The most important recent political news in my opinion are two opinion poll results. The first the Kantar poll from last week suggested that 65% of kiwis opposed National’s plan to reverse Labour’s tax on those earning over $180,000. National needs to proceed with this policy with a great deal of caution. Make it election policy and they risk losing support. Back away from it and they look weak and their base will not be pleased.
The second poll result was the recent Curia poll result. The Government has faced a perfect storm recently, high inflation, Covid biting, major pressure on businesses and a cold, wet winter.
Despite this Labour and National are level pegging. And perhaps most importantly Jacinda Ardern’s support is double that of Christopher Luxon’s and Luxon’s support is in decline, having dropped 2.9% in a month. And the commentary is that Ardern’s support declined but it has actually strengthened over the past few months.
No doubt this is why Luxon has been so quiet lately. He and National’s brains trust are trying to work out what to do.
But the past week has been a week of sideshows.
One international example involves Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. She is a young woman comparable to Jacinda Ardern who is also in the receiving end of some pretty misogynist comments and attacks based on the fact she is a young woman in charge.
What did Marin do? Was she caught out misleading the electorate? Did she appoint herself to multiple ministries without telling anyone or enrich herself through her position? Did she breach local laws and then lie to Parliament about what happened?
Nope. Her sin was to go to a nightclub and be filmed dancing. The video was obtained by right wing social media and then splashed out with allegations she had taken drugs. She has since taken a drug test to disprove the allegation. The whole incident has a stench about it. Why shouldn’t Prime Ministers be able to let their hair down occasionally.
And the other sideshow clearly is the never ending episode involving Gaurav Sharma. I sense his credibility with media is in decline. They are now asking him to come up with proof to back up his allegations.
I have covered his situation previously. My basic conclusion is that I would not like to work for him and his relationships with staff was appalling. And his hyped up claims of being bullied, something that he reflected on twice in his maiden speech, suggests a hyper sensitivity that is not healthy.
I agree in part with what Tracy Watkins said this morning in Stuff particularly this:
Like many new MPs, Sharma seems to have been unprepared and unsuited for a life in politics. Many come from careers where they are relatively senior and largely respected. They discover when they arrive at Parliament that they are neither of these things.
Few of them will shine bright in their time on the back benches; most will lead short and largely anonymous political careers before disappearing back into private life.
Problems like Sharma occur because some of them also happen to be hugely ambitious, and entered politics believing they were destined for higher things – i.e. a ministerial limo, Beehive office and a Government department or two to boss around.
Few of them will ever achieve such heights.
The job of the whip is to keep these competing forces in check to make sure overly ambitious backbenchers don’t do or say anything stupid to derail the party. There’s a fairly big clue as to how they achieve this in their name – they are whips not just in name, but by nature.
As for the claim that the outcome of the caucus meeting was predetermined – of course it was.
Publicly bad-mouthing the leader and party hierarchy was only ever going to have one outcome and it didn’t need a secret caucus meeting to decide that. There’s no walking back from calling the leader a liar.
I would disagree with Watkins about the decision to suspend Sharma being premeditated nor am I surprised that Caucus met without him. The suspension, given the circumstances and the extraordinary amount of shitfuckery shown by Sharma, the absolute least that he could have expected.
And if he is right there is a second Labour MP who may be feeling uncomfortable right now.
The extent of the change in media attitude is shown by Newshub deleting a reference to Neale Jones and tweeting “[t]his interview has been edited to remove an unsubstantiated statement about Neale Jones”. The defamation threshold involving someone who is not an MP is much lower than that involving an MP.
#WATCH Gaurav Sharma joins @ConorWhittenTV live in studio and reveals new details of a letter he sent to the PM's chief of staff alleging bullying in Parliament
*This interview has been edited to remove an unsubstantiated statement about Neale Jones https://t.co/dYuMg26HY7
— Newshub Nation (@NewshubNationNZ) August 19, 2022
As speculated by Watkins the whole incident appears to be one involving unrequited ambition. Hence Sharma’s fixation with Kieran McNulty and repeated references to his being promoted into Cabinet.
Caucus is due to review the matter on Tuesday. Given Sharma’s repeated accusations against Ardern and Labour I am very, very confident what the result will be.
And there will be some thought given to the Waka Jumping law if matters continue to deteriorate although as pointed out by Andrew Geddis use of this power would have considerable implications.