Hooton on opposition strategy

August 17th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Former general secretary Mike Smith responds to Rob Salmond on what should be Labour’s strategy:

Thanks to Rob Salmond and Josie Pagani, it is now clear that Labour’s pitch to the  centre is an intentional strategy. That is helpful as now perhaps we can have a reasonable discussion about how well it’s working, and what else might work better. …

In what is presumably Rob’s moderating policy option, attacking teacher and beneficiary straw men isn’t aspirational. It’s telling them they’re all crap. And it’s no answer to the truck-driver’s challenge.

The trouble is Labour stlll sounds miserable. Using another of Rob’s options they seem to be trying to alter voters’ perceptions of National, by relentless oppositional criticism of what National’s doing wrong. The problem with this is that it creates the impression that they don’t know what to do about it themselves. National is doing a good enough job of getting it wrong all by itself. It doesn’t need a lot of extra help.

Rob makes a crucial  point about the importance of timeframes. The next election is now a little over two years away. At some stage Labour has to look and sound like an alternative government, with relevant policies and messages that resonate with the teacher, the truckdriver, and the beneficiary. Right now would be a good time to start getting it together.

In a comment on that thread Matthew Hooton gives some pro bono advice on how to be an effective opposition:

I hope you don’t mind me helping, but what an opposition should do is choose a high-profile and unpopular target, with which the government is associated and is required to defend, and attack it. The choice of the target should also define a positive message for the opposition.

The best example of this in recent time is of course Don Brash and his infamous Orewa speech (which readers of the Hollow Men will know I opposed and which I give only as an example of the theory rather than suggesting Shearer follow the same policy path).

Brash’s positive policy message was “One Law For All” but Bill English had been banging away on that for years. What Brash did was attack the unpopular treaty industry etc, the Labour govt felt obliged to defend it, the public decided which side it was on (National’s), and Brash would have become prime minister had he not been caught flirting with the loony Christian right. …

Similarly, in the early 1990s, when he was leaving National, Winston Peters attacked Fay Richwhite and others involved in the winebox. They were undoubtedly unpopular but National appeared to defend them by refusing to have an inquiry. Again, that worked pretty well for Peters and note that while his message was framed negatively – “Fay Richwhite are crooks” – there was also an underlying positive message: “Winston Peters will make the rich pay their taxes”.

Earlier, on a bigger stage, David Lange followed the same path when he attacked nuclear ships. National and the US defended nuclear ships. Labour’s vote increased between 1984 and 1987. …

Also note, the target can be anything as long as it is unpopular, bound to be defended by your opponents and says something about you by your choice of it. A National opposition can attack “overbearing unions” or “political correctness gone mad”. The obvious one for Labour is “big business”.

We await the first Labour Party speech attacking big business!

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47 Responses to “Hooton on opposition strategy”

  1. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Sensible advice from Hooton.

    Labour should do three things:

    1. Attack – big business, state asset sales, weak Ministers
    2. Sound and clear policy alternatives
    3. Special strategy to mobilise the Auckland vote and win back key electorates (Auckland Central, Waitakere, Maungakiekie)

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  2. Rob Salmond (260 comments) says:

    If you read the rest of the comments there, the people who aren’t Matthew Hooton think the left already has a very effective issue over which to attack the government – asset sales. I agree with them.

    [DPF: Rob - two things. First is that the point Matthew was making is that it is more effective not to attack a specific Govt policy, but to attack something else and force the Govt to defend and associate itself with it.

    Secondly what are you going to do if National and Labour have the same policy in 2014? National not proposing any further sales, and Labour not proposing to buy them back. I think you and Labour risk the fatal mistake of trying to fight the 2014 election on the 2011 issues. But please carry on]

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  3. tom hunter (4,004 comments) says:

    We have big business in this country.?

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  4. rouppe (852 comments) says:

    Actually attacking “big business” is dumb. It’s too broad. You’re going to attack Fletcher Building? Mainfreight? Port of Tauranga? Why? They’re big business but why attack them?

    Attack sellers of snake oil. Attack those that clearly shaft the ordinary New Zealander and then hide behind Limited Liability Companies. Attack surgeons who pay themselves $60,00pa but generate over $300,000 in revenue – buried in trusts and companies – through their direct efforts.

    Start actually lauding those that earn over $100,000 and pay PAYE in full instead of smearing same as being part of “big business” that needs to be punished.

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  5. Pete George (21,806 comments) says:

    the left already has a very effective issue over which to attack the government – asset sales. I agree with them.

    Really? It was a major failure for the election. It has failed this year. I think most people (apart from some parties desperate to win an already lost election) are over asset sales.

    A major problem with the asset sale attack is that National’s “asset sales” are a very lite version and the opposition has been massively overegged. The public have woken up to this, but the strategists don’t seem to have anything else so they beat the dead horse over and over.

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  6. Matthew Hooton (114 comments) says:

    Rob, Labour would be quite wrong if it decided asset sales was the big issue for it. It ran its entire 2011 campaign on that issue and look what happened. A majority does oppose asset sales but not with the passion Labour assumes. They will need to find another issue and it is important they do. The quality of our democracy depends on having a strong Labour opposition in the decades ahead which is why I am being so Christian-minded in trying to help with a few ideas.

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  7. Pete George (21,806 comments) says:

    Actually attacking “big business” is dumb. It’s too broad.

    “Asset sales” is to broad as well, especially compared to the minor MOM version.
    Selling land to foreigners is too broad too.
    “Poverty” is too ill-defined and broad too.
    “Ban drilling and mining” is too broad.

    Incessant wolf wailing has become a trademark of Labour and Greens, and it is largely counter productive.

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  8. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Matthew – But don’t you agree a citizens initiated referendum, where, at an educated guess, 80% of those voting oppose assets sales will gain media traction and put a dent in National’s 45% support?

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  9. Pete George (21,806 comments) says:

    Hooton: They will need to find another issue and it is important they do.

    How about sorting their own shit out?

    After they’ve done that how about establishing an image (and personnel) that makes them look like a credible opposition, so they may be seen as a credible party in Government.

    Most people vote on perceptions of personalities. Shit stirring may achieve the occasional hit, but shit stirrers are mostly just seen as shitty.

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  10. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I think Labour should leave drilling and mining, let the Greens have that one.

    Drilling and mining provides employment for working people.

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  11. fish_boy (152 comments) says:

    Big business is to broad, and besides it is to obvious and would worry the people who work for big companies. National is IMHO highly vulnerable to the charge of crony capitalism, which is an attack on big business only in terms of a conspiracy of the rich to prevent a fair go to hard working families on struggle street, aided and abetted by their parliamentary lackeys in the National government.

    In the same way the Hollow men found out from focus groups what parts of Helen Clark’s strengths the public didn’t like then waged a successful whispering campaign of smears via whaleoil and laundered to the MSM through this site that highlighted those until her strengths became liabilities, so an attack on big businesses crony capitalism and fat cats laughing at the Kiwi Battler could be used against John Key, if Labour had the sense and the energy to do so.

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  12. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    how about establishing an image (and personnel) that makes them look like a credible opposition, so they may be seen as a credible party in Government.

    I’m agreeing with Pete :O If the “preferred Prime Minister” rating is a measure of anything, I think it’s a measure of how much the electorate is listening to your party’s chief salesman…and at 8.what%, Labour have a deaf ear to work with.

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  13. Rob Salmond (260 comments) says:

    Mathew – Thank you for your barb-tinged Christian charity, but I am sure you know the old saying about Greeks and gifts. I’ve seen the old NZES numbers on asset sales and attitudes towards business / unions etc just as you have. I think the worse the government handles the hurdles to asset sales (court- and referendum-based) the worse it gets for them.

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  14. david (2,482 comments) says:

    rouppe 9:25 talks about tax cheating surgeons with trusts. I think you will find taht National’s tax rate changes have effectively cornered them and the trusts are now paying more tax than the individuals would. The interesting conundrum for the surgeons and dentists now is that if they suddenly pay more of the income to themselves to take advantage of the lower personal tax rates, they are admitting that their structure is there purely for tax purposes in which case the IRD can re-define the income allocation between taxpayers.
    Quite neat the way that the loophole was not only closed but was set as a baited trap for future reference.

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  15. Pete George (21,806 comments) says:

    I think the worse the government handles the hurdles to asset sales (court- and referendum-based) the worse it gets for them.

    So it’s all about political pointscoring, trying to hobble and smear the government, ultimately to try and bring the government down.

    Stuff the country. (Deliberate dual meaning).

    Crappy old politics is crappy. And old.

    Shouldn’t Labour be trying to rebuild as a 21st century party with ambitions for leading a 21st century government – some time this century?

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  16. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Fish_boy,

    No attack on National based on cronyism is going to work while they can point the finger at the last Labour govt’s track record of appointments of it’s cronies to boards.

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  17. Rob Salmond (260 comments) says:

    PG – You seem to think that opposing government initiatives and building an alternative vision cannot be accomplished at the same time. I think the history of National over 2007-2008 shows how wrong your idea is.

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  18. Scott Chris (5,676 comments) says:

    We await the first Labour Party speech attacking big business!

    Would be a mistake. Big local businesses, if you can call them that, are too popular. Big overseas businesses such as the Aussi owned banks would be a much easier target. Just have to tie them in with LIBOR somehow….

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  19. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Tom Hunter @ 9.21 asks a very good question….

    We have big business in this country.?

    I agree with the sentiment. We have some biggish (for NZ) public companies mostly lead and managed by idiots. How some of these people egt the jobs they have is beyond me.

    Forget the stange episode of things like Air NZ buying Ansett (a decision made by some of this countries ‘leading’ business people), but look at the various companies performance.

    Ive done this exercise and as a result I sold all my shares and bought property. i went back as far as I could in the public records to find the share prices. In most cases that was 15 years.
    I took the top 20 and prices the cost of 1 share of each of them as long ago as i could find records (mostly 15 years). The cost of a share in each was $39.
    And the value at the time of the exercise was $35. This was from about 1990 thru to about 2005 – when things were going well.

    Without doubt – run by idiots.

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  20. chrisw76 (82 comments) says:

    @barry – in your comparison for shares did you include dividends? I have owned a NZX share that’s price has been fairly static (+/- 10%) for around 5 years, but has consistently delivered a 12% return making me fairly happy.

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  21. Matthew Hooton (114 comments) says:

    Bless you Rob. Your optimism and chin-up attitude will be rewarded. In the next world.

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  22. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I still can’t believe New Zealanders voted for a junk bond dealer as PM during a global economic crisis.

    How stupid are we?

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  23. Pete George (21,806 comments) says:

    PG – You seem to think that opposing government initiatives and building an alternative vision cannot be accomplished at the same time.

    Not at all. Depends on how it’s done.

    Being continually negative, continually crying wolf and exaggerating, and trying to be destructive, don’t build “an alternative vision” that is viewed with favour by the voting public.

    Hint – learn how to pick the right (winnable) battles, and don’t just try and wage a perpetual war of attrition.

    I keep coming back to what is looked for and judged on the most – the quality and character of the people.

    Election policies are ideals and subject to coalitions, the reality of conditions and the reality of what is achievable within timeframes. They evolve, they get postponed, they get scrapped and they get rejected. People know this.

    MPs are fixed in place for three years (mostly). Their ability to deal with what’s in front of them and what the country faces – including their abilitiy to negotiate on and compromise with policies – is more important than some grandiose paper plans.

    Voters judge mostly on perceptions of people, mostly of the leadership and senior personnel.

    Perceived ability to manage a difficult economy beat all the policy rabbits Labour tried to pull out of the hat last year.

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  24. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Why the fuck Labour or anyone wants to attack big businesses for? What crimes have the big businesses done to citizens of this country? Big businesses is what make the world go round.

    Haminda…
    How stupid are we?

    I asked you in one of the threads from last week to go and wank yourself at that corner over there and once you’re satisfied, then come back here to comment. Although I don’t like Key’s and National’s policies, your comment is stupid.

    Did you mean why NZ’ders voted for National? So, if it wasn’t Mr Key who’s the current leader of National but let say it is Tau Henare or Bill English? Would you still make the same comment? If your problem with John Key as a person or your problem is with the National Party because they are different?

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  25. david (2,482 comments) says:

    Don’t waste your epithelial cells on Hamnida Falafulu Fisi. He/she is everything that Labour needs to root out from their ranks and their thinking if they are ever to start rebuilding the dream of regaining political influence. Personally nasty and vindictive, politically ignorant and inclined to repeating doctrinairre rants with scant connection to reality. If there was a prize for the “contributor”to this site for the commenter with the least to offer, Hamnida would be running close to winning.

    Interestingly the etymology of the nickname, “me-an hamnida” is Hangkuk-mal (Korean) for “excuse me” (if my memory is accurate), an expression used in a situation where politeness is called for. I rest my case.

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  26. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    The reality is many New Zealanders voted for John Key, a National MP and former junk bond dealer, during a global financial crisis. Not only once, but twice.

    You Neolibs don’t see the irony?

    “me-an Hamnida” (sic) is only one way the pre positional verb can be used in “Hangkuk-mal (Korean)” (sic).

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  27. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Fisi – I can tell you about one of their crimes, an especially bad one – 29 men dead at Pike River.

    Time for corporate manslaughter? Hell yes.

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  28. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    Rob Salmond people have accepted Asset Sales. I imagine yhey are bored with the tactic of Labour and the Greens to reheat an argument they have already lost (while using taxpayer dollars to do so!). People want vision not some party whose sole purpose is to gather enough signatures to run a referendum on something that was signalled a long time ago. Remember this was National’s main election pledge and they won the election. By putting all their focus on this issue, they look desperate and completely void of ideas.

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  29. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    Hamnida (248) it should have been open cast but the looney greens insist we put environment ahead of economic benefit and even peoples safety (in this case).

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  30. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Hamnida…
    The reality is many New Zealanders voted for John Key, a National MP and former junk bond dealer, during a global financial crisis

    Do you understand of why financial crisis happens? Take my advise, you’re an ignoramus in economics, don’t try to comment on it since you have no clue.

    Haminda…
    29 men dead at Pike River

    What lwa was broken

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  31. UpandComer (496 comments) says:

    Hamnida is trapped in the classic paradigm of the befuddled whining wanker throughout history. Like his ancestors in 16th century France, he has a distrust of wealth that is obtained through ‘services’ such as the professions, but most importantly finance. Hamnida thinks somehow that dollars made from manufacturing, agriculture, or govt projects are more ‘valid’ then dollars created via financial servicing, banking, financing.

    That’s why Hamnida and his party who think it’s a good idea to attack ‘big business’ are negative, clueless no-hopers. Stick to being academics Labourites.

    Hamnida doesn’t know what a junk-bond is. He has no idea how John Key made his money, or how difficult it is, or that it is a valid means of earning wealth. Hamnida thinks it’s sweet to go after ‘big business’ in NZ. I can only imagine he means Fonterra, and maybe some guy working for Westpac with a big pay packet he saw one on TV one day.

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  32. bringbackdemocracy (350 comments) says:

    Why not promote a referendum on gay-marriage, surely being seen to promote democracy over the rainbow faction would have wider appeal.

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  33. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    UpAndComer…
    Stick to being academics Labourites

    There is real academics and useless/fake academics. The useless/fake academics are those that infested the left such those in the Labour party. Look no further than Rob Salmon.

    Here is what I call real academics.

    Dr. Patrick Hu (CTO of start-up PowerByProxy) who lead a team of researchers at the Auckland University School of Engineering (Electronics) to develop cutting edge technology in wireless power transmission and he is a real academics. Now, Dr. Hu (including Uniservices) and local Auckland entrepreneur Greg Cross had formed a company PowerByProxi to market this invention internationally. There is no doubt that this start-up company will grow to be one of our star performers (even grow to be a big business one day in which exactly the type of success that useless/fake academics Labourites and their supporters hate).

    As I said in my previous comment, that big businesses is what make the world go round.

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  34. tom hunter (4,004 comments) says:

    Hamnida doesn’t know what a junk-bond is.

    Yes. That’s been obvious for quite some time. All Hamnida knows is that the word “junk” can be associated with the world of finance, which is all that a dimbulb demagogue requires. It’s a left-wing prayer which, when chanted over and over again, might ward off the evil spirits of capitalism.

    Here’s some advice: go read Michael Lewis’s 20 year old book on the financial world, Liar’s Poker. There’s a small but important section in it on junk bonds. No Black-Scholes theorem, nothing too taxing. But you’ll find out why junk bonds exist, why they will always exist, and why, for example, pension funds have done so well with them as investments – and still do. That last will blow your tiny mind I’m sure.

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  35. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Fisi – Looks like you would struggle with school cert English.

    Shouldn’t you Neolibs be busy with your small to medium sized businesses on a Friday?

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  36. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I hear the state asset sales petition has nearly 300,000 signatures.

    You Neolibs will have to try and mobilise the pro-asset sales vote on referendum day.

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  37. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Hamnida…
    school cert English

    Yep, correct! English is my second language, Tongan is my first language but I have a PhD in Physics! Are you surprised at my school cert English level?

    Now, I’ll ask you in School Cert English again (my level as you said) ?

    What’s the root causes of financial crises?

    If you can’t understand School Cert English, then let me ask you in Tongan?

    Koe ha e tupu’anga ‘oe to lalo e tu’unga faka’ikonomika moe fakapa’anga ‘oku hoko ‘i mamani?

    If you can’t understand the question that I posed to you above in the level of School Cert English, then perhaps you can learn Tongan language then? I can recommend a good book to start with, Tongan for dummies over a weekend.

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  38. tom hunter (4,004 comments) says:

    Give it up FF. Hamnida has not been here long enough to know the background of longtime posters and, like most racists, is too dumb to even learn. Best just to ignore it and allow that generation of crypto-Marxists to slowly vanish.

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  39. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Sorry Dr Fisi.

    Root causes of the global financial crisis:

    1. The poor borrowing too much because their incomes are not enough to live on.
    2. Banks and finance companies lending too much (sometimes lending more money than they actually hold).
    3. Growing inequality.
    4. People off-selling shares and bonds as they lose faith in the ‘market’.
    5. Politicians and policy makers relying too heavily on unregulated markets.
    6. Nations privatising profits and socialising losses.

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  40. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Hamnida,

    Your understanding of economics is simpleton. How about you watch the following video because it highlights the root causes, which are government leftist ideologies in the first place. It is leftist policies that lead to crises.

    The root cause of the crisis

    If you want more technical peer review economics papers on it, then I can cite them for you, but I fear that citing those references for you will hurt your braiin. WHY? It requires a high level of technical knowledge for anyone to be able to comprehend those publications.

    Your list above are the results, not the causes. If you watch the video above, then you realize that the causes that lead to some of the points in your list are entirely the policies and ideologies of the left.

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  41. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Fisi – Reisman forgets that in nations such as NZ, debt is a private sector problem, not a public one.

    The Right and Neolibs only make debt sound like a public sector issue so they can create a false crisis. From the false crisis, they then try and create an anti public sector sentiment.

    I don’t need any convincing about creating pathways for science and innovation. That is high value added work that increases a country’s wealth and overall well being.

    I do have issues with:

    1. People needing to work more than 40 hours a week to get by.
    2. Trying to solve NZ’s wage disparity with Australia by driving down wages.
    3. The financial sector getting off very lightly after the financial crisis.
    4. Tax policy failure – minimum wage earner paying tax while a trust or property investor doesn’t.
    5. Neolibs trying to pretend their policies are good for working people, when they are not.
    6. Failure of Neolibs to learn from what has happened in the last 30 years.

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  42. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    Yet another person perpetuating the lie that Brash lost the election by associating with the Exclusive Brethren. It’s nonsense. The story broke three weeks out. Two weeks later National were still ahead in the polls. They lost it in the last week when they reached their spending limit and Labour had a whole week of unanswered scare-mongering ads. Steven Joyce, either by design or by incompetence, fucked up and scuttled it. So cut the crap. It’s bad enough when the Left do it, but our side shouldn’t be complicit in this scurrilous rewrite of history.

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  43. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Maybe National could have won if more people had liked the Brash Race Hate speech.

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  44. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    Hamnida (253) nothing about personal responsibility? What about the people who borrowed money to buy TV’s and shit? What did Labour do over their 9 years? They sat there and proclaimed that our economy was humming while all the while people were spending money they didn’t have. Labour happily claimed growth yet it was all fueled by debt and they let our export sector go to hell (in recession from 2005). Now they have the fucking audacity to go on about National not doing enough for our export sector. it makes me sick!

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  45. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Cunningham – I think after 4 years it’s hard to blame the previous government. What about personal responsibility?

    In any case, National could have won in 2005 if more people had liked the Brash Race Hate speech.

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  46. bringbackdemocracy (350 comments) says:

    BlairM “National reached their spending limit” In the same election Labour exceeded the spending limit by $400,000 when they stole $800,000 of tax-payer money to finance their campaign. It’s a shame the police said it was not in the public interest to prosecute, as that would have looked good on Clark’s C.V.
    Her accomplices are still at large.

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  47. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    bringbackdemocracy – Very distorted view of reality.

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