Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

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Gordon Campbell on Labour’s campaign launch

August 21st, 2017

Forst published on Werewolf

Back in the days of street protests against the Vietnam War, the mainstream media could usually be relied on to systematically undercount the numbers taking part. So, with that prospect in mind, what were the crowd estimates for yesterday’s Labour Party election campaign launch by Jacinda Ardern? In the NZ Herald, the main story had ‘more than 1,000’ at paragraph four. But in a section of the same report about paragraph 40 sub-headed “Earlier” the crowd had more than doubled:

“Numbers have now reportedly swelled to 2200 – filling the Town Hall and the Q Theatre.”
Interestingly, Newshub went with exactly the same crowd estimate:

“An incredible 2200 people spread across three venues, while hundreds had to be turned away.”

Numbers aside… no worries for the government though, because Stuff had these words of re-assurance to offer:

“And National’s campaign launch next week in Auckland will be every bit as euphoric and likely even bigger…”

To be fair, the same Stuff story did underline the danger for National in responding by simply reaching for its cheque book. Yesterday the government was stressing its plans to spend billions on provincial roading, and it is still holding out the prospect of a tax cuts announcement at next week’s campaign launch. Meaning: while an energized Labour is pushing all the aspirational buttons, the government has been promoting the fear of change, and an all too familiar package of (a) tax cuts and (b) spending up large on the eve of the election. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on why Labour isn’t responsible for Barnaby Joyce

August 16th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

As a desperate Turnbull government tries to treat the Barnaby Joyce affair as a Pauline Hanson fever dream – blame it on the foreigners! We’re the victims of the dastardly New Zealand Labour Party! – our own government has chosen to further that narrative, and make itself an accomplice.

Evidently, the National government is similarly desperate for anything that might discredit or derail the Ardern juggernaut, even if that means throwing Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne under a bus. Hey, one bad poll for Dunne in Ohariu, and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has been willing to come out and flatly contradict Dunne – his own Cabinet colleague – on the issue of whose inquiries had set the Joyce scandal in motion. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on North Korea, neo-Nazism, and Milo

August 14th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. As someone else noted on the weekend, how come global diplomacy has started to look like a Steven Seagal straight-to-video movie? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Turei finale

August 10th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

So the political career of Metiria Turei is, in effect, now over. It goes to show the double standard in politics is alive and well. Which one, you may ask – the one where a different standard of behaviour is applied to politicians on the centre-left as opposed to those on the centre-right? Check. The one where far less is expected of white male politicians than brown female ones? Check. The one where benefit fraud gets treated far, far more harshly than tax fraud? Check. All of the above. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the nation’s moral tizzy on Metiria Turei

August 8th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Ever since George Washington confessed to chopping down the cherry tree, his example has been taken to heart by every politician following in his wake. Thankfully we live in a country where politicians do not lie, or try to deceive the public, and are routinely drummed from office – and from around the Cabinet table – if they are found to have done so while in Parliament, or before they entered politics. Just as with George, the axe and the cherry tree… politicians here do not, and have not ever, told a lie. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on National’s inability to find its target

August 7th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Early days yet, but the National Party seems to be having trouble in finding a credible line of attack on Jacinda Ardern. Interestingly, the National campaign manager Steven Joyce didn’t go straight for the “pretty little thing/lightweight” criticism that’s been tried so often before. Wisely, Joyce seems to have realized there would be a fair amount of blowback (especially from women voters) if he condescended to her, or tried to mansplain the economy for her benefit. Instead, the job of patronising Ardern was given to Paula Bennett, who blew it on the weekend’s The Nation by claiming – ludicrously- that Ardern had been imitating her, the original Sunshine Girl. “I feel like she’s stolen my relentless positivity so I’m going to go for eternal optimism,” Bennett said, somewhat less than adorably.

Joyce hasn’t done much better, with his attempted “it’s still the same old policies” takedown. That wasn’t likely to work either. The previous problem for Labour wasn’t the policies, but the dull fellow fronting the pitch. Ardern brings an entirely different level of personal conviction to bear. She can make those messages seem relevant. Secondly, the public turns its full attention to policy only during the last five or six weeks of the campaign, so much of the Labour policy package will still be sounding relatively fresh to anyone outside the Beltway. Thirdly, the “same old policies” theme also carries obvious risks of blowback for National, given its front bench of very familiar faces. “Same old wrapper/same old policies” is hardly a winning pitch either, no matter how hard National tries to portray its exhaustion as wisdom and experience…

For the first time in nine years, National is now finding itself in the unpleasant position of having the poorer communicator in the top job. Supposedly, the classic electoral test hinges on which candidate the average voter would most want to share a beer with, or sit beside on a long international flight. By that measure, Winston Peters and Ardern would top the lists of most voters by a wide margin. The Greens duo would be too worried about the plane’s carbon emissions, and Bill English is less the chap you’d want to share a beer with, and more the type you’d pick as your designated driver.

We should be counting our blessings. Until last week, Election 2017 had been sinking beneath a surfeit of earnest-but-dull blokiness. Frankly, it was not going to be much of a party if Gareth Morgan was the excitement factor. Good men and true though they be, neither English nor Andrew Little are the kind of politicians able to inspire spontaneous cries of “Three More Years Of This!” from any part of the electorate. In fact, much of the excitement caused by the sudden elevation of Ardern is partly due to a grateful nation’s sense of relief. In the nick of time, we’ve been spared from having to watch several television debates between Andrew Little and Bill English. Faced with that prospect, many of us might not have made it to election day.

The easy gains

Supposedly, Ardern’s low hanging electoral fruit are the urban liberals recently gone to the Greens, and the older, conservative voters who switched some time ago to New Zealand First. Pointedly, Winston Peters has tried to stop his recruits from drifting back to a revitalized Labour. He’s now saying that a referendum on the Maori seats will be a pre-requisite for any coalition deal with Labour. There’s no chance of such an ultimatum being accepted. All Peters was trying to do was to remind his crustier followers that Labour is still supporting what New Zealand First regards as racial privilege. In other words, this was Peters doing his own rendition of Joyce’s ‘new wrapper, same old policies’ theme.

National is basing its entire campaign on a boring-is-good claim of providing security and economic stability. That message didn’t work very well for Theresa May. Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists to the effect that in their personal lives, many middle class voters are feeling that their jobs and their communities are becoming less safe and secure, not more so. In particular, the public health system is hardly providing a good advertisement for National as a safe pair of hands. On any given day of late, the media has carried stories of the health system failing in its most basic roles, primarily thanks to years of systematic under-funding. Patients are going blind or are dying of cancer on waiting lists while Health Minister Jonathan Coleman remains in denial about the existence of a funding crisis. Health is one issue where Labour could really reconnect with those older, conservative NZF voters.

This past week though, the focus has been on transport policy – where the two parties disagree on the funding model, and the pace at which a game changer for Auckland’s chronic traffic problems can be delivered. Labour is promising light rail to the airport in ten years. National, typically, thinks that’s (a) too soon, especially if (b) it can take the opportunity to score a few cheap ‘tax and spend’ points at the expense of the centre-left, given that a regional fuel tax will need to be part of the light rail equation. Yet at least Ardern and Auckland mayor Phil Goff seem to actually engaging with the issue. Perhaps a regional fuel tax is all the evidence that National has been looking for in order to paint Ardern as the Red Menace – but voters might actually come to prefer a government that isn’t willing to go AWOL quite so often on the issues that affect them.

As we speak, in a locked National Party room with one way mirrors downtown, Bill English is probably being prepped for his upcoming TV debates by Nikki Kaye, in a brown wig. Talking of Kaye, here’s comedian Tom Sainsbury from a few days ago, really nailing a choice bit of humblebragging:

Pylon, and the 1980s

A few days ago, I linked to the “White of An Eye” track by Patience, which wryly referenced the electropop of the late 1980s, circa Yazoo. Much earlier, a band called Pylon had kicked off the decade – and ignited the music scene in Athens, Georgia that eventually gave us REM and the B52s – with a brilliant run of singles and albums that ended in 1983, when the band packed it in prematurely because they just weren’t having the same kind of fun anymore. It was becoming a business.

Nearly 40 years on, Pylon still sound contemporary – thanks to a great rhythm section, the lean, melodic guitar lines fashioned by Randall Bewley (who died of a heart attack in 2009, at the age of 53) and a terrific lead singer in Vanessa Briscoe Hay. The tracks I’ve picked are a showcase for her voice… but an all counts, this is a band that deserves to be remembered, on merit. From the Gyrate album, here’s “Stop It”:

And from 1980, maybe my favourite Pylon track ever… “Crazy” was one of their first singles:

And “Cool” is pretty great, too. This was a band that always knew less is more, and like Gang of Four, they knew that spaces work to the benefit of the music…

There are these forms I like to watch
There are these shapes which talk to me…
The more you look, the more you see

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Gordon Campbell on the Labour leadership change

August 1st, 2017

First Published on Werewolf

For weeks now, Labour has been stalled on the train tracks with the election freight train bearing down on it. The recent run of polls didn’t create this looming disaster, but they confirmed that it was coming right on time. Well… Andrew Little has fled the scene, leaving Jacinda Ardern to try and jump start the engine before the election smashes right into the Labour vehicle. At the very least, she should attract some sympathy votes. Being Labour leader right now would have to be the very definition of a poisoned chalice. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s love, lost

July 31st, 2017

First published on Werewolf

Probably, the latest Colmar Brunton poll results must have felt like this for Andrew Little. Labour is down at a circa 25% level of support in the polls, eight weeks out from the election. To realistically hope to form a government, Labour needs to be punching around 30% at least, yet that figure looks like a truly distant hope. If Labour is trying to lull National into a false sense of security, the eighth round is when they’re supposed to be coming off the ropes and landing knockout blows, and not talking about throwing in the towel, as Little was doing on RNZ this morning. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Act, the centre-right’s perennial ugly duckling

July 27th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

National has just endorsed Act leader David Seymour in Epsom, it being that time on the electoral calendar for the ceremonial anointing to take place once again. Act endures, despite its thoroughly fossilized views: it is the only lighthouse still shining the beams of 1980s market fundamentalism out into the electoral darkness. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the real truth deficit in welfare

July 26th, 2017

First published on Werewolf

It has been astonishing to see the amount of time and energy being spent on what Greens co-leader Metiria Turei did or didn’t do properly as a beneficiary back in the early 1990s – as compared to how little time and energy is being put into the point of her personal example. Turei was citing her case in order to query whether much has changed – especially when it comes down to whether the current benefit levels and targeting rules at WINZ are helping or hindering today’s beneficiaries to escape from poverty. Read the rest of this entry »