Sunday 20 November: Key warns of Winston spectre

by Toby Manhire / 20 November, 2011
John Key accused of dog-whistle racism, a puzzling poll, the Herald on Sunday falls deeply out of love with the PM.
9.45pm: The final Sky News election special was focused on MMP, with Winston Peters bolted on top. He was in combative mood, doing his best to batter the confidence of the panel of parliamentary press gallery pipsqueaks (none of whom is old enough, we're told, to have experience of voting in a first-past-the-post election). Among Peters' economic promises is creating a band within which the currency must hold, and a devaluation of the NZ dollar. He cited Muldoon and Douglas as exemplars of this approach, yes he did.

Then it was over to MMP, with an even pipsqueakier pipsqueak, Jordan Williams of Vote for Change, locking horns with the Keep MMP campaign's Sandra Grey. Vote for Change have been presenting the Winston threat as one of their chief arguments since the campaign began, so, paradoxically, his return to real contention may help them. But that aside, there seems very little appetite for this referendum. Even Barry Soper, chairing the debate, looked like he really fancied a lie down.

On which note, me too. Good night. A big day tomorrow, beginning with John Key's breakfast with Mike Hosking for Newstalk ZB. At 7pm, the penultimate leaders' debate. TV3 will give you worms. We'll give you Bingo. That's right: Listener Live Debate Debingo. Philip's working on it even now.

7.55pm: John Key has been accused of dog-whistle racism. Danyl at the Dim-Post writes:

Tonight on TV3 news, John Key ominously warned that "a Labour government will include Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Metiria Turei". Leaving aside the fact that Peters has ruled out a coalition with Labour and Labour has ruled out a coalition with Mana, You gotta wonder why a party who is polling double their main opponents needs to run out this kind of clumsy race-baiting during the last week of the campaign. So I’m calling it: based on this statement, and the increasingly weird and hysterical posts on Kiwiblog, I predict that National’s internal polling has Winston Peters registering at >5%.

Idiot/Savant of the blog No Right Turn tweets:

If the accusation were limited to left-inclined bloggers that would be one thing, but Metiria Turei, the Green co-leader (who is mentioned by Key unlike her co-leader, Russel Norman), has herself tweeted, agreeing with the diagnosis:

I've just looked again at the 3 News clip, and Key's remark in full was this:

Under Labour you would get Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Metiria Turei. They're not only big-spending parties, but they're volatile and they're not stable.

6.30pm: On RNZ National at 6pm, Key's warning on the destabilising threat of NZ First leads. That is followed by his ruling out any preferential treatment for iwi on asset sales, and that in turn by the Labour rally.

On One News, first up is a story about convicted killer Raymond Ratana contacting one of their reporters. Next is the Winston spectre stuff, then the Labour rally, with a sprinkle of Goff and his trouble with numbers. Then the Mana party pledge to pull out of Afghanistan and use that money to provide breakfast to children in low-decile schools. Then a look at Hamilton West, where we learn from a group of people eating scones that they back John Key over the media hounds on the teapot tapes.

One News promises a story later in the hour on the election related "satire flooding our online world". I'll skip that.

Leading the 6pm bulletin on 3 News is Phil Goff and the Labour rally. Second is Phil Goff and more of the trouble with numbers. Then some of their woo-wacky poll results on the boringest, excitingest, past-it-est and racistest politicians. The sexiest, since you ask, is Winston Peters, with 7% of respondents. Then John Key is mixing it in Albany, and rounding of the election coverage the Michael Laws brouhaha (see 5.05pm).

Later tonight on Sky News, a debate on MMP, guest starring the man of the moment Winston Raymond Peters. I'll post later on that. Probably.

5.15pm: As expected, John Key has been summoning up the spectre of parliamentary instability should Winston Peters hold the balance of power - see, eg, here and here - suggesting that the country may be forced back to the polls in a matter of weeks. Key said:

What Winston Peters is saying to New Zealanders [see 10.10am] is that on every budget, on every issue, there could be a general election. How can New Zealand govern itself over the next three years - which is likely to be a volatile period in the world economy - when at any stage the whole government can be brought down by Winston Peters?

Expect to hear a lot of that line from National over the next five days. Meanwhile, on Twitter:

5.05pm: This morning's Herald on Sunday draws attention to remarks made by Michael Laws on his RadioLive talkback programme. From its report:

Tension over "Tea Gate" boiled over through Radio Live airwaves when shock jock Michael Laws told listeners to kill journalists. Laws told listeners: "If I had a gun I'd shoot them - put them out of their misery - because they have gone rabid and they may infect others."

He then said: "Have you noticed ... the Herald on Sunday for example, which is rabid all the time ... no idea why somebody hasn't taken the shotgun there and just cleaned out the entire newsroom."

Now Michael Laws has used Twitter to hit back.

Tongue-in-cheek ... it's a simple humour but the number of people who prefer to take a metaphor, literally, continues to astound me.

For certain folk ... Definition of TONGUE-IN-CHEEK ... "characterized by insincerity, irony, or WHIMSICAL EXAGGERATION"

4.55pm: Public service announcement. You can download papers to vote overseas here. If you're a New Zealand citizen and have visited the country in the last three years or a permanent resident who has visited in the last 12 months you can and bloody well should vote. If you haven't yet enrolled, go via Hey Kiwi and you can get a free NZ music download along the way. Here ends the public service announcement.

4.45pm: Many hundreds of people have turned up at school halls around the country hoping to vote today, having misinterpreted TVNZ's election logo:

(NB, made-up fact.)

4.35pm: Phil Goff has this afternoon been rallying the Labour troops in Auckland. Depending on whose account you read there were either 600 of 800 or 1,000 people there. The Herald reports him saying that this campaign has been about two words. Teapot tapes? No, silly: "asset sales". Goff added, according to this Stuff report:

We are six days and four hours out from the close of the polls and I want you to join me in one last big push to save our assets. Six days of relentless campaigning to stop New Zealand going down a path of no return.

4.20pm: John Key has today ruled out giving Maori groups any priority in purchasing shares in the asset sales programme, reports Radio New Zealand. The Maori party has said it might be willing to support the partial sales plans if iwi were given precedence.

4.00pm: Forest and Bird have been running an "ecopoll":

We quizzed all the major parties about their commitment to nature. So far, only the Labour, Green, Mana and United Future parties have replied.

As with the RNZ exercise (see Monday, 5.05pm), National don't seem to be busting a gut to respond to these sorts of requests.


Anne Smyth in the comments praises Jon Johansson's column in the Sunday Star-Times  as "the simplest and clearest explanation I’ve found on what you might do with your second referendum vote if your first one opts to retain MMP". Unfortunately the piece isn't online, but you'll find it towards the back of the tabloid-size Focus section.

Three other useful resources on MMP and the referendum: Jane Clifton's guide, and Graeme Edgeler's referendum tool, which will help you work out which system you favour. The Electoral Commission's own guide to the referendum is here.

12.50pm: The other Winston Peters.

12.40pm: BLOGGERS

Cameron Slater of Whaleoil gives the media both barrels – especially the Herald on Sunday, which is “one big sook fest”.

People complain that politicians become out of touch with the public, the media have shown this past week that they too are out of step with the public and it will be the public that will punish them.

At KiwiPolitico, Lew Stoddart looks at the teapot tapes controversy; he doubts Steven Joyce’s insistence that the episode is publicly “perceived as a ‘Bowen Triangle’ sideshow”.

Kiwi Poll Guy writes about Epsom. On current polling National supporters, he says, would in fact be better off – for the short-term at least – voting for the National candidate rather than ACT’s John Banks. (As he notes, this does not take into account any long term advantage of keeping ACT alive.)

And at Public Address, Damian Christie helpfully provides some clues to the Men in Blue on where to find the goodies at TVNZ.

12.10pm: On this morning's Mediawatch, Mike Hosking reiterates his eloquent defence of the prime minister in making a complaint over the teapot tapes. Unless the tape contained evidence of illegal behaviour, he says, it ought not even to have been mentioned in the media. You can listen to the RNZ show here.

12.00pm: Worth noting here, as covered in the paper review, the Herald on Sunday this morning confirms that "Police will execute a search warrant on the offices of the Herald on Sunday tomorrow". There are no further details that I can see on the HoS's legal response.

11.50am: Hipsters for Goldsmith (see yesterday, 2.00pm) have released their debut single, "Occupy Epsom (feat. Scoop Gower").

11.35am: More on that Horizon/SST poll. David Farrar calls it a "major fail" at Kiwiblog. The paper, he notes, "doesn’t disclose the actual percentages for the big parties. I assume this is deliberate because they know if they said National is on 35% only, everyone would laugh."

A roundup of the blogs in the next hour.

11.10am: POLL

As noted in the paper review, the Sunday Star-Times leads on its latest Horizon poll, and the puzzling headline "Poll no shock for Winston". It tells us that the poll - which is not the most respected of the polls around, it's fair to say - suggests New Zealand First is "on track to take up to 13 [seats]". What it doesn't tell us is the percentage NZ First gained. To find out that it was 10.5%, you need to go direct to the Horizon site.

The fact that the paper goes with "Poll no shock for Winston" rather than "NZ First on 10%" appears to suggest a certain lack of confidence in the figure. Things get weirder further down the story, when two paragraphs are devoted to having a go at the Herald.

NZ First's poll surge is in line with the Star-Times' front page of a year ago. The headline, "Peters the kingmaker again", reflected a Horizon poll that put the party's support at 6%.

New Zealand Herald assistant editor John Roughan wrote a column slating the story but on Friday the Herald front page headline read: "Winston within a whisker: Poll jump puts NZ First close to dramatic comeback and maybe balance of power" over a story that its own polling had support at 4.9%.

Head, scratch.

Here's the summary from Horizon, an online pollster which takes into account both those who are sure who they'll vote for and those who indicate a preference.

The results indicate a National-Conservative-Act-Maori Party- United Future grouping would have 59 seats in a 122 seat Parliament. This assumes Act and United Future win Epsom and Ohariu, the Maori party has 4 electorate seats and Mana one.

A Labour-Green group would have 47, and 50 if joined by Mana. New Zealand First would have 13 seats and the balance of power in the new Parliament. A National-led coalition would muster 73 votes with New Zealand First support. A Labour-led coalition would muster 63 votes if supported by New Zealand First and Mana.

For more on Horizon's unorthodox methodology and its doubters, see here and here.

The Key Research poll for the Herald on Sunday, meanwhile, returns numbers much more in line with the four polls published in recent days. In short: National, 55.6%; Labour, 26.2%; Greens, 11.3%; NZ First 3.6%. ACT is on a measly 0.5%.

11.00am: Sunday morning paper review is here.

10.45am: A good debate between the Maori Affairs spokespeople on Marae Investigates - so far it's focused on unemployment among young Maori, and some debate about the figures over the last three years. Metiria Turei of the Greens and Hekia Parata of National have a blazing row, talking simultaneously for what feels like three of four minutes. Passionate stuff from Turia - a contrast to her phlegmatic co-leader. Shane Jones and Hone Harawira are strong, too, both striving to paint Pita Sharples into a corner with Parata and the National government.

Shane Taurima puts a question to Shane Jones. "People will say you had three terms in government and things didn't really radically change or get better for Maori. Here the National party and the Maori party say they actually are working on improving those results." Jones replies: "Look, Shane, as a professional broadcaster you've got to stop repeating these trite misperceptions. You've got to deal with the election that's five or six days away."

"Answer my question, rather than criticise the moderator, answer the question, please."

"Bro, you're talking to a politician, what you give you get back."

Jones says Labour would restore cuts to education, and attacks national standards. Parata comebacks strongly on the function of national standards in catching people falling behind. "I don't resile from that one bit."

The debate winds up with short pitches from "We're credible - if we can go with someone so philosophically different as National, then we can also go with any other party."

No weak links in that debate, and hard to call a winner, but Hone Harawira may again have edged it - he's been persuasive and assured in all the debating appearances I've caught him in this campaign.

10.10am: After an excursion to Waimakariri, it's Winston Peters' turn. Espiner challenges him on the NZ First pledge to pay back student loans dollar for dollar. Peters says it will be cost neutral; Espiner is incredulous, and says so. "Look you can chip Mr Goff, but you can't chip me," says Peters. He does, however, concede that taken with their student allowance promise, it would require extra borrowing.

On "the balance of responsibility", Peters gets counterpunchy again."That's what I've said," he retorts to every question. But, yes, he confirms, there will be no support, not even supply and confidence, for any party: they would be an opposition party. He certainly doesn't seem like he's in love with the media here.

Espiner asks him to name his party's top five from the list. After a slight stumble, Peters does gives us all the names.

"Thanks for your time for the first time in three years," says Peters, signing off with a grin.

9.40am: Phil Goff next. He gets Guyon Espiner. Too many cooks, if you ask me. Espiner tries to snare Goff by asking about the number of exemptions for capital gains tax. Goff says he doesn't have the figures, but it depends on the detailed policy work. Espiner reloads. Tell us the first year you gain any additional revenue from your adjusted tax switch and how much?

"I think it's about 2016-2017, but again, I don't carry all those figures in my head."

"Well it's 2018-2019, it's a long way off."

The interview is dominated by Labour's economic plan, with Goff striving at every turn to drag it back towards asset sales. It finishes with coalition possibilities. Goff leaves the door open for an arrangement with NZ First. A ministerial position for him? Hypothetical, says Goff. Not going there.

"Do you trust him?"

"We've worked with him reasonably well in the past."

"Do you trust him?"

I've said what I've said. We've worked with him reasonably well in the past."

"Do you trust him? ... You should be able to say that."

He doesn't.

9.25am: "John Key is with us Ll-ive. Phil Goff is with us Ll-ive." Paul Holmes has got things under way in his distinctive style on Q+A. "And we'll also have the potential cat amongst the pigeons, Winston Peters." Reviewing the week, Guyon Espiner notes that the week saw John Banks go from media-hater to media-charmer, while John Key travelled in the opposite direction.

After playing a bit of the Leave John Key Alone YouTube clip, Holmes welcome Key, beginning with the teapot tapes but promising that it will only be brief - and given Holmes's column yesterday, the PM has no reason to doubt that. Key gives his standard we-think-it-was-illegaly-recorded-and-with-the-cops-I'm-not-talking-about-it-point-of-principle response. "Very well, then," says Holmes.]

He then throws another Herald on Sunday story at Key: the one about "the poster child of National's victorious 2008 election campaign [saying] New Zealand has nothing to offer her and she's moving to Australia for good". Key has his answer to the Australia exodus question down pat now. On this and the economy more generally he relishes rolling off the numbers, like - well, like a Big Dealer. There is no threat of Key being Goffesquely caught short here.

Pike River? "When that Royal Commision comes reports back, if we are the government, I give those miners, and all New Zealanders, my word that I'll take that Royal Commission very seriously." On Christchurch, Key says he's confident insurance companies will return to the city before too long.

That's that for Key - hardly a grilling. We go to the panel, but the faces I'd really like to see are those of Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner.

8.50am: Just back from a coffee run. David Cunliffe was leaving the cafe (in David Shearer's electorate, by the way) as I arrived. Two things to share. One: he drives a bright red Prius. Two: he looks less feline in person.

7.30am: Three or four days ago, the widespred view seemed to be that information wants to be free, and the teatop tapes, or a transcript of them, would be made public this weekend.

This morning's Herald on Sunday lands, however, without any Free CD attached to the front page, and unless they've hidden the contents of the tapes in the crossword, there is no transcript, either. There is, however, in this final HoS before the election, confirmation that the Sunday tabloid has fallen heavily out of love with John Key, with the coverline "Key's girl walks away". Wait, that's about something else.

The paper's turning of its back on the PM is found in its editorial:

By attempting to shift attention from the issue, Key has made himself look evasive. The genial what-you-see-is-what-you-get gladhander has looked shifty and uncomfortable and his decision to cancel scheduled interviews with us and withhold his daily itineraries from our staff has smacked of punitive petulance ill befitting a leader.

The irony of it all is that if Key had come clean early on, he might have defused the political impact of the revelations the recording contains; by hedging and fudging he has stoked the fire of public curiosity, and for the penultimate week of the campaign, it has been the only story in town.

The editorial goes on to say:

National's dominance over Labour seems complete but Act's travails and NZ First's resurgence muddy the picture. If Key said anything about either of those parties it is, whether he likes it or not, a matter of profound public interest.

"Profound public interest"? If that's really the HoS editor's view - and I haven't heard him put it that way before - then you'd expect that he publish and be damned. Wouldn't you?

A full paper roundup coming soon, and thereafter Q+A, which is boasting interviews with Key, Phil Goff and Winston Peters - an invitation list that has enraged at least one Green candidate on the cusp of making it to parliament.
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