Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Elections 2017: A week is a long time in politics, specially when its in an election campaign.
Labour goes up
Well for a first thing, I think that with the rise of Jacinda Ardern, and the end of Andrew Little, the last fragments of the political stasis that John Key had brought to NZ politics with his hideously high popularity and winning polling has finally been brushed away.
Its taken almost nine months since Key moved out of his office in Bowen House but when the political constipation that was Andrew Little was finally flushed by the sparky laxative that was Jacinda Ardern the last of the grim, grey glacial inaction that was clogging the pipes of the Labour Party seems to be gone.
Ardern could have tripped and stumbled in her first seven days, and she might do so between now and election day, but Ardern, for a first week debut, has done amazingly well and it shows.
Sure there is no polling to back things up at this point but there are a lot of other measures which have indicated that Ardern has hit a sweet spot with the public.
The first is that right off the bat the Maori party have offered her and Labour an olive branch almost as soon as Ardern got the job, the same day in fact, and I think that reflects not only the bad relationship Andrew Little seemed to have with the Maori Party but also that Tuku Morgans political plan to bring Maori voter numbers up in the Maori seats may not have reaped as many dividends as he, and the party had hoped (given that six out of the seven seats are currently in the hands of Labour) so why not try and cut a deal with the new supremo at Labour.
The next is the more subtle but unmistakably positive media coverage Jacinda has gotten. And I don't just mean in the normal political press or the papers and TV but also in women's magazines with her face gracing at least one cover this week and and plenty of other articles elsewhere showing an unmistakable rise in her public profile and quick identification with her being the leader of Labour.
Then there is Jacindas reaction to improbably stupid question in the media about her plans to have children and how she handled that showed that she can think on her feet. She could have batted them away but instead she made a club out of the questions and beat Mark Richardson about the head with it in a manner that got her international coverage and showed that she can deal with dingbats in the media far better than Little ever could.
Also showing that she can play with the big boys is her firm, but fair, manner, in which she brought newly minted deputy Kelvin Davis into line for his hyperbolic descriptions of the National Party*. She could have backed him, she could have endorsed it but instead she showed what kind of firm hand she has on things as she politely censured him and then decreed that a "positive focus" on the campaign was a the right way to go.
And with all the positive talk, sudden surge in donations and support coming into the party now its painfully obvious to all that Little was a dead duck for the party fortunes while Jacinda is the enthralling swan who will take them all the way to the electoral ball.
Finally while its clear that Ardern has things going her way at the moment, a battlefield promotion does not mean there are not other pretenders for the throne out there; but for now, and at least until after polling day, she will be the person giving the orders and calling the shots and if she means to go on as she has started then things are looking up for Labour.
The Greens meet political reality
A week ago the Greens seemed to be on the up with a jump to 15% in the polls though having snatched some of the populist vibe via Meteria Turei's benefit fraud admission.
Unfortunately I don't think the Greens thought their plan all the way through as further digging by those investigating her benefit history also then uncovered what looks like voter fraud with Turei providing false information about where she was registered to vote.
And at that point all that good work in starting the debate about how beneficiaries are treated in this country (and its a debate that needs to be had given how wealth and privileged do lead to some being above the law in NZ) has been eliminated by the further negative revelations from her past, and as as of today, seen Turei has quit as Greens co-leader.
In seven days she has gone from virtuous saint to now blocked from being a minister (by Jacinda Ardern no less) in any Left leaning government and facing a split over it in her own party to being on her way out the political backdoor.
But that alone has been just one of the speed bumps on the road to September 23rd for the Greens with MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon deciding to spit the dummy, and expose a rather deep ideological schism in the party to rival anything that Labour might have, by quitting in a very public manner (which I am calling the Kool Kidz vs the Old Krusties) and exposing further internal weakness just when Labour looked to be on the ropes.
But there is plenty of blame to go round because James Shaw got chopped up, like a ripe pineapple, live on RNZ, by Guyon Espiner when he could not answer a simple question of political expediency around the issue and sounded just like any other scumbag politician when caught in a lie and Espiner has made sure that the sting of coming down off the moral high ground, and encountering political reality will last for a very long time.
And this is the reality of politics that the Greens have avoided for so long, by being the morally superior party, and, as Phillip Mathews recent editorial started out by saying, it could not have happened to a "nicer party" was just a hair short of saying "welcome to politics, bi**ches!"
And I would have to agree because it has been a long time coming, and James Shaw's plan of beating Labour at its own game, by moving away from just environmental issues to greater social concerns, has been scuppered by the rise of Jacinda and the duplicity of Meteria Turei.
So it seems that its not just National that was worried about Jacinda Ardern and making hay of the ineptitude of Andrew Little but also the Greens who have seen a slow but steady leakage of pissed off Labour voters swell their ranks for nearly a year but now the glove is on the other foot and the NZ political press smells blood and its fair to say that the Greens will be reeling from the latest damage to their once pristine image.
To be fair, Shaw and Co almost got away with it but in the end Labour still had some basic political instincts remaining intact to sense the trap and pull out the last minute which has left the Greens violently shoved back into the political corner they have long inhabited, by an invigorated Labour and Jacinda Ardern.
My own take on this is to offer up a rather crude, but very sage, military saying as advice to Shaw, Turei and all those bright eyed little sports in the party that thought that all it would take to make it big time in politics was a two page fashion spread in a magazine and somehow failed to realize that as soon as they came down off the moral high ground they would get their feet muddy; and that advice is "never suck a dead mans d**k!"**
I wonder what they will make of that?
National, still in stasis.
And if we can hold with the theme of fellating a corpse (as disgusting as it is) for just a moment we come to the National Party who might as well be doing just that given how they are running their campaign at the moment.
Of course the dead man in question is not quite dead , but in sense that he is no longer with the Party, is, of course, their former dark lord and master; John Key.
Every thing English and Co has been (or not been) doing for the last few months is nothing but cautious echoes of the 2014, or even the 2011, campaigns minus the one key (pun intended) ingredient that saw them sweep in to victory those times and boy does it show.
Sure they are also suffering third-term-itis but that only a small part of the story as National has been in a holding pattern since John left in December last year.
National don't have any tricks left in their bag and it was only the hideous ineptitude of Andrew Little that was keeping them looking credible and now with that one bugaboo gone and Labour suddenly swinging back into action the icy stasis of the last nine years of John Key are really showing as Bill and the rest of the B Team have no credible answers to any question that raises it head.
They always knew that Jacinda was a threat and as such have been rather muted in the last seven days as she wrangled Labour away from the rocks of doom that Andrew Little was grimly locked on course for and aimed the leaky ship of Labour for the nearest safe harbour.
And National can do nothing but watch at this time as all the cards are against them and I don't think polling is going to be as reliable as we might wish in the last two months as the populist sentiment that the Greens let out of the bag, and now Jacinda (and a super thankful Labour) have jumped on, is starting to catch fire elsewhere.
And lets be real clear here that the key ingredient of the populist mood in NZ and around the world is change, and that is the one thing National cant sell to the public.
For Bill and the sacks of grade-Z monkey meat which make up the current National lineup there are no new faces, no new policies in the works and just more roll outs of the same tired fixes for problems they have helped to create and nurture and more of the horrid, bloated, visages which scare children (and apparently Kelvin Davis) nightly on TV.
And even the small changes they have made, like the recent immigration announcements in April for tightening up visas and work conditions have been yanked back, with all the speed of a well trained dog reacting to the snap of the whip, when the Businesses realized that their supply of cheap labor was going to be cut off and raised a stink.
So in the last week Bill English has simply made a few minor comments and acted like the stunned mullet that he is while all the momentum shifts away from them.
National has been in a holding action for the last nine months and it looked like with their weathering of Tod Barclay scandal (of which there is still more to come with English saying he has deleted important texts of his phone) had given them enough to make it though the last two months.
But I don't think that will still be the mood in the lower levels of the Beehive anymore, where National has its shrine of skulls, that Bill prays at, nightly, in the fervent hope that he will get to PM and not again be the man that pissed it all away.
Actually speaking of pee, I think that when it was announced that Andrew was out and Jacinda was in, Bill probably peed himself just a little as his mind instinctively jumped, as all victims do when faced with reliving their trauma again, back to early 2000s and National getting beaten at the polls by Helen Clarke and Labour.
A week is a long time in politics
Its a tried and tested saying and it has been shown this week in such sudden changes in fortune for Labour and the Greens but also conversely for the stuck in the mud attitude of National who makes weeks look like years when you consider how they respond to anything these days.
The key take away for a anyone interested in what all this means for polling day is that the populist fire that Metria Turei and the Greens sparked has burnt them badly but like a fire that clears out the dead wood and old growth in a forest, so new things can sprout upwards, it has kicked Labour back into gear (with the rise of Jacinda) and left National acting like a spooked burn victim going on a blind date with a raging pyromaniac.
So while I was bemoaning the stupidity of the Greens a few weeks back and despondent at Labour under Little I can see that even I was stuck in the groove of the John Key stasis which is now fully washed away and we are now left with having to really reconsider how this election could play out.
And not a moment too soon.
*-To be fair to Davis I positively loved his description of the goons in National but while its ok for an medicated nutter like myself to get away with them less so for fresh faced Deputy PM.
**-Because nothing good will come from it. Sorry, its crude but true.