- Date published:
8:57 am, February 2nd, 2016 - 6 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, john key, labour, national, Politics, same old national, slippery - Tags: matthew hooton, stephen mills
So the start to the political year has been completed, the speeches have been delivered and the commentators have commentated.
So who won, who lost and what will the repercussions be?
John Key delivered an interesting speech. His major announcement was said to be the “kickstarting” of the inner city rail link. This was a funny word to use. The last time I checked the meaning of “kickstarting” it meant doing something significant to speed a project up, not to slow it down for a number of years and then eventually conceding that it is actually a good idea.
What was really happening was a gigantic big U turn was being made and some pretty big rats were being swallowed by National. No wonder Steven Joyce sounded so sick when he talked about the subject on Radio New Zealand.
But it seems clear that the focus groups and anyone with intelligence and an informed opinion on the subject were supporting the project so a U turn became essential. The inner city rail link complete with its transformation of downtown Auckland, the drastic increased capacity that Auckland’s rail network will enjoy and the fact that the current system is going to max out pretty quickly provided compelling reasons for National to perform the most spectacular of U turns.
The basic reason for the right’s opposition to the project was recently explained by occasional Standard commenter Matthew Hooton on Radio New Zealand. Tribal National supporters hate public transport. The though of having to share body space with sweaty marginal members of the working class fills them with dread, particularly the idea that a future Council may make it compulsory. Someone should tell them that the latest trains have air conditioning.
The borrowing of Labour policy is not a new phenomenon. National’s introduction of a capital gains tax last year was essentially a concession that Labour was right and National was wrong and Auckland’s real estate market was completely out of control. Commentators decrying Labour’s backing away from the policy do not realise that all that is now required is a tweaking of existing legislation rather than the introduction of a radical new system. The hard work has been completed.
Other announcements made by Key were essentially political. A highway in Auckland was announced to show that National is even handed in supporting good and bad transport projects and some regional roads were included to show that National will make sure that the rest of the country is not missing out.
Key’s speech was perhaps best summed up by Stephen Mills on Nine to Noon. He said:
I thought that speech was tired, almost bored, close to contemptuous. After seven years if all you can do as your centrepiece for your state of nation speech is take [an opposition] policy and when they have taken other policies it is not things they have consistently derided or strongly opposed or ridiculed for so long and it is depressing I think that commentators say how brilliant he has wrong footed the centre left again. I think in the end you do start to sense there is no sort of principle whatsoever here.
On Labour’s side a solid coherent policy was announced by Andrew Little and for some time the media has been full of positive comments. It is difficult to find people who oppose the policy and for once Labour is on the front foot. Woe betide any member of caucus who through ill discipline blunts the message.
The response of the right has been interesting. Steven Joyce spent Sunday afternoon on twitter firing off all sorts of random shots and criticisms. It is clear that he had not read or understood the policy. Matthew Hooton has helped out. But the shots are messy and scatter gun. I expect that today or tomorrow, after the focus group results are in the criticisms will become more targeted but for now National clearly does not know how to respond. And I would not be surprised if National came out with a similar policy later this year.
It feels very similar to 2014 when Dirty Politics broke. For three days National did not appear to know how to respond. Then the settled lines were trotted out ad nauseam, “Labour does it too” and “No one cares” and “nothing to see here”. I suspect we will soon see targeted messaging against the policy as the effect of this policy will outlast the signing of the TPPA.
And if and when National introduces policy to try and counter Labour’s return to the principle of free tertiary education then Stephen Mills’ suggestion that there is no sort of principle whatsoever in this Government will be confirmed.