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Bait and switch

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 pm, March 30th, 2015 - 64 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, by-election, campaigning, john key, labour, polls, winston peters - Tags:

Congratulations to Labour for a very clever strategy in the Northland by-election – lulling and gulling John Key into thinking they were going to run a conventional proxy-partyvote campaign, where National would have the upper hand.  Key, the rockstar politician, also thought Andrew Little would be on the training wheels.  He got that badly wrong; Little’s handling was superb.

The exact timing of events doesn’t really matter – being a by-election it was always winnable for the Opposition, and once there was a two-horse race it was all over, given all the local issues. Winston Peters coming home was the icing on the cake; he’s a much misunderstood and underestimated politician in my view, a principled high achiever who grew up with mud between his toes and has never forgotten it. His story is a good one, and is a long way from over.

I’m delighted to read that Andrew Little is going to talk to Winston Peters – effective MMP politics is all about being able to talk to each other: agreeing, disagreeing  and agreeing to disagree. Once again John Key has hit the wrong note by being dismissive of Winston.

Another point to note is that the polls beat the pundits hands down. There probably aren’t all that many landlines in Northland compared to the rest of the country. And if the messaging is badly wrong – as it was here – all that the army on the ground or on the phones does is to drive votes in the opposite direction.

And I suspect lprent has got it right when he puts increased early voting down to different voting habits rather than party activity – people like the convenience. Not too much can be read into the raw numbers, but early voting will change the way parties campaign. For example, I think Labour in the last three campaigns has placed too much emphasis on the campaign period proper, when the result had effectively been decided a year out from the election.

Interesting times.


64 comments on “Bait and switch ”

  1. weka 1

    “I’m delighted to read that Andrew Little is going to talk to Winston Peters”

    Where was that Mike?

    • Karen 1.1

      On Morning Report this morning. Not online yet. He also said he has been talking to the Greens and didn’t rule out the Maori Party.

      • weka 1.1.1

        excellent news.

        • Rodel

          “Andrew Little is going to talk to Winston Peters.”A post- election cup of tea chat rather than the previous devious pre-election cup of tea.

          A discussion between LIttle and Peters will be honest, down to earth and pragmatic for New Zealand.
          Attributes that wouldn’t happen with the PM or his MPs

    • alwyn 1.2

      That is all very well, but will Winston take the call?
      He is already behaving as if he is the real leader of the opposition and is likely to leave Little dangling for a while in order to rub the fact in that Little needs Peters far more than Winston needs Andrew.
      I suspect it will be a case of Winston’s secretary taking any call and promising that Winston will get back to him when he has time to spare.

      • weka 1.2.1

        Peters can play bullshit games if he wants. Real politics is about acting with smart strategy and integrity. The challenge for Labour and the GP is how to do that and be in relationship with someone who is at heart a game player and power monger.

      • North 1.2.2

        You’re hoping Al (But-This-Time) Wyn……and indeed, this is all very, very, very well !

        Do not fret in your child-mind-directed-religiosity my friend. You can always find an alternative place of fundamental worship. And dispensers just brimming with pretty coloured Kool-Aid !

        But hold……your analysis minds me that Al (But-This-Time) Wyn may be the new Crosby Textor. Bro’……..give the bro’ Winnie a call bro’……..ya never know ya know !

        • alwyn

          What on earth have you been drinking, or smoking.
          Your rambling outburst is completely incomprehensible.
          Never mind. As long as you are happy your raving is fine with your friends.

          I think that what will happen when Andrew tries to arrange a meeting with Winston is the following.
          1. Winston’s secretary will put him off with a promise that Winston will call back when he has some free time.
          2. After a few calls she will tell Andrew that Winston can see him. in Winston’s office, at a nominated date and time.
          3. Andrew will turn up and be ostentatiously sat in the public area outside Winston’s office for about 20 minutes.
          4. He will then be allowed in, in front of the Press Gallery, and told that Winston is very sorry for the delay but that Winston is very busy.
          5. Andrew will look like a pillock.

          Buy the way did you see Winston’s comment in the Herald that Osborne should not try and be a candidate again as he has been turned down once?
          If you think that was aimed at Osborne I have a bridge I can sell you.
          That was aimed at Little and was part of Winston’s campaign that he is the real Opposition Leader. He is, after all, the only one who can win a seat.

  2. Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 2

    well, key said he wouldn’t pick up the phone for winston.

    but cool and down-to-earth Andrew will take calls and make calls.
    as well, Andrew can recall phone conversations.
    and when Andrew is PM, he is fine with making the records of those phones available for the public record and archivist 🙂

  3. Michael 3

    Kudos to Labour for recognising that it remains unelectable in provincial NZ and managing to avoid utter humiliation in Northland last weekend. However: if its caucus members actually want to form a government one day, they must, eventually, try to persuade people to vote for them, rather than someone else. So far, I don’t see any evidence that the caucus has begun to grapple with that concept. Key’s grip on power remains secure.

    • the pigman 3.1


      “Key’s grip on power remains secure.

      You sure about that, Michael? Because earlier I had the misfortune of being linked to whaleoil (h/t ianmac, here: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2015/03/the-waning-of-keys-national-the-arrogance-and-irony/) and I have to say, the smell of you and your tory mates collectively cacking your pants hangs thick in the air over there and it is surprisingly sweet.

      • lurgee 3.1.1

        Whaleoil advances the interests of factions within the National Party, rather than of the National Party. Simply ignoring it is still probably the best option.

        • Incognito

          National advances the interests of a minority that is quite possibly not even based in New Zealand. At least many Northland voters started to think and vote for themselves rather than for faceless power players behind the scenes, or for Groser and his TPPA prepubescent wet dreams, of course.

        • Jones

          While that is true, the fact that it is being openly discussed now says a lot.

          • tracey

            because it suits Slater’s agenda and for no other reason…

            • Jones

              I agree it suits his agenda… but things have moved to a stage where that agenda may be able to get some traction. We may very well be looking at the beginning of the end for John Key as PM.

              • tracey

                I don’t disagree with you. I just want to be wary of attributing any ethical reasons for Slater’s actions. If what he does is deemed ethical it is, imo, a complete coincidence.

                National are slick. IF Key is on thinning ice… there will be a family illness, a health scare even of his own…and with great regret….

                I have always thought he would step down between elections. It is the only way to guarantee a knighthood. A Labour led government might change it all up again and he misses out… BUT I don’t rule out Mrs Queen giving him one without reference from NZ.

        • North

          Factions, factions, factions……..factions are ‘fficacious Lurg’. ‘Cos when TheBosskey gets wind he’s gonna send StevenBadJoyces after them, and sooner or later people who know too much are gonna say “F…O..!” Then there’ll be shit all up the walls. And as we know, TheOnceWasGodKey ain’t good unscripted. It’s only gonna get worse for you Tories Lurg’ ! Better find another place of worship Lurg’.

    • tracey 3.2

      Go and read up on party vote under MMP.

  4. Penny Bright 4

    Don’t agree Michael.

    In my view – two historic precedents from the Northland ‘buy’-election are:

    1) The ‘left’ getting the power and effectiveness of strategic voting, so that votes are used to maximum effect in defeating the MAIN enemy.

    2) The puncturing of the carefully crafted, spin-doctored image of ex-Wall Steet banker John Key, as an ordinary Kiwi bloke.

    Having personally followed John Key around Dargaville on Thursday 26 March, and Friday 27 March, with my scruffy little roughly painted placard – “Mike Sabin? ShonKEY?” – I know he was rattled.

    The supremely confidant ‘Mr Popular’ Prime Minister, had evaporated.

    At the end of the day, he was NOT ‘relaxed’ and ‘comfortable’ – his ‘squeaky’ voice attested to that.

    On Friday, in KeriKeri, John Key was effectively the Northland candidate, not Mark Osborne, shaking hands, meeting, greeting, with that, in my opinion, forced, phoney, fake smile.

    It was John Key vs Winston Peters.

    John Key LOST.

    It was an unprecedented electoral shocker.

    The reason for this million dollar ‘buy’ – election, was the resignation of Mike Sabin, who vanished under a murky, stinky cloud, for reasons which have not been explained in a proper way to the voting public.

    Decent people don’t like dodgy stuff.

    Lots of rural folk, (former) National Party members / supporters / voters ARE decent people.

    When the truth comes out about Mike Sabin, and the obvious (in my view) dirty political cover-up is exposed, in my opinion, John Key’s standing will plummet from the purportedly most ‘popular’ Prime Minister to the arguably most UNPOPULAR Prime Minister….

    Penny Bright

    • Macro 4.1

      And I think Penny that a lot of people in the North did know the truth as to why there was a “buy” election. I’m not in the North and I certainly know. And that sort of knowledge travels on the grape vine fast. And you are right. They are decent people up there and they would be very upset to have been used in the way Nacts have used them. I acknowledge that there is some benefit in “nod nod wink wink vote this way” but the main factor has to be the unrelenting stink that caused the event in the first place.
      The people of Northland have clearly had enough and that was the last straw. Winston – a long lost prodigal son – was the ideal candidate. He was a shoe-in the moment he announced his candidacy.

    • ianmac 4.2

      Penny I see that Claire Trevett has used your poster “Sabin? Shonkey!” in her column today. Well done Penny.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 4.2.1

        Do you really know how newspapers work ?

        The copy goes to the pagesetters who used a photograph probably chosen at random. The idea that the reporter would chose the photo is bizarre.

        What would be really interesting if in later online editions the photo was swapped for another – on instructions from above, and in response to a phone call from Keys ‘office’

        • North

          Fair enough Ghost……but do you more or less agree with Penny’s analysis……the candidate wasn’t Osborne it was Key……or not ? If not…..let’s hear it. Let’s not get into questions of the state of the plumbing at the Herald Building, please. You know……not THAT relevant.

      • North 4.2.2

        Yeah Penny good on you !

        And oh that the knowledge of people and the good old common sense you express in your comment @ 4 above were available to the ShonKeyPython replicants in the MSM, Gower, Tova O’Brien, ‘Billy’ Ralston et al. Of course watch them in 12 months when they’ve tested the wind and they’ll be hungrier for ThePonceKey’s guts than a robber’s dog. A mark of their Cafe Society cheapness.

        You get alot of shit Penny…….I suspect it’s your fuel. Keep on !

    • Murray Simmonds 4.3

      Yep Penny,

      its a dead give-away that whenever Key raises the pitch of his voice by about half an octave or more he’s either lying or trying desperately to hide something.

      The bigger the porky, the greater the degree of pitch-raising in his vocalisation, i suspect. Almost like a throwback to his childhood days – maybe as a lad he lied a lot before his voice broke?

      Crosby-Textor are gonna have to work on this – its such a dead giveaway. Just hope it doesn’t cost the taxpayer too much to have them beat it out of him . . . .

      • Hami Shearlie 4.3.1

        The sucking in of the breath is another tell with Key showing he’s under stress!

  5. DS 5

    This by-election was the most important event in New Zealand politics since Don Brash’s Orewa Speech. The Left has been fighting a hostile narrative for a decade; now it’s the Right’s turn.

    • North 5.1

      !!!!!!!!!!! DS. History will record it as such. Sad really that a nation starting in its infancy was a people who arguably beat the Wright Brothers, who first embraced universal suffrage, who produced Rutherford, who established the Welfare State, who gave Lovelock, Maori giving a battalion that is legend, who conquered Everest, who gave the jet-engine, who humiliated a bunch of Hurrah Henrys at Oxford and made “No Nukes” de rigeuer, and many more examples of punching way above its weight…….should have drunk TheConManKey’s Wall Street/City of London Kool-Aid for so long. And ended up Obama’s gauche, effete, illiterate, simpering, photo-opping, caddie-boy. Bloody sad !

      Thank you not Business Roundtable and grande dame Michelle Boag and others who imported it and marketed it ! In your own selfish ‘I, me me me, can’t be rich enough’ interests…….

  6. Brendon Ross 6

    Key seems like the sort of guy who has been a “winner” all his adult life, so I can imagine this being a huge psychological blow. One would also assume he’ll be watching his back to – who wouldn’t think “I could do a better job” after his performance.
    I’m hopefully that Labour/Greens/NZ 1st will all make an effort to improve communication between and amongst themselves, starting now. At the end of the day, in an MMP system, dialogue and a pragmatic view at your strategic goal (centre to solid left victory), rather than short term point scoring tactics is essential.
    Northland looks to be the start of something good for progressives and liberals.

  7. saveNZ 7

    Totally agree. Great to hear Little and Peters will be having talks. I hope well away from the cameras and in confidence. Getting a relationship should be private not some media spectacle with dumbo Gowers sneering commentary and the rest of the Nat media groupies.

    Little has done the right thing. I also feel that Labour never had a significant leadership problem, they had an internal problem with MP’s and others undermining their leader. Hopefully that has stopped. I hope ex leaders like Cunliffe and Shearer and Goff are not vilified for having a go at leadership. Little has the job now, but labour needs to internally have some sort of reconciliation and actually work out strategies to not infight.

    As soon as Labour stop their infighting (which maybe they already have) they are back to being a more formidable force. In addition they need to get rid of their divisive policies that are too right wing for a centre party.

    We all know where the infighting is going to start from now…. and the colour is blue:)

    • Anne 7.1

      My understanding is all the Labour factionalism has gone. The caucus is 100% behind Andrew Little. Morale is high. A re-charged Labour Party is preparing for the Treasury Benches in 2017 or earlier.

      That came from an MP who I don’t think gave Little his first preference vote.

  8. whateva next? 8

    “……a very clever strategy in the Northland by-election – lulling and gulling John Key into thinking they were going to run a conventional proxy-partyvote campaign, where National would have the upper hand.”
    I don’t even think it was that contrived, more pragmatic approach and then let the electorate decide, rather than trying to manipulate them.
    Refreshing. Willow Jean was able to see past her own ego and look to the greater good, and by doing so has shown herself to be a future excellent Labour MP.

  9. A.Ziffel 9

    Chris Trotter suggests that the “switch” will in fact be the replacement of the Greens with NZF as Labour’s preferred coalition partner.

    Labour, if it is wise, will seize the opportunity provided by Peters’ victory to put even more distance between itself and the Greens.

    • tracey 9.1

      and NZ will be the worse for the environemtnal impact of diary and oil.

      If Trotter is right, he is asking for a Left party to be more right… which means more of the same as the last few decades but with a smile.

  10. outofbed 10

    “Congratulations to Labour for a very clever strategy in the Northland by-election”

    Not sure that is was a clever strategy
    Giving NZF a platform for growth and possibly future coalition with National.

    NZF is perceived to have given National bloody nose not Labour.

    All that this means is that Labour has to move more to the right to possibly accommodate Winston and co.
    (which might be what they want to do anyway I guess 🙁 )

    National had/has already shot it self in the foot with the whole Sabin thing
    Which is a drama to be played out, but lets face it it doesn’t look good to not be upfront about such an issue.
    Labour should have campaigned in Northland hard and taken moral highground.
    and then hit National with everything when the Sabin stuff gets out.

    I think one of the RWNJ ‘s said That the Greens were the big losers I think they have a point.


    • weka 10.1

      How are the GP the big losers here?

      I think you have missed the point about what Labour’s clever strategy is. What they’ve essentially done is demonstrated how to work in an MMP environment, by still standing a candidate, backing that candidate and treating her with respect, and at the same time signalling to their voter to use their common sense in how they cast their vote (a very clear signal to voter that they are trusted). This demonstration has been a long time coming, and irrespective of any other consequences of the Northland election, it’s gold.

      If you stop thinking in FFP, power play terms, and instead think about it in MMP, collaborative terms, it makes sense. That Little has followed this up by connecting with NZF and the GP is perfect.

      • outofbed 10.1.1

        Labour and Little have not demonstrated much love towards the Greens
        a case in point “Intelligence and Security Committee’s Membership’
        One gets the impression that they wish the Greens would just go away

        My Point is that NZF is now in a very strong position
        NZF Champions for the regions…
        Has not changed the GOV and it has strengthened the odious Dunne

        Also opened up Labour to the accusation that they too are doing dirty deals ( yes I know it is completely different) But National are the masters of “they do it too”.

        So on the plus side “Labour has demonstrated that they can work in an MMP environment”
        And on the negative side they have helped Winston to a very powerful position
        where those new found skills will be sorely tested.

        Winston and NZF really need to be taken out of the game not emboldened.

        • weka

          Ok, I see what you mean. I agree (and have argued in the past month) that it’s a big risk for the left. I like the prospects of a L/GP/NZF govt, but can’t see it happening with Peters in power. I like the idea of a L/GP/Mana govt even better, but NZ is still wimping out on taking the steps necessary to really address climate change, other pressing environmental issues, and the social issues.

          I’m not sure it’s about taking NZF out of the game, because those voters still need somewhere to be represented, and they’re not getting that from Labour. But we also need to remember that many Labour voters voted for Peters and that won’t happen at the next general election (unless Labour really fuck things up, which is looking less likely).

  11. Scintilla 11

    Interesting to check out NZ First press releases in the fortnight or so leading up to the buy election. scoop NZFirst
    TPP, farming, roads, state housing, vulnerable kids & families, Northport, education. Well targeted and clear messages – apart from Northport, all relevant to the rest of the provinces too. Easy to deride Winnie as populist, equally you could say he actually represents his constituents. And that list of press releases covers the sort of ground I would have expected from a Labour campaign, albeit a long time ago.

    Common ground. That’s what matters.

    • felix 11.1

      I agree.

      As an example, here is the NZF MP who most lefties regard as the worst of them, and yet in this video he’s still better than most Labour MPs are most of the time:


      • Scintilla 11.1.1

        Pleasant surprise indeed! He spoke very well – “benefits to go to the people of the coast and NZ Inc and we want to see our environment preserved” – what’s not to like about that?

        Every now & then I check out parliament tv – you’ll agree I’m sure that it’s invaluable to get a fix on who our MPs are, by clocking their behaviour. Beloved Leader showed his true colours long ago with his snide, bullying smart-arsery.

        An MP I truly respect is Julie Ann Genter – she remains composed and on-target in the face of such drivel – and she really knows her stuff. Key can’t keep up with her.

  12. Huginn 12

    ‘Winston Peters … much misunderstood and underestimated’?

    Yes, definitely. Credit where credit’s due: Winston Peters is the most talented Opposition politician of our times.

    • Weepus beard 12.1

      Your mate John Key was in opposition for 3+ years. Do you not want to throw him a bone?

      • Huginn 12.1.1

        @Weepus Beard
        ‘Your mate John Key …’
        What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

  13. Weepus beard 13

    Key reminds me of Brad Haddin.

    The Crosby-Textor strategy has Key using his sledging words to paint Little as a coward. In recent times:

    “Get some guts” in parliament, and,

    “He ran for the hills” when describing Little’s approach to the Northland by election.

    Watch for similar language and connotations of same from the PM from now until late 2017.

    • North 13.1

      TheComeDownWithAThudKey reminds me of Mora, just as disingenuous though light years short of Mensa. It’s the dark Wall Street cunning is the former’s bag.

      Jesus…..that’s PMONZ ! How did this happen ?

  14. Sable 14

    Since when was Labour a left leaning party? Savage would turn in his grave if he could see what they have become. All pie in the sky bullshit really….

  15. Puckish Rogue 15

    I think you mean congratulations to Winston Peters but well done for trying to say it was all Labours idea

  16. Ad 16

    John Key won the Northland by-election.

    Peters has racked a bevy of massive campaign wins, including the RMA, and will bank them and go for more. This is how you form a pre-Coalition relationship.

    Key’s apparent loss has few actual downsides. Lost two deadweight caucus members, gained an easy 2017 partner to squeeze out Act, Maori, and United in one swoop, and quickly offloaded otherwise unpopular policy contests.

    Key remains the game in town.

    • Puckish Rogue 16.1

      On the plus side Winston is loyal once bought and paid for but the downside is how much will that loyalty cost

      Arise Sir Winston..?

      and then once Winston retires who’ll take over at NZFirst…welcome back Shane Jones and you know hes not cheap

      This is going to cost either party plenty

      • Ad 16.1.1

        They all have a price – MMP at core allows no one to retain their soul.

        • Puckish Rogue

          For sure, I just think Winstons price is higher then most,,,Sir Winston and John Keys resignation perhaps?

      • tracey 16.1.2

        “is loyal once bought and paid for but the downside is how much will that loyalty cost”

        Hmmmm would Shipley agree?

        I think the bit I quoted from you equally applies to the National Party and its leader.

        • Puckish Rogue

          Which is why (to me) its so surprising why Labour is cuddling up so much to Winston

          Make overtures to work with him by all means but Labour seems to have forgotten hes done over Labour before because he got a better deal from National so theres no reason he won’t do the same again

          and of course it could easily work the other way as well

          • Tracey

            Remember the alternative to winston winning northland was osborne not prime. when that is remembered it looks different to how some are framing it.

            • Scintilla

              Ad, what does National policy have in common with NZ First’s? TPP? No. Asset sales? Why, no. Education? Nup. State housing? Nooo… Ports of Auckland? Nah, NZF wants Northport. Bout the only thing they agree on is a few roads & bridges that National offered Northland, all by themselves.

    • North 16.2

      Yeah yeah yeah Ad…….the man/woman whose only response about the destruction of a serious legal aid system was to hoot dismissively – “Oh…….let’s cry for the lawyers then…….hahaha !” Without half a fucking clue about what it meant for those hurt by it, denied their rights by it. Such insight. Such care for the veritably poor, as demonstrated by a personally indulgent mocky mocky beating of a drum from somewhere. Not from The Left I’d venture. ‘Pretty’, throwaway line analysis as in this instance. The variety of lefties who wanna make me chunder to be frank.

  17. feijoa 17

    I know Winston has his annoyances, but I for one will always be grateful to his free health care for under 6’s back in the day when I had a very sick child and we were short of cash.
    If I ever met him I would shake his hand and thank him.
    I know there are also lots of oldies who very much appreciate the gold card the freedom it gives them to get around.
    The guy has done some things that make a difference

  18. North 18

    Hear hear Feijoa ! All well and good for the purists to throw shit at Peters. And dance about loftily foretelling an ultimate Judas. To do so without walking in the shoes of those whose options in life and quality of life would be in relative deficit without for example the Gold Card……that’s to be a snooty, self-focused, non-cognisant dickhead. Oh so pure from a comfortable armchair !

    Whichever way you look at it this very day……..Peters MP Northland is preferable to TheOnceWasGodKey’s biddable proxy Osborne. No ? You insist on your yoghurt being whatever pure…….?

    Disclosure of interest: come October……me 65

  19. Stuart Munro 19

    Peters was the best result to be had in Northland – a bit of an unknown quantity but nevertheless strategically an improvement. Little and WJP handled it well – no losses of face or lapses of judgement.

    Winston may prove more pragmatic than the Key crowd – if he tempers their neo-liberalism he’ll represent an improvement whether or not he supports parties further left. This is a good result short of a 1996 style Trojan horse trick.

    National handled it poorly, and if they had the brains the good lord grants the humble lettuce they’d leak Sabin’s situation now. But perhaps they really want it hanging over their heads again in 2017. I guess fessing up is so out of character Key never even considered it.

  20. jaymam 20

    Dear Labour and Green supporters who voted sensibly in Northland: thank you very much. In electorates such as Epsom, Ohariu and now Northland, there have been only two possible winners. It makes sense to vote for the one who is closer to your own interests, even if that person is not in your preferred party.

    Now that you have helped get rid of the National candidate for Northland, in the next general election can we all get together and vote tactically to get rid of ACT and United Future? If National votes tactically, the rest of us will also have to vote tactically.

    For Epsom that will probably mean voting for the National candidate to get rid of ACT. For Ohariu that will mean we all vote for the Labour candidate to get rid of Dunne.
    Getting rid of ACT and UF will mean that National have fewer seats and the Left can regain the government benches again.

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