Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Brownlee’s Uranium Breath Leadership Challenge


Brownlee’s Uranium Breath Leadership Challenge

By Paulo Politico

It is likely that Brownlee will challenge English at National’s forthcoming caucus retreat in February. Whoever wins the leadership must demand consistency from his caucus colleagues. A clear, consistent and credible policy alternative is the only way that National will ever capture the imagination of voters.

As it enters its fourth year in opposition, the National Party has evidently learned nothing from its past two election defeats.

National’s loss in 1999 can be attributed to many things. It had become a stale government, led by a stale cabinet. National in government cut New Zealand Superannuation on one hand while insisting that it could continue to cut taxes on the other. Voters grew tired of National’s chronic cost cutting in health, education and the police.

By the time National went to the polls in 1999, defeat seemed inevitable.

Explaining National’s loss in 2002 not so easy. Not only did National lose, its share of the party vote collapsed. Few people will forget Labour’s trouncing of it conservative foe, outpolling National in the crucial party vote contest in seats like Rodney, East Coast Bays and North Shore. If the party vote decided the electorates then Labour outpolled National, 65 to 4.

True, Helen Clark’s government enjoyed great success during its first term. The Prime Minister herself can be well satisfied with her own personal standing. She is far more respected and admired than any of her political opponents.

But Labour’s success in itself does not explain why National in January 2003 looks in no better shape than it did when it lost power in November 1999.

I attribute National’s failure to at least preserve its 1999 vote, to a failure of leadership and a failure to present a credible policy agenda.

National today is a sea of contradictions. Take the recent press statement from National’s deputy leader Roger Sowry, calling for a multi-lane highway to be built between Auckland and Wellington.

The suggestion itself is interesting and arguably worth consideration. But Sowry also made the mistake of inferring that money taken from the petrol tax could be redirected to build the highway.

Consider these points:

Sowry was a member of a government that frequently ratcheted up the petrol tax charged at the pumps. During its final term in office, the National government imposed some of the most significant increases in the petrol tax that we have seen in recent years.

A year ago, Sowry’s own leader Bill English called for the establishment of a multi-lane highway between Auckland and Hamilton. But English suggested directing money for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (not the petrol tax) to pay for the road. Twelve months on, and National’s leader is being contradicted by his own deputy.

The government has already moved to pass legislation that will serve to unlock New Zealand’s road network. While Auckland stands to benefit, other important projects are currently taking place, such as the State Highway 2 realignment project between Kaitoke and Te Marua in Upper Hutt.

So with one media statement, National’s own deputy leader has (a) established a double standard, (b) contradicted his own leader, and (c) deliberately ignored important development work already taking place.

Simply not credible.

National needs to have a clear and consistent message. The party cannot move beyond its past failures if its own frontbench are going to contradict one another and their own track record.
I think Sowry’s contradiction of his own leader is not deliberate. I doubt that Sowry actually meant to fudge his leader’s message, as it would not be in either of their interests to feud in front of their own cynical colleagues.

But another frontbencher, Gerry Brownlee, is deliberately contradicting English.

By publishing an article in The Press, which calls for an end to New Zealand’s ban on nuclear-powered ships, Brownlee has deliberately challenged the policy position that English has advocated since he took on the leadership of the National Party in 2001.

The timing of Brownlee’s challenge to his own leader is even more interesting. Since the election, English has been proactive in leading National’s opposition to the government on almost every issue. This was designed to maximise his profile and gain the party some much needed media coverage.

Unfortunately the strategy has failed. National went into the summer break with support falling below 20 percent in many opinion polls. Even worse for English, he has been overtaken by Winston Peters, as the second most preferred Prime Minister (although both MPs are far behind the Prime Minister).

Brownlee knows that January is a quiet month for news, and most media outlets consider anything even remotely provocative. So in writing the article, Brownlee knew there was a high chance that it would be published.

Secondly Brownlee knew that contradicting his leader on an issue as fundamental as New Zealand’s nuclear free legislation would get their colleague’s attention. As the shadow Leader of the House, Brownlee knows he has to maintain a good working relationship with other National MPs. So Brownlee (and his supporters) must have gone to some lengths to canvas the sentiments of other caucus members.

Thirdly English did not anticipate the Brownlee challenge. No leader would allow such a contradictory statement to be deliberately released to the media. That Brownlee is prepared to spring such a surprise on his own leader offers a clue as to how the National caucus (a) regard its leader, (b) have sympathy for Brownlee’s sentiments.

Finally, it was left to Wayne Mapp to comment on Brownlee’s article. Mapp reportedly agreed with Brownlee’s call for an end to New Zealand’s ban on nuclear-powered ships. Whatever the merits of the policy u-turn, Mapp too has declared a position that contradicts his own leader.

All of this does not address National’s fundamental problem – a lack of credibility. New Zealanders loathe policy flip-flops and u-turns on fundamental issues. It is a sign of weakness. Such weakness is never rewarded at the ballot box, as National found out to its detriment last July.

It is likely that Brownlee will challenge English at National’s forthcoming caucus retreat in February. Whoever wins the leadership must demand consistency from his caucus colleagues. A clear, consistent and credible policy alternative is the only way that National will ever capture the imagination of voters.

My advice to the National leader (whoever he may be) is to confirm his position as soon as possible and put to bed the contradictions and double standards that has plagued the party since it lost office in 1999.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news