Mischief making with Matthew Hooton?
Matthew Hooton is a right-wing blogger, political commentator, and National Party fellow-traveller. He has been an occassional guest panellist on Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s excellent “Citizen A”, as well on as Radio New Zealand’s late-Monday morning slot, “Politics with…”.
In his favour, he is one of the more coherent from the neo-liberal camp and can present a reasoned opinion without resorting to cliched, right-wing rhetoric or blame-speech. In short, you can listen to him without groaning; face-palming, and eventually reaching for the “off” switch or the Remote channel-changer.
Lately though, this blogger has been hearing something unusual from the man who is a self-professed fan of the original, neo-liberal, ACT Party.
It turns out that Matthew Hooton is either a closet Winston Peters fan, or has been up to a subtle piece of mischief-making lately…
On Radio NZ’s political segment on Monday late-afternoons, hosted by Kathryn Ryan, Mr Hooton has been making some very strange noises about a National-Conservative Party-NZ First coalition.
Those with a fair memory will recall that NZ First has been in coalition with National once before, in 1996.
To put it mildly, Peters’ decision to go with National was unpopular with the public. The coalition deal did not last long and neither did it end well.
But considering it was New Zealand’s very first coalition government under MMP, Peters might be forgiven. It was a steep learning curve for the entire country.
So why has Mr Hooton been saying things like,
“If you assume that this report makes it much more likely that the Conservative Party will come into Parliament, and if you also assume that Winston Peters would prefer not to be a third wheel on a Labour-Green government , then National really can get it’s support down as low as say 40% now, and with New Zealand First and the Conservatives be assured of forming a government.
… But if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters-Colin Craig deal.” – 13 August
“Then, forget about all this nonsense flirting with these one-MP parties, and focus on forming a government – god help me for saying this – with New Zealand First and the CCCP [Colin Craig's Conservative Party - not the USSR].” – 20 August
It seems fairly clear that, having learned the lessons of the late 1990s, it seems highly unlikely that Peters would risk another public backlash by coalescing with National. It would be annihilated in the following election…
… which, may give us a clue why Matthew Hooton has been dropping little “hints” about a potential National-NZ First-? Coalition arrangement.
Could it be that, like this blogger, Matthew Hooton has seen and understood the portents in the political tea-leaves, vis-a-vis latest political opinion polls, which show a steady decline for National?
Could it be that Mr Hooton understands that ACT and Peter Dunne are dog-tucker – especially once MMP reforms are implemented?
And could it be that a third term for National can only be guaranteed if,
- Colin Craig’s Conservative Party breaks the new 4% threshold, and,
- NZ First does not make it back into Parliament?
Without NZ First, a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition may be unable to beat a National-Conservative Coalition. It may come down to a simple one or two seat majority, as happened last year.
So why would Mr Hooton be touting a National-Conservative-NZ First Coalition?
Because, traditionally, supporters of NZ First tend to be disaffected voters.
They vote against the incumbent government (in this case National), just as voters cast their ballot for NZ First in 1996, believing it to be a vote against the incumbent Bolger-led National government.
If a meme can be developed that there is a possibility that NZ First may opt to join a National-Conservative Party coalition (even though there is zero indication of this happening), then that may alienate potential voter-support for Peters.
After all, what would be the point of voting for Peters if he simply props up the current government? That would be the subtle, psychological message that Hooton may well be trying to implant in Voterland’s collective psyche.
It’s a kind of reverse psychology; “a vote for NZ First is a vote for a John Key-led government”. Which would put off voters who don’t want a Key-led National coalition, thereby reducing NZ First’s chances of breaking the 4% threshold.
They may instead vote for the Conservative Party, which presents itself as the new “maverick kid on the block”.
(And yes, I know the Conservative Party is most likey to coalesce with National. But, like voters who opposed asset sales still voted for John Key, those who vote for Colin Craig may not consider that eventual outcome. All they see is an new Alternative Option.)
So when the likes of Matthew Hooton drop little hints of a National-NZ First deal – just ask yourself; what’s Matthew up to?
Is he happily fomenting mischief?
Or is he really a closet fan of the Dapper Suited One?
= fs =