‘And then she goes and spoils it all …’

[I’ve awoken from my summer slumber and find I have a lot to write. Apologies about the length.]


” Then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like …”

Well, what was that all about?

As Colin Peacock said when he introduced the Mediawatch item on it, what exactly “put a Catton among the pigeons“?

Can it really just have been about a perceived lack of gratitude?

Was there really outrage over a supposed ‘Taxpayer funded middle finger‘?

Was it even remotely reasonable to call Eleanor Catton a traitor?

The answer to all these questions, so far as I can see, is ‘No’.

So – again – what was it all about?

Maybe this?

That is, did Eleanor Catton just ‘spoil it all’ when she said what she said?

If so, what did she spoil?

Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, New Zealand Politics, Philosophy, Political Psychology | 9 Comments

‘Everybody knows …’ the politics of dissimulation

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died.”

Leonard Cohen

There comes a point in politics – and I think we’ve reached it in New Zealand – when it’s clear that political tactics and rhetoric become so cynical that they entirely part company with reality.

When that happens argument and facts ineffectively dissipate their energy in the face of the cynicism.

And, when that starts to happen, the best way to step back from the brink is not to argue detail and facts but, instead, to touch base with reality.

Simply, it involves re-stating, very plainly, and very firmly what ‘everybody knows’.

Or, even more simply, it involves saying, as Andrew Little said to John Key in Parliament, ‘Cut the crap‘.

Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, New Zealand Politics, Political Polls, Political Psychology | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Drawing the poison

It’s – more or less – thirty years since Roger Douglas’ faction gained control of the Treasury benches. It’s even longer since it latched its fangs onto the Labour Party jugular.

The bloody leadership struggle within the Labour Party since the election is pretty much an anniversary reminder that Douglas’ legacy lives on.

That’s because the poison that the Douglas faction injected into the Labour Party has never fully worked its way out of the Party’s system – for a simple reason: It has festered in the huge, dry crack the Douglas faction opened between the Labour Party caucus and the Labour Party itself.

That’s still the fracture that won’t heal, the wound in Labour’s flesh in which the bitter poison pools.

What we’re seeing is proof that the infection that was held at bay for a few elections (in the 2000s) by heavy-duty medication and tight bandaging has relapsed, spread and now is working its dark effects to the point of fatally sickening the party’s internal organs and, at some point, no doubt draining its lifeblood (members).

Perhaps it’s finally time for the poison to be drawn and for full-spectrum antibiotics to be administered.

Who knows? The patient may not even die. Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, Labour, New Zealand Politics | Tagged , , , | 39 Comments

Blowholes and memory holes

When whales were hunted in previous centuries, the old method was to spot the intermittent bursts of spray that were shot into the air when a whale came to the surface to take a breath.

The time gaps between these massive spurts from a whale’s blowhole depended upon the length of time a whale could spend under water. The longer the hunt, the more tired the whale, the shorter the time-gap between blowhole eruptions.

Here, then, is a ‘flash from the past‘ – one of the few times that this particular ‘whale’ clearly rose to the surface of the murky depths he normally inhabits.

My aim in this ‘retrospective’ is simply to make sure that what has been blown out of the ‘Whale’s’ blowhole in the past does not go down our collective memory hole. Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Democracy, New Zealand Politics, Political Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We no longer have a Prime Minister

Having just listened to an item featuring John Key on Checkpoint (National Radio) I now have to announce that New Zealand has no-one at present performing the proper role of Prime Minister.

John Key could not have acted less Prime Ministerial if he had tried. Sadly, it’s becoming a habit for him.

Beginning at about 1min25secs in the audio (just below or in the link above) John Key manages to both trivialise the seriousness of the broad allegations that surround his government and turn these serious issues into the pettiest of political point scoring and the weakest and – because of what it says about his capacity to take responsibility – the most alarming of ‘challenges’ to David Cunliffe.

“But I think this sort of quaint little notion, but that there’s a lot more going on or that the left of politics don’t talk to bloggers, don’t do things, all the rest of it, it’s a lovely little notion that might be running around David Cunliffe’s head but it ain’t reality”

If Mr Cunliffe wants me to hold an independent inquiry into the actions of the Labour Party between 1999 and 2008 he should let me know. If he wants to do that, if he wants to do that, that’s all cool.

An inquiry into the actions of the Labour Party between 1999 and 2008?? What is John Key on about? Does he have some documented evidence (e.g., a well-researched book and a swag of emails) that suggest the need for a full inquiry into that period?

Of course he doesn’t have any such evidence. So what on earth do the nine years of a previous government have to do with the current allegations against the operation of the government he heads – apart from being the most transparent attempt to deflect attention and spread the dirt around?

It is argumentation at the level of the schoolyard – and it is coming from our Prime Minister.

And this was not a one-off lapse. It was part of a clear and disturbing attitude that John Key brought to this issue from the very start when the book was released and it is one that he continues to demonstrate.

In response to a TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll that found an increased proportion of voters believe the allegations in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ book Key was quoted as saying:

The left have sat there and they’ve said we’re not going to win if we talk about the economy, law and order, health and education so let’s illegally hack into a computer and throw a bomb in.”

This is either a worrying turn to paranoia by John Key or an ill-thought out and completely incorrect and misleading utterance. “The left? “They’ve said”? “[S]o [let us] illegally hack into a computer“?

What is this monolithic ‘left’ monster in which John Key appears to fervently believe? What huge conspiracy does his fevered mind believe is plotting against him? Is it hundreds of foes? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Where do they meet? How do they communicate their wicked plans?

In short, where is his evidence that there is some combined and coordinated plot against him and his government? In fact, where even is his evidence that the person who hacked Cameron Slater’s blog is part of  this ‘left’ that he seems to see everywhere?

And what’s this claim about ‘the left’ having said to itself that “we’re not going to win if we talk about the economy, law and order, health and education“?

Has he already forgotten about the recent Leaders’ Debate in which, according to John Armstrong of the Herald, “[c]rucially, [Cunliffe] scored better than Key on the one subject where Key had the advantage – economic management.

Further, hasn’t John Key been taking any notice of what his opponents have actually been saying during the last two months?

In fact, just about all that the Labour and Green Parties have been doing is to announce policies over a wide range of areas.

Here’s Labour’s conservation policy announcement, its health policy announcement, its transport policy announcement, its family violence policy announcement, its NZ Power plan announcement, its tertiary education policy announcement, its plan to change secondary taxation arrangements, its policy to end homelessness, its animal rights policy announcement, its climate change strategy announcement and here’s Key’s own Minister, Simon Bridges, showing that at least he has been keeping his ears open as he responds to Labour’s ‘unemployment policy announcement‘.

All released in the last two months – most in the last two weeks.

Then there’s the Green Party – but do I have to go on?

It is not that his political opponents on ‘the left’ have been cowardly running away from talking policy (the ‘issues that matter to New Zealanders’) it’s just that John Key and his government have become embroiled in a continuing scandal that has turned into an extremely poorly managed crisis of his leadership and his Prime Ministership.

It is not ‘the left’ but, instead, the media who have been talking about – and asking Key about – these issues that have been swirling around and, clearly, swirling within his government.

And they’ve been doing it for one simple reason – they smell something rotten. As the poll linked to above indicates, so do more and more New Zealanders.

There is an evasiveness and complete unwillingness to acknowledge the seriousness of these allegations that now almost completely dominates John Key’s response to this continuing crisis.

John Key’s failure to acknowledge what is obvious to so many is completely to the fore in his embarrassingly ineffective evasiveness in this interview with Guyon Espiner (extreme evasiveness starts about 6mins10secs) on National Radio:

Is it OK?” Espiner asks repeatedly and simply; yet John Key refuses – repeatedly – to proffer a direct answer.

And, unbelievably, we hear the same evasiveness again in this interview with Guyon Espiner (starts about 4mins into interview) a mere two weeks later:

Was he your source for that story?” Espiner – again – repeatedly and simply asks. No answer from Key.

Let me summarise the point I am trying to make.

In all of these utterances the argument – for want of a better word – that John Key has been running in order to avoid answering questions about the allegations in the Nicky Hager book ‘Dirty Politics’ is so lacking in seriousness, so undignified and, most damningly, so evasive that it amounts to a dereliction of his duty as a Prime Minister.

The argument I’m referring to amounts to (a) ‘the left’ (whatever amorphous but apparently hegemonic grouping that amounts to for John Key) are conspiring in tight unison against the National government, and (b) ‘the left’ do all the things ‘we’ (i.e., the National government) have been accused of so let’s talk about them instead, and (c) this is all just a big beat up.

This argument, in all its evasive glory, shows that John Key no longer has the instincts of a Prime Minister.

I want to be very clear about this: These allegations that Key appears to want to avoid addressing are of the most serious kind. They are accusations about the use and abuse of power in our government.

Given that – and especially if they are entirely false – it was imperative that  John Key, as Prime Minister, should have immediately acknowledged – and still should now acknowledge – their seriousness and then address them directly and thoroughly.

These allegations go so directly to the heart of all that our governance arrangements are meant to be like that they have to be comprehensively refuted or, if true, entirely expunged from the operation of the government.

It is all about public confidence in the processes of government at the highest level. And, clearly, that confidence is swiftly declining.

It is not enough for John Key simply to dismiss these allegations with some kind of ‘nothing to see here’ and ‘it’s just a ploy by ‘the left” kind of wave of the hand. There are very serious, prima facie ‘cases’ to answer here.

John Key is, nominally at least, still the Prime Minister – and because he is it is imperative that he take charge of the process to respond to the entire set of allegations. To do anything less is to abandon what is perhaps the most important aspect of the role of Prime Minister – to maintain public trust in our system of governance.

What is most upsetting, and what John Key himself doesn’t seem to realise, is something that is becoming clearer and clearer by the day. It is also what may well be the most revealing and condemning aspect of his evasive responses and sweeping accusations, even smears, about ‘the left':

He is sounding more and more like Cameron Slater and less and less like a Prime Minister.

Posted in Blogging, Democracy, Media, New Zealand Politics, Political Polls, Political Psychology | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments

A Tale of Two Tracks. Part II – Something new under the sun.

[This is the second part of a two-part post. In the first post I argued that our modern world is susceptible to ‘two tracks’ arising in all areas. In this post I argue that it is wrong to claim that what has been revealed in the book ‘Dirty Politics’ is just ‘politics as usual’.]

How is it ‘wrong’?

As I said, there’s a kernel of truth in the insight that ‘two tracks’ are a significant potential in our modern world.

But those two tracks aren’t inevitable.

‘Two tracks’ are more likely the more that politics runs along lines analogous to market activity. But they are also more or less likely depending upon the nature of some other important features of modern politics that can be changed.

First, the emergence of ‘two tracks’ depends upon distortions and/or interruptions in the flow of information.

And that’s where journalists – the media – come into the picture. I’d also hazard a guess that that is why journalists have dropped down the ‘trustworthiness’ rankings.

Most people have no first-hand information about political events or politicians. The modern media is the medium through which that information flows.

The information is ‘mediated’ by the media in the same way that knowledge of the world is ‘mediated’ by the senses and perceptual systems in Descarte’s view of how minds come to know the world. Information is selected, represented and transformed to produce ‘inferences’ (media ‘narratives’) about how the (political) world is.

Just as Descartes sceptically speculated on ways that his sensations, perceptions and, ultimately, beliefs about the world could be ‘delusions’ so have we all become suspicious about how the media represents the world to us. Yet that is our only representation of so much of the world that affects us.

All of which means that how the media report politics will, in part, determine the extent to which ‘two tracks’ can viably be established. More investigative journalists, for example, would increase the risk of detection of these ‘two track’ systems, should they be established.

By contrast, fewer journalists working to multiple tight deadlines to produce ‘copy’ in opinion columns, news articles, websites and appearing – incestuously – as ‘commentators’ on other media, or even their own, is likely to provide favourable conditions for the incubation of ‘two tracks’.

The book ‘Flat Earth News’ makes it pretty clear that, unfortunately, modern journalism, globally, is looking more and more like this. As an inevitable consequence it’s therefore becoming fertile ground for the operation of ‘two tracks’.

Harried under-resourced journalists who are stretched for time, encouraged by their managers to be entertaining and provocative in their ‘columns’ and to become mini-celebrities in their own right (which makes the profession appeal to quite different people than it used to) are less and less likely to forego the easy option of facilitating the ‘two tracks’. After all, the ‘two track’ set-up makes for easy copy, access to ‘leaks’ (aka ‘scoops’) and, as I said at the start, probably provides quite a personal buzz and ego boost from being ‘inside the tent’.

Second, ‘two tracks’ are most likely to be established in the first place when the costs of their discovery are low. Put simply, if ‘two tracks’ are discovered the reaction to that discovery determines the ‘cost’ associated with them being detected.

Perhaps the most practical response ordinary people can make to the establishment of ‘two tracks’  in politics is to condemn it with a passion whenever there are signs that is present.

This is one of the most obvious reasons why simply accepting that ‘this is just politics as usual’ is exactly the wrong reaction. It’s actually irrelevant whether or not politics has always been like this or not. Whenever the practice emerges into the daylight we have to punish it.

In evolutionary terms, deceptive ‘signalling’ is like an arms race between the would-be deceiver and the deceived. ‘Honest signalling’ only emerges where the potentially deceived evolve mechanisms of vigilance which, ultimately, make it too ‘expensive’ for the would-be deceiver to deceive.

That’s presumably why humans have apparently evolved a so-called ‘cheater-detection‘ mechanism: To identify those in the social world who try to get something (e.g., electoral advantage) for nothing (e.g., the risk of a backlash from negative campaigning) in instances of social exchange.

The most obvious outlet for that condemnation and punishment is the ballot box. It’s a crude instrument but, as with everything, you can only use what is to hand.

Third, a media required by statute to represent the public interest could ensure that journalists in the news media have less (commercial) incentive to participate in the dual world of the ‘two tracks’. This may not be possible to impose on private sector media outlets.

If that’s the case then it’s a very good argument for extending the number of, and funding for, independent public broadcasting and other public media. This could include supporting local and regional public – or at least ‘not for profit’ – media.

Unfortunately, such independent, non-commercial media have reduced over time in New Zealand. When I was young there were extensive and varied state-run radio networks (ZB, ZM, YA and YC – all operating out of regional bases). The ZB and ZM networks have all been privatised  leaving only Radio New Zealand National (the old YA) and the Concert Programme (the old YC). Radio New Zealand operates under a Charter.

Television New Zealand – while state-owned – is now run as a commercial enterprise (State Owned Enterprise) with, solely, commercial imperatives. It used to have a ‘Charter’ but that was removed in July, 2011.

Fourth, if, indeed, representative democracy is now morphing into some ‘market-based analogue’ of democracy then one option is to put the reinforcing rods of participatory democracy into its internal structure.

The more people organise themselves into neighbourhood, local and regional groups (enduring or ad hoc) to address the political issues that arise at those scales, the less likely it will be for a ‘two track’ political system to gain traction. People who organise themselves in this way inoculate themselves to the negative attack politics for which the ‘two track’ system is designed.

The reason for that is simple. People involved in this way have a more direct knowledge of political events and persons. They themselves become part of a ‘counter network’ (see below) that has its own informational pathways. That means they are less vulnerable to being swayed by the smears and negative politics that are regularly ejaculated from the second track of the ‘two track’ approach.

They know better – or simply know otherwise.

But there’s another reason why critics of Hager’s book have got it completely wrong when they claim that this is nothing new or, as Steven Joyce declared so quickly after the book’s release without reading it, “I don’t think that’s news“.

It is news, and it is new.

‘Two Track’ Politics

What is new about ‘two track’ politics is that it actually operates on three tracks.

As well as the division that Hager clarifies in the Preface to the book (quoted at the start of the post) between the leader who is ‘above politics’ and the covert, negative attack politics there is an additional track.

This is how it works.

The negative attacks (track two) are run initially in the ‘informal’ media. Here in New Zealand that includes unacknowledged ‘third party’ campaigning such as was tried by the Exclusive Brethren in the 2005 election (and is apparently being repeated this year) but also, as focused on in the book ‘Dirty Politics’, blogs such as Cameron Slater’s ‘WhaleOil Beef Hooked’ blog and David Farrar’s Kiwiblog.

These continual attacks, however, are run through these informal media vehicles in the expectation that they will enter the ‘third track‘ – the mainstream media. Even today it is this third track that has the most influence in setting the political narrative.

The mainstream media represents, then, the middle-layer in the representation of the political world to ordinary people. Politicians can do their own PR, put out press releases, do photo-ops and the like. The mainstream media dutifully report such PR efforts.

The ‘two track’ system Hager describes, however, jumps – informationally – from the politicians and political informants such as party operatives (‘hacks’) directly, and covertly, to the ‘informal media’.

The ‘informal media’ – in this scenario – has two functions. First, it ‘launders’ the information so that it’s origins are completely opaque. It ‘appears’ to come from the ‘informal media’ outlet itself – out of unspecified sources of ‘tips’ or through sterling, solo investigative work by the blogger. But, as detailed in ‘Dirty Politics’, very often that claim or impression is false.

Second, the ‘informal media’ outlet must have cultivated a network of contacts in the ‘official’, mainstream media (as well as a network in the political world). Without that network of contacts the informal media outlet would struggle to reach those people and voters who must be reached and who are the final targets for the information.

It is the overall network – a word repeatedly used by Hager – that is the embodiment of the ‘two track’ system. But, to repeat, it has three distinct areas within which, and between which, the information flows: The political world/government; the ‘informal media’ outlets; the mainstream media. (There’s also the business and, in particular, corporate world but, following John Dewey’s definition that politics is merely the shadow cast over society by big business, we can probably treat politics and business as broadly in an alliance built upon a co-incidence of interests.)

These days we hear a lot about ‘networks’ in all areas of life. It’s a bit of a buzz word, in fact, and it is the social version of the notion of ‘systems’. Networking can spell the difference between a successful project and one that barely makes it off the drawing board.

These kinds of networks are characterised by multiple, overlaid webs of interlinked actors (people), often informal in nature. They are fluid in membership (unlike some older networks like the ‘old boys’ network’). The new networks often comprise transient players leveraging off each other as they ascend (‘scramble up’) the status ladder towards some ill-defined goal associated with ‘winning’.

Given their fluidity, these networks can also dissolve and then reorganise using some old connections and some new ones.

It’s the kind of ‘network’ that underlies the ever-morphing and regenerating terrorist entities like Al-Qaeda. It’s also like the web of opportunistic links that happen in the business world as deals get hatched, people are introduced to each other and, then, deals get sealed.

Such networks, such ‘systems’, are quite resilient over time and so can serve many different purposes and actors as they fluidly reorganise.

Formal institutional processes don’t have the same flexibility and so can be repeatedly outmanoeuvred by these informal networks which can respond, almost instantaneously, as they react to new information and challenges.

The emails and other communications brought to light in ‘Dirty Politics’ give us a glimpse into these opportunistic political alliances that make use of these networks between politics/business, right-wing blogs and media. The traces are ephemeral but, like animal trails in long grass, the signs of their repeated use are clear to the trained eye.

This, then, is what is new.

This is why what is described in ‘Dirty Politics’ is not ‘politics as usual’. There is something new under the sun: The ‘three track’ network, enabled partly by new technologies and partly by the increasing insularity and interweaving of the world in which its participants operate.

It’s the emergence of a coordinated, rather than merely accidental, politico-media in-group whose lingua franca is gossip, leaks and petty stratagems. But, more importantly, it is the systematic operation and strategic use of that fluid network across the three layers of politics, mainstream media and informal media that is innovative.

That coordination and systematic operation has given us – consistently – a seemingly unending series of mini-scandals, almost always involving political opponents of the government. It is that consistency of target and similarity in modus operandum that flags the new mechanism.

One incident mentioned in ‘Dirty Politics’ but which Hager sees as a lesser example of ‘dirty politics’ actually is very suggestive of how extensive this informal network that generates negative attacks has become.

That incident involved an email sent inadvertently to Amy Adams’ office (Minister of the Environment) (pages 48-49 in ‘Dirty Politics’):

The executive assistant had sent out the invitation at 12:55 p.m. The papers show that Adams’s senior private secretary printed out the e-mail and only 10 minutes later, at 1:05 p.m., someone scanned it on the photocopier on the Beehive building’s fourth floor, home to Adams’s office, e-mailing it directly to ‘AJA’ (presumably Amy Juliet Adams).

Question time in Parliament intervened for the next three hours, then just after 5 p.m. ‘AJA’ forwarded the Labour Party e-mail to Judith Collins in her ministerial office two floors above. Notice that Adams chose Collins as the recipient. Collins had had it for only two minutes when, at 5:09 p.m., she forwarded the scanned document to Slater. By 5:21 p.m. the e-mail was posted on Slater’s blog. ‘David Cunliffe’s team isn’t off to a good start,’ Slater wrote.

As Hager writes, “Notice that Adams chose Collins as the recipient.” Why?

Were the two just ‘giggle-buddies’ who might share such schadenfraude? Or did Adams, presumably along with many other Ministers, understand perfectly that Collins was the direct conduit to Slater? If so, that suggests that the network for sourcing ‘dirt’ threaded throughout the Cabinet.

So how widespread is this network? How coordinated? How resilient?

In my view, ‘Dirty Politics’ exposes a thoroughly embedded network that threads like a mat of Convolvulus rhizomes through the body politic, the media and parts of the corporate world.

Time to apply some weedkiller.


And as I finish this post what happens?

John Key announces Judith Collins’ resignation. Why has she gone this time rather than before?

In a 2011 email from Cameron Slater to a group of people he ‘updates’ all on his organised campaign against the Head of the SFO (Adam Feeley). He speaks of Collins ‘gunning’ for Feeley who is her CEO given her position as Minister of Justice.

In that one email (included in the link just above – but also here) there is more fulsome evidence of the network I’ve just described than in any one incident reported in Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’. It mentions several journalists who are ‘running’ Slater’s ‘lines’ and describes clearly the coordination of an ongoing smear.

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A Tale of Two Tracks. Part I – A two track world

There’s plenty of interesting side-tracks to travel down in Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics‘.

But the main track needs to be kept visible.

That track is actually two tracks. And those tracks amount to a highly networked web of relationships between a loose but coordinated group of actors.

These tracks and this network are new. This is not ‘politics as usual’. I’ll look at these tracks in two posts – this is Part I.

It seems that many New Zealanders are convinced there is nothing new to see here – just same-old, same-old dirty politics from dirty politicians.

It might be a harsh criticism to make, but any New Zealanders who believe this are asleep at the wheel.

In a democracy, of course, it is we – the people – who should be in the driver’s seat. We’re in danger, though, of completely surrendering that seat to people who want to take us down the ‘garden track’.

Are we up to the challenge of taming two track politics? Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Democracy, Labour, Media, New Zealand Politics, Political Psychology | 8 Comments

Media narratives: A field experiment and ‘litmus test’

There’s a simple cognitive game you can play which helps you to see clearly the dominant media political ‘narratives’ in the world.

And we’ve all just been provided with a great excuse to play that cognitive game right here in New Zealand.

By the way, it’s so easy – harmless – that you can even ‘try this at home’.

How’s it done? Continue reading

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National’s problem – more ‘glass ceiling’ than ‘complacency’


How to deal with a glass ceiling?

How to deal with a glass ceiling?

I agree with John Key and Steven Joyce on a couple of points they stressed to the party faithful gathered in Wellington for their recent election year conference.

Yes, as John Key argued, this election will be closer than many people realise.

And, yes, National should be worried given that, as Steven Joyce made clear, National’s polling this time around is no better – and possibly worse – than it was this far out from the 2011 election.

It’s worth remembering that in 2011 National gained a record 47.3% of valid votes cast, the Labour Party had its worst MMP result (27.1%) and yet, despite pre-election predictions, the National-led government that formed could only scrape together a bare majority.

But, despite agreeing with Key and Joyce’s prognosis for National’s chances in the upcoming election, I disagree over their diagnosis of the causes of their worrisome predicament.


Glass ceilings can be deceptive.

You can see through them, and beyond, to an enticing realm of future possibilities. Yet, try as you might to get to that realm something unseen and unacknowledged keeps stopping you.

The experience is like banging your head against a brick wall that you can’t see.

In that situation, it’s tempting to think that lack of progress is to do with something you have control over rather than a structural limitation.

I think National and its supporters are in just this situation.

And they think that in 2011 (and potentially this year) the barrier to further electoral progress was (and is) supporter complacency – a barrier that sounds like it could be shattered, with enough effort.

There’s quite a few reasons, though, why I think a ‘war on complacency’ is unlikely to be National’s saviour.

Then again, talk of it may well be.

Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, New Zealand Politics, Political Psychology | 2 Comments

The real story in the Fairfax polls

There’s an aspect of the political polls that I suspect many people are unaware of.

As percentage support for each party is reported, most people probably assume that more people are supporting the parties that show an increase in percent support and fewer people are supporting those that show a decrease.

It’s not quite that straightforward.

As ‘swordfish’ has emphasised in some posts on the blog ‘Sub-Zero Politics‘ (in-between amazing photos of Norway and the Faroe Islands), if you ignore the undecideds you can get a very misleading picture of the state of the political mind of the electorate.

Looking back over the last two years of Fairfax/Ipsos polling with due consideration given to the undecided voters there’s some interesting insights to be had into that mind.

Those insights also raise questions about how poll results are being reported and why they’re being reported in the way they are. Continue reading

Posted in Democracy, Labour, New Zealand Politics, Political Polls | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments