response to a simple question about Donald Trump.

It brought rather more boos than cheers from the audience and while Shaw's face showed no emotion his eyes seemed to swivel in his head as I imagined his brain registering the critical error and starting to quiver in its jelly as he watched all that hard work, building his credibility and career, being smashed to smithereens in one petty comment.

He could have made some comment about how Trump was destabilizing the political situation in the US or about his shady background or even his recent removal of the head of the FBI (who was investigating into Trumps connections to Russia). There was plenty of low hanging fruit to reach for which would have been just as effective in making Trump look like the crazy he is which would have served the same purpose and show that Shaw has a finger on the pulse of international politics today.

He could of but he didn't.

Instead it was the kind of low grade comment that is not only untrue it is also exposed Shaw as politically prejudiced as the rest of us.

Sure Trump is currently the Left's punching bag for any and all issues which require easy demonizing and a knee-jerk emotional reaction but Shaw, in asserting that Trump "was the most dangerous person since Hitler"went several steps too far and undid, in one thoughtless comment, all the good work the Party had been doing to try and make itself look like anything but a bunch of hyper-sensitive hippie, tree-huger, liberals with the political and economic sensibilities of a GE free, hand raised, vegan bowl of lentil soup.

Either Shaw is ignorant of individuals like Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Mugabe, G W Bush (see what I did there?) and all the other dictators and tyrants who have helped make the post WW2 period so bloody or he simply thought he was in a safe crowd and that his ideologically rabid comment would be a cheap shot that would score a few points with what was obviously (at least to his mind) an entirely pro-Green crowd at Backbenches.

So either ignorant or dumb (you choose) Shaw has set the party back and generated more headlines in that one sentence than any other Green party press release in the last year.

One thing is for sure, Russel Norman would never have said anything so flagrantly stupid, in public at least.

And like my post earlier this year about Liberals needing to sharpen their arguments if they want to make any headway in this brave new world of Fuk-Yoo politics, Shaw should have known better because if he doesn't then he is going to get eaten alive come the first mainstream political debate when he gets lobbed what should be an easy question and instead of whacking it for a six (or at least a four) swings wildly and gets caught out.

Shaw, like Ngaro, has since apologized but again, like Ngaro, the damage has been done and both of these dim-wits have hurt both their own and their party's reputations with their one single utterance.

But back to our original question, were these comments just one off blunders or are they symptoms of something else?

Given that both statements align snugly with the party or political positions of each speaker and that I have herd similar things from the respective members of both parties more than once in the last year I don't think these are just single utterances but rather reflections of the broader political base behind each man.

In short National does not care if the poor do not have housing or if the housing hernia swells dangerously before exploding in a bout of painful shrieking and economic and social catastrophe as their own wealth will be protected and the Greens are not interested in trying to understand that the current populist backlash is the product of a flawed and failed political/economic system (of which they are desperately trying to be part) and would rather chant smug platitudes like first year politics students at a campus demo.

Add to this that both men made what could only be termed a rookie mistake for any politician and you have the kind of stuff up that would be interesting media fodder in a non election year but with the polls four months out and the electorate starting to look around and wonder who (or what) to choose come September these two novices have damaged the chances of their parties at the ballot box and as well as the public perception of them as people and their respective parties.

Because if Ngaro comes off as another atavistic, grubby and arrogant National junior MP full of himself and unable to understand his own insignificance (and token position) in the party death machine then Shaw looks like the kind of dangerous liberal idealist who would all have us living an agrarian existence, denying things like basic science and shouting down or chanting away anything not able to be summed up in simplistic terms.

My god, what a choice, which one would you choose, if forced to?

Do you choose Ngaro, up there on the podium sounding like a stock movie villain, pledging to destroy his enemies while twirling his mustache like Snidely Whiplash and maniacally laughing as if he has the hero's tied up in the basement to some elaborate and slow moving death contraption?

Or do you choose Shaw, all smug with his superior, liberal pedigree and middle class world view which just so happens to cast him as the man with all the easy answers to the worlds problems despite the fact that his answers involve gutting the party's ethical and moral foundation in a desperate attempt to be "normal.

The fact that both men's parties are in the middle of an image crisis doesn't help the choice as its still basically the difference between a kick in the goodies or a punch in the ass.

In the end both of these grade A wallies soiled themselves in public and showed their political inexperience by doing something that is usually right there on page one of the politicians handbook in the "under no circumstances ever do this" section.

So again, what were they thinking?

But if there is anyone who can and should be making hay out of these incidents it will be Andrew Little and Labour.

All Andrew has to do (and has done so far) is keep his mouth shut on the matter and let the media make the inevitable comparisons between Labors older and more comprehensive housing policy and Nationals rapid about face (shortly after Nick Smith got moved on) and copy cat housing policy as well as simply not make any references to Hitler when discussing international politics and they are golden*.

How hard could that be**?

*-And I am leaving this link to Jill Scot's most amazing song here as a peace offering to Labour because if they are going to rip off any song as their election anthem for 2017 then this is the one. Easy to lyrically manipulate and with an upbeat positive message to groove on and probably not as expensive as Eminem to license.
**-I have Andrew and Labour with a 50% chances of making hay out of this but only if they can avoid doing what currently seems to come naturally to them.


  1. I think you are wildly overestimating the effect Shaw's comment will have on public opinion of the Greens. It is just a single comment. In fact I am pretty sure nobody will remember it in three months.

    I see you're also in the bad habit of describing Labour and the Greens as "liberals".

  2. Hi Trandoshan:

    I had similar thoughts when I first started writing this post.

    But you are right the actual comment may not be rememberd in three montsh but the change in public perceptions will.

    The Greens have been trying and partially succeeding in trying to re-brand themselves and get away form the "loony left" tag that they have often been hit with.

    Their economic announcement with Labour is an example of this, so is James Shaw doing everything he can to appear more mainstream, more corporate and more palatable to the general electorate.

    So when he makes an utterance which is approaching dogma for some of the left but is not held across the spectrum and is clearly hyperbole of the worst kind (my specialty so I should know) its not his actual words but the effect those words will have because what do you think any perspective Green voter is going to make on hearing that comment?

    They wont be thinking fiscally responsible or good coalition partner but are far more likely to bethinking "loony left" et al and that's what will stick.

    Also from a communications/marketing point of view this is the kind of statement that just ruins any positive attempts at re-branding.

    And finally Shaw should simply have known better, if Little, English or any other current MP had said such a thing they would have probably gotten a lot worse so Shaw has probably escaped the worst of it by simply being a more likely candidate for such a thing.

    As for the Greens being liberals, you don't think their views are liberal in the political sense (freedom of the individual and all that)?

    But if you have a better term I will try and break my bad habit next time I discuss them.