Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Tag: John Key

Fire at Prime Minister’s Electorate Office

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

This isn’t  nice – someone has tried to set John Key’s Kumeu electorate office on fire.

While it may seem like an easy way to get under the skin of the Prime Minister, I imagine that Key spends very little time in the office (understandably, given he’s – you know – the Prime Minister). The only people this is going to upset are the electorate staff that work in the office from day to day.

I’ve just sent an email of sympathy to the  Helensville National electorate chair. I hope others do the same regardless of their political stripes.


10-20% Pure New Zealand

by Jake Quinn

To celebrate today’s Emissions Trading Scheme kerfuffle check out this vid:

Guyon: “Do you believe in global warming”.  Lockwood Smith: “I totally support National’s position”.  Guyon: “I’m asking you if you believe in global warming”.  Lockwood Smith: “I totally support National’s position”.

Just sometimes (OK quite frequently) one really despises politician weasel speak.  Just answer the question Lockwood, dissenting views in a Caucus are OK for goodness sake, the sky won’t fall in if you admit you’re a denier, hell you might get even get offered a job at Waikato University for when your Speaker of the House days are over.

Labour tables Maori seats SOP, Boscowen gets lucky

by Jake Quinn

Labour has used its ‘Maori Caucus’ to table an amendment guaranteeing Maori seats on the new Auckland council, based on the model observed in Parliament:

The Supplementary Order Paper, lodged by Mita Ririnui, proposes that Maori seats on the council be established in the same way as the Maori seats in Parliament.

This means the number of Maori seats on the new council would be allocated according to the number of Maori on the Maori roll, Parekura Horomia said.

They draw on the experience of Maori seats in the Bay of Plenty (which are widely seen as effective) as an example:

“I introduced a similar piece of legislation in 2001, establishing Maori seats on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which now has three Maori seats. It was pleasing to see yesterday that the Environment Bay of Plenty Chairman John Cronin said the Maori seats there were working well,” Mita Ririnui says.

In other news (and in a swift bout of terrible timing), John Boscawen’s member’s bill has been drawn today.  The bill aims to define the level and nature of force which it will be acceptable in ‘correcting’ children.  The ballot has displayed an eerie ability to pick extraordinarily relevant (in terms of timing) bills in the last few months. 

The timing of this one could be pretty serious though, if National decides to go with it.  John Key has thus far stared the smackers down by not making any changes to the assault on children legislation, may his principled and rational stance continue.

Dimpost on Rodney’s dead rat appetite

by Jake Quinn

Hilarious Dimpost on Hide/Key:

My theory is that Hide has swallowed a LOT of rats over the last nine months, that he’s proposed various insane neo-liberal schemes for local government or the destruction thereof (’then we sell all the public libraries to Saudi Aramco and lease them back!’) that English and Key have listened with open-mouthed horror and gently rejected them all (’maybe in 2022 but we’re not promising anything’), and that the idea of Maori seats on the council – Rodney’s council! – was just the last fucking straw. No way. Never.

Hide’s tantrum was probably fairly convenient for Key – there wouldn’t have been a lot of enthusiasm within his own party for Maori seats: just last month the Nats failed to elect Wira Gardiner to their board of directors even though Key supported him for the presidency (which was won by Peter Goodfellow – how’s that working out for you guys?).

Maori seats: the question for Labour

by Jake Quinn

If you were in charge of Labour strategy, would you:

Put out a press statement titled “If Labour were the Government, Maori would have got their seats“.  Thus pointing out the clear difference to Maori of voting Labour instead of Maori Party at the next election.  But running the risk of being accused of being opportunist or worse a hypocrite (thinking back to its handling of the Foreshore and Seabed, abandoning ‘closing the gaps’, or removing some references to the Treaty post-Orewa).

Or would you stay quite quiet, bide your time and hope that Key’s governing situation goes pear shaped under the pressure of squabbling coalition children.  Knowing that if the Maori Party pulled the plug, National would be pulled away from the centre (where Key desperately wants it, for vote-retaining reasons) or if Hide pulled the plug that National would be trapped with the Maori Party having to support their entire work programme.

Disappointing Maori seat backdown

by Jake Quinn

And it’s a back down because before last week, the prevailing opinion was that Key would strike a deal with Sharples, based on the overwhelming support at the select committee for having Maori seats, and pull through on some kind of deal that included them for Auckland’s new super council.

Key signalled for months that the seats were on the table.  Hide pulls his ‘principled stunt‘ and to be fair to him it does match his principles (the poor bastard would have had to take the very bill through the House that brought the seats into being), and suddenly the game changes.

One gets the feeling that Key just couldn’t take cabinet with him.

But Key doesn’t need Hide as a minister, he’s got the numbers any way he looks, what’s more, Hide has made it clear he won’t being down the government (not that he could, what this really means is that Hide won’t pull his parties support on confidence and supply thus forcing the Nat’s into the unenviable position of having to rely solely on the Maori Party).

So why the change of heart?  Key is so far ahead in the polls he doesn’t need to worry about a gap on the right opening up, and in any case they’re are all still votes for a National-led government, so what changed.

The only explanation is that his colleagues had let him meander on with his friendliness to the Maori Party, but when push came to shove, Bill and the old school just wouldn’t have a bar of it.

New Zealand needs to remember that just because Mr Key is a decent bloke, he’s still surrounded by some pretty conservative old cronies, the same lot who stood by and defended this horrid bloody speech.

So much responsibility, so much to remember

by Jake Quinn

NZ Herald gallary journalist Claire Trevett provides a bitingly satirical “Acting Prime Minister’s diary” of Tony Ryals blistering week in John’s hot seat.
I do some preparatory work for my gig as Acting Prime Minister tomorrow by watching a 60 Minutes programme on John Key to see what is expected of me. So much responsibility, so much to remember.
I write up a guide to being a good Prime Minister: Say “fantastic” and “way cool” a lot, ring Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd regularly, be nice about Bill English, pretend I go running regularly.
Wake up and check the papers for coverage of my stellar performance. Nothing, other than in the local rag. The real Prime Minister keeps stealing my thunder by making announcements and taking media calls from overseas. He even gets the photo-op shot in some silly tie-swapping schoolboy bet with Rudd over the rugby. I’m wasting my time.
Watch the rugby on telly at home with the Acting First Lady. They show the Prime Minister in the audience, sitting next to the Aussie Prime Minister. Explains why Rudd hasn’t returned my calls yet. Just before midnight I’m woken by the screech of tyres in the driveway. It’s the Diplomatic Protection Squad leaving. Bill must be back. I feel a great weight lift from my shoulders.

NZ Herald gallery journalist Claire Trevett provides a bitingly satirical Acting Prime Minister’s diary of Tony Ryall’s blistering week in the hot seat.

Some highlights:

Wednesday:  I do some preparatory work for my gig as Acting Prime Minister tomorrow by watching a 60 Minutes programme on John Key to see what is expected of me. So much responsibility, so much to remember.  I write up a guide to being a good Prime Minister: Say “fantastic” and “way cool” a lot, ring Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd regularly, be nice about Bill English, pretend I go running regularly.

Friday:  Wake up and check the papers for coverage of my stellar performance. Nothing, other than in the local rag. The real Prime Minister keeps stealing my thunder by making announcements and taking media calls from overseas. He even gets the photo-op shot in some silly tie-swapping schoolboy bet with Rudd over the rugby. I’m wasting my time.

Saturday:  Watch the rugby on telly at home with the Acting First Lady. They show the Prime Minister in the audience, sitting next to the Aussie Prime Minister. Explains why Rudd hasn’t returned my calls yet. Just before midnight I’m woken by the screech of tyres in the driveway. It’s the Diplomatic Protection Squad leaving. Bill must be back. I feel a great weight lift from my shoulders.

Key to hammer first nail in Nat-Maori coffin

by Jake Quinn

NZPA reports this morning:

Cabinet is set to make a decision about Maori seats on a new Auckland super city today – likely ruling them out and averting a ministerial resignation… A decision to rule out Maori seats would mean Mr Hide would not have to fulfil a promise made last week to resign over the issue.

Putting to one side the incredible level of spin in the above paragraph, for that is worth another post entirely.  It is likely that should Key say no to the seats, that this decision is not based on Hide’s resignation threat, but on clear polling data from Pakeha Auckland voters that they have no appetite for them.  If that is the case, Hide’s little stunt will work out well as ‘an excuse’ for Key’s decision.

It will however have other consequences.  It would be the first nail in the coffin of the National-Maori Party governing arrangement.  The Maori Party has, as of yet, chosen to play the long game adopting not to sink to Hide’s level.  Good on them.  National would be wise to do similarly.

The sustainability of future National-led minority governments is linked to their relationship with the Maori Party.  The Maori Party are likely to become the de facto kingmaker in many future governments and while National currently has the unusual pleasure of choosing its partner on a case by case basis (they can turn to either Act or the Maori Party to command a legislative majority – that is, they don’t need both), this will not always be the case.

After the next election it is likely that National will be in a position to form a government.  It is also possible that the right (National and Act) will get less total vote share than they did in 2008.  If this happens National will need the Maori Party (or some other centre party) to get the numbers on confidence and supply.  But will their bridges be burned?

Labour needs to do some serious work on its relationship with the Maori Party.  Perhaps the silver lining, should Key today adopt for no Maori seats, is that Labour and the Maori Party will have an issue which can unite them.

Update: from stuff:

Cabinet has ruled out dedicated Maori seats on the new Auckland super city.  Prime Minister John Key said ministers had given consideration to the issue, but decided against it.

Looks like I was wrong, I overestimated John Key and I really am quite disappointed.  I was thinking he might be different.

David James Shearer maiden speech

by Jake Quinn

The thing that strikes me about David Shearer is his decency.  His humility almost bowls you over when you speak to him. Unlike some of his parliamentary colleagues, he does not appear pompous, arrogant or self serving in any way, shape or form.

He encapsulates the attitude of someone who wouldn’t have committed a moments thought to how much the job paid, how much free air travel he’s entitled to, or what size his office would be.  The absolute commitment he has shown to helping others has been obvious throughout his entire impressive career (clink link for David Shearer’s bio/CV).

His maiden speech (above), examined on paper was excellent – it covered all the bases a Labour supporter would have wanted it to.

His oratory skills however lacked the inspiration to match his character.  From his first speeches and sound-bites on television, from the university rallies to the panel discussions and street corner stand-ups of the Mt Albert by-election campaign, his lack of oratory prowess was quite clear.

Does this matter? Many would suggest it does not.  John Key’s oratory skills are also lacking (his election night acceptance speech a fine example), yet in different ways,  and he became a prime minister who commands huge levels of public support.

In fact, some people would suggest that Key’s chewing and bumbling of his words and down-home kiwi accent actually increase his likability with the public. Tall poppies and all that.

So will David Shearer’s lackluster oratory hold him back in the long run, or will he improve with experience as he gains in confidence? After all, he is already been touted as a future Labour Prime Minister and according to iPredict has about a twenty percent chance of rolling Phil Goff before the 2011 election.

I don’t know the answer to this particular question.  To me the wider question – that of the impact of strong oratory on the fortunes of New Zealand politicians – is an even more interesting one.  Perhaps I should read Jon Johansson’s new book.

[Update: for an example of strong (i.e. inspiring, motivating, emotive) oratory see this speech to the House by Clayton Cosgrove on National’s cuts to special education]

Castle-Hughes 1, Key 0

by Jake Quinn

Keisha on Close Up

Keisha on Close Up

“But back to John’s weird personal attack, i think it’s derogatory to state that it’s not okay for New Zealanders to stand up and take interest in the world around them.Climate change is a global issue that affects our country as a whole. Before being anything else in my life, I am a mother,  and that is why I am a part of this campaign. And as a mother i believe i have a right to speak up if i have concerns about the future of my daughter.  Discouraging New Zealand youth to participate, think and speak out is not on for the Prime Minister of NZ,” says Keisha in this post on the Sign-On campaign’s website.

“I am actually quite tempted to say that perhaps John Key should stick to HIS day job, which is to lead this country on big issues. So far leadership on climate change has been missing,” she concludes.

National Party mouthpiece Kiwiblog has called this a “rare mis-step” by Mr Key: “it was an “unforced error” for John Key to tell Keisha Castle-Hughes to “stick to acting” even though I am sure he said it with a smile. Greenpeace should be the target of criticism for their celebrity driven campaign, not so much Castle-Hughes who is advocating for something she believes.”

This does seem like a bit of a tactical error by the PM. Stick to beating up on lippy beneficiaries mate, the public is way more into that. We love Keisha and we think it’s admirable that she’s used her fame and passion to advocate for the Sign-on campaign’s mission, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it (that is, 40% by 2020 reductions on 1990 levels).

[Update 1: Key says his earlier comments were “rather flippant” and is now happy to meet her for a chat. Castle-Hughes 2, Key 0]

[Update 2: “Stick to Acting” Parody of John Key. Hat Tip: The Standard]

For those of us interested in political marketing

by Jake Quinn

From “Daveo” at the standard, an interesting finding:

IrishBill commented last night that “John Key the centrist” is a narrative we’re not hearing much from the commentariat any more.

I thought this was strange given that was the brand they were all so dutifully selling us in the leadup to the election campaign. John Armstrong couldn’t get enough of it.

I wondered what was going on, so I did a google news search to find out. Seems John Key as centrist really began as a narrative on his election as National leader to distance him from Don Brash. It bubbled along steadily until the last few months before the the November election where it reached its crescendo. Now, not so much.


The perception of “being centrist” (i.e. broad appeal, non ideological, safe, mainstream, sensible, common sense etc etc) is an incredibly important aspect for any wanna-be-PM (from the left or right) who is contesting an election against a long standing and reasonably popular incumbent.

National, just as the Conservatives have done with David Cameron, spent a great of deal of energy on selling their guy as the centrist man of the people. The horses don’t get scared and the swing voters line up for a change of face. The media on the other hand, get to write about something new without being that personally concerned with the change of guard.

The “centrist alternative” has the effect of offering a product that is not dissimilar from the original but different enough to appease the mood for change, just as we saw in New Zealand in 2008.

It is interesting to note however, that the “centrist alternative” narrative described above has all but disappeared from National Party PR and subsequent media coverage.

NB: As the comments thread notes, there is a decent chance the graph above displays this trend because of the increase in volume of traffic about John Key around election time.  That being said, anecdotally I have noticed far fewer mentions of centrism as a note worthy quality, since the election was decided. So the topic is still a valid one.

Old nemeses Peters returns to haunt National

by Jake Quinn

It’s OK, other people have missed Winston Raymond Peters too. Don’t worry, it’s not that you love those who parrot anachronisms like “they only have ‘one quarter’ Maori in them” or are racist and xenophobic,  because you don’t – you’re a good guy. It’s just that, while you hadn’t realised it until this morning, you’ve missed the chuckle, the self assured grin and the pure politicking (even though – deep down – you’re sure he knows better) that the boyishly charming prick exudes.

My Grandmother voted for Winston Peters because he had nice hair. Seriously. And she, like her blue rinsed friends at the creepy purpose-built old-person village, were they alive today, bless them, would be smiling ear to ear because Mr Peters, ladies and gentlemen, is back.

Imagine how John Key and Chris Finlayson felt this morning as they watched TVNZ Q+A knowing that their little foray into consensusy nation building race relations had just found itself a slight hitch. That is, by having an actual opposition – and not just any, but the grand National Party nemeses himself.

The Foreshore and Seabed issue is perfect for Winston to gain traction with the pre-mixed Bourbon and Cola swigging voter and he might well have just filled the reactionary vacuum that is present only because Labour and the Greens are the opposition.

The handling of the review, and what to replace it with, was always going to be an incredibly sensitive issue and one that could pay huge dividends politically for both National and the Maori Party if middle NZ take the medicine. But Winston, if successful (which he hopefully isn’t for all of our sakes), could just turn it into a polling nightmare for the government.

Oh well, there is no such thing as a free lunch and Peters has just made it a little bit harder for National to stay ahead of public opinion on this one.

Foreshore & seabed victory for nats and maori

by Jake Quinn

The review panel has concluded that the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act should be repealed and if the Prime Minister follows the advice his National Party and the Maori Party will both land major political victories.

The Maori Party was created to fight the Act and has always had at it’s heart the primary goal of destroying it, calling it “the single biggest land nationalisation statute enacted in New Zealand history”. The review of the legislation was the primary plank of their post-election support agreement with the new National government.

If/when the legislation is repealed and replaced with something more paletable the Maori Party will have achieved their primary aim and will be able to clearly articulate this to their constituents. They can say that they alone made the difference, that they righted the biggest wrong of Helen Clark’s fifth Labour government.

National on the other hand are in a position do what Labour were – for various reasons and many not of their making – never able to do. That is, to cut a deal that involves no restrictions to public beach access (creating little pakeha panic) and also gives Maori recompense for what they consider to have been large scale land title confiscation.

Meanwhile Labour is left on the side lines trying with a straight face to say “well done guys, can I get a high five in there too”.

National are now in the enviable position of not having an opposition whipping up fear from the cross benches. Labour has made it quite clear in recent months that the Act was a very difficult piece of legislation to have dealt with and Micheal Cullen considers how it played out to be one of his biggest regrets.

Interesting iPredict stocks, smack poll & Shearer

by Jake Quinn

iPredict has launched a stock that asks “will the anti smacking referendum be cancelled this week” which has been a quick flop, dropping swiftly to two cents (which means the traders believe it has only a few percent chance of coming true).

And lets not be shy, people in the Prime Minister’s office and throughout parliament and the gallery trade on iPredict. If anyone knew anything that indicated this could happen it would be quickly reflected in the price.

So John Key won’t be cancelling the referendum. Well, at least not this week. Realistically though, he’d be mad if he did. Can you imagine how rabid the smackers would get? Not to mention ‘middle NZ’ who would probably think of it as an arrogant abuse of power, which I guess (even though i’d love to see the bogus poll canned) it would be.

More interestingly, this stock that asks “will David Shearer replace Phil Goff as Labour leader before the 2011” could be seen as quite politically mischievous, and im interested in it’s motives. The person who designed this question is could be seen to be trying to undermine Goff’s leadership by scaremongering about a Shearer leadership bid.

For heaven’s sake, Goff got Shearer his job! They are good mates. Simple decency alone wouldn’t permit such an act that soon. The stock is (this evening) running @ $0.20, or a 20 percent chance of coming true, which is overvalued so will short-sell.

The politically motivated nature of this stock is could be seen as quite blatant. Wouldn’t a more sensible question not be about one of the more often discussed future labour leaders like David Cunliffe?

iPredict should now launch stocks that asked “will John Key resign due to stress before 2011” or “will Bill English roll John Key before 2011”. They are however, like the one above, loaded and leading questions – and in the interest of science are best avoided.

With friends like these Lee needs no enemies

by Jake Quinn

Melissa Lee has been hung out to dry by John Key and the National Party. Duncan Garner, Linda Clark and John Campbell discussed this at length on Saturday evening following David Shearer’s landslide victory in the Mt Albert by-election. Lee was called a “goose” whose “political career was over” and who will likely now be list placed out of selection for the 2011 election. Ouch.

Meanwhile John Key is on a “pre-arranged holiday”. Excuse me? John Key picked the election date and he picked his holiday date. Therefore, both events were planned so that he was unavailable to comment or be photographed with his hand picked, fast tracked into parliament, unsuccessful candidate. This was not a coincidence.

To make matters worse Jonathan Coleman, the Minister of Who Knows What, was the only cabinet minister at Lee’s function. I know victory has many friends and all that but this was simply cruel and a terrible look for National, something which the public won’t have been missed.

Meanwhile, David Shearer started on a positive note saying in his acceptance speech: “Labour needs fresh ideas and needs to reconnect with the people. As you stay in government there’s a tendency to lock down and not take risks as you go on,” Shearer said. “I think what you’ve got to be constantly doing is refreshing and taking time to get new ideas and continuing to listen. I think otherwise you end up hunkering down and fighting battles, and then people get tired. “Some of the policies we were pushing in our third term we probably would have had no problem with in our first term, but by the third term came around people were just growing a bit tired of it.”

This is precisely what Labour supporters (not to mention the media) want to hear and a great tone to set upon his entry into Parliament. I discussed earlier about how Shearer will be a heavy hitter for the opposition and suggested he may be in line for something foreign affairs related. I would also point out that I initially favoured Meg Bates for Labour’s candidacy suggesting that Shearer was too old. However given the result (and how bloody decent an individual Shearer seems to be) I would be a fool to suggest that Labour did not make the right decision in selecting him.