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.

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.

A.C.T.’s End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament


Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who had an incurable brain disease, died nearly 2 1/2 years ago. She was 42. Through out the last stages of her life she fought to have the right to die a peaceful death by lethal injection on her own terms, instead of potentially losing her dignity. The case has raised the issue in New Zealand of whether or not one should have that right. Three separate attempts to resolve it through the legislative processes of Parliament have all met with failure.

Yesterday another attempt in the form of A.C.T. Party Leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill began. Mr Seymour who has actively championed a right for a patient in terminal pain or suffering a terminal illness, particularly if it is debilitating in nature, is confident New Zealanders will support the Bill.

It has the support of various National and Labour Members of Parliament including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour M.P.’s Iain Lees-Galloway and Kris Faafoi, as well as National M.P.’s such as Chris Bishop, Nathan Guy and Mr Seymour. New Zealand First will support it if an amendment to require a public referendum on the issue is added – which Mr Seymour said he will support if N.Z. First can find the votes.

There are moral and ethical issues that any court considering such an issue should deal with.  It needs to be sure that it is not going to set such a legal precedent that could be reasonably challenged in a court of law.

I personally support a process to allow people with terminal illness or pain to die with dignity. To watch someone a person loves and cares about suffer pain they do not need to suffer, knowing it will never go away and over time will only get worse is devastating. To watch their dignity disappear and the life, the personality of the person drain from their being before ones eyes is not something I would wish on anyone.

The process will need checks and balances. I propose the following checks and balances:

  • Is fully aware of the decision that they are making and able to comprehend it
  • Has signed something that has a prominent place on their medical file, expressly permitting them to be put to sleep
  • Has a doctor whose ethical suitability for administering the lethal injection has been certified, and that a process overseen by an appropriate medical organization such as the Royal College of General Practitioners for ensuring only such doctors are able to carry out such procedures is in place

I understand that this will provoke a substantial and at times tense and controversial reaction. That is quite okay. This was always going to be a contentious Bill of Parliament no matter which way it goes, or how far through the legislative process it gets. I understand that those adhering to a particular faith will be potentially alarmed at what they will see as an attack on morality. Again, it is quite okay to express strong opinion.

What is not okay is to openly advocate violence against institutions or people that support/do not support this. That will just – aside from being criminal due to the violence promoted – be hugely and unnecessarily inflammatory. What is not okay is to be deliberately obstructionist.

I hope I never have to make this decision on behalf of a loved one, but I would be guided by what they want first and foremost. Then I would worry about how to carry their wishes out legally. And the moralizing people will just have to live with it.

Labour and Greens surge in post election poll


Three weeks into her first term as Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern can smile at the poll gods, who yesterday signalled that Labour and the Greens would be able to govern alone if elected today.

Perhaps the public are finding the sour grapes of National and A.C.T. too much to swallow, so they are relishing the more pleasant ones on offer from the Greens, New Zealand First and Labour. For the last few weeks, National has been relentlessly attacking Ms Ardern and her new Government – be it on taxation, Pike River or their first days in Parliament as the new Government.

This is realistic. Normally the public are happy to give a new Government a few months to settle in, during which time mistakes are simply considered part of the settling process. A new Oppositions’ initial attacks are usually not that effective as its M.P.’s will be still smarting at the election loss and – if it was a big one – they might well be looking for a new leader. During this time the new opposition parties can normally just bide their time, look at what they did wrong in the election.

And that is what makes this situation interesting. National only lost the election because New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had to make a choice – prop up a Government out of ideas and out of touch with the socio-economic needs of New Zealanders. The risk here is that would perhaps tear N.Z. First apart whilst ensuring National and A.C.T copped a right thrashing in 2020.

I can understand how National M.P.’s and their supporters might be bitter. They had the numbers to clearly form a coalition without A.C.T if Mr Peters had come on board. But this was a Government ignoring concerns that Labour and the Greens were able to capitalize on about housing, about mental health, about education and welfare among a host of others. Those concerns were being ratcheted up to deafening levels. The other point is that National should be well aware by now that there is an unwritten rule in Parliament that only a truly exceptional Government survives to have a fourth term.

The alternative was the one that Mr Peters choose: to support a new untested combination in Jacinda Ardern and Green Party leader James Shaw. Whilst untested and the Greens barely starting to recover from Metiria Turei’s gamble, Ms Ardern clearly had the charisma, the attentiveness to public opinion and a few ideas on addressing what the public sees as major issues.

The agenda is ambitious. And new expenditure plans are being announced at regular intervals. People on the centre right want to know where the money is going to come from, but seem to forget that under National and A.C.T. we borrowed tens of billions of dollars and nary a word got said by these critics then. The Government has announced details of its tax committee just like what was promised when Ms Ardern first mentioned it. Steven Joyce’s attacks on their expenditure are those of a man with sour grapes who does not want to admit he is wrong.

But the polling gods seem to approve of the plans laid out so far, or Labour and the Greens would not have achieved the support they did in the recent poll.