Labour surges; National dives – and a smorgasbord of issues demand action


A new political poll came out yesterday, which put Labour ahead of National. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity is also well ahead of out going National Party leader Bill English.

The recent poll of support for our political parties should not really come as a surprise. Despite the best attempts of the National Party to get a fix on Ms Ardern and her Labour led minority Government, Ms Ardern’s popularity is soaring just like her party’s.

At 48%, Labour’s support is the highest it has been in 15 years. It would have have enough to be able to jettison one of its minor support parties and govern with the other. In this case it would not have any choice, as on current support of just 5% the Greens would be the only one returned to Parliament. At 3% New Zealand First would not be returned to Parliament, the lowest support that the party of Winston Peters has seen in nearly a decade.

If an election were held today, these results would show a radically altered Parliament.

  • LABOUR = 48%/58 seats (59 seats)
  • NATIONAL = 43%/52 seats (54 seats)
  • GREENS = 5%/6 seats
  • ACT = 1%¹ = 1%/1 seat

¹David Seymour holds the Epsom seat, thus A.C.T. has a place in Parliament. ²Remaining seats needed to fill the 120 seat Parliament come from the party lists.

But the real pressure on Labour is still to come. The real pressure comes from the smorgasbord of issues demanding action from a Government that promised much. Issues with crime, the economy, mental health, waste, education and a host of others are ringing loudly. In a year where the rise of particular social movements – one calling for better recognition that sexual harassment is totally not okay, and the other a seemingly sudden declaration of war on single use plastic – Labour can grab an opportunity to steal a march with legislative changes or other support to shore up its base.

Labour needs to be careful though as many of the other issues are ones where normally one hears an emphasis on them from conservative parties, such as justice and the economy. Labour needs to move on one or more of these to deprive National of political oxygen. With almost daily violent crime being reported up and down the country, and an alarming level of it involving drug addled individuals wielding weapons, it is not a great look for a country that prides itself on being safe.

So, whilst Labour can take some pleasure in the results, there is much to be done and the public are hungry for action.

Wanted: New Leader of the National Party


After 27 years in Parliament, including 8 as Treasurer under Prime Minister John Key as well as one year as Prime Minister, Bill English resigned today. His resignation will take effect on 27 February 2018 and he will leave Parliament on 01 March 2018.

Simon William English entered Parliament in 1990 when National won the F.P.P. election under Jim Bolger. He stood as the candidate for Wallace in 1990 and 1993 before it became Clutha-Southland in 1996. Under the Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley led National Governments Mr English held Health. After the party’s defeat in 1999, he was shadow spokesperson for Finance and then Leader of the National Party and thus the Opposition, which lasted until 2003 when Dr Don Brash took over. He was reassigned to the Education Spokesperson role before John Key became Leader of the National Party in 2006, whereupon he was restored to the Finance Spokesperson role.

In 2008 Mr English became Treasurer of New Zealand and would hold this role until 2016 when the then Prime Minister John Key stepped down. He gained a reputation as a solid keeper of New Zealand’s finances and when his resignation was announced yesterday there were words of respect from all parts of Parliament about his time as Treasurer.

Shortly before Mr Key resigned, Kaikoura was struck by a large magnitude 7.8 earthquake which caused widespread damage to the town, surrounding regions and transport links. One of Mr English’s first acts as Prime Minister was to announce that the road and railway links would be rebuilt in full. Mr English remained popular, well ahead of his opposite number, Labour Leader Andrew Little until he resigned in August 2017, to pave the way for Jacinda Ardern to lead Labour and now New Zealand.

Mr English’s personal future in Parliament was always in question following the decision of New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters to cast his lot with the Labour Party and the Greens to form a centre left Government. Although he and his National Party presented a united front and lost no time in getting cracking as the Opposition of the 51st Parliament of New Zealand, let there be no doubt that the loss of the Beehive would deeply hurt everyone in the party of Robert Muldoon, Keith Holyoake and so forth.

With Mr English’s departure from Parliament altogether scheduled for later this month, the National Party are in internal election mode sorting out the serious contenders for his job from the fakes. It is widely thought that there are four candidates for the job:

  • Former Minister of Justice Amy Adams
  • Former Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett
  • Former Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman
  • Former Minister of Police Judith Collins

Two outside contenders also exist in the form of Nikki Kaye who was former Minister of Civil Defence and Simon Bridges, former Minister of Energy and Resources.

Former Minister of Justice Amy Adams is viewed as one of the more left-leaning member, which may attract votes from the centre part of the National Party’s political spectrum. Mrs Adam is M.P. for Selwyn, which is a solid blue Canterbury electorate.

Paula Bennett is known as a “westie” because she originally stood for the Auckland electorate of Waitakere. Before Mr English took over, she was Minister for Social Development under Mr Key, where she earnt a reputation for being out of touch with social issues.

Jonathan Coleman was Minister of Health after Tony Ryall left Parliament. During this time a consistent inability to accept an exploding mental health crisis in New Zealand despite a number of high profile cases, the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes and other causes causing record demand for mental health services.

A vote for Judith Collins is a vote to support the core rural constituents of National. Ms Collins was at the centre of the Oravida scandal and was made to walk the plank – some still view her as corrupt, which may tarnish her credibility.

New Zealand First betrays members with T.P.P.A. support


For six years New Zealand First was one of the stalwart parties in New Zealand opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership. From the first rumblings about the danger it posted in 2011, through to Fletcher Tabuteau’s Bill of Parliament attempting to derail the T.P.P.A. New Zealand First consistently campaigned against it.

As a former New Zealand First member, their decision to support the T.P.P.A. is a major betrayal of the party. It is a major betrayal of the principles on which the party was founded and completely undermines the hard work done by so many party members and Members of Parliament who attended and organized protests and public meetings, petitioned the public, made submissions and so forth.

In the end the only party that has steadfastly opposed the T.P.P.A. from start to finish has been the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. This will likely draw some people who might have otherwise voted for New Zealand First away from the party that supposedly stood for common sense.

I do not know if I can continue supporting New Zealand First. One of the primary reasons for voting for them was toderail the T.P.P.A. Another one of the reasons donating to them up to May last year was to help get more anti-T.P.P.A. candidates into Parliament.

The reasons for steadfastly opposing the T.P.P.A. are pretty simple. It is not a free or fair trade deal in that much of it was written at the behest of faceless corporations. The Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement clauses were never fully removed or effectively neutralized. Thus a corporation can still take the New Zealand Government to court for passing legislation that the corporation does not like. The T.P.P.A. also threatens to undermine the social, environmental and human rights framework of New Zealand. That is not okay.

I am too conservative for the Green Party, but I can see them doing well at New Zealand First’s expense in 2020.

Jacinda Ardern pregnancy a potential win for Labour


 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pregnant. The world is aware of it and many major overseas celebrities have congratulated her and Clarke Gayford.

The news that Labour leader Ms Ardern is pregnant might be old, but it is nonetheless popular. Ms Ardern and Mr Peters have been in contact. Mr Peters agreed to be Acting Prime Minister for the six week period where the Prime Minister is on a period of abbreviated maternity leave. Mr Peters will be in contact throughout the maternity leave to clear any major policy announcements and take on priority issues through out. The six weeks where Mr Peters will be Acting Prime Minister will be from 22 June 2018. The assumption is that a plan to transfer her political responsibilities to other cabinet and caucus members is being kept under wraps and will be announced nearer the time.

There have been critics of this day. I have seen accusations of a child being born out of wedlock, which were both hurting and insulting to anyone of repute. Some simply said they are concerned that Ms Ardern willl not be fully ready and not focus her undivided attention on being Prime Minister.

I think everything will be fine. Despite Ms Ardern being the first to have a baby whilst holding office, she is not the first office holder to have held office and been a parent to an infant at the same time. Others include Dame Jenny Shipley, who has a son and a daughter. Former Minister for Social Welfare, Ruth Richardson used to have her young child at Parliament. Likewise several other M.P’s in the current chamber have children who are now young adults or in their very late teens.

For women all over New Zealand, Ms Ardern announcing her pregnancy showed that even in the most coveted job in New Zealand politics, women are continuing to break barriers. Broadcaster Mark RIchardson questioned whether she planned to have children whilst Prime Minister, one of the few times in the election cycle Ms Ardern was genuinely annoyed, as Mr Richardson found out. His reaction to finding out she is pregnant was somewhat more restrained.

Ms Ardern may have given Labour a huge ideological boost by becoming pregnant. The working mother who found herself struggling to feed her child/ren, pay all the bills and keep a roof over their heads has been a common story. The story about the female Prime Minister who has been able to show up potentially higher paid, more skilled and more visible New Zealanders will be folklore for a while to come.

 

Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy makes waves world wide


On Friday morning New Zealand time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy.

Ms Ardern’s pregnancy will be good news for everyone in New Zealand. It is a statement from the highest office in the land that motherhood whilst holding high office is quite okay. Indeed Ms Ardern is not the first in Government to have children – former Prime Minister Bill English has six children to his wife Mary; former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and former cabinet Minister Ruth Richardson were both parents to young children during their time in office. And today’s Parliament has a bracket of child rearing Members of Parliament.

So, what is the fuss all about then?

Whilst all the above is true, it is also true that none of them GAVE birth whilst holding office.

Ms Ardern will hand the Prime Ministership over to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in June whilst she gives birth. She will be absent for six weeks, but will be contactable in the event of something unforeseen or an emergency.

When Ms Ardern was elected a number of right-leaning commentators including Mark Richardson asked whether Ms Ardern will be able to cope having a baby. The response was as decisive and firm. Mr Richardson was notably quiet when the news was announced on Friday.

So, how has the world received it? The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive. From Kiwi’s and non-Kiwi’s alike there has been praise. Political opponents and friends alike have praised Ms Ardern. So too, have foreign leaders including Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.

But there have been detractors on social media, though the most high profile right wing commentators have been rather silent. For all the praise there are people around who still believe that because Ms Ardern is going to need 6 weeks maternity leave, she will not be able to do her job. There are people who think that somehow New Zealand will have a disaster in the six weeks that Mr Peters is Acting Prime Minister – they appear unable, and/or willing, to acknowledge that there is a plan in place. Nor do they wish to acknowledge that Mr Peters has been Acting Prime Minister in the past.

But for now, let us enjoy the fact that another glass barrier in front of parents was smashed today and that it was done by the highest elected office holder in the land.