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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Targets

Ryall, the new Minister of Health, has said he wants to apply a target for waiting times in emergency departments.

Targets are seductive for politicians mainly because of the way politicians deal with the public: through the mass media.

A target will provide a clear reference point, an easy sound bite, and can scratch whatever itch is niggling away in the body politic at the time.

The damage they cause of course is that resources flow to hit the target, regardless of whether that is the best use of resources or not, and unless the flow is a large one, the damage often goes unnoticed to the public.

It's not good that people wait a long time for emergency care. Nor is it good that drugs are expensive, or primary health care costs too much, or that dental care is left to the market.

Fixing any of these is mainly a resource issue, unless you believe that somehow half the health budget is being wasted. If you believe that, go to your local hospital, find out how, and report your findings to us all.

What plans does National have to massively increase resources in the public health sector, to address the waiting time issue?

Hmmmmm....

Quite curious

Our new government is saying and doing some odd things. I think it was on the radio sometime this week (listened to from afar by RadioNZ's excellent podcasts) but it might have been on stuff or nzherald, some commentator noted that unusually for a new government, the Nats have been winding up expectations rather than damping them down.

There are sporadic examples of this, but the most curious one I have seen so far is Bill English's comments as published in the Herald:

Mr English said that in the past, the long-term average of numbers migrating was about half of what it was now. Present levels were concerning. "We would hope in the future those peaks are significantly lower than where they are now.

"[Migration numbers] are driven significantly by the difference in growth between New Zealand and Australia. At the moment that's quite a big difference, so I don't see them slowing down in a hurry."

This is strangely silly from English. If his analysis of the reason for the drift (which I think he means to say is the gap in income levels, not growth levels (since we've grown faster than Oz over the past decade until recently), then by definition there is nothing in this parliamentary term he can do about it - or probably the next.  there is nothing National can do, or that any party can do, or that any business can do, which would miraculously put per capita incomes in NZ much closer to those of AU in any short timescale. That's the simple truth.

Why then is he creating such a hostage to fortune? I don't know, but I would be interested in any thoughts by anyone else who thinks that they do.  He is not the sort of person who generally would make a mistake, so there must be some logic to it.

The other curious thing that has caught my eye is the damage that National has already begun to cause New Zealand internationally. The silly and thoughtless policy to suspend the ETS, pretend some MPs can discern the truth of the science, and even talk about a carbon tax, will have been strongly challenged at the APEC meeting by some of his more sensible fellow leaders, and by Gordon Brown who he also flew to visit in the UK.

If Mr Key is serious about pandering to his business backers by shredding the ETS, then he cannot be an effective advocate for New Zealand tourism in the wealthy markets where issues of sustainability and dealing with climate change are having real effects on people's travel decisions - and where government policies are doing the same.

If Mr Key is serious about the environment, then he cannot undermine New Zealand's climate change reputation.

What he will need to learn, and fast (for New Zealand's good, though politically it would be good if he didn't get this), is that unlike in opposition, he is now responsible for policy and for its effects. He is welcome to segment his message if he likes, and to say one thing overseas and another domestically, but foreign powers don't much care what he says, or in fact what anyone from New Zealand says.

They will, instead, judge us on what we do.

Saying your politicians should judge climate change, ending a perfectly sensible ETS (in breach of your own election promises, which NRT and Public Address have discussed), and speculating about a massive reversal of policy towards a carbon tax, is damaging and wrong. It will hurt our economy and our people to no discernable good end.

Here's hoping that on his return to New Zealand, when Mr Key can resume his first in-country week as PM, he has a bit of a think and ditches the nonsense that ACT has tried to tie him to.

Yes, indeed, curious times for the new administration.

It might want to rush a bit less and think a bit more, for its good and for ours.

Friday, 28 November 2008

the end of the Washington Consensus

If anyone was in any doubt about the impact the financial crisis is having on the world and on world politics, one only has to look at what happened in the UK on Monday to get the answer: big changes are on the way.

Had you suggested even a year ago that a UK New Labour government would signal a new 45p in the pound income tax rate on high income earners; increase payroll taxes for public services; ramp the budget deficit up to 118 BILLION pounds sterling and cause part of that by a cut to the VAT rate.... you would have been dreaming, in fantasy land.

But then a year ago, if you had suggested that the United States government, sort of in the hands of the Republicans, would offer $700bn as a bailout of the banks, followed a month later by $800bn more purchase of distressed assets, I and everyone else would probably have suggested you had gone barking mad.

The simple fact is that for thirty years the West operated in a fantasy land of its own making. We thought we could borrow and hope forever, to bridge the gap between rising expectations of living standards, and lackluster per capita economic growth.

People, smart people, honestly thought that liberalising markets was always the right thing to do - even in finance, and that even the creation of more and more assets that were more and more distant from the real economy was good for finance and good for the rest of society.

The events of the past year or so, which have really come to the fore in the past few months, put paid to that for once and for all. The whole neo-liberal framework of "leave it alone" is now shown to be what those of us on the left generally argued it was: bankrupt.

People have now come rather hurriedly to the realisation that it is only the State as the embodiment of the public interest that can withstand the shocks and unravelling that is to begin. Which is why the debate in Britain today and in the United States during the whole course of the Presidential election campaign highlighted rather more fundamental differences than has been the case.

Briefly, in democratic politics we now have a social democratic view that says the state must intervene to protect the public interest, and we have a neoliberal view that says we should keep the state in its box, except for the current crisis.

It gives me great comfort to belong to a party and a movement whose principles are the right ones to deal with this crisis and to make sure that the recovery from it is designed with the public interest in mind, rather than the financial interests of those who gambled and lost being protected once again.

Of course, at home in NZ it is a bittersweet intellectual victory, because we've just lost the ability to put those principles to work. The upside is that the work of the past nine years has so changed the National Party that it has little choice but to work in the framework of moderate, social democratic values that the New Zealand public support.

The extent to which the new government remains true to what they said in the campaign, as opposed to the rather more savage and offensive liberal extremism that still beats in the chests of National's true believers (and their ACTivist sidekicks), is the extent to which it has a chance of winning the next election. Any deviation back to the horrors of 1990s extremism, ignoring the lessons of this financial crisis, will do NZ great damage, and lead to a very big repair job for the incoming Labour government.

Our task as an opposition will be to spell out clearly why it is that our values are the best fit for generating the recovery New Zealand needs once the storm has passed, and why, unlike any of the other parties, our arguments are actually ones that a) will work in practice, and b) we believe in.

...

Been travelling for work, it's conference season. The next conference is in India. I am not convinced it is worth going there, given yesterday's horrific events. Maybe home early which would be fantastic.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New Ministry

.... my full comments will have to wait. I can give the Tories credit for what looks like it might be a focus on infrastructure. But some of the other appointments are miserable to say the best, particularly the vile Ryall in Health.

A bit distracted travelling for the next wee while, but change is coming to Just Left, more news on that soon.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Financing elections

It's a funny thing about governments that sometimes they forget to pay attention to the basics. Last year's passage of a flawed Electoral Finance Act is a good example.

I had a dream about electoral law reform. It was that we could build a solid public consensus based on wide deliberation, public engagement and so on, perhaps with a citizens' jury, that would lead to great transparency and public funding for political parties.

Instead, Labour took as a proxy for that engagement the fact that it could secure a majority of votes in the Parliament. The government I supported ignored the important convention that such changes should be broadly based. The law itself was badly drafted. We were punished for it, and I am afraid, rightly so.

Where do we go next then? Well, I think that we do need spending limits; we do need some public funding; we do need transparency; and we do need functional restrictions on third party financial involvement with elections.

We also need two guiding principles: that the scheme should assist, not hinder, public engagement with elections and campaigning, and that it should be based on a widespread agreement about how best to proceed.

So I hope that as the new government comes to review the Act next year, it seeks to use mechanisms beyond the Parliamentary ones of a select committee review. The existing review should be carried on or supplemented. There is nothing bad about doing a citizens' jury. Perhaps a white paper would be good. Maybe a series of public meetings around the country to debate the issue.

And I hope that at the end of it we can come up with a workable law. We should not overstate the problems with the Act as it is, in substance it has actually worked OK, but the politics around it means it needs to be rethought, and there are some defects in it that need substantial improvement, which can now happen.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Congrats to Phil and Annette

I wish Phil Goff and Annette King all the best in their new roles as Leader and Deputy Leader respectively of the Labour Party.

In my opinion, the logic of their choice is impeccable. The new government needs to be held very strongly to account from day one, and the experience those two have of working in Opposition is key to doing that. It also helps that they are strong Parliamentary performers, so will be able to engage both in the House and out of it.

A common concern will be that they are both 1980s vintage politicians, and that they are both from the right of Labour's caucus. These days I am relaxed about the latter (having grown past my more radical days, much to some people's disappointment...), and I don't see the former as a concern at this point. The factions in our party barely exist, and the unity that has developed under Helen's leadership is so strong that it will trump any concerns I have about it. As for age, what we need now is experience. They have that in spades and will use it well.

Two other appointments are noted in the media, Clark for foreign affairs and Cunliffe for finance, are also excellent. David has a great grasp of the issues and is a fresh face in that leadership team. Helen, of course, is possibly the best foreign affairs spokesperson one could hope to have.

This new team has a big job. Their task is to rebuild Labour's connections with those communities it had drifted from; to recast a progressive agenda for the second decade of this century; to rebuild and revitalise the party organisation and structure; and to hold to account a new government with a solid majority.

Note: Goff statement here.

Congrats and Worries

I should have been blunter about this yesterday: congratulations are due to the centre-right. They achieved a clear victory in Saturday's election, and now have the responsibility of taking New Zealand ahead on the agenda they campaigned on: an agenda that is perhaps the first enduring legacy of Labour's work.

It is a moderate, cautious and centrist mandate. The campaign provided plenty of chances for a different mandate to be sought but it was not. Just as Labour came to government in 1999 with a cautious mandate for change, so has National in 2008. They must stick to it, regardless of what the right wing fringes of National, or the people in ACT, would actually like to do instead.

I'm going to accept, unless or until I see evidence to the contrary, that National will govern in line with its mandate and its promises. If that is the case, then my key worries so far are these:

  • ACC - the competitive experiment in ACC failed last time and it will fail again this time, pushing up costs and reducing service quality from our accident insurance scheme. However it is a totemic, ideological change that the right will insist on, regardless of the evidence. So ACC is at risk.
  • Public services - NZ's core state sector shrank in terms of staffing from something around 85,000 in 1990 to about 26,000 by 1999. That is why our incoming government found the public service almost unable to do anything, and vast numbers of consultants in use. Things are better now, and the public services now have the capacity to deliver. If National does reduce the numbers by several thousands, the only outcome will be poorer services and more stressed-out front line workers, who will lose the corporate support that they need to do their jobs well.
  • Labour markets - the "no rights at work" legislation that National is planning for workers' first ninety days on the job will undermine employment security, especially for younger New Zealanders. That's a shame, but it's what they campaigned on and so they will presumably do it.

Those are the most significant concerns I have about the new government at the moment. I will be very, very pleased if no more major ones emerge, but I don't trust them (obviously), and would not be surprised of the cautious mandate they have been given gets twisted at least in some areas down a more damaging and radical direction.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Recovery

As you can imagine, I've got a lot of catching up to do and thinking and conversations to have in mulling over last Saturday's election results.

On a personal level I am pleased I doubled Sir Roger Douglas's candidate vote in Hunua. That was not a surprise but was a relief all the same. When we have the final results I will be able to assess more fully how our campaign went.

Nationally, obviously I am not happy with the result. How could one be, when a government that has been pretty damn good loses? The story of that loss and my views as to why it happened will keep, but let me put it this way: last week, I thought we would end up doing much worse than 34%.

Aspects of the situation are causes for cheer.

The bloody awful Winston Peters is finally out of our Parliament. No longer can he have that platform for the campaigns of hate and deception he has too often rained down upon innocent heads. His absence leaves all of us better off. Long may it continue.

Labour has some excellent new MPs
who are really going to make a mark in this 49th Parliament and beyond. Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Carmel Sepuloni, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis and others will punch above their weight, and show above all else that Labour's renewal is well under way.

As I get my head around Helen Clark's sudden and shocking resignation as Leader, I'll write about that. Today is not the day, other than to note the immense pride I have in the work she has done over fifteen long years to heal a wounded and broken Labour Party, and to make New Zealand a place we can be proud of. We owe to her the fact that we will be punching back at the Nats from the first day in Parliament, and for our unity and cohesion through a very tough campaign.

Low moments?
Helen's departure; the result in Auckland Central; Stevie Chadwick's loss in Rotovegas; the thought of many friends now being jobless.

The one great thing is that the people have made their decision. The decks are swept clean. A holiday can begin, and then the work of renewal, with a new Leader, new party officials, and new energy to get back into a position to implement the progressive agenda.

More later.

Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Go Obama

If Obama isn't elected President of the United States tomorrow, I'll fall over with shock.

Can't wait for the victory speech!

"Mary"

Fast paced

There's too much on really to do much blogging which is a shame. Probably back to post something on Sunday.

Monday, 03 November 2008

Why I want a Labour government

In the run and rush of the election campaign, you sometimes lose focus on why we're doing all this work and what it is all for. Which is pretty silly when you think about it: the purpose of progressive politics is change and growth, and that is what we stand for and what should be in our minds all the time.

I thought I'd take a little time to explain to you, dear reader, whatever your age and stage and sort of politics, why it is that I want to see a Labour government after 8 November.

On one level it is very simple. I start from the premise that everyone is equal: that in all our amazing difference and diversity, with our different aims, talents, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, fears and hopes, there is a thread of moral equality that joins us all as citizens. It's axiomatic: you either believe this is the case or you do not.

The second axiom is that a "Good Society" is one which gives each of us the chance to make the best of ourselves. It does so by ensuring that by working together, we extend to each other opportunities that we would only otherwise enjoy by good fortune or if we came from families who had more than the usual amount of wealth and power. So decent housing, good education, affordable health care, accessible transport: all these should be equally available to everyone and should be provided in such a way that they are not necessarily part of market relationships: their access is not a matter of money or debt or anything else, but part of the common stuff of our citizenship. This will often but not always mean public provision of such services, outside the market, either because that's the most efficient way of providing everyone with access to the service (e.g. ACC, health), or because we have decided that our common ownership and control of it is in the public interest (e.g. railways).

Note carefully: none of this is about telling people how they should live their lives. It is about providing them with opportunities to make the most of themselves, security from the price of failure being so high as to discourage risk and daring, and a simple measure of fairness in making sure everyone has at least a basic standard of living as of right. That is the key difference between social democracy and communitairianism, or Green politics, or more authoritarian left wing politics: our vision of the Good Society is one that treats people as individuals, being as it is a fusion between liberal democracy and socialism.

The third axiom is that our society, based as it is on the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, does not provide everyone with that equal access to the necessaries of a good life. It is not yet a Good Society. And so it needs to change: more wealth needs to be built, it needs to be more fairly distributed, public services need to be upgraded, the ethic of a caring society needs to be more vigorously argued for and defended.

That change is the business of Labour governments. The current Labour government, a minority coalition as all those of this decade have been, has done a pretty good job of proceeding down this path of building what I see as a Good Society. We are possessed of a leader who is one of the great Prime Ministers of New Zealand's short history, and who has so much more to offer in the service of the public. We have tackled the hard issues: of partnership under the Treaty, of dynamic economic growth, of the needed but sometimes dismissed tolerance and acceptance among all our peoples, of holding our heads up high in the world and standing for the values that define us as a nation.

The last thing New Zealand needs is to sit back and stop that task. Every single period of National government in our history has followed the same pattern: New Zealand moves away from the good society. Rights are diminished for minorities. Economic life gets harder for the poor, nothing changes for the middle class, and the rich get what they want. New Zealand cowers at the feet of "Traditional Allies" like the good little colony we should be.

That is the past. That is not building a society where everyone matters as much as anyone else, and where each one of us can life the life we're capable of. It ignores what we could be, and focuses only on what we are or what we have been. It is a defensive, small minded, selfish approach that leaves New Zealand less than it could become. Tories stand for the past: they stand in opposition to the project I have outlined above.

They stand for less fairness, less opportunity, aged values, and a vision of our country that is firmly looking over its shoulder.

I don't want any of those things. I want New Zealand to keep progressing, to build the Good Society I've sketched above.

That's I want a Labour government after 8 November.

Sunday, 02 November 2008

The Home Straight: Locally

Six sleeps to go until election night.

Running a campaign in a rural seat which is a new seat has been interesting, to say the least.

The process of motivating members and finding new ones, building a team around you, finding the money to do the campaign, hoardings sites, putting hoardings up, maintaining them, preparing media releases and newspaper advertisements, speaking at community groups and house meetings, public meetings and speeches, street corner meetings, direct mail coordination and deliveries...

is quite a lot of work. Even when shared among a few key motivated people, it's a big ask. I have learned a lot. I'm pleased with the profile I've had in the local media and at public meetings; I wish I'd had time to be on the stump more fully.

For me, the biggest ups from doing a campaign in a seat like this is learning a stack about a part of the country with which I have only had passing contact. That is, rural areas. Some of the policy areas that matter are very different, or have very different focuses - for instance, emissions trading scheme issues. Many are the same as in urban areas: a focus on quality education, concern about crime, a desire for higher wages and better jobs. Given the importance of rural life and production in New Zealand, I'm very glad to have put my head up in this seat and not in one of the urban blue seats closer to Auckland.

Most pleasingly of all the outcomes, I am glad that there is now a team of people in Hunua to carry on the work of the Labour Party after the election. Paul ain't seen nothing yet.

There is one week to go: sign waving, street corner meetings, waving signs in the mornings and the evenings, downing hoardings on Friday afternoon, and a small but energetic celebration on Saturday night, no matter what happens.

I don't know what the result will be, given that we haven't done any polling. Roger Douglas has the advantage of forty years' practice in this arena, and distinctive policies which are mad but popular in some parts of the seat (e.g. abolishing the ETS, "zero tolerance" on crime), but he is attached to a fringe party and I don't expect to see him do well.

But then, Manurewa was mad enough to elect him for fifteen years. So who can tell!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Public Meetings

In the Hunua campaign, there were a number of public meetings: Pukekohe, Waiuku, Beachlands and most recently Clevedon.

These are great forums in principle but tend to be let down in practice. My main criticism of them as a candidate is twofold:

  • Organisers usually give you three minutes to intro yourself and your party with a political statement. You can't make any sensible case for anything in three minutes: you can either try and run out of time, or just spout silly slogans.
  • It is not a forum where you can easily critique or interrupt silly things other candidates say: you're meant to hold your tongue.

All the meetings in Hunua were invariably polite affairs, and whether questions came from the floor or in writing, they were about the issues that matter and they give candidates a chance to explain where they come from.

What's struck me is how similar people's concerns are across bigger and smaller towns, and across elections actually. In this election and this electorate, the ETS has been the major issue. That's fair enough given the agricultural base of the seat and the dismal attitude of some of the farming lobbies to the whole issue of climate change.

The others are the old standby's that come up in every election all around New Zealand. We talked about crime, and economic growth, and improving public services. Economic growth. Some foreign policy but not as much as one might like. Often issues of direct economic concern to those in the audience. The security of pensions. The need for more teachers in public schools. And so on.

On many issues Paul Hutchison and I were in agreement: the need for more police and better early intervention to stem crime, for example. On others we were far apart: Paul bashes public servants every chance he gets and goes right to the wire with dismissive comments about the ETS which don't quite fit his leader's policies. Roger provided his own amusements, too often reeling into figures at a rate that just left audiences confused, interspersed with the odd brilliant soundbite, and clearly uncomfortable with his party's "tough on crime" line.

As far as I'm concerned, the more public meetings in a campaign, the better. They make you think. They give you unvarnished feedback. The more you have the less likely you are to get party activists in the majority, and the more impressive the questions that flow.

Most frightening question? "Why do you believe that the climate is changing and that people have anything to do with it - you must be mad to think that."

Most amusing moment: Paul Hutchison attacking ACT's anti-ETS position and Roger firing right back, at Clevedon last night.

Most dismal moment: actually, there weren't any, and that's a damn good thing.

If you attended any good public meetings in your electorate, how did they go?

Responding to the economic crisis II: Job Seekers' Allowance

We are in a lucky spot in New Zealand. Economic growth the past nine years has been well ahead of the previous nine (3.5 versus 2.6%), unemployment has been very low (still only 3.9%, far too low for those who work for the interests of capital to stomach) and the shares of income have become slightly more equal.

There is no doubt though that as the effects of the financial crisis wash over into the real economy, people will lose their jobs. They will do so in a situation of great global uncertainty. They will do so with credit markets tight and house prices falling, which may mean situations where negative equity becomes a problem.

Today as part of its response, Labour announced a new Job Seekers' Allowance.

This will provide up to thirteen weeks' transitional assistance to people who are made redundant (and have been in the workforce for five years or more).

It'll be paid at the same rate as the unemployment benefit, and with the usual one- or two-week standown period.

What makes it different is that it isn't income tested or asset tested - including against your partner's income. So unlike the dole, you have it as of right if you're laid off.

To me that's a nice move: it provides a guaranteed, modest level of support to people who get made redundant, it isn't too expensive (probably around $50m a year), and it's a good idea anyway crisis or none.

I would not want to see anyone proposing a large lump of lard for middle class households who have over-extended themselves, so any cushion should not be income-related or uncapped. This is a modest but reasonable step.

Further details are in PDF format here.

Ratings!

I am in a bind. Even if I thought Labour hadn't handily won a given day in the campaign, I would have to say we had. Being a candidate, if I said otherwise, mainstream media comment might follow, which would not do me or my party any good.

That makes the ratings utterly pointless and without merit.  So there are none from now on.

I'll just much more safely write a post campaign review.

(Responding to DPF and Clint on this. Oh, and Clint, how come you think I lisp? Is that your never-far-from-the-surface homophobia making an appearance?)

Monday, 27 October 2008

days 14 to 15 - Sat 24 to Sun 25 Oct: LABOUR BY A NOSE

I almost declared nobody the winner over the weekend. It seemed to me other than Diwali festivities and all the local campaign work going on, there was nothing particularly substantial. Peter Dunne crawled home to the Nats but that is hardly news; and that's probably the most interesting thing that happened. The RadioNZ debate on foreign affairs issues was pretty good, though it was odd that Winston Peters didn't show up.

The one thing that was substantive and why I give the weekend to Labour was Helen Clark's release of Labour's policy on Maori issues on Sunday, and in particular the commitment she made that Labour will honour the existence of the Maori Seats and never work to remove them without the consent of Maori.

We accept, as a party, that guaranteed representation for the indigenous people is important. So we are relaxed about the seats. They don't need constitutionalising, but they certainly should not be abolished in high handed fashion by the rich and the white, as Mr Key's party would so dearly like to do.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

National's starting to panic.

I listented on Friday night to a very rattled John Key being pushed fairly hard by Mary Wilson on Checkpoint.

As the dawning realisation suffuses the right that National isn't going to be able to form a government by itself after the election, Mr Key and his colleagues have decided that a scare campagin is required.

The scare, obviously enough, was about a "five headed monster of the Left". That is to say a Labour, Progressive, Green, NZ First and Maori Party prospective government. Key sought to portray that combination (which, one might note, has the same number of parties as the current government does) as being somehow problematic, and contrasted it with National being able to govern alone.

He also tried to argue, ridiculously, that the National Party, were it to have more votes than Labour but a substantive minority in the new Parliament, would have some kind of "moral mandate" to form a government.

Let's kill both arguments stone dead right here.

On the first point, National won't get enough votes to form anything on its own. The only way National will be able to form a government post-election is if its picks up enough votes and if it is able to form agreements bringing United Future's Peter Dunne, ACT's Rodney Hide and Roger Douglas, and the Maori Party on side to form an administration. Yes, that's four parties folks. A four headed monster of the Right, one might say, if one was after cheap and silly soundbites.

Of course, Key doesn't want you to think about that, because he wants to portray himself as pure as the driven snow. Or something.

On the second and more important point. We live in a democracy where, thanks to MMP, every vote counts. A government is formed when a party or combination of parties have a majority in the House, or arrangements in the House which allow it to advance its programme.

We no longer live in a country where the right wing minority can force its views on a liberal/progressive majority. That of course is why National hates MMP so much and craves with every single sinew to see it destroyed, and a less proportional electoral system implemented to replace it.

So let's be clear. A government led by Labour would have a moral and political mandate after this year's election if Labour had fewer votes than National. It would do so because it had the support of parties which received 50%+ of the vote at the general election.

I don't mind saying this either: it would be immoral for parties of a smaller sort to cave into pressure from "the biggest party" on some spurious claim to a divine right to power dressed up as moral mandate. Please, give me a break.

What the argument tells you most clearly of all, and most interestingly of all, is just how terrified the right are of losing this election. For of course if they do, they will face an uncertain future. They'll have tried lots of money and not enough; they'll have tried men and women; they'll have tried old and young; they'll have tried moderate and radical. All will have been broken on the rock of New Zealand social democracy.

That is a record of failure the conservative forces in this country will be most unwilling to countenance. And that is why I will not be surprised if the election campaign, which so far has been clean and proper to my eyes, takes a turn for the worse as the tide ebbs from the high point of National Party dominance we've seen in the polls over the past year or so. The elites and powerbrokers of the right, who have been assuming that polls equal election results for a long time now, cannot conceive how the labour movement could possibly win again.

Which goes to show you really, just how little they understand ordinary New Zealanders, the labour movement, the Labour Party, or the governments that Helen Clark has led these past nine years.

Long may they remain ignorant.

day 13 - Fri 24 Oct: LABOUR

Why? Simple answer: the polls that came out from TV3 and Roy Morgan both show the election's very tight with Labour having more options for coalition formation post-election. And secondly, John Key introduced the five-headed monster of the Left - hah! 

Does he not know the current government already has five parties engaged? Does he not realise that giving us the chance to link National to Roger Douglas is pure poison to middle-of-the-roaders who might have been thinking of voting National? Does he not realise that it's 2008 and not 1999, and that the comments are curiously dated, as well as relying on scaring people about the Greens (who are no longer scary) or the Maori Party (who are National's only possible route to forming a government)?

Of course he doesn't realise these things, because he doesn't know what's happened in Kiwi politics in the decades to 2002. Which is why at some point in this campaign, he is going to come undone.

day 12 - Thu 23 Oct: LABOUR

See previous day. The fallout continued. National's campaign had nowhere to go, had no message, and was still covering for the mistakes Lockwood and Maurice had made.

What did Labour have to talk about instead? The fact that 827,000 Kiwis have joined KiwiSaver, and that National is keen to take the knife to the savings scheme if it wins the election. That message, I can tell you from on the ground, is beginning to resonate.

day 11 - Wed 22 Oct: LABOUR

Maurice Williamson and Lockwood Smith. No more need be said.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Interesting Tim Watkin post

If you haven't gone to have a look at Pundit (www.pundit.co.nz) yet, then you should - there is some seriously interesting writing going on at that site.

Tim Watkin has an interesting piece:

What might have been, might be better

Labour says it's being "prudent" by reining in its spending plans, but it may come to regret not giving the economy more of a boost from the public purse

What might have been? It's a question we all ask ourselves at some stage in life, but it's especially pertinent now that Labour has announced it's reining in its strategy–some may say instincts–to make significant increases to social spending in the lead up to the election.

I am not in agreement with some of his substantive points: after all, there are a good two weeks until polling day, and I hope we will see more detail of Labour's plans before then. But the main point seems to be that now is the time to spend.

For those of you that think we do have a debt problem, I might remind you that in the USA, the total government debt owed by the United States (that is federal debt, not state and federal) is around $9 trillion, with about $5.8trillion owed outside govt (ie not borrowed from the Social Security system). That's 40% of GDP or so.

On *worst* predictions, with *no* upswing in the recovery from this slowdown, NZ public debt would be 30% of GDP in ten years.

Very manageable, and it'll be smaller than that anyway - so even more manageable.

Beware the siren calls of those who would wish to slice into the state, using the deficit as an excuse (here's looking at you, Bill&Roger...).

Multimedia - 08wire

If you liked Team America: World Police, then you should find this one funny. Good job Wire!

Multimedia - CTU

Quite good. I do like the cadaverous Douglas. I have to tell you though he doesn't look like that at all in real life. On to the clip:

day 10 - Tue 21 Oct: LABOUR

Easy call. Labour added more investment to one of the critical paths for the country's future, by putting $25m of public funds into an innovation centre at the University of Auckland's Tamaki campus. One of the biggest things we are learning we need to do better as a country is to extract good ideas from our seats of higher learning, commercialise them and get them making money. UniServices at UoA does a pretty good job at this, but this park takes things to a new level. Good decision.

And what did the Nats do? Spend more money on a Waikato Expressway. Not on a high speed rail link between Hamilton and Auckland that could free up the road and give you a faster-than-driving experience, but $790m for a road in the Waikato. A road that will as the oil runs out, be yet another white elephant to our obsession with private transport. Blatant populism indeed, even if it's credible - recall, dear reader, how much of the Expressway got built under the Nats? Answer: nothing.

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