Metiria Turei’s state of the nation

It’s state of the nation season, which as far as I can tell is a really recent development in NZ politics. It certainly doesn’t have a patch on the utterly theatrical production which takes place in the US every time this year.

The Greens were first off the block with Metiria Turei delivering the Green state of the nation yesterday. The full text of her speech is here, and the heart of it I think is this piece:

Imagine if the Government stopped seeing state homes, and the people who live in them as a burden, a problem better shifted out of sight so out of mind. Imagine if we had a Government instead that worked with the people that lived in those communities to design beautiful new homes and neighbourhoods that people actually want to live in. Michael Joseph Savage made that real once before. We see a future where all New Zealanders live in warm, dry affordable homes. Where children are no longer at risk of dying simply because of the home they live in.

The repeated nods to Michael Joseph Savage – especially right there in the very first English sentence – are always going to inspire a lefty like me.

What concerns me is the policy announcement which played the central role in the speech. I tweeted thus:

I want to like the idea of a policy costing unit. But we have to let go of the myth Treasury is an independent, non-ideological body. Look at the endless arguments about how we measure unemployment, poverty, economic growth. “Objective truth” doesn’t exist in politics.

I worry about the framing. Does this mean accepting that cost and “fiscal responsibility” are the most important measures of policy?

And ultimately does it matter? I know us pols nerds love our deep detailed analyses but do those ~average voters~ give a toss?

Or am I overthinking it? Is it a canny play to show the Greens are a party of integrity & thoughtfulness, as National would never go for it?

I really gotta finish reading [Anat Shenker-Osorio’s] “Don’t Buy It” and then review it for y’all. One of her key points when she was out here talking to the CTU is that “evidence” is incredibly useless in shifting political debates.

So that’s where my scepticism about a policy costings unit arises: I don’t see one more “independent” voice making a difference. We have all the evidence we could ask for about National’s economic mismanagement, over decades. But we still have a National government. People *just believe* National are better governers. They *just believe* Labour are useless, the Greens are hippies, & Winston is sensible. We cannot shake those beliefs by yelling “but have you looked at our spreadsheets???” at people.

We CAN provide counter-beliefs. And that’s why the Greens are going “look at our sensible, rational, fiscally-responsible approach.” It ain’t costed, it ain’t detailed, but every headline is going to say: the Greens care about independent cost-checking. That’s the win.

It’s hard to get into all this detail on Twitter, but we have a real problem in the progressive movement. We know our beliefs are objective and correct, and we’re convinced (just like everyone on the right) that we’ve formed these beliefs on the basis of evidence and rational consideration. Logically, presenting the evidence to other people will bring them to our side.

Unfortunately this is rubbish. Yet we insist on hammering people over the head with facts and evidence and write them off as “sleepy hobbits” or similar when they don’t react well to being lectured.

What this means – even if you could get half-a-dozen economists in a room who could actually agree on a simple numerical breakdown of policy cost, even if money were the only thing that matters in policy – is that a central policy costings unit would have zero real effect on political debate. And as long as we’re bringing “my facts are the best facts” to a “my leader is the coolest leader you’d have a beer with” fight, we’re going to lose.

Key’s state of the nation is today. I don’t expect much.

Andrew Little’s is on Sunday. What’s in it? Ideas I’ve heard (on Twitter/comments at The Standard) include a definitive statement about the TPPA, or a centrepiece policy for 2017 to inspire the troops. But I’ve no inkling myself!

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say once all is revealed.

My top 5 politicians of the year

Duncan Garner announced his pick for the top 5 politicians of the year yesterday, and one thing really stood out.

family guy no girls allowed

That’s right, all of them, without exception, are from the North Island. I mean, you can quibble that Bill English is technically a Southland boy, he lives in Karori, people.

sebastian roche and

Oh. And they’re all men.

Duncan had a pretty straight-up explanation for that.

And he’s right. We shouldn’t let box-ticking or tokenism or silly quotas get between us and the stone cold political assessments. So here, based entirely on objective factors like talent, media profile, principled action and political impact, and certainly not biased by any inherent preferment or societal narratives of what success looks like, are my top 5 politicians of the year.

5. Metiria Turei

You may not see it, but you have to assume she’s had her work cut out for her getting the Greens from Male Co-leader A to Male Co-leader B this year. And where other parties can’t so much as blink without cries of internal disunity and caucus ructions, the Greens have just got on and got the job done.

4. Jacinda Ardern

A strangely polarising figure in the Labour Party, half see her as the Second Coming and half despise her, not despite but because she has tremendous public profile in so-called “soft” media. Yet “soft” media is one of the keys (pardon the pun) to the PM’s success – as much as we pols nerds may rail against the perfidy of accepting interview requests from Radio Sport and ignoring Morning Report’s calls, it works. Unfortunately most NZers don’t get their news from Morning Report.

It sounds cynical if you assume that “soft” media is the be-all and end-all of politics these days. But Labour can be a both/and party, and that means doing Checkpoint and 7 Days.

3. Annette King

Just so you’ll forgive me for #4, Labour’s deputy leader has spent all year embarrassing Jonathan Coleman with inconvenient facts about his failure to properly resource our health system. If you took a drink every time he whined “no you’re wrong and Labour was worse” you’d have spent most of 2015 very happily inebriated.

2. Judith Collins

Boo, hiss, et cetera. But even though I totally called this, pretty much the day she resigned in utter disgrace, it’s impressive how delicately, yet determinedly, she’s rebuilding her profile and her credibility. We’re talking about a Minister of the Crown who threw senior public servants under the bus when members of her party were caught rorting the taxpayer, who brazenly coordinated attack bloggers and gossip mavens to do her bidding, and who was plagued with story after sordid story of the shady use of ministerial trips to help her husband’s business … and now she’s back with a weekly newspaper column and regularly going head-to-head with the deputy leader of the Labour Party on the telly.

Next stop: an inevitable return to Cabinet, and after that, a thunderous (but probably/hopefully unsuccessful) charge at the National leadership.

1. Mojo Mathers, Jan Logie, Clare Curran, Poto Williams, Denise Roche, Louisa Wall, Nanaia Mahuta, Catherine Delahunty, Marama Davidson, Jenny Salesa, Eugenie Sage, and Julie-Anne Genter

For making the voices of survivors of sexual violence heard in our House of Parliament and staging a beautiful collective act of resistance when they were shut down, making international headlines in the process. Doing the right thing and winning the media battle at the same time: that’s good politics.

The Nation’s leaders’ debate

This morning in New Zealand politics can best be summed up with one fantastic image.

Image swiped and cropped from @petergraczer

I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 9am to tune in to the first leaders’ debate of the election season – and it’s mostly Colin Craig’s fault. Had he not taken legal action to force the producers to give him a speaking slot I might honestly have missed that it was even on!

For that, and for trying to talk over Metiria Turei, resulting in the photo above, you have my grudging thanks, Colin.

In the true spirit of 21st century pseudo-journalism, here are my thoughts (and some others’) as they were tweeted in real time.

(Sale to overseas buyers, obviously.)

(It’s a great line, but also a deliberately-engineered political meme.)

(Full credit to @petergraczer for the fantastic pic of Metiria’s take-no-crap attitude.)