Saturday, September 13, 2008


Sorry not to be down with the talking points but I hated this 'trust' line as an election 'theme' from the begining. I'd much rather Labour run on, oh I don't know, some policy initiatives???? But this morning's SMH helped reinforce this for me. Helen Clark has called an election they note

THE New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has taken a leaf out of John Howard's book, calling an election and immediately defining it as being about trust.

Then they explain why Australian readers may find the line familiar

When he announced Australia's 2004 election, Mr Howard said: "This election, ladies and gentlemen, will be about trust." He asked voters to trust him with the economy and interest rates and in the fight against terrorism.

Now I've been banging on in private about the parallels between Clark and Howard for ages. If you want to learn about the condition of Labour in two months time you could I believe do a lot worse than reading Judith Brett's account of Howard's demolition derby with the Australian Liberal Party. Or if you can get your hands on Black Inc's "Best Australian Political Writing 2008" read Pamela Williams article "A Right Royal Mess: How Howard led Libs into chaos"

If you want to test this analogy though, listen to Peter Costello who is all over the Fairfax papers today spruiking his book. Can't find it online but here is his assessment of Howard from the SMH magazine Good Weekend

Leadership is not only about winning; it is also about departing. ...

Unlike Menzies, Howard never managed a transition. He did not accomplish generational change.

After the best economic record of any Australian goverment and after an Age of Prosperity from a golden era of continuous economic growth, the Coalition was defeated in the spring of 2007. We lost because we failed to renew. We mismanaged generational change. We did not arrange the leadership transition. The electorate did it for us.

Sound like anyone we know?

Not to be outdone the Australian has more Costello

Howard identified the interests of his party with his own. After so many years at the top, separating the two became difficult.

At the peak of his power, it was difficult to disagree with that assessment.


Steve Withers said...

Time will tell whether your assessment is a valid one. Labour's policy is already out there and implemented, so announcing new policy isn't what I would expect.

I can see the "trust" line being based on what they have already done and asking for approval of that and continuation of the same.

Labour could have handled the environmental debates better, but that was always going to be hard with the proprietors of both Fairfax and APN newspaper chains hostile to climate change and emissions trading schemes. Their local monopolies in virtually all towns - small or large in NZ provides a powerful platform for what they want people to think....and obstructing or distorting or dismissing conflicting information and views.

This is true of many issues over the past few years. Benson-Pope's tennis ball and other trivialities were blown into major issues by these media outlets anxious to see National leading a government.

I make these points in order to place in context the view we derive of Helen Clark from these media outlets.

I suspect we've been fed rubbish about Clark for a long time now, going right back to the "speeding to see the rugby" furore and before.

As far as succession goes, Clark is not an old woman or a woman past the peak of her powers. Many who lead governments take office for the first time at an age greater than she is now.

Likely successors are Phil Goff, David Cunliffe and Shane Jones, at the very least. Labour is not short on talent.....though I'm sure some of them could use a long rest. Government is very demanding.

I see nothing in the National Party worth voting for. They are enemies of MY democracy, with a policy that could see my vote that counts taken away in pursuit of their partisan interests.

That has always been the National Party in experience: putting their own interests ahead of everyone else's and mistaking them for the interests of the entire country.

That particular confusion is a permanent state of being for John Key's party.....whether Labour suffers from it at times or not.

Andrew D said...

I don't see how a long term goverment, one that many people are growing tired of, can beat off an (apparently) attractive new leader on the other side by running on its record. Particularly when the opposition promises to retain all of the government's most popular policies. Running on the record was precisely the approach of the Howard goverment to the policy me-tooism of Rudd Labor in Australia last year and it failed miserably.

Although I agee that the question of Clark's age does not arise, her term as leader is actually considerably longer than Howard's and her personal power in the party is very great.

I do think that Labour has adressed the question of generational change to some degree in selections this year but the failure to do so at the last election now looks like an enormous strategic error. One that was obvious to outside observers at the time.

But don't listen to me Labour has my vote in any case I'm just an unhappy true believer. Maybe 'trust' will win them over in the heartland.