Saturday, 27 September 2014

What now?

By the time I post this, I suspect David Cunliffe will no longer be the leader of the Labour Party.  He's on his way into a conference with the party's governing council, and he's called a press conference for afterwards.  Those are not great omens.

As I said on election night, I'm indifferent to whether Cunliffe, or Robertson, or Shearer, or Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh is the leader.  I don't particularly like Cunliffe and I think he comes over as arrogant and (unlike most people) I think he did badly in the debates, waving his hands about and trying to shout over Key and being poorly prepared for blindly obvious attacks.

But when the talent pool is as small as Labour's is, you can't really go about changing your leader every five minutes.  It's  a measure of how few options Labour have that some people are seriously talking about bringing back David Shearer for another shot.  One wonders, what are thinking?  One wonders, what dead animal will he present to parliament this time?

People seem to be fixated on the importance of the leader.  Cunliffe's advocates seemed to think - I remember the conversations on The Standard - that his elevation to the top job would see the party surge to above 40%.  Quite seriously.

I don't blame Cunliffe for the debacle on Saturday night.  It would be beyond the ability of even the most profoundly useless leader - and Cunliffe is/was not profoundly useless - to accomplish that feat, and in just eleven months.

Labour were up against a dreadful political perfect storm - incumbency, a growing economy (though watch this space), the miasma of Dirty Politics which prevented the party getting their own campaign underway, and the profoundly difficult issue that they were massively behind in the polls.  Floating voters obey the laws of gravity.  They will tend to be drawn towards the greater mass.  I'm no mathematician, but I think 45% is bigger than 25%.  And their own overwhelming, systematic incompetence.  Let that never be forgotten.  Like who thought it was a good idea to announce the New Zealand Inc policy - which was interesting and important - on the same day as Dotcom's Big Reveal?

If there is one issue that should always be front and centre of every single Labour campaign it is education.  I'm trying to think of times when it was mentioned in the campaign.  I'm struggling.  I'm sure it was but ... Not exactly with feeling.  It is one issue that the left own and on which National is eternally vulnerable - charter schools!  Novopay!  Classes of over 40!  Branding children losers at 6!  And it is the Great Issue that unites left and centre - because everyone, pretty much, sends their kids to school, or employs people that have been through school.

Now we have an ACT associate minister of education, who will likely be used to front for every hideous policy National want to inflict on New Zealand.  He won't mind the opprobrium heaped on him - he's safe in Epsom, where people are hardly likely to oppose charter schools or bulk funding or support teachers' unions.  It's looking grim for the rest of us, however.  While mouthing sweet nothings over child poverty, Key's government will push through changes that will gut the education system and reinforce the pattern of inter-generational poverty, failure and despair that has blighted New Zealand since the 80s.

I don't care if David Cunliffe is still Labour leader in half an hour's time.  Because it doesn't matter who is.  Until the party sorts out it's prodigious crap mountain, whoever leads it is never going to be Prime Minster.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Election 2014!! The live, rolling, increasingly intoxicated Post From Hell

7.00 - Drinking red (naturally) wine.  A 2011 Mt hector Pinot Noir.  Very nice it is too - likely the last nice thing I may experience for the next couple of hours.  We're doomed, I tell you, doomed!  And if we're not doomed, we may be in even bigger trouble.  Imagine if the person who scheduled the NZ Inc. announcement for the same day as Dotcom's Big Disappointment gets a hand on the levers of power ...

So I am NOT anticipating a good night.  I expect John Key's corrupt, incompetent government to be returned for another three years.  This prospect is, of course, terrible.  The only thing worse might be if it includes ACT.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining.  The next few months should see the slow motion destruction of John Key's reputation and his government's exposure as a bunch of miserable, self-serving conniving liars as Dirty Politics continues to corrode.  By 2017, even the most vindictive lefties and stalwart Tories will be desperate to see National put out of its misery.

So let's get on with it ..

7.01 - Nothing too bad so far.  Other than Mike Hosking.  Which is quite bad enough, really.

7.04 - Will this be a 2005 election, where Labour start miles behind and slowly fights its way back, or like 2008 and and 2011, where Labour starts behind and stays behind?

If it is like the last two, we can put the myth of the mighty Labour vote in South Auckland to bed once and for all - whatever happened in 2005 must have been a once-off.

7.05 - Mike Hosking officially says something stupid, wondering if Labour 'might' increase their share of the vote from 19% of early votes.  took him just five minutes.  Which is probably an improvement.

7.10  Early numbers show the Nats on 50.9% with 3.5% counted ... Are they about to dip under 50%? that's a pretty quick falling away.  A percent off for every percent counted.  Long may it continue!

7.13 - Nats on 50%, falling fast.  Dare I say they will end up on 40%?

7.16 - A majority of the 7.2% of votes counted reject John Key!  There is hope for the nation!

7.19 - The conservatives are hovering about 4.6%.  In the interests of democracy, I'd rather the they got 5.1% rather than 4.9%.  I hate to see votes wasted, even when they are for ridiculous parties.  I'd much prefer to see then get no votes at all, of course.

7.23 - If this is going to be a 2005 election, then National could be in trouble.  In 2005, Labour started very far behind (just like tonight) and dragged it back at 1% per 10% counted.  If that happens tonight, then Labour will be comfortably above 30%.  Of course, that didn't happen in 2008 and 2011, so the odds are it won't happen ...

7.24 - Mike Hosking must have almost choked on that grudging praise for Cunliffe - "A better opponent" than anticipated!  Piss off, Mike!

7.29 - National on 48.6, so falling away nicely.  But where is it going?  Labour seem stuck on 23.5%.

19.31 - 431 people in Epsom have voted for Christine Ranking (thus far)?  Oh dear.

19.37 - Mike Hosking is a national embarrassment.

19.42 - Has everyone stopped counting?  We've been stuck about 15% for yonks.

19.50 - Just piss off, Mike Hosking, with your inane right-wing, biased unprofessional bleating.

19.56 - Ahahahahahaha.  One of Hosking's studio commentators just tried to mention Nick Hager.  Hosking immediately tried to cut him off and then terminated the conversation.  What a dick.

20.04 - Count, New Zealand!

20.08 - Percentage counted is starting to move again.  18.2% in.  Unfortunately, National are still stubbornly above 48%.  Have they not read the script?

20.10Greens are in ‘Desperate trouble’ according to Hosking. I think I might be complaining, tomorrow, when the hangover clears.  They've actually just topped 10%, so building nicely.

20.17 - Insanely, National's vote is going UP as more votes are counted.  Only very marginally, from about 48.4% to 48.5% - but it is still abhorrent and wrong and entirely at odds with the Laws of Electoral Physics.

20.20 - Labour might FINALLY be about to trip over 24%.  EDIT - That was based on TV1 figures.  But the official Election Results website still has them stuck below what TV1 is showing.

20.27 - According to the Election results website, National's share of the vote is climbing.  It's now at 48.57.  This is MADNESS!!

20.28 - 48.71%.

20.29 - 48.75%

20.32 - 48.81% ... Then 48.79% ... THE TIDE HAS TURNED!!

20.33 - Unfortunately, Labour are also going backwards.  23.70%.

20.34 - National 48.83.  Damn it, I said THE TIDE HAS TURNED!!  Listen to me, New Zealand.

20.35 - National collapse to 48.75%.  Mwahahahahaha!  The rout commences!  I'm going to stop doing this now ...

20.40 - So, a quarter of the votes have been counted.  National are sitting on 48%.  Labour are mired on 23.5%.  The Greens and NZ First are both about 9-10%.  Mana will get 2 MPs on current figures.  Ditto Maori.  Obviously, that's good news for one party but not for the other.  Singletons for ACT and UF.

I'm prediciting the Labour and the Greens may get another 3%.  But hopes (or fears) of a grand coalition of the left are looking very faint.

20.43 - And no sooner do I post that than National's share of the vote goes up and Labour's goes down ... 48.84% versus 23.75%.  The horror!  The horror!

20.49  - National hit 49% of the party vote. (And then immediately drop back to 48.96% .. I feel like I'm being toyed with!)

20.51 - Michelle Boag sounds sane compared to Mike Hosking.

20.52 - National plummet to 48.90%!!  They are being driven from the field in total disorder!!

21.00 - We have a third of the vote in now.  National are still riding very high at 48.9% of the vote.  Labour are sinking, slowly.  And everything else is as it was 20 minutes ago, when we had a fifth in.  Once we get up to half way, I think we may see a bit of movement in the left vote.  Upwards movement, I mean.  But by that point, the amount of vote left to effect a change with will be very, very small.

21.04 - Colin Craig doesn't like "the system" - presumably he means MMP.  Does he actually believe he would be doing better under First Past The Post?

21.06 - Internet Mana have just vanished from the Election Results website 'Sets' column.  Davis must be sneaking ahead.  I think Harawira will get there in the end, but it is carnage out there.  Carnage.

21.10 - National only getting 62 seats, down from 62 a moment ago.  Unfortunately, that's at least 10 too many.  Labour finally creep up to 31 seats.  31.

21.12 - Election Results website has half the results in.  Nothing has changed.  National still just under 49%.  Labour just under 24%.  Yes, you read that right.  Twenty four per cent.  Greens and NZ First both under 10%.  Conservatives and IMP heading to the dustbin of history.

21.16 - It's 2011 all over again.  Only with (thus far) less voting for the left.

21.18 - 55.9% counted and Labour mustering up some courage and edging up to the big bad 24% mark ...

21.22 - Whatever the final result in Te Tai Tokerau, I did say that linking up with Kim Dotcom was a very bad idea.  I'm rather sad that I'm being proven right.

21.24 - National currently able to govern alone, assuming the Conservatives don't enjoy a late surge.

21.25 - Labour teeters on the edge at 23.96% of the vote!  Come on!  You can do it!

21.26 - 24%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Next goal!  Matching Phil Goff's 27.48%!!

21.27 - 24.02%!  The Long March has started!  Onwards to victory!

21.30  - Labour negatively surge to 23.95%  A cunning flanking move that will leave National nonplussed!

21.36 - On a more serious note, Labour seem to have moved decisively across the 24% boundary.  Yay!!  Almost 1 in 4 voting New Zealanders was not totally repelled by Labour!!  And National are sinking like a very light, floaty stone, all the way down to 48.67%!  This is massive and John Key really must resign.  Right now.

21.36 - Some (comparatively) serious movement with the Labour numbers now.  24.19%.  Cunliffe might just get enough to hang on.

21.42 - National now definitely trending downwards.  Labour moving upwards.  Too little, too late, with 75% counted.  How could the left have screwed this up so badly?

21.54 - greens building, slowly.  They need to get to 12%, or 13% for respectabilty.  I think they will make it, because once the conservative wasted vote is taken out, they'll have a bigger share of the leftovers, and specials and so on.

22.07 - Well, at least we can discard the comforting myth of the 'big urban centres coming in late.'  Guess what?  Whoever swung it for Labour late in the day in 2005 isn't there any more.  If they were, they'd have shown up tonight.  They've managed to do worse than in 2011 and they had almost everything going in their favour.  And.  They.  Blew.  It.

22.14 - If ... IF ... Hone survives in Te Tai Tokerau ... Perhaps he'll realise the link up with the Internet Party was utterly stupid.  He could have done it by himself.  Perhaps - just perhaps - he might have brought another MP with him.  He could have looked to being the main party of the Maori seats.  But.  He.  Also.  Blew.  It.

22.26 - So, should David Cunliffe resign?  I don't care.  This isn't about Cunliffe.  If every single vote that was lost between 2011 and 2014 was lost because of Cunliffe, it was hardly important.  There is a deeper issue here than who fronts at PMQs.  Cunliffe is perfectly adequate (as Shearer was perfectly adequate, and Goff was perfectly adequate)  but he is leading a party that is intent on self destruction.

Arguing with the leftier left for the last three years over on the Standard, I've become unhappily convinced there is a curious self destructive urge on the left.  They are so possessed by hatred of the middleclasses that they have lost sight of the real enemy.

Please, just accept, that middle classes are people too, and Social Democrats are as viable members of the Labour party as Socialists. Stop fighting them. Look where it has got you. 24%. Outstanding.

YOU CAN NOT WIN WITH OUT THE CENTRE.

There are enough sane, decent, middle class, who can be united with the working class to win every election. They are not the enem.

Remember the 99% vs the 1%?

22.35 - Laila Harre gets to oversee the destruction of another party.  Three hours ago I had respect for her.  Now she's successfully destroyed two leftwing parties.

22.38 - On a more positive note, ACT have only 0.68% of the vote.  Over 99% of New Zealanders are not insane.

22.42 - Labour make a late surge to 24.5%!!!  It ain't over until the fat lady sings!

22.46 - OMG!! I'd completely forgotten about the contest in Palmerston North, between Iain Lees Galloway and Jono Naylor.  It turns out that - against the odds - I've managed to be on the winning side in at least one election in 2014.  Normal service will be resumed shortly, I'm sure ... Lees-Galloway won, comfortably, and given the current state of theparty must be wondering if he might be in charge in 2017.  It isn't a ery broad, or deep, talent pool.

22.49 - Cunliffe stayed put for ages.  He must have been watching the percentages to see if he could survive.  What was his 'hang on' figure??????????????????????  Surely not 24.5%??

23.03 Obviously, it was 24.5%.

23.10 - National currently on 61 seats, but that's including (I think) the conservatives in the equation and not including special votes.  They might still get pushed down below 50% ... It is a measure of how disappointing this night has been that the idea of National being denied the chance to govern alone feels like a victory.

23.19 - Judith Collins retuned with a majority of almost 5000.  The icing on tonight's cake of shit.

23.37 - Bloody Hell.  Keys forcing me to crack open the scotch.

23.44 - Actually, with more time to consider the strategic situation, the return of Collins to the front bench is the best outcome we can hope for … Should make 2017 a walk in the (red) park.

23.47 - As if the night could not get any worse, I've jsut realised Mike Hosking has been proven right all down the line.  Disaster for Labour.  Disaster for Mana.  Disaster for the Greens.  Triumph for Hosking.

23.50 - Mana polled 5 times as much as United Future.  The Conservatives polled EIGHTEEN times more than United Future.  guess which party gets an MP?

The Big Man

So, Alex Salmond has announced he will step down as First Minister of Scotland.  This is, of course, being presented as throwing his toys and peevish behaviour following the independence referendum and the defeat of the 'Yes' campaign.

Which is an odd reaction, given the blind panic that has been the defining feature of the 'No' campaign for the last fortnight or so, ever since the polls started to narrow and it became to look like 'Yes' might just make it.

Credit where it is due. His goal was to give the people of Scotland a chance to decide if they wanted to be independent or not. He achieved his goal. He could have continued to lord it over the Scottish parliament for years to come, but has decided to step aside. He's shown himself to be what, in Scotland, we'd call a big man.  Not just a tough guy or a hard man, but someone who can take knocks as well as giving them out.  William McIlvaney wrote a book with that title, exploring the strange permutations of Scottish macho.

Salmond's dignity in defeat an example David Cameron might consider following in victory.  Only, it is unlikely Cameron has half an iota of Salmond's principle.

But Cameron, of course, has shown he has neither principle or backbone.  He used to glory in a 'Flashman' reputation.  He tried to play the big man, as a Tory would imagine a big man - acting like a strutting peacock, a loud-mouth bully at PMQs, scoffing at anyone who dared to, you know, ask him a question that wasn't about how fabulous David Cameron and his shabby government was.  it was a disgaceful display of arrogance but it allowed the clueless Cameron to bluster his way out of tight corners the uselessness of the his ministers and his own blinkered inadequacy got himself into, week after week.

(Aided, it must be acknowledged, but the profound uselessness that is commonly referred to as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.)

Cameron's Flashman alter-ego dominated the early stages of the referendum debate, trying to rig it by insisting on a Yes / No option because he was feart (good Scots word) of the likely widespread support for enhanced devolution.  But when that seemed to be about to blow up in Flashie's face, the swaggering toff revealed his true colours, magnificently soiled himself, blubbed (while muttering threats) and ignominiously rushed into offering the things he had tried to keep off the negotiating table in the first place, promising at all sorts of new powers for the Scottish parliament and ponies for everyone.

Such unstatesmanlike behaviour might have been worth it - just - if it had bought time for Cameron to lick some wounds and rebuild his shattered reputation and credibility.  But Cameron, having been humiliated in the North, has another arduous electoral ordeal to endure.

He must now face the UKIP in the south, where Douglas Carsewell's defection and resignation (another man of principle, Mr Carsewell) means the UKIP will likely gain their first MP and Cameron will have to deal with a devastating defeat.

Like King Harold of Hastings fame (only less noble and impressive and without that man's legitimate claim to power) Cameron must charge from one end of the kingdom to the other to fight swarming enemies intent on his destruction. Like Harold, he has been fatally weakened by the battle in the North and will meet nemesis in the south.

Unlike Harold, he won't be remembered in history as a bold man brought down by overwhelming odds, but as a fool who engineered his own destruction.

Salmond - a bit of a joke for as long as I can remember - proved himself to be a big man in the end, both in delivering on his promises, fighting a brave campaign, and accepting the dashing of his life's hopes with dignity.  Cameron has been revealed to be very, very small, and the process of reduction of Flashman to Flash-in-the-Pan is not even over.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Prediction

Following my discovery that other people are allowed to vote in this election thing that is going on - and here I was thinking all the fuss was about me and my vote and nothing else - I have decided the rest of you should vote in the following way:

  • Nat 43%
  • Labour 27.5%
  • Greens 13%
  • NZF 7% 
  • Con 4%
  • IMP 2% and holding Te Tai Tokerau
  • Maori 1.5% but holding two Maori seats 
  • ACT, UF <1 but="" each="" electorates="" holding="" li="">

Which, if it comes to pass, will give us:

  • National 54
  • Labour 34
  • Greens 16
  • NZ First 9
  • Mana 3
  • Maori 2
  • ACT 1
  • UF 1

Which gives the Labour Green bloc 50 MPs, and the National-ACT bloc 55.

So it comes down, preditably, to Which way NZ First will jump.  I would assume he would go with National as the largest party - but Winston has been making sufficient noises to make me wonder if he would sooner play the role of constructive opposition, allowing him to make a lot of noise and exert influence while not being embroiled in what I suspect will be a massively unpopular government.

Obviously, the exclusion of the Conservative Party will be significant.  If they do manage to scrape in at 5%, that changes everything, utterly.  Even though I dislike everything about them, from Colin Craig' silly alliterative name to their policies, I would actually prefer them to do that - I don't like wasted votes.  Ideally, the 5% threshold should go.  If New Zealanders want to vote for silly parties, then they can have a silly parliament.  In the meantime, I don't like the idea of people's views being excluded, even if I disagree with them, because of a stupid rule.

UF and Maori Party are also up for grabs, I think - they might tend to National but I think they could support a Labour lead goverment.  And if Mana can't be partof a Labour lead government - a very short sighted decision by Cunliffe - they can perhaps still play a positive role through confidence and supply arrangements - a position they might enjoy as much as Peters would.

You notice I don't mention the Internet Party.  If Harre makes it into parliament, I wouldn't be surprised if the Internet Party simple dissolves itself into Mana.  Dotcom will not find it useful for his continued efforts to avoid justice.

So, sadly, it looks like tomorrow will result in a period of anarchy, possibly leading to the Zombie Apocalypse.

Decision

I am pleased to announce that, after much consideration, I will be casting my electorate vote in Palmerston North for Mr Iain Lees-Galloway.

Deciding on my party vote proved much harder.

In 2002 and 2005, I voted for the Alliance - the first time in the hope of putting a couple of left wing MPs into parliament if Harre won Waitakere electorate (she didn't), and the second time out of sheer perversity, as I abhorred the direction the Labour Party was taking.

In 2008, I refused to cast a meaningful vote at all, defacing my ballot paper.  At the time, Labour's Free trade Agreement with China was enraging me; and no party that would support a government that endorsed it would receive my vote.

In 2011, I voted Mana, as I agreed with Harawira's relentless focus on child poverty.  I hope the new party might muster enough support to put two MPs into parliament and I wanted to signal my dis-satisfaction with the continued vacillations of the main leftwing parties.

This year, the situation was complicated by the Mana-Internet Party link up.  Put bluntly, Kim Dotcom is not one of us.  He is not on our side.  Everything about him - the flamboyant lifestyle, the massive mansion, the transparent attempts to buy influence, jars hideously with the core Mana message of eradicating child poverty.  This man has no interest in that.  He is interested only in himself, and everything he touches is tainted by the contact.  I tried to ignore all this and focus on the positives - Harawira, Sykes, Minto, Harre ... but it wasn't enough.  Sorry guys.  I told you at the time it was a bad idea.

Labour appealed, largely out of a sense of pity and a defiant urge to do the opposite of whatever Key, Ede, Slater and the rest of the corrupt Dirty Politics scum-bags wanted me to do.  They didn't want me to vote Labour, so it seemed like a good idea to do that.  Also, I felt that they deserved every iota of support going after the Dirty Politics revelations.  What better way to signal opposition for everything John Key has come to represent, the corruption, the venality, the gross indecency masquerading as honest comment, the glib, superficial and deeply cynical and nasty attitude, than by voting for the party most likely to replace him?  But Labour proved impossible to love.  They are far better at mutilating their chances of victory than National.  From Cunliffe's performances in the debates, which consisted of waving his hands about weirdly and trying to talk over Key (when the sensible strategy would have been to stand back, shake his head and look prime ministerial) to the hopelessly clueless decision to announce the promising New Zealand Inc policy on the same fucking day as Dotcom's big reveal, everything they have done has been clueless.  Hell, given three years notice of how Key would attack the (sane and sensible) Capital gains Tax policy, they were still flat-footed.  So a vote for Labour would be endorsing that inebriated stumbling performance.  ANd I couldn't do that.

Which left me with the Greens.  Who I have never voted for before, here or in Britain - largely because I do prioritise social issues over environmental ones (thought they are all social issues in the end).  But this year they offered the sanest policy I have ever heard in New Zealand politics - a new top rate of tax targeting income over $140,000.  And they wanted to use the money from it to tackle child poverty.  And on top of that, they have run the most sure-footed campaign of any of the left-wing parties.

So in 2014 I'll be giving my party vote to the Greens.

So that's that.  Russel and Meteria for joint PMs.  You can all calm down, I have decided ... What, you mean the rest of you lot get a vote as well?  What sort of fool system is this?

The Mail - merely mad, or essentially evil?

I think the Mail has actually gone clinically insane over Independence.

It's running a story titled "Salmond's bullies hit a blind man in the face - just for saying NO!" and referring to yes voters as 'separatists' who are likely to use 'menacing tactics' to intimidate and bully loyal unionists.

What a heap of shit it is. I wish I was in Scotland so I could vote Yes just to spite it.

And this visceral reaction makes me suspect think the Mail's relentless negative, personal and disgusting raving is a deliberate tactic to motivate people to vote YES, out of anger and contempt for its poison. After all, the Mail's owners' interests aren't served by having 45 extra Labour MPs in Westminster.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

David Cameron - Worst PM ever?

That is the question being asked at the top of the Independent's web site.  It links to a sterling blog post by Jean Paul Fauget, which is worth a read.  Fauget does, however, make one mistake in his ruminations.  He contends:
The colossal mistake, rather, was to not fight that contest himself – to fail to commit his government and the nation to its own self-preservation. By handing the campaign over to his political opponents on the assumption that he could never speak to the Scottish heart, it appeared – and he allowed us all to infer – that he did not care. He was too busy to keep the country together. He had more important things to do.
I think he's wrong there.

Cameron's mistake wasn't keeping out of the argument. That was probably his only smart move, because, well, you can't help but vote against Cameron, can you. Most of the Britons voting in 2010 voted against him, after all, and the Scots would naturally have done the same, because the man simply cries out to be voted against.

His mistake was telling the Scots it had to be a YES / NO referendum, with no option for enhanced devolution. That, understandably, got a lot of people's backs up and as a result is prompting them to vote yes to independence.

After all, who (to use Cameron's favoured marriage metaphor) who would want to stay in a relation with such an arrogant, high handed buffoon?

And while on the topic of marriage, it's very weird that Cameron is tearfully threatening Scotland with a permanent divorce if they vote for independence now.

Why should that be? What's to stop the separate nations reunifying in the future, if both parties are willing? It happened before, after all.

He really is a dick.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Britain - doomed?

No, not because the unruly Scots won't learn to behave, but because useless Tories are in charge. Trade deficits are running at near record levels and this is not a good thing.

With the trade deficit widening, growth slowing, and unemployment still high, house prices still rising (but more slowly - which in itself is another worrying sign), we're doomed, frankly, and we might as well face up to it.
The trade in goods deficit – exports minus imports – widened to £10.2bn from £9.4bn in June, disappointing City expectations that the deficit would narrow to £9.1bn. 
It was almost matched the largest monthly deficit on record, which was £10.3bn in April 2012. 
The broader trade in goods and services deficit also widened in July, to £3.3bn from £2.5bn in June. The Office for National Statistics data showed a larger goods deficit in July driven by a £1.3bn rise in imports to £34.2bn, outpacing a £500m increase in exports to £24bn. 
Rising imports of fuel, chemicals and aircraft drove the deficit higher, while the rise in exports was driven by oil trade with non-EU countries and pharmaceutical exports. 
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research thinktank estimated separately that the UK economy grew by 0.6% in the three months to the end of August, suggesting the rate of growth is starting to slow.
Britain has been running a trade deficit for decades, of course, but the scale of it is the concern here.  It is simply too much, sustained for too great a period.  And Tories are in charge.  Which means it is time to buy beans and head for the hills.

(It's worth noting that the rise in exports was partly driven by oil sales - which belong to Scotland, of course.  Which might explain why the establishment is so fervently opposed to independence.  The Tories would rather have oil + 40 odd Scottish Labour MPs, than a Conservative hegemony over an utterly ruined, bankrupt country called England.  At least with oil, they can carry on keeping up appearances a little while longer. )

It's almost like exporting 90% of the manufacturing sector, closing don traditional heavy industries and failing to invest in modern light alternatives, neglecting potential growth markets in renewable energy tech and so on wasn't such a smart idea.  It is hard to run an economy based on serving coffee with flair and answering telephones.  Especially as it is cheaper to do the latter from India.

Still, it isn't all bad. Economists are still getting things wrong, so at least some of the Eternal Verities are intact.

And, yes, I know, I am relying on these same economists for the forecast of slowing growth.  Which makes me a hypocrite and a Bad Man.

Am I turning Tory?

Either I'm becoming old and conservative, or Peter Hitchens is starting to become less deranged, or something like that.

No matter.  In a shocking development, the Mail has actually printed a referendum story that isn't actually anti-independence. Further portents of the apocalypse are imminently expected.

Okay, it is only a opinion column, and it is more about how shoddy the 'No' campaign has been and about how Europe = evil, but it is a start. After running about a dozen anti-independence stories every day, we should be grateful for this limited acknowledgement that other opinions exist.

There must be some rule somewhere that at least 1% of the stories must cover an alternate viewpoint ...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I was, of course, completely right

According to a new book by Naomi Klein, described in the Guardian, it turns out that Richard Branson's much publicised attempts to green his humungeous planet wrecking fleet of aircraft was just hot air.

(See what I did there?)

I, of course, predicted just such a possibility back in 2008 when Branson announced his conversion to unrelenting self publicity saving the planet.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore. 
Branson went on to found a $25m Earth prize for a technology that could safely suck 1bn tons of carbon a year from the atmosphere. In 2009, he set up the Carbon War Room, an NGO which works on business solutions for climate change. 
But by Klein’s estimate, Branson’s “firm commitment” of $3bn failed to materialise. 
“So the sceptics might be right: Branson’s various climate adventures may indeed prove to have all been a spectacle, a Virgin production, with everyone’s favourite bearded billionaire playing the part of planetary saviour to build his brand, land on late night TV, fend off regulators, and feel good about doing bad,” Klein writes in This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs The Climate.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Three reasons for Scotland to vote YES! (Warning - content may disturb)


In a last ditch effort to save / destroy the union, Westminster has sent Cameron, Clegg and Milliband - all English -  on a desperate mission to persuade Scots that they are not dominated, patronised and bossed about by the English.

Franklin ship found

Not really political news at at.

But the story of the Franklin expedition for the Northwest passage, which vanished into the ice in the mid nineteenth century, has always been quite my favourite tale of exploration and cannibalism.

There's a wee bit of a New Zealand connection as Mount Erebus is named after one of the two Franklin ships, rather than directly named for the Greek god of the underworld.

And now it seems the Canadians have managed to find one of the ships from his voyage.


Well done, chaps.!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ultimate weapon

The 'No' camp have deployed Gordon Brown.

I suppose, after saving the world, preserving the union should be an afternoon's work for the Great Man.

Let's hear it for Hone

The election is about two minutes away, and I still haven't decided who I'll vote for.  Last time, I voted Mana.  This time, I'm struggling to see past the large shadow of Kim Dotcom.  Yeah, you can put Hone Haraira and Laila Harre and Annette Sykes and John Minto on one side of the side of the scales - but Kim weighs heavily on the other side.  So probably not.

The Greens I like.  I particularly like their new tax plans.  Labour, well.  It's Labour.  I could vote Labour.  I was tending that way.  Either Labour or the Greens.  Probably Labour, mostly because Dirty Politics made me want to do the opposite of whatever Slater et al wanted me to do, and they didn't seem to want me to vote Labour.

Then Hone Harawira fires off one foul mouthed tirade and suddenly I'm all desperate to vote for him again.  Because who couldn't agree with the rage at the way a really important issue like child poverty is being sidelined by a campaign to legalise weed:
Why am I seeing all this shit about weed and so... f***** little about feed [Feed the Kids]... just because the Internet Party is keen on weed … and got all the money to spend on all this flash advertising shit is no reason why… the same people who are also supposed to be working for Internet-Mana aren’t doing the same kind of package for Feed the Kids.
I am ambivalent about legalising marijuana.  I can see that it is a colossal waste of police and court time.  I can see that it is utterly wrong to render swathes of the population - including an awful lot of Maori - criminal.  But at the same time, I see the effect that marijuana on young people every day in my job.  I know that it won't be legal for 13 year olds - but increasing its availability won't make it less common, will it?   I see numbed minds and personalities utterly blighted by this shit.  I'm with Hone for those reasons alone.

But I'm also with him because, while I'm ambivalent about weed, I'm totally not ambivalent about child poverty, another scourge that our selfish narrow politics tries to squeeze to the sidelines.  Harawira has always made it the central plank of his political platform, and for that, if nothing else, he's one of the most important voices in New Zealand politics.

Anything that moves this from the centre of the campaign is an irrelevant, frivolous distraction.

RIP The Career of Judith Collins

Before every election, I like to re-read Nick Hager's The Hollow Men, just to remind myself of the sort of behaviours the neo-right is capable of.  This year's reading has been delayed a bit because I've been busy reading another Hager tome, Dirty Politics.  Reading them simultaneously creates a rather jarring effect, as characters that loom large in one have (Matthew Hooton) virtually disappeared in the other; or minor players in one (Judith Collins and Jason Ede) emerge on a gargantuan scale in the sequel; or have changed from noble to ignoble, in the manner of Kathrine Rich.

It is worth noting that it was Brash's sacking of Rich in January 2005, that ushered in the Crusher.  Rich had failed to voice adequate support to the Dear Leader's psychotic views on beneficiaries, and so she lost her portfolios and front bench positions.  As Hagar notes, ""He gave the job to an MP called Judith Collins, whose views on welfare would have fitted comfortably into the ACT party."

Perhaps there was something of a portend there, if we had but known!  Collins would continue to prosper under Key, and this should have served as a warning to all that Key's sweet nothings about being a different sort of politician and rejecting the negativity and nastiness of Brash's tenure were worthless words of the hollowest of men.

But we didn't know, and we let the cheesy grin and gurning and the vague sense of likeable charm and h-doesn't-wear-shoes-as-he-pads-about-his-million-dollar-pad padding that passes as journalism bamboozle us.  And, it seems, will still let it work its sickly spell in a couple of week's time, since it seems no amount of dirt can quite besmirch Key's smug smile.

But, back to Judith Collins.  She plays only a very small part in The Hollow Men, rating just two entries in the index.  The first is the announcement of her promotion, above.  The second is a couple of pages later, when Bill English is so moved by her incompetence to send an email to Brash to express concern:
The email began by discussing two presentations that MP Judith Collins had made to the caucus, one on health policy and one on family.  'I thought the health presentation on caucus was awful,' he wrote, 'and I am told Judith's family presentation was worse.   I am not one the caucus complains to, except for today, so it must have been pretty bad.'
'There are a few lessons here,' he said.  Brash's strategy team had been 'pushing Judith [Collins] as a star' but she was a second year MP 'pushed beyond her capacity' into a hard portfolio and 'with an unfortunately high estimation of her own competence.'  Collins, 'with apparent backing from the top,' had 'spent too much time cultivating the media herself and believing the resulting publicity.  She will find it hard to recover her credibility in caucus where she has been a tough critic of her colleagues behind the scenes and they know it.'
It is spookily prescient.  A political bully who was backed from the top who mistook her bluster for brilliance and who pushed her further than her limited talent justified.  An rogue MP who clumsily attempted to manipulate the media to suit her own agenda.  An arrogant ideologue who seemed convinced of her own unerring power and righteousness - who cares about the means because the ends must be good, because they are my ends?

Such was The Crusher, a strange phenomenon that blighted New Zealand politics for a few years, her rise and fall neatly marked by the publication of Hager's two books.

If political careers had headstones, 'Pushed beyond her capacity' would probably do nicely for hers.

File under Scottish independence, further musings on

If you thought the New Zealand media was biased, you should have a look at the way the Daily Mail is covering the referendum on Scottish independence.

Today, there are EIGHT different stories on the Mail's webiste on the issue. Yesterday, I counted NINE.  They are all anti-Independence, and stridently so.  They are full of apocalyptic warnings and resort to personal attacks on Alex Salmond - and his wife (OMG!  His wife is 17 years older than he is!  Vote for the Union!).

(The Mail has a lot of form for targetting spouses - I'm sure I recall in the run up to the 2010 election, they featured a story in which they compared the attractiveness of the FEET of the partners of the main party leaders.  Yes, you read that right.  Their feet!  Probably, motivated by entirely objective journalism and nothing to do with humiliating Sarah Brown for having a crushed toe.)

I suspect the Powers That Be have realised Cameron will be totally diminished if he becomes the Prime Minister who oversaw the break up of the union.  It ill destroy the credibility of the Conservative party and - contrary to the claim that it will skew the elections south of the border in favour of the Conservatives, they will be out of power for years to come.  Even Ed Milliband will look statesman like compared to the Man Who Lost Scotland.

As independence is looking like a distinct possibility, Mass Panic is resulting in the right wing media. Which, ironically, will probably harden the Independence vote as I don't think many Scots will appreciate being told what to do by the English Mail.

Like all Scots, I'm phlegmatic on the issue.  Given a straight choice between independence and union, I' m probably more in favour of it than I am against it. I'd prefer enhanced devolution, but I don't trust Tories to deliver on vague, panicked promises.

So we might as well get it over with and whatever pain comes, comes. Obviously, the pain is academic for me, but my (staunchly Tory) family live in Scotland and are viewing the referendum as some sort of apocalypse.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

If we win we win, if we lose we win

Though I am Scottish, I haven't posted much (anything?) on the Scottish independence referendum because it is a) profoundly not important unless you are British, and b) the whole exercise was effectively rigged from the start, when the option of increased devolution was not included in the referendum options.

I'm possibly more inclined towards independence than the current arrangements.  But like most Scots (I suspect) I'd have preferred the option of maintaining the union but with more powers devolved to the Scottish parliament.

(It cost so much to build the damn thing, after all, that we might as well make the most of it.)

So this story, from the Guardian, is is a bit exciting:
Amid signs of panic and recrimination among unionist ranks about the prospects of a yes vote on 18 September, the Observer has learned that a devolution announcement designed to halt the nationalist bandwagon is due to be made within days by the anti-independence camp.

The plan, in the event of a no vote, is that people from all parts of Scottish society – rather than just politicians – would be invited to take part in a Scottish conference or convention that would decide on further large-scale transfers of power from London to Holyrood.

A poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times sent shockwaves through the political establishment north and south of the border as it showed the yes camp had 51% to 49% for no, excluding the don't knows. Better Together leader Alistair Darling said: "These polls can and must now serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thought the referendum was a foregone conclusion."
Obviously, it is one poll, and it is excluding a substantial number of undecided voters and only shows a knife-edge result which could go either way.  But it is still a landmark, and as the story suggests, even a defeat for the independence camp might deliver a significant victory for Alex Salmond.

I'm impressed by the democratic impact this is having.  Politicians, for the first time in recorded history, may actually be listening and accepting that opposing viewpoints can't simply be ignored forever.

The Unionists originally tried to rig the referendum by excluding the 'Enhanced devolution' option from the referendum, because they knew that would almost inevitably be the preferred choice.

Now they're so frightened by the possibility of losing - or winning marginally - the may be willing to give it away.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

David Cameron, fraudster, con man and general ne'er-do-well

One of the Coalition’s most unpopular and punitive policies is finally on track for abolition, after Labour and the Liberal Democrats united to vote against the bedroom tax.   
MPs voted by 304 to 267 for a Bill, brought in by a backbench Lib Dem MP Andrew George, to limit the scope of the policy which penalises council tenants who are deemed to have more rooms than they need. 
... 
Despite the efforts of Government whips to get Tory MPs into Parliament to oppose Mr George’s Bill, about 70 Conservative MPs were absent, while all but a handful of Labour MPs and 52 out of 55 Lib Dem MPs, including four Cabinet ministers – Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Alistair Carmichael – and the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, voted against the Government. 
Link
If, by the time you read this, David Cameron has not resigned as Prime Minister, as an MP, he should (if he has any principles at all) report to the nearest police station and demand the officers on duty to arrest him.

If he doesn't do that, he is liable to immediate arrest and all citizens of Britain should be on the look out for this confidence trickster.

Because if he continues to maintain that he is the Prime Minister, leads anything that resembles a government, or enjoys the confidence of parliament, or the respect of his own party, he is a fraudster.

Stray morning thought on the UKIP's prospects

I must say that the more I think of Douglas Carsewell's defection to the UKIP, the more it seems like a a game changer.

Up until now I've been of the opinion that the UKIP will fade away as we move closer to the election, and return a comparatively underwhelming 10% or 12% or whatever, and maybe one or two seats.

With Carsewell's defecting - perfectly timed to give them a boost, just when we were all starting to forget about them - and five weeks of continual media interest leading up to the by-election, and a likely trouncing of the Conservatives at said by-election, and the mouth-watering prospect of a UKIP having 10 months or so of grandstanding in the Commons, and the likelihood of Carswell / Farage being able to demand inclusion in debates and airtime, all bets are off.

It might not be a case of Scottish Independence, as the South East of England ceding from the union. 

Alternatively, Carsewll will try to overthrow Farage and the party will tear itself to pieces and contest the election as the Real UKIP and the Provisional UKIP and vanish.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Musical Interlude

Appropriate cynically anti-capitalist electiony shouty stuff.


I love the way Billy's guitar often seems to be playing a completely different song to the one he's singing.  But it still always seems to work.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

People of Turkey, Ukraine, I salute you!

For some reason, I seem to be getting a lot of visits from Turkey.  Or perhaps that's just where IP address disguisers are presenting as at the moment.  But I like to thin the Ruritanian nature of New Zealand politics is immensely amusing to my Turkish comrades.  We are all brothers under the skin (or sisters) and we can all unite in laughing at John Key.

the second most popular source of hits is what is currently Ukraine, who I salute in all seriousness.  Having overthrown one insane, bloodthirsty crackpot, they are now being menaced by another.   It's all a bit like the 1930s, with 'civilised' Europe pointing the accusatory fingers at the nasty man and telling him to stop, and the nasty man cheerfully ignoring them and wondering how on Earth he is getting away with it.

The situation in Ukraine is what real Dirty Politics look like, when the oligarchs and power crazed decide to stop even pretending to play by the rules.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Stumbling towards Power?

Let's be honest about it.  Labour have absolutely nothing to celebrate just now.

The last few days have been fantastic for the left and in particular for a certain Mr D Cunliffe.  But before we get too deliriously joyous, let's acknowledge an unpleasant truth.  We (the left) don't deserve this.

Dirty Politics is the work of a very small group of people - Nicky Hager, the hacker or hackers who obtained the information which they passed on to Hager, and of course, the likes of Slater, Ede, Collins, Odgers, Farrar, Williams and the rest, who so generously provided the original dirt and scandal.

Hager has, in two weeks, managed to do what Labour has completely failed to do in two terms of opposition.  he has destroyed John Key's veneer of easy-going nonchalance, his reputation of being someone who doesn't doesn't do politics, but does it in a different way - somehow being above the ugly broil.  His likeable air of being the Prime Minister it is okay to like, the politician you might not be mortified to be seen in public with, a nice chap with a few million but who hasn't let it change him, has been shredded.

(I'm not saying that Key is any of these things, but it has been the quality the man has managed to project over the last several years.)

Hager managed this.  Labour - with all the resources and energy available to it - failed to achieve anything like it in over six years of trying.  Hager showed that Key is not only vulnerable, but very easily wounded - something that Labour systematically failed to do since he became leader.

Even during the leader's debate last week, Cunliffe was so caught up in his 'Vote Positive' delusion that he failed to turn the knife in the squirming Key.  Instead, he airy said that new Zealanders wanted to talk about policy and such like.

Well, no, Dave.  First of all, cynically, the people watching a political debate while the All Blacks are playing on another channel are likely to be the die-hard political junkies to whom Dirty Politics really is important.  In the petty world of political obsessives, this is the second coming plus the invention of the wheel plus the black death.

More importantly, Dirty Politics really is important in the greater scheme of things.  New Zealand's democracy has been under sustained attack by the forces of the right for years.

That.  Really.  Matters.

Though perhaps Cunliffe's reticence on Dirty Politics in understandable.  After all, Labour can't exactly hold its head up high.  Not because of the flimsy "The left do it too!!" defence offered up by the Poltroon-in-Chief Key, but because Labour have been so successful in not talking about this particular elephant (or should I say giant Slater?) in the living room for almost a decade.  With National cheerfully dismantling New Zealand democracy and setting new lows for corruption and abuse of office, Labour's attitude has been to allow them just to get on with it, as they have squandered opportunity and energy in the own going psychodrama of left wing disunity and infighting.

If anyone should be Prime Minister in a months time, it should not be David Cunliffe.  It should be Nick Hager.  If National are ousted (note, I did not say, "If Labour win") it will be because of his efforts and the work that he has done to expose the corrupt, destructive and anti-democratic practices of the self-serving 'elite' that have seized control of the National party.

Which is why a Labour led government is almost a frightening prospect.  They haven't earned it.  It will have been gifted to them.  And having received it in such circumstances, what on Earth can they be expected to do with it, other than continue to blunder and stumble?  If such a shoddy bunch of malcontents, time servers and incompetents finds themselves mysteriously in possession of the treasury benches, how will they manage to avoid losing them in short order?

So I welcome the potential demise of Key and his corrupt cabal of cronies.  But I don't look forward with much joy to the prospect of a confused Labour party rather nervously picking up the reins of power.  Faced with the daunting prospect of actually having to Do Stuff, rather than just Talk About Stuff (unlike bloggers, politicians occasionally have to make good on their fine words) and confronted by a vehemently vengeful right wing, it may not be a pretty sight.

Sorry to spoil the euphoria, David, but Goliath isn't actually going to take this lying down.  If Labour win, they need to be very bloody ready for an absolute shit storm.  And nothing in their last decade of abject political incontinence and indiscipline suggests that they are.

Nasty little shit

So, Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP in Holrood, has brought up the issue of Where Richard Leonard Was Born.  (For those who do not follow S...