MUST READ: Election Campaign Looms: Is It Time For Labour To Abandon NZF?

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With the New Zealand General Election campaign looming, parties in the Labour-led coalition government are openly parading their differences (rather than common-ground) before the voting public.

It’s a situation that can be interpreted as being typical of MMP politics. But it also causes voters to rethink its record-level support for its most favoured party Labour, and, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

This week’s June 25 Colmar Brunton poll reveals what we suspected: New Zealand First has collapsed, down a further 1.1% to 1.8%, while Labour holds impressively above 50% support. National has rebounded from a bruising 29% in the May Colmar Brunton to 38% support. The Green Party is up 1.3% to 6%. ACT is up 0.9 to 3.1%, and, of the parties outside of Parliament, the Maori Party is on 0.9%.

It is clear, that battle for the political centre-ground shows New Zealand First has been squeezed out by National – this under the new leadership of social-conservative and traditional stakeholders’ choice, Todd Muller.

It also explains why New Zealand First leader Winston Peters this week began tactically to signal that his political mongrel is back. Peters’ has unleashed a determination to create distance between his party and those of his coalition partners Labour and the Greens.

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Peters exits the week openly antagonistic toward articles of the coalition Government’s legislative agenda – a move that’s caused Labour to file plans for its 2017 election promise (to build light rail in Auckland) and to further negotiate with New Zealand First points of its ‘fair commercial rent reductions and compulsory arbitration plan’. The latter is an important cog in the Government’s post-Covid stability plan. The former is simply a kick in the guts from New Zealand First – a party that Labour has often resisted irritating through this three year term.

But considering Muller’s and National’s rising fortunes (and it must be said, the collapse of New Zealand First) is it time for Labour to abandon Peters to the proverbial wolves? Is there political currency in calling a spade a spade – to admit to voters that New Zealand First is destabilising the coalition Government and that disloyalty must be dealt with before a largely supportive public gets fed up and votes accordingly on Polling Day?

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STRATEGY

Normally, early in an election year, we would expect smaller parties in the Labour-Greens-New Zealand First coalition to begin speaking loudly to their base. But the Covid-19 lockdown poured water over that.

Now there’s desperation among the Greens and New Zealand First MPs. They will be well aware that political history involving MMP shows small parties in government often lose their political voice and, on election day, are bypassed by the voting public.

New Zealand First, in particular, is demanding to be heard. I spoke about this on Radio New Zealand today.

When you stand back and observe the coalition, its dynamic, its purpose, its stability (up until now…) it is clear, Peters’ actions are strategic while destabilising.

Winston Peters insists his party is principled with commonsense as the central premise. But the reality is, Peters is sending a signal to centre-voters (and conservatives who believe Labour is going to win the 2020 General Election) that he and New Zealand First will be their insurance policy. That he, post-election, will stop any non-centrist/conservative policies from getting off the ground.

His tactics soak up attention-time when explaining his party’s behaviour. His stance demands to be heard, to be relevant through the election campaign – despite the 2% poll showing. The goal is for Peters to re-emerge this September as a King or Queen maker in post-election negotiations.

But at this juncture, should Labour tolerate this destabilisation? Should it permit Peters to play his strategy out? Or, should Labour create outcasts of Peters and his MPs?

That strategy, as does Peters’, comes with risk. Labour could be seen to fail its post-Covid recovery plan and elongate the insecurities that election campaigns create.

New Zealand First risks being regarded as a destructive element in an otherwise popular Government – where some see Labour as having been kept back by New Zealand First and desiring of a government post-election where Jacinda Ardern can be a true natural-born leader without being shackled by coalition sensitivities.

The Greens, if they play their hand well, may counter New Zealand First by demonstrating its loyalty to Ardern’s style of leadership and campaign as a necessary and true friend of Labour’s.

When the cards fall, New Zealand First risks standing alone as a political irrelevance – but it’s a risk that Peters is prepared to take. Some will say, at 1.8% he has nothing to lose.

THE CAUSE AND EFFECT

The Green Party and New Zealand First came out of lockdown to realise Labour had become a political juggernaut.

Their respective voices were drowned out by the Labour machine. As we emerged from Alert Level 4:

    • Labour, was well on the way toward eliminating Covid-19 from our communities
    • Labour had delivered HUGE financial support to people and business
    • Labour had initiated fiscal stimulus programmes (many favourable to NZF)
    • Jacinda Ardern became the most popular Prime Minister in a generation.

BUT… as National slowly got its act together, after a series of well-documented stumbles, National’s new leadership team put its running shoes on and, suddenly, competition for New Zealand’s centre-votes intensified.

From June 17, National created in some measure the perfect storm (please see last week’s EveningReport editorial: Snakes and Mirrors which lays bare how National placed politics ahead of the public’s health).

Since then, it has continued to create a sense of chaos, insisting its old foe, the Labour-led Government had bungled its Covid-19 controls at the border and at isolation and quarantine facilities. In effect, National successfully politicised the handling of the pandemic – a certain danger that overseas experience shows is at odds with the public interest when fighting against Covid-19.

But among the political noise, National did expose a relaxed culture among those officials, the gatekeepers, charged with ensuring our Covid-19 testing regime was robust. Politics aside, it was clear, the country and the Government had been let down. But National was able to juxtaposition Labour as the cause of the fiasco.

Despite the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately transferring management of isolation and quarantine facilities to the military – a move that was swift, decisive, and characteristically Ardern – the perfect political storm created uncertainty and fear among the population.

Remember, politics is a commodity and day after day for over a week, the public has heard calls from National that the Minister of Health David Clark should resign. Many media, scenting controversy and political blood, polished up their competitive-bias to seize the moment too. After all, political relevancy isn’t the only show in town.

That is the backdrop to New Zealand First’s advance.

HAS LABOUR HAD ENOUGH?

Labour, for its part, has decided enough’s enough.

This week, Labour revealed New Zealand First was opposing legislation destined to advance before The Parliament AFTER it had supported it through Cabinet. With New Zealand First acting contrary to its interests, Labour’s leadership has decided a passive-aggressive bare knuckle fight is necessary.

As the party with its political hand firmly on the Government’s tiller, Labour is now openly identifying legislation that can be filed until after the election while pushing legislation that SHOULD be addressed with urgency.

If Labour does believe New Zealand First has gone beyond the Rubicon, and it appears it is moving toward that position, then it will be in Labour’s and the nation’s interests to paint Winston Peters and his party as disruptive and disloyal to a handshake made in good faith.

If it does, it will likely be New Zealand First, not Labour, that will be further punished at the polls. And frankly, in the public’s interest, the General Election can’t come soon enough.

 

Selwyn Manning is the editor of Evening Report.

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. I would argue that New Zealand First has already abandoned Labour.
    Winston Peters campaigned before the last election on a progressive platform, vowing that New Zealand had stagnated under National and with it came a kind of general social depression and that if part of the government NZ First would change that.
    Instead they have reinforced what was going on before, hamstrung the more progressive elements of the coalition government except for a few things that suited them – like the provincial growth fund.

    • NZFirst abandoned and lied to the UK pensioner’s after it said it would change the illegal stance of the NZ Govt over UK/NZ pensions, as did Jacinda.
      Given the number of the ‘UK pensioners’ and that many of NZFirst’s vote come from pensioners it’s easy to see why the NZF vote is collapsing.

  2. Only problem is you hand the power-lusting neoliberal nutjob National opposition a coalition partner (assuming never-say-die Winston gets NZF over the line).

    A National-led govt. would be the worst outcome for this country. And with Winston in the mix pulling the handbrake every five seconds, private profit-taking interests would take over everything in NZ.

    Then the Hobbits could watch ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ as a real time event, rather than a Peter Jackson LOTR Part 4 money-making venture (please Peter, don’t even think about it!) .

  3. Winnie has reneged on his policy of challenging neoliberalism, and has yet again demonstrated he has no workable policies or ethics to speak of.

    The vast majority of politicians are demonstrating, yet again, that they are a major part of the problem and can never be part of the solution.

    With the world in the midst of the greatest financial, economic, social and population crash in history, and with the environment collapsing as a consequence of BAU, all our so-called leaders are offering is more of what got us into this horrific mess -a return to some form of BAU.

    Guess what, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Indeed, it is unlikely the globalised system will even last until September.

    The world is ‘on fire’

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/25/arctic-heatwave-38c-siberia-science

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/jun/25/coronavirus-live-news-who-warns-of-global-oxygen-shortage-as-cases-rise-by-1m-per-week

    and politicians want to pour yet more fuel on the fire!!!????

  4. Interesting to see how the NZ journalists behave during this election…. and how many trips to China they receive courtesy of Chinese propaganda campaigns….

    “The IFJ report, The China Story: reshaping the world’s media, argues Beijing is also seeking to build control over messaging infrastructure – effectively the channels by which countries receive news – through foreign media acquisitions and large-scale telecommunications ventures. The report found the decade-long campaign “seems to be escalating”.

    The lesson from my trip to China? Solomon Islands is not ready to deal with this giant
    Dorothy Wickham
    Read more
    The survey, carried out in September and October 2019, asked journalism unions from 58 countries on whether they have received overtures from Beijing. This included questions about sponsored trips, content-sharing agreements and approaches to sign bilateral agreements with Chinese bodies.

    Journalists from 29 of the nations surveyed had been on trips to China, with almost two-thirds of respondents judging that China has a visible presence in their national media. One-third of the journalism unions surveyed had been approached by Chinese entities seeking joint agreements.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/25/china-targeting-non-english-speaking-journalists-in-new-push-for-influence-study

    Roll on freedom of speech – sarcasm … (actually the opposite) … as superpowers control and have strategies in place to influence more and more international media – just like they seek to heavily control their own journalists…

      • Nope UK/USA do not control 99% of the news and misinformation, it seems more a free for all between governments and big business controlling the narrative these days and often using trolls that totally skew what people really believe….

        “Influencer Jenna Abrams, had an account with 70,000 followers, was quoted by mainstream media outlets like The New York Times for her xenophobic and far-right opinions, but was actually an invention controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-funded troll farm and not a living, breathing person.

        Trolls often don’t care about the issues as much as they care about creating division and distrust. For example, researchers in 2018 concluded that some of the most influential accounts on both sides of divisive issues, like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, were controlled by troll farms.

        More than just fanning disagreement, trolls want to encourage a belief that truth no longer exists. Divide and conquer. Distrust anyone who might serve as a leader or trusted voice. Cut off the head. Demoralize. Confuse. Each of these is a devastating attack strategy.”

        https://theconversation.com/how-fake-accounts-constantly-manipulate-what-you-see-on-social-media-and-what-you-can-do-about-it-139610

        • I agree with much of your post but must add the international news we get here as proliferated by MSM is from three agencies that collaborate with almost identical reports.
          Local stuff of an international flavour has few if any investigative reporters.
          We don’t have a John Pilger in NZ and his stuff rarely reaches our MSM if it is current news.
          We don’t get Middle East news that is counter to Reuters who are mainline gatekeepers for UK/US.
          Try and find independent news in MSM on the USA being in Syria illegally, taking their oil and funding terrorist groups they provide with armaments including tanks.

          • I agree John W… sadly media is now mostly propaganda…. thus have a declining audience… also social media is taking the news and then modifying it and profiting from it as click bait and even more propaganda individually targeted. Media and government, too slow to do anything about it.

  5. Firstly NZ First have bought their demise on themselves and it was clear well before Covid that they were in trouble.

    I’ve never voted for them and am not a pensioner, but have a soft spot in terms of Winston’s ability to do what ever he likes, his long career navigating being a Maori MP which can’t have been easy and having the most Maori MP’s in his top 3 of COL which the woke don’t like to mention, and his previous loyalty to the pensioners and keeping NZ – NZ First.

    Sadly it seems more like NZ Last these days with how things are turning out to locals in NZ who are barely mentioned these days in the media or government…

    NZ First have traditionally been a party that were pro ages 65+ and considered an ‘anti immigration’ party, aka wanting to keep benefits to foreign nationals more in line with world standards aka NZ free pensions/health care/aged care not being readily available to the world’s pensioners after a short amount of time resident in NZ.

    This is because NZ lazy pension laws to foreign pensioners (and permanent residency and benefits) have lead to a time bomb for the current workers who may never even see a pension in their life time as they work instead towards other pensioners or foreign beneficiaries who may have recently come to NZ…. AKA predicted in approx 14 years there will be more than 171,000 Asian pensioners qualified for NZ pensions without necessarily ever worked in NZ which is more than the Maori and Pacific Island pensioners combined… https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12281479

    How has this happened when not so long ago, Maori were 15% and Pacific Islanders 10% of the NZ population in terms of demographics? Obviously the woke and NZ government officials don’t seem to worry or care about this (bit like the well paid Watercare CEO not noticing the drought or population increase as Auckland runs out of water)… inadvertently helping the neoliberal causes as they bungle from one trigger to the next while avoiding any elephants in the room of demographic engineering, as inconvenient truths …

    Once gaining power NZ First seem to have thrown all that to the wind to the dismay of their long term supporters. There have been hundreds of thousands of temporary work permits for migrants with COL – given out to laughable industries like retail and tourism and labourers now all in trouble. The degrees are as questionable as the ability for a domestic students body to lie undiscovered in a NZ university residency hall for months. The big infrastructure issues are getting worse and it’s a lot more than houses and roads now, like water and health care and family court and judicial services and jails.

    NZ First seems to have taken money through third parties from property developers which were then able to sell apartments to overseas nationals in spite of the toothless attempt to clamp down on foreign nationals buying NZ property. (OIO have instead granted more permits to foreigners to buy land and businesses here under COL and there are more holes in the overseas property act than Swiss cheese).

    Bizarrely somehow, and maybe with a dirty politics strategy NZ First and the Greens have somehow at a time when their previous observations have come to the forefront in terms of voters, their party has suddenly undergone a u turn in policy.

    AKA in the last 3 years when the effects of lazy immigration (NZ First) and Climate change and biodiversity destruction (Greens) have become obvious to a larger audience, the parties seemingly have gone against their party traditions onto either the opposite of what they traditionally stood for or aggressive posturing on identity politics ignoring the environment, angering their traditional bases….

    NZ First have actually saved Labour in many ways, aka NZ First stopped the capital gains taxes being implemented which would have certainly ensured that Labour and Nationals current poll ranking were reversed, as now without any jobs where would 65% of people be if they didn’t have their house?

    People love free money and hate paying taxes for other people’s shit… who knew???? Sarcasm.

    Seems like Natz have known for a while which explains their tax cuts strategies to stay in power, and Labour are now on steroids giving money away and reaping the poll rewards… Both parties are leaving a big pile of debt onto the next generation though.

    Anything can happen in a 21 century election….. Covid, a natural disaster, bush fires, Cambridge Analytica election engineering…

  6. While commentators and the media generally seek to marginalise and castigate the few actors that would effect change , and try to ascribe transformative intent to the party of their predilection , in perverse contradiction of all evidence and statements over years emanating from all the relevant people, democracy can never give us what we want.
    There are two people in NZ politics that have the potential to make a difference and manage the nation through the next problematic few years. They are Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. We need them both. Most of the rest are the problem.

    • What – we do not need Winston he is part of the problem, you can bet he is totally opposed to any significant raise in benefits.

      We don’t need the useless ministers:
      David Clark, Ian Lees-Galloway, Kelvin Davis, Twyford (Labour hate him and he had a poisoned chalice), Sepuloni, Nash (irk that man!) Mahuta,
      and then there are the NZ first ones the worst of all that jumped up little Ron mark, and the lazieest MP ever, Shane Jones…. The only one of any calibre is Tracey Martin.

      Eugenie Sage can bugger off also.

      • No problem with most of that but I do think Winston has some useful and necessary ideas. He isn’t in a position to delver everything he said he wanted to. He is in a very minor partnership with Labour. I agree with your assesment of the rest of NZF lineup . Why they wanted to replace Tracy with Ron as deputy I don’t understand.
        D J S

      • Add to that,the useless, Brownlee, Nick Smith, Paula Bennett,Woodhouse, Louise Upston( she is appalling) Chris Bishop,David Carter(the very bias ex speaker) and Nathan Guy( both going anyway), Nicky Wagner, Maureen Pugh( we heard what Bridges thought of her), Dan Bidois, Agnes Loheni( I know you’ve never heard of her either), Chris Penk, Brett Hudson, Jian Yang,David Bennett, Matt Doocey, Matt King, well the list goes on and on. All names you don’t hear of or are well past their used by dates. And then there’s Judith Collins, how she is still in politics is anyone’s guess but such are the low standards of the National party, we can see why.
        Then you have Jonathon Young whom I do have respect for but is neautralised by having his sister Audrey writing pro National propaganda in the New Zealand herald.

        In summary, there is just no way we can have a National government with that useless lot making up the numbers. They accept having an ex spy and now a loose cannon minister spouting Nazi claims( was slapped on the hand for this when his resignation should have been asked for.)

        So just a bit of balance Michal.

        • At least Tolley saw the good sense to retire, albeit with a question mark over her involvement in the Winston Peters leak.

      • And another rat leaving the ship.Bennetts gone!. So she gets dumped and rather than fighting her way back she does a runner. Why so many Nats feel entitled is beyond me. It does show their self interest is at heart rather than for “all New Zealanders”

    • Unfortunately Home has been shafted by the rest of the parties acting in concert.
      They are scared of him. He doesn’t play by their neoliberal sensitivities.

  7. “Is It Time For Labour To Abandon NZF?”
    Yes.
    Because #A If labour’s genuinely genuine then winnie will do his covert best to derail labour prior to the election.
    But most likely #B
    If labour’s genuinely still neoliberal, i.e. still criminal, then winnie’s played his part. We no longer have an AO/NZ we knew and loved and all our assets are in some sun burned yank investors pocketssesssss.
    So labour and its traitors no longer need a winnie either way and he can just toddle off and die of old age somewhere.

    • @ Dean, agree, COL has been successful in terms of gaining a lot of voter support off National – the reason being, that they each stop the worst excesses and policies of each other, so become a bearable middle option for many. There has been collateral damage to Greens and NZ First, but they seem to have bought it on themselves in terms of their own policies that changed during the COL post election…

  8. Early election time. Honestly. Helen Clark threw the alliance to the wolves over one vote.

    Just say we can’t afford to have a caretaker govt for three months in the middle of an international crisis.

  9. Abandon NZ Fishing first ??
    Yes !!!!!!
    This from Idiot Savant.

    Getting what they paid for again

    It looks like the fishing industry is still getting what they pay for:
    The Government has again bowed to fishing industry pressure and refused to extend a marine reserve around Campbell Island, a subantarctic sanctuary recognised for its value in conserving and maintaining unique creatures.

    Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku is uninhabited and is New Zealand’s southern-most island. It is accepted as one of the most pristine places on earth and an important breeding ground for seabirds and marine mammals.

    The move has exposed a split between the Green Party and its Government partner Labour over protection of the oceans.

    Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says she backed enlarging the sanctuary. But she was overruled by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, who sided with industrial fishing interests.

    There’s no actual fishing down there, but the fishing industry opposes sanctuaries for ideological reasons: they hate the idea that there might be anywhere they are not allowed to pillage. They’re not interested in sustainable management, they’re not “stewards” ensuring a viable future for their industry, they’re purely about environmental destruction. As for how to stop it, a first step is to vote out the politicians they’ve bought, and elect ones they can’t buy.

    • The fishing industry has deep pockets which Nash and Jones seem to enjoy.
      What you don’t see wont hurt you.
      But we can see what is happening across a number of fronts involving big fishing players.
      Wonder why Nash and Jones are smiling.

      • Natz also the most in the trough from the fishing industry.

        Wouldn’t put it past dirty politics to have encouraged and engineered the donations to NZ First (from developers, fishing etc) and then wait until months before the election and leak it all out…

        parties beware who you take donations from!

  10. JA should have signaled an intention to go early 4 or 5 weeks ago when the stirring started.
    While I’ll never vote for NZ1, something in Winnie has changed. I suspect that something is Shane Jones.
    I recall regularly talking to one of Winnie’s bro’s a couple of decades ago, and my impression then was that Winnie used to act on what he at least THOUGHT was principle. (Winebox et al). Now its more to do with what a retail politician thinks. The ‘forever’ in BFF is not likely to be that long.

  11. Be clear Jacinda is not about to dump Winston any more than she is going to sack her illustrious Health Minister David Clark for two reasons, one being that would taint her “be kind” image and second and most importantly she just doesn’t have the competent MP’s to replace them, let alone the numbers to govern.
    While many despise Winston and his team others on the right see him as the “brake on loony left and green policies”.
    Now if polling stays about where it is going into the election with National having no show of Governing look to a proportion of National voters to move to Winston to ensure the “brake” remains.

    • Any progressive policies including Green initiatives always have to have a ” handbrake ” strategy applied.
      Yet when we get right leaning policies its put your foot down and go hell for leather.
      The narrative we have been using like profit at all costs before people has to change because it does not serve the greater good.

  12. Still wonder what would happen if Labour got the farming vote out. There are a lot of communities hurting out there. Debt, lack of infrastructure, dairy non diversification, environmental damage. It’s a great opportunity to do some good and make National look bad at the same time.

    The biggest challenge is going to be coming up with an economic policy that handles the balance of trade deficit. National did it by artificially increasing house prices and inviting rich foreigners to buy up land. They also encouraged massive poor and middle class immigration which increases revenue while they (at best) kept services and infrastructure funding frozen. Finally they ‘encouraged’ farmers to move massively into dairy export to China. Typically National – totally unsustainable, but good for the ‘numbers’.

  13. There is more going on here than some of you may realize:

    In the run up to the previous election Peters did a deal with various firearms associations to block any radical new firearms legislation. His reneging on that deal means that a large slice of the 250,000 firearms owners in NZ who voted for him last time will go elsewhere. Add to that their wives, children and friends who sympathize with them.

    Also don’t forget the SFO has already promised to report on his electoral funding fraud before the election. That’s not going to read well, because we already know what it will say: Guilty AF.

    So Peters career is terminal. The big question now is Jones’ ability to win a seat in Northland. That is their only lifeline and I think it could have worked if he’d used the provincial growth fund to good effect, but he hasn’t.

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