The pressure is on National.
Despite polling well above any other party it’s a government increasingly under siege, with issues on a number of fronts that threaten its current dominance and re-election.
The Skycity report is the latest vulnerability for National. If John Key still thinks the Audit Office has given him a ‘total vindication’ in the report, he really needs to read John Armstrong’s blistering critique: Banana republic stuff — but minus the bananas
. The Audit Office itself is criticised by Gordon Campbell for ignoring political realities in pointing the finger at officials: ‘Get real, Audit Office. In the current public service climate, officials would have to be either very brave or foolhardy to fly in the face of the clear signals they were getting from the Beehive heavyweights, and they would also need to have alternative job options’ – see: On the Audit Office report on the SkyCity deal
National is particularly vulnerable in Christchurch at the moment. As John Armstrong explains in a must-read column, the decision to backdown on some of the school closures is driven by ‘the need to buttress National's hold on the city’ – see: Partial backdown shows National has eye on election
. So was the U-turn a political success? Immediately after the announcement, University of Canterbury political scientist Bronwyn Hayward (@BMHayward) tweeted that she was so happy with the Government’s announcement she could hug Hekia Parata. Similarly, the Press editorial on the matter proclaimed, ‘The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns’ – see: Deliver on promise
Yet National is still receiving a lot of bad publicity over the school closures. And Hekia Parata continues to be ‘the minister the public most love to hate’ – see for example: 71pc want Parata gone – survey
. Much of the media has been baying for her to give an apology for the errors committed by herself, her Ministry and Novopay – see Tova O'Brien’s Sorry seems to be the hardest word
The asset sale issue is probably the one that National is most vulnerable on. Already this week National’s deadline for a court decision has passed – see TV3’s Court asserts authority on asset sales
And Matthew Hooton speculates on the reasoning behind a possible negative judgement for the Government – see: World exclusive: Top court's draft water judgment
. The options for the Government if the decision goes against them are stark. Negotiations with iwi, further delays or cancelling the sales will all be politically humiliating. Legislating away the problem may be popular with National’s voter base but such a broken promise would explode the coalition deal with the Maori Party at a time when National is running low on little helpers in Parliament. An early election could be tempting – particularly if National can turn the issue into a vote on Treaty rights. An election that became a vote on the asset sales themselves would likely be suicidal.
Of course, there are some indicators that National is doing quite well at the moment. A recent One News poll put the party on 49%, leading political editor Corin Dann to put forward an explanation for why the Government is doing so well: What a difference a summer can make
But if National is vulnerable and under pressure, then what of the state of the opposition? Labour is obviously pushing very hard on the Skycity issue. With deliberate thought to his wording, Labour leader David Shearer has proclaimed: ‘This has had John Key's fingerprints all over it and it was a shonky deal and John Key is donkey-deep in it’. On Twitter, David Fisher (@DFisherJourno) elaborated on the unusual language: ‘I'm told Labour's use of "donkey deep" is part of a subliminal "shonky" "donkey" "John Key" alliteration thing. Is that easier than policy?’
The bigger issue for Labour is its potential coalition partners. Senior Labour activist Greg Presland has blogged about the likely problems of working with Winston Peters: ‘How could a Labour Green Coalition include New Zealand First? The simple answer is that it could not. It would be inherently unstable, its policy goals would be shackled by the strange world view NZF has about issues such as climate change’ – see: Labour's Coalition Prospects
Other recent items of interest or importance:
* It’s not just iwi lawyers who earn big bucks from treaty cases. Tony Wall looks at who the government has paid for help since 2008 and there are a lot of ex-politicians on the list, including Paul Swain, Tukoroirangi Morgan, Jim Bolger, Rick Barker and Wira Gardiner – see: Treaty cases earn top dollar for 'top team'
* Finally, ever since Jenny Shipley became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to attend the Hero Parade, in 1999, mainstream politicians have been frequent participants in the public celebrations of the LGBT community. This has made for some fantastic and interesting photo opportunities - some of which are reproduced in this blog post, NZ politicians at gay events – images
Tobacco plain packaging
NZ in Afghanistan
Inequality, poverty, employment
Richard Prosser and ‘Wogistan’
Sunday Star Times: Editorial – Prosser’s stupidity just the party line [not online]