My plea to the New Zealand left: don’t get cocky

Well. That was a hell of an announcement, wasn’t it? A massive cause for celebration: no matter how true it is that being Prime Minister involves a hell of a lot of hard work and time away from your family, we all know that no one ever resigns, unexpectedly, on the eve of election year, out of selfless sacrifice.

The New Zealand left have spent a good eight years hating John Key. Whatever the reason he’s going, and however little it has to do with anything we’ve actually done, our enemy is vanquished.

And yet, a tiny voice cries out. It belongs to the cynical part of my brain, the bit that, sharklike, never stops working. Because I’m a millennial nerd, it speaks in the voice of Han Solo.

han-solo-dont-get-cocky

The question many people will be asking Andrew Little now will be “So do you think you have 2017 locked down now?” That’s a bit of a trap. Labour has to look confident, but not, you know, too confident.

mean-girls-really-pretty

What encourages me is that so much of the feedback you hear from the Mt Roskill by-election is about how hard Michael Wood and his team campaigned there. There was no taking Roskill for granted, even when up against a gaffe-prone exemplar of the National Party’s “terrible candidates running in theoretically winnable seats” finishing school.

But we have to keep that momentum going.

We – the left, the progressive movement, pick your own label – now have our best chance in nearly a decade. Not just to win. Not just to get comfy in the back of a Crown limo or find out if the seats really are greener on the other side of the House. We can get a Labour-Green government which plans for the future and rebuilds New Zealand into a country which cares about people, leads the world in our response to climate change and growing corporate power, and promotes strong, progressive values over the nasty, cynical individualism of the right.

We aren’t going to get that if we let ourselves think, “Well, Key was National’s greatest weapon; now he’s gone, guess that whole election thing’s in the bag.”

i-take-a-nap-right-here

Now we have to work even harder, because it will be too easy to assume victory is assured. We have to be even bolder, because if voters do want “a change” they’ll have one in the form of a new PM – especially if it’s a woman or, should Bennett or Bridges take the crown, our first Māori PM (commiserations to @LukeTipoki).

People aren’t stupid. They know that our country is being run for a greedy few, not all of us. The change National offers now may only be superficial, but it might be enough for them, unless they’re given a genuine alternative – not just a few decent policies and a good-sounding slogan, but a whole new way of looking at the world, underpinned by serious, progressive principles (these ones are a pretty good start).

It shouldn’t be that big a challenge. Labour has the proud history of standing up for what’s right. The Greens have the cred of always looking to the future and coming up with good policies ten years before they become mainstream received wisdom. In some ways it shouldn’t matter who the Prime Minister is – because we should be setting our own agenda, not just reacting to the government’s and letting them dictate the terms of the battle.

But we need to show determination and vision. We won’t be allowed to sleepwalk to victory. Key’s resignation is a huge opportunity – and it has to be taken, not taken for granted.

QOTD: Guy Williams on taking down the National Party

At Stuff:

One of the biggest pratfalls for opposition attacks has been the economy. Labour can’t make any ground on this because for a majority of voters the economy has been fine, and unfortunately, children growing up in poverty can’t vote.

The opposition needs to stop trying to find a knockout scandal that’s going to bring down the government and focus on becoming a decent alternative. In 2016 there are tonnes of non-ponytail based embarrassments to attack the government on: child poverty, rising inequality, the high cost of housing and growing homelessness.

Stuff have filed Williams’ article under “entertainment”, but that’s not really that strange: it’s the court jester’s privilege to get away with saying far sharper and more insightful things than anyone else.

Labour’s reshuffle announced today

Andrew Little is set to announce a new Shadow Cabinet today  -I know, I know, the phrase Shadow Cabinet is so #ukpol but it’s also too cool not to use:

Tracy Watkins has some reckons:

Some big movers are tipped in Labour leader Andrew Little’s first big reshuffle.

“We’ve got to think not only about the portfolio allocations, we’ve got to think about chief whip and junior whip in a new government, and positions outside Cabinet, positions available for potential coalition partners.


The reshuffle is an important positioning move for Labour as the year rolls to a close. While the party’s poll ratings are up on the election result, Labour continues to trail National by a large margin.

Little said next year would be about “knuckling down” and refining policies that were “definitive enough and bold enough” to give voters the “measure of who we are in 2017”.

The long and short of it – according to Watkins – is:

  • King to remain deputy but gain an “understudy” in health, with her eyes on a diplomatic posting early in the term
  • Ardern and Davis to get some good meaty roles – no surprise given their respective profiles and some damn fine campaign work on Serco and Christmas Island
  • Twyford vs Shearer for trade – which could influence Labour’s position on the TPP
  • Good things for Sue Moroney who’s done great work on paid parental leave
  • Possible bad news for Mahuta and Cunliffe
  • Nothing for Goff for obvious mayoralty-related reasons

Little also confirmed this is the “last reshuffle” he’s planning before the election and

I have no inside information on the new rankings myself but if this is going to be the team to take us into 2017 – including some indication of what portfolios might be up for grabs for the Greens (and/or NZ First) – I’m looking forward to it being an exciting one.

UPDATE: Radio Live are Periscoping the announcement.

New rankings and portfolios are now up on the Labour website. Scoop has a PDF of the caucus rankings here.

Labour’s media release:

Labour line-up to take the 2017 election
 
Opposition Leader Andrew Little has today announced a strong and talented shadow Cabinet to take Labour into the 2017 election.
 
“Labour had an impressive intake of fresh faces after last year’s election and newest MPs have now had a year to show what they’re made of.
 
“This reshuffle rewards hard work and continues my drive to renew our Caucus line up.
 
“Kelvin Davis moves up after he shone the spotlight on Serco scandals and the treatment of detainees in Australia. He will now take on Māori Development.
 
“Megan Woods joins the front bench in recognition of the important work she is leading in Canterbury and on climate change.
 
“Newer faces Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare move into the Shadow Cabinet, along with Meka Whaitiri who takes on local government.
“High profile MP Jacinda Ardern moves up along with Phil Twyford who adds Auckland Issues to his bow.
 
Stuart Nash moves into the Shadow Cabinet and picks up Police. Her tireless campaigning on paid parental leave sees Sue Moroney promoted.
 
“Today’s reshuffle is a strong mix of new talent and experience – and builds a solid team to win in 2017,” Andrew Little says.

The “No” Prime Minister

A favourite meme of disingenuous rightwinger commenters is that no one likes the Left/the Opposition because we’re so negative. “You just say ‘no’ all the time, why not stand for something positive?” they say, being very concerned about our political fortunes.

Yet less than a year into his third term as PM, it’s John Key who seems to be saying “no” a lot.

No, you can’t have 26 weeks paid parental leave – it’ll cost too much, and no, we don’t want to look at your costings.

No, you can’t give all workers the right to elect health and safety representatives.

No, you can’t have the flag you want, you have to have the flag I want.

No, we can’t take more refugees, the system is too stretched already – and no, we can’t increase funding for that system either.

amy winehouse no no no

Time and again the government will make the bare minimum gesture possible. 18 weeks’ paid parental leave – all we can afford, really. All workers in large workplaces or small workplaces in “high risk industries” will get H&S reps – just don’t expect him to have a coherent idea of what those industries are. On the flag, we’re meant to accept that Key’s hands are tied, because they’d have to change the law to introduce a new option – except that’s not true, and anyway, isn’t changing the law kind of his job?

And on refugees, it’s not even a thousand. It’s 150 from our current quota, plus 100 this year, and maybe 500 jars of jam tomorrow over the next two financial years.

John Key couldn’t even bring himself to a one-off doubling of our quota, because God forbid it look like he’s listening to a suggestion made by the Opposition.

When our Prime Minister was thunderously declaring that the Opposition needed to “get some guts” and support a military deployment to Iraq, he nicked a line from his 2011 campaign song – “it’s time to stand up and be counted.” His charade of a consultation process for selecting a new flag kept asking New Zealanders what we “stand for”.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like John Key stands for anything – except saying “no”.

NZQT or Kafka?

A now-familiar scene in our House of Representatives:

OPPOSITION MP
Does the Minister agree with the concerns raised by [group] about [issue]?

GOVERNMENT MINISTER
The member’s facts are incorrect.

OPPOSITION MP
Point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister if they agreed with the concerns of [group]. They did not answer the question.

DAVID CARTER
The Minister addressed the question, although I accept not to the member’s liking. Supplementary?

OPPOSITION MP
Is the Minister concerned about the fact that this issue is being criticised by groups including [group]?

GOVERNMENT MINISTER
I say again to the member that their facts are incorrect.

OPPOSITION MP
Point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table evidence of [group’s] concerns about [issue].

DAVID CARTER
Is it a publicly available document?

OPPOSITION MP
It’s a media release/report/publication by [group] outlining their concerns.

DAVID CARTER
If it’s publicly available then it cannot be tabled. Question number six?

It’s a quaint thing about our Parliament. You absolutely must not ever under any circumstances call another member a liar. But when Opposition MPs try to question Government Ministers (which is kind of their entire job) about objective, provable facts (like “did X say Y” or “did figure A increase B%”), those Ministers are quite free to say “no you’re wrong” even when there is clear information in the public arena – and the Opposition cannot call them out on it. Because then this happens:

OPPOSITION MP
Point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has said [statement] is incorrect. This is simply not true. It’s right here in this document.

DAVID CARTER
Is it a publicly available document?

OPPOSITION MP
Yes, but the Minister just said it wasn’t true! But it’s right here! In black and white!

DAVID CARTER
If it’s publicly available then it cannot be tabled. Question number six?

You can tell when the charade becomes too much for some MPs, because that’s when they get themselves thrown out.

OPPOSITION MP
Point of order, Mr Speaker.

DAVID CARTER
Is it a new point of order?

OPPOSITION MP
Pretty much. No. I seek clarification on your ruling.

DAVID CARTER 
My ruling was very clear. The Minister addressed the member’s question, though I acknowledge not to the member’s satisfaction.

OPPOSITION MP
Mr Speaker, with respect, I think your ruling threatens to throw the House into disorder. It simply cannot be reconciled that the Minister is telling the truth while calling the member a liar about a statement of fact.

DAVID CARTER
No. The member knows he cannot make that insinuation.

OPPOSITION MP
It’s the exact same bloody insinuation the Minister made by saying my assumptions were incorrect when they bloody well know it’s not because it’s right here in black and white!

DAVID CARTER
The Minister addressed the question, although I acknowledge not to the member’s liking. If the member wishes to challenge the Minister’s answer, that is what further supplementary questions are for, even though the member cannot disprove the Minister’s answer by tabling documents which establish they’re lying because the documents are publicly available and cannot be tabled. Question six?

OPPOSITION MP
Are you fucking kidding me? How the hell is the House meant to keep order when you won’t even let us do our goddamn jobs?

DAVID CARTER
The member will leave the chamber.

OPPOSITION MP
*explodes*

I almost expect one day for David Carter to be exposed as a robot, a la the Roger Goodell-bot depicted in South Park: