Armstrong on Tricky

February 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

In what is ominously but obviously quickly becoming a year-long de facto election campaign, you can guarantee National will try to drum one particular message into voters’ brains.

National will make considerable effort to permanently typecast David Cunliffe as a politician who cannot be trusted.

Such a strategy would have been a complete waste of time were the mild-mannered David Shearer still ’s leader.

It is equally unlikely to have had much effect had it been applied to Phil Goff, someone who commanded respect, if not popularity.

But voters know little about Cunliffe. They may have watched his brazen undermining of Shearer’s leadership at Labour’s annual conference in 2012. They may have heard his disingenuous-sounding denials that he was fomenting trouble.

And they may have noted that the policies he pushed in the leadership primary, are not quite the same ones he is now pushing.

Something was missing, however, from the explanatory paperwork handed out to journalists covering the policy’s launch in west Auckland.

The material made no mention of the policy’s stipulation that those qualifying for the $60-a-week “baby bonus” would not get any money until their household’s eligibility for paid parental leave had been exhausted.

As Labour intends to expand paid parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks, Cunliffe’s assertion in his speech notes that “all” families eligible for Best Start would get the weekly $60 payment “for the first year of their child’s life” did not tell the whole story.

Cunliffe subsequently blamed a speech-writer for the wording. And – to be fair – the policy and the conditions governing the varying amounts of cash to be paid to families during the up to three years that their child might qualify for assistance were mostly spelled out in detail on Labour’s website.

Mostly. There was scant mention of Labour’s intention to abolish the parental tax credit to help fund the new policy.

That tax credit is worth up to $150 a week for some families, and covers the first eight weeks of a baby’s life. That is equivalent to 20 weeks on Labour’s new scheme.

There is further evidence Labour’s scheme is not as generous as it might appear at first glance.

The first income-tested payment for 1-year-olds will not occur until April 2017 – more than three years away. Meanwhile, Labour has quietly canned its 2011 policy to pay the $60-a-week in-work tax credit to beneficiaries.

Labour has done itself no favours by failing to be totally upfront about its intentions. Reporters at the policy launch should have been able to rely on the information given to them. They will be asking whether the absence of important facts was a genuine mistake or an accidental omission on Labour’s part, or whether they were being deliberately kept in the dark in an attempt to increase the chances of uncritical coverage of the baby bonus.

Buying a fight with the media is not the smartest way to kick off election year.

What Labour should have done is provide tables showing the net changes for different families. Instead they provided tables only showing the gains, but not the losses, providing a misleading impression.

Labour’s rhetoric has noticeably toughened under Cunliffe – and for one reason.

There seems to be no mood in the electorate for a change of government. Without such a mood, Labour – which anyway does not look ready to govern – and the Greens – who do have their act together – have to manufacture one.

Like the manufactured crisis in manufacturing!

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27 Responses to “Armstrong on Tricky”

  1. dirty harry (489 comments) says:

    Labour. The gift that just keeps on giving.

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  2. DJP6-25 (1,387 comments) says:

    Whats bad for Grebour is good for NZ.

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  3. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    The media will however continue to carry The Cunliffe’s weasel words verbatim. They will never challenge him. For instance no one in the media has challenged The Cunliffe to prove that 20% of children do not have a second pair of shoes. They are not reporters they are merely repeaters. Press releases are printed verbatim. The media want the sense of a battle for election 2014. They will assist The Cunliffe and the Greens all year.

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  4. redqueen (563 comments) says:

    Appears to be off the drugs then, eh?

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  5. Yoza (1,875 comments) says:

    “It is equally unlikely to have had much effect had it been applied to Phil Goff, someone who commanded respect, if not popularity.”

    Does John Armstrong know where New Zealand is? Phil Goff was less popular than Shearer, which is an appalling benchmark to go beneath.

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  6. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    “Armstrong on Tricky”

    What does that mean? Is ‘Tricky’ the hallucinogenic drug that explains Armstrong’s columns, or what?

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  7. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @Psycho Milt – It appears that ‘Tricky’ is the new nickname that the National party are trying to bestow on David Cunliffe and DPF is happy to oblige. It rolls off the tongue better than ‘cats that look like’. However ‘tricky Cunliffe’ does not have the same punch as, say, ‘tricky Tony (Blair)’. They could use ‘cunning Cunliffe’ but ‘cunning’ can also be a good thing.

    Judith Collins has been pushing for ‘Cunners’ as the unofficial David Cunliffe nickname, but that has the hint of a certain sexual act so is probably off limits.

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  8. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    Bizarre. Still, I’m no killjoy – I shall henceforth refer to John Key as Wibble, just to get into the spirit of things.

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  9. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Labour’s confusion, lies, and hasty backtracking over the Baby Bribe is complex enough that a lot of people just won’t take time to understand it all. But everyone understands that in an omnishambles of a week, Cunliffe didn’t even know that Lorde spells her name with an “e”. The man lives under a rock.

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  10. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    YesWeDid – at least we can currently rule out Cocky Cunliffe.

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  11. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    ‘Lorde spells her name with an “e”. The man lives under a rock.’

    And John Key had no idea what a fox says……………..what the hell is wrong with our politicians??

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  12. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Well his middle name is Richard, so why not David “Tricky Dickie” Cunliffe?

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  13. Yoza (1,875 comments) says:

    Armstrong:

    Best Start is most notable for its promise of a $60-a-week payment to families with newborn babies. The policy is Labour’s strongest pitch yet that when it comes to tackling child poverty, it is far more committed than other political parties.

    I am sure the Mana party and the Greens would strongly dispute such a claim.

    bhudson (4,635 comments) says:
    February 3rd, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Well his middle name is Richard, so why not David “Tricky Dickie” Cunliffe?

    I don’t think the nickname thing is going to work very well considering his already well known sobriquet, ‘Silent T’.

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  14. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    I prefer “Silent T”

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  15. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    Sorry, now I’m really confused. So, the silent ‘T’ is for ‘Tricky?’

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  16. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    I prefer “Tojo” . . . he has a penchant for appealing to Japs.

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  17. MH (757 comments) says:

    As Shearer once said after being deposed. Labour – Cunliffe with them,cunliffe without them.

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  18. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    The Standard is always good for a laugh. Just read nasty sexist comments about Judith Collins and her looks and nasty racist comments about National men marrying Asian women.
    Do these Lefties ever do a reality check for consistency? Not to mention hypocrisy.

    And that was the whole point of Tolley’s comment, that it was a bit rich being lectured (in that awful pompous didactic way Metiria Turia has) on poverty by a list MP who wears very very expensive clothes. Tolley herself is an outstanding electorate MP who is known for her concern for her constituents and their struggles.

    And Tolley and Collins look good while Turia looks as though she is dressing up in her grandmother’s clothes.

    Status, money and the whiff of power go to even a Green head!

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  19. lolitasbrother (697 comments) says:

    Cunliffe policy is absurd beyond natural belief, paying people to have babies

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  20. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    “National will make considerable effort to permanently typecast David Cunliffe as a politician who cannot be trusted.”

    Is that not what Labour, other lefties and main stream media have been doing ever since John Key became leader? I remember UMR doing a poll in 2008 including a question about John Key being ‘slippery’.

    So when the boot is on the other foot and John Key has good reason to be critical of David Cunliffe, the lefties and MSM all start bleating.

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  21. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    @Psycho Milt and @YesWeDid: I presume neither of you have either engaged in calling John Key “smile and wave” or “shonky” or any of the other nicknames the left like to apply. Personally not a big fan of nicknames going either way, but I definitely find it a bit rich when people on either side try to take the moral high ground on it.

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  22. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    Talking of The Standard and trying to typecast as unable to be trusted they frequently try that with Key. There’s a popular and repeatedly posted list the details many of the times Key is alleged to have lied. A common name used is Shonkey. “Tricky” is comparable to that.

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  23. doggone7 (805 comments) says:

    For a minute I thought I’d clocked into WhaleOil on seeing the trite, pathetic use of the name for Cunliffe. One kid in the sandpit starts calling someone a silly name so all the wannabe kids start using the same name. Not of course that that I expect intelligent discourse here but surely there must be someone aspiring to that.

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  24. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    I just call him The Cunliffe as in The Saviour, The Lord, The Redeemer. It is after all how he thinks of himself.

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  25. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    As mean as it sounds Cunliffe looks significantly smarmier than Key. Key sometimes looks a bit too happy with himself for his own good and I can see how he p*****s off the left but Cunliffe mostly looks like he thinks he thinks he is so much cleverer than the rest of the world he could be a cunning plan from Blackadder.

    Our political scene is such that this matters.

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  26. itstricky (1,831 comments) says:

    At last a subject I feel I can comment on.

    Personally not a big fan of nicknames going either way, but I definitely find it a bit rich when people on either side try to take the moral high ground

    I look forward to the next post on KB or your blog about Shonkey then. Or is that not what you are talking about? I find it a bit rich when people take the moral high ground about the moral high ground…

    Talking of The Standard and trying to typecast as unable to be trusted they frequently try that with Key

    So… Are we in agreement that DPF is not the bigger man, or that KB has become The Blue Standard? Or worse… Whale?

    Another step towards the Woman’s Weekly Mess. Farrar

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  27. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Sorry, now I’m really confused. So, the silent ‘T’ is for ‘Tricky?’

    David “The T is for Tricky” Cunliffe. Might stick.

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