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Government by Twitter

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, September 24th, 2015 - 66 comments
Categories: activism, identity, internet, polls, twitter - Tags: , , ,

Key won power in 2008 on a diet of dead rats (“communism by stealth” anyone?). Since then, his government has been fanatically poll / focus group driven, and Key has racked up an impressive range of flip flops / U-turns. It has worked in terms of maintaining popularity (power for power’s sake), but lead to increasing accusations that Key and his government don’t stand for anything – they’ll blow wherever the political wind is leading. Bryce Edwards has a good round-up of commentary on this:

A Government that listens too much

Both the political left and right allege Key’s government has become affected by third-termitis, complaining of an administration that is tired and lacklustre. For many on the left, it’s because Key and co have stopped listening to the public. But far more trenchant criticism is coming from the right who say the Government is listening too much.

Matthew Hooton complains that the Government is now adrift without any serious reform agendas underpinning Key’s leadership: “his focus is now almost entirely on the flag referendum and his own international relationships. The continuing shift to the left, including the first increase in benefits since 1972, the $50 million U-turn on refugee numbers based on pressure from the twitterati and the silence on tax and RMA reform is not doing much for his reputation” – see: David Seymour fills political vacuum.

He says that Key’s “high water mark is now well behind us. For the serious end of the business community, the tide went out on Mr Key long ago, when they realised he had no interest in a reform agenda and that his words, public or private, lacked the necessary relationship to government decisions to be reliable inputs for business ones. Those waiting for, say, a genuine infrastructure plan, the promised financial services hub in Auckland or RMA reform are still waiting.”

Ex-Act leader Rodney Hide has a very thoughtful and damning critique, complaining that “Policy is now made by public feel. Every decision is open to review and reversal especially if the pushback is from middle voters” – see: It’s polls, not policies, that count in politics.  … “We have never had a better demonstration of policy by public feel than with Mr Key.  There are no bottom lines. There are no decisions that can’t be overturned. There are no guiding policy principles or political philosophy.

Possibly the most interesting discussion of the Government’s strong inclination to bend to the mood of the public is Tim Watkin’s blog post, Cure for third-termitis? A dose of the polls. He says “The big lesson from this past year of politics is that National under John Key (and Joyce) is willing to turn on a dime and do as many u-turns as polling tells them are needed, to stay popular. More than ever in its third term, National will bend like a Len Lye sculpture to match public opinion, even if it makes them hypocrites.  The trend has been building all year. National said no new taxes, then introduced a “brightline test” (a non-tax tax) and a tourism “levy” tax. The party that has long-mocked benefit increases, well, they increased benefits. Refugee numbers? They went from no way to 600 more in less than a week.  And now Lochinver. The crown jewel of all u-turns”. …

That commentary over-states the case. When it comes to implementing progressive policies Key is much more about the appearance of action than the substance. The routine poll driven pandering is all about doing the least he can get away with, and there haven’t been many examples of Key having to resume his dead rat diet and swallow a major issue. The backdown on mining in national parks was one such case. But the flip flop on including the Red Peak flag in the referendum is a clear, significant and much more personal example. The opportunity arose because Key ineptly painted himself into a losing corner with his muppet flag process, but the pressure was delivered via social media. Not a citizen’s referendum, not a march down Queen St, but the digital tools of Facebook and Twitter and Change.org.

That’s a new development, and it will be interesting to see where it leads in the years ahead. Political / media dinosaurs will never be able to dismiss “The Twitterati” again.


Twitter sez…

https://twitter.com/danylmc/status/646600524280692736

https://twitter.com/MatthewHootonNZ/status/646590660858900481

66 comments on “Government by Twitter ”

  1. CnrJoe 1

    How many face book likes and twitter favs to get Keyreepy to fuck a panda?

  2. vto 2

    Key’s legacy will absolutely be a big zero

    Right from early days I had solid Nat people saying “he doesn’t seem to be doing much” … “he doesn’t seem to have a plan”

    Since then Key has simply cemented that early view of him and his government.

    A shallow nothing man with a shallow nothing rep

    How fitting

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Right from early days I had solid Nat people saying “he doesn’t seem to be doing much” … “he doesn’t seem to have a plan”

      Key’s approach was always the nibbling at the edges approach to reform. None of the hardliners were going to like that. But now that the result of National’s policies, even the minor ones that they’ve pushed through so far, are becoming clear people are getting turned off of them and so National are now listening to the polls/twitterati to make decisions and there’s no way that the hardliners will stand for it.

      The hardliners want reforms that channel more of NZs wealth and power to them personally and they want it now.

    • Enough is Enough 2.2

      He flogged off our assets.

      That is a pretty strong legacy in my view.

      Not one I think should be celebrated but he will certainly remembered for destroying our wealth..

  3. scotty 3

    My guess is Key would be happy to be characterised as a , poll driven , popularity seeking ,ineffective PM.
    Just as long as the relentless privatisation of public assets and social services continues unabated – behind the scenes

  4. BM 4

    Key has just shut down all the media and lefty wankery.

    Now the process can move on to which flag people like.

    • Muttonbird 4.1

      Never mind that New Zealanders have been let down by a very poor process. This flip-flop from Key is frank admission of that.

      • BM 4.1.1

        There’s nothing wrong with the process, the problem was that certain sections of the media and the Labour went out of their way to throw spanners into the works.

        The four flags chosen were probably the most popular of all the different flags on display, which is why they were chosen.

        The problem was they do all rather look the same and because Key said he personally would like a flag with a fern, the narrative by certain sectors of the media was that he is deciding what flag NZ gets.

        By adding a completely different flag such as red peak it shows that he listens to people, it’s not his “vanity project” and all he wants is to give people the best opportunity to pick the flag they like.

        • odot 4.1.1.1

          “There’s nothing wrong with the process” Aside from the decision making process involved in picking the final four flags….yeah, sure.

          “Every Panel member saw every design. As you’ll appreciate, we are all different and bring different perspectives; that made for robust decision making. “

          When you stack a panel with sycophants keen to suck up to the man in power, you’ll end up with the man in power making the decisions and everyone around him nodding and saying “oh yes those designs with the ferns are by far the best, you are completely right.” This process could have been a chance to increase peoples belief that the public and government can work hand-in-hand to create something great; it was a process that could have increased the average kiwis involvement in politics, which is desperately what this country needs. Instead, we get a typical cluster-f**k from National, which didn’t get the public involved in choosing the final four, hasn’t been a democratic process from the start, reeks of crony-ism, and now the whole process has become a political game to score points off of. Good work National, you completely butchered a chance to finally do something positive for the country.

        • Weepus beard 4.1.1.2

          Key heavily influenced the only poll the FCP considered when choosing the final four.

          This much is obvious to any reasonable person.

        • The only thing right about the process is how the set up the referenda. Everything else has been a shambles.

    • lol yep that shit sandwich tastes YUMMY

      • vto 4.2.1

        hmmm …. you know the thing about shit sandwiches marty mars is the more bread you got the less shit you have to eat

        • Grindlebottom 4.2.1.1

          No, the amount of shit stays the same. It’s just that the more bread you’ve got the less you notice it.

          • marty mars 4.2.1.1.1

            less bread more shit as a percentage per bite and finish faster or more bread less shit per bite but takes longer to finish – ahh…. keyny, meany, miney, bm-oey…

  5. Yoza 5

    Labour isn’t the opposition, the Greens and New Zealand First are. All I know about Labour is they really, really hate John Key and I really, really don’t care what Labour thinks of John Key.
    Sure, the John Key National Party is a lack lustre bunch of opportunists. This being the case, what does that make the Labour Party as they struggle to make even the most risible advance in the polls. National’s fear of public sentiment is no more or less obvious than Labour’s in its antics in opposition.
    “We’re Labour and we really, really want to be the ruling regime.”, isn’t working as a political philosophy.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Then I suggest you read Labour’s site, specifically, their policies.

      • Yoza 5.1.1

        Sorry, I’ll add that bit on: ““We’re Labour and we really, really want to be the ruling regime. Read Labour’s site, specifically, their policies.”

        Brilliant! We should team up, this communications thing is a doddle.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1

          You’re the one who said that you didn’t know anything about Labour. Well, nobodies going to hand that knowledge to you so you’ll have to go get it yourself.

          So stop whinging and stop being a lazy bastard.

          • Liberal Realist 5.1.1.1.1

            “So stop whinging and stop being a lazy bastard.”

            This message should be given to every sitting Labour MP.

            As the supposed ‘official opposition’ they’re as weak as I’ve ever seen them. Where are the ‘king hits’ they should be scoring given National blunders from one scandal to the next? ‘Disappointing’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

            I’m pretty sure the OPs point is that Labour are a completely ineffective opposition force de jour. They’ve had more ammo in recent times than any opposition in history could ever wish for yet nothing changes. National is rarely held to account in any meaningful way.

            Labour = Utterly Ineffective Pack of Seat Warmers

          • Matthew Whitehead 5.1.1.1.2

            …it’s not really entirely on him to know Labour’s policies. Labour should be able to communicate enough of them that it’s relatively clear, and to be honest, if I wasn’t a political nerd I certainly would not know what they stand for based on watching them in Parliament.

            • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.2.1

              You can’t get informed if all you do is watch TV. You really do have to go out and look else you pretty much miss everything.

    • Sabine 5.2

      the greens effectively stopped being opposition, and have now become the whitewhasher party for National. I think they call it Mediation….it just sounds so much better, ey?

      Aquamarine….there goes the Green Party.

    • arkie 5.3

      I agree. The ill-feeling towards the Greens due to their Red Peak bill on here was palpable. Labour have not yet learnt that they have to be more than just NOT John Key and National, unfortunately the meme that they would oppose anything associated with Key and National is often being proven correct.

  6. Ad 6

    Left and right together complaining that the Prime Minister is too responsive, too democratic, too close to the people?

    Give me a break. Actually giving people what they want is his job.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      That’s a very lightweight definition of democracy you have there. By the way, Shonkey is being criticised for being “poll-driven”, which doesn’t mean what you claim it does.

      • Grindlebottom 6.1.1

        Ad’s right in a sense. Key’s giving the populace bread and circuses, and they keep giving him their votes in the preferred PM polls.

    • laughing 6.2

      His job is to lead not follow

      • BM 6.2.1

        You want a dictator.

        How very left.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.2.1.1

          You think leadership is synonymous with dictatorship. That explains a lot, you poor sad person.

        • Sabine 6.2.1.2

          Mate, I remember very clearly Dear Leader campaigning on being a Leader, who will bring Hope and a brighter future.

          You are now saying he is a socialist? My bad, i thought he was Dear Leader, who will lead us out of the darkness that was the social welfare bludger state of NZ into the brightness of the capitalistic minded open market, no state assets ever – and most importantly no state houses, goodness that is the free market. But you are saying he is not?

          Oh my, it is getting so confusing, the lefties getting all rightwingish, and the rightwingers getting all leftish, and oh, pavlovla. yum.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      He’s not being democratic at all. In fact, he’s being anti-democratic as he’s not asking the people but listening to the polls and focus groups. Democracy requires referendums.

      • Ad 6.3.1

        He’s also doing referendums. And including this fifth option within a referendum.

        And getting the Greens to box Labour in.

        In one move.

        Not saying I like him, but Key’s a political genius.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.3.1.1

          He’s also doing referendums.

          Only on stuff that doesn’t matter and changing the flag really doesn’t matter. You didn’t see him doing referenda on asset sales or National Standards or TPPA though. You know, the ideological stuff that nobody but idiots want. On that it’s all We know best from National.

    • Mrs Brillo 6.4

      Then how do you account for his government ignoring referenda where people do state exactly what they want?

      Obviously all New Zealand voters must either attach themselves to Twitter or a focus group in order to be listened to by this regime, with its well-developed but selective earlids.

  7. weka 7

    “An overwhelming number of people have turned to Twitter to voice their support and surprise about the inclusion of Red Peak.”

    Really Herald? How did you measure that?

  8. save NZ 8

    Totally disagree. John Key has ruthlessly pursued his agenda of privatisation of our country and only flip flops on small issues to show he’s ‘listening’ like letting in a few more refugees temporally.

    More propoganda – the government does not listen in any way, all the benefits are just scams like the increase in benefits which do not come in, until next year and don’t affect many while apparently Mums are forced out into the workforce with young kids etc. It is all smoke and mirrors.

    There is certainly no ‘left’ policies in Natz only pretend ‘left’ policies that mask truly repugnant and popular policies that are never reported properly in the media as there is the ‘headline’ and all the really bad stuff hidden in fine print. Confusion and misleading media is how this government operates.

  9. Amanda Atkinson 9

    Gee whizz who would be a polly …. if you listen to the people, realize you’ve screwed up so change your mind, you are a poll driven populist or … continue to ignore what people ask for, and you are a despot. All this proves is that those blinded by left and right idealogy can never just have a sensible discussion and give credit where it is due. Thank goodness for the Greens (10/10) who brought some maturity to this discussion and well done to John Key (7/10 because took too long) for swallowing rat and changing his mind. Labour (1/10) look like, and are complete fools on this one.

    • Weepus beard 9.1

      Do you think Key has realised the error of heavily promoting his favourite design? Do you think he has realised it’s a major turn-off for a very significant number of people?

      Yeah, right.

      • Amanda Atkinson 9.1.1

        I will choose the flag I like the most regardless of what Key likes. Is the fact John Key likes the fern going to be factor in which flag most NZer’s vote for? Obviously you think so.

        • Muttonbird 9.1.1.1

          Absolutely it is, and we have seen the influence already as clear as day in the form of the make up of the (not so) final four.

          John Key did op-eds and Facebook clips prior to the FCP rubber-stamping his wishes, and as not stopped talking about the fern at any and every event he has spoken at, including at a cancer fundraiser.

          The process removed choice from New Zealanders and he has desperately tried to make good while causing further division.

          It is a total embarrassment but he will press on with promoting the fern regardless.

          • Amanda Atkinson 9.1.1.1.1

            I don’t give a monkeys which flag Key likes. I’m confident that my most of my fellow Kiwis can also think for themselves.

            • wtl 9.1.1.1.1.1

              What would like like to drink? I have english breakfast tea, earl gray tea, green tea and urine. I’m sorry, these are the only choices.

              I happen to like tea, but obviously your choice of beverage will have nothing to do with my preference.

            • b waghorn 9.1.1.1.1.2

              The thing is the key government is very good at deciding what people will think for them selves !

              • Grindlebottom

                No the Key government just recognises that it can get away with pretty much anything it wants to and has little to fear from opposition parties getting any attention or support from a generally politically apathetic electorate. The government doesn’t tell people what to think. It just relies on them not thinking.

              • Gangnam Style

                Key now saying he would vote for the Peak triangle flag if it is up against the current (rebel) one.

                • sabine

                  of course he would,

                  suckers, that is the electorate to him.

                  I don’t think i will ever get to see another country railroaded just like NZ was. And the best bit, ya’ll get to vote for it. Don’t ya feel special now?

                • b waghorn

                  Yes I read the stuff article on it, he really will say anything to stay popular won’t he ? I almost wonder if it’s some deep need to feel wanted that drives him.

            • Muttonbird 9.1.1.1.1.3

              Amanda. You are either wilfully missing the point or, as I suspect, wilfully ignoring the point.

              The flags which have been put in front of us have already been run through the John Key filter. You might believe you have choice now, but real choice was taken away from you some weeks ago by the prime minister’s endorsement of the particular design he preferred.

              Wake the fuck up, Amanda.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.2

      Vile Harpy clutches pearls.

  10. Ilicit 10

    I have beneficiary figures for the end of June this year;

    Job Seekers 118,072
    Sole Parents 69,240
    Supported Living Payments (the sick and infirm) 93,959
    Youth 1,110
    Others 2965

    Now amongst that are gang members and reprobates, but if this country believes the whole lot fit that criteria, god help the whole country.

    Worse still is that the Government rejoices in the fact they have helped so many beneficiaries fro April next year. So very sad is it that only at a maximum, will a quarter of Sole Parents will 93,959 of our population get nothing.

    As a Society, You Know the Truth who speaks above, doesn’t know a damned thing !!!! And yet, he influences a country.

    Sounds like we need more guns, the 2nd Amendment says we can !!!!!!!

    I’m sick to the stomach………..still

  11. greywarshark 11

    What will bring this government to an end? It’s an object of titter and now twitter.
    It has no wit. It is wet. It is litter. It doesn’t get fitter. But it seems a sitter. Get off the sh.tter. Everything has been said about it that could describe it accurately. Is anyone thinking, how can so many ignore their lovely country and fellow people’s situation?? It makes many bitter.

  12. Bernard 12

    could a campaign be started via twitter/facebook to have a sixth flag choice?,ie the kiwi laser!

  13. Smilin 13

    Key = USA- NSA- DEA- CIA- FBI- HAARP- WB-WSt-BofA- GB-EU
    Cant add NZ to the list no room left

  14. gsays 14

    government by twitter is possible when you are managed (led?) by weather cocks rather than signposts.

  15. red-blooded 15

    This is a government that’s introduced the 90 Days Act, allowed bosses to lock unions out of worksites, allowed bosses to walk away from collective bargaining, introduced charter schools, farmed out core state services to private companies, sold significant state assets, plans to sell state houses… I see it as a solidly (frighteningly) right wing government. They are also pragmatic at times and have flip-flopped when they really don’t care too much and feel like it’s the best way for damage control, but I don’t see them as “centrist”.

  16. greywarshark 16

    the tide went out on Mr Key long ago, when they realised he had no interest in a reform agenda
    But what reform was Hooton thinking of? We have had RW reforms up to our ears.
    Hooton is unlikely to consider reforms wanted by the left wing as good policy.

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