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The weasel accurately dissects National.

Written By: - Date published: 2:05 pm, July 26th, 2019 - 36 comments
Categories: australian politics, Dirty Politics, jacinda ardern, labour, national, political parties, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags:

Matthew Hooton has a piece on National’s chances in the next election in the Business Herald this morning entitled as “National stumbling to defeat”. I’m not going to link or quote from it as it is behind the paywall. On the eve of the National party conference, it is a pretty scathing review of their chances.

I personally have very little time for Matthew Hooton and his opinions. In my view, he has a very strong tendency to dance on the border between truth and lying by omission and shading of fact. This is done far too frequently based on who is paying him or what his underlying agenda is. Since he seldom declares where he is coming from and the basis of his agenda, anyone looking at him for political opinion would have to treat him as just being slightly brighter than Cameron Slater at performing Dirty Politics. But of course his profession and his business is to be a professional liar without actually being culpable in court.

However in this case Matt (as the diminutive that I will refer to him from here on it) points to the several salient and actually factual points about the current National party illusions that are worth repeating and having comment on. 

They have been encouraged by the surprise Liberal win in Australia and I suspect that they will be trumpeting that a lot at the party conference. But as Matt points out, the factors that led to that victory simply aren’t going to apply here.

Firstly, and in particular for the major parties, our MMP system is nothing like the systems used in Australia. If effect there are still all of the advantages and disadvantages of the first past the post system that we used to have here prior to the 1996 election

Wikipedia describes the aussie system as 

The Australian electoral system comprises the laws and processes used for the election of members of the Australian Parliament. The system presently has a number of distinctive features including compulsory enrolment, compulsory voting, majority-preferential instant-runoff voting in single-member seats to elect the lower house, the House of Representatives, and the use of the single transferable vote proportional representation system to elect the upper house, the Senate.[1]

The effect is that it allows the kind of marginal seat effects that have largely disappeared from our electoral landscape. The Liberals could happily divert resources from a moderately safe or even marginal seats in NSW to focus on a series of marginal seats in somewhere like Queensland where they had a message that they knew would resonate well. They don’t have to appeal to millions of voters across the whole country to win a party vote. They can refine it down to mere 10s or 100s of thousands of voters in specific electorates. And that was exactly what they did to win the election. It simply isn’t reproducible here.

Secondly in the aussie election, the Liberal leader, Scott Morrison, was by polling twice as popular as the Labour leader, Bill Shorten. There is a significiant portion of the electorate for whom politics isn’t so much about the agendas or the message or even the political experience of politicians, but simply about what my partner calls the ‘sizzle’. And that is as shallow as it is, many voters base their vote almost entirely on how they see the persons who are foremost in representing a political party. 

Now as a political entity, I’m aware that I  always under-estimate the value of sizzle. I did in the last NZ election where I thought that the NZ Labour party were being daft changing Andrew Little for Jacinda Ardern a few months before the election.

While there were few MPs left inside Labour with cabinet experience including Andrew Little, I figured that his experience with the Engineers and party president were going to be more valuable at winning over floating voters,. I was also a bit distraught at the idea of letting someone who I thought had great political potential being put into a position to lose the election. A few months wasn’t in my view the right kind of time frame to build a rapport with people who like sizzle. And it spoke of the kind of desperation that loses voters who value stability. I am very happy to be wrong on virtually every count… 😈

But Jacinda even as deputy leader had similar leader public polling to the National parties leader, Bill English, and increased rapidly in the months leading into the election. It’d have been fascinating to see what the internal political polling would have shown.

But as Matt icily and accurately points out, the current National leader, Simon Bridges, doesn’t have a 2:1 advantage over Jacinda in leadership polls. He has a 4:1 disadvantage. I’d also guess that he really isn’t improving at all in either his level of public sizzle or even in his level of general competence. As is frequently observed in the comments here, the left would prefer that he remains leader. But fortunately, no-one else who appears to be a possible contender appears to be any more likely to improve National’s standing against Jacinda (please National caucus and members – put Judith Collins in.. She’d be a gift).

Finally, and most importantly there is the issue of underlying electoral support. National has a more fundamental problem related to our near proportional (for major parties) electoral system. They already have had their best electoral votes. 

When you look at the actual (rather than polling) electoral history in this country since MMP, it is clear that no major party is likely to get the 50% in actual votes required to tip them into a clear victory. National and Labour need potential political party partners to get them over the edge.  Labour, as a party that has spawned so many other long lasting political parties in NZ electoral history, is resigned to this. National, as a party who clearly sees themselves as a born to rule have not.

Since 2002, they have cannibalised the votes and destroyed the parties of the right and centre right, and even those of the more anti-labour than conservative Mari party. They have now killed their potential partners and sucked up their votes.

There simply isn’t anything available to tip National over the bounds, because no other viable political party (apart from the remaining subservient of one electorate and no votes Act) is there to provide them that partner.

Only NZ First is a possible conservative centre right partner. But their members have a natural caution after having had National deliberately set out to kill their party in 1998 and 2008. Not to mention that a high proportion of NZ First members and voters are more akin to slightly morally conservative left wing voters. 

The Greens are pretty aware of the mood of their members and voters. They aren’t the kind of conservative conservationist that the repeated attempts by National supporters to set up Blue-Green coalitions requires. But they are big enough and attentive enough to their supporters to weather the occasional doctrinal disagreement that they seem to have every few years. They’re also aware that to work with National is a fast way to let their members and supporters leave.

You can see why this last point depresses Matt. National has managed in the last decade to survive as a possible government by virtue of having a sizzle leader while it has been clear that Labour has not. But even then they have only done so by having residual political party partners spawned in great political divisions of the 1990s. LIke all short-term exploitative thinkers, National didn’t conserve the resources. Instead they have used them up.

National is probably going to have to wait for government. Either Labour to spawn yet another viable political party as they have done so many times before. Or National will have to do the unmentionable as they did with Winston Peters and spawn another NZ First, and even harder – try to nurture it rather than actively try to kill it.

Of course you have to speculate on what Matt’s agenda is in this piece. It almost sounds like an honest albeit disparaging opinion of right despair. But with him, I always suspect that there is an ulterior and concealed motivation. Anyone care to guess what his next piece will reveal as his solution to this National conundrum?

36 comments on “The weasel accurately dissects National. ”

  1. Dennis Frank 2

    Anyone care to guess what his next piece will reveal as his solution to this National conundrum?

    Okay, I'll take your bait. Most likely option: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/25-07-2019/nzs-resurgent-new-conservatives-riding-the-culture-wars-to-the-2020-election/

    Problem is, the gamble will fail due to the threshold unless the Nats do something clever. Have you ever seen that happen? They'd need to dump ACT, give the newcon leader Rodney. Might not get them the numbers to win, but would at least get them a coalition partner in parliament.

    • lprent 2.1

      Can you see National even now being able to tolerate dissent on their right?

      They spent a lot of time and effort in deliberately emasculating it. And they used Rodney to do it.

      • Dennis Frank 2.1.1

        Obviously they are more likely to keep struggling with making MMP work, but I can't see how denial of the necessity of a coalition partner could possibly work for them. If the coalition stuffs up, perhaps, but waiting for that to happen seems a loser's option.

        JC is playing her cards rather close to her chest. Smart enough to know what's required, knowing she must await the opportunity. How to be a team player when you know that a team is more likely to win when non-leaders supply leadership that the leader is failing to supply?! Do you try to prompt the dumb leader? Do you network the idea in caucus, to build up unstoppable momentum? She could see that option as win/win. If Bridges yields to caucus will, Nats get more leverage. If he doesn't, caucus realises he has to be replaced…

        • Dennis Frank 2.1.1.1

          Rodney could work if the newcons leader is a net positive due to character & personality, plus open endorsement from the Nats. Colin Craig was net negative, and Key didn't endorse him. So I'm suggesting a whole new ball game can come into play. But the Nats are useless at lateral thinking, so making it happen will be real hard for them.

          • lprent 2.1.1.1.1

            Pretty much where I see them at right now. They can see the need, but their factions and instincts are against giving a potential coalition partner room.

            God knows that it took Labour long enough after MMP came in to accept it. And they aren't, by nature, conservatives.

        • lprent 2.1.1.2

          Her real problem is that she is so easy to make toxic in public. Snd she has some serious opposition inside National.

          FFS members leak dirt on her to us.

          • Dennis Frank 2.1.1.2.1

            Oh, I agree, have made that point myself in the past. But the polls indicate sufficient resonance with voters that she still seems front-runner replacement. Lets wait & see how their conference goes this weekend.

  2. ianmac 3

    On radio I always believed that Hooten would make reasonable credible statements but, always he would ave his attack weapons poised to strike and use repetitions to hit home. Bet it is a strategy used to win arguments. Agree, agree, pounce!

    • lprent 3.1

      That was why I picked weasel as his totem animal. They have a habit of stalks followed by a sustained kill from a good position. Like these fisher relatives…

      https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/09/Weasel-like-fishers-prey-on-Canada-Lynx-in-Maine-news/

    • I've always wondered (and thought) that Matthew Hooten has a unique approach when speaking on Radio NZ. He understands that the audience for RNZ is (generally) more sophisticated and critical than the moblike mentality that is attracted to Rantback Radio.

      Radio NZ listeners prefer Kathryn Ryan or Kim Hill to Mike Hosking and Leighton Smith.

      So he tailors his speech and attitude accordingly.

    • soddenleaf 3.3

      Hooter isn't a analyst if he is a player. His talking points, take Greens are powerless, why bring it up then if they are powerless. He can't be a analyst when he is peddling propaganda as fact, it's oxymoronic, insulting, and if National Radio had integrity they'd call him on it. You repeating yourself again Hoot.

  3. Sanctuary 4

    National's biggest problem is they are campaigning with the same policies they had a decade ago, and the National caucus spends to much time watching Fox news without grasping that a) New Zealand was only slightly affected by the GFC, so neoliberal centrism is still viable here, and b) our electoral system was expressly designed to squash radicalism of the left or right.

    • Ad 4.1

      What is "neoliberal centrism"?

      • AB 4.1.1

        I read "neoliberal centrism" as meaning that at the current moment in time, in western democracies, the political centre is 'neoliberal'. Which means that at other historical moments, say the 1970's, the current 'centre' would have been considered very right-wing. Nothing very complicated in that and as a viewpoint it's internally coherent, even if you disagree with it.

        • Ad 4.1.1.1

          So just help me with my bearings.

          Is the current New Zealand government "neoliberal centrist"?

          Is Germany?

          Is Spain?

          Is Canada?

          Is Australia?

          Does this make them sufficiently the same?

        • Dennis Frank 4.1.1.2

          Seems like a sensible perspective. It displaced socialism, got the left behind it as well as the right in all western countries, so became orthodoxy. Centrists are mostly sheep, so they go with the left/right flow for lack of a better option. Greens have tried to explain the positive alternative, but most voters feel the need to conform to tradition…

  4. Ad 5

    Hooten did a good job on Ardern this week.

  5. Dukeofurl 6

    Australia gives some examples of how Conservatives manage another party.

    The Nationals and Liberals work together in Federal parliament. One whos primary message is to state capitals and larger towns and the other is ' rural vote and smaller towns.

    That seems to work OK where the Liberals are dominant and Nationals smaller part and occasionaly mostly rural seats can swap parties due to Preference voting.

    Everything changes in Queensland where the Nationals are dominant and the preference swaps didnt work as well due to significant leakage of preferences to Labour. The Answer was to run as a combined Liberal-national party. I wont go into the bizarre results that happen when a Lib-Nat Mp has to be allocated to one or other of the two caucuses in Federal Parliament.

    Nationals only way to have a consistent coalition partner is to have a Rural /Small towns party which is separate.

    Maybe that party will be NZ First in the future, but because of its heritage wont be reliable and nationals instinct is to kill it off.

    • lprent 6.1

      It is a bit odd as it depends on electorates and not standing against each other. I think it is more of an accident than designed.It actually looks like the reform and whatever the rural party was before they coalesced as National party factions.

      The non urban electorate wing of National would be up in arms – unless they split off to form it.

      • I am surprised that the Faming sector have not woken up to the fact that they to could get into Parliament and have their voices heard. All they need to do is find a likeable leader, pick out a couple of rural seats the don't have large urban centres and they would be in with a very good shot of getting in to Parliament.

        One such seat is Kiakoura, held by National and the member is useless, only ranked by his own party at number thirty. Another seat is Selwyn, ripe for the picking as it also is a strong farming area.

        If they did get into Parliament, it would be interesting to see if they aligned with National, but they would be in position just like NZF, the tail waging the dog.

  6. Adrian 7

    Watch Todd Muller. Seems to be agreeable to most things L/G/ NZ propose. Agree, agree, then swoop. He knows the only place where Nats can get any numbers. Aproach with caution, as the cops would say.

  7. JustMe 8

    There are now far too many biased towards National so-called journos in the main stream NZ media.

    I think the reason for this is whilst he was part time prime minister of New Zilland(as he called this country)John Key hated anyone who intelligently questioned him or his government and so he successfully weeded out the more genuine journalists and replaced them with what I will term as 'wannabe' National Party MPs.

    I am of course referring to Mike Hosking(he so wants to be a free-loading and self serving National MP. It's all so written across him like a bad rash), Katie Hawkesby, John Roughan, Barry Soper and his wife, and so many others whose names escape me right now.

    The tabloid NZ Herald allows these so-called journos to spew their vomit(in verbal form) onto the paper now results in me not bothering to read the herald as it lacks credibility(much like so many of the National Party MPs that are currently around).

    Today I saw a photo of Simon Bridges. His eyes looked like he is defeated. He knows he is on the out and his time as leader of the National Party is near to an end. And so whilst he may deny there is any problems in National I think deep down he knows there is trouble. He cannot continue to live in Cloud Cuckoo-land and say ‘All is well in National and that all in it are United”. I have a saying that the eyes are the mirror to the soul of a person. Simon Bridges eyes shows to the world what he is denying verbally.

  8. JustMe, it isn't just you. Armstrong belonged in that 'so-called journos allowed to spew"

    The Herald has always promoted National and supporters.

    I have found Hooten a screamer on Radio, hysterical and totally biased.

  9. barry 10

    Let's not get too carried away. Facebook has changed the game, and C/T have showed in Australia that they understand how it is played.

    In the past lying has been a double-edged sword. You have to be careful to maintain credibility as blatant lies turn off a large section of the electorate. Some lies will appeal to some people, and not others, while some lies will turn off some people. Imagine if there was a ubiquitous platform where you can target the lies to exactly those people who will believe them without showing them to others.

    What is more, with Facebook targeting, the subject of the lies aren't even aware of them.

    I recommend the media, and the Labour party to set up people with differing personas to attract such advertising so that they at least know what is being said and to whom. They could then target rebuttals to the same people, or at least publicise the tactics.

    But no, it won't happen, because the reporters in New Zealand don't want to know, and the Labour party doesn't understand the target.

  10. swordfish 11

    But Jacinda even as deputy leader had similar leader public polling to the National parties leader, Bill English, and increased rapidly in the months leading into the election. It’d have been fascinating to see what the internal political polling would have shown.

    In terms of UMR (Labour Internal) Leader Favourability:

    Jacinda Ardern

    August 2017 ……… Fav 70 / Unfav 15 = Net + 55

    September 2017 … Fav 70 / Unfav 22 = Net + 48

    October 2017 …… Fav 73 / Unfav 17 = Net + 56

    Don't have Bill English's precise stats from UMR … but according to a UMR line-chart of Net scores in my humble possession: English's Net Favourability went from around + 20 at start of Election Campaign to around + 40 by Election Day (unfortunately can't be more precise than that).

    So, Ardern enjoyed a significant advantage over him throughout the first half of the campaign, but he managed to close a good deal of the gap (though still clearly behind) by campaign's end.

    Don’t have Preferred PM stats unfortunately.

  11. UncookedSelachimorpha 12

    I think the path forward for National will be to refocus on the sizzle – find a celebrity / superficially likeable leader and run with it. This has been their winning strategy previously and no reason to think it won’t work again. I doubt it will be more complicated than this – although granted it might not get them clear of requiring a support partner, if only a Dunne-like phenomenon etc.

    They will do it while acting against the interests of most who vote for them and retaining their core values (cutting public services and transferring wealth to the wealthy).

  12. mosa 13

    The only time i ever heard any of Hooten's ramblings that made sense was when at the height of dirty politics he said Key was lying and deceiving the country in a spectacular fashion.

    Pot calling the kettle black but it was plain for all too see even if you were a National supporter.

    Bridges has hinted that a new party will be in a position to assist after November next year assuming Jacinda does not go to the country early.

    Lot a water to go under Mr Bridges before then.

  13. peterlepaysan 14

    Weasel?

    Smart ,fast, focussed, not unattractive, and capable of killing (reputations) yes. Good choice.

    He can't be all bad. Once upon a time .some several years ago I posted on a blog and he replied that he agreed with me.

    That was scary and I said so, I am so far to left of Hooten I was worried.

    He does appear to let his intellect rule his creed.
    On occasions

    • lprent 14.1

      I’d agree with all of that.

      However I also find that he is also untrustworthy. I’ve seen him run quite long repetitive meme campaigns that have no apparent or explained underlying rationale. I suspect that those have been paid or factional campaigns.

      So I treat and present him accordingly.

  14. Michael 15

    I think the Nats' biggest problem is that they won't share power with anyone, especially when "anyone" consists of people of non-European ethnicity. OTOH, they will have lot of dirty money to slosh around next year so they may be able to spend their way back into office. Apart from one factor, the current government should easy for any half-decent opposition to defeat (that factor being Jacinda Ardern’s charisma). We must be thankful that the Nats in 2019 are nowhere near that standard.

  15. R.P Mcmurphy 16

    I agree with all that LP but he omits the one serious thingthat counts and that is the voter.

    Kiwis change horses when there is something 'wrong' with the country.

    They changed in 2008 when that idiot who shall not be named took his eye off the ball when the NZLP could have won that election as keys was untested.

    btw. hooton is again correct in his observations at targeting electorates in Australia. That is what Scott Morrison did but he baited the hook with promises to keep mining coal and that is the economy stupid.

    IN 2008 voters were entirely and utterly pissed off with boy racers and the governments unwillingness to do anything about it. the conomy was ok before the crash but those little shits in their jap crappas p out of their brains destroying the peace of every neighbourhood in New Zealand and enough to change the government.

    Times have changed and so have the parameters. The challenges we face as a nation and globally will not fit into slogans and will take a different kind of leadership and this government is doing its best to lay a solid foundation.

    and

    underneath mathew hootons wonderful explanation is just opening the way for another attack on the government.

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