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Substance vs style

Written By: - Date published: 7:32 am, August 24th, 2011 - 73 comments
Categories: brand key, election 2011, labour, national, polls - Tags: , , ,

Has there ever been an election in this country that illustrated such a strong disconnect between substance and style?

Voters are clearly still enamored with their image of John Key. He’s a well managed media product. He does popular “feel good” stuff like hang out with royals, photo ops with Obama, and clowning around on Letterman. He avoids the hard issues and dodges anything resembling real media scrutiny (so no Morning Report, no fronting to interviews on asset sales and the like). He’s all about style – brand Key – and we the public are buying it (so far), no doubt about that. Key scores very highly as preferred PM and (I suspect to a huge extent) National piggybacks on his personal popularity to a commanding lead in the polls.

If that was all there was to it then the election would be almost a foregone conclusion. But it isn’t quite that simple, because there is still the matter of substance. And on matters of substance, policy, voters prefer what Labour has to offer. Here’s an account from 3 weeks back:

Voters prefer Labour policy but not party: Poll

Voters prefer Labour’s remedy for the economy over National’s, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey – but they still don’t like the doctor. …

The polling began a week after Labour announced its new tax policy, including a capital gains tax and a new top tax rate of 39 cents on income above $150,000. When asked which policy should be used to pay off Government debt, 43 per cent chose the capital gains tax and 34 per cent nominated state asset sales. …

Opinion on the capital gains tax was evenly split in the poll – 38 per cent were in favour and an equal amount against.

The poll also revealed the extent of opposition to National’s state asset sales plan – 41 per cent of the party’s own supporters said they were against it, the same number as those in favour. Overall, 57 per cent of all respondents were against National’s state asset sales – including 35 per cent strongly against.

The message on asset sales vs capital gains tax was repeated in another morsel from the weekend’s 3 News / Reid poll released last night:

Kiwis prefer capital gains tax over asset sales – poll

Labour may be struggling in the polls, but its proposal to introduce a capital gains tax is proving to be a winner. A 3 News Reid Research poll has found it is considerably more popular than National’s plan for asset sales. Voters were asked which they prefer; partial asset sales or Labour’s capital gains tax.

• 53 percent of respondents said they preferred capital gains tax
• 31 percent said they preferred asset sales
• 16 percent said neither, or didn’t know

… even Mr Key’s own voters seem unconvinced by the push to sell minority stakes in state assets.

• Just 51.5 percent of National voters like the idea.
• 32 percent – one in three National voters – said they preferred Phil Goff’s policy
• 16 percent said neither, or didn’t know.

“New Zealanders know what happened last time an asset was sold; Contact Energy ended up in foreign ownership,” says Mr Goff.

There’s no doubt that asset sales is huge, but I don’t think that any single issue will swing the election for Labour (for example the first piece quoted above includes “However, four out of five voters said the tax package would make no difference to the way they voted”). But many issues combined? Better tax policy, better social policy, better environmental policy, and no asset sales? It all adds up.

So when push comes to shove in November, will Kiwis vote for the style that they like, or the substance that they want?

73 comments on “Substance vs style”

  1. Craig Glen Eden 1

    “So when push comes to shove in November, will Kiwis vote for the style that they like, or the substance that they want?”

    Labour has got the policy now its all about the delivery. I hear that the likes of Anne tolley is going to be promoted if National get back in ————–Yup the stakes are high indeed.

    • marsman 1.1

      Tolley promoted? To what? Finance? Couldn’t do worse than Blinkered Bill English.

      • McFlock 1.1.1

        I think that the contest might be closer than one might imagine just looking at English.

  2. marsman 2

    Obviously Key needs to be hammered at every opportunity, forced to confront the irresponsible actions of his inept Administration. If he doesn’t turn up for interviews he should be confronted by hordes of protesters at every photo-op he goes to.

    • Eddie 2.1

      he was in Kapiti yesterday.

    • All of them are into photo op mode.  Exhibit A, on Q&A on Sunday neither Ryall nor Blinglish showing up to debate things with David Cunliffe.  Mind you considering the respective abilities of the three the decision was probably the correct one.

      • AAMC 2.2.1

        It’s up to the left to get it into the greater public consciousness that it is unacceptable in a democracy for a government not to front in the media.

        I don’t know how, but it needs to move from the blogosphere into the mainstream somehow.

        As long as the medai are complicit as cheerleaders, it’s a hard one. Labour / Green should take every media opportunity and should consistently, without framing it as spur grapes, draw attention to he lack of Nation from the debate.

  3. Lindsay 3

    Key has obviously made the decision to only turn up to positive news situations. He is leaving the negative items to the other Ministers. Thst is the reason he failed to turn up in ChCh to hear the concerns of the families wanting representation on the Royal Commission into the failure of buildings in ChCh during the earthquake. But when it came to announce that they would fund for legal representation, it was J Key who annoiunced it.

  4. Carol 4

    From where I’m sitting, the style looks pretty Shonkey, too. Put somehow the media continues to put a positive spin on it.

    • thejackal 4.1

      Totally agree. Anybody who thinks Key’s style is good needs their head read.

      • Jim Nald 4.1.1

        Oh come on, New Zealand, let’s face up to the fact that in 2008, the country collectively voted in a government of bullshit, for bullshit, and by bullshit. We should stop continuing to bullshit ourselves about the worth of this lot in power.

  5. Tangled up in blue 5

    The reality is that as much as people prefer Labours policy over Nationals; people don’t have confidence in Goff to effectively administer this policy.

  6. Eddie 6

    “However, four out of five voters said the tax package would make no difference to the way they voted”

    Isn’t that actually a very high number? I mean, only 30% of people change their votes between elections, so if 20% will change their votes on this tax package, that’s two thirds of the swing vote.

    • Yep support could be swinging both ways but given the overall support for the CGT/against asset sales I would bet that more would move to the left.
       

  7. Hilary 7

    Can’t believe how National (and their supporters including the Blue Greens) can seriously think that selling our state assets to fund the unnecessary and unwanted Kapiti expressway, in a time of declining road use, is a good idea. At least some brave locals protested yesterday and destroyed the planned photo op for today’s Dom Post.. The PM went to the new Waikanae station to see how popular electrified rail is, and still didn’t get it.

  8. Good post R0b but I disagree with you on one point, if the one out of five voters who said the tax package would make a difference to the way they voted changed their vote left the election is all over.

    • Tangled up in blue 8.1

      Assuming that most of those ‘one out of five voters’ aren’t already part of the ‘one out of three voters’ who support Labour.

    • Lanthanide 8.2

      ” if the one out of five voters who said the tax package would make a difference to the way they voted changed their vote left the election is all over.”

      People can just as easily be against a tax policy as for it. Particularly when you’re talking about the scary monster of CGT that many mistakenly believe will hit the family home and that it’s retrospective.

  9. Blue 9

    You have way more faith in Kiwi voters than I do, Rob. Four out of five said they don’t really care what the policies are. Smile and wave will do just fine for them.

    I think it’s obvious from the opinion polls so far that Kiwis aren’t really that opposed to asset sales. They may not like them, but it isn’t a strong enough dislike to make them change their vote.

  10. RobM 10

    The Politics headlines on the Herald’s home page at 9am:

    “MP plans law to regulate sunbeds”

    “Key turns on the charm for Kapiti”

    “Government to crack down on money laundering”

    “Maori Party man throws spanner in rivals’ works”

    “Parents’ pay targeted in proposed law change”

    Substantial bit of cheerleading for the coalition of the swilling.

  11. tc 11

    We don’t have a great history in making savvy electoral decisions so can anyone seeing this one being any different….especially if sideshow simles n waves his way around NZild with the web ellis trophy if Henry’s men don’t choke again.

  12. Blue 12

    Stubstance and style are not mutually exclusive. I always thought David Lange had both (the last Labour Leader I voted for). Some would argue Goff has some substance and less style, whereas others agrue Key may have lots of style and less substance. Some combination of both would, I imagine, be unbeatable. Rather than Goff complaining that his message fails to resonate because Key has more style he could try exhibiting characteristics than middle New Zealand recognise and identify with. You could take the moral high ground and refuse on principle, of course, but the point that seems to be lost on Labour is that to change somehing you don’t like, you have to win, to win you have to be popular, to be popular, people have to like you and identify with you as a person. Like it or not, thats the way it is, so sticking your head in the sand and refusing to recognise this is a recipe for an electoral disaster. Trouble is there are few ‘likeable’ people in Labour ATM. Most seem to be rather venal in their speech and if Clare Curran is an example, don’t particularly value the voters ability to make their own minds up. The seige mentality continues.

    • aerobubble 12.1

      Key lied his way into power, Tax cuts were not affordable or balanced, he went back on promises
      not to mess with kiwisaver, put GST up, etc. Are you suggesting Labour should openly put
      principles out they also are not going to keep? Or are you just a hopeless loser suggesting you like
      liars who harm your interests if they do it with style.

  13. ron 13

    I think a good question for voters is “Would you leave your daughter alone with this guy?”

    • Jim Nald 13.1

      Hmm, .. some potentially interesting answers there.
      On one account, ‘your’ gene pool should be safe – he claims to shoot blanks.

    • Blue 13.2

      @ron – “Would you leave your daughter alone with this guy?”, I’m not sure what you mean, are you suggesting he’s sifty like Shane Jones and obsessed with pornography (and the fact taht he thinks the taxpayer should foot the bill for it), then no I wouldn’t. Perhaps leaving her alone with convicted violent offender and serial goob Trevor Mallard, no I wouldn’t, how about former labour MP and the only politician in the history of this country to have been convicted of corruption (that is an acheivement!) – the self entitled elitist Philip Field, then no, I wouldn’t. With you? Most definitely wouldn’t. It really is stupid, low class to try to smear at that kind of base animalistic level. You truly are a moron, ron, or a Labour voter (but once again i have become repetitive). Would you like it if I asked the same question of you and Gareth Hughes being alone with your son?

  14. Who has substance?

    Try finding all Labour’s policies here: http://www.ownourfuture.co.nz/
    - their emphasis seems to be anti-asset sales, not their own policies. Try finding a mention of Capital Gains Tax on their home page – isn’t it supposed to be their flagship policy?

    National cover quite a range of policies in what should be sufficient detail for most: http://www.national.org.nz/Policy.aspx

    Detailed and easy to find policies at UnitedFuture: http://www.unitedfuture.org.nz/our-policies/

    Same with Act: http://www.act.org.nz/policies

    Same with Greens: http://www.greens.org.nz/policy2

    You have to ask WP for his policies of the day.

    • r0b 14.1

      You mean the huge red button that says “Labour’s fairer tax system explained”? Yeah that’s easy to miss!

      • Pete George 14.1.1

        One policy, not labeled CGT or Capital Gains Tax.
        It’s not in the normal menu position that it’s natural to look.
        It’s near the bottom of the page – requires scrolling.
        It is still a download. That doesn’t make it easy – or likely many will bother.

        There’s one other policy that I can see – NZ Owned and Operated

        Where’s the substance

        • The Voice of Reason 14.1.1.1

          A candidate for United Follicles* who isn’t sure he will even vote for himself or his party is worried that another party lacks substance. Nothing better to do, I guess.
           
           
          *Peter Dunne; The Mousse who Roared?

          • Pete George 14.1.1.1.1

            I didn’t say I wasn’t sure, I’ve got a much better idea than usual how I’ll vote this far out, but I’ll make my final decisions on the day.

            Have you heard of tactical voting?

            • The Voice of Reason 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Have you heard of commitment, Pete? Even the muppet the Nats have put up to lose Epsom hasn’t said he won’t vote for himself as a candidate, just that he wants the party vote to go to National. Can you confirm that you are going to at least party vote UF?
               
              And in the electorate race, what benefit would there be in tactical voting anyway? It’s a safe Labour seat, with over half the votes going to Labour at the last election and only 200 going to the party that thinks you represent them.

              • The last majority was big, but with a new Labour candidate that will quite likely close up, the only question is by how much.

                It’s pretty obvious how I’ll party vote. But what if Woodhouse or Turei looked like getting close (and I didn’t) and I preferred them to the Labour candidate? I’d vote to try and get who I thought would be the best representative for the electorate. Or I could vote Clark if I preferred him and wanted to help ensure he got in.

                • The Voice of Reason

                  It was 52% to the Nat’s 30% in 2008, Pete, so knock yourself trying to tactically vote that away. And it’s not ‘pretty obvious’ which way you are going to party vote. You’re the UF candidate. Are you going to vote for your party or not?

                  • It was 52% to the Nat’s 30% in 2008

                    Do you think that size of gap is really far too big to close up?

                    • The Voice of Reason

                      Yes. There, I’ve answered your question, how about you answer mine. Are you Party voting UF or not?

                    • Interesting, it’s very similar to another gap in percentages that seems to be floating around.

                      I’ll do what I choose on election day. It’s a secret ballot, it’s really not anyone else’s business.

                    • The Voice of Reason

                      So that would be a no, then. Are you going to tell Dunne?

                    • I’m not saying in public to you or Peter Dunne who I’m voting for.

                      And I won’t tell you in private. Like just about every other candidate.

        • r0b 14.1.1.2

          You’re thinking like a political insider PG.  Labours site uses simple language and drums home a few key messages.  For this stage of the campaign its completely appropriate (and a vast improvement on previous elections).

          PS – Any time you find polls showing that votes prefer UF policy do be sure and let us know.

      • Deadly_NZ 14.1.2

        But hey you are talking to Pete Secret Squirrel who am I going to be this week ? George. SO yes he probably missed it, as it did’nt jump out, grab him by the throat, screaming at him, Look Here, with flashing neon signs.

    • McFlock 14.2

      I like the way you include meaningless, banal truisms as “policy”.

      • Pete George 14.2.1

        I agree there are plenty of vague statements, but they are there.
        Aren’t they all meaningless if you don’t get into government?

        • wtl 14.2.1.1

          Aren’t they all meaningless if you don’t get into government?

          No, because policies can and do influence the positions of other political parties that may end up in government. Furthermore, some policies, especially those that receive media attention, can and do influence public opinion, which of course has an effect on the future direction of the country. It is also possible to have your policies implemented from outside government, if you are able to convince the government that they are a good idea.

          For example, the Greens have never actually been ‘in government’ (if I recall correctly, the closest they’ve come is abstaining from confidence and supply?), but you will find that they have successfully had a number of their policies implemented, the home insulation scheme being the latest example.

          This is of course goes to show that you don’t actually need to properly ‘support’ the government to make a difference in politics. I’d say there is something to be said for the Green Party which, for a large part, sticks to its principles, rather than blindly supporting whoever is in government or picking policies based on what will get the most votes.

          • Pete George 14.2.1.1.1

            Fair points, but the degree of influence is significantly reduced out of government.

            I agree the Greens are relatively principled but not immune from saying things with the aim of attracting votes.

            • wtl 14.2.1.1.1.1

              The point is that they are able to stay principled by staying out of government. I would also question whether ‘degree of influence is significantly reduced out of government’ as, IMO, the Greens have had more policies (or at least more substantial policies) implemented than United Future, despite UF being ‘in government’ the last three terms.

    • mik e 14.3

      PG If Labour put their policy out now National will steel the popular ones so they have to wait until the last minute .Or they could do the same as National have done just lie and smile and wave

  15. In Vino Veritas 15

    Ooo r0b!! yer so cutting, but still a wet. Yes, its a big red button. But I guess that one big red button tells the tale. “Voters prefer Labour’s remedy for the economy over National’s”

    Labours one remedy = CGT. And even your man Goff says its not fully fleshed out yet. Nice work Labour, you going ahead in leaps and bounds, well as much as one can leap and bound with two broken legs.

    And just for you my friend: Socialism is great, until you run out of other peoples money.

    Are you still annoyed? Seems like it.

    • rd 15.1

      >Socialism is great, until you run out of other peoples money.

      That has now been changed to–

      Capitalism is great, until you run out of other peoples money.

      • aerobubble 15.1.1

        Yeah, its great until you run out of other peoples money, which it always is.
        Money is call on future value. So eventually when we have entropy death
        of all the pristine ores and fuels the world has to offer, we’re fracked.
        Anarachists were right, all wealth is theft.

      • AAMC 15.1.2

        Or, Capitalism’s great until you run out of Communist Chinese and Wahhabi Saudi money.

      • In Vino Veritas 15.1.3

        rd, that’s given me a laugh. Amazing, some of you guys are actually quite funny in a real laugh sense. As opposed to laugh at you sense.

        I would say though, as I feel I must, with Socialism, it’s always other peoples money and when it runs out, so does Socialism, since governments are obliged to take on loss projects and many projects that are zero sum. At least with Capitalism it just grows another head and someone starts generating wealth sooner or later. Just like some of the rich listers, wealth goes up and sometimes, it goes way down, depending on how much risk is taken. Socialism just expects to clip the ticket while taking no risk (and pay themselves healthly for the hard job ticket clipping is).

        • rd 15.1.3.1

          >>At least with Capitalism it just grows another head and someone starts generating wealth sooner or later.

          Ha thats it Economic darwinism.

          >>At least with Capitalism it just grows another head and someone starts generating wealth sooner or later.

          Or they are bailed out by the tax payer.

          • AAMC 15.1.3.1.1

            Privatisation of wealth, Socialisation of risk.

          • In Vito Vertias 15.1.3.1.2

            Bailed out by the taxpayer? I’d suggest then, that they are bailed out with some of the taxes that they have paid. That’d be irony I guess.

        • mik e 15.1.3.2

          SCF IVV .Then look at Singapores economy their are no successful laissez fair economies .Find one for me Ivv.Making up stories about socialism When the so cold party thats against it is spending more than ever on welfare. and many times more on corporate welfare .Spinning hypocritical BS is the ideology your promoting .Funny the left actually have a history of much lower unemployment and corporate welfare so you would think a logical person would be berating the right.Its probably because they borrow and hope and get the next generation to pay.$ 72 billion reasons not to support National thats how much this Govt is borrowing to buy your vote.

      • mik e 15.1.4

        rd Then you borrow and hope

  16. Ianupnorth 16

    This whole thread is thoroughly depressing; I’d say let’s get Gareth Morgan to be PM, except people would not like him as he has a lisp, a moustache and rides a motor bike.
     
    Is it any wonder the place is a mess?

    • In Vino Veritas 16.1

      And he’s an economist…. that should eliminate him instantly

      • mik e 16.1.1

        IVV he is one of the very few self made successful economists he has traveled to just about every part of this world and has seen what works and what doesn’t. He’s not a treasury ideologue nor a bank economist who both have vested interest in making lots of money for the big 4 banks ie treasury lunch bribes. Gareth Morgan is not afraid to attack any policy or promote it!

        • Craig Glen Eden 16.1.1.1

          What as apposed to a money trader?At least economist no they dont actually generate anything useful Bankers and Money traders actually think they create wealth.

        • In Vito Vertias 16.1.1.2

          Mike e, you are really quite rabid aren’t you? Making up stories? hypocritical BS is the ideology I’m promoting? And I thought it was giving the blog food for thought. Tied to a stake by a leash in Port Louis is where a foaming at the mouth, barking creature like you should be.

          One of the few self made economists. A Tui moment. Yeah right. I happen to know a few self made economists, who have travelled to just about every part of the world, and have seen what works and what doesn’t. None of them are “Treasury idealogues” and none have “vested interests”. And guess what? Their views in some instances match Gareth’s, and in some instances don’t come within a bulls roar of his views. But hey, thats OK, everyone has an opinion or a theory. Least they are sensible and logical in their reasoning. Still wouldn’t want any of them as PM though.

          • ropata 16.1.1.2.1

            IVV Don’t let the evidence dent your faith in the great power of Capitalism to save us!
            I guess you haven’t been reading any news for the last 3 years.

            Theoretically capitalism might work in certain ideal conditions (decent governance, prevention of fraud, adequate resources, commercial and legal environment, level playing field … ) however getting it right means a certain level of state intervention. And human nature being as it is people always try and cheat.

            http://howdaft.blogspot.com/2011/06/sad-state-of-new-zealand-economy.html

            The answer to the problems facing NZ isn’t some grossly superficial neo liberal market ideology, we need economic leadership that realises the purpose of economy and government is to SERVE THE PEOPLE.

            A decent society enables people to realise their potential and flourish.

            • In Vito Veritas 16.1.1.2.1.1

              ropata, yup, I read the news from time to time. It would appear I’ve been reading it for longer than you though since socialism has been failing for a lot longer than capitalism I would respectfully suggest.

              I do however agree with you that a certain amount of intervention is required. But in saying that, I’m in the less is more camp. I’m (which will probably not surprise you) the “individual choice” camp as well.

              You made a typo in your statement which I’ve taken the liberty to correct

              The answer to the problems facing NZ isn’t some grossly superficial socialist market ideology, we need economic leadership that realises the purpose of economy and government is to SERVE THE PEOPLE.

              A decent society enables people to realise their potential and flourish.

              Just as a matter of interest, if you dont mind me asking, are you a state socialist, a social democrat or a libertarian socialist?

              • Colonial Viper

                The answer to the problems facing NZ isn’t some grossly superficial socialist market ideology, we need economic leadership that realises the purpose of economy and government is to SERVE THE PEOPLE.

                I agree with you. What we need is a deep and thoughtful socialist ideology which can work effectively and pragmatically in a globalised capitalist world. To serve ALL the people. Not just the smartest, the richest, the most able, or the most ambitious. But every single person as a citizen with equal rights to participate in society and equal responsibilities to participate in society.

                Currently what we have is economic leadership which serves a very small set of stakeholders: primarily a board of directors of around a dozen people (generally men) and a few major shareholders (often institutional investors run by men).

                Having read your previous posts I don’t think you believe in the above quote you wrote in the slightest, but I am willing to humour you.

                A transition to a mixed democratic socialism-capitalism model would be quite possible for NZ to do, it could occur over in a less than 10 year span, and would necessarily require considerable government restructuring of the economy: but resulting in much more economic freedom for individuals and small groups.

  17. randal 17

    I know who is is going to win but I’m not going to tell you.
    You are just going to have to wait and see.
    but I’ll give you a clue.
    it could be red but it wont be blue.

  18. Ianupnorth 18

    My grandad had an expression for people that were all show and no substance

    Fur coat, nae knickers

    • In Vino Veritas 18.1

      Oooh yuck Ian!! Can you imagine your mates Goff and King “Fur coat nae knickers”? Shivers, that’d be wrong, though. Silly me – no show and no substance, so shall we say “No coat, no knickers”. Wretch. Even worse.

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