A tale of two Labour leaders

July 11th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Ninth&10 reports:

Ed Miliband today achieved what might previously have seemed impossible. His Labour Party/union reform speech had Tony Blair gushing before it was even delivered – and it had the approval of Unite Union leader Len McCluskey immediately afterwards. …

But whatever the long-term impact of Miliband’s ideas, he achieved a tidy political set-piece today. This mattered for Ed because he is often written up as a man not ready for the job. In the middle of last week, some of his front-bench was briefing that he needed to “get a grip” on the union influence stories spilling forth from the initial problem in Falkirk. In a few days of practiced political management, Miliband does seem to have tightened – if not quite sewn up – this troublesome narrative, for the time being, at least.

You can look back on the past week and see a plan that was quickly put together and decisively executed. There was a resignation, suspensions and police referrals last week. A grim-faced Angela Eagle was deployed to tell a “get tough” story on Falkirk. This week, the lobby was briefed in advance of Miliband’s speech on some meaty reform details. Blair obliged with his warm endorsement on Sky News right ahead of the speech and Miliband sprung a genuine surprise with a voter-friendly proposal to restrict the amount MPs can earn outside of their day jobs. The analysts were so impressed by this last point that they said Miliband had hurled the ball cleverly in to the Tory half of the court for a response.

And this is how competent political management should look.

The contrast with David Shearer’s Labour leadership in New Zealand is incredibly stark. MPs in NZ are again whispering to journalists about Shearer’s leadership and playing dumb with their bosses when asked for an explanation (this is what I took to have happened with the Duncan Garner tweet drama last night, NZ time, for those who were following it). Whatever his colleagues say, it’s clear that Shearer does not have enough of the confidence of his own caucus. …

He seems too far gone as leader now.

The diverging prospects of the two Labour leaders over the past week are instructive. Neither man is as politically gifted as his centre-right adversary, but at least one of them is making some of his own luck.

To be fair to Shearer, he is not solely responsible. The Deputy Leader is meant to play a key role in party management, as are the staff.

Know your place Prime Minister

December 16th, 2011 at 3:48 pm by David Farrar

John Hartevelt blogs:

It’s right that New Zealanders discuss and debate who should be conferred the top awards. The media should lead the discussion and the PM and his ministerial colleagues on the adjudicating committee ought to take heed.

Oh I see. It is the role of the media to lead the discussion on who gets knighted, and it is the role of the Prime Minister to tale heed.

I’m gob-smacked.

As to why Key mentioned Richie McCaw had indicated he thought a knighthood was premature, it’s simple.

If McCaw wasn’t included when the honours are announced, then the media focus would all be on him missing out, rather than on those who gained the honours. So Key gets it out early that Richie has said he doesn’t think it is appropriate while he is still playing (a stance I agree with), and that means when the honours come out, the focus will be on those who do get one.

Great minds think alike

August 8th, 2011 at 2:19 pm by David Farrar

I was just about to sit down and blog about Labour’s pitiful rip-off of Whale Oil’s Texts from Helen, where Trevor did Txts from JK. I wasn’t sure what was worse – that it was unoriginal, or that it wasn’t funny, or that a man near 60 is doing teenage text speak or that it doesn’t even “fit”. It is well known Helen is an inveterate texter and keeps in touch with many of her former colleagues. While John Key and Jenny Shipley were never even in Parliament together.

But I don’t have to blog all that, as John Hartevelt has done it for me at Stuff:

Sigh. Another day and the Labour Party takes yet another turn for the cringe-makingly desperate.

The party’s chief strategist, their sharpest political mind and the chap responsible for winning the election campaign has this morning come up with this rather lame attempt at humour.

Trevor Mallard’s theft of an overused and not terribly funny concept from a right-wing blogger is just a bit sad.

If it was an isolated example of an odd attack on the PM, it wouldn’t rate a mention.

But ever since the intellectual excitement and esprit de corps that accompanied Labour’s tax policy announcement died down a fortnight ago, a steady drip feed of rather juvenile stunts – many of them played out unthinkingly online – has been issued from a few in the Labour caucus.

Mallard and the Dunedin South MP Clare Curran are the chief mischief makers. A missive from Curran last week seemed to subtly encourage readers to make some sort of a link between John Key and the 1991 US invasion of Iraq, on the grounds that a PR company hired by Tourism NZ to secure a spot for Key on the Letterman show was the same firm that had been criticised for its role “as mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign”. Good grief.

These have got so bad, that even on Red Alert Labour MPs are getting a pasting for such idiocy. The response is for Clare Curran to do a poll asking people if they agree that Red Alert should be moderated more tightly, with no option for people to say that the censorship there is already way over the top.

Normally you would count on the campaign manager, being the one to tell MPs who are making the party look like idiots, to pull their heads in. But when it is the campaign manager himself leading the charge, well you really do have problems.

Double talk from the Greens

July 26th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Hughes blogs:

The Green Party does not have a deal with the Labour candidate, Charles Chauvel, nor does it intend to ask its supporters to vote for him in an attempt to defeat Peter Dunne in the Ōhariu seat. …

In Ōhariu, just like in every other electorate, we are only campaigning for Kiwis’ party vote.

I’m not telling people who to vote for as their electorate MP in Ōhariu but I am upfront with them – I like Charles and I think Dunne is done: he’s out-dated and voters are tiring of his brand of bland ‘any way the wind blows’ politics. This is evidenced by his falling popularity in the electorate over the last three elections, as well as his dismal party vote throughout the country.

Our position is very different from National’s deals in Epsom and Ōhariu where they are telling their supporters to vote for the Act and United Future Party’s candidates.

This is double talk, or less politely crap. Gareth is trying to say he is not telling people to vote Chauvel, except that he also says he is telling people he likes Chauvel and thinks Dunne is done.

Gareth also mis-represents National’s position. It is in fact identical to what the Greens are doing. National is campaigning for the party vote only in Epsom and Ohariu. It is not telling supporters whom to vote for.

I can guarantee you that Gareth will tell far far more people to support Chauvel, than Katrina Shanks will tell people to vote Peter Dunne. Katrina will be loyal and campaign for the party vote only I am sure, but I suspect it will be a warm day in hell before she tells someone to vote for Peter Dunne.

To some degree, it is all a fuss about nothing anyway. So long as candidates are on the ballot paper, people have a choice to vote for them. And most party supporters do not give a toss what the party hierarchy wants them to do. In 2005 the party hierarchy wrote letters to all Epsom voters asking them to vote for Richard Worth, but the National voters made up their own mind and voted Hide.

Likewise in Ohariu Katrina got around 7,000 votes, despite United Future having pledged it would support a National-led Government, and had John Key welcome it.

Now I am not the only one less than impressed with the Greens double-talk. John Hartevelt blogs:

If it looks like a deal, sounds like a deal and smells like a deal, it’s probably a deal.

The Green Party has taken great offence at the suggestion they are tied up in some kind of agreement with Labour in the Ohariu electorate.

Co-leader Metiria Turei told off the media via Twitter for not getting their side of the story before pushing what the party is now calling “rumours” of a deal in Ohariu. The party insists there is no deal with Labour. Rather, there is some convoluted position whereby Greens candidate Gareth Hughes doesn’t tell people to vote for him or for Labour’s Charles Chauvel … but he does say that incumbent Peter Dunne is a dinosaur and ought to go; that the Greens are concentrating on the party vote; AND that, by the way, they reckon Mr Chauvel is really rather great. Ahem, wink wink, nudge nudge.

Well frankly, I call BS on the Greens’ position. …

Labour have played this game also. For example, Helen Clark told people in 2005 to vote for Richard Worth, to try and keep Rodney out. Parties will always advocate people vote in a way which maximises their chance of being in Government. This is why we might see Phil Goff encourage people to vote for Winston Peters, to help Labour’s chances of forming a Government.

Hartevelt on Tolley

April 10th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Hartevelt writes in the SST:

THEY USED to mock Anne Tolley. They used to laugh at her rambling, head-scratching monologues and wonder at how she had made it to such an important job. They used to say she was not up to it and that she would surely get the flick from her boss, John Key.

But the joke is not so funny any more. Anne Tolley has turned in to this government’s great survivor.

She has seen off four Labour Party pretenders to her job and, after two years of battening down the hatches, the minister of education is finally on the front foot.

Besides dispatching Chris Carter, Trevor Mallard, Darren Hughes and the short-term acting spokesman, David Shearer, Tolley has also witnessed the backs of arch union leader critics Kate Gainsford and Frances Nelson.

She has stared down endless and noisy criticism of her flagship national standards to the point that she is confident enough to show up at this weekend’s meeting of the Principals’ Federation and tell them all about a controversial new policy she’s pushing to fast-track teachers into the job. …

Once she has managed to consistently avoid gaffes that make her look stupid, Tolley’s ordinariness becomes an asset. The barbs from the intelligentsia then start to rebound and become political assets to Tolley. National Party voters like nothing better than straight-up sheilas sticking it up the namby-pamby commentariat.

That’s why they reckon Tolley is such a hit in the airport lounges. Her supporters say she often gets parents walking up to her without hesitation to talk about her national standards and to puzzle with her about why people hate on her so much.

The campaign against Tolley was so nasty and personal, that having endured it she got sympathy. You had union leaders on television sneering at her, and making it clear they would rather destroy her than work with her, and the average punter didn’t like that.

Dom Post rates the first two years

November 27th, 2010 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

In today’s Dominion Post, Vernon Small and John Hartevelt rate the high achievers and the casualties of the first tow years of the Government.Note the comments below are my extracts of what Vernon and John said – they are not my personal views.

Top of the Class

  1. John Key 8.5/10
  2. Simon Power 8.0/10 – they suggest he moves to Education
  3. Steven Joyce 7.5/10 – possible Finance Minister in the future
  4. Gerry Brownlee – has risen from defeat to become one of Govt’s best assets – they say he may be in line for deputy PM
  5. Tim Groser – 6.5/10 – a good example of why you have List MPs, doing an excellent job in trade


  • Richard Worth
  • Bill English over his housing allowance
  • Melissa Lee over Mt Albert
  • Aaron Gilmore over his CV
  • Pansy Wong over her travel


  • Anne Tolley 4.5/10 – valiantly trying against the powerful education unions
  • Rodney Hide – 4.0/10 – his imploding caucus
  • Georgina te Hehheu – 2.5/10 – what does she do?
  • Pansy Wong – 2.0/10 – even before she quit, they say she had sunk without trace

Rising Backbenchers

  • Craig Foss – favoured to narrowly beat his Hawke’s Bay colleague into Cabinet
  • Hekia Parata – a strong showing in Mana, and in her previous career
  • Chester Borrows – a solid Chairman of Justice & Electoral Committee
  • Amy Adams – has shone in the House

The Success Stories

  • The tax switch
  • A stable Government
  • Law & Order

Disasters and Pressure Points

  • The economy
  • The environment
  • Natural disasters

Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree, any additions you would make, and where?

The most obvious omission to me is Tony Ryall in the top of the class. I doubt a single MP would say he is not up there.

A fee is fair

May 5th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt reports:

A proposed annual fee to be charged to more than 500,000 Kiwis with student debt will net the Government at least $15 million.

The fee, expected to be charged at about $50 a year on every person with student debt, is being floated as part of a package to try to recover the spiralling cost of the student loans scheme. …

The Government was “looking at” extending an annual fee system to charge everyone with student-loan debt between $40 and $50 as long as they have money owing. Students already pay a $50 fee every year that they borrow to study.

“The view I have taken of it is that I actually don’t think that is fair when you consider it compared with any other form of loan you have,” Joyce said.

“We’re looking at an ongoing account fee which will be a flat amount and just helps to recover the costs of administering the loan system.”

Administration of the scheme cost about $50m a year, and the existing fee collected only about $10m every year.

“There is a $40m hole,” Joyce said. “The writeoff of the administration costs is massive and so what we’re looking at is whether we can come up with a reasonable fee which people continue to pay as long as they’ve got a loan account.”

Loan recipients benefit to the tune of thousands of dollars by having the loans interest free. I don’t see why the administration costs of the scheme should also be picked up by the taxpayer. The proposed $40 to $50 annual fee is modest and will not even fully cover the administration costs.

Figures to be released today show that the total amount borrowed has increased by 20 per cent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year.

The increase came from a rise in the number of students taking out loans (up 13 per cent) and the amount each borrowed (up 6 per cent for fees and 5 per cent for living costs).

More and more students will take advantage of interest free loans, even if they don’t need the money. It is human nature. At some stage a Government will need to look at charging interest again – even if only to cover inflation.