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Show us ya policy

Written By: - Date published: 3:57 pm, May 26th, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: election 2008, john key, national - Tags: ,

Steve posted this morning that even Granny Herald’s patience appears to be wearing thin waiting for National and Key to announce some policy detail: “National must get a move on… we need to hear some serious policy soon”. Turns out they’re not alone.

Rod Oram (SST):

…for it to be a genuine debate, National needs to unveil its own big, deep strategy the principles, priorities and practical policies… So far it has done nothing of the kind… But the biggest worry of all is one for voters. Has National actually been doing enough deep thinking about how it will use government power? The signs aren’t promising…

Fran O’Sullivan (NZ Herald):

[Key’s] critique of the Budget lacked a killer punch. He floundered in subsequent interviews and was caught hopping when asked for National’s alternative: his bottom lip curling just a bit too much, and the open shoulder shrug too much in evidence when he seemed to realise his answers lacked conviction.

Tracy Watkins (Dom Post):

…the appearances of Dr Cullen and National’s finance spokesman Bill English on TV One’s Agenda programme the past two Sundays running are an enlightening tale of two finance ministers… One the one hand, we had Mr English treating us to a display more suited to a minister wearied and wrong-footed by too many years in government – if he started the programme determined to give little away, he must have ended it impressed with his own success at giving away less than that.

Sunday Star Times Editorial (offline, 25 May 2008):

Key’s explanations of where the money would come from are thin and sometimes plain silly. Cancelling an embassy in Sweden will make no fiscal difference. Nor would wholesale sackings of bureaucrats: even huge cuts in this area would save at most some hundreds of millions, when Key will need billions… Key promises that he won’t cut social services and it is difficult to know whether to believe this or not. National’s record from the early to the mid-1990s in this area is utterly disgraceful, a record of ludicrous structural revolution and deep cuts.

It’s starting to look rather like the Earl of Auckland might not be as well dressed as some had supposed.

31 comments on “Show us ya policy”

  1. Lampie 1

    Maybe it’s a chessey policy

  2. Ari 2

    You know what they say AYB- better late than never. 🙂

  3. James Kearney 3

    This clarification just in: John Key was not talking about cheese, or even “north of 50 dollars” worth of cheese. He was talking about Australian cheese.

  4. all_your_base 4

    Lampie, like Cullen said, I’m sure it will be a cheesy policy – a policy for the big cheeses that provides little for their workers.

    Ari, maybe you’re right but my guess is that there are political risks in refusing to release policy as calls to do so intensify from both the media and the public.

  5. Ari 5

    Oh, I was referring to the media, not John Key. I think in politics late is actually worse than never, as it gets turned into flip-flopping and looking desperate and poaching other parties’ policies. 🙂

  6. r0b 6

    The Fran link is to the wrong article, correct link should be:

    [Tane: Thanks r0b, fixed]

  7. illuminatedtiger 7

    And to top it all off this stinging attack from John Campbell:

    “I think you’re as slippery as a snake in wet grass.”

    Not looking good for the precious little rich prick.

  8. ak 8

    Well all the tories’ve come up with so far is parables and a soothing flip-flopping messiah – only fitting that they should now expect us to put all our faith in cheeses.

  9. r0b 9

    only fitting that they should now expect us to put all our faith in cheeses.

    Arrrrrgh! Groaaaan!

  10. stazi 10

    Its a bit of a no-win situation for Key. If Key announced his tax & other major policies before the budget (before he’d seen how much $$ Cullen had commited), he may have had to ‘un-promise’ parts of his plan. He would then get accused by Labour & the media of flip-flopping and going back on his word to voters.

    If Key waits to see how much Cullen decided to spent (thus basing his policy on existing, committed expenditure & knowing how much $$ Cullen has left over) Labour and the media accuse him of dithering and having no policy.

    If Key had released his policy the same day as the budget the media and Labour accuse him of not having had time to crunch the numbers properly in order to come up with well thought out and well-costed policies.

    Anybody see it any differently?

    Its 5 months until the election – what’s the rush?

  11. gobsmacked 11

    Colin Espiner (Press political editor) is frustrated too:

    “At the moment, you can’t ask the party a single thing on the economy. Monetary policy, interest rates, tax rates, expenditure cuts, debt-to-GDP track, big-ticket expenditure items like Working for Families or KiwiSaver, inflation goals, economic growth targets you name it, National doesn’t want to talk about it.”


  12. Lew 12

    National hasn’t released any policy because they know that while the early bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese.


  13. ak 13

    …the second mouse gets the cheese.

    Briecisely Lew – plus yet another dead rodent for dessert…looks like it all might be getting a little difficult to digest.

  14. gobsmacked 14

    Breaking News! National release policy!


    Did he grow up in a state house?

  15. depressed 15

    With a large chunk of the population unaware there is even an election this year, you do have to wonder if it matters if anyone releases any policy anytime.

    Elections are decided at the last minute, by people who, like John Key, have no firm principles, and flip flop their way through life on the basis of ‘what’s in it for me?’

    Depressing isn’t it?

    Correct me if I’m wrong…..

  16. Dan 16

    The Nats have had a problem for some time. On one hand you have Key with his simplistic populist one-liners which mean little but sound OK. He is keen to be loved and elected whatever. On the other hand you have the drys, led by English, who are fearful of too many rash promises. As long as you can defer any clear policy statements by cashing in on the incumbents’ unpopularity,then you can get by without any policy.
    They have been taken by surprise by Cullen. Now they must make a call: moderate or dry. And what do you cut?
    They also have a problem with Key who may have worked the millions in trading on the money market, but has no clue whatever in keeping a dozen balls in the air the same time.
    The Nats are overdue for an implosion. Shortland St, watch out; the Bill vs John Show is due to start in the not too distant future.

  17. r0b 17

    Correct me if I’m wrong ..

    I’d love to but – it seems like a pretty fair summary.

    I’m all for participatory democracy, people should be involved (join parties, be active). Blogs provide a good new medium for at least some level of involvement. Other than that – what – “civics” in high school? How do we get people more involved in democracy?

  18. Ari 18

    Lew: I’d say National is reaching the risky point. If they don’t come out guns blazing soon, they’ll be seen as hiding their policy rather than just taking their time- and the perception that you’re ashamed or afraid of your principles getting to the public is a big blow in an election year. We’ll need more time to tell whether it’s a good tactic or not- but if they do get away with it, it sets a bad precedent for democracy in New Zealand, I feel.

    Depressed: Yes, there’s room for improvement here, but we’re no America- while there’s people who aren’t engaged, there’s little active disillusionment with the government. Civics courses/classes would be an excellent start, but there’s more to it than that. Politics as always leaves out young people, it’s a slow machine, and politicians play the game more than they actually make policy. If we could address those…

  19. Lew 19

    Ari: “I’d say National is reaching the risky point.”

    Hm, I’d have judged it to be at least a month or three out, and I think Key thinks that too. But I suppose another poll with a result like the last Roy Morgan, perhaps the media will start to bay.

    I’m not sure it’s any worse than the usual tactics of a year. Orewa was certainly a more reprehensible display of cynical nationalist manipulation, and as electoral strategies go, it’s working well. I think NZ’s moral-political history will judge this favourably if they win and unfavourably if they lose.

    If I were appointed Minister of Education I would mandate civics classes in all public high schools.


  20. James Kearney 20

    as electoral strategies go, it’s working well. I think NZ’s moral-political history will judge this favourably if they win and unfavourably if they lose.

    God you sound like an empty vessel Lew! Of course it’s ‘working well’ – that’s obvious to anyone who’s looked at a poll in the last six months.

    But what do you think about National’s tactics, as a citizen and as someone who cares about the health of our democracy?

  21. Lew 21

    James Kearney: I’ve answered this several times before, once this morning. I don’t know. It sounds instinctively bad but I can’t say I wouldn’t support my favoured party if they did it.


  22. James Kearney 22

    Lew- I find it strange that you don’t see anything wrong with a party deliberately withholding policy. We live in a democracy and that relies on people being adequately informed about their choices.

    I remember a day when parties would put out detailed manifestos and would release an alternative budget every year to show how they would govern differently.

    The current National Party doesn’t care for detail, or for policy. Instead they create a man of spin and have focus grouped messages instead of principles and policy positions. Does it not bother you to see our democracy degraded like this?

    I’ve watched you comment for a while and I gotta say it’s one thing to blag on and on about the ‘game’ like you’re the only one who’s figured it out but unless you’ve got something to say about it then why bother?

  23. Jum 23

    Absolutely Civics in Primary School, youth elections in High Schools and a youth presence in Parliament.

    It beggars belief that people are saying Helen Clark and Dr Cullen look tired. They are as fresh as daisies.

    English is looking increasingly cross, no doubt pining for the lead position and forced to watch Key’s embarrassing antics.

  24. Lew 24

    James Kearney: If democracy genuinely relies upon people being informed, then in principle National’s should be a deleterious strategy and he problem will solve itself. I agree that participants in a democracy should be informed, but if they choose not to be, how is anyone to force them? The government, by passing the EFA, has decreed that they’ll not tolerate excessive expenditure, and that mitigates strongly against an electoral debate dominated by propaganda and `spin’. This was and is a move I support (although I think it was poorly implemented) because it requires parties to begin from a reasonably even position.

    You seem to remember a golden era when all politicking was done by noble, forthright policy debate. Go back a bit further and you’ll find that a certain candidate in Dunedin poured free Speight’s to voters. Dirty tricks have always been a part of politics, and this tendency to focus on `spin’ over substance is just another aspect of changing electoral norms. I’ve stated I don’t think it’s likely to be a good influence, but I recognise that it is a reality of politics in 2008.

    As far as the remainder of your comment goes (bleating about how you don’t care for my comments), please refer to my previous responses to Robinsod: here and here.


  25. but I recognise that it is a reality of politics in 2008.

    Woo bloody hoo! Here’s a simple truth you tard. Everyone here knows this is the reality. If you pulled your head out of your arse and took the time to read other people’s comments y’d realise that most here are beyond this and looking at ways to change that reality. Your constant bleating about “the game” makes you look like a one-trick pony. Having a “debate” with you is like this:

    Poor fool who has got caught up with Lew: The sky is blue therefore we must do X.

    Lew: No but what you are missing is the fact that the sky is blue.

    PFWHGCUWL: Right, but what I’m saying is because of this we must do X.

    L: I see a lot of this wishful thinking and subjective opinion here but you need to understand that the sky is blue and I know this because I have read a lot of media.

    PFWHGCUWL: ???

    L: If you were as learned as me you would understand the sky is blue because of molecular refraction… [insert highfalutin abstract words here]… therefore the sky is blue. I really think you should recognise this reality.

    [curtains fall as PFWHGCUWL leaves in disgust]

    Y’see Lew you argue the same tired circular shit day in day out and you do so in a manner that is designed to establish yourself as an authority while denying others the space for their arguments. I’ve watched you monopolise threads with this empty rhetoric and as far as I can see you are no better than Travelrev and her 911 conspiracies. In fact you are worse because you adopt a mode that subtextually belittles the contributions of other commenters who often have a lot more to say than you do.

  26. The idea may be to release a blizzard of policy late in the cycle when the media has turned its focus to the “leaders” and has little time for policy. Voters will thus have been kept in the dark and fed either nothing in the way of policy or the ‘proverbial’…..and they will go to the polls in a poll-driven, policy-free vacuum and expected to do the Right thing.

  27. Lew 27

    Sod: For one thing, I don’t give half a bad fuck if you think I’m a one-trick pony – I don’t come here for validation. I’m not a policy geek, I’m a propaganda geek. It’s a technical field and I’m serious about it. Why bother dabbling in policy here when I can leave that to the experts? If you object to academic discussion or feel like you’re being talked down to, I suggest you go to KiwiBlog.

    At this point I can’t be arsed arguing the toss any further. What it boils down to is `Boo! Nyagh! Policy or nothing!’ Until I see a credible alternate rationale for why voters currently prefer a party with no declared policy over a coalition whose very deep, broad-based and forward-thinking policy agenda materially advantages the majority of the electorate, I’ll be sticking to my explanations of how the winners play the media game to their advantage and the losers don’t. The major alternative explanations I see are `the media are against us’, `people think it’s time for a change’ and the hilarious `the electorate is stupid’. If you have another, I’m interested to hear it.

    Sure, policy is great. Alone it’s not necessarily enough to win over an electorate. Despite your claims to the contrary, you don’t demonstrate any realisation of this or its implications. Some people here do, and it’s to those people my comments are directed. Feel free to ignore whatever doesn’t fit your worldview.


  28. Oh yes Lew – and Travellrev comes here to talk about 911. I don’t doubt your commitment to your narrow understanding of propaganda but I do question whether you can offer anything of value by constantly harping on about it in a manner devoid of facts or context. You talk about policy as if it is completely separate from propaganda instead of inextricably linked. In fact the interesting stuff is going on where the distinction between the two is blurred.

    The other thing is you don’t take your interest past the media. In fact you don’t even explore the power relationships between the media and the pollies properly. You may be surprised for example, to know that a lot of the media’s swing toward Key and National came because of a concerted attempt by the tories to engage with the gallery at a personal level (down the pub, invites to dinner events, etc) at exactly the same time as Labour changed out a lot of their PR staff for staff who subsequently didn’t engage but, like you, thought everything could be done with a single clever marketing silver bullet.

    National have made a very good job of a PR push over the last few years using everything from focus groups to associative advertising, the politics of emotive response (I’m working on something about this right now), staying on-message and engaged interpersonal media networking and they have reaped the rewards. What they are finding out now though is that politics is like marketing coca cola only up to a point and past that threshold there is a need for policy. That is not an opinion without fact either Lew, it’s what I’m hearing personally from journalists.

    Of course this is all pretty dull stuff compared to what is actually at stake but please, Lew. The next time you talk about the propaganda get it into your thick head that 9/10ths of message is target and that targets exist in the real world.

  29. Lew 29

    Sod: Now that you’re not just pissing and moaning, you’ve actually got something useful to say!

    “I do question whether you can offer anything of value by constantly harping on about it in a manner devoid of facts or context.”

    You do keep questioning that, but you’ve not made any actual arguments to make me reconsider it. The initial discussion with James Kearney was about whether participants in a democracy should be politically literate. I think they should be, and I think they should also be propaganda-literate. Currently people are much more policy-literate than they are propaganda-literate. That includes posters here.

    “In fact the interesting stuff is going on where the distinction between the two is blurred.”

    I quite agree. Once we see more policy I’ll be thinking about this too.

    “You may be surprised”

    Nope, not surprised at all. They’re smart.

    “like you, thought everything could be done with a single clever marketing silver bullet.”

    I’ve never thought or advocated anything of the sort. What I’m talking about is balance. The policy’s strong enough to win an election on, but the electorate doesn’t realise it.

    “What [National] are finding out now though is that politics is like marketing coca cola only up to a point and past that threshold there is a need for policy.”

    I agree with the italicised assertion above, but I see no proof that National are as yet finding it out. Signs are encouraging, and as I write I hear that MR Key has announced a rural doctor scheme and some stuff on KiwiSaver. Long may it continue.

    “Of course this is all pretty dull stuff compared to what is actually at stake”

    This seems to be our fundamental point of disagreement, but you clearly have a lot invested in it. I don’t see the end as more interesting than the means.

    “The next time you talk about the propaganda get it into your thick head that”

    The irony of someone so prone to calling people stupid complaining that I `subtextually belittle’ others’ comments is great.

    “9/10ths of message is target and that targets exist in the real world.”

    It’s not clear what you mean by `targets’ here; I presume you mean the people at whom propaganda is directed. Yes, but what’s your point? That policy affects people in material, important ways that propaganda doesn’t? Thanks, Captain Obvious.


  30. Lew – I have seen you talk about “tactics” and “strategy” but I have not seen you unpack them as “and this is why I think this works as it did here” statements.

    The interpersonal stuff was an example to elucidate a point – you should try it sometime.

    As I pointed out the proof is that opinion leaders are starting to question the lack of policy. I’ve seen tipping points before and there is usually a month or two as the narratives flow through to the voter although this seems to be speeding up due to media like the standard so there’s plenty of “game” to play yet. I’m picking we are at a node that requires policy in from National in the next month if they want to take back the advantage though.

    As has been pointed out on the standard policy around student loans for doctors is not a policy but a claim from Key that he has considered the bonding model.

    And the Kiwisaver stuff was stated by Wilkinson and then retracted (so no policy there – just an insight into what may be being discussed behind closed doors.)

    It’s not just me that has a lot invested but everyone.

    I openly belittled you. As you should know it that is a lot less powerful in terms of influence than a subtextual message and a lot harder to resile from but I like a nice clear message and I stand by what I say.

    By targets I mean people in the real world and a message has a lot more resonance if it is attached to something that is tangible to the target.

    As for “Captain Obvious”? Well you’re the one constantly arguing that the sky is blue…

  31. Lew 31

    Robinsod: “I’m picking we are at a node that requires policy in from National in the next month if they want to take back the advantage though.”

    Quite right in that the worm usually takes a while to turn. I’m not sure it’s speeding up – I think National have enough of a cushion that they’ll be happy to coast for another couple of months. I guess we’ll see. I don’t really mind being proven wrong, I’m just interested in seeing how it comes about.

    Re doctors and KiwiSaver: I hadn’t read any detail about it at the time, just a couple of headlines. False alarms, then.

    “It’s not just me that has a lot invested but everyone.”

    By this I take it you mean that people stand to gain or lose from the outcome of the game – that it’s not just `the game’. I think your main beef with me is that you think I don’t understand this and am trying to sit on the fence and pretend that all outcomes are as good as each other. I’m not – I’ve never voted for United Future in my life. I’m not interested in cutting either side any slack or behaving like a partisan hack because it’ll benefit `the movement’. Anyone can be a cheerleader, it’s not worth my time. The main argument I’ve been making is that Labour have squandered a policy advantage through poor communication, and that needs to change. Again, it might seem obvious to you, but nobody seems to be acting on it.

    “I openly belittled you. As you should know it that is a lot less powerful in terms of influence than a subtextual message and a lot harder to resile from but I like a nice clear message and I stand by what I say.”

    I’ve not tried to belittle anyone except Brett Dale and Ev, and I don’t get the impression others feel belittled. I’m sure those who do are happy to have you as their knight in shining armour. One thing I’ll say in your favour is that you’re unambiguous.

    “By targets I mean people in the real world and a message has a lot more resonance if it is attached to something that is tangible to the target.”

    This really is the nub of the matter. If you accept that Labour policy actually does advantage a majority of the electorate, whereas National policy doesn’t (and I do, generally speaking), why does the electorate currently favour National? What needs to change in Labour’s communication to better tie the message to the policy? (Leaving aside the minor parties for argument’s sake).


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