The Jackal: May 2020

26 May 2020

Muller off to a shaky start

We all know that many so-called journalists and political commentators in New Zealand work directly or indirectly for political parties or for certain political factions. This was obviously the case when pundit for hire Matthew Hooton launched a campaign against then National Party leader, Simon Bridges, over their numerous polling failures. Despite a clear conflict of interest that wasn’t declared, Hooton attacked Bridges relentlessly on TV, online and in print media, which clearly led to Todd Muller attaining the National Party leadership by only one vote.

Matthew Hooton
While Hooton was launching an extensive dirty politics campaign that will likely damage National further in the polls, Muller was travelling the width and breadth of the country during lockdown to promote his secretive coup against the National Party leader.

Despite his personal travel expenses costing taxpayers nearly $35,000 and direct questions being repeatedly asked, Muller continued to deny that he was after the leadership position right up until National MP’s were recalled to Wellington for a vote of no confidence in Simon Bridges.

Of course the mainstream media have largely ignored these problematic issues with Muller’s rise from obscurity. Over the last week, most interviews have provided Muller with a way to promote himself while attacking the Government unchallenged. Despite the bloody mess created by Bridges being repeatedly stabbed in the back, the mainstream media is generally still singing Muller’s praises.

That unbridled media support was prevalent until last night when Jack Tame (to his credit) asked Muller some direct and pertinent questions on Q+A.

Muller is clearly another disaster of a political leader for National. If he cannot even provide a viable alternative economic plan, National cannot hope to regain any of the ground they've lost under Simon Bridges. In fact by attacking the Government over things they’re already doing well, Muller looks entirely ignorant and out of his depth.

Then there’s the proudly displayed MAGA hat, which Muller initially tried to dismiss because he apparently has some other US political paraphernalia. Whether Muller is unaware or actually supports what the MAGA hat stands for is still uncertain, however his advisors have clearly seen that such adulation of Trumpian politics will be a problem for him here. The MAGA hat, which is a symbol of white supremacy, won't be on display in Muller’s new office.

What isn’t in question is the whiteness of National’s front bench. If the disproportionate selection of Pakeha MP's wasn’t intentional, then we must conclude that National is entirely inept in terms of choosing proportional representation. But if that wasn’t bad enough, Muller and National’s new deputy leader Nikki Kaye then falsely claimed that Paul Goldsmith, at number five on National's list, is in fact Maori. Of course the mainstream media have just presented this as some sort of harmless joke. Oh how we laughed!

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

National leader Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye's blooper over Paul Goldsmith

National leader Todd Muller and his deputy Nikki Kaye made a blunder today in defending the diversity of their shadow cabinet by suggesting that Paul Goldsmith was Māori when he is not. 
The pair were talking to reporters before going into their first caucus.
Kaye mentioned that Goldsmith was Ngati Porou and that they had three Māori in their shadow cabinet: Goldsmith at No 5, Paula Bennett at No 13 and Shane Reti at No 17. 
Muller then confirmed in answer to a question that Goldsmith was the only Māori in the party's top 12.

If Muller and Kaye don’t even know the lineage of their fellow MP’s, how can they be trusted to run the country? If Muller doesn’t understand the significance of a MAGA hat, how can we trust that he has consideration for New Zealand’s cultural diversity? If Muller doesn’t actually know what the Government is already doing, how can we take his opposition seriously? If Muller cannot provide any actual economic alternative to what is currently happening, why would we vote for change?

The only recourse Todd Muller and the National Party have is through robust policy initiatives, because Jacinda Ardern being both competent and highly popular isn’t going to change anytime soon. But unfortunately the blue "team" is completely failing in that area as well. There is in fact no effective opposition to the Government at the moment.

Perhaps the September election won't come soon enough for the National Party, so they can reconsider their choice in leadership for what will soon no longer be the largest political party in parliament.

23 May 2020

Bye bye Bridges

Let’s be honest; Simon Bridges was a disaster of a political leader. If he wasn’t attempting to criticise the Government’s perfectly good policy initiatives that the public generally supported, he was fudging his lines after getting caught out in yet another lie. When Jami-Lee Ross said Bridges “is a flawed individual without a moral compass,” he wasn’t wrong.

In reality, losing the leadership is likely a weight off Simon Bridges’ shoulders. For starters, he no longer needs to practice his victory speech in front of the mirror every morning. He can now, according to the spin, simply spend more time with his family. You've got to wonder though, if family is so important, why didn't Bridges stay at home with his family during lockdown? Instead he repeatedly broke the rules by driving from Tauranga to Wellington every day just for an Internet connection.

So can the National Party actually claw back any of the support they’ve lost under Bridges? Let’s face it, 29% is National on life support. Of course there’s the 2-3% racist vote that's still up for grabs, which may give them a slight boost now that Bridges is relegated to obscurity. However the New Conservatives and Act Party likely have that demographic wrapped up. It would be highly risky for Muller to openly court any unhinged minority votes like National used to in the bad old days of Don Brash.

But it’s not just how the public currently perceives the National Party that’s an issue. One major problem for the blue “team” is that it’s doubtful Muller has the respect of the entire National Party caucus. According to reports, only 52% voted for him to become their leader, meaning that Muller will have his work cut out to keep around half of his caucus colleges onside, many of which will be gone-burgers if National fails to climb in the polls.

Of course the mainstream media is already singing Muller's praises, but I’m really not sure why? There’s just not much to talk about. Muller is another nondescript conservative white male who most people couldn’t pick out in a line up. So he’s a practicing catholic, but so was Bill English, who in 2002 led his party to its worst electoral defeat ever.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

National's new leader: Who is Todd Muller, the MP who defeated Simon Bridges 

He worked in the office of then-Prime Minister Jim Bolger in the early to mid-1990s. Muller was his executive assistant during his second term, when Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley. 
After he left Parliament as Bolger's staffer, Muller moved into the private sector. 
He worked for Zespri in the early 2000s, before moving to kiwifruit and avocado company Apata in 2006, where he was chief executive. 
In 2011, Muller move to Auckland to work at Fonterra, where he worked his way up to group director of co-operative affairs.

Of course the right wing will proclaim that Muller is better because he has business experience. The problem is he cannot contain his partiality. I mean if picking a public fight with Te Papa because they dared to have an exhibit showing that farm runoff was an environmental problem doesn’t display bias, I don’t know what will? Muller’s proclivity to ignore environmental science is perhaps his biggest flaw, especially as climate change will once again be a hot topic in the lead up to the election.

Todd Muller photographed beside his MAGA hat.

It’s also doubtful that National will be able to gain the moral high ground from a Coalition Government that’s doing nearly everything right. Muller can claim that he wants to differentiate from previous oppositions until he’s blue in the face, but the practicalities of carrying out this boast are questionable. He can have the biased mainstream media’s undeserved approval, but without anything to really set him apart all the propaganda in the world isn't going to mean much at all.

Certain right wing pundits as well as Muller himself have claimed that a leadership change will somehow give National a fighting chance in the 2020 election. Obviously this is a highly farcical claim. What they don’t understand is most voters will see Muller as just a different head to the same monster. Maori in particular, who bore the brunt of National’s austerity measures haven’t forgotten or forgiven a party that clearly still doesn’t represent all New Zealanders.

So voters really only have a couple of choices this election: Re-elect a Coalition Government that puts the health and wellbeing of the people first with a proven economic track record in managing New Zealand through multiple crisis…or vote for a political party that couldn’t even get the Christchurch rebuild right and will once again increase homelessness and inequality if elected. A change in their leader really makes no difference to what the National Party actually stands for.

19 May 2020

Poll disaster for National

There’s been a lot of conjecture concerning the reasons behind the National Party’s fall to 30% in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll. Some commentators have correctly ascertained that the current leader, Simon Bridges, has been consistently getting his tone wrong! Others believe that the shift in support is all about the Government’s COVID-19 response, and in particular the way Jacinda Ardern leads in a crisis.

While all these things are correct to varying degrees, one of the main reasons the National Party’s support has declined so dramatically is their inability to use the Internet properly. If nothing else, the Internet has provided New Zealanders with an insight into how right wing politicians think, and they obviously don’t like what they see. In my opinion that's one of the main reasons the National Party is in steep decline.

Yesterday, Newshub reported:

Newshub-Reid Research Poll: Jacinda Ardern goes stratospheric, Simon Bridges is annihilated 

On this poll, Labour is the only show in town, the only party in power by a mile - 56.5 percent up 14 points - the highest it's ever been in our poll and the highest any party ever has. 
Conversely - and this is the heart stopping moment for National - the biggest party in Parliament is blown to smithereens - 30.6 percent down a jaw-dropping 12.7 points. 
The bedrock built by former Prime Minister Sir John Key - obliterated.

Whether it’s National Party MP David Bennett encouraging panic buying, unhinged claims by Alfred Ngaro about a Police State, Paula Bennett attending a homophobic party during lockdown, the promotion of internet troll Katie Hopkins by Simeon Brown or their leader being publicly undermined by his own peers (just to name a few issues), the National Party has a real problem with how to conduct themselves in the age of the Internet.

What they don’t understand is that the Internet never forgets. That’s why the National Party’s negative online campaigning, paid for by secret bribes, has entirely failed! I mean who exactly was the idiot who thought making numerous false claims online, including that $50 billion worth of investment wouldn’t create any jobs, was a good idea?

National have once again been relying on their supporters not bothering to look too deeply into their Party’s numerous deceptive claims. This is an incredibly stupid political strategy, especially during lockdown when most people have an abundance of time on their hands. With the right wings Internet trolls being overwhelmed and nearly every Facebook and Twitter comment being in disagreement, it’s no wonder the National Party is losing the online battle and going backwards in the polls.

It should also be mentioned that National is blinded by their jealousy of the current Government. They simply cannot understand why others don’t view Jacinda Ardern as they do, with hatred. I’ve said it before, but it looks like I have to say it again; attacking the PM personally is NOT a sound political strategy. Stupidly, the right wing doesn’t see the reality of the situation, whereby the PM is receiving local and international praise for very good reasons. This wilful ignorance will become a bigger hindrance for the National Party as the Government announces more and more policies that benefit all Kiwis.

Another issue for the blue “team” is Simon Bridges trying to model himself after John Key. One of the skills the former PM had was his ability to make controversial statements that would gain attention...statements that would annoy the left but often be acceptable to National supporters.

Bridges however attempts to gain attention by saying things that nobody in their right mind would agree with. His inability to read the room or respond with reasonable arguments is light years away from Key’s Teflon like abilities.

So the National Party has a choice to keep the bumbling Bridges on, in the vain hope that the COVID-19 recession will dent Jacinda Ardern's popularity, or choose somebody who can at least remember their lines properly. But if they do nothing, then National is set for an election disaster that they may never recover from, even with the help of the mainstream media.

7 May 2020

National is completely tone-deaf

We all know that Simon Bridges can be a bit tone deaf at the best of times. However during the COVID-19 lockdown the National Party en masse have been outdoing themselves in just how off the mark and laughable right wing politicians can become.

Perhaps it’s the recently leaked polls showing National on life support. Or perhaps they believe their negativity will somehow attract praise from business owners, many of whom are currently receiving substantial financial support from the Government to keep employees on the books. Whatever it is, clearly the National Party has miscalculated about just how much public resentment there is surrounding New Zealand's COVID-19 response.

In an unprecedented global economic downturn, blaming the Coalition Government instead of the pandemic for job losses is incredibly foolish when Kiwis are expecting solidarity from their leaders right now. Most voters don’t actually care if things like the state of emergency is extended a bit or whether the Government’s legal advice is being released. These are beltway issues that the opposition shouldn’t waste their or the publics’ time with. To do so makes them look petty, particularly when Jacinda Ardern is receiving numerous accolades for her leadership through these troubled times.

But if that nit picking wasn’t bad enough, claiming that there’s been some sort of administrative error and pointing towards other countries that are actually doing worse than New Zealand in the fight against COVID-19 is obviously a losing formula. Likewise, attacking Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who has clearly done a good job, is going to lose friends and uninfluenced people. National may as well just go back to spruiking for the fast food industry if that is the extent of their campaigning.

Then there’s the National Party’s recent play for the racist vote. Not only have their MPs made major blunders when trying to complain about the COVID-19 check points, which they incorrectly claim are illegal even though some are manned by Police, Simon Bridges has also failed to include Maori voices in the Epidemic Response Committee that he chairs.

Yesterday, RNZ reported:

Simon Bridges ignored proposals for Māori at Epidemic Response Committee, MP says 

MPs sitting on the Epidemic Response Committee say Simon Bridges is to blame for the lack of Māori voices at the committee meetings. 
Labour's Ruth Dyson said she and other MPs had proposed a number of Māori spokespeople and organisations to appear at the committee, but most of those proposals had been ignored by Bridges. 
"At the end of every meeting we have a discussion about further questions, further submitters, what we want to do and what key issues we want to see, and we have consistently raised the issue of under representation of Māori voices," she said. 
"We have put in written proposals to the chair of the committee, the honourable Simon Bridges, specifically linked to topics that have been agreed on like health, like education, like sport... We've made genuine proposals and to date they have not been successful."

Obviously this lack of Maori representation is because National is having a difficult time finding any prominent Maori leaders who will criticise the Government and more specifically Jacinda Ardern at the moment.

Instead of actually using the Committee to properly critique the COVID-19 response and propose relevant solutions to the numerous problems that have arisen, Bridges is trying to score cheap political points and ineffectually flailing about in the hope that he will get lucky and actually hit something. In so doing he’s expending a huge amount of political capital while his party continues to go backwards.

This type of politicking by Simon Bridges is something most Kiwis will see as a complete waste of time and resources. When many will be doing it financially tough, wasting resources with negative campaigning is the last thing any MP, particularly those on the opposition benches, should be doing right now.

4 May 2020

COVID-19 Round 2

As the world nears a quarter of a million reported COVID-19 related deaths, many countries are prematurely lifting restrictions that were put in place to halt the spread of the deadly disease.

In particular states where bean counters are in charge, the response has been entirely deficient, meaning that COVID-19 continues to spread largely unabated.

Normally you would expect this to cause a continuation of lockdown measures. However economic incentives appear to have overridden many level headed political leaders.

Those calling for lockdowns to be entirely lifted have barely given any pause to consider the ramifications of their demands. For them, the financial incentive trumps any concerns for people’s safety, particularly the working class who're on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Unfortunately class struggle, which has seen millions of lives needlessly lost, is nothing new; it’s just that the stakes are a lot higher now. The destructive mindset that believes in sacrificing people for profit has nearly always existed. It’s just that COVID-19 has made it far more apparent for everyone to examine.

Today, ABC News reported:

As Lockdowns Ease, Some Countries Report New Infection Peaks 

Health experts warn that a second wave of infections could hit unless testing is expanded dramatically once the lockdowns are relaxed. But pressure to reopen keeps building after the weeks-long shutdown of businesses worldwide plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s and wiped out millions of jobs.

Obviously testing should be expanded prior to lockdowns being relaxed.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to reveal how the country will lift its lockdown. The restrictions are due to last through Thursday, but with hundreds of deaths still being reported daily — twice as many recently as Italy or Spain — it's unclear how the country can safely loosen the restrictions.

Clearly the UK cannot presently lift restrictions safely. The problem for countries that haven’t managed the COVID-19 outbreak properly is not only internal pressure from the business sector, it’s that countries safely lifting restrictions will be better placed to compete and take advantage of any global economy that manages to grow from the ashes.

Combine that dynamic with peer pressure from certain sectors of populations demanding an end to lockdowns and it’s little wonder many so-called leaders cannot see past the dollar signs in their eyes.

This dynamic also places pressure on countries to underreport COVID infection rates and related deaths, which in turn could postpone indefinitely the global economic recovery.

All the numbers are considered to be undercounts, due to testing issues, the problems of counting deaths in a pandemic and deliberate concealment by some governments.

Because of this documented dishonesty the world may never fully return to pre-COVID levels of economic activity. But I guess that’s the price we all pay for our over-reliance on capitalism.