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Mischief making with Matthew Hooton?

21 August 2012 7 comments

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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.

See: 45th New Zealand Parliament

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.

[abridged]

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

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

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

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

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,

  1. Colin Craig’s Conservative Party breaks the new 4% threshold, and,
  2. 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?

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Tracey Watkins on John Key – Surprised?!

21 August 2012 21 comments

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Media3 host, Russell Brown, talks with Fairfax political reporter, Tracy Watkins

Source

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Tracy Watkins is the Dominion Post’s political editor and has been reporting on politics from the parliamentary press gallery for over a decade.  She writes many, if not most, of the political stories for Fairfax Media (the Australian owner of the Dompost and other newspapers).

So she’s no ‘newbie’ and should know what’s going on politically.

Last weekend (18/19 August), Ms Watkins was a guest on Russell Brown’s “Media3“,  and top of the discussion was Fairfax’s new pollster, Ipsos, one of the biggest polling corporations on the planet.

Ipsos delivered it’s first poll-results at the end of July,

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Full Story

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This blogger wrote an analysis of the Fairfax/Ipsos poll, and concluded that we are still on-track for a change of government in 2014 – if not earlier.

See: On course for a change in government (Part Rua)

One of the most interesting aspects of the poll was the ‘revelation’ that John Key was becoming a polarising figure amongst the public,

A new poll has found Prime Minister John Key is increasingly becoming a polarising figure – especially among women…

[abridged]

… Left wing commentator Bryce Edwards said there was a noticeable hardening in attitudes against Key, in line with the perception of a growing ideological divide with the Left, which opposes the sales.

“I sense more hostility towards him than there was, but I get the sense it’s among those who are predisposed to be against him.”

But after a year with the headlines dominated by asset sales, ACC, Nick Smith’s sacking, class sizes and the economy, Key is even losing his gloss among National voters, with one in four saying they hold a worse opinion of him than a year ago. “

See: ‘Polarising’ PM losing gloss

Russell Brown raised this issue with Ms Watkins,  @ 12.40 into programme.

Most interesting was this exchange  between Russell Brown and Tracy Watkins,

Russell Brown:  ” Was there anything in that first round   about how people were feeling  that surprised you?

Tracy Watkins:  ” There was actually and that was as a journalist it was a big call for me.

We had a story in the Sunday Star Time talking about how John Key had become more polarising. And I sort of struggled with that one because as a journalist you would say, ‘Ok well it’s not surprising that, y’know, people who don’t vote for national don’t like John Key’.

But we had the benefit of the open ended questions and the thousand responses from people. And Duncan Stuart , who’s a really amazing pollster who works for Ipsos , he made the call that Key was becoming more polarising on the basis that some of the comments about Key were very strong and very  disparaging and that was something that as a political commentator I hadn’t really come across before.”

(@17.57 into the programme)

It seems unbelievable. Tracy Watkins  who, as one of Fairfax’s most experienced political journalists, viewed  Key’s increasing polarising effect as something she “hadn’t really come across before” ?!?!

Where does Ms Watkins live – the dark side of the Moon?

It seems astounding that a journalist of Ms Watkins’ long service could be so out of touch with public sentiment. Indeed, she went on say,

And about Ipsos, behind it, I might’ve gone out into the street and asked ten  people; what do you think about John Key, but I still wouldn’t have written saying he’s become polarising…”

(@18.40 into the programme)

Whut?!?!

You wouldn’t have written a story about John Key becoming more polarising, even with public feedback telling you directly how people were feeling?!?!

Little wonder, Ms Watkins;  you seem to be out of touch with public sentiment.

There is no secret here and growing  public dissatisfaction with Key has been blindingly obvious, especially since last years’ elections. A cursory look at blogs;  internet fora; and the proliferation of anti-Key/anti-National pages on social websites should be enough to offer a clue that Dear Leader is no longer quite so beloved by many New Zealanders.

When Key was first elected as Prime Minister, those who had no love for National waited with bated breath as to how he would perform.

As time went by, and with an inept government that seems to be incapable of generating the jobs that they promised us last year, that nonchalence slowly morphed into an irritation; and then  resentment; and now outright anger.  This feeling has been generated by implementation of hardline policies that voters had only a barest understanding. It is a feeling that has been growing for the last nine months, and which was reflected in steadily dropping polls and weakening support for Key as  preferred Prime Minister.

How could Tracy Watkins have missed all this?

It should not take a polling company from overseas to acquaint a seasoned political reporter with over ten years’ experience as to what her own countrymen and women are feeling. When politicians lose touch with the public, we view that with distaste.

When a journalist loses touch, that is cause for grave  concern.

What else is she missing?

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