Winter by-elections are rarely kind to governments. But Boris Johnson’s Conservative party held on to a south London stronghold on a low turnout with a tolerably-reduced majority.
More worrying was that 1,400 voters got out of bed (one presumes) on a bitterly cold day to vote for the relatively anonymous candidate of a rebranded populist Reform party. That’s about as many as the Greens and Liberals could manage between them.
After two years of setting the agenda, the talk now is of Boris losing his grip. But might it be the change in his agenda?
A raft of appointments has been announced over the past 24 hours – an ambassador to Turkey, a consul-general to Guangzhou, a chair for KiwiRail, a deputy inspector-general of intelligence and security and an advisory panel for the same outfit.
Oh – and remember Clare Curran? The former Labour Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media has landed a job on the board of a Crown company, Network for Learning (N4L).
In other announcements, the government joined the disabled community in marking and celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall congratulated Covid testing teams around New Zealand for reaching the five million tests milestone.
Another big health-related statement came from Health Minister Andrew Little, who said care for the sickest New Zealanders is getting a major boost from the government, with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expanding intensive care-type services.
As the country shifts to the traffic-light system, he said (somewhat ominously)
“… we need to make sure we can cope with the unexpected.”
Cabinet has earmarked $100 million of capital funding from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to accelerate these intensive care unit projects. Another $544 million of operational funding is available to fund ongoing costs like staffing.
A week after violence erupted in Honiara, capital of the politically troubled Solomon Islands, the Ardern government responded to a request to help restore peace and stability.
The New Zealand government has announced that it will deploy Defence Force and Police personnel to Honiara to help restore peace and stability.
Better late than never?
The Aussies responded last week.
But according to the Beehive statement, we were asked for help only this week. The Aussies reportedly were asked for help almost immediately after protesters arrived on the steps of Solomon Islands’ national parliament in Honiara last Wednesday to demand the prime minister’s resignation.
Anyway, our government has had plenty of other things to consider.
Coastal shipping, for example. The cumbersomely titled Coastal Shipping Investment Approach State-of-Play report has been released, described by Transport Minister Michael Wood as an important step towards a more sustainable coastal shipping sector, which will further diversify New Zealand’s supply chain.
Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods has announced legislation in her portfolio patch has been given the Royal assent.
Whee! Vaccinated New Zealanders can look forward to Kiwi summer events with confidence….
Those were the opening words of a press statement from Carmel Sepuloni. speaking as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage about the launch of details of the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme.
But don’t count on the new ”traffic lights” system of Covid-19 control being a sure guide to where you can go and which events you can attend. The system is causing confusion in the north and in the south.
This casts a cloud over Sepuloni’s press statement boast that the the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme is about providing certainty for event organisers, confidence for vaccinated New Zealanders to attend and enjoy events, and reassurance for artists and crew that they can get paid if their events can’t go ahead as planned.
But one thing is for sure: under the scheme, all of us will be chipping in to pay for these events, even if we don’t attend them.
Wolfgang Munchau is a favourite European political commentator. You have to love a guy who ran the argument that Germany and Britain should team up to run the European Union.
Naturally you’d like to know his views on the new German governing coalition, which has just published its 178-page policy agreement.
The most interesting thing about the coalition is that it brings together the enviro-statist Green party with the right-liberal Free Democrats, who, as Munchau says “can’t stand the sight of each other”.
Matters in the foreign affairs domain have preoccupied ministers over the past two days.
Ambassadors to Russia and the United Nations have been appointed, $100 million has been given to the Cook Islands and Fiji for COVID-19 economic support and recovery, nine southern African countries have been added to New Zealand’s list of very high risk countries after discovery of the COVID-19 variant Omicron, and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has provided a rundown on the North American leg of her 17-day overseas travels.
Mahuta has been busy. Regardless of jet lag, she has announced the new ambassadorial appointments and the economic package of $100 million, bringing COVID-19 support to the Cook Islands and Fiji to a combined total of $215 million. New Zealand this time is providing $60 million to the Cook Islands and $40 million to Fiji.
We suppose the press statements were prepared while the Minister was in managed isolation and quarantine, no doubt itching to get back to the Three Waters reforms.
A weekend statement told us the final leg of Mahuta’s travels involved “a number of high-level discussions” in the United States and Canada.
As the National party wrangles over Judith Collins’ replacement, they might take a crumb of comfort from the fact that a few of their corresponding centre-right political parties are also living dangerously.
Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Conservatives is being savaged by colleagues as Britain’s living standards sag (and poll ratings with it). But at least he is in office, with a healthy parliamentary majority.
Violence in Honiara – three days of looting and destruction, demands for the PM to step down and the declaration of a nightly curfew – has prompted one of two new posts on the Beehive website since we last updated our monitoring.
Reporting on the unrest, RNZ Pacific correspondent in Honiara, Georgina Kekea, said only six buildings were still standing in Honiara’s Chinatown.
In Wellington, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister David Parker has expressed this country’s deep concern at events unfolding in the capital of the Solomon Islands.
The government has taken further steps to split the country into various camps – first, we will have vaccinated and unvaccinated Kiwis, and second, we are further developing Us and Them racial camps. One split is being explained by the government’s need to protect the nation against the spread of Covid-19, the other is being justified by a debatable interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.
When something must be done to meet the requirements of the Treaty (according to interpretations adopted by the Ardern government to promote its political agenda), most critics are likely to be silenced. To challenge the dispensation of favours to Maori or whatever has been justified by the Treaty is to risk being accused of racism.
The latest decision to split the country into vaccinated and unvaccinated camps – and to bestow rights and benefits, such as a job, on the vaccinated – affects Police and Defence personnel.
Fresh from the legislative outrage of rushing the “traffic lights” bill through Parliament, the government poured $504.1 million earlier today into initiatives to help Kiwis deal with Covid-19 in its latest responses to the reality that Covid-19 is something we must learn to live with.
That was the sum when Point of Order first checked the Beehive website this morning.
By the time we were wrapping up this post an announcement from Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall had increased this by almost $1 billion on measures for testing, contact tracing and case investigation
Quicker testing will be among the consequences.
“Delta is here, so we are ensuring we have the tools in place to support the transition to the new framework, and to help minimise the spread of COVID-19,” Ayesha Verrall said.
Yep. The government has waved the flag of surrender in its efforts to beat the virus and has changed the rules for trying to constrain its spread.