Bubbles and empty spaces

Written By: - Date published: 12:31 pm, June 7th, 2008 - 63 comments
Categories: election 2008, john key, labour, Media, slippery - Tags:

John Key’s policy vacuum is such a joke that even the ad-men are using it for comic material. Have a listen.


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John Key – Bubbles

63 comments on “Bubbles and empty spaces”

  1. mike 1

    AYB – The strategy and benefits of the so called “policy vacuum” is explained quite well by Armstrong today. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10514894

  2. mike 2

    ayb, the benefits and strategy of the “policy vacuum” are explained quite well by Armstrong today. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10514894

  3. higherstandard 3

    Quite so Mike – I continue to find it astounding that anyone is surprised that National are delaying the release of policy with the polls suggesting that there is no need to at this point.

    Even though Armstrong’s analysis is often weak I thought he was spot on this morning.

  4. Joel 4

    What is suprising is that people would vote for National at the moment without even knowing what they will be getting. Now that just reeks of stupidity and naivety.

  5. Disengaged 5

    I didn’t realise that we could already vote for National? Here was me thinking that we still have at least 5 months ’til the election. Last time I checked that leaves plenty of time to flesh out a full policy programme.

  6. higherstandard 6

    Joel

    What you’re seeing in the polls is disillusionment and fatigue in relation to the present government.

    I’m sure you know that governments tend to be voted out in NZ rather than voted in.

  7. andy 7

    HS

    The worry for National is that the audience of MoreFM is the exact same people they are trying to reach out to (my guess, Caucasians 25-45). If people who only have a glancing interest in politics hear the add, it reinforces the ‘No Policy’ meme that is now obviously out ‘there’.

  8. Monty 8

    Good work guys please keep up the attacks on John Key – your strategy is obviously working. Labour are rebounding in the polls, people are turned off John Key as his popularity sinks to all time lows.

    In regards to policy announcements we understand you poor souls are frustrated. Labour are floundering without much knowledge of what National are up to. You problem is that as soon as the fiscal statements are known four weeks out from the election leftist support will drop to about 20%. National’s biggest problem will be finding absolute top quality people who are prepared to take a substantial drop in income to serve in parliament. (I guess we will win around 75 seats in the election.)

  9. IrishBill 9

    Monty, I will be bookmarking your comment for posterity.

  10. Monty 10

    I saw an interesting point above by Joel “people would vote for National at the moment without even knowing what they will be getting. Now that just reeks of stupidity and naivety.” The poeple I know who vote Labour are the ones who vote Labour because they help the poor people (wrong) or because they have managed the economy well (wrong – the economy is tanking) or because National will cut benefits (a leftist lie), or because National only looks after its rich buddies (another leftist lie)

    My point is that there are very few leftards who know exactly why they support Labour. They are the Naive ones. Not the people who intend to vote National who are desperate to get rid of theis corrupt government.

    My Mate who is a unionist fireman is one, but then even he has had a gutsful of this corrupt government and will vote surprisingly for Act because they are where he sits on liberal issues.

  11. Monty 11

    thanks Irish I look forward to beiong proved correct. Months ago I predicted Labour would slum below 30% in at lease one poll before the election, I was months early in my predition.

    I now predict that Labour will slump below 25% in at least one poll before the election.

    Please note that the longer the Nats stay above 50% the more the electorate accepts that the Nats can rule with an absolute majority. In the meantime the Labour will lose becomes totally accepted by the electorate as well and no one wants to back a lame Donkey with Parakura riding as Jockey.

  12. andy 12

    Monty

    Which policies do you support of Nationals? Since most are “me too” policies so far, wont the economy continue to ‘tank’ under a National govt?

  13. I say Labour will be lucky to poll 20%.
    Massive landslide coming girls, as Mount Helengrad is self destructing.

  14. Felix 14

    Is kiwiblog closed today or something?

  15. Draco TB 15

    What is suprising is that people would vote for National at the moment without even knowing what they will be getting. Now that just reeks of stupidity and naivety.

    QFT

    It really is quite scary when you realise that the support that the National Party has ATM is all based on Hot Air and we’re don’t even know if it’s hot.

    My Mate who is a unionist fireman is one, but then even he has had a gutsful of this corrupt government and will vote surprisingly for Act because they are where he sits on liberal issues.

    I came within a hairs breadth of joining the ACT party because I really am that liberal but I read their policies, checked them against what happened in other countries that follow that formula (ie, the USA) and realised that their policies will only destroy the community and the market place that it supports which would destroy the economy. The problem with individualism is that it simply doesn’t work.

  16. Monty 16

    Wel Andy for a start I support any party that wants to lower taxes. I also will support any party that will repeal the EFA. I am excited about the $1.5b rollout of broadband. In general terms I will support a party that will encourage self responsibility and reward hard work. I want government out of my life as much as possible, and that includes my strong opposition to the Bradford Anti-smacking Bill. I believe John Key will be a much better Prime Mionister than helen Clark, in that he will not wreck careers of people who disagree with him (look to the treatment of Christine Rankin and Peter Doone) he will not sign paintings he did not paint, if he sped (unlikely) he will remember that he was speeding at 200km per hour to get t a game he actually interested in as opposed to being there for te photo opportunity. Key will understand people have a different view and while he will disagree, he will respect their right to a different opinion.

    National will not the tax hell out of the struggeling middle classes (of which I am one) to support and buy votes from special interest groups. National will not politicise the public service, but rather will bring back integrity into the Public Service.

    The Electoral System will be reviewed, but with wide cross party support rather than a gathering of lickspittle to ram home advantage for themselves and disadvantage all others (although that one has backfired.

    Better economic management by people who understand fiannces rather than a failed history lecturer is a step in the right direction.

    And of couse National are not Labour and therefore by default will be a massive improvement to the unionsts, gays and academics that populate the Labour benches. Is that enough – well I look forward to the details National Party Policy when they are good and ready. regardless National or Act will get my vote.

  17. Joel 17

    Monty, you forget that National voted for Bradfords bill.

    Your posts (all of them so far) are simply filled with assumptions about what National might and might not do. Your obviously an ardent National voter, yet you have no idea what they’re doing either. Its not just Labour that doesn’t know what National are up to, NATIONAL don’t know what National are up to! The Kiwisaver gaffe was the proof.
    I’ll be reading Hollow Men again over the coming weeks in anticipation for what looks to be a repeat.

  18. Joel 18

    Oh and dear Monty in the ‘struggling middle class’, won’t you spare a thought for the lower class? You think you’ve got it tough with the WORLD WIDE food and petrol price hikes, how do you think it feels to be lower class right about now?
    You could easily go out and sell you Holden (which you probably drive?) and pick up something with a 1L engine, and soon you’ll find it much easier to get buy.

    Essentially it is only Cullens prudent financial management that has staved of disaster in the past years. the IMF pretty much confirmed that and recommended we continue our prudent fiscal management in light of INTERNATIONAL trends that our Government has little control over.

    The fact that you would openly criticise gays in your post kind of states that we shouldn’t really pay you any heed anymore. Your clearly not worth the time of day.

  19. bill brown 19

    Monty:

    Why bother giving us the reasons you would vote for JK if indeed any of you prophesies do come true, I mean you must be a clairvoyant if you “know” all this stuff, and then say:

    “regardless National or Act will get my vote”

    So you don’t care what their policies are or even if they have, shock! gays in their parties.

    It must be very comforting for you to have such blind faith.

  20. higherstandard 20

    … it is only Cullens prudent fiscal management which has staved off disaster in the past years…… what disaster is that Joel ?

    I think Michael Cullen would be one of the first to admit that he’s enjoyed a very bouyant local and international fiscal environment during his term and only recently has the international and local situation turned pear shaped.

  21. Matthew Pilott 21

    I saw an interesting point above by Joel “people would vote for National at the moment without even knowing what they will be getting. Now that just reeks of stupidity and naivety.’ The poeple I know who vote Labour are the ones who vote Labour because they help the poor people (wrong)

    How so? Are you talking about increasing the minimum wage, the record low unemployment, childcare, health and family subsidies and credits? Lie #1 from monty

    or because they have managed the economy well (wrong – the economy is tanking)

    Ahh well done monty, they ‘have managed the economy well’ (past tense) but now ‘the economy is tanking’ (present tense). Technically you statement there makes less sense than an impromptu Key soundbite, and if I have a go at the substance of it, you’re a real lightweight – pull your head out and take a look at the subprime crisis, oil prices and food shortages. NZ is faring much better than other countries due to good ecnomic managemet by Cullen – who was prudent with the economy in the event that current conditions were to occur. Another patently false statement.

    or because National will cut benefits (a leftist lie)

    As shown above, you’re the liar, but in this instance it’s not necessarily a lie. What a welcome change. Your only saving grace though, is that Key’s policy compendium makes lithium look like osmium. National have done so in the past though, but I concur it’s no guarantee that the same will happen in the future.

    What you can’t disagree with, monty, is that National would if they could – or at least they did until Key took over – who knows what the hell he thinks? I’m going to assume that he would happily cut benefits if he could though, and I believe it is a safe assumption.

    or because National only looks after its rich buddies (another leftist lie)

    Burden of proof to you here, buddy, but a plethora of old and floated National policy does exactly that. Consider their idea of privatising ACC – it will help out those in the insurance industry, to the detriment of the public.

    My point is that there are very few leftards who know exactly why they support Labour.

    You are incapable of making a locigal, intelligent statement, monty, as I’ve demontrated. But it’s left wing people who are retards? How mature of you, young fella.

    They are the Naive ones. Not the people who intend to vote National who are desperate to get rid of theis corrupt government.

    Naive? I imagine most are more capable than your good self of being able to string a thought or two together. corrupt – the standard call when you’ve got nothing truthful to say, it’s just too easy isn’t it? Try using your own analysis on that statement monty.

    My Mate who is a unionist fireman is one, but then even he has had a gutsful of this corrupt government and will vote surprisingly for Act because they are where he sits on liberal issues.

    Your old unionist left wing firefighter mate, I’ve heard you trot this out before – you could try a less obvious cliche if you want to invent a vehicle for pretending you know anyone who’s left wing! It’s as transparent as “ex-labour voter”

  22. Monty 22

    Well at present it seems about 50 something % of the population agree with the general jist of the National Party direction rather than the 27% (in Auckland) of Labour voters. Spoecific details of policy will follow – but at even closer to the election Iam not sure if the average vote really gets that interested in absolute specifics of policy.

    And yes the middle classes are struggling. Clark and Cullen have bred up dry to fund their social programes and in the process have diminished the concept of self responsibility. Personaly i do not give too much of a shit about the lower clasess – I am not one of them but i never planned to be despite by upbringing (born into a large Irish Catholic family from the west coast with a father who drank too much and never had enough money) . Like all my middle class friends we are struggling with mortgage rate rises, energy costs and massive over taxation. Labour has lost the vote of many people who are now realising that this government has not done them any favours.

    Blind faith is those who continue to support Labour who themselves have failed to release poicy – but then the left always acuse their enermy of their own worst sins.

  23. Joel 23

    ” it is only Cullens prudent fiscal management which has staved off disaster in the past years what disaster is that Joel ?”

    Id say perhaps disaster is a bit strong, yes. But I was referring to the international crisis we have been facing for probably the past 7 or so years. The US Economic which has come so close to collapse, the on-going war, the ever increasing price of oil (this has been happening for several years now), climate change, what more do you want?
    The situation now is just going from bad to worse really. In Europe the price of food has increased by over 40% in the past year!

  24. PhilBest 24

    John Key is going to CLEAN YOU GUYS UP, for the simple reason of a VERY SHORT LIST of issues that YOU GUYS have dug yourselves into a hole over and CANNOT SEE that you have completely LOST the average Kiwi out in the real world on those issues. This is not a policy vacuum, just VERY REAL DIFFERENCES on a few things that REALLY MATTER.

    ONE. The EFA. OUT.
    TWO. The RMA. AMEND IT. Get adequate power generation DONE.
    THREE. Bureaucrat numbers. Cap them.
    FOUR. Utilising the private health sector.
    FIVE. The ideological stance on tax cuts. Kullen will give a little under protest. The Nats will minimise them only as a necessity. Kiwis can see the difference.

    That’s all. Bang on about a “policy vacuum” all you like. You KNOW I’m right, but it’s too late to change your spots now, if you ever will. You’re TOAST. “Goff Labour” will have to reinvent its image on THESE ISSUES to be able to get back in again one day, too.

    [lprent: Please don’t SHOUT. You should restrict that to special occassions because it hurts my eyes. I regard SHOUTing and deliberate misspellings of people names as the behavior of a troll. Troll’s do not survive around here because I have little patience with rogue programs. I bug-fix them.

    Read the FAQ at the top of the screen on how to do simple html that will allow you to provide emphasis to your comments without being offensive to my eyes. Think of it as an test of your ability to read and learn. These are two key traits that distinguish humans from trolls. ]

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    PhilBest,

    I know you’re fired up about a few things.

    Your astounding arrogance that everyone else thinks the same is at best laughable.

    How you equate those five points with the ACTUAL (seeing as shouting is all the vogue with you) reason National is doing well in the polls – soft support based upon ‘time for a change’, just shows your limited ablilty to reason given your strong feelings so clearly shown…

  26. Rex Widerstrom 26

    No policies?! Oh I wish they had no policies. Instead, National’s “leadership” are like the nodding dog that used to be de rigeur in the back window of an HQ.

    They’ll readily agree to bad legislation like the Criminal Procedure Bill for bad reasons (“it’ll stop victims having to give evidence twice”. Oh wonderful. It’ll also stop evidence being tested to determine whether or not the complainant or the Police are acting maliciously in bringing the charges. But hey, no one ever lost votes by being all “soft” on justice).

    Then (according to the Herald today, anyway) they’re prepared to entertain “brazen courtship” from Peter Dunne, the original painted whore of NZ politics. Any party with principle would refuse to have anything to do with him.

    They’ll do – or not do – whatever it takes to gain power, and Labour will do whatever it takes to keep it.

    Why bother to have an election if this keeps up? Where’s the vision, courage and principle from either side?!

  27. lprent 27

    Testing older ajax edit. Seems to work.

    Decided that the newer version needs some work.

  28. randal 28

    polls schmolls…national will self destruct and labour will cream them. national wants uncertainty and manipulated markets for their own personal advantage while labour offers security and fairness…the people of new zealand know this and no matter how many polls the tories slough off Labour will still form the next government. wait and see.

  29. Lew 29

    I haven’t seen a single one of you lefties actually come out with a reasoned rebuttal to John Armstrong’s alaysis (which, if I may be so bold, is what I’ve been saying for months).

    Sure, you can continue to have faith in the government, and criticise the opposition for adopting this strategy on the grounds that it’s a dirty trick, but none of that will stop it working.

    This is the thing which frustrates me: ideologues who are more concerned with representing their clan or being right than they are about observing, adapting, and improving. Apply the fucking scientific method – observe phenomena, adapt to the phenomena you observe, improve your processes. This is why the put a `science’ in Political Science, and why the Athenians called politics the `master science‘.

    The left may not be able to save this election, and that’s not the end of the world. But if the left fails to consolidate power in the long-term in New Zealand, it has nobody but itself to blame.

    If you accept the premise that the sort of Social Democratic policy ideals Cullen spoke so eloquently about this week (for instance, tax cuts weighted toward low-income earners; free or subsidised healthcare and education; some intervention in markets in the interests of social justice, etc) directly advantages a significantly larger proportion of the electorate than Neo-Liberal or Conservative policy (tax cuts for the wealthy; privatised health and education; purely capitalist markets, etc.) – and I do accept this premise – then a left-based coalition has no excuse for failing to win elections. If their policy objectively advantages more of the population, they should win every time, right? But they don’t – and the reason they don’t is because the left seems to be useless at marketing itself, at communicating its platfoirms to the electorate in such a way that they realise how important it is for them to vote left. Part of this is that tyhe left is based in trades, the public service and trade unions, whose jobs tend to exist out of necessity and as of right – whereas the right tends to be drawn from private enterprise, where people have to sell themselves to succeed. The part I’m railing against are the folk who just refuse to learn from experience, who refuse to take a leaf out of the opposition book – a sort of `Not Invented Here’ syndrome.

    It angers me that people who have so much to gain from left governments are voting right because the left is too lazy, stupid or both to reach out to them and give them the information they need to come to what I believe to be the correct, rational conclusion in politics. In my view people are objectively going to be worse off because of the left’s failure to communicate their agenda adequately. Maybe that’s what it takes. I’m a firm believer in the idea that people get the sort of government they deserve.

    It sounds trite, but the left needs to become more customer-focussed. The right are winning because they are. Do you on the left want to retain a perceived moral or ethical high ground, which apparently the people who matter (the electorate) don’t care about, or do you want to give the people what they need (message, as well as policy). Sure – it might seem futile or wasteful to employ spin-doctors, designers, communicators and message-bearers to pass about policy which to those on the inside is self-evidently good – but as long as it isn’t self-evidently good to the electorate, it’s not wasteful or futile. Call it education if you like.

    National are winning because they’ve controlled the political agenda in NZ since 2003 by the power of their communications alone. They have had no power to implement policy, so that isn’t a factor. They’ve continued dominating the airwaves despite shaky leadership and extremely benign economic conditions (which favour incumbents). If Labour fail to form a coalition, it’s not because they’ve failed at government: it’s because they’ve failed to ddemonstrate how good they’ve been since 1999. It’s not self-evident.

    I expect to be bagged as a trojan horse for this rant, and I expect the true partisan hacks in the audience to remain with their heads firmly buried in the sand, saying `It’s just a flesh wound!’ To you I say: wise up, fools – until you do the polity is better off without you.

    L

    PS: Monty, I’ll buy you a case of beer (of your choice, delivered) if National get 75 seats. You do the same for me if not. Deal?

  30. Leave the satire to Jon Stewart.

  31. r0b 31

    So Lew, a bit of time on your hands tonight?

    I haven’t seen a single one of you lefties actually come out with a reasoned rebuttal to John Armstrong’s alaysis (which, if I may be so bold, is what I’ve been saying for months).

    What’s to rebut? Looks about right to me. National’s current strategy is “successful” yes. But consider what he is really saying. The criterion for “success” is being ahead in the polls. That’s all. National aren’t telling their policies because the public won’t like them, so they need to keep them quiet as long as possible (and try to sneak their way into power). It isn’t honourable, it isn’t good for NZ, but it may well work. So we’re agreed on all that.

    Apply the fucking scientific method – observe phenomena, adapt to the phenomena you observe, improve your processes. This is why the put a `science’ in Political Science, and why the Athenians called politics the `master science‘.

    Begging your pardon, no matter that it is called Political “Science”, but a science it is not. It’s worse than Economics (“the dismal science” if we are trading epigrams).

    If you accept the premise that the sort of Social Democratic policy ideals Cullen spoke so eloquently about this week … directly advantages a significantly larger proportion of the electorate than Neo-Liberal or Conservative policy … – and I do accept this premise –

    Me too, of course.

    then a left-based coalition has no excuse for failing to win elections. If their policy objectively advantages more of the population, they should win every time, right?

    Ideally yes, in practice no. This prediction fails for the same reason that economic models based on the concept of “the rational consumer” fail. People aren’t rational. We are heuristic and emotional, and we operate with incomplete information and limited memory. We focus on short term goals (not long term) and we selectively filter our memories and our perceptions so as to confirm our prejudices and our decisions. Basically our decision making processes are a mess.

    Add to that two other factors (1) that leftie voters are often poor and “self disenfranchised”, and (2) that the means of information production and distribution are largely in the hands of those likely to push a right wing agenda (hello Fox News) – and it’s clear why the left can and do lose elections.

    But they don’t – and the reason they don’t is because the left seems to be useless at marketing itself, at communicating its platfoirms to the electorate in such a way that they realise how important it is for them to vote left.

    No, as above, it’s much more complicated than that. It can appear that the left is poor at communication because the right own the presses, but that’s only part of the picture.

    The part I’m railing against are the folk who just refuse to learn from experience, who refuse to take a leaf out of the opposition book

    Of course it would be great if the left could communicate their message more clearly. One possible mechanism would be to exploit this new and equalising medium of the internet. Viral video and blogs would be a good starting point. Oh look, here we are at The Standard. Or in other words, look around, I think the lefties posting and commenting here kinda agree with you already.

    It angers me that people who have so much to gain from left governments are voting right because the left is too lazy, stupid or both to reach out to them and give them the information they need to come to what I believe to be the correct, rational conclusion in politics.

    I’m picking you now for an armchair expert Lew. Spend much time in the trenches working for a left wing party? I do. We work our asses off to communicate with our electorate. There’ll be a lot more of it happening in the run up to the election too. But your problem once again is in that whole expectation of “rational” again. “Rational” is, sadly, only a (sometimes small) part of the decision making process.

    It sounds trite, but the left needs to become more customer-focussed. The right are winning because they are.

    Ahh, with all due respect there Lew, but I’m inclined to call that bollocks, unless you can tell me what you mean by “customer-focused” and substantiate the claim that the right are better at it. I thought we agreed above that the right are just trying to keep their heads down and ride the mood for change. What’s customer focused about that?

    Do you on the left want to retain a perceived moral or ethical high ground

    Yup.

    which apparently the people who matter (the electorate) don’t care about

    I think they do actually, e.g. NZs (arguably costly) Nuke Free ethics.

    or do you want to give the people what they need (message, as well as policy).

    False dichotomy, let’s do both.

    Sure – it might seem futile or wasteful to employ spin-doctors, designers, communicators and message-bearers to pass about policy which to those on the inside is self-evidently good – but as long as it isn’t self-evidently good to the electorate, it’s not wasteful or futile. Call it education if you like.

    Call it whatever you like, but it’s already happening.

    National are winning because they’ve controlled the political agenda in NZ since 2003 by the power of their communications alone.

    I disagree completely. They’ve had success in pushing one message, tax cuts. The whole starting place for our discussion here was how the Nats have no other policy and it doesn’t matter. So how is that controlling the agenda? And “power of their communications”? What? Every time Key opens his mouth he makes a mess of it, and their messages are all over the place (KiwiSaver anyone?). No, the Nats aren’t evil genius communicators, they are just coasting along on a mood for change.

    So anyway, interesting comment Lew, but I do disagree with a lot of it. Goodnight.

  32. National aren’t telling their policies because the public won’t like them, so they need to keep them quiet as long as possible (and try to sneak their way into power).

    Absolutely. National’s policies in govt will be a pale version of ACT’s policies. ACT have studiouly laid out those policies for the NZ public and been rewarded with poll results below the margin of error. With that example in front of them, National aren’t going to be giving voters any more policy info than they absolutely have to.

  33. andy 33

    Lew

    I think that NZ as a whole took a big step to the right in the 80’s and we have anchored expectations in that ‘groove’ for over a generation. Consumerism and individualism are contradictory to the values of some on the left.

    Psycho.milt

    Could not agree more! So what is your pick for Roger Douglas’ electorate seat run (announced today)?

  34. ak 34

    Lew: good comment, can’t disagree with a lot of it except for the heavy blame put back on Labour. And what rOb said on the rest.

    Look at “communications science” (which I know you are): I’m sure you’ll find that the primary source of political opinion for swinging voters is the papers and TV news, which as you point out are primarily owned and controlled by private interests with little if any independent scrutiny of bias.
    And there is heavy evidence this year that they are favouring National. Labour’s already accused of employing too many spin doctors – what more can they do?

    We’ve had this discussion before and I await your own and your colleague’s papers with interest. You could be the only ones focussing on the key element in this election. As I’ve said before: a handful of journalists could determine the outcome.

  35. Lew 35

    R0b: “So Lew, a bit of time on your hands tonight?”

    Cheap point-scoring, my favourite.

    “It isn’t honourable”

    It’s not you who decides whether it’s `honourable’, it’s the electorate. The fallout from National’s `dishonourable’ conduct leading up to 2005 isn’t hurting too badly.

    “it isn’t good for NZ, but it may well work. So we’re agreed on all that.”

    Yes, definitely agreed on that. Quoting out of order:

    “I think they do actually [care about the moral high ground], e.g. NZs (arguably costly) Nuke Free ethics.”

    You’ve missed my point here: I’m not saying the electorate doesn’t care about ALL moral high ground issues, I’m saying they don’t care about this one. In fact the example you give is canonical agenda control by the left: nuclear free, despite its cost (both opportunity cost and the cost of poor relations with other powers) is politically untouchable.

    “People aren’t rational. We are heuristic and emotional, and we operate with incomplete information and limited memory. We focus on short term goals (not long term) and we selectively filter our memories and our perceptions so as to confirm our prejudices and our decisions. Basically our decision making processes are a mess.”

    Dead right. Communication mitigates for poor memory and incomplete information and irrational decision-making. The object of political communication isn’t necessarily to give people all the right information they need to make a rational decision, it’s to make people believe they have all the right information they need to make a rational decision (in the communicator’s favour).

    “It can appear that the left is poor at communication because the right own the presses, but that’s only part of the picture.”

    I’m always suspicious of arguments that `the media is against us’, but I mostly accept this one, and I think you’re on the right track with your prognosis for re-taking the media heights. But the point I’m making is not that there aren’t systemic biases – the point is that the left isn’t taking all the opportunities available to it, and in conjunction with systemic biases this spells a weak message.

    “It can appear that the left is poor at communication because the right own the presses, but that’s only part of the picture.”

    Ah, yes, the appeal to authority, another of my favourites. I’m a researcher in symbolic politics – that’s a fancy way of saying propaganda, because although most symbolic communication doesn’t reach the bar for being called propaganda, the same principles apply. I work for a media intelligence company running a monitoring crew; I’ve spent most of my waking hours for the past couple years (since I got back to NZ) watching TV news and listening to the radio for a living. I haven’t (though I won’t rule it out) spent any time `in the trenches’. As I’ve made clear I’m not a partisan: my loyalty is to ideals and most significantly to , not to a party line.

    Those are my credentials. If you want to bag me as an out-of-touch ivory tower academic, have at it. What I’m essentially arguing is that political communication is too important to be left to enthusiastic True Believers `in the trenches’. I also know it’s mostly not, but some days it looks like it has been.

    “Ahh, with all due respect there Lew, but I’m inclined to call that bollocks, unless you can tell me what you mean by “customer-focused’ and substantiate the claim that the right are better at it.”

    Ok. The classical model is of first stimulating demand for X, then supplying that demand. The customer-focus bit is in supplying the demand. You seem to be labouring under the delusion that the `X’ in this case is policy; it’s not. Policy is messy, complicated stuff which causes peoples’ eyes to glaze over. What people are demanding is message: X needs to be simple, accessible, universally promulgated. If people like X they’ll take policy that goes along with X on faith – presuming it doesn’t depart too drastically from X.

    “I thought we agreed above that the right are just trying to keep their heads down and ride the mood for change. What’s customer focused about that?”

    They’re giving the electorate something to believe in.

    ” or do you want to give the people what they need (message, as well as policy).

    False dichotomy, let’s do both.”

    How can it be a false dichotomy if I said `as well as’. We agree here. But I’m arguing the left isn’t doing message well.

    “I disagree completely. They’ve had success in pushing one message, tax cuts.”

    This sort of minimisation is the deluded attitude I’m trying to fight. National took firm control of NZ’s political agenda on 27 January 2004 (I said 2003 in the post above, typo) in a speech entitled `Nationhood’ at the Orewa Rotary Club. The issue: national identity. That made the electorate sit up and take notice of the party, and while people were listening all they had to do was keep control of the agenda. The issue you cite, which has gotten them the most traction, isn’t `tax cuts’, but `more of your money in your pocket’. Labour have actually given people more of their money in their pockets (or will have, from October) – but they haven’t used the symbolic opportunity to their best advantage. There are other planks, and most of them aren’t to do with policy, but are symbolic issues which resonate for people and make them believe the purveyors of the symbolic message can be trusted to enact good policy. Whenever Nat voters are asked to explain why they support a party with no policy, they come out with a bunch of pseudo-propaganda talking points like `less waste’, `one law for all’, `nanny state out’, `personal responsibility’, etc. Labour has its own symbolic planks, but they don’t get the same traction.

    “Every time Key opens his mouth he makes a mess of it, and their messages are all over the place (KiwiSaver anyone?).”

    I absolutely agree. So how is it that they’re doing better?

    “No, the Nats aren’t evil genius communicators, they are just coasting along on a mood for change.”

    This is the point: they’ve stimulated that mood.

    andy: “I think that NZ as a whole took a big step to the right in the 80’s and we have anchored expectations in that ‘groove’ for over a generation.”

    Yes, and Labour’s major achievement in the past nine years is in reversing much of this.

    L

    Edit: on `science’ – yeah, that was cheeky of me. I don’t consider myself a scientist, but still: applying something approximating the scientific method here is what I’m advocating.

  36. AncientGeek 36

    Armstrongs analysis was very good (and yours), and you’re probably correct that the right has been controlling the public debate, while the left has been implementing policy.

    But there are a few things to consider.

    The nats haven’t released policy early as labour did with the tax policy in 1999. That was done for inoculation reasons on the tax changes. Either the right doesn’t have any controversial policy or no amount of inoculation is going to make it palatable. If it is the former then why are they trying to get into power – ego perhaps? If that latter then what is it that they’re hiding?

    Personally I think that their major policy is the taxcuts (everyone likes taxcuts) and it plays well as a negative story in the media. But the spin off is how are they going to pay for it – service cuts (everyone hates having services cut) or debt (it is really hard to find people who like debt). The less debate that they have on those linked topics, the happier they’ll feel.

    To pay for the taxcuts they will have to hit the high ticket items of superannuation, health and education at some point either immediately or to kill debt when their efficiency gains turn out to be a hotair bubble. Nothing else will give enough money to contribute at any significant level.

    It was interesting looking at the right in the ‘waste’ topics a week or so ago both here and around the blogs. As near as I could figure out in all of their suggestions about what could be cut, it came out at about $300-400 million – less than a chewing gum change at the higher levels of tax. They could of course cut the taxcuts that Cullen is putting in at the lower levels. That will be deeply unpopular, so ideally they’d like to have that debate as late as possible. For them it would ideally be after they gain the treasury benches.

    Side-issue on that question of waste. I’ve never seen the right as being effective managers of the state. Their time horizons are too short to look at the downstream implications of the changes they make. They pretty much screw up every time. That is why all of the effective structural changes come from the left.

    Why are the right dominating the msm? The right has effective control of the mass media. This is at two levels. The simple ownership/editorial, and because the focus of the msm is on short-term sensationalism that focuses on the negative. They don’t report good nes, they report bad news. That means that anything that the left does will be spun negatively at the delivery mechanism. Since the right focuses on negatives both in and out of government they always provide what the media machine needs.

    Anyway have to get back to pushing the good news out below the MSM. As r0b says, it is where the left operates. It is also where I expend effort

  37. andy 37

    Yes, and Labour’s major achievement in the past nine years is in reversing much of this.

    I would use the word ‘some’ instead of your ‘much’….IMO, Labour has been more conservative in some areas than the conservatives.

    But beyond that fascinating stuff Lew, a guest post on ‘political communication’ from an academic POV would be much appreciated.

    I am kind of in your corner, I don’t care about the media and who owns it as such. I just wish we would drop this stupid premise that the media is somehow supposed to be non biased/non political. It is a right wing straw man so they can run the liberal/left wing media bias meme or a left wing whine about right wing agit-prop. It serves no one, yes the means of production are owned by capital and they act in their own interests, newsflash!!!

    thanks for the insights..

  38. infused 38

    I like reading what you write Lew. Informative 😛

  39. higherstandard 39

    AG

    The most effective structural changes in recent history while indeed coming from a government of the left was driven by the core founders of the ACT party.

  40. vto 40

    Yes HS it is often forgotten that ACT are in fact hard core leftwing folk. It is perhaps what results from a genuine desire to help those less fortunate combined with some brain power applied to common sense.

  41. higherstandard 41

    It’s why the tags of right and left tend to be rather meaningless albeit they are still thrown about with gay abandon.

  42. higherstandard 42

    PS thanks for fixing the edit Lynn couldn’t get the other version to work at all.

    [lprent: Tested ok on the dev system. It was meant to fix the problem that shows up occasionally when you re-edit a comment several times, and it fails to save.
    But had too many bugs after I put it into production system. Eventually I copied the old version back into place.]

  43. r0b 43

    R0b: “So Lew, a bit of time on your hands tonight?’
    Cheap point-scoring, my favourite.

    S’ok Lew, it was just by way of a friendly hello. I obviously had some free time too, or I wouldn’t have replied at such length.

    Incidentally, since you’re settling in as a regular here, and since you’re inclined to long posts (like me), can I suggest that the use of tags would help the readability of your comments (see here for how to).

    The fallout from National’s `dishonourable’ conduct leading up to 2005 isn’t hurting too badly.

    Yes, isn’t that interesting. The Hollow Man front bench just changed the muppet in the top seat, and got away with business as usual thereafter. I’m not quite sure what one can do in a world where such blatant corruption goes not only unpunished, but almost unnoticed.

    I’m not saying the electorate doesn’t care about ALL moral high ground issues, I’m saying they don’t care about this one.

    I agree, but we have the demonstrated capacity to care, and that’s important.

    “People aren’t rational. We are heuristic and emotional, and we operate with incomplete information and limited memory. We focus on short term goals (not long term) and we selectively filter our memories and our perceptions so as to confirm our prejudices and our decisions. Basically our decision making processes are a mess.’
    Dead right.

    OK, well if you agree with me there I don’t see why your first post was based so extensively on appeals to rationality.

    The object of political communication isn’t necessarily to give people all the right information they need to make a rational decision, it’s to make people believe they have all the right information they need to make a rational decision (in the communicator’s favour).

    Very true and very depressing.

    the point is that the left isn’t taking all the opportunities available to it, and in conjunction with systemic biases this spells a weak message.

    Well I for one welcome concrete suggestions on how we can do better. You’ve identified a problem here Lew, so how do we fix it?

    As I’ve made clear I’m not a partisan: my loyalty is to ideals and most significantly to , not to a party line.

    That used to be my line too many years ago. But what is the best way of advancing those ideals? We don’t exist in some Platonic abstraction, ideals have instantiations (or best approximation). My conclusion, pick a party, get involved, and push for change from within. Ideals aren’t just going to happen by themselves I’m afraid.

    If you want to bag me as an out-of-touch ivory tower academic, have at it.

    I try not to bag people, and I think the opinions of academics stand or fall on their merits (same as everyone else).

    Ok. The classical model is of first stimulating demand for X, then supplying that demand. The customer-focus bit is in supplying the demand.

    Seems like an odd term for it, but OK then.

    You seem to be labouring under the delusion that the `X’ in this case is policy; it’s not. Policy is messy, complicated stuff which causes peoples’ eyes to glaze over. What people are demanding is message: X needs to be simple, accessible, universally promulgated. If people like X they’ll take policy that goes along with X on faith – presuming it doesn’t depart too drastically from X.

    Yes I pondered this last night after my comment, I agree that I was too focused on policy, and that message is separate and also important. See below for more on this.

    They’re giving the electorate something to believe in.

    Still disagree. They’re giving the electorate something to not disbelieve in. A subtle but important distinction. “Small target” politics and so on.

    “I disagree completely. They’ve had success in pushing one message, tax cuts.’
    This sort of minimisation is the deluded attitude I’m trying to fight. National took firm control of NZ’s political agenda on 27 January 2004 (I said 2003 in the post above, typo) in a speech entitled `Nationhood’ at the Orewa Rotary Club. The issue: national identity.

    That had an impact at the time sure, but I would argue that this storm blew itself out. The Nats did not win in 2005 after all. Where do you see the enduring legacy of Orewa today?

    The issue you cite, which has gotten them the most traction, isn’t `tax cuts’, but `more of your money in your pocket’.

    I disagree. If they pushed “more money” then they would draw attention to WfF, KiwiSaver etc. As far as I can see the Nat message has been tax cuts ad infinitum. So I’d be interested in how you think the Nats are distinguishing between tax cuts and more money, and how you think they are pushing the later over the former.

    “No, the Nats aren’t evil genius communicators, they are just coasting along on a mood for change.’
    This is the point: they’ve stimulated that mood.

    Well yes they have, but it doesn’t take evil geniuses to just ride the big wave of the natural electoral cycle.

    Anyway, back to “the message”. I agree that that the Nats have been better on “the message” than on policy. But again they are just swimming with the tide. The Right on the whole have been better at this over the last few decades. It’s not like Labour are unaware of this. 800 core activists sat and listened to this speech after all, which is a very good presentation of the broader context of your specific focus on the Nats in NZ. The Clare Curran paper also addressed these issues within the Labour Party. Anyone who’s a fan or De Saussure / SapirWhorf or Orwell knows how important language is.

    So to sum up, the Right own the media, and they have been very successful at framing the language of politics for the last few decades. Locally our very own National Party is riding this wave, and the natural mood for change at this point in the electoral cycle. You are of course correct in identifying the importance of “the message” in general as well as “policy” in particular. We disagree on whether or not Labour is working to get their message out, but I’m sure we agree that it could always be done better. So, crunch time then. Concrete suggestions. How does Labour communicate its message better?

    [lprent: Hopefully I’ll have time to finish testing NicEdit today to add in a better WSIWYG editing to comments. But there is a rather large pile of volunteer work sitting here to be done.]

  44. AncientGeek 44

    hs: Correct, and as you say some of the prime movers deserted to form their own party. However the changes would not have been brought in without broader support inside the left. They were a clear attempt to change the basis of the NZ economy over the long term. That was required because the Nat’s had let the country drift into an untenable position. As I said, they are lousy managers of the economy over the long term.

    As a side comment. The ACT kernel beliefs probably still has more in common with Labour than they do with the Nat’s. They are interested in changing things. The Nat’s do not. Essentially the Nat’s were irrelevant in the economic restructure because they operate in the short-term and look only at short-term interests.

    But there are other fundamental changes as well. For instance ACC which has had a major effect throughout society. It has two effects, the no-blame basis means that treatments is rapid without having to go through the courts first. But the second effect is that it targets payments by the the cause of injuries. The countries that persist with the court based systems divorce cause and effect because of the time delays.

    The extending of property laws to non-marriage partnerships recognized a long growing social trend trend, and put appropriate law in place. Similarly the family court processes. Both reduced the acrimony during the inevitable family breakups that come with increased life spans.

    I could go on for a while. Each of these has their flaws and problems. But they kept moving society forward rather than looking into a mythic past.

    The Nat’s really only have implemented one major policy over the last 30 years. National Superannuation – and I tend to view that as a poisoned chalice. Because of its funding base, it is inherently unstable because it is very susceptible to changes in demographics.

  45. ak 45

    Lew: National took firm control of NZ’s political agenda on 27 January 2004 in a speech entitled `Nationhood’ at the Orewa Rotary Club.

    Genrally agree. This is where the revival from 20% began and hence is invaluable as a case-study of how the National message is promulgated.

    I note you weren’t in the country then Lew. As one who was, I remember near-identical speeches from various nats prior to Orewa which were ignored (e.g. one from English at a local body conference in Queenstown). I also recall massive media coverage (including even pre-speech editorials) and again draw your attention to the Brownlee email (In Hollow Men, p 88) regarding “work done…to prime the media up”. A careful study of the media coverage from the time could draw some very useful insights.

    You’re dead right with your overall analysis: by any rational and non-partisan measure, Labour has been highly successful and is the obvious choice. The problem is that the primary opinion-formers are motivated by entirely other factors.
    So to repeat rOb’s question: any concrete suggestions?

  46. AncientGeek 46

    Oh I forgot – they put in the ECA. Badly damaged legislation. It was so bad that the basic law had to be rewritten to achieve what they were after. It couldn’t be amended.

  47. higherstandard 47

    AG

    While you’ll likely dismiss this piece (due to it being presented at a Business Roundtable Meeting) it does provide some thoughtful counter balance to your position on the ECA.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/3/story.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10114060

    [lprent: removed the extra ‘h’ in the link]

  48. burt 48

    I think it’s all describer here.

    Stuff: No economic policy until just before election – National

    I think this is talking for all but about 35% of NZ people.

    Finance Minister Michael Cullen has called upon National to cost its policies, but Mr English was dismissive.

    “I ignored that … who cares what he thinks”.

  49. burt 49

    hs

    I like this quote from that link;

    This impending loss of privilege accounts for the fierce political resistance to change. But that partisan fear is not a reason to regard the legislation as unjust. Quite the opposite – it served to reveal the artificial nature of the previous state of affairs.

    The ECA exposed unions as being less attractive to workers in the long run, even if they could secure some immediate redistribution in favour of their members. It underlined the fact that supply and demand, and long-run improvements in productivity, determine wages and other employment conditions, not union power. Only about 12 per cent of private-sector workers now belong to a union.

    Yep, self serving unions would rather have more members for themselves and don’t actually care about the long term benefits, just their own salaries funded by levies on the poorest workers.

  50. Draco TB 50

    I disagree. If they pushed “more money’ then they would draw attention to WfF, KiwiSaver etc. As far as I can see the Nat message has been tax cuts ad infinitum. So I’d be interested in how you think the Nats are distinguishing between tax cuts and more money, and how you think they are pushing the later over the former.

    National has pushed the ‘more money’ in your pockets by slashing taxes. People understand this simplicity – they’re not paying as much tax so therefore they will have more money. Tax credits, on the other hand, are complicated and costly. People see the added complexity and think that more bureaucrats will need to be hired to administer it and so will take even more money from them. So National gets support by simply saying “slash taxes and cap bureaucrats” and Labour loses support by saying “but you can’t do that as it won’t help the people who need it and you’re going to have to cut services somewhere to afford them” which, of course, falls into the anti-“Nanny State” rhetoric from National. People understand and support the simplicity that National puts forward even though National isn’t giving any evidence that what they say is true.

    How does Labour trump Nationals simple message? How, basically, does it get a complex message across simply? Short of lying, I have no idea.

  51. burt 51

    Draco TB

    How does Labour trump Nationals simple message?

    By having a simple message itself – not some mamby pamby jibba jabba nonsense about helping the needy while letting them suffer disproportionately due to massive inflation caused by poor quality govt spending.

  52. burt. grow up. peak oil is driving inflation worldwide.

    you can’t even identify any ‘poor govt spending’ on a scale that could theortically be inflationary. and simply pointing to increased spending isn’t the same as saying that spending is poor quality.

  53. burt 53

    Draco TB

    The policies of targeted welfare are one thing, the implementation of them over a period of nine years with static tax thresholds producing significant fiscal drag, govt spending driving inflation in a low wage economy combined with rising commodity prices is another thing entirely.

    All Dr Cullen had to do was follow his ideology of the last nine years, hold the $60K threshold static and increase benefits and he would have delivered a simple message – that he’s a socialist and proud of it.

    He complicated it, he tried to appeal to as wide a section as he could and he made a pudding of it. His staunch ‘rich pricks must not benefit from their productivity’ ideology has stuffed him up, why ? Because the dim-bulb didn’t keep his widely liked 1999 thresholds adjusted and now the people who cheered him for hitting the rich bastards are now being taxed like rich bastards themselves. He’s scored an own goal and his only option seems to be to change shirt colours and ignore his own four way test. He has delivered tax cuts when inflation is higher than last time he used it as a justification for not delivering tax cuts.

  54. AncientGeek 54

    hs: in that article written about 2000?

    Facts overtook the debate as the ECA ushered in a period of strong employment growth, a rapid fall in unemployment and, from 1993, a pick-up in total factor productivity.

    Poppycock! The guy writing it is a theorist. One of the prime things that people seek with employment is a level of certainty. The ECA didn’t offer that unless you had critical skills. What you were certain of is that with high unemployment that employers felt no incentive to offer that. The costs of being made unemployed with a 6 week stand down provided a really good incentive not to get employed.

    What the ERA offered was that you had to dismiss for substantiated cause. ie it increased job security. You couldn’t get dumped into a 6 week standdown at the whim of an employer.

    Neither made much difference to good employers, except both got rid of demarcation disputes. But the ECA definitely had advantages to crap employers. I’d question that they are the employers that we want to support.

    The ECA was fine for me. I used to present the cost of my wearing a tie at $10k per year, and any dress code restrictions would be removed. But I had critical skills, and I’ve never been in a union either after I left uni anyway.

  55. AncientGeek 55

    Bugger I missed my point. The article was written in 2005. That makes his comments even more ridiculous.

    After the ECA in the early 90’s unemployment kept rising. It flattened out towards the latter part of the 90’s, but didn’t really come down until the ERA was put into place.

    Now it wasn’t wholly the ERA, as other factors impact on unemployment. But that gave a level of certainty to both employers and employees about employment that wasn’t present under the ECA. But look at the numbers – we now have the lowest unemployment in the household survey since I started working in the dim dark ages. That lessens the burden on all of us who are paying taxes.

    The ECA didn’t do anything towards that, it simply made things worse. Especially because the Nat’s put in stupid things like the stand down period. It is expensive to hunt for work.

    The ERA did help along with a bunch of other policies.

    The Nat’s are incredibly stupid in how they put policies together. They look ok on paper and individually. But they’re doomed to failure when put together.

  56. burt 56

    AncientGeek

    Thousands of employment lawyers earning over $250/hour agree that the ERA is a ‘better’ piece of legislation for their employment circumstances.

  57. burt 57

    AncientGeek

    The Nat’s are incredibly stupid in how they put policies together. They look ok on paper and individually. But they’re doomed to failure when put together.

    The problem is neither big party is particularly good at it. The EFA shows just how completely incompetent Labour are as well. So how about nobody votes for a major party and we biff the core useless lot out later this year?

  58. Great idea burt, as the current crop of pollies are lying con artists devoid of any integrity.

  59. r0b 59

    Burt: He complicated it, he tried to appeal to as wide a section as he could and he made a pudding of it.

    What rubbish. Cullen’s tax cuts were well thought out and carefully targeted. You have already demonstrated abundantly on other threads that you didn’t understand the tax cuts, and here you are again taking meaningless pot shots at them.

    His staunch ‘rich pricks must not benefit from their productivity’ ideology has stuffed him up,

    What Rubbish. That might be your ideology Burt but it isn’t Cullen’s.

    Because the dim-bulb

    Typical Burt, fail to understand the message, attack the messenger. It was ever thus.

  60. higherstandard 60

    SP

    I think rather than peak oil you might find it’s speculation on oil.

  61. burt 61

    rOb

    So no argument that he’s scored an own goal and his only option seems to be to change shirt colours and ignore his own four way test?

  62. Matthew Pilott 62

    Great thread to read (burt excepted).

    I just watched a special presentation on 3 news from Duncan Garner. It was phenomenal. What is supposedly New Zealand’s premier news channel was asking much the same question posed by Lew.

    Their contribution was to ask random people on the street why they thought Helen Clark and Labour weren’t doing well.

    What the fuck? ‘Scuse the language but why the hell is that the best they can do?? I can only assume they have no interest whatsoever looking into the issue, so they resort to a glossy tabloid-style artcle more suited to Womans’ Weekly.

    Abysmal, pathetic.

    Not hard to come up with a few ideas as to why this is the case – I believe it’s been touched upon a few times above…

  63. Lew 63

    Sorry to have neglected this thread – I’ve been moving this weekend and without internets due to TelstraClear’s ineptitude.

    Briefly:

    R0b: Seems we understand each other better than I thought. Thanks for your considered responses.

    “Concrete suggestions. How does Labour communicate its message better?”

    Here’s the rub, isn’t it. It’s almost trite to say anything, because it’s so obvious (and to a large degree it’s already happening): simple messages, frequently repeated, which emphasise the direct impacts of policy on peoples’ lives, and coupled with an overall discourse which redefines government from being an overall bad to being an overall good thing.

    The initial plank in this for me would be a terminology offensive. National has done extremely well to redefine a lot of legitimate and beneficial government action in negative terms, and those terms have become the default political terminology of the public and media. The government’s first task should be to rehabilitate the business of government in the minds of the electorate, for that is the core reason people are turning away – illustrated by the fact that most people can’t justify their decision in rational policy terms. You can bet your bottom dollar this will be National’s first task if they get elected to office at the coming election. I note with pleasure Steve Pierson’s `spinbusting’ series is working to this effect. I think further suggestions along these lines, and specific nuts-and-bolts ideas of what terminology should be used and to what end would also be valuable, so bring ’em on.

    R0b, thanks also for the link to the Thornley speech, and I’ll track down the Curran paper if I can, too.

    Draco: Even complex policy can be boiled down into simple messages, and the government already has done this in a lot of cases. The problem is in getting traction, and that rests on the proper discursive climate, which I’ve suggested a starting point to fixing, above

    The point that the media accentuate the negative is also well-taken – but this is just part of the furniture.

    ak: Yes, I was out of the country at the time of Orewa but kept well aware of such goings-on by my spies back in the homeland. That part of The Hollow Men is in fact the smoking gun for me – not that what anyone did was illegal, but it shows that it was a carefully prepared and orchestrated attention-and-agenda grabbing stunt. In some ways this sort of stunt would also be a good move for Labour, but 1. I don’t think they can really get away with it from within government; 2. it’s a risky business because people are alert to the strategy now; 3. (most importantly) there’s a lack of issues with such resonance as that one had, since discourse is so heavily dominated by the economy. Climate change might be the big thing in a year or two from now, but it isn’t now.

    L

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