Government ‘in control’.  For how long?

The first year of Covid rattled confidence in governments round the globe. The 2021 energy price surge is exposing a swathe of vainglory and folly in policymaking.

Yet looking back over the last fifteen years or so, it seems remarkable how ‘hands on’ government has confounded its critics.  Global financial panic, Eurozone debt crisis, Brexit ructions, Covid pandemic – in each case the gloomsters were largely confounded.  

Worst case scenarios did not materialise. A handful of decisive policy steps and a great deal of ad hoc tinkering have seen living standards, jobs and house prices protected.

Continue reading “Government ‘in control’.  For how long?”

Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting

The hounds of the parliamentary press gallery are smelling Nat blood.

More particularly, they are smelling the blood of National Party leader Judith Collins, who is reported to be shrugging off talk of a leadership challenge.

Poor polls – she contends – are due to her party holding the Government to account.

Really?

Holding the Government to account explains why a recent opinion poll shows the party’s popularity sinking to just 21 per cent?

We wonder if something might be missing from that analysis and that inadequately holding the government to account might be a factor in the Nats’ poor poll showing and the rise (comparatively) of  ACT and David Seymour. Continue reading “Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting”

Many Alexanders but only one Boris

The flaws of Boris Johnson, Britain’s jokey PM, have been highlighted through the Brexit saga, and he has many haters.  Fine material you might think for Tom Bower, the UK’s pre-eminent investigative muckraker, notorious for coruscating biographies of Richard Branson, Robert Maxwell and Jeremy Corbyn.

But funnily enough he hasn’t made that much of a splash with Boris Johnson The Gambler published in the midst of the UK’s Covid epidemic at the end of last year.

It’s not that Bower shuns the negative.  He scrupulously documents the driving ambition, rhetorical evasion, monumental self-centeredness, serial infidelity and inability to buy a round.

But these traits are not entirely absent from many leading politicians.  And Johnson managed to emerge through the pages as a ferociously intelligent and curiously likeable character, who pulls off these stunts more colourfully and successfully than most.

Indeed, Boris’s enemies tend to suffer in the comparison.  Former PM, Theresa May is portrayed as an over-promoted machiavel; while the head of the Foreign Office, Simon Macdonald, comes across as unctuous and incompetent. The next-door neighbours who snitched to the press on Boris’s domestic rows appear as uptight ideologues, determined to expose “the ugly edifice of capitalist heteropatriachy’”.

Continue reading “Many Alexanders but only one Boris”

Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging

Transport Minister  Michael Wood  is  winning  a  reputation  for  his  bold political  initiatives. They  include, for  example,  the  announcement  of a second Auckland  harbour  bridge crossing  (but  only  for  cyclists and walkers, costing an estimated $780m).

Then came  a  “feebate”  scheme  to  hasten  the  transition  to electric  vehicles.

And earlier  there  had  been  a  move to “review”  the  Light  Rail project  in  Auckland, the  commitment  to which  had   proved a  political disaster  for Wood’s  predecessor, Phil  Twyford.

Wood  may  regard  himself  as  the  chosen  one,  enjoying  the  favours  of  his  political  seniors.  Certainly  he  appears to  have a gift  for  steering  his  initiatives  through Cabinet.

But to what effect for the political fortunes of the government?

The harbour  bridge for strollers and cyclists  drew a  spectacular  response,  coming  as it did when  Prime  Minister Jacinda  Ardern was  pointing  out  the government  was “strapped  for  cash” and  could  not meet  the  nurses’ demands  for a higher  wage rise  than the 1.38%  offered  by their  state  employers. Continue reading “Wood is proving adept at steering major initiatives through Cabinet – but winning public approval for them will be more challenging”

Three Ministers to pick up extra duties while Kiri Allan is treated for cancer

Marama Davidson – we note – is not one of three Ministers who will take care of Kiri Allan’s portfolios while the well regarded Labour politician takes leave of absence to be treated for  cancer.

Pity. Being given one of the three acting positions might have enabled Davidson to issue more press statements, lifting the number from the grand total of four in her name on the Beehive website. 

Kiri Allan, the Minister of Conservation and Emergency Management and Associate Minister for Arts and Culture, has issued four statements since March 21.  Her tally since she became a minister after the 2020 general election is 30.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today Allan is taking a leave of absence while she undergoes medical treatment for cervical cancer.

The only other statement on the Beehive website this morning was from Police Minister Poto William, who announced the members of the Ministers Arms Advisory Group, established to ensure balanced advice to Government on firearms that is independent of Police. Continue reading “Three Ministers to pick up extra duties while Kiri Allan is treated for cancer”

Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?

According to his critics, Damien O’Connor may well have contracted a nasty dose of foot-in-mouth disease.

Whether his personal struggle with the condition is good or bad for a bloke who happens to be our Minister of Biosecurity is arguable.  The portfolio requires the Minister and his ministry to ensure against foot-and-mouth disease sneaking into the country (among a formidable list of threatening pests and diseases).

Foot-and-mouth is much more virulent than foot-in-mouth and an outbreak on our farms would be calamitous for the economy.

Foot-in-mouth, on the other hand, is common among politicians and tends to be more damaging to the afflicted politician and his/her party than to the national economy.

Accordingly, when it is detected, the authorities do not declare an emergency and immediately put down the politician and cull every other beast within a certain distance, as would happen with livestock, although a polls-sensitive PM might be tempted to demote the culprit and put him or her out to pasture on the back benches.

Mind you, a politician might be accused by Opposition politicians or media commentators of having foot-in-mouth disease when others think the accused politician’s remarks were eminently sensible.

Damien O’Connor found himself embroiled in a trans-Tasman brouhaha when he suggested Australia could improve its relationship with China by following this country’s lead and showing more respect to the Asian powerhouse. Continue reading “Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?”

Davidson tweets her rebuttal (with a “racism” barb) in spat over homelessness and crime but has yet to issue a ministerial press statement

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson’s accomplishments as Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness) became an issue that aroused our interest during the past week, although mainstream news media seemed more fascinated by Davidson’s playing of the race card when National’s Nicola Willis linked crime with homelessness.

At Question Time in Parliament, Willis asked Davidson:  

Can she confirm that in the five months since becoming a Minister, she has not taken a single paper to Cabinet committee or Cabinet and has not issued a single press release?

Speaker Trevor Mallard let her off the hook by ruling this did not relate to the primary question.

Davidson was given a chance to answer the question outside the House, when reporters asked her about her achievements as minister.  But as Stuff reported –

 … when questioned about what she had achieved as minister she abruptly left the press stand-up mid-question.

And:

She said she had been engaging with the community since being in the job, and had continued to oversee the rollout of a homelessness housing plan. “I have continued to progress the actions for preventing homelessness,” she said.

But instead of answering a further question, her press secretary said: “Thanks, guys – that’s enough.” Continue reading “Davidson tweets her rebuttal (with a “racism” barb) in spat over homelessness and crime but has yet to issue a ministerial press statement”

Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy

Will  we  miss him  when  he is  gone?

Love him  or  loathe  him,  Winston  Peters   is  one   of the  extraordinary  characters  on the  NZ  political  stage.  Through  his  remarkable  career,   he  has  registered   the  highs — and  lows — of  politics.

But  now  after  his  latest stint  as  Deputy Prime Minister  and  Foreign  Minister, the latest opinion polling show he is  facing political  oblivion.  NZ  First’s support  has shrunk to  just 1%.

This  perhaps  comes  as  no  surprise    after   the  financial  shenanigans  involving    the  NZ  First  Foundation,  despite  Peters   asserting  the  party  and  MPs   have been  “exonerated”.

 The  Serious  Fraud  Office  announced  last week  that two  people  are  being charged  after  a  probe  into  the  foundation.

The   SFO investigation discovered  credible  evidence   of   criminal  wrongdoing   at  the foundation,  which has  no other purpose  than to  serve  the  NZ  First  Party.

No matter how  Peters rails  against  the  SFO,  the  hard  truth  is that one of the  country’s  major  law  enforcement  agencies  is charging  two  people  with  connections  to the  NZ  First  Party, even if  they  are  not current members  of it. Continue reading “Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy”

Boris shows some backbone

A lot of people – including quite a few in Britain’s Conservative party – don’t like Dominic Cummings, special adviser to PM Boris Johnson and a key figure in the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 Brexit-focused general election.

So there was some undisguised joy when it was suggested that he had – like some other prominent and now departed public figures – broken the lockdown rules, in his case by travelling from London to Durham to ensure emergency childcare. Continue reading “Boris shows some backbone”