Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the government’s lead in the polls, and Labour’s response

April 19th, 2011

Illustration by Tim Denee –

Now that National have gained – according to the latest TV3 poll anyway – a further huge lead in the polls, it is timely that Net parodists should be considering the unheard talent on the government’s backbenches that could be unleashed during National’s second term.

Such as list MP Katrina Shanks. Check out the body language and content on this Shanks speech about social welfare from last year and be afraid, be very afraid. Or be very confused, as Shanks clearly seemed to be in this (slightly adulterated) contribution to the debate on copyright legislation, when – even though she was a member of the select committee on the subject – she clearly doesn’t have a clue what file sharing is, or the difference between file sharing and copyright infringement. Much less does she have a grip on the contrasting views about the scope that copyright can and should have in the 21st century.

If you think Shanks has been unfairly edited, the original speeches here and here are just as dismaying. Or weirdly fascinating, depending on taste.

Competence, of course, is not what is keeping National aloft in the polls. Not when its policy options consist of plans for cutting employment (thus adding to the 160,000 already out of work) and slashing state spending, without having any recipe for actually growing the economy. Nor is integrity the basis of its current popularity, as witness the detailed OIA revelations ten days ago by No Right Turn about Steven Joyce’s arrangement of a soft $43 million loan to his old firm, Mediaworks.

Nor are its poll ratings due to National offering the nation a sense of safety, and security. Does anyone seriously think that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is a safe pair of hands, who should be entrusted with five years of unlimited power to crush any dissent over his plans for the re-development of Christchurch? Only last month, Brownlee was saying that if it was up to him, he would bowl most of the heritage buildings in Christchurch tomorrow, because they had failed the public and cost lives – a claim that blithely ignored the fact that the vast bulk of casualties occurred in the relatively modern CTV and Pyne Gould buildings, and that major modern edifices like the Forsythe Barr, BOD Spicer, Copthorne and Grand Chancellor Hotel buildings, also failed during the quake.

If the response to the Christchurch quakes is really going to be the litmus test of this government’s competence – as the Herald’s John Armstrong was suggesting in February – then why give the prime public job in Christchurch to Brownlee, the loosest of cannons among the government’s senior Ministers? It will take the appointment of Orion boss Roger Sutton as CERA’s CEO to allay the lingering concerns about Brownlee’s potential abuse of the CERA legislation.

Yes, the alternative personified by Phil Goff –and the diversions created by Darren Hughes and Damien O’Connor in recent weeks – continue to make the government’s road a whole lot easier. During the same period, Finance spokesperson David Cunliffe has finally started to sound like a potential leader of the Opposition, which hasn’t helped Goff in the short term either. Even so, National is still getting an armchair ride – if Joyce’s machinations had been those of a Labour Cabinet Minister, the mainstream media would have made a meal of it, and hounded him to resignation. Instead, there has barely been a sign of the controversy outside of the blogosphere.

As the election draws closer, voters are going to have to decide whether this barely functional government of depressingly low expectations is the best they can hope for. At yesterday’s post Cabinet press conference, John Key patently could not maintain the line that people have been adequately compensated for rising prices, via the tax cuts. The reality is that only those on relatively high incomes have kept their heads above water, as the chart at the foot of this release maintains, and there is further ammunition here.

The inability of Labour or the Greens to get traction on rising prices, chronic unemployment levels and the government’s lack of an economic growth policy is not, as some on the left are suggesting, a good reason to throw in the towel. Labour will hardly win a “me, too” campaign based on imitation – not when there is such a perceived charm deficit between Goff and Key.

The current state of acceptance is not due to any deeply grounded enthusiasm for the government’s policy settings, but to a lack of energy and faith in any alternative. We are a deeply depressed country. Our expectations have been reduced, and we are being offered only the Prozac of Key’s photo ops for relief. This is not a sustainable condition, and when people finally turn on Key, Joyce and Co. it will be essential for Labour and the Greens to have had a credible therapy on hand all along, unpopular though it may seem right now.


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    1. 29 Responses to “On the government’s lead in the polls, and Labour’s response”

    2. By Stuart on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      a great article mr campbell, always enjoy reading your writings.

      it seems to me; a lay person, that the government’s lead is held by deception and an apathetic public. politics is a subject many correlate with woe and consequentially, it is not a popular topic, when it should be.

      a dysfunctional media contributes to the problem, where rating systems dictate news should take second place to entertainment, even in the “news” itself.

    3. By Pedro Garcia on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      God bless you, Gordon.

    4. By donna on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      I continue to be dumbfounded by the rising angst I am seeing and hearing across an ever more diverse spectrum of the community, and poll results that appear to suggest approval for National is increasing by the day. Who the heck are the pollsters talking to?
      Sadly, now that Mediaworks, that bastion of free market liberalism, has received a helping hand from their mates in government it’s unlikely they’ll be exactly fair and balanced in their political reporting.
      Oh,and don’t mention ex National flunky Richard Griffin being appointed chair of Radio NZ.

    5. By max on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      “Our expectations have been reduced, and we are being offered only the Prozac of Key’s photo ops for relief.” Thank you sir you have nailed it in that one sentence

    6. By Cyclist on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      Although election year polling often seems to be dubious in its accuracy, the latest results make me despair. Can Mr “Smile and Wave while the country goes down the toilet” really still fooling so many of the people all of the time?

    7. By Robert Miles on Apr 19, 2011 | Reply

      National are like the Heath, Wilson and Callaghan governments of Britain in the l970s their basic policy is to do nothing and make no effort to move away from the general policy of excessive government management and acceptance that moral and economic decline was inevitable, ( I believe in sexual freedom and doubt if lifelong marriages reflect the needs of a more than a few-but am refer to a general apathy and contempt for the rule of law that charicterised the UK in the l970s).The real political division in New Zealand is that Natioanl since Muldoon stands for at least the rhetoric of moral conservatism on sex and and Labour is liberal. Damien O’s comments and the other local difficulty of the 5 gays in Labour is not the issue. The real issue is the male proletariat in NZ like the Taliban wants to control the sexual freedom of women.
      The harping of people like Chris Trotter and Micheal Laws whatever there politics distorts the perception of the undecided and swingable voters. The reality is the rural and provincial working class will never return to any recognisable Labour and it is a waste of time trying to regain ,Labour vote in the West Coast, Oamaru, Timaru or Ashburton. Mallards hamfisted attempt to consolidate schools in provincial areas in about 2004-5 to give the key headmastership to Labour cronies, finally permanently destroyed any belief in Labour, south of Christchurch outside the University of Otago. Mallards ignorance on local sensibilities and politics on this issue and his failure to nail Tolley, a bumblefooted but classic and authentic Tory of the minor Hawkes Bay aristocracy, shows he’s largely useless.
      Goff has to go, He’s useless. As Bradford said in the Monday roundtable with Cathryn Ryan and Matthew Hooton he never cuts thru. ( Nat radio -Monday). Radio Live Host, Jackson and the Act call ins can saying, Goff speaks powerfully in the House and is just ignored by the media- is nonsense. Goff, never cuts thru- he never says anything but what the bureacrats tell them. Good speaking in academic eyes is useless, unless it is incisive and people notice. Clark cut thru instantly in every sound bite, in every interview, from her brilliant maiden speech. She always used edgy, clear language, with a few ambivalent and leading phases, to titilate and excite the listners, believers and supporters. Goff has never been interested in exciting anybody but the Mt Roskill bible bashers. Labour could still put together a winning coaltion- if they forget about the fundamentalists and the hicks. But not the sentiments of the 50% of the electorate who quite approve of Shane Jones reading Penthouse, supported the F-16s, never go to church, want to go to suburban pubs after midnight and think the Greenpeace chicks belong in nightclubs and behind the bar.
      Who aren’t pacifists like Goff and Grosser and believe there are other priorities than work and Trade.New Zealand has far more to contribute than Phil or Tim can imagine or project.In the words of Cromwell, Phil you have sat in this house far too long for what you contributed. Go.

    8. By Joe Blow on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      That TV3 poll misses exactly what is going to dictate this coming election and that’s the smaller parties who make up the bigger parties’ coalition partners. Goff is so unpopular that any poll that only seems to poll the support for the two largest parties misses the essential ingredient to what this coming election is all about.

      Hide’s Epsom seat is not as safe as it seems. I know some Labour voters in Epsom that vote for National every year in the hope that they will finally see the end of Hide’s hide. If National’s popularity is strong enough to turn the tide in Epsom we’ll see National with only one choice in coalition partner – the Maori Party. How far would National bend over? If the Maori Party accepted National as a coalition partner at least we would likely see more centrism and less right wingism than if Act survives, but then we are yet to see how much damage has been done to Maori Party support and whether National would be able to gain a majority of the seats in Parliament without Act on the far right. National could possibly limp along with a minority coalition government.

      And what with the Greens getting sensible on economic policy Labour’s losses will likely be gains for the Greens. That could leave things open for a Labour-Green-Maori or Harawira coalition government. I’m not kidding. Has anyone even noticed the turn around Labour has done on the foreshore and seabed issue? I’m talking about the greasing comments from Labour’s David Parker oozing old affections towards the Maori Party MPs. Labour initially supported the Marine and Coastal Area Bill on its first reading but when that didn’t garner Maori Party affections Labour later did a turn around by changing its originally hardline position in support of the old 2004 status quo to support for the threshold test for customary title being decided by the courts. Hell check out David Parker blowing kisses to Tariana Turia in the second reading of the Bill:

      “This Parliament cannot agree in a way that settles it-to the satisfaction of the various interests that appeared before the Māori Affairs Committee, and to the satisfaction of the varied interests at large in society-on the threshold test to determine whether customary title exists. There is considerable disagreement from different parties about the appropriate threshold test. The Hon Tariana Turia said that in her own speech today, and I acknowledge that she said that. There are differing views; this Parliament has had two cracks at it, and we have not settled it. It is time to acknowledge that this is one of those issues that Parliament should not try to codify; it should be put back to the courts.”

      I love you too Tariana!

    9. By Mark W on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      A good article!!!!

      I also see history repeating itself this year.
      Compare the current poll difference between Labour and National to that in 2002 when Labour was in power and National in the doldrums. Labour won a landslide victory and National will probably win one this year. However the shine came off Labour very quickly. They were lucky to win in 2005 and were demolished in 2008.
      Currently John Key is the man with the midas touch (as far as polling is concerned). Helen Clark was between 2000 and about 2004. John Key’s shine will eventually wear thin with the public. The economy is currently up the creek without a paddle and unless there is a miracle the Government will either have to raise taxes or cut spending. Neither of these policies will be popular. Look for a Ruthanasia/Rogernomics style budget in 2012. National will probably try and use it’s probable majority to push through massive cuts. Say goodbye to interest free student loans, working for families and kiwisaver. Welfare will get it’s biggest overhall in two decades. Many benefits will probably be scrapped, others will be restricted to a few years. Pensions could be reduced although there are probably too many over 65s to make that an option politically. Health and education will be scaled back and possibly privatised. State assetts will go. Say bye bye to KiwiBank, Kiwi Rail, Air New Zealand, TVNZ, NZ Post, Radio New Zealand and others. Housing New Zealand will probably become an SOE and market rents reintroduced. Unemployment, poverty and crime will all go through the roof as a result of these policies (this all happened in the early 1990s with National but voters never learn)and the majority of Kiwis will wonder what the hell they were thinking when they voted for JK and the Nats.
      If Labour can get a crediable leader in place after the 2011 election they will have a real shot in 2014 but by then NZ will have probably been sold to China as a holiday resort and a giant neon sign visible from space (advertising say Coke or Pepsi) will be covering the sky and keeping everyone awake at night.

    10. By Nick on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      Excellent writing, please keep up the contributions.

    11. By alan bonard on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      Adversity creates Great Art.

      Bring On The Blues !

    12. By Wimpie on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      Labour and Goff; the gifts that keep giving. Keep it up guys!

      And Campbell; the dreamer who can’t wake up. Yes, excellent writing indeed, please keep up the contributions. Beats any comedy classic.

    13. By Joe Blow on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      @ Wimpie

      Hey Wimpie! Have you got no complaints about how the National government is running the country at all?

    14. By Wimpie on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      @ Joe
      Sure I have, but I think overall they’re doing a reasonable job in difficult conditions. Most NZ-ers think so too. And they’re not all ignorant nutters.

    15. By Joe Blow on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

      @ Wimpie

      What exactly are those complaints then?

    16. By Wimpie on Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

      @ Joe
      I discuss them with people who keep an open mind and judge on merit, rather than with those who are just trying to show me that whatever the issue or the argument, the National Government is wrong.

      Just study Campbell’s columns (in any medium) and their responses (such as in this forum) and you’ll see that it’s all just some one-track minded people talking to each other.

    17. By North on Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

      it’s not so much that pyne gould and other modern buildings are considered worth saving, it’s that no building that is structurally unsound should be left as a hazard to life. They are all going to be demolished modern or heritage it does not matter as this is about life or death. Coming from someone who worked daily in the cbd and heard and saw horrors that day.

    18. By Tara on Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

      @Wimpie joe”the bad performance duo”, sorry to have to give your performance rating a lower fabricated score than the S&P rating of AIG as it collapsed,(a bit like the “A” polling figure) but I can see how infomercials is the logical next step career move for you guy(s).

    19. By Wimpie on Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

      @ Joe

      See what I mean Joe?

      You – even just for one moment – fail to draw the prevailing line in this forum and you are advised to direct your attention to creating infomercials.

      In this forum one’s views are really respected!
      Good luck!

    20. By Joe Blow on Apr 22, 2011 | Reply

      Yeah I see what you mean about some of the brainless people that comment on this blog but as for Campbell he is criticising not only National, but also Labour and the Greens in the article above. I’m just trying to find out if you have a semblance of the same objectivity in your own views.

      So what were your complaints about the National government again?

    21. By nznative on Apr 22, 2011 | Reply

      I just thought Wimpie was a national troll.

      Never debates Gordons arguements ………

      He Trolls away then expects to get taken seriously.

      Wimpies a bad clown.

      And the Nats will eventually get given the boot from parliament.

      As sure as night follows day.

      The last National Government was SO BAD that it took nine years for the voters to forget how rotten they were….

      Will this one end up the same ????

      BTW is there any ex-national Govt MP’s who HAVE NOT been given perk jobs or appointments by Key and Co.
      There Seems an awful lot of backhanders going on ……..

      Is it corrupt?

    22. By Wimpie on Apr 23, 2011 | Reply

      @ Joe

      Is the temperature rising? Inevitably, if people don’t agree with the general tenure of this forum, they will be called names or made out to be stupid.

      And if you want to play the question and answer game, tell me Joe: Do you have anything good to say about the National government?

      This forum is not about debate. It is about foregone conclusions!

    23. By Joe Blow on Apr 23, 2011 | Reply

      Yes, so far they are more centrist and less far right radical than they could have been.

      When this recession began I thought that it was a good idea to try and keep government spending down so that we could get out the other side with low public debt.

      I think that the foreshore and seabed agreement with the Maori Party and National’s decision to endorse the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has gone a long way to soothing some of the most contentious issues this nation has.

      What were your complaints?

    24. By Joe Blow on Apr 23, 2011 | Reply

      One more: I thought that the amendments to LAQCs was a step in the right direction although I would have liked a land tax. It was more than Labour did to try and cool down the housing market in the 9 years it was in office anyway.

      Your complaints?

    25. By Joe Blow on Apr 23, 2011 | Reply

      Oh yeah, I agree with National’s policy of reducing our corporate tax rate to 28% from 33% under Labour to make us more competitive against the Ozzy rate of 30% therefore encouraging business to come here instead of Ozzy.

      What were your complaints about National again?

    26. By Joe Blow on Apr 23, 2011 | Reply

      And I was pleased that Key stood by the amendment of s 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 (the anti-smacking Bill) which the general public largely didn’t realise was as much a creation of the National Party as it was a creation of the Greens and Labour.

      Your complaints about National?

    27. By Joe Blow on Apr 24, 2011 | Reply

      No answer?

      I rest my case.

    28. By Elyse on Apr 25, 2011 | Reply

      Labour and Goff are too bound by their rule. National make theirs up as they go along. Talk about winging it. Hard to compete with a PM who consistently says what people want to hear (is that what you call charm?), with no follow up from the media (except here).
      I find Key to be an embarrassment. The guy’s speech can barely be understood and he always tries to sound intelligent by inserting some “market” language into whatever he says, even when commenting on an earthquake.
      He gets a free pass regarding his yearly holiday at his Hawaiian holiday home. Can you imagine what criticism HC would have incurred if she had consistently holidayed outside NZ?

      JK reminds me of GW Bush, with a more severe speech impediment. After winning the 2004 election, GW threatened to use his political capital and use it he did. He drove the USA into a ditch. NZ will at some point wake up and turn against this head prefect and his team of schoolboys.That will be when the part of the population who think he’s cool will wake up with a hangover and realize that he didn’t make them rich, too. The aspirationals. They have a lot to answer for.
      At that point, JK will leave NZ and join the boards of all the companies he has worked to please.

    29. By Sam on Apr 27, 2011 | Reply

      Helen Clark did spend a lot of her holidays overseas, tramping in Norway etc etc.
      Convenientlyy forgotten, Elyse?

    30. By nznative on Apr 27, 2011 | Reply

      Labor are bad and rotten while natianal are just ‘plain evil.

      This makes the Nats worse than Labor and we can see this in numerous ways.

      The Nats are worse because their tax cuts leave the poor worse off and the rich much better off ..

      The Nats are worse at giving jobs to their old party hacks and faithfull.

      The Nats are worse for taking money from early child education and giving more money to private schools.

      The Nats are worse for turning our justice system into one a bit more like the one in china.

      The Nats are worse for making our police force a bit more like the one in china.

      The Nats are the most pro-drug government we’ve ever had ……. as long as the drug is booze.

      The Nats are good for making the country ‘meaner’.

      The Nats are good for useing stero-type smears against the poor and people on welfare ( except pensioners ).

      The Nats are no good.

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