Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Politics of Absence

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  • Stephen R, in reply to Sacha,

    How do you explain the Greens' opinion poll totals rising while Labour's declines? What are they doing differently or better?

    From my perspective, the Greens argue like adults. I've been very impressed by a succession of Green MP speeches in the house. When Nandor was first elected I wasn't really a Greens supporter, but then I heard him speak. Actual logic! Coherent views! Complex subjects looked at with subtlety and reason. And the more I listen to Green MPs speak on a variety of subjects, the more they impress me. The Greens actually had a sensible, thought out energy policy before the last election which appeared to be something no other party could manage.

    I liked Michael Cullen and trusted him to manage the economy, (was I the only one in New Zealand paying off my mortgage as fast as I could during the good times, instead of extending it to buy a flat screen TV?). I was lucky enough to hear him speak on the economy in a small room of about 20 people, and he made reasoned, coherent arguments about why he was doing the things he was. (I'm starting to see a pattern here.)

    I used to be a Labour supporter. Actually donated money and delivered pamphlets. I had quite a long chat with Annette King (my local MP) on a street corner before the last election, about various subjects, including the proceeds of crime act. I was arguing that if they can't get enough evidence to convict someone, then they shouldn't be confiscating their stuff, and Annette was telling me that "We're only going to take stuff off the bad people, and the police know who they are". I felt like I was being ignored. I felt like Annette was telling me that "if you're not a criminal, you have nothing to fear" - I've played too many games with rules-lawyers to trust that badly written rules won't be abused by future players. Combine that with seeing some pretty terrible examples of parliamentary argument from Labour.

    I decided that Labour, much as I want to like them, can't be trusted as far as I can kick them around moral or civil liberty subjects, and don't appear to have much in the way of principles that they won't compromise. If they ever do make it into government again I want there to be some adults alongside them that they have to run things past to get approval when they have brain farts regarding turning NZ into a CTV monitored police state. On the other hand, I'd like there to be some people to moderate some of the Green's ideas about science, although my impression from the outside is that the Greens have been improving (from my perspective) there over the last 10 years.

    That's why I support the Greens.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    It seems to me that people go to their MP because they can, and if they couldn’t, they’d find some other way.

    Hmmm. Big call.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    I wouldn’t rule out ‘too under-resourced to get involved’ either.

    As an excuse? Crying poor has never played too well as a politician's argument on social justice issues. Perhaps it's an indication of their upmarket aspirations that it gets invoked.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3552 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen R,

    That’s why I support the Greens.

    And fair enough too. Like most of us, I didn’t have a lot of time for Sue Kedgley, but in general, I respect and admire the Green MPs. But I’m impatient with the idea that they’re the alpha and omega of representation, or offer a model that would solve Labour’s problems.

    I really like Nandor, but he was bloody lazy when he stood in Auckland Central. He had a constituency there that could have been developed in a way that boosted the party vote – and maybe, just maybe, gave him a shot at a seat eventually. At the least, a sound local effort would provide a focus and some continuity for Green volunteers – and help the party get its vote out so it delivered polling into actual votes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

  • Ben McNicoll, in reply to Andrew Dalbeth,

    Are Radio Live trying to become Radio National?

    Trying to become?

    Grey Lynn • Since May 2007 • 110 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Cows must be able to vote in Helensville electorate, there a hoarding in a paddock out JK's way.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Meola Road hoarding update:

    Greens' "richer future" hoarding now in place.

    Nikki Kaye's sign has been vandalised (sigh) but is still standing.

    No sign of Act, Maori Party, Mana, United Future, NZ First, etc.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Urquhart,

    There have been "party vote national" signs scattered around my part of "Wigram" for some weeks now. Just the (young) local candidate on them, no sign of JK.

    I would have liked to see the Greens run a strong candidate and campaign here, with the void left by Anderton there might have been a chance to catch people thinking about their vote. Instead I expect most of those votes just to slip straight over to Labour (especially since Jim sent around a nice letter endorsing their candidate as his successor).

    Doesn't go any way to making me feel like my (electorate) vote counts any more in this election than it has in the past 6.

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2009 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    I thought you were talking about post-eqnz advocacy? Strength on the ground counts with that. Any party is screwed if they are relying on the media to know what's going on for locals in that type of situation.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    No sign

    Heh

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Again, say what you like about Nikki Kaye, but she took the time to phone me at home and talk for a good 20 minutes about a concern I raised about national standards. She even conceded a point or two.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sure, local MPs are powerful people, but why go to them in particular?

    Ever sat in a room with your boss negotiating a pay rise for union members? It is always a good trick to remind them that only one side of the table was elected to be there.

    An elected representative has enormous mana – the legitimacy of the people. That mana can jolly well get things done that jolly well need to be done.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1810 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Hmmm. Big call.

    Yes, there is always the chance that one of these 60 people serving the entire country might be able to help you in some random way. I just don't see how that should give them half of the executive power.

    It's totally self justifying. They only need to have done something useful, and they can point to that and go "Hey look! I made a difference! Vote for me!". To actually quantify how useful that is is impossible, because their brief is undefined. They "represent". Some of them could do a totally, utterly useless job of it, and get re-elected repeatedly, just because they're in a safe electorate. They could live in Wellington, when I'm in Auckland, like my one did because she happened to be the Prime Minister.

    Also, there's something kind of odd about the insistence that I actually should really care so much about the place I happen to be in right now, that I would want to pick someone to take random care of it, and by proxy get a 1/120th share of the executive power of the nation. Apart from my actual house, the level to which I avail myself of the local services is only very slightly more than the level to which I avail myself of neighboring electorates services. I use the CBD more than the local township. Most of my shopping is done out of the electorate. Only the local school satisfies the quality of being something I'm intricately interested in, and my local MP has zero power to do shit about it, because his party isn't in power and probably won't be for 4-7 years. If I want something done at the school, I'd approach the principal, a public servant with considerable power to influence the outcomes for my family. I did this and he helped a lot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8584 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Stephen R,

    I decided that Labour, much as I want to like them, can’t be trusted as far as I can kick them around moral or civil liberty subjects, and don’t appear to have much in the way of principles that they won’t compromise.

    Blue Dogs, much?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes, there is always the chance that one of these 60 people serving the entire country might be able to help you in some random way. I just don’t see how that should give them half of the executive power.

    Well, executive power rests with Cabinet, for a start.

    And while local representation is a legacy, it's not a legacy that should be easily discarded -- if only because the electorate simply won't let you do that. The idea of all representation being divorced from place is slightly scary. I'm not sure if you understand how much good local MPs actually do. Even the touchy-feely stuff is important -- turning up to local community groups and the like.

    National politics does not and should not all happen all in Wellington. That's why good list MPs have adopted electorates and opened local offices. And as Joe notes, the people of Christchurch have had every reason to feel glad of their local MPs in the past year.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    The only reason the Greens ever won Coromandel was because Labour backed Jeanette Fitzsimons. This was a smart move by Helen Clark, not dissimlar to National's arrangement with ACT in Epsom. At the time, the Greens were not guaranteed to get the 5% threshhold (the actual result was 5.16%), so it made sense for Labour to accommodate the Greens at that time.

    Since then, the strategy has been to stand candidates in electorates to gain a platform from which to pitch for the party vote.

    This isn't because the Greens don't see any value in the role of an electorate MP; it is a pragmatic decision based on how the party actually secures Green MPs. Campaigning for the party vote actually gets our candidates into parliament. Targetting resources at a specific candidate campaign (an against parties who are able to draw on far higher funding when generating a response) is seen as high risk. I'm not sure why we should risk our parliamentary presence on this basis.

    The other side of the coin is that MPs tend to have a public profile, and therefore tend to spend party of their time campaigning for the party vote on a national level. Therefore, the opportunity cost is even higher if a sitting MP were to focus on an electorate.

    As long as we have FPP electorate voting, I don't see the above situation changing.

    Disclosure: I am the Green candidate for Tamaki Makaurau.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sure, local MPs are powerful people, but why go to them in particular? There’s hundreds of powerful people in every electorate. There’s institutions for nearly every kind of complaint.

    Sounds fine, assuming those institutions aren't geared towards fobbing off an initial approach from the naive and unassertive. Even local MPs have been known to do that, sometimes while having the best of intentions towards their constituents.

    For example, I know of a woman caring for an adult intellectually disabled son who got nowhere with welfare agencies. Only when the intimidating dragoness who fielded calls for her MP had been promoted up the party hierarchy was she able to get through, and yes, he did get things moving.

    Some local MPs seem to have a rather unworldly faith in the effectiveness of community agencies. When a paranoid and P-addled aging gang member mounted a campaign of intimidation against his neighbours who displayed Community Support stickers on their letterboxes, the local MP spoke glowingly of the work of the ex-policeman who ran the scheme. Unfortunately the guy's response when people told him they believed they'd been targeted for displaying his stickers was to snort derisively. When it came to the crunch, more interested in protecting his brand than serving the community.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3552 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    OB Network broadcating...
    Has anyone mentioned that Steven Joyce used to co-own Radioworks that was folded into Mediaworks?
    I know it came up in relation to the Gummint's "helpful loans" to Mediaworks to pay for their frequencies a while back.
    Seems relevant somehow...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think this touches on the urban-rural divide Tom noted upthread.

    And the other Tom has previously written about urban-suburban divides (in Wellington at least):

    I don’t think it’s that simple, but half-seriously, here is my suggestion. People near red booths are either those who can walk or hop on a quick bus to work; or who live further out but have no qualms about the “public” aspect of public transport. People near the blue booths don’t want to rub shoulders with the masses in the central city and like the “freedom” that private cars offer, so they’re happy to live in the dormitory suburbs where there are no nearby amenities but there’s plenty of room to park the SUV.

    So, if there’s a division in New Zealand, it’s not between urban and rural but between urban and suburban. Between apartments and state houses on one hand, and McMansions on the other. Between urban diversity and vitality, and the quietly comfortable “mainstream” respectability of suburbia. In short, between Urbanland and Sprawlistan.

    See also Urban Archipelago, which effectively advocates for an ‘Urban Strategy’, for lack of a better term, to counteract the old Republican ‘Southern Strategy’. UA also explains why Auckland's transport issues are what they are - over-federalised transport policy.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to DeepRed,

    Sprawlistan

    Outer Perturbia?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to DeepRed,

    Well, for me it's more that National propose (and vote for) laws I disagree with, and don't lose any sleep about it, whereas Labour wring their hands and look all anguished, and then vote for it anyway. Which makes them a pretty useless opposition, in a lot of respects.

    While we're at it, the Greens don't get a pass for their support of the CERA, either.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2399 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to BenWilson,

    It’s totally self justifying. They only need to have done something useful, and they can point to that and go “Hey look! I made a difference! Vote for me!”.

    OK, first a little full disclosure is in order. I used to work for an MP, and when a woman walked into the office looking for advice on how to make her abusive ex- stay the fuck away from her and her children I can't say "lookit, potential voter" was upmost in anyone's mind. OK, nobody changed the world that day but perhaps - just perhaps - we made three people's lives a little better. However "random" that may be in your book, it does matter.

    FFS, Ben, I'd be the last person to say the political classes don't bring a hell of a lot of disdain down on their own heads but there does come a point where healthy scepticism turns into corrosive - and horribly unfair - cynicism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12031 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Mikaere Curtis,

    The only reason the Greens ever won Coromandel was because Labour backed Jeanette Fitzsimons. This was a smart move by Helen Clark, not dissimlar to National’s arrangement with ACT in Epsom. At the time, the Greens were not guaranteed to get the 5% threshhold (the actual result was 5.16%), so it made sense for Labour to accommodate the Greens at that time.

    Yes, but it also made sense because polls had Jeanette only three points shy of Murray McLean, with Margaret Hawkeswood a distant third on 15% support. The crucial poll there coincided with the launch of the Greens’ campaign launch, and gave them momentum and lots of press.

    Hakeswood declared (presumably at Clark’s prompting) she’d be voting for John Tamihere (she was on the Maori roll) but otherwise she’d have voted for Jeanette. By 2002, Jeanette was polling even with the Labour candidate and miles behind Sandra Goudie, and there was bad blood between parties over GE (although interestingly, Clark sat Mike Williams back down when he declared the deal was off).

    If that’s ever to happen again, the Green candidate actually needs to be in the game – i.e., within credible reach of victory, as Hide was in Epsom. And I honestly think electorate campaigns are much more about people on the ground than pots of money.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to BenWilson,

    Only the local school satisfies the quality of being something I'm intricately interested in, and my local MP has zero power to do shit about it, because his party isn't in power and probably won't be for 4-7 years. If I want something done at the school, I'd approach the principal, a public servant with considerable power to influence the outcomes for my family. I did this and he helped a lot.

    Ben, I agree that if you want something done at a school, you talk to the principal and/or the Board. NZ schools are comparatively independent.

    However, if you were unhappy about schools plural in your area or you had a failing Board, your local MP can and should help. Many years ago, there was a concerted effort to close many smaller schools, the people affected where across National and Labour electorates and MPs from both sides lobbied the then Minister, Creech (National), very effectively.

    I've not followed all of this morning's discussion so may have missed a few points, but merely want to observe - having been in NZ, Australian State and Federal Education agencies - that local MPs have an important role and can be very effective.

    Whether, in some other unknown model, individuals could be as effective, I don't know for sure but doubt; not everyone will ever be well enough informed of what they should expect or have the time of skills to insist on those expectations being delivered on.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    OK, nobody changed the world that day but perhaps – just perhaps – we made three people’s lives a little better. However “random” that may be in your book, it does matter.

    +100.

    I've seen and heard what comes in the door at electorate offices.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18957 posts Report Reply

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