Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Shearer hits right note

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Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

David Shearer seems to have finally hit the right note with his education policy announcements, at least for many of his critics on the left. Although they like the policies themselves, most praise is reserved for Shearer adopting specific and direct policies on issues that the Government is increasingly vulnerable on.

'Smart' is Danyl Mclauchlan's verdict in his blog post, A slightly more substantive take on Labour's education policy. He says, 'It serves the dual function of engaging with National in an area where they are vulnerable - daft policies, ambitious, egomaniacal Minister - but also sells Shearer to core Labour voters and party members after a pretty terrible six months that left his future as Party leader in doubt'.

There are many other similar expressions of support, especially on the Standard Anthony Robins' Education, evidence, and a tale of two leaders but also from the likes of Darryl Evans from Mangere Budgeting Services who says that currently lunches are being stolen by kids in schools, 'Not because they're naughty but because they're hungry' - see Danya Levy's Key in poverty 'la la land'.

At the same time there is a growing acknowledgement that 'National is vulnerable on education after the class-sizes backdown and because any reform it is keen on is opposed by the teaching sector. It is also potentially vulnerable on poverty' - see Grant Miller's Manawatu Standard analysis, Shearer hits at Nats' weak spot.

Headlines such as: Child poverty costs NZ $10b a year - expert, together with an almost daily news feature and a series of hammer blows to regional employment shows that Shearer certainly has plenty of material to work with.

While copying Hone Harawira's most memorable lines could be very problematic at times, Shearer's 'feed the kids' theme is actually lifted from what was probably Harawira's best line of the last election, also used on a Mana party campaign billboard, and the actual policy is a scaled back version of Harawira's Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools private member's bill submitted just last week.

The change comes amidst the departure of John Pagani as Labour Party strategist. Pagani has not been universally admired within the party, see Danyl Mclauchlan's Exit Pagani, pursued by a bear, or further back Kiwiblog.

To outsiders on the right, the suspicion with which the Paganis - wife Josie was a Labour candidate turned media commentator of late - are viewed by many in Labour is perplexing: 'The pigeon-holing of the Paganis as coming from the right of the party has occurred despite the fact they were founder members of Jim Anderton's New Labour Party, which split from Labour in protest over the policies of then Finance Minister Roger Douglas, and were prime movers in the left wing political party, the Alliance' - see Pattrick Smellie's Labour insider John Pagani moves to NZOG. And Jane Clifton puzzles why the Paganis are being added to the growing list of internal threats: 'now the real enemy is apparently the Labour establishment itself' - see: The enemies of the New Zealand Labour party. A look back at the Alliance's 1993 manifesto would probably show that it is the Paganis' views that have transformed over the last 20 years, and that the latest move to shill for the mining industry is consistent with that long-term trend.

Arguments that Shearer's initial advisers were on the wrong track are growing after Labour's ex-chief of staff, Stuart Nash, criticised Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality bill as a 'side-issue' that took the focus off more important issues - see Stuart Nash's guest blog post, Concentrating On The Issues That Matter. The blog Ideologically Impure was one of many unimpressed with the logic - see: Labour dudes: shut up please and let Louisa Wall lead you to victory. This was an issue that had clear and consistent support from two-thirds of voters in polling and which the Prime Minister fell into line with very quickly. If you don't even know when you are winning, then ultimate victory will always be a long way off.

Other recent important or interesting political items include:
The decision to cancel regional elections in Canterbury relies on 'the reasoning of dictators and the problems of the earthquakes to deny us democracy. It does not trust the voters' says the Press editorial, Black day for democracy in Canterbury and the nation. The Press has also published a feature story by John Crone asking whether the Government's current management of the Christchurch rebuild is 'just a cunning strategy to get rid of the old "people's republic of Christchurch" and create a new corporate-run town? - see: The business of NZ Inc.

There was a lot build-up and reporting from the APEC meeting in Vladivostok, but nothing much actually seemed to happen. There are only so many ways you can work 'Pussy Riot' into a story about trade negotiations. The alternatives seem to be writing about: your hotel, waiting three hours to glimpse Putin, the buffet, bridges or interviewing your laptop about why nothing is happening. One common theme seemed to be how trade deals are being used by both the US and China to gain dominance over each other. Gordon Campbell, who has described most of the New Zealand media reporting of APEC as 'indistinguishable from a DPMC press handout', had probably the best analysis of the summit's real significance and how the Trans Pacific Partnership is where the real deals are being done - see: On APEC, and its significance for the TPP talks.

Paula Bennett is a stealth radical says Matthew Hooton - see: Bennett's quiet welfare revolution'.

Are we better than that? Danya Levy reports on a celebrity video opposing legislation to intern theoretical asylum seekers arriving by boat - see: Entertainers attack NZ boat people law. View the 'We are better than that' video.

Hone Harawira's use of the Malcolm X term 'house nigger' certainly got him some headlines, as well as support from some unusual sources. Many media outlets deemed it too offensive to say or print, although others seemed to have no qualms about repeating the phrase. Saying it and intelligently discussing it are two different things however, says blogger Mark Hubbard: 'the mindless reportage on this is due to the way our mainstream media is only capable of feeling about issues and emoting on them, anymore, rather than thinking on issues within a framework of politick and philosophy' - see: Language: Hone Harawira's Use of 'Nigger' in New Zealand Politics.

Even Michael Laws strongly defended Harawira's right to use the phrase, but couldn't resist the ultimate insult at the end: 'Even Hone. He's a kept man: we keep him. He's in the big House now. What does that make you, bro?' - see: Hone's ghetto language belies his mainstream taming.

The front runners to be the new Speaker of the House are, apparently David Carter, Maurice Williamson and - don't laugh - Tau Henare. Henare's campaign for the job has hit quite a big bump though - see John Armstrong's Henare not up to the job, indicates PM. That Henare can even consider he has a chance points to discipline problems in the National caucus says Cameron Slater (who has multiple blog posts on the contest): 'Joyce has created an environment where MPs are actively talking about options like Tau has taken, grabbing whatever they can, knowing that under MMP Joyce can't afford MPs crossing the floor. With no prospect of a promotion or a big job to look forward to, MPs become embittered and start wondering how they can cause problems. My sources are telling me that more problems are going to pop up' - see The Race for Speaker, Ctd and The Race for Speaker, Ctd.

The hit and run workings of one of our great legal minds is revealed by Steve Braunias in The secret diary of Judge Raoul Neave.

Finally, Andrew Geddis (currently in the US) has come across 'what may be the single greatest letter ever written by any sportsperson', written by Chris Kluwe, the punter for the Minnesota Vikings NFL team - see: They Won't Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster. The language is from the Hone Harawira school of political oration but it obliterates the target completely and utterly.

- 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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