More self-confidence than self-knowledge

January 12, 2014

Self-confidence is one of the necessary attributes for politicians.

Unfortunately many don’t also have self-knowledge.

That’s the quality that helps them know if it’s right to stage a come-back and when it’s time to go.

Rodney Hide has got it.

. . . I loved being MP for Epsom. The people were very good to me. It was a tremendous privilege to get to know the diverse communities and neighbourhoods in such a great part of our greatest city.

In my time, thousands of people came to see me from across the political spectrum, very often at the end of their tether. I was usually able to help. It was satisfying work.

I didn’t want to go when I got the sack. As a minister in Government I was able to help Epsom people better than ever before and I finally had legislation under way to ensure better and more-principled government.

But that’s politics. It wasn’t to be.

And now the position of Act candidate for Epsom is open again. I am very pleased Act has excellent candidates in prospect. I have concluded it can’t be me. . . .

Hide was a good local MP, and he also became a minister. He then paid a high price for taking a perk after gaining a justified reputation as a perk-buster.

But he’s been there and done that and there are far more examples of people who make the mistake of going back than those who make a come-back work.

If Act is to survive it needs fresh faces.

In his own party, Roger Douglas and John Banks are good examples of returns which fell flat.

Hide brings up another:

There was a time when Winston Peters could rattle an entire government, bringing ministers to their knees. Now, even junior ministers get the better of him.

I think it’s sad. Peters appears like some aged rock star who has partied way too hard and is now up on stage trying to relive the glory days. Or perhaps a champion boxer who has stayed too long in the ring. I wouldn’t want that.

I thought the worst thing for Peters was getting dumped in 2008. No. The worst thing for Peters was getting back in 2011.

New MPs snigger at him. There was a time he would have swatted them down like flies.

I prefer to remember Peters as he was. He’s a salutary lesson. . .

He too has been there and done that but he doesn’t know when to let go.

He’s holding on, collecting the pay, warming a seat and occasionally venturing out to dog whistle to the disaffected.

But if he had a fraction of the self-knowledge to match his self-confidence he’d know it’s time to go.


Where’s the context?

April 26, 2013

Critics of Margaret Thatcher and her policies have long lists of what she did wrong and those who were worse off as a consequence.

But few of the criticisms I’ve come across in the wake of her death have put what she did in context.

The British economy was in a parlous state and the country was hostage to militant unions which led regular and prolonged strikes.

Something had to be done and Thatcher did it.

Whether she did the right things in the right way can be argued, but that she needed to act is beyond dispute.

Critics of “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s in New Zealand and their architects Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson take a similarly blinkered view.

They too have a list of what was wrong without even a nod as to why it was needed. The dire economic situation in which New Zealand found itself after years of over generous public funding, Budget deficits and protectionism required urgent action.

There might have been other ways in which to tackle the problems  but had they had to be tackled and more of what caused them would not have provided a cure.

The policies which caused the problems won’t work now either but the LabourGreen lurch to the left threatens to impose them on us again.


Stealing from the future

March 23, 2011

My parents generation came through the Depression with the very firm belief that saving for a rainy day was better than borrowing to enjoy the sun today.

My generation got a reminder of the good sense of that when the ag-sag of the 1980s hit.

We didn’t like it at the time but the tough prescription of Roger Douglas’s Budgets were a very necessary correction of the policies of successive governments from the early 1970s. They spent more than they earned, taking the country into debt which was in effect stealing from future generations.

Reducing the burden of the state and freeing the economy to allow better growth were worthy aims which were subverted by Labour from 1999. Michael Cullen reduced public debt and achieved Budget surpluses but he also increased government spending, gave welfare to people in want rather than need and increased taxes.

The worst damage was done by the extravagant promises which Helen Clark used to win the 2008 election. The productive sector was in recession but it was disguised by high government spending and consumer spending and escalating property prices fuelled by borrowing.

We were already in recession when the global financial crisis hit. Recovery has been patchy at best and the economic impact of the Christchurch earthquake has been the last straw.

The government has recognised the seriousness of the situation and is making it clear there will be no pre-election lolly scramble. There won’t be any increased spending at all – if there is more in one area it will have to come from less in another.

The left either can’t or won’t see the sense in this which gives voters a very real choice in the election.

Labour and its potential allies  want to steal more from the future. National knows the lesson the Depression taught my parents still hold true.


Still only 9/10

September 30, 2009

Missed one question in the Dominion Post’s political quiz again.

I didn’t know the name of Roger Douglas’s book.

Kiwiblog got another 10/10.


1984’s crisis provided opportunity for change

July 16, 2009

Kiwiblog reminded me  it was 25 years ago yesterday that the Lange government came to power.

One of the fascinating aspects of the radical changes made by his government is that generally centre right and right wing people accept the need for them while those on the left do not.

Many of those in the previous government and their supporters who like to call them the “failed policies of the 80s” display selective memory, because they supported them at the time. They also fail to acknowledge that few of the fundamental policies the Lange-Douglas government introduced, and subsequent National administrations under Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley built, on have been reversed.

Labour governments from 1999 tinkered with some of the legislation which dragged us into the real world, tempering it a bit, but they left the foundations on which our economy now stands untouched.

It took a crisis to bring those changes about. The situation we’re facing now isn’t as bad as it was then, but 10 years of deficits is a very gloomy prospect.

Could the government use that as an opportunity to develop a plan for more radical changes and if so would MMP allow them to be implemented?


Bill said then they said then Bill said

March 3, 2009

Bill English has just made a ministerial statement about the report which concluded the $1.5 billion hole in the ACC accounts should have been disclosed before the election.

The responses were illuminating:

Labour accepted no responsiblity and criticised National.

Russel Norman used it as an excuse to argue against privatising ACC and also said that a fixed election date would make it easier to comply with the Public Finance Act.  I favour a fixed date but am not sure that it would make a difference to ministers who weren’t inclined to full disclosure.

Tariana Turia listed some of Labour’s other breaches of trust including illgal spending of public money on their election campaign then changing the law to retrospectively validate it.

Roger Douglas attacked Michael Cullen and Helen Clark for failing to abide by disclosure requirements.

Peter Dunne said the important point was how to ensure ACC was funded properly.

In his response Bill agreed with Dunne. He then laid the blame at Cullen’s feet and said that everytime Labour criticises National in the next three years for not funding something,  he will be able to say if they had disclosed the problem and done something to solve it there would be $1.5 billion more in the public purse.

Cullen was wrong when he said, “We’ve spent the lot.” He should have said, “We’ve spent more than the lot.”

UPDATE: Rob Hosking  is scathing:

New Zealand has that pre-election economic and fiscal update for good reasons. Too many governments have lied.

The Treasury is the guardian of the public purse and is also supposed to be ministers’ consciences on these matters. It failed.

At least, though, it has admitted it was at fault. Secretary of the Treasury John Whitehead today issued what amounts to a mea culpa on behalf of his department.

Former Labour ministers have failed to admit any fault: instead raising the privatisation bogey.

Which is balderdash. . .

 The NBR explains the consequences for breaching the Public Finance Act.


Are they trying?

October 29, 2008

When it’s the party vote that counts those of us in the provinces tend to get overlooked by politicians in pursuit of power who find a much greater concentration of potential voters in a much smaller area in the cities.

Because of this I haven’t been surprised that only National’s Jacqui Dean is seeking both electorate and party votes in my electorate, Waitaki.

However, I do find it strange that the other parties are almost invisible. I’ve seen a few Labour and Act hoardings – and I do mean a few, maybe half a dozen – and I’ve covered a fair bit of the electorate’s 34,888 square kilometres in the last couple of weeks.

I’ve had a brochure with John Key’s commitments in the mail but nothing at all from any of the other parties.

I thought it was just because it was too hard to campaign in such a big electorate, but others are reporting a similar lack of action in smaller electorates.

Stranded in Reality  in Hunua has a hoarding with Paul Hutchison and John Key outside her house:

 And the only other signs I have seen in Hunua are promoting Roger Douglas and Jim Anderton. They haven’t been defaced. I have not seen one Labour Party or  other party billboard. No  pamphlets apart from National Party ones have been delivered.  How lazy can you get? You deserve to lose.

And Linley Boniface who lives in Wellington Central says she’s being wooed by National’s Stephen Franks but:

Grant Robertson, current Labour candidate for Wellington Central, has kept such a low profile in my area that I assume he’s the first person ever to run for Parliament while being in a witness protection programme.

If there’s little sign of other parties campaigning in what is probably the most politically aware electorate in the country you have to ask what’s going on?

I can think of four possibilities:

1) The Electoral Finance Act is stifling activity.

2) The other parties are saving their onslaught for the very end.

3) The other parties don’t have enough members and money to run campaigns.

4) The other parties don’t want to win.


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