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A dereliction of duty

Written By: - Date published: 3:20 pm, April 7th, 2008 - 39 comments
Categories: helen clark, john key, labour, national - Tags: , , ,

John Key’s failure to ask a parliamentary question last week exposes a crisis of confidence in National’s ranks. It is unprecedented for an Opposition leader to be in attendance in the House for a full sitting week, and to not once challenge the Government.

This never happened when Helen Clark led Labour in Opposition from 1993-99. If she was at Parliament for question time, she took the lead question on the issue of the day – even if it meant purloining it from a colleague. Clark knew, and her colleagues accepted – if sometimes begrudgingly – that as shadow Prime Minister she had to lead the charge on the headline issues. It is an essential part of how an Opposition leader demonstrates that she/he has the wherewithal for the top job.

As Jasper wrote on Friday, a party’s performance in the House is an indicator of its mood, and right now, by sheltering Key, National is betraying its anxiety. Even National cheerleader Matthew Hooton conceded as much in his Sunday Star Times column yesterday. John Armstrong, writing in the Herald on Saturday, said Key’s deliberate non-engagement strategy, coupled with a barrage of policy initiatives from the government, was making National vulnerable and causing it to lose control of the agenda.

National and Key are playing a dangerous game. The party stands for nothing. It has offloaded unelectable policies that were once articles of faith, like welcoming the nuclear ships. Now they are screening Key from the day-to-day skirmishes in which an Opposition leader is supposed to show his/her mettle. Its election year strategy and “manifesto” have been wrapped into a single line: Let’s rely on a mood for change.

39 comments on “A dereliction of duty ”

  1. mike 1

    yawn…the amazing thing is he can say nothing at all and still have you pinko’s in a lather.
    Either you are very intimidated or trying to deflect the real news which is Labours hypocritical EFA rort

  2. IrishBill 2

    What “rort” would that be Mike?

  3. mike 3

    This one for starters IB http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10502422

    I like this quote “The Labour Party is much smarter than the Exclusive Brethren. The Exclusive Brethren used their own money.”

  4. rjs131 4

    Well i guess Tizard was anwering questions on thursday so who wouldnt run scared from asking questions of someone of such undoubted ability….

    If Key is so useless, are you suggesting that all the people who support him are complete and utter morons?

    Are you going to go on the record now and predict Key will be shown up by the good people of Helensville who will elect Darien Fenton in a landslide?

  5. Tane 5

    “The Labour Party is much smarter than the Exclusive Brethren. The Exclusive Brethren used their own money.’

    I’m not sure what this quote is supposed to mean. That Labour has colluded with an abusive sect in order to run a secret parallel campaign and undermine the party spending cap?

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    “If Key is so useless, are you suggesting that all the people who support him are complete and utter morons? ”

    Not at all. We believe that when they get see Key for what he is, rather than the Golden Boy image that the media has given him until last month, the people of New Zealand are more than intelligent enough to realise that he is too slippery and incompetent to be trusted with governing the country.

  7. gobsmacked 7


    If that is the “real news”, a “rort” as you put it, why is the leader of the opposition not attacking it at every opportunity? The EFA came into force last year, and has certainly been in the headlines since. Where are Key’s speeches, soundbites, questions in the House? If the EFA matters, where is his leadership?

    You have proved Tillerman’s point.

  8. Stephen 8

    Anyhoo…this sounds a bit like the speculation over Helen Clark getting tipped over by Goff or Cunliffe – that is, exaggerated, searching for something that isn’t there?

  9. mike 9

    GS: Bill English is Nationals front man on the EFA and here is todays press release http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0804/S00196.htm

  10. Tane 10

    I don’t think anyone here is seriously suggesting Key is at risk before the election. Afterwards, I think English will almost certainly roll him within a term, regardless of the outcome.

    [captcha: ‘unionists value’ – you heard it first here on The Standard]

  11. gobsmacked 11

    But it’s the “real news” (copyright Mike).

    So what’s John Key’s job, again?

  12. big bruv 12

    “This never happened when Helen Clark led Labour”

    Is that Helen Clark or Helen Fraser?

  13. Tane 13

    Bruv, you’re not even making sense anymore.

  14. Occasional Observer 14

    Don’t lie, Tillerman. Clark rarely questioned Ministers while Bolger was overseas, and so too for Brash or English questioning Ministers while Clark was overseas.

    You’re simply coming up with a blanket statement that you know you cannot back up, and claiming it is “unprecedented”.

  15. Stephen 15

    Can YOU back that up?

  16. Lampie 16

    The Labour Party is much smarter than the Exclusive Brethren. The Exclusive Brethren used their own money.’

    Is just someone’s opinion as in the Editorial is just an opinion.

  17. Ruth 17

    Its election year strategy and “manifesto’ have been wrapped into a single line: Let’s rely on a mood for change.

    So? This strategy is as good as any other.

  18. rjs131 18

    English always attched the EFA stuff. Its no different that Clark not doing anything on flagship policies like the EFA, the foreshore and seabed act and closing the gaps

  19. randal 19

    I think the nats have given up. they know the electorate is not going to have a bar of the same right wing agenda that ruined the nineties for ordinary folk. they will try some some facetious advertising like they used at the last election but Labour will be ready this time.

  20. Matthew Pilott 20

    So? This strategy is as good as any other.

    I wouldn’t want to see any party in power without having been forced (if necessary, although it shouldn’t be) to give some pretty good detail on intended policies. If the NZ public is stupid enough to allow that to happen then very few will have grounds to complain about any actions by that government.

    Not a good idea – how do you hold a party to account when it hasn’t promised anything?

  21. Jay 21

    “Afterwards, I think English will almost certainly roll him within a term, regardless of the outcome.”

    Do you think that Goff will do the same to Clark if she loses the election?

  22. Tane 22

    Jay, usually when a PM loses an election they stand down voluntarily. I honestly don’t see Clark being forced from power, whatever the outcome of the election.

  23. Jay 23

    I wonder if John Howard thought the same thing. They both have certain similarities in terms of longevity and political nous.

    If I was a labour man it would be about the good of the party not the leader.

  24. BeShakey 24

    Well to skip through the trolling and get back to the topic, it sounds a bit weird to argue that Key is refusing to ask questions of people he can make look like idiots, in favour of only asking questions of someone that regularly makes him look an idiot. I think hes smarter than that, its funny that National supporters don’t.

  25. Cyclone 25

    Key shut up in question time last week because everytime he opened his mouth he got mocked by Michael Cullen. I think the Nats got sick of hearing Cullen read transcripts of Key responses to TV and radio interviews, complete with ums, ahs and evasions.

  26. Dean 26

    “This never happened when Helen Clark led Labour in Opposition from 1993-99. If she was at Parliament for question time, she took the lead question on the issue of the day – even if it meant purloining it from a colleague.”

    That’s actually not true. In fact, Clark was well known for not engaging when the PM wasn’t in the house.

    The PM hasn’t been in the house in the last week.

    It’s funny how some people wish to remember history selectively, isn’t it.

  27. Razorlight 27

    Once again the Standard blatantly lies with this statement.

    “It has offloaded unelectable policies that were once articles of faith, like welcoming the nuclear ships.”

    Can you please point to any time in the past 18 years when it has been National Party policy to welcome the nuclear ships. Im not asking for the personal opinions of members I want to see National Party policy proving your point.

    If I recall National were in government for 9 of the past 18 years. And guess what they didn’t change the law. No big bad nuclear ships came near.

    So please do not lie when you are criticising the National Party

  28. Stephen 28

    Not ‘gone by lunchtime’ then?

  29. Razorlight 29

    Was that National Party Policy or the unconfirmed thoughts of one member?

  30. Pascal's bookie 30

    Are you saying Don lied to those Americans when he was National party leader Razorlight?

    Because he didn’t say to them that his personal opinion was that the anti nuke policy was silly, he told them that it would be gone by lunchtime. That’s a policy statement.

    Just because he wasn’t prepared to outline that policy to NZ voters changes nothing. He made different statements about what his policy would be to diffrent audiences. So the question is, when was he lying? Personally I think it more likely that he would tell a politically damaging truth to a private meeting. The alternative is that he was lying to those Americans and was planning on discredting himself in their eyes if he became PM.

    And in any case why the 18 yr limit? (I don’t think Tillerman was saying that the National party has only recently started to stand for nothing). It was most definatly an article of faith under Muldoon, and when the legislation was passed National opposed it. Many Tory MP’s have opposed it the whole time. They didn’t change it because they knew it would render them unelectable. Which is what Tillerman said.

  31. Dean 31


    “Are you saying Don lied to those Americans when he was National party leader Razorlight?”

    I think it was probably said in the same way as “be definition, I cannot leak”, or perhaps “haters and wreckers”.

    Neither are absolutely representative of one party’s policies, but both sound pretty bad when examined in isolation.

  32. Razorlight 32

    Pascal, the 18 year limit was to show the time National has been in government and opposition. If this was a policy of theirs, wouldn’t they have snuck it through some time during the 90’s. The fact is, it was never on their agenda.

    I do not think there would be one person who doubts Don Brash would have the policy gone by lunch time if he could. I am one rightie who agreed with him. But once again his National Party policy was the law would not change without a referendum and there was no plans for a referendum. Confusing, I admit. But definatley not the lie Labour attempts to potray as fact.

    However when we do want to see real evidence of a party dumping unelectable policies simply to stay in power we do not have to turn to far from our current government. For 8 years we have been told by Michael Cullen why tax cuts are a bad thing. However in 2008 and support for his government crumbling he is under orders to deliver significant cuts in this years budget. One of his favourite bully boys taunts come to mind. Flip Flop.

  33. To be fair Razorlight putting it up to referendum is a step closer to repealing the ban is closer than we are now and does seem a bit odd given the huge majority against it.

  34. Razorlight 34

    Robinsod, it may be a step closer to repealing the ban. But the fact remains, it is not and has not been National Party policy for over 18 years to repeal the nuclear ban.

    To state this on this blog as Tilleman did is mischievous and blatantly lieing.

  35. the sprout 35

    Key is tired, and having second thoughts about whether he really wants the job. His colleagues are getting tired of Key and wondering whether they want him to have the job.

  36. Draco TB 36

    Robinsod, it may be a step closer to repealing the ban. But the fact remains, it is not and has not been National Party policy for over 18 years to repeal the nuclear ban.

    Even to suggest that they would put it to referendum indicates that it was/is National party policy. It’s just not policy that is being implemented at the moment because it would make them unelectable.

  37. Matthew Pilott 37

    Right, National’s Nuclear policy from 2005 is that they would not allow nuclear ships in.

    Not change nuclear-powered ships policy.
    Under National, any change to the legislative ban on nuclear-powered warships entering New Zealand waters will require a clear public mandate by way of a referendum.

    And then straight afterwards they say they’d be happy to if the public would let them. This means they would be free to advocate change, encourage a referendum. This is equivocal – you could take the policy either way. That doesn’t happen by accident (or they would be explicit), so I think it’s a lie to assume they didn’t want to change NZ’s anti-nuclear policy.

    Contast that with current policy:

    The nuclear-free legalisation has become an iconic part of New Zealand’s national identity and will remain in place.

    I think that shows that they’ve removed (at least from any public view) their desire to change policy on nuclear ships. It is explicit and equivocal.

    Tillerman was right.

  38. Phil 38

    “Even to suggest that they would put it [the nuclear ship ban] to referendum indicates that it was/is National party policy. It’s just not policy that is being implemented at the moment because it would make them unelectable.”

    That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

    I want to see a referendum on MMP. Does that automatically mean I want to see it repealed?
    No, of course not – what it means is that I want the entire nation to have the opportunity to speak for their own preference, not have our elected representatives cajoled by the vocal minority ‘du-jour’.

  39. Ari 39

    Just a point- I wouldn’t call the Nuclear ban repeal a “key policy”. It’s a result of their key policy of toadying up to our “traditional allies”. (ie. the anglosphere)

    I am with you that National is being incredibly equivocal this election on all of its released policy. So far it seems to be painting a picture of “we’re like Labour, but we’re not really into that social welfare stuff, and we’d like to run the country as if it were a business.” It doesn’t seem to have any unique policy infrastructure in place to support this new centrist philosophy, however.

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