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Three’s a crowd

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 am, December 7th, 2016 - 24 comments
Categories: bill english, Judith Collins, national, winston peters - Tags:

The policy wonk, the ambitious change-maker, or the no-bullshit bullshitter – the contenders for National Party Prime Minister set out their stalls yesterday with John Campbell. Just like the Kaikoura quake, their pitches exposed some complex fault-lines. It’ll be a long week in politics.

Bill English pitched himself as the complex problem-solver, the most experienced and the continuity candidate. It might be called the the Hillary Clinton approach. It didn’t work for her as she missed the underlying feelings in the rust belt.

Jonathan Coleman was the man for  change. He wanted to talk about those who were coming into his office, and the need for more spending on mental health. He was conscious of the underlying issues in the electorate, but mental health would have to be the biggest failure in his tenure as the Minister.

Judith Collins posed herself as the tough decision-maker, and the one who could work with Winston Peters. They may be close, but he may also see her as more Jenny Shipley than Jim Bolger. She’s certainly David Garrett’s favourite.

Hanging over it all was the sense that there are underlying shifts in New Zealanders’ perception of their government, similar to those appearing all around the world. I think that is the main reason why Key has decided to quit while he’s still ahead. The one thing that was certain about  him was that he wasn’t going to go out as a loser. He sniffs the wind constantly, and as  soon as he saw a shift coming he was off.

On the other side of the House, Labour has just come off a stunning win in Mt Roskill. A great candidate, a very solid and personal ground game, and a positive message clearly focussed on the key issues for voters mean that Labour has finally got its act together under Andrew Little.

Luck is essential for political success, but you can also make your own


24 comments on “Three’s a crowd ”

  1. “Luck is essential for political success, but you can also make your own”

    For a second I read that as “Lusk is essential for political success”. I guess he’s conceptually fused with Collins in my mind.

  2. alwyn 2

    Three’s a crowd?
    That is 3 out of 59 isn’t it?
    What did you have to say after the last election when there were no less that 5 Labour people who put their names up for leader from a caucus of about 30?
    Or the Green Party who had no less than 4 candidates for male leader even though they only had 5, or was it 6, MPs with the right chromosome selection in Parliament at the time?
    If 5% is a crowd what was 16% (Labour) or 65% (Green).

    • BM 2.1

      Stop ruining the story with facts.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      One difference, of course, is that those party leadership contests were within standard procedures of far more than a week rather than coming out of the blue with the resignation of the leader.

      One shows stability, the other instability.

      • alwyn 2.2.1

        Don’t be silly. They were contests being held by opposition parties who are, lets face it, irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether they have a leader or not.
        A Prime Minister actually matters.

        A couple of examples of a PM stepping down are.
        Holyoake announced his resignation on 2 Feb 1972. Marshall won a contested election and became PM on 7 Feb 1972.
        Norman Kirk died on 31 August 1974. Bill Rowling won a contested election and took office on 6 September 1974.

        “One shows stability, the other instability”.
        We may both agree on the statement but I suspect our opinion on which state applies to which party may differ dramatically.
        I am also willing to bet that, should there be a Labour led Government in the future and the PM stand down or die, there wouldn’t be a two month talkfest before we had a new one chosen.

        • Draco T Bastard

          They were contests being held by opposition parties who are, lets face it, irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether they have a leader or not.

          Yeah, I think you’re talking out your arse there so as to try and paint over the backstabbing presently going on in the National caucus.

          I am also willing to bet that, should there be a Labour led Government in the future and the PM stand down or die, there wouldn’t be a two month talkfest before we had a new one chosen.

          Yeah, I suspect that the Left block will have a process in place that manages it smoothly rather than throwing red meat to the fish as JK has just done.

        • red-blooded

          To be fair to Norm, he didn’t exactly choose to stand down and leave his MPs squabbling for positions. He died (as did Massey, Savage and Seddon). He didn’t opt out because he was sick of it, or because he thought it might get harder (or whatever reason Key has). His DP stepped up in the interim and (even though he was a good policy wonk) people felt miffed that they hadn’t had a say, didn’t love him as they had Norm and turfed him out when they got a chance.

          Almost makes you hope English does win the day…

          • alwyn

            I was merely pointing out that when you are replacing a PM you can’t really spend months in limbo while you go round the country holding meetings.
            Apart from anything else all the people trying for the job would be senior Cabinet Ministers, not just senior members of an opposition party.

            Rowling wasn’t the deputy PM at the time by the way. That was Hugh Watt who was defeated by Rowling in the vote for a new PM.

            I had a lot of time for Hugh, although I don’t think he was really up to being the PM. I happened to be on a flight to Singapore when he was deputy PM. He, like me was happily travelling in economy. He wasn’t insisting on being up in First Class. Someone commented on that and he replied that they charged far to much and he didn’t see why the taxpayer should have to pay for him to ride up there.

            Those were the days when Labour MPs still cared about the people paying the bills.

            I chose these two examples because I could easily find the exact dates when their standing down was publicly known and the date we had a new PM.

      • ropata 2.2.2

        The Nats also like authoritarian “leadership” that crushes dissent, much more than inconvenient messing about with policy debates and democracy.

        • alwyn

          Really? You think Labour are different?
          Pray tell me what H1 and H2 were like.
          Or do you think they were members of a National Government?

          Every Prime Minister has to be totally ruthless. They simply cannot do the job if they aren’t, as David Lange found to his, and our, cost.
          If people aren’t performing they have to go. The only failure Clark left in their job was, for some reason, Judith Tizard. I heard a variety of reasons for this but I have no idea whether any of them was true.

          • Draco T Bastard

            So, why hasn’t Key been totally ruthless in weeding out the deadwood in National?

            • alwyn

              “deadwood in National”.
              I would be willing to bet that your list of “deadwood” would be unlikely to coincide with what a member of the public might suggest.
              Suppose we split the Cabinet into 2 groups. Call them “doing a good job” and “deadwood”
              Your first group is easy to pick. I bet that you wouldn’t put anyone at all into it. Right?

              You would, on the other hand probably have a second “deadwood” group that went Key, English, Brownlee, Joyce, Bennett, Coleman, Adams, Finlayson, Bridges, Parata, Tolley, Smith, McCully, Collins etc, etc till you had listed all 59 of them.

              Am I right, or am I right?

              • Draco T Bastard

                I was thinking of the more egregious ones actually. The ones that used the publics money and time to boost their own wealth, the ones that acted unethically. Sure, a couple of them got kicked out but more are still there. Blinglish should have been gone as well as McCully and Collins. Oh, and of course, himself.

  3. Yorick 3

    “Dr. Assad says farewell to two more terrorist-supporting leaders

    Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
    New Zealand Prime Minister John Key”


  4. Olwyn 5

    Hanging over it all was the sense that there are underlying shifts in New Zealanders’ perception of their government, similar to those appearing all around the world.

    That is what I think has driven Key’s resignation. His aim has always been to get NZ into line with the neoliberal project, not only without a shot being fired, but with his popularity intact as well, leaving the stage set for further inroads as conditions would allow – a star turn in NWO circles. Now that the straightforward continuance of that project can no longer be taken for granted, he is no longer much interested.

    It looks like the Nats will now be choosing between the May-way (English) or an attempt at some kind of Trump-style populism (Collins). I am not sure how Colman would fit into this picture.

  5. Carolyn_nth 6

    Judith Collins, after being removed from cabinet in 2014:

    Collins cracks on with being an MP

    Slater told the inquiry he had drawn the conclusion Collins was “gunning for” Adam Feeley because of Collins’ tone rather than specific statements. “She can be imperious,” he said. In return Collins said Mr Slater was simply big-talking “and he’s using my name to do it”.

    She says she remains family friends with the Slaters although Mr Slater had made “some very serious mistakes” and “I have to say I have felt very let down”.

    She says her communications with him were “very mild”.

    “You … don’t stop being a human being when you come into Parliament. But I was very careful not to breach those lines around ministerial responsibility in a personal friendship.”

    As well as losing that ministerial job, she also lost all hope of ever leading the National Party. She says now she doesn’t want the job: “It’s a rotten job.

    My bold

  6. Rosemary McDonald 7

    “Bill English pitched himself as the complex problem-solver, the most experienced and the continuity candidate. It might be called the the Hillary Clinton approach. It didn’t work for her as she missed the underlying feelings in the rust belt.”

    Bill ” the Lizard” English set out his philosophy and Long Term Plan back in 2010 in this interview with Audrey Young from the Herald.


    In the short term, his plan was to control spending by roping in various government departments by hiring…

    “purchase advisers – consultants who knew the public service inside out – were called in to help inexperienced ministers from being out-manoeuvred by cunning chief executives defending their budgets.

    They helped to cut $2 billion over four years for reallocation.”

    English has little sympathy for public service resistance, given that departmental budgets grew so rapidly under Labour.

    “Four or five years ago, in the middle of the brilliant pink consensus, everyone was quite happy with their baseline being 30 to 50 per cent lower than it is now. So [I’m asking them] why it has to be so big and [to] go and figure it out.””

    Hard line tactics so Ministers can..

    “”Get them to do the work and we sit and watch,” he says, only half-joking.””

    But, over the long term, English’s single biggest issue, his main target, is the numbers of people on benefits, especially those …

    “…..long-term invalids and sickness beneficiaries, a group he describes as “this big hard lump of long-term waste of human potential”.

    So….declaring that the Ministry of Social development….

    “”…. do the easy stuff and they do it very well, but they don’t worry about these guys. If they were ACC customers, we would be spending a lot of money on trying to move them. They cost a bit less on sickness and invalids [benefits], not a hell of a lot less, but we do nothing and we are actually doing nothing to reduce this very large long-term liability.””

    …..English set about ‘moving’ the invalid and the sick by getting rid of both benefits and bringing in the Supported Living Payment.

    And what a screaming success that has been.

    We talked about it here…https://thestandard.org.nz/john-keys-legacy/#comment-1270989 and here….https://thestandard.org.nz/daily-review-06122016/#comment-1271179

    Yesterday, the Ministry of Social Development was convicted….


    The Ministry of Social Development pleaded guilty…GUILTY ….of “to failing to keep its employees safe by not exposing them to violent clients,” but not for ” open plan of the office” being such that it failed to protect staff from these ‘violent clients’.

    “Chief District Court judge Jan-Marie Doogue said on Tuesday that, had she been able, she would have imposed a fine of $16,000.

    She was unable to do so because MSD is a Crown entity, and protected by law from financial liability.”

    The Ministry wanted to be discharged without conviction…because…

    “…. it was unfair that it would be saddled with the perception it was responsible for what Tully did.”

    The Ministry of Social Development, fueled by English’s determination to drive these “hard lumps of wasted human potential” into work by forcing staff to exert inhuman pressure on sick people to return to work and be more self sufficient ARE responsible for what Tully did.

    So…English has been successful in bringing his Grand Plan of 2010 to fruition….so if this is the measure of his suitability for the Top Job….he is The Man.

  7. The Chairman 8

    While I agree English is the continuity candidate (thus safest bet for steady as she goes) Coleman as leader is my prediction.

    The reasoning is they won’t want to look as if they’re going backwards. National will want to be seen as a party that’s innovated and moving forward.

    Moreover, English has been tested and failed, hence they won’t want to repeat/risk that mistake.

    Bennett or Collins are both well known but are also widely disliked, hence too high risk. To his advantage in that respect, Coleman is less known outside the beltway.

    The Party will be gutted Key left them far more vulnerable at such a crucial time within the election cycle.

    • mosa 8.1

      Key leaving the National party” gutted and vunerable”

      Not surprising as loyalty has never been one of his strong points its always been only about Key and his need to win no matter what.

      If these theories about him leaving now before things get tougher then where is his commitment to stay the course and take the bad weather and lead his government.

      Was this all about the fear of him loosing (possibly) an election and having to admit failure ? and loosing that populous following he and the media have built for the last eight years.

      He has bailed to save his own skin and protect this fanciful legacy that deep down when you scratch the surface you find there isnt one.

      Its been a rapid turn around from the man who was already set to contest a fourth term and looked unbeatable a week ago according to public opinion.

      He should have taken his case and his record to a general election and tested his mandate.

      After all he was not facing a challenge from his colleagues and was secure in his leadership

      That would have been what a real leader would have done.

  8. Whateva next? 9

    Has Crosby and Textor decided who it will be yet?

    • the pigman 9.1

      Since they’re making up the rules as they go along with regard to deputy candidates, my pick is near unanimous support for a Caretaker Billy PM with Coleman granted deputy while he builds his profile in 2017 and hones his John Key voice impression (already very good, mind you).

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