Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
8 mins to read

I fixed it for you: Every political party independently reviewed

Some snap recommendations, and snapped necks.

Sat, 04 Oct 2014

Labour has an independent review of its election performance in the works.

To save time, I've conducted my own review. And, as a bonus, I'm also offering every party advice on how it can increase its vote in 2017.

You're welcome.


What it needs to do:

  • Change leader
  • Scrap the primary-style contest, which with its member and affiliate voting will always spew out a winner too far to the left. A leader elected without the support of his fellow MPs is a recipe for … well, we’re watching it. John Key is right: no leader has a hope without majority support in caucus. 

That’s it.

Don’t over-complicate things by going further with a systemic or policy review.

During the campaign, Labour’s policies often polled close to or ahead of National’s. Under David Shearer, the party was polling in the mid-30s and, with the Greens, had a realistic shot of defeating National.

Any of Labour's leadership candidates will bring the party's policies back toward the centre, where elections are won. So just leave them and caucus to it. A sweeping review involving all factions of the party would have the opposite effect.

Unlike National — which had almost head-spinning turnover — Labour's veteran MPs have stuck around. But again, this is a leadership problem. You can't overcome faction-fighting, persuade the has-beens to go or recruit new talent by editing some paragraphs in the party constitution.


What it needs to do:

  • Give up and go home

Kim Dotcom stuffed Mana. The big man did what Labour had failed to do in three elections: he created a backlash against Hone Harawira. His party’s brand is tarnished for all time. Harawira won’t have a prayer of beating Kelvin Davis in 2017 (if Labour was in government, he would have a hope, but of course Davis will be in opposition, not passing any laws for Harawira to rail against).

If Laila Harre wants to return to the Beehive, she would engineer a rapprochement with the Greens. That won’t happen under the Greens’ current leadership. Russel Norman was furious at Dotcom, and Internet Mana. So: back to the restaurant business. Or maybe take over the CTU when Helen Kelly inevitably joins Labour’s list ahead of 2017.

It's a sad result. I don't support Harawira or Harre, but I respect their skills, and their genuineness of their beliefs. Dotcom has apologised of course, but I suspect he mainly feels sorry for himself. I'm not sure he appreciates just how destructive his influence has been on the far left directly, and the centre-left as a distraction. It's their own fault of course, for getting into bed with Kim (in Hone and Laila's case) and refusing to rule out coalition with him (in David Cunliffe's).

Conservative Party

What it needs to do:

  • Media training for Colin Craig
  • A deal with National in Napier

Colin Craig is the most straight-up party leader. Ask him a question about policy, and he’ll give you a black and white answer.

But his on-air personality is a disaster. He comes over shifty and weird.

A number of readers slammed Brian Edwards for his post rating Labour leaders’ TV skills.

But guess what? It matters. It will always matter.

Craig needs to learn the basics. Plus how to just say no to stupid photo op suggestions and to simply brush-off or change the topic when asked a tangential question (one of the more endearing moments of politics this year was when a TV crew rushed Hone Harawira in the halls of Parliament. Reporter: “Did man land on the moon.” Harawira: “F**k off.” Sometimes you have to take control).

With media training, Craig will become less threatening to National’s socially-liberal supporters, and John Key will be more comfortable about giving the Conservatives an electorate deal – and Garth McVicar who polled so strongly in Napier is the obvious candidate.


What it needs to do:

  • Media training for David Seymour
  • Push National on tax

ACT’s new leader makes Colin Craig look smooth. Seymour needs to be schooled on basic skills, and how to take control. His interview with Campbell Live’s Ali Ikram, which involved prolonged badgering over Seymour’s choice to fly JetStar, was idiotic.

As education under-sectary, Seymour will have the chance to push through a couple more charter schools. But National has no appetite for transforming existing schools to charter outfits, which keeps this policy at the margins.

One obvious point of attack is tax. Bill English has proposed a block-of-cheese tax cut, maybe, in 2017. Seymour has to push the party further on tax cuts, then aggressively take credit.

From what I've seen so far, I don't think he's up to it, and a leader outside Parliament is untenable. Unless the Epsom MP grows into his role, it'll be a case of better luck in 2020.

Maori Party

What it needs to do:

  • Give up and go home

The Maori Party has lost four of its five seats it held in 2008.

When Te Ururoa Flavell retires, it will lose its last remaining electorate.

There is a faction in Maoridom that holds it's better to work with National, the natural party of power – either for reasons of philosophy, or a pragmatic change the system from within approach. But that grouping is already well accommodated. National has more Maori MPs than any other parties (nine to Labour's seven).

Green Party

What it needs to do:

  • Stick to being green

An overt blue-green play for centre voters won't work. It would alienate core supporters. It's better for the Greens to just stick to envronmental issues, then keep other policies pretty general. Let rich liberals and Labour defectors project their own hopes on how left or centrist you'll actually behave in finance, and other areas.

NZ First

What it needs to do:

  • Recruit Shane Jones

Jones is the only contender with the mana to succeed Winston. The pair are mates who go way back in Northland; it could happen.

Jones has it all for NZ First: flexible centre-right politics, a love of a good consipiracy theory, and a populist touch.

There are a couple in NZ First's list who are not Richard Prosser-level doolally. Tracey Martin even seems quite capable. But none would get the party close to 5%. It's the Jones boy or bust.

Dunne as a Labour MP in 1984.

United Future

What it needs to do:

  • Cruise control

If Peter Dunne hasn’t built UnitedFuture to a critical mass by now, he never will.

I could say Dunne should secure his legacy by pushing his super policy (less if you retire early, more if you retire later), but that would be a waste of time. National has zero interest in the policy, and Dunne failed to make it a bottom line.

More of the same from UnitedFuture will be dull, and pointless, but it should see its leader through to holding the party’s sole seat in 2017.



What it needs to do:

  • Nothing different

The general pattern of NZ politics is that Labour introduces radical reforms that recast the economy (1930s, 1980s), then National sits on them for several terms, managing and tweaking.

The Labour-led government of 1999-2008 wasn’t quite in Lange/Douglas revolutionary league, but it did introduce a number of big reforms, including the Super Fund, KiwiSaver, Working for Families, interest-free student loans, the creation of KiwiBank, and the Free Trade Agreement with China that’s had such massively positive effect on our terms of trade (and which goes a little un-heralded; National supports the FTA but doesn’t want to go to town praising a deal engineered by Clark and Cullen; Cunliffe spent the election in wideboy bash Johnny Foreigner mode).

The current National government hasn’t unwound a single one of those measures, from the brilliant (the FTA with China) to the vote-buying faff (interest-free student loans) to the redistributive and savings-boosting measures. It's tweaked them around the edges. The pattern repeats.

National hasn't sat on its hands. Income tax rates were lowered and flattened in 2010, Paul Bennett has had a moderate go at welfare reform (though without any major cuts, or bold attacks on middle class capture of the biggest spending areas). Auckland has become a super city. A lot has been spent on infrastructure, notably roading and broadband. National Standards and a couple of charter schools have been introduced. There was a careful partial privatisation programme. And some refining of the RMA and labour laws.  Growth has been good, and middle NZ gave National the big tick on September 20 for solid, sensible management. But it’s not stuff for the history books.

John Key is so far promising more of the same for his third term. We’ve heard a lot about the PR plan (we get it, we get, you don’t want to look arrogant), but little more substantial.

The RMA and labour laws will be refined a little further. And, if everything goes well, a block-of-cheese tax cut is promised in 2017.

The closest Key will get to scaring the horses will be with the flag referendum.

The PM-elect has already promised no lurch to the right. Believe him. Key is a pragmatist, and a student of history. He knows that in NZ, the west was won by the state, not by the individual, and that most Kiwis have no particular problem with that. Voters stick close to the centre, and that's where National will remain during its third term. As long as Key remains its leader, it'll cruise to a fourth.

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I fixed it for you: Every political party independently reviewed