Written By: - Date published: 8:15 pm, February 14th, 2019 - 125 comments
Categories: labour, national, trevor mallard - Tags: attack ads, david carter, dead cats, KiwiBuild, obstruction, outcomes, select committees, state houses, written questions
Gosh, what a busy two days. We get one day for political pundits and other commentators to talk about National’s disastrous polling, and then suddenly a lot of weird behaviour happens from the Nats, almost like they have been instructed to generate political headlines that don’t deal with Bridges’ and National’s descent into opposition fever.
Firstly, David Carter, infamous former speaker who once ejected the majority of the collective female caucus of the Greens and Labour, threw a dead cat onto the table by denying a quorum to the finance and expenditure committee for the day. If you haven’t read Russel Brown’s excellent article on why this is constitutionally dangerous, you should. Even granting Carter having a point about Labour MPs being constantly late or sick, this is not a proportionate response, and it’s actually really dangerous and a step towards American-style democracy where the assumption of nonpartisan scrutiny of legislation is gone and it’s all about who can make numbers and abuse procedure to get things done. This is a new sort of low for Carter, who while blindly partisan as a Speaker, never tried to pretend that the committees whose whole purpose is to scrutinize government ideas and improve, amend, or defeat them are somehow on the government to run- rather, it is every party’s duty to ensure that there is a quorum.
It must be absolutely devastating to people who traveled to be heard by Parliament, who are frequently experts or stakeholders.
Secondly, National posted a new 30 second ad spot online, and as you may have seen elsewhere, boy is it a sausagefest. I have, in a fit of pique, offered my strategic advice to the submissives at the National Party Communications team for free, but in the future they will need to pay me at least $75 an hour for public humiliation. Professional doms and dommes are welcome to advise if my rates should be adjusted. (I am confident in offering this advice knowing the National Party is too dumb to pull it off anyway)
And when I get home, I'll try to remember to come to this thread and tell you, for free, why this ad was ill-advised, something a Green strategist would be ethically unable to do.— Matt Whitehead (@MJWhitehead) February 14, 2019
(Also, could someone please let Hamish Price know I actually currently work for a former National Minister, and not the Green Party? Thanks. I’d love to be a Green strategist, but sadly party funding is mostly through donations rather than funding, and they can’t afford enough that I’d be anywhere near the top of their list)
So, to advice for Hamish: The optics are disturbing. A young woman, who is a strawperson for Labour, has some vague enthusiasm for kiwibuild at a barbecue where literally everyone else is a man drinking beer, but unlike any woman I’ve ever known interested in politics, she doesn’t know any of the details. They, being unable to get numbers into their poor testosterone-filled heads, say that kiwibuild must build 33 houses every day for ten years- that’s not actually true, it has to average 27 per day since the inception of the policy, according to that bastion of progressivism, NBR. This being an attack ad, they fail to mention any alternatives, anything positive done by National in Government on housing, (good fucking luck) or generally discuss the issue in any actual depth. It’s just basic nitpicking and mansplaining.
Now, as any media studies 101 student will be able to tell you, in a political ad we recognize people and things as symbols and stand-ins. Our young woman is both a stand-in for the Labour Party, and for Ms Ardern. The problem is… she’s nothing like Ardern. She is Jacinda Derangement Syndrome parody of a capable Prime Minister who politely but firmly would shut down this kind of arrogant nonsense, and would point out that the outcome of making houses easier to get is the real point of kiwibuild, not whether it hits an arbitrary target. For a party whose best leadership prospects are both female, you would also think that one of the two people arguing their side would be a woman. With its focus on kiwi barbecues, phallic imagery through only cooking sausages for some reason, (throw a bloody steak on, jeez. And maybe some zucchini, or whitebait, or something other than just sausages) the only people this ad spot is really talking to symbolically are the feral men who are already National’s base.
When you’re doing an ad that puts your ideas up against someone else’s, you want to take their best points there and refute them. If anything, National has instead implied by critiquing the delivery rate of homes that Labour needs to be doing bigger and better public spending on solving the housing crisis, which is the criticism Greens like me have on it, that we should be investing far more capital in expanding the local construction industry to allow for construction of otherwise fiscally unviable smaller units or larger apartment complexes, and drastically extending state housing stock with affordable medium-to-high density housing in places accessible to people’s existing jobs and lives.
Centrists like Ardern- even 27% of people who didn’t vote for her think she’s doing a good job. National needs to avoid having anyone in their ads who represent her, because they’re not going to succeed in tarnishing her image this way, and trying to will turn off voters.
I also disagree with Danyl, who believes this is somehow ten-dimensional chess. Have you met anyone from National? They’re too risk-averse and not smart enough to pull off getting the libs to own themselves.
National honestly needs to just get an intern with a lick of sense in the room when they plan these things out and tell them their job is to tear the whole thing down as much as possible with every reasonable criticism, and then give them veto power if an idea’s too fucking stupid. For a party wanting to win at least 47% and knock out NZF, alienating women by portraying them as gullible know-nothings and using straw-women to stand in for a leader they largely like is an abysmal idea. I know women who vote National who will be appalled at this ad, and at the fact that their party can’t divide. Next time instead of a scoffing beer hipster correcting people, maybe have a smart blonde, perhaps named Amy, giving the lines. It won’t be that much better, but it will at least imply you value women rather than looking like sexism in action.
This is every bit National’s Asian-sounding names moment, and should be used against them again and again in the same fashion.
And finally, in news that is related to government dumbfuckery this time, Mallard has rightly lost patience with his own government stuffing around on written questions. This has been one of the worst governments for answering written questions, (like bad OIA responses, this has been a bipartisan trend over time for both Labour and National governments) with deliberately opaque answers the norm, and it has made National’s dumb dragnetting look somewhat reasonable by baiting them into asking hundreds of near-identical questions to “be specific” in their trawls for info from Labour and New Zealand First ministers.
The Speaker has put his own government on blast, awarding ten additional questions to the opposition per day until the situation is resolved, giving them an alternative way to hold the government to account. This should, I think, be viewed as a good move by the Speaker, and is every bit in line with Ardern insisting relating to our first piece of news that her own people do show up to committees on time so as to run a small target. The public has every right to have the answers to questions about what Ministers are doing, and written questions allow less sensational accountability from ministers outside of the performance that is Question Time.