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Armstrong on Brash+Key

Written By: - Date published: 9:57 am, April 30th, 2011 - 37 comments
Categories: act, don brash, election 2011, john key, national - Tags: ,

John Armstrong doesn’t get much wrong in his assessment of the Brash takeover:

Ruthless Brash now National’s problem

… But his politeness, his disarming demeanour, his seeming reasonableness, the reasoned nature of his arguments, his seeming frankness (“frankly” is one of his favourite words), his willingness to acknowledge other points of view (even if he discounts their validity), plus his huge credibility built up during his years as a Reserve Bank governor all help him reach audiences other politicians can only dream of touching.

Brash was certainly more successful than many of us expected, but let’s not get carried away John. Brash’s economic message speaks only to a very few, and his populist racism is ground well trodden by other (hello Winston) politicians.

In staring down Hide to become Act’s new leader, Brash has drastically altered the whole election-year dynamic.

That remains to be seen. It might be a sea change, or it might turn out to be a storm in a beltway teacup. The more I gauge reaction from non politics junkies the more I tend to think the impact of the change is being overestimated by “insiders”.

Sure, Brash’s presumed rescue of Act may well give a grateful National the viable and self-sustaining long-term coalition or support partner it so patently needs.

Or maybe not, see above. Now to the meat of Armstrong’s comments:

Brash did not chair the 2025 task force on closing the wage gap with Australia just for the money. Brash has unfinished business with National on the economic front. More ominously for National, he also has unfinished business on the race front.

National has had it pretty easy in terms of friction with either Act or the Maori Party. Both support partners have put up only meek resistance to National, which has simply turned to one or other for legislative backing according to the ideological nature of a particular policy. Both partners have occasionally poked sticks at one another but without any rancour to destabilise National’s governing arrangement.

Act, for example, failed dismally to provoke a public revolt on the revised law covering ownership of the foreshore and seabed. The Maori Party ignored Act’s campaign because it had already won the argument and had largely got what it wanted.

Brash’s obvious intention to renew his long-time onslaught on Maori separatism and what he sees as the misguided notion of “partnership” as somehow being conferred by the Treaty will be a red rag to the Maori Party bull. It will go down well with those Pakeha who think National has kowtowed too much to Tariana Turia and her colleagues.

Brash’s message that National has made only glacial progress in reinvigorating the economy will also find favour with some who deem John Key and Bill English to be less than courageous on that front.

By “glacial” did you mean “no”?

Brash has tried to link the two broad issues, saying that unless tensions between Maori and other New Zealanders are resolved in the “right way”, New Zealand has “no show” of catching up with Australia in economic terms. The link seems awfully tenuous. However, Brash’s prescription for managing both the economy and race matters is going to make it much more uncomfortable for the Maori Party to be seen working alongside National, especially if Brash gains real traction with voters.

Brash’s return to the thick of politics does not mean Key’s popularity is going to suddenly plunge. But Brash’s presence will offer a test of whether Key’s high personal poll ratings are by default of there being viable alternatives. The first price National may have to pay for Act’s survival is foregoing the possibility of winning an outright majority on its own in November.

With Labour down to its core support, the only source where Brash can realistically pick up votes is from National.

Here I’ll fix that for you – With Labour’s support within margin of error of its level at the last election…

If Brash takes votes off National’s right flank, Key cannot compensate by moving more to the centre. He is already positioned about as far to the centre as he can go. Key’s priority, however, will be to underline that positioning by stressing that any revival in Act’s electoral fortunes will not automatically force some lurch to the right on National’s part.

Key’s ruling out of any likelihood of Brash becoming the finance minister is an important signal in that regard given Phil Goff, Winston Peters and even Peter Dunne are trying to make political hay by warning of such a rightwards shift. …

In the meantime, National Party headquarters will now be poring over the two reports produced by the 2025 task force to see where policy compatibility is possible. Despite Brash’s disclaimers, these documents are close to being an Act manifesto. In one stroke they have gone from gathering dust on the shelf to becoming required reading in the Beehive.

For the sake of New Zealand, I very much hope not.

So with some quibbles, A thoughtful assessment from Armstrong I think. Brash, with his Hollow Men legacy, anti-Maori posturing, and loony economic policies, is very much Key’s problem now. What will the public make of Brash + Key?

37 comments on “Armstrong on Brash+Key ”

  1. Terry 1

    We keep hearing that Key is in the “centre” and one wonders in the centre of what – one gigantic mess?
    I suppose Brash, like Key, enjoys the fantasy that he is in the “centre”. Together, they sure will leave any centre for ever greater Right extremism.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      We keep hearing that Key is in the “centre”

      Keep repeating the lie often enough and it becomes truth in peoples minds. John Key is not in the centre of politics as the lie says but is hard-right authoritarian but, of course, they (National and their advisers) can’t go around saying that as they’ll lose votes.

  2. ianmac 2

    Fran O’Sullivan: “…..Don Brash has already staked a claim for a top finance role in John Key’s next Government.”
    If he did gain this it would certainly be a problem for Bill English and for other Nat hopefuls.
    And if Brash is so talented and still was a Nat member, why couldn’t he earn that through the National ranks?

  3. infused 3

    I think you are going to be suprised how many people now vote for Act. This is going to cause much fun.

    • r0b 3.1

      So what’s your prediction infused? Ansell in KB comments has ACT over 40% and Brash as the next PM. Can you trump his offer?

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        I heard brash joking on National Radio that he would accept the PM’s job.

        Except I don’t think he was joking.

        Brash has got very serious ambitions for his next political term. He’s not going to be interested in the least in being Minister of something minor.

        • Mac1

          Yes, CV, I heard that statement and there was something false about it in the timing of the statement and then the almost instantaneous disclaimer. Maybe Brash has no sense of comic timing but it sounded pre-meditated and not raised as a thing to be joked about.

          Was he raising the issue to see the response? As in, what do you think, people? Do you want me as your Prime Minister?

          From me, thanks for the kind offer, Don, but no thanks. I’ve read the poem and the book!

          • FredD

            As some have suggested, this might be bigger than rolling Hide, then taking over ACT.

            Brash has mentioned he wants to be Deputy PM. It raises the prospect of a managed exit for John Key – who seems to be losing enthusiasm as economic prospects recede with each Christchurch aftershock, or a direct challenge further down the track.

    • MikeG 3.2

      I think you need to get out more and talk to real people, not political blogs!

  4. gobsmacked 4

    Here’s what will happen:

    Next week, the Prime Minister will sack two of his Ministers, not because he thinks they are poor Ministers, not because he has “lost confidence” in them, but simply because he will be told to get rid of them.

    He will be given these instructions by a man who is not in his government, and not even in Parliament. And he will obey.

    So to answer Rob’s question: “What will the public make of Brash + Key?” … they will see who’s calling the shots. And they won’t like it.

    • That’s a succinct and chilling snapshot, gobsmacked, and it really does sum up what is fundamentally wrong with what’s happened.

      Rail agaist Rodney all you like, but he got where he is (or rather was) by a democratic process. An imperfect one – I’m the first to claim that – but one chosen by the majority.

      And sure he’s played fast-and-loose with that process since (the manner in which he implemented the “Super City”) but not only is he an MP he’s an electorate MP and therefore at some point would have been accountable. Brash, OTOH, has been rejected by voters time and time again.

      Yet we now have someone who’s never reeived any proper mandate, ever, yet is dictating to our democratically elected PM. And who produced a report which no mainstream party was willing to adopt but who is determined that his vision will be implemented – even though it is one that would be rejected by the vast majority that make up the left, centre and even moderate centre-right.

      This simply should not be possible. It is far worse than, say, the inordinate influence wielded by NZF in the past because that was a possibility foreseen under MMP and (stupidly, IMHO) accepted by voters as okay.

      Who cares if democracy is sacrificed on the alter of Don’s ambition and his unshakeable belief that he knows best?! Well, hopefully enough people who’ll not only see to it that his ambition is thwarted but that the system that lets this happen – MMP – is once and for all consigned to the “failed experiments” footnote in the history books.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Apparently the likes of the NZ Herald and TV3 aren’t worried about NZ democracy at all.

      • handle 4.1.2

        Focus on the people pulling the strings of both Brash and Key, not the fools fronting their class war.

  5. M 5

    Brash is going to be a very painful thorn in Key’s side and Hide will be learning the meaning of regret both in terms of soliciting Brash’s help as well as incurring the wrath from Key for saddling him with the “troublesome priest” Brash. Of course there’s the possibility Key knew everything in advance and arranged to be out of the zone of the ordure splat but it doesn’t seem to me that Key would want his good guy, ordinary bloke image too tarnished.

    Saw Phil on the Nation this morning and thought he was pretty good given the hectoring he was getting from Plunkett. His comments about bludgers at both ends of the economic wedge were good where he talked about bene bludgers but honed in on the well off bludgers too who arranged their affairs to avoid paying their fair share.

    The icing on the cake at the end of the Nation was the puppet piss-take on Key trying to get his physog into every nuptial shot of the royal wankfest, seeing him starkers in a prison cell was most apt given the horrible little criminal he is.

  6. ak 6

    Rex: Rail agaist Rodney all you like, but he got where he is (or rather was) by a democratic process

    Nup. He got there by the deliberate and blatant perversion and manipulation of a democratic process by the National Party – a blatant rort of the highest order.

    The replacement of Hide with Brash is simply an attempt to ensure that rort is again successful: and as such is adding insult to injury. Democracy was raped on that altar back in 2008 Rex: the serial adulterer racist is merely taking opportunistic seconds, and while the sewerblog rabble may be enjoying a momentary vicarious erection, Jo Public will not be amused.

    Key will be welcoming this obscene bloodbath of the grotesque mini-gaggle like leprosy: the “extremist” distancing was instant and reflexive. He can now opt to “go it alone” or attempt to change core ACToid thinking and posture: the former, and happily the total demise of ACT on Nov 26, seems more likely.

  7. richard bartlett 7

    What with the arguably emptiest of hollow men back amongst us I googled
    NZonScreen to watch again the doco on Nicky Hagers 2005 expose of the
    con artists behind Don Brash.
    With the hindsight the film affords us now there are a few scenes that really
    show us what these guys were REALLY thinking. Since we all now know that it was Peter Keenan who wrote Orewa 1, the very next day Brash is recorded saying (on the ‘phone) to some reporter…….
    “I don’t have any regrets at all about the content of the speech. I looked at it very carefully I read it of course, wrote it….er….checked it with people who know the history well and I feel comfortable with the accuracy”

    Notice the risible…….”I read it of course, wrote it…er ..” (this is from part 2, 5.00-5.12)

    As Tui would say..Yeah, Right !

  8. Georgecom 8

    Hopefully people have stored all of the stuff used from 2005 as we now have an opportunity to resurrect it. Time once again to dissect Don Brash and expose both his economic incompetence and his deceptive approaches to winning power. Along with the dissection of Brash a series of billboards with three panels around the country is all that the left needs to run this election. One panel is a picture of John Key, the next panel is a picture of Don Brash, the last panel are various quotes of Brash stating “I want to sell Kiwibank” – “I want to cut the minimum wage” – “I want to privatise schools and hospitals” – “I want to sell power companies” etc etc.


  9. John Ansell 9

    Not a bad idea, Rob.
    But may I suggest a slight rewrite:
    “I want to balance the books”
    “I want school leavers to get a pay cheque, not a dole cheque”
    “I want all kids to get a first class education”
    “I want sick people to get first class healthcare”
    Could work?

    • Georgecom 9.1

      What we need to do John is fill in the gaps for the public. So when Brash says he wants to balance the books or ‘first class education’, we’ll let the public know that this means selling state and community assets, cutting health & education budgets etc. It’ll explain Brashs vision for NZ.

      • Georgecom 9.1.1

        John, I forgot to add, Brash has shown himself to be bad at telling the truth (or he is very forgetful) so part of our job will be to help fill in the gaps for him.

    • RobertM 9.2

      Brash was stopped in 2005, because Clark really went out on the road and opposed the Brash badwagon with guttral hard rhetoric-I doubt if anyone has shown that sort of fire since John A Lee in 1931. The idea that Phil Goff could match the performance would be laughable.
      The Hager emails cut both ways. Because the issue is who leaked them and other than the daft decision to bother with the god bothering exclusive brethern and the mistaken appointment of Richard Long, I don’t really think they were all that significant. But who could have leaked them, the brat pack were hardly inspired in support of Don Brash.
      The Brash-Key approach will be tough but Cameron never denied he was going to apply the screws. I admit it will be very difficult to go beyond modest benefit cuts, higher varsity fees, tighter loan conditions and more obligations to get private bank financing for courses.
      Personally I believe the health budget has the biggest scope for cuts, because the medical profession, social medicine and doctors is pretty much a vested protection racket and people would be much better off if they could make there own choices about treatment, drugs, surgery. Even now surgical interventions are probably grossly excessive on thinks like prostrate problems and other matters. Obviously the medical profession is still held in high regard and health is a massive source of employment but the view of the brat pack and Ryall that we should move back to letting the medical professionals and doctors dictate health policy and treatment courses seems to me unaffordable and no longer desirable.

      • Colonial Viper 9.2.1

        people would be much better off if they could make there own choices about treatment, drugs, surgery.

        could you explain how exactly a retired primary school teacher turning 78 this year who has been suffering a series of mild strokes over the last 12 months is going to make “their own choices about surgery.”

        Because frankly, although I am a huge fan of informed choice when it comes to medical decision making, what you are suggesting would be a disaster.

        • RobertM

          The real points I was making is that something like the proposed Brash programme of cuts in government expenditure will have to made, considering the debt, the fact the cost of the Christchruch earthquake and the general need for austerity. This will require a a political strategy and polictical skill to be successfully implemented or impleemented at all without the sort of turbulence that has occurred in Greece and to a degree in Britain.
          In UK Clegg-Cameron have declared significant cuts to the NHS off limits while making savage cuts to every other area of government activity including the police and prisons. Such an approach will not be possible or work in NZ and neither will the hope of Douglas and probably Brash that the pressure from the international bankers and IMF simply give them carte blanc. That is not the way it worked in Argentina.
          Health can not be off limits for major cuts and a complete rearrangement of spending and scale. It is in the Health field that government spending is already uncontrollably high and escalating. Also the escalating health spending is having less and less benefit to the public and patients. Precutionary and risk principles mean surgery and drugs are often applied, which can not realy be withdrawn, with say 5-10% risk of realy bad consequences without surgery or very dangerous drugs and the near certainity of very bad consequences for life and lifestyle, if they are. Medicine now seems about private profit for some doctors and social engineering and control for others. The whole departments of social medicine and addiction areas and possibly psychiatry are haven of militant politics and outdated ideas. This is true in all countries but the general move in the United States for the last 20 years to minimise hospital care in all areas of medicine and focus the health debate on the supply of pharmacuticals is definitely a step in the right direction as is the American view that mental illness is a continum of resilience we are all on not a binary system of yes you are, or no you arent ill as the British and New Zealanders believe. In other words drugs should be accessible to all and Pharmac is a bad idea.

          In terms of treatment of the old and over 80s and how much should be applied. I am opposed to the ideas of assisted suicide as proposed by Micheal Laws. Active euthanasis is applied to serious alzheimers victims and the seriously retarded in Holland and will come increasingly into use in many western nations because of the impossible costs of maintaining old people who are no more vegetables. It probably won’t happen in NZ, even though I partly favour it, at least any more than to the degree it does in the decision which every doctor favours with finished old people whether to apply the final lethal dose. In terms of the leading and aimed eg suggested by Colonial Viper, if they were a few years older than 78, I would not favour much medical resources and expense being applied to such an example, but I would note that very often these frequent strokes in the old are brought on earlier application of the wrong treatment and drugs by doctors, often many years before.

          • handle

            Robert, that is such a bunch of backwards-thinking twaddle it’s hard to take anything you say seriously. Unless it’s only meant to be entertaining.

  10. John Ansell 10

    Oh and Rex, tell me again what was undemocratic about the process? Did Don storm the ACT HQ with an AK47?

    I seem to recall reading that he won the support of the majority of caucus, which I think you’ll find is par for the course in the democratic world.

    (Admittedly, in the normal course of events the would-be leader has taken the trouble to become a party member some years or decades before his challenge, but surely a bit of lateral thinking can be tolerated, if not admired? It’s not as though the party was somehow obliged to admit him.)

    I suspect you may have been thinking of the Bainibanana Republic to our north.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      Oh and Rex, tell me again what was undemocratic about the process? Did Don storm the ACT HQ with an AK47?

      1) Part members had no say in the selection of Don Brash, nor were other candidates invited to put their names forwarded and their cases forward.

      2) Don Brash has had no prior allegiance to the members of ACT or holds membership of ACT itself, the party is merely a vehicle of convenience.

      3) None of the caucus MPs have had to come forward and justify their decisions for/against Don Brash to the membership, in other words, their caucus is completely unaccountable to their members.

      4) Leaders of other political parties, namely National, had more of a say in the outcome than ACT party members did. (yes aspeculation but seems very likely).

      So John Ansell, whereas your version of democracy is a stitch up agreed to wholeheartedly or very reluctantly by just a few people, this leadership coup fails all other tests of a transparent democratic process.

  11. John Ansell 11

    Everyone’s writing up the Brash coup as a National Party takeover of ACT. I think you’ll find it turns out to be a takeover of National by the keeper of its own principles.

    Why? Because the National voter has had two and a half years to see what happens (or rather doesn’t happen) when you opt for a leader who is popular, but not competent. (And no, I’m not referring to Helen Clark, who, in the end, was neither.)

    In the next seven months, Key is not going to get any more competent.

    But by relentlessly pointing out Key’s incompetence (and indeed treachery), and reinforcing that analysis with repeated doses of economic reality – on which he’s uniquely qualified to advise – Brash can certainly get a lot more popular.

    Much of his efforts should be spent repelling the absurd notion put about on this blog and in the media that his policies are to the right of Genghis Khan.

    The need to do that repelling has mystifyingly escaped the Right for almost its entire history, for which it has paid a high price.

    But it should be easy to achieve, given that every struggling New Zealand household is currently practising exactly the same policies that the media would have us believe are hard right.

    To householders, prudent management in a time of crisis is anything but hard right. It is dead right. The Left (in which I include the National socialists) should be very afraid with Brash standing ready to dispense his home truths.

    Tracy Watkins talked about how Don allowed “the inexorable logic” of his proposition to work its magic with the ACT MPs. He’ll do the same to the public, aided and abetted by punchy advertising for those who prefer their logic hard boiled.

    Why am I pointing all this out? Because there’s not a damn thing Brash’s opponents can do about it. He is in possession of the most devastating weapon of all: The Truth.

    And the public, when confronted with the truth – well told – will prove to be not stupid. They will appreciate his refreshing honesty after more than a decade of lies.

    The good citizens of New Jersey are being taken through this process at the moment by that state’s first honest governor in living memory, Chris Christie.

    Despite his draconian concept of balancing the budget and staring down the teacher unions, the Republican darling’s poll ratings in this traditional Democrat state, are moving up, not down.

    And so it will be in New Zealand. Our legion of liars, our cavalcade of cowards, will find that they have been well and truly gazumped come November.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Why am I pointing all this out? Because there’s not a damn thing Brash’s opponents can do about it. He is in possession of the most devastating weapon of all: The Truth.

      Hey are you talking about Don Brash or the Son of God here?

      Stop kowtowing you right wing lackey, its embarrassing.

    • higherstandard 11.2

      Are you bipolar, or is the retard gene kicking in.

  12. John Ansell 12

    Colonel Viper: ACT members should be more grateful. Don Brash has always been truer to ACT’s principles than anyone in ACT, other than Sir Roger Douglas. He has simply come home – and a pretty rough welcome he’s been given.

    • PeteG 12.1

      Are you saying he led National on behalf of Act?

      – and a pretty rough welcome he’s been given.

      What do you expect, it was a bit of a rough return on his part.

      • felix 12.1.1

        “it was a bit of a rough return on his part”

        Only if wishy-washy pc democratic principles are a consideration, but that’s all so last century.

        Welcome to the brave new world, where “NZ inc” is more than a snappy catchphrase.

  13. Annaliviaplurabella 13

    Brash was effectively the leader of Act when he and his backers took control of National. It is clear in HOLLOW MEN that he did not care for the input of National MPs.
    Who are these backers who can so easily and cheaply buy levers of Power?

  14. felix 14

    Ansell you’re demented. You stumbled on one highly effective race-baiting idea half a decade ago and you seem to think that gives you credibility, even though your work since then strongly suggests that the racist Iwi/Kiwi images probably weren’t even your idea anyway.

    Coastal Coalition billboards anyone? Look-what-I-made-at-kindy flag collection?

    In musical terms you’re Brian Johnson post Back in Black.

    The idea of Brash’s honesty contrasted with a “decade of lies” is the stupidest I’ve seen this week (and it’s been a fairly stupid week). He was rejected in 2005 because he was found to be a serial liar.

    Some are so well known that one only need say the words “Gone By Lunchtime” or “Exclusive Brethren” for all kiwis to instantly recall them, and those are just the greatest hits.

    He also lied to his wives for years (decade of lies?) about how little time he keeps his dick in his pants, which went down like a ton of sick with women all over the country (still can’t believe you guys replaced Hide with another philandering misogynist btw).

    Decade of lies? In NZ politics, his lies and how they brought him down are one of the biggest stories of the last decade FFS! It’s going to be fun – and easy – reminding NZ about the rest of his bullshit too.

  15. Awesome. All power to Ansell’s voice from the wilderness. Preach it brother.

    John the baptist’s Prepare ye the way. Supply side Jesus cometh, and he’s arrogant, racist, and pissed at the poor.

    I am the post modern truth, the way or the highway, so light up the cross.
    No one shall come to me, unless they user pay.
    For mine is the power the truth and the glory,
    go fuck yourself peasants,

    Ansell. Never mind Christie, why don’t you tell us how Ryan’s joke of a budget plan is going down in townhall meetings for Rethuglicans? Those punters in punterland are demanding that the rich pay their fair share, seeing how they’ve been getting an increasing slice of the pie, and people, conservative flyover dwelling real ‘murkin people, are starting to notice.

    How about the recall petitions in Wisconsin? Not happening to democrats, manchild.

    ACT isn’t unpopular because they didn’t have Brash telling their story, they’re unpopular because they’re policies are abhorrent to most kiwis.

    National aren’t popular in spite of Key’s ‘treachery’, they are popular because of it. The fact that you can’t see that only shows how extreme you are.

    And a nation’s budget isn’t analogous to a families eftpos account fergawdsake. That nonsense isn’t ‘the truth’, it’s just another big lie. On a par with “Beaches? Iwi/kiwi.”

    Your bullshit gets laughed at on KB, FFS. Felix is right, you fluked a big lie that worked once 6 years ago, that doesn’t make you a guru. It’s consistency that does that. How did the blue black treason cluttered mess of the re-run billboard work out for the coastal coalition fruitloops?

  16. Jum 16

    At least we know now he never was and isn’t now a ‘gentleman’.

  17. Jum 17

    John Ansell

    ‘a leader who is popular, but not competent. (And no, I’m not referring to Helen Clark, who, in the end, was neither.)’ You were so wrong on both counts.

    You followed the money and the extreme right ‘principles’ and now you’re in the right place for your ‘principles’ along with the other pondscum of michael bassett and roger douglas and ruth richardson.

    You have put the art of art into disrepute and your ‘punchy advertising’ is destroying what was once quite a principled country. Aboriginals would point the bone at you – your crime is to use your talents to hurt.

    I don’t wish you well.

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