I thought the stunt with he snapper in the House yesterday looked awful for David Shearer. I’m not against stunts per se, but you need to think about timing. You can pull off a stunt like that if you have been campaigning on an issue relentlessly and have driven the issue from the beginning. But with the exception of David Cunliffe, Labour MPs have been almost missing from the campaign and only jumped on board in the last few days. So doing a snapper stunt in Parliament looks like opportunism, not a cunning stunt. Such a stunt would work if it was an issue the Government was refusing to back down on, and had under-estimated the impact of. But to the contrary the PM has already made it clear there will be no major change, and he has been going up and down the country saying this is the issue I hear most about, not the GCSB. In fact the timing of the stunt was atrocious. It was on the day of the final debate on the details or committee stage of the GCSB Bill. By making the snapper stunt the focus of question time, you implicitly are endorsing the PMs view that this is the bigger issue. Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:
A fishy stunt in Parliament by Labour leader David Shearer appeared to backfire after it spawned a round of dead fish jokes. … Mr Key said parading dead fish in Parliament showed Mr Shearer’s PR team was also “dead” before demanding that he table the larger snapper so he could eat it for dinner. As Mr Shearer held up the two fish, Justice Minister Judith Collins shot back on Twitter: “Which of the 3 is likely to last longest?” while Act leader John Banks claimed he was “floundering over snapper
Mr Shearer’s fish, which he had brought down from Auckland in his carry-on luggage, were placed back in a bag and ushered out of the debating chamber by deputy leader Grant Robertson.
Gone by lunchtime? The fish that is! On the substance of the issue I must point Labour are wrong when they say the Government has ruled out cuts to commercial quota. Another story quotes the energetic David Cunliffe:
MPI has been criticised for focusing on recreational sector cuts while ignoring commercial quota and wastage. Under Labour’s plan the burden for restoring fish stocks would be shared fairly between all sectors, Mr Cunliffe said. “Would we rule out cuts to commercial quota? No, we absolutely wouldn’t.”
But has MPI ignored commercial quota. Let’s look at Option 3 from the same story:
Option 3 * Reduces the recreational catch to 2370 tonnes and reduces the commercial quota to 4180 tonnes.
So how is that ignoring the commercial quota? I agree the MPI document doesn’t focus enough on it, but neither does it ignore it.
UPDATE: Jane Clifton also thinks the stunt backfired. She writes:
Ever since Don Brash, visiting a boatyard during an election campaign, was filmed “walking the plank”, politicians have been extra careful about avoiding unfortunate symbolism.
Unaccountably, the Opposition leader’s office forgot this wise precaution yesterday.
Either that, or no-one could manage to dissuade David Shearer, seeking to illustrate a point about snapper quota, from producing two of the fish in Parliament yesterday.
It would be interesting to know whose idea it was!
Prime Minister John Key sought leave for Mr Shearer to table the fish so he could get them cooked for his dinner. He had already made a meal of Mr Shearer. In an earlier own-goal, Mr Key had been gifted the opportunity to portray National-Labour discussions about a consensus on the new spying legislation as being akin to Monty Python’s fish-slapping dance.
Mr Shearer had asked Mr Key to confirm whether he or his office had held any meetings with Labour in the run-up to the bill. “I can’t believe he is asking that question,” Mr Key boggled, indicating that he would answer it, but it would not be fun for Mr Shearer if he did.
Mr Shearer said to bring it on – so falling into another question time heffalump pit.
A heffalump pit – I love it!