Earlier this week, Bomber penned a missive which set out in some detail why he thought my people, New Zealand First, wouldn't be making it back into Parliament later this year.
Being a pugnacious, vindictive sort who'd never let such an aspersion go unchallenged; and noting that Bomber *did* invite me to "helpfully correct" some of his analysis ... I thought I'd write a response.
I first encountered Bomber when I was a young lad of about 10 developing political views and a semblance of music taste as the direct and attributable result of keeping my radio firmly locked to Channel Z. The Sunday night political shows were great; and while at that age I had no idea what a "stoner" was, ten year old me also thought it was way cool to stay up much past midnight listening to the man's eclectic taste in psychedelic stimulation as part of something called "The Stoner Hour", which ran from 2-3 a.m. I think that might be where I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody.
My next proper encounter with Bomber, by contrast, was a little less salubrious. I was a slightly less young man of 23, and as a fanatically loyal and zealous member of New Zealand First, I sort of saw it as my personal duty to sally forth in defence, castigation, refutation and vituperation on every facebook status and Daily Blog piece he issued which I felt unfairly criticized NZ First.
So pretty much all of them.
Things have changed since last year, however; and it gives me no small hint of pleasure to be able to point out exactly why Bomber is wrong in his latest prediction for NZ First ... but not from the comments section on either his page or his blog; but instead in a full-length contribution on the man himself's organ, The Daily Blog.
I must be moving up in the world.
Anyway. This was going to be an in-depth detailed look at the excellent NZ First taxation policy we announced on Sunday (because seriously, GST off food is an awesome way of reducing the burden of a regressive neoliberal tax upon the lower tax brackets; and cracking down on seven billion dollars of tax evasion and avoidance would bring vitally needed revenue back into the state's coffers from the *upper* tax brackets, so there's something for everybody) ... but then I decided that watching two of the more *ahem* bombastic personalities (sorry) going head to head over the issue of NZ First's political destiny (and therefore the political destiny of the nation) come September 20th *might* just be more interesting for our readers than me playing funny games with numbers and social justice.
We'll start by getting the easy stuff out of the way: that which I agree with. (it's not actually that short of a list).
Bomber is absolutely correct to to state that you can't count Winston out. I know I'm horrendously biased; but during my first ever paper at Uni, NZ Politics as lectured by Patrick Hine, I can quite clearly remember the esteemed academic at the front of the lecture-hall intoning "The first rule of New Zealand Politics is that you cannot count Winston out." So there you go. It's apparently a serious academic belief, too. (this rule was somewhat wildly misinterpreted in 2011 by members of the Young Nats, possibly after a few too many #TeamHotbox meetups watching Fight Club, as "The first rule of New Zealand Politics is that you don't talk about Winston"; leading to a hilarious series of memes in which they dubbed my Chief "He Who Must Not Be Named Because It Just Gives Him Exposure". And then the Young Conservatives got involved. )
I'll also agree with Bomber that Winston's impact on our politics "has been profound at at times brilliant"; that Phil Goff's performance was less "wooden" than "termite infested, lost amidst trees, and more prone than a wind-swept Kauri being allowed to gently repose as part of the Green Party's beloved nutrient cycle"; and that I'm somewhat "learnerd", which is both a high compliment and an awesome portmanteau.
And that brings me to the end of the list of things I agree with in Bomber's latest analysis of NZ First's electoral prospects.
Now where I start to disagree with Bomber is, predictably, when he gets into his substantive points. As already stated, he's correct that a weak appearing Labour in 2011 was very good for NZ First. We've always had a strong corps of disaffected labourites kicking around the place (including, of all people, Ron Mark), and it stands to reason that when the largest party of the left is haemorrhaging members, voters and support to each of the left, right and center, that other economically left-wing parties will stand to gain as a result. The only question is whether this is a short term influxion of swingers and protest-voters who'll only back their new party for a matter of days or weeks; or whether it's the start of a more enduring, lifelong journey.
The interesting trend that I've been observing personally within NZF is slightly less of the former (probably down to the Internet Party making a determined play for every protest vote in the land), and since election night 2011, rather more of the latter. What appears to have happened is increasing numbers of coalface labourites have taken a look at our respective policy-sets/ethoi and decided that on the whole, they much prefer being able to retire at 65 rather than 67 and for those assets stolen by the Nats to be #Renationalized rather than left on a list of assets that Labour does not believe should be run in the New Zealand interest. They've even committed the cardinal political sin when trying to win over the propertied middle classes of simultaneously advocating for a capital gains tax while also trying to seize a term in government.
Bomber's contention that the mystical silver tongue of David Cunliffe may be able to sway undecided voters back toward Labour with grandiloquent talk of social justice and that other S-word, "socialism" is not without merit; but when you actually talk with activists and organizers from the Labour Party about how they feel their campaign's going less than nine weeks out from the Election, they're rather more concerned with the message and the policies Cunliffe will be putting forward with those dulcet tones, rather than the mere fact he has his father's talent for pulpit-projection. (Seriously - you've got to watch those sons of clergymen who get into politics - the other two that spring instantly to mind are myself and Don Brash)
And unless you're campaigning in somewhere like well-healed Greenwoods Corner up here in the Epsom electorate, policies of getting the government's books into surplus really, really fast; banning trucks from the fast-lane of motorways; or raising the retirement age to sixty seven because (in concert with the surplus thing) Labour wants to go for the "fiscally conservative ooh-look-at-me-how-sensible-and-prudent-I-am-cutting-essential-state-services-for-the-elderly" vote ... is, to put it charitably, not the sort of policy platform one would assume the average (returning) Labour voter would be mad keen to endorse, still less feel inspired by. (although the smaller class sizes policy is absolutely excellent, and ought to be supported by every party, politician and politico with a conscience or children)
This forms an obvious contrast with the 2014 NZ First, which is rampantly running around the place reminding New Zealanders that we raised the minimum wage at an unprecedented rate of a dollar a year the last time we were proximate to government; are apparently dedicated to restoring a large swathe of the New Zealand economy to Kiwi state ownership; and will ensure protection of the right of Kiwi workers to retire at the age of 65 and draw a state-pension.
Now if you were a left-wing voter without a party allegiance and purely on the strength of each party's headline electoral policy platforms (i.e. looking at each with the serial numbers filed off and sans dog-tags for easy corpus identification) ... which way would you go?
[Hint: it's *not* for the party whose finance spokesperson apparently believes that "competitive markets don't need regulation".]
This appears to have been borne out somewhat in the polls - while I share my Chieftain's disdain for the accuracy of any poll not conducted on election day, a cursory analysis of poll results for both Labour and the Labour leader's preferred Prime Ministership ratings doesn't exactly seem to support Bomber's implication that Cunliffe is instantly - or inordinately - capable of bringing home the masses. Fairfax Media preferred Prime Minister polling for Goff, for instance, hovered about the 10% mark and managed the dizzying heights of 12.5% immediately before the last election; while David Cunliffe's own showing in the same poll is 14.5% (he was 12.8% in the last one - so not exactly a huge jump from where Goff was). Meanwhile, in terms of party vote, polling taken roughly sixty days out from E-Day back in 2011 had Labour on, variously, 30.5% [Roy Morgan], 28% [Fairfax], 29% [Colmar Brunton], and 26.6% [Reid Research]. Polling at a similar point in the electoral cycle for 2014 (i.e. this week) has Labour on 23.5% [Roy Morgan], 24.9% [Fairfax], 26.7% [Reid Research], and 26.5% [Herald DigiPoll].
So I guess we can say that David Cunliffe's ability to reach out to former Labour voters is at least 2% better than Phil Goff's, but that we're unsure whether this reaching out is directly or indirectly responsible for Labour polling lower now than it did at this point in the electoral cycle last time around. I wonder where all those disheartened Labour voters are going to go ... :P
Now as applies Bomber's second point, about the impact of the Internet Party and a "Cup of Tea" moment for this campaign ... I actually think he's gotten Labour and Laila Harre around exactly the wrong way. The Internet Party is far more easily placed to capitalize upon the sort of disgruntled and disenfranchised voter that NZ First would ideally be reaching than Labour is; and with their strong emphasis upon national sovereignty, the role of the state in fostering economic performance, and participatory democracy, they even manage to edge in quite closely on some parts of our political territory here in NZF.
As applies the Tea Tape incident, however ... there are few things in the metanarrative of the 2011 election that personally annoy me more than the tired old canard that NZ First only got back into Parliament on November 26th only because two right-wing poltroons were so breathtakingly arrogant in their misconception as to what a "cone of silence" is that they thought they could insidiously insult NZF's voters and conspiratorially lay out the future of the ACT Party right in front of an assembled media press pack with nobody batting an eyelid.
Why do I find the suggestion that we're back because of the Tea Tapes insulting? Because I have personally witnessed NZ First in full campaign flight and seen with my own eyes how we won the 6.59% we scored on election night 2011 - and it was through the hard work, grit and determination of thousands of honest, ordinary, and most importantly pissed off Kiwis who'd been done over by neoliberalism. To suggest that we only cracked 5% with tens of thousands of votes worth of wiggle-room to spare because those very same far right economic despoilers responsible for the ruinous state of the nation slipped up once too often where the media could see them - while a pleasing irony - denigrates, marginalizes, disrespects and discounts that huge effort at defying political gravity which every senior, teenager, and twenty-something political maverick manning the mighty waka of New Zealand First put in in that campaign.
More importantly, it's wrong. The Cup of Tea took place on Friday the 11th of November. That very morning, a Roy Morgan poll result had come out which had NZ First on 4.5%, while Horizon polling throughout 2011 had had NZ First easily above 5% and climbing.
So when Bomber talks of the lack of an Epsom Tea Party incident to "energize" Winston and ensure we here in NZ First crack the 5% mark here in 2014, remember two things. First, that we didn't need the Tea Tapes back in 2011 anyway (although there really is nothing quite like telling our voters they're dying out to galvanize them to march en-masse to the polls to prove the Nats utterly wrong); and second, and more importantly, that the NZ First of 2011 was a party on the outer. We had no Parliamentary Services resources, our idea of a "generous donor" was somebody buying two cakes rather than a single pot of jam at a bake-sale, and you have absolutely no idea how hard it is to get media organizations or anybody else to take you seriously when you have no MPs and the dominant meta-narrative is that your party is an irrelevant forlorn hope about to be consigned to the ash heap of history (slash every media personality seems to be engaged in a race to try and hammer the lid of the NZF Party coffin well and truly shut).
What I'm trying to say is that Bomber (and many, many other pundits and personalities) appears to believe that NZ First at the absolute literal weakest we have /ever/ been in our 21 year history required a bit of a boost to get over the 5% threshold. I don't believe we did, and am prepared to cite the poll evidence to countermand the utility of the Tea Tapes. In either case, as it's fairly plainly apparent that NZ First is in an exponentially stronger, more recognized and better resourced position now than we were in 2011, it would also seem logical to conclude that NZ First is far less in need of a "boost" now than we were three years ago. And, as has been established, we didn't exactly need one then either; so if a Tea Tapes style event happens this year to provide a boost in our electoral stakes, we'll be absolutely unstoppable.
On point three ... all I'll say is this. I've known and worked with Winston for coming up five years now, and when I saw him on Sunday at our Party Convention just before he gave his big speech, he looked more energized, hale and hearty - even sprightly - than he had been even a year ago. As campaign season fires up, whatever mystical smoke-powered turbine-dynamo it is which powers him cranks up a notch, and he finds himself setting a pace on campaign with whistle-stop tours of the literal whole country that younger party leaders and MPs would struggle to match. As far as the fact Judith Collins is still a Minister of the Crown goes ... I think we all remember Winston collecting the scalps from Nick Smith and Peter Dunne elsewhere during this same parliamentary term :)
Now when it comes to the future leadership prospects point ... I don't think this is really relevant for the 2014 General Election. Winston is going to lead NZ First to victory on September 20th, just as he has lead us for the half a dozen elections before that. There might be some voters out there who decide that because they're not *quite* sure if Winston intends to die in office at some point three decades hence, this somehow materially affects their vote here and now in 2014; but I doubt there's that many of them. People will still vote for Winston for the 2014-2017 Parliamentary term regardless of whether they feel he can or should stand for re-election in 2017. (Winston is also wont to point out that Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor of Germany until the ripe old age of 87)
Having said that, while I agree with Bomber that Tracey is pretty awesome; I do also feel that his characterizing her as "the only [non-Winston] MP worth keeping" is more than a little unfair to the rest of our Caucus. From a left-wing perspective, Denis O'Rourke's trenchant activism on the issue of state housing definitely deserves recognition (seriously - the man believes housing is a human right, wants it recognized as such, and picked up an awesome NZ First Youth policy remit calling for the creation of a billion-dollar state construction and housing company to make it all happen); while Andrew Williams has pulled off something seriously awesome in committing NZ First to doing something about climate change.
In any case, with regard to the implication that Bomber is here making ... Winston's own sentiment about whether there is life for NZF after Winston is that it's a predictably "stupid question". "Of course there is life after Winston Peters. The party will grow into a tower of strength and will help you and your children to live the New Zealand dream." I also seem to remember Deputy Leader Tracey Martin (then just a regular newly-anointed MP) telling me a story about how Winston had a vision for his own future of being able to sit down in front of the telly in a comfortable armchair, tumbler in hand, switch on the six o'clock news, and watch his successor as Leader of New Zealand First giving a speech.
I find that a pretty compelling vision; and I'm sure there's more than a few Kiwis out there who'd be intrigued to see somebody like Tracey take over the admiralty of the fleet at some point in the future. Looking further afield, the return of Ron Mark is also something the people playing Fantasy Caucus occasionally talk about.
Oh, and I also see Bomber's cited a "smart young" guy called Curwen Rolinson as a prospective "future arrangement" for the Leadership of NZ First. I think I'll just blush profusely over here in the corner.
If none of that's compelling, then I suppose there's always my preferred solution of installing Winston on a Golden Throne. (Gold Card Throne?)
Now as applies number five ... if there's one political cliche that absolutely /infuriates/ me more than even the suggestion we're only back in Parliament coz John Banks screwed up ... it's the proposition that there is somehow a close coterminity between my beloved New Zealand First, and the twisted, pale-blue religious extremists of the Conservative Party - and therefore that the Conservatives will have a much easier time doing National's dirty work for them by splitting our vote, relegating us to a sub-5% result, and taking us out of the race.
The evidence for this cited by Bomber in his article is that Colin Craig has spent mega-money employing some as-yet unnamed "top level political strategists" to try and replicate the success of New Zealand First.
Well, I suppose it's a high compliment indeed that Craig has to ship in the best help money can buy to match the tactical genius which NZ First has on-tap from our own august Leader ... but merely buying some advisers and telling them to pick a disgruntled, marginalized group in society (in this case, rampant homophobes, and the tax-allergic) does not make for similar policy, ethos or vibe. I mean, just take a moment to compare our respective policy priorities and bottom lines.
Let's start with taxation. NZ First is committed to taking GST off food and cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance. These are pretty uncontroversial left-wing policies. GST is a regressive tax that hits the poor the hardest; and taxes on necessity items like food are, due to the greater income inelasticity of demand for same, even more regressive still. NZ First is therefore seeking to directly help those most in need by reducing the cost of household staples and reducing the regressive nature of one of the more objectionable holdovers from the Neoliberal Revolution; while also seeking to ensure the wealthy /actually/ pay their fair share.
The Conservative Party, by contrast, is pushing for some sort of probably uncosted flat tax rate with a $20,000 tax-free income threshold. Flat taxes are intrinsically regressive, and the Conservative Party's taxation policy does far more to bring smiles to well-healed millionaire property managers and developers like Craig than it does those who would be smiling about NZF's GST off food policy. And this is before we even begin to consider what essential services would be cut to fund the Cons' policy.
So straightaway on the fundamental bread-and-butter issues of economic policy and management, it starts to look like NZ First and the Conservatives are almost diametrically opposed in terms of what we want to do and whom we want to help. I'd also suggest that this goes some ways to indicating the manifest differences between our parties' respective support bases and therefore electoral viability. This becomes particularly apparent when we consider something like NZ First's longstanding support amongst Maori - I somehow doubt Colin Craig's going to be carving much into that!
Meanwhile, when it comes to law and order the Cons are repeating tired old "tough on crime/no judicial discretion" lines; while NZ First advocates for "shorter sharper sentences" (and, I will concede, hard labour for white collar criminals such as those who fleeced a generation's savings back during the Great Financial Crisis). On Treaty and nationhood issues, too - the Cons have taken the rhetoric ("One Law for All" initially being an NZF rallying-cry) ... but completely lost (or possibly overindulged in) the substance. Where our application of unitary nationalism meant we saw the value in securing funding for the Maori Wardens and protecting the Customary Rights of Maori when it came to the Foreshore & Seabed ... the Conservative Party's take on this was to propose a policy replacing traditional Powhiri for visiting dignitaries with "a handshake and a cup of tea".
Poor Colin. Considering his party's electoral viability hinges entirely around the provision of a hot beverage at a cafe somewhere in East Coast Bays, it's perhaps not surprising he's got "cups of tea" on the brain as an entente and/or icebreaker.
Now it's that coalition arrangement with the Cons (and the aforementioned bottom lines) that I believe form the single biggest issue with Bomber's analysis. (Apart from his contention that NZF won't be back. I think we're probably going to have to establish a Staff Pool here at The Daily Blog about that suggestion...)
NZ First has staked out four bottom lines for this election. We are committed to i) beginning the process of #Renationalization for assets stolen by the Nats; ii) protecting, preserving and maintaining the age of national superannuation at 65 rather than 67; opposing race-based policy without need; and establishing a #Kiwifund to invest in our economy and ensure the sustainability of our provision for our elderly.
I invite you to draw your own conclusions as to which of National, Labour, or A Plague On Both Your Houses will actually accede to these; but Labour's already said it's open to discussion on three of these and it would be most interesting were the National Party to agree to #Renationalization.
The Conservatives, by contrast, have set down one and only one bottom line. They want referendums to be binding, and they are apparently going to point blank refuse to work with the National Party in either a formal coalition or a less formal Confidence & Supply arrangement unless the Nats agree to it.
This is, needless to say, a stand of absolutely breathtaking principle (and thus breathtaking political stupidity - in politics, we call this "being courageous") from the boys in pastel blue.
National, the party of "Who cares, it's Friday!" when it came to respecting the results of the Asset Sales referendum is, to my mind, even less likely to agree to the Conservative Party's bottom line of binding referendums than they are to agree to NZ First's bottom line of asset #Renationalization.
Gerry Brownlee might fly (or at least explain his way through an airport) before the Nats decide that binding referendums are something they're comfortable with. What's the point of getting all that unbridled power by sweeping back into government with a bevvy of pliant and supine support partners if you're only going to hand over an ultimate check, balance and sanction on that political power to the very populace and public whom you're hell-bent on spending the next three years keeping as far away from the levers of political power as inhumanly possible?
This is why I don't believe that National will offer Colin Craig a deal in East Coast Bays. The political price-tag that Craig has set for his support is just so absolutely sky-high beyond what the Nats will bear (particularly with opinion polling showing them pretty much able to govern alone); and the potential tarnishment-by-association of going into government with Mr Moonlandings is also assumedly pretty great. National's political bookies will have run the numbers on these potential stratagems, and it seems a reasonable induction that the lack of an announced deal just yet in ECB is down to National not being desperate enough by any stretch of the imagination to consider countenancing a coalition with Craig.
In any case, the New Zealand First perspective on Colin Craig is quite simply this: Aquilae Non Capiunt Muscas. (Or, for those of you without the benefit of the vagaries and dregs of a classical education or the patience to use Google Translate, "Eagles don't bother with flies") As proven by events circa 2008, we have an absolutely rock-solid core of support that's somewhere about 4% of the popular vote who will turn out for the Black and Silver even amidst the greatest smear campaign in New Zealand political history. And we have only grown stronger and more numerous from there.
Bomber seems to be of the opinion that a resurgent Labour party, and the Nats pouring everything they have into supporting the Cons might do some serious damage to New Zealand First's vote. Well, if I happen to see a resurgent Labour party to worry about, I might start taking that contention seriously. In the mean-time, National has other, more delectable options open to it than dealing with the Cons (even with the proverbial ten foot East Coast Bays poll); while the sudden salience and strong policy of NZF means that our voters have ever less reason to stray in the direction of Labour or religious extremism as the campaign continues.
In 2017 and in 2020, no matter who's leading it, you can rest assured that there will be a New Zealand First in Parliament to protect your interests.
And in 2017 and in 2020, no matter who's leading the National Party or however desperate they are for cling-ons, you can just about guarantee that there will *still* be no Colin Craig MP.
Our name, and our creed, is New Zealand First. And contrary to Bomber's prediction, just like General Douglas Macarthur to the Philippines ... We Shall Return!
Afghanistan, Russia, and US hypocrisy on a breath-taking, cosmic-scale - . . That was then… In December 1979, the then-Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up a pro-Moscow, communist government. The reformist communist gover...
8 hours ago