Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Key's midterm blues?

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / NZ Herald
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / NZ Herald

One day you've been re-elected as your nation's leader with an historic level of support for your party and overwhelming personal poll ratings, then suddenly a few months later you can't seem to get anything right, your friends are rapidly disappearing and you're forced to contemplate making up with a sworn enemy. Tracy Watkins asks whether we are witnessing John Key's midterm blues?. She reports on a school visit yesterday where Key 'asked a group of school kids if they dreamed of being prime minister, Mr Key told them: "Frankly, the way it's going at the moment you can have the job". Watkins says that Key's demeanour of late means 'there is no doubt that the prime minister is more jaded than the man who packed his bags for Premier House 3½ years ago.'

National's coalition prospects are undoubtedly contributing to Key's problems, and Audrey Young reports that, when questioned, Key said that before the election the National Party would reassess their self-imposed 2008 ban on working with New Zealand First - see: National to review working with NZ First.

Young also points out the irony that the coalition partner which has given them the least grief lately - the Maori Party - actually needs to distance itself from National to survive - see: John Key's problem with partners.

The National Party Board minutes that Trevor Mallard has gleefully revealed may not have been leaked but instead appear to have been sent to the wrong address, according to the Prime Minister - see: Key suggests leaked minutes were stolen. If so, it will be a relief that they weren't deliberately leaked, but it doesn't reflect well on the party's management skills.

It was entirely predictable that any policy to do with contraceptives and beneficiaries would generate a lot of headlines and comment. Vernon Small and Claire Trevett both claim the policy, along with the changes to refugee policy, are diversions from National's bad news stories and a trap for Labour. Small says that National are trying to dig 'a politically correct man trap for Labour to wander into' by raising emotive issues that they know crucial swinging voters will agree with National on but that Labour's liberal sensitivities won't be able to resist attacking - see: Labour resists National's trap. While Small thinks that Labour has so far avoided the trap, Trevett says 'the parties on the left fall for it every time'. Trevett compares Metiria Turei's 'hands off my womb' reaction to the Greens 2008 Population Policy which proposed an upper limit on population size and advocated better access to Family Planning and education about family size and spacing - see: Minister sets off collision of taboos.

The idea that the contraception policy is a deliberate political sideshow is backed up by Tim Watkin's insightful Teen breeders a national scourge! Time for Mythbusters. Watkin looks at the actual numbers of teenage beneficiary 'breeders' and points out that there are twice as many women aged over 55 on the DPB as there are teens.

Colin Craig's comments yesterday about young Kiwi women being the most promiscuous in the world, while having some foundation in a five year old study by a condom manufacturer, almost certainly made Winston Peters look that much more appealing to Key. Claire Trevett and Audrey Young summarise the universally negative response from political parties in Promiscuity claim gets cold shoulder. The only party leader who didn't comment was Act's John Banks who is wisely keeping his mouth shut at the moment. No Right Turn suggests that it's not just beneficiaries who need to consider the consequences when they get into bed with someone - see: The risks of political promiscuity. For more on this issue, today's Press editorial is broadly supportive of the policy and makes some good points - see: Free contraception. Also, see the very good blog post On contraception and the Government by 'Merxplat', which argues that the controversial policy is being administered from within the welfare portfolio instead of health so as avoid the negative reaction of the Maori Party and others in the anti-abortion and contraception lobby.

The courtroom drama may be (mostly) over in the Urewera case but the fallout looks to continue for some time as apologies and compensation are demanded (see Patrick Gower's Tuhoe leaders want compensation; and Newswire's Give Tuhoe the Ureweras, MP says) and the inadequate law used may be amended (see Stuff's Key hints at terror act change after Urewera decision). Maybe the best explanation for why the Crown failed to prove there was a serious threat comes from a Tuhoe Chairperson, Patrick McGarvey, who says that Tame Iti is no criminal mastermind and in the past he struggled to get enough people for a working bee to clean up the Marae - see RNZ's Claim Tame Iti could not have organised a criminal group.

Asset sales are under threat from a new source as Iwi threatens lawsuit to halt power-asset sales. Despite the Government dismissing the challenge, Ngati Tuwharetoa is far from a radical fringe protest group but rather part of the Maori Establishment led by paramount chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu and 'supported by his sister-in-law Georgina te Heuheu, a former National Cabinet minister'. Meanwhile Labour is getting behind the petition to force a referendum on the sales - see: Labour hits road against partial asset sales.

At the same time, in Christchurch there are accusations that the government has asked for and received a list of council assets in order to apply pressure for sales to fund the re-build - see John Hartevelt's Assets eyed in revival of city.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Newswire reports that 2011 had the lowest number of work stoppages since reporting began in 1986 (although 2012 is almost certain to show an increase) - see: Work stoppages hit record low. Meanwhile Tau Henare's private members bill to force unions to hold secret ballots before taking strike action has been passed. Unions are concerned that employers will use the law as a legal weapon against striking workers - see: Isaac Davison's Unions will need secret ballot before strikes under new bill.

* On the surface it looks like quite a contradiction between Otago University's study on poverty which concludes Low income households less likely to move up scale and research commissioned by Treasury which appears to say the complete opposite - see: Low incomes usually short term - study. Perhaps it's the way you ask the question? A recent Taranaki Daily News editorial looks at ex-Prime Ministerial perks and concludes 'Something is not right. We are struggling through the worst financial period in 80 years, the responsibility for which falls largely on the well-groomed shoulders of the wealthy, the selfish and the greedy... Either way it's hard to escape the conclusion that the wealthy will look after themselves and their mates while leaving the rest of us to go down with the ship. Such a good message to spread in hard times' - see: Two for me, one for you.... Such concerns about inequality will also be fired up by stories such as this John Hartevelt's $830,000 health salary.

* Not often one to go out on a limb, David Shearer has taken a plunge into supporting gay marriage - no doubt inspired by US President Barack Obama's historic declaration in favour - see: Hayden Donnell's Labour leader (almost) supports gay marriage. Blogger, No Right Turn has commented with Obama backs equality and Shearer rises to the challenge.

* Finally, the Twittersphere is still a largely untapped source of political commentary and information. Among the most interesting elements for NZ politics so far, are some of the brilliant politician Twitter parodies. Until recently, the best by far has been the parody of Don Brash - but this was recently put to rest - see: Toby Manhire's @DrBrash, retweet in peace. But, fear not, we now have a parody Colin Craig on Twitter, with 200 followers, and a tagline of: 'Likes God. Hates sluts. Loves strong and long applause. Completely indistinguishable from parody'. But if you want the genuine thing, see the real Colin Craig, who has 332 followers and the tagline 'Leader of The Conservative Party of New Zealand. Someone, like you, who wants a better long term future for our country...'

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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