Watkins on National’s popularity

November 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins gives five reasons for why is still polling in the mid to high 40s after five years in office.

  1. Steering a course through the global financial crisis
  2. Softly, softly government
  3. Tragedy and disaster
  4. Raising the bar for ministerial performance

With the second point, Watkins notes:

Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office.

Previous National governments would have worn the scorched-earth label as a badge of honour, and Key’s government came under pressure from some quarters to hack into government spending under cover of the crisis. That National resisted doing so – and even increased spending on welfare initiatives at the height of the GFC – has earned Key a reservoir of goodwill with voters and neutralised Labour’s attacks on him as a Right-wing wolf in sheep’s clothing.

National is on track to get the books back into surplus, without “slash and burn”. The challenge when we get back into surpluses is to have a balanced policy where some of the surplus goes on debt reduction, some on extra spending and some on tax reductions. I believe NZers support a balanced approach. Labour only does tax reductions at the point of a gun – they believes surpluses mean just spend as much extra money as possible.

Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year.

I’m not certain of the timing, but it could be more frequent than annually. But he certainly does take a CEO approach to the Government, and regularly gives feedback on where things are going well and not so well.

He shocked many when he dumped Cabinet ministers Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson at the start of this year for under-performance, an unheard-of occurrence.

And there may be another reshuffle next year. Not because any Ministers need to go, but because it is important to rejuvenate the team.

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58 Responses to “Watkins on National’s popularity”

  1. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    Fear of the alternative?

    Just landed in Christchurch. It’s always brisk, I like that about Christchurch. The airport is a rabbit warren, I’m surprised I managed to find my way out.

    The venue for the Labour conference is impressive. The Wigram Air Force Museum is beautiful, very large and its large spaces allows for the echoing buzz.

    And what an echoing buzz. I know when things are good for Labour because I can’t recognize about 2/3rds of the people here. It is younger than I have ever seen and far more ambitious. Labour is a Party with momentum.

    Sadly that momentum isn’t being translated into leadership. I was genuinely surprised Labour did not set the agenda for this conference at the Thursday presser yesterday. There, Cunliffe could have told the media that the conference is about, ‘Jobs, regional economic development and an active Government prepared to step in between its citizens and the ravages of inequality caused by a venal free market’. But they didn’t decide to do that and so left a large vacuum, this lack of direction has allowed the media to fill the vacuum with their narrative and their narrative is that the crazy lefty members who helped Cunliffe get elected want to establish a Marxist State with a bevy of politically correct policies to socially engineer a utopian Homosexual atheist Communist bloc that will lobby for the castration of all white males.

    Yawn. If only. The policy aspirations of the Labour Party rank and file is a legitimate part of the democratic process, denigrating that to insert a corporate news narrative structure is predictable and dull.

    – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/11/01/labour-party-conference-2013-first-impressions/#sthash.skV7lMCF.dpuf

    Bradbury’s chracaturisation isn’t far from the truth.

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  2. Reid (16,454 comments) says:

    I believe NZers support a balanced approach.

    Of course they do. But given NZers also wouldn’t know how to determine whether a given economic policy makes sense or not, who cares what they support, if you’re talking about the correct thing to do for the country?

    That’s why Richard Prebble said that politics was a “really hard” game. He wasn’t talking about discerning the middle ground and taking that road, because anyone can do that, that’s not hard, at all.

    What is hard is leading people by persuasion onto the correct course and doing so in a way that while inevitably consuming some of your political capital it leaves just enough to stay the course you’ve been advocating. But Key hasn’t bothered to do that, instead he’s taken the cowardly easy approach of not rocking the boat by not even touching some of the policies any economist will tell you NZ badly needs. And the fact that his govt is now just barely surviving speaks more to his lack of persuasive courage and ability than it does to his “wisdom” as some would have us believe is the element responsible for his “success.”

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  3. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    “Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office”

    And good on him and good on the brand, which will be durable as a result.

    Will there ever be a better opportunity to turn around this socialist ship that will no doubt hit the rocks? Especially if the government changes next year (I don’t think it will).

    Kind of reminds me of David Lange’s famous cup of tea.

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  4. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    Edit
    Bradbury’s characterisation isn’t far from the truth. Apparently, cultural Marxists don’t like being outed.

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  5. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    Bradbury: “And what an echoing buzz. I know when things are good for Labour because…”

    Aw, do you Martyn? You self-styled warrior king veteran of left wing politics, you

    The man is an auteur

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  6. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    I think it’s ironic that Labour held their conference in the Air Force museum, home to memories of the RNZAF combat wing :)

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  7. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    Main reason – no strong party to the right or center.

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  8. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    “Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year.”

    Obviously those reviews, that Key has brought with him from his banking days, wouldn’t focus on meeting any political objectives. It fits with the image. Key is not political. He just wanted to be PM from his boyhood and has never really had a political mission.

    His choice of popularity over political direction is just bad for the country and bad for the National Party.

    Key IMHO is the worst PM National have ever put up. The Party will forever rue the day they allowed this backslider to rule just because they felt by saying and doing nothing he would bring them the votes of the urban liberals and the ignorami.

    The most important task that National had when it was elected was to drag NZ from the delusions of socialism, and Key has ignored it.

    Lange had a mission. Douglas had a mission. Prebble had a mission. Klark had a mission. Muldoon had a mission. Whether you were with them or against them, at least they believed in something.

    Key? Nothing other than the fulfillment of a boyhood ambition.

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  9. Manolo (13,767 comments) says:

    I wish Smile-and-wave Key would have some mongrel and the spine to dismantle the bureaucratic nanny state inherited from the Clark years.

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  10. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    @Red

    Key IMHO is the worst PM National have ever put up.

    reiterating that you are a total tool, most know this but its nice you keep reminding us – you sad sad man

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  11. hj (7,011 comments) says:

    The left also let National score because there is a political consensus against NZ First and they can’t attack National on any immigration- house price- taxpayer funded infrastructure nexus.

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  12. Shazzadude (529 comments) says:

    The only polls that have National at mid-high 40s were the same polls that grossly overestimated National’s support in election week 2011. Fairfax had National had 50% this week-they had National at 54% in election week 2011 compared to their actual result of 47%.

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  13. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    shazzadude

    remind me who got elected in 2011 again please

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  14. Chi Hsu (101 comments) says:

    The reason National are so popular is because NZers are comfortable with our Prime Minister’s seat warming, offend nobody, Centre/Left approach to government. There is no strong direction, no greater goal, no hope of economic prosperity in this country – the younger generation (the smart ones anyway) are simply here until they are ready to make the move over to Australia for a real future.

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  15. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    Red @ 12.41

    Having said that, you and I both know politicians and (Western) governments are seldom proactive, only reactive. Eg the Douglas reforms were in response to the country nearing bankruptcy blah blah you know the rest.

    It frustrates the shit out of me because I had hoped they would do certain things and undo certain things, but in hindsight this would have been unpalatable to the still-socialist electorate, especially given the local and global catastrophes.

    Deep down, in line with their personal habits of spending way more than they earn, many kiwis want their no-fault ACC, their WFF tax refunds, their perks and how that’s paid for is someone else’s problem, politics is boring let’s go fishing or watch rugby.

    Timing is everything. Maybe the Key administration is playing the long game? Maybe JK will step down after winning the next election and hand the baton to Collins or Joyce. They can get another ACT style Trojan horse in to do the unpopular policies and even go for a fourth term.

    National is only as right wing as the voters will allow. Which ain’t right wing in my book!

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  16. Manolo (13,767 comments) says:

    Well said, Chi Hsu.

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  17. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    Most leaders have their legacies.

    Reagan, (Berlin wall) Thatcher, (defeated left wing unions) Prebble, Douglas, (economic reform) Lange (no nuke ships) All issues that required political courage.

    Key’s legacy will be one of a badly missed opportunity to actually do something about the Progressive/ socialist mind rot that deeply infests this country.

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  18. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Red

    How the hell could he have done anything in the last five years. As usual he inherited a bare cupboard. The GFC is something that none of those you mentioned had to deal with. The Chch earthquake, remember that?

    Lange- No Nuclear ships. FFS thats a legacy is it? Jesus christ you are a clown

    Did NZ come through the GFC well? Yes they did.
    Are we on track for surplus? Yes we are.

    That a legacy when the country is not filing for bankruptcy, its a legacy when there some money in the bank

    Show ponying about some ships, spitting in the face of a long term ally to appease the undergraduate mentality of some of your voters, a legacy!!!!!!!!!!

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  19. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    BTW, I know Key couldn’t do it even if he wanted to.

    You have to actually believe in something before you can convince others to follow you.

    Key will never drag NZ to any different place on the political map because he has no conviction himself. He knows himself he would fail if he tried to do it.

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  20. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    because he has no conviction himself. He knows himself he would fail if he tried to do it.

    explain that crap please

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  21. Paulus (2,627 comments) says:

    Remember Cullen’s do not include in the PREFU that ACC was short of $4,000,000,000 that National had to account for.
    Remember Cullen was an inverate liar, when it suited Helen.
    Now he is Chairman of the defuncting NZ Post – f…ed up by continually funding Kiwibank to protect their solvency position.
    Now KiwiBank are looking into replacing the old State Insurance as sold off by Labour. But they have no money.
    Don’t worry GreenLabourWinston will fund up, possibly to by say Tower Insurance, assuming that it still up for sale.
    The will use pour money like $50,000,000 that they did for Gareth Morgan’s Kiwisaver list – almost certainly the worse performer in Kiwisaver.
    But don’t worry it is only taxpayer’s money.

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  22. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    Remember Cullen was an inverate liar, when it suited Helen.
    Now he is Chairman of the defuncting NZ Post

    Don’t forget he attained that position only with the endorsement of the National Party,

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  23. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    6.

    Has preserved and increased the entitlements of the 75% of New Zealanders who live off the backs of the 25%.

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  24. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    Well said Red and Reid. Spot on.

    Though I am sure it will fail to resonate with Kiwiblog’s resident apologists for the National Caretaker Government.

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  25. Gulag1917 (916 comments) says:

    Bureaucrats are NZ’s biggest problem. They don’t have to do anything but leave things alone. In a age of meritocracy the old boy system reigns supreme.

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  26. simonway (387 comments) says:

    they believes surpluses mean just spend as much extra money as possible.

    You know as well as anyone, dpf, that Labour was “spending” the surpluses on paying down government debt, a policy that began when the government first reached surplus under Jim Bolger and continued when Helen Clark was elected. I think it’s very dishonest of you to repeat a talking point about the Clark government’s “spending” without bringing that up.

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  27. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    What about the part of the story you omitted, the bit about Cullen not cutting spending when revenue decreased because they fucked the Economy?

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  28. big bruv (13,888 comments) says:

    While Key is not my favourite pollie when it comes to policy you simply cannot help but like the guy. The scum from the left really must be all bent out of shape if they can manufacture up that much hatred for an all round good guy.

    I also find it hilarious that anybody would take what the socialist Redbaiter says seriously when it comes to Key, remember, this is the same socialist Redbaiter who thought that Sarah (I can see Russia from my house) Palin was a great option for POTUS and the same Comrade Redbaiter who thinks that Ted Cruz is a good option for the next POTUS.

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  29. Scott (1,800 comments) says:

    I like John Key and his economic management has been good. He was magnificent in the Christchurch earthquake crisis. And he does nice things when people are not looking, such as visiting sick children at Masterton hospital.

    But my frustration is his abandonment of where National has stood socially. National has been the party of free markets and traditional morality. On the free markets he has been fine. On traditional morality his refusal to reverse the anti-smacking legacy of Sue Bradford and then his support of gay marriage shows he has abandoned the traditionally minded voter. He has cosied up with the progressives on the left and now there appears to be very little difference between National and Labour and the Greens regarding the great moral questions of the day.

    I will not be voting National again and I urge all those of traditional morals to do likewise.

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  30. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    What is wrong with Ted Cruz bruv?

    He has been ranked one of the best public law attorneys in America. Was Texas Attorney-General. The guy has a razor sharp intellect and has far more relevant experience than Obama had when he ran in 2008

    One thing is for sure – the US does not need another GWB or Romney clone. $USD50,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in the US.

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  31. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    On the free markets he has been fine.

    Ok…

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  32. nasska (11,503 comments) says:

    ….”I will not be voting National again and I urge all those of traditional morals to do likewise”….

    Fortunately you are part of a small group following the dodo to your rightful place in history. The balance of us will carry on happily with the safe economic management of National & sans the sanctimonious busy bodies who know better than us how to conduct the personal aspects of our lives.

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  33. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    Except you of course will be voting for the Watermelons, so you should be careful of who you call hypocrites.

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  34. nasska (11,503 comments) says:

    Not much chance of that Baity…..the CCCP haven’t had enough support yet for anyone to notice if they went extinct. :)

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  35. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    Bigot Bruv sucks up left wing propaganda like a lizard drinking. He’ll never have a clue of what’s really going down.

    And he’s like Nasska, a bi-sexual Marxist anti-Christian with an insane intolerance for any concepts that might challenge those prejudices.

    Just leave him to his bigotry. One day he’ll work out his real political home is the blue collar faction of the Labour Party. (Although with prejudices so strong, he’d probably be recognised as a bigot there too.)

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  36. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    “Not much chance of that Baity…..the CCCP haven’t had enough support yet for anyone to notice if they went extinct.”

    Yeah, in Ekatahuna you’d have a clue about that.

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  37. nasska (11,503 comments) says:

    Point seven percent! :)

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  38. Fentex (974 comments) says:

    Labour only does tax reductions at the point of a gun – they believes surpluses mean just spend as much extra money as possible.

    I feel this mis-characterizes a government that did considerable good work in reducing NZ’s debt by using surplus to pay it down leaving the incoming National government with less debt to worry about than that which provoked crises around the world.

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  39. big bruv (13,888 comments) says:

    nickb

    “What is wrong with Ted Cruz bruv?”

    Where do I start Nick. The man is a member of the Tea Party which does not bode well for anybody. He is also a pro life religious nutter, a gun freak (heard about the latest shooting in the USA?), a man who thinks it is the governments job to decide who anybody else sleeps with (why is it that these Redbaiter types are all for freedom unless that freedom happens to go against what they find acceptable?) and a bigot.

    Apart from that….he sounds perfect.

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  40. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    to pay it down leaving the incoming National government with less debt to worry about than that which provoked crises around the world.

    earth to planet Fentx, hello.

    Michael Cullen ” its all gone haha

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  41. kowtow (8,470 comments) says:

    At 245 bigot bum talks of “scum from the left manufacturing hatred of Key” and before you can say “Uncle Joe was kind of nice” he launches into a tirade against Ted Cruz that is full of the manufactured hatred that a pimply faced Socialist Alliance teen wearing a beret and a Che T shirt would produce……

    there’s no accounting for the sisters on this site who pass themselves of as the modern face of the National Party,how far it has fallen.

    narsekisser the Green convert is another.

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  42. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    Scott at 2.52

    “On the free markets he has been fine. On traditional morality his refusal to reverse the anti-smacking legacy of Sue Bradford and then his support of gay marriage”

    I’m with you. But:

    The trad morality stuff is chump change. He can bend that shit because of his personality, and be championed by the kids and the city tennis moms and the homos who let’s face it are really vocal and militant. The ‘traditionally minded voter’ is practically extinct.

    The clever thing Key has done and I don’t know whether it’s by accident or design is leave Labour with just no ammunition. Nothing except to go further left and try to promise outrageous bribes.

    Can you imagine, they’re like “Fuck! He’s got our king, queen, bishops, rooks…’

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  43. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    J H C….

    Those that reside at the extremities, left or right, are as thick as PIG SHIT.

    Name one, just one, ultra right or ultra left (and don’t deliver Ronnie Reagan, because he did other things, and had a cooperative Congress), Prime Minister/President that has, by dint of an honest election, put either extreme left or right policie3s into effect…..AND…been re-elected.

    As with diplomacy, politics is the art of the possible…. especially if elections are held every three years.

    There is another saying, which is apt…. “It is better to be inside the tent pissing out…..

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  44. kowtow (8,470 comments) says:

    duggledog

    The traditional morality is not chump change.It’s at the heart of our civilisation and culture.Change that,change everything.

    And the marriage parody was really a step too far in terms of the powers a parliament gives itself. From here on in anything,literally anything is within the remit of the state,and that is too much .

    Conservatives should not support that extreme extension of state power.

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  45. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    FFS Bruv

    The man is a member of the Tea Party which does not bode well for anybody.

    Why is that? The Tea Party is a non-partisan group pushing for lower government due to the complete failure of the Republicans and Democrats to responsibly manage the economy. Sure there are various religious movements present but it is primarily a grassroots libertarian / conservative movement. So what is the problem? We desperately need something like it in NZ given the National Caretaker Government enthusiastically implementing Labour Lite policies.

    He is also a pro life religious nutter

    Any source for “nutter”, or is that just a gratuitous ad hom? In the big bruv world can anyone be religious without being a nutter?

    a gun freak (heard about the latest shooting in the USA?)

    You might have a point there. There clearly needs to be laws passed against bringing a gun into an airport and shooting at people. Personally I blame the NRA and the Tea Party for that glaring loophole in US law.

    a man who thinks it is the governments job to decide who anybody else sleeps with (why is it that these Redbaiter types are all for freedom unless that freedom happens to go against what they find acceptable?)

    You mean someone who opposes gay marriage on firmly held religious beliefs? I’m pretty sure he does not think it is the government’s job to decide who sleeps with who. If you could provide a source for that I would be mightily surprised.

    There is clearly a big difference between your statement above and merely opposing gay marriage.

    and a bigot.

    Source? And if your source is his opposition to gay marriage, then surely by definition you yourself are also a bigot by calling someone a “religious nutter” for, well, being religious?

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  46. Fentex (974 comments) says:

    Michael Cullen ” its all gone

    The facts are clear – NZ was doing a good job of paying it’s government debt down until the financial crisis put a stop to that and we had to borrow again.

    Here are the numbers…

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/government-debt-to-gdp

    The idea that Labour had squandered the money is I think the issue DPF refers to when he speaks to a ‘structural deficit’ solved by National – what others would probably describe as not budgeting for the election campaign promises Labour made.

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  47. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Great theory, except New Zealand was in recession a full 2 years before Europe and the US. Australia still hasn’t gone into recession, mainly because they only got six years of Labor after the Howard government set up the good times.

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  48. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    A Free market is where there is a TOTAL separation of the State from the Economy…..just where and when has this been the case in NZ in living memory…?

    National are no more for a free market NZ than Charlie Sheen is for chastity and sobriety…

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  49. big bruv (13,888 comments) says:

    nickb

    Clearly you have been partaking of the socialist Redbaiter Kool-Aid.

    The Tea party is a movement that I MIGHT have had some time for had it not been captured by the religious zealots (is that an acceptable word Nick?) and the gun freaks.
    Did it not cross your mind that the Tea party might be raving fucking lunatics given our own resident lunatic Comrade Redbaiter is such a fan?….remember Nick these are the same people who think that Sarah Palin is great.

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  50. sparky (235 comments) says:

    I will be voting John Key National again without a doubt. John Key is an excellent Leader and Prime Minister. He has steered us though a very difficult time, globally. I sure as hell will not be voting for the communists. I have too much respect for the country, to see low life destroy it. We have a growing economy, why throw that away.

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  51. duggledog (1,556 comments) says:

    kowtow

    Morality is chump change. It’s evaporated. It’s hardly a consideration. The old fashioned values I grew up with are seldom seen except in scout halls and retirement villages. I wish this was not true but I think it is. Look at all the dishonesty rife in today’s society, from the top down. Finance companies, cops, prison guards, politicians, Len Brown, the church, it’s ridiculous.

    The institution of marriage has been warped and is seldom durable. Christian values have somehow been devalued and are seen as weird or at best quaint. Dishonesty is rife – look at the newspaper any day you like. Ordinary good manners are hardly seen.

    Last year I went to Christmas in the Park. There was a Maori boy about thirteen with a T shirt that said Fuck You in large letters on the front. I didn’t see anybody even raising their eyebrows.

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  52. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    reading this thread I have arrived at the conclusion that if some on here won lotto Divsion One they would bitch and moan that it wasn’t enough

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  53. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    Sorry Paul. It’s just that people trying to paint Key as anything other than a slightly blokier Helen Clark make me laugh.

    National will lose in 2014 or 2017 with their sole achievement being the sale of a minority stake in 3 power companies, and you will mourn their downfall like it signals an onslaught of Labour-led communism. It speaks volumes about most New Zealander’s political analysis skills that they can’t comprehend that National have been a status quo government basically keeping the seats warm for Labour.

    At least Labour and the Greens know what they stand for. For my part I am voting Greens next year to a) get a CGT to give me a licence to print money, b) for the comedy value of a coalition hydra led by NZ’s biggest narcissist and c) hasten our Greek-style debt crisis to hopefully finally wean people off the government tit.

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  54. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    duggledog – I think you’re viewing the past through rose tinted glasses. There have always been dishonest people and politicians who slept around.
    When I was 14 I used to have a shirt with a skeleton hand doing the fingers, it’s just what kids of that age do.

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  55. Scott (1,800 comments) says:

    Duggledog,that is what has been so disappointing about John Key. We have young people with no hope,no respect and no clue. Traditionally they were brought up by mum and dad who were married and gave the kid a stable family unit. That upbringing is fast disappearing especially for maori who are likely to be brought up by one unmarried parent,usually mum. National could have at least restored family authority by repealing the antismacking legislation . It could have steered well clear of gay marriage which is actually marriage redefinition and can only weaken traditional marriage even further. Thats why there is room for a party of traditional morals such as the conservatives. National used to be the traditional morals,law and order party. But they have abandoned that ground and John Key has led them to instead embrace the siren call of the progressive movement.

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  56. Daigotsu (457 comments) says:

    @RedBaiter: Lange’s refusal of NZ nuke ships required ‘courage’? What a disgusting thing to say. Your apologism for Lange’s pro-Soviet stance reveals you for what you truly are, just another brain damaged progressive always whining and apologising for those who want to weaken our country.

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  57. Shazzadude (529 comments) says:

    “Pauleastbay (4,573) Says:

    November 2nd, 2013 at 1:07 pm
    shazzadude

    remind me who got elected in 2011 again please”

    National formed a minority government with 47% of the vote, as opposed to the outright majority that Fairfax, Colmar-Brunton and TV3 Reid Research all polled in election week. Funnily enough, these are the same three polling companies that claim National is in the mid to high forties.

    Roy Morgan, the only major poll that accurately had National with a plurality but not a majority of votes in election week 2011, has consistently polled National in the low 40s in recent months.

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  58. sparky (235 comments) says:

    #REDBAITER

    You have to actually believe in something before you can convince others to follow you.

    Your statement above, must only be pointing at silent “T” Cun. life. He couldn’t convince anyone with intelligence, because he is lying every time he speaks.

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