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Posts Tagged 'Andrew Little'

Thoughts on Andrew Little

Andrew Little

I’ve previously written a couple of posts about the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little. The first was extremely unflattering and noted that someone had credited Little with having “a dry wit”. I observed that “arid” might have been closer to the mark. To his credit, Little found this amusing.

I was kinder in the second post, observing that the Leader of the Opposition might bring to the Office of Prime Minister a degree of personal integrity all too rarely evident in party politics.

That second post was, I now think, a fairer summation.

But, as a media trainer who has advised several Leaders of the Opposition and a couple of Prime Ministers, I know all too well that integrity is no guarantee of success in politics and that how you ‘come across’, your ‘image’, is a significant factor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Never On A Sunday!


Andrew Little

Having of late been more critical than approving of Andrew Little’s efforts in television interviews I now come to praise him: he handled a lengthy and confrontational interview with the terrier-like Lisa Owen on ‘The Nation’ exceptionally well. His ums, ers and y’knows were gone, he was fluent, his eye contact was sustained and he looked confident. The interview should have been a winner.

There was only one problem – the long list of questions he was unable to answer at all! Not from lack of knowledge but because Labour’s policy on each of those topics was not due to be released until the Labour Party Conference on Sunday, which, as we all know is the day after Saturday, when ‘The Nation’ is first broadcast. The world – and Lisa Owen – would have to wait till then.

So we ended up with a whole series of questions which Andrew had to tell Lisa and the audience he couldn’t answer. Conference had to hear them first – on Sunday!

It was really embarrassing.

So here’s my question: How in god’s name did no-one in Little’s office notice that his interview with Owen was the day before the Labour Party Conference which would make it impossible for him to say anything new or of consequence about … well, pretty well anything.

That proved a disastrous oversight with Little repeatedly having to tell Owen he was sorry but he couldn’t talk about that.

Heads should roll!

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Can Andrew Little win next year’s election for Labour? A reluctant assessment.

Andrew Little

If you type ‘Andrew Little’ into the Search box on this site you’ll find several posts in which the current Leader of the Opposition’s name appears. If you take the trouble to read them all – personally I don’t recommend it – you’ll discover that Brian Edwards thinks that Andrew Little doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever becoming Prime Minister of Godzone and that,”maybe, just maybe, Andrew Little is a man for the time.”

Hold on, both of those statements can’t be true, can they? Oh yes they can! And if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll try to explain.  See, I think this Andrew Little is a pretty good guy. Here’s what I said about him just after I’d come to that conclusion: “Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t ‘come across’ on television and radio your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced. Which brings us to Andrew Little. I thought his reply when questioned about why he had won the Labour leadership that ‘it must have been my bubbly personality’ was great. But the irony behind that answer was also a clear indication of his awareness that he doesn’t meet the ‘performance requirements’  that commentators like myself regard as essential in the aspiring political leader. Indeed, in a previous post I wrote him off as ‘a grim-faced, former union leader with little chance of ever becoming Prime Minister’. When his supporters subsequently spoke of his having ‘a dry wit’, I said I was more inclined to regard it as ‘arid’.  So his ‘bubbly personality’ response was encouraging.”

I’m no longer encouraged. After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he said y’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

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Mike Hosking: You pays your money and…

Stuff

Stuff

I find myself in the improbable position of coming to the defence of broadcaster Mike Hosking.

Winston Peters has called Hosking “a National Party stooge whose jowls are up the Prime Minister’s cheeks”. I take this as some bizarre rephrasing of the common term “cheek by jowl” intended, I presume, to mean that the broadcaster and the PM are close buddies. Winnie will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong.

Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, has accused Hosking of “making no attempt at objectivity”.  One might have expected a more robust critique. I’m told the words “right wing little prick” have been simply flying down the corridors of the Opposition Wing to describe Mr Hosking. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the uncanny resemblance between John Key and Sergeant Schultz

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In the 30-odd years that Judy and I have been providing media advice and training to prime ministers, prostitutes and pretty well every profession in-between, our teaching mantra has remained the same: “Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes”. It’s a practical rather than a necessarily moral slogan. Being straightforward with the media, telling the truth and admitting your mistakes is quite simply the only strategy that works. Everything else will get you into trouble or more trouble than you’re already in.

Our experience of our elected representatives – left, right and centre – has led us to the conclusion that most are reasonably honest and that the lying politician is a much rarer creature than the general population appears to think. Persuading MPs, Cabinet Ministers and the men and women who held the top job to be straightforward and tell the truth has not been a difficult or even a necessary task.

But will the buggers admit their mistakes? No way. To avoid the usual accusations of left-wing bias on my part, I’ll cite two examples from my side of the house. Helen Clark and the painting which she signed but didn’t paint; Helen Clark and the police car speeding her to Eden Park to watch the rugby.

Neither of these were hanging offences and reasonable explanations (or excuses if you prefer) could have been offered for both: PMs put their moniker on all sorts of things with charitable intent; the New Zealand Prime Minister arriving late for an international footie match isn’t a good look. And anyway, these cops are brilliant and safe drivers.

But Helen, who had been brought up in a family where lying was just about a capital offence, was unwilling to own responsibility for either of these relatively minor transgressions. She was reluctant to admit that she’d made a mistake or even that she’d failed to prevent others making mistakes on her behalf.

The outcome in terms of public and press reaction was extremely negative in both cases. Simple concessions, perhaps with a touch of humour, could have avoided all the fuss: “Well, I sign a lot of things for charity; but maybe I didn’t make it clear that I hadn’t actually painted the picture. I couldn’t paint like that to save my life; Yes, not a good look, I’ll admit, and not a good example to other drivers. Guilty as charged, I’m afraid.”

The problem with denial when you’ve done something wrong is that far from making the issue go away, it amplifies and protracts it. Admitting your mistakes tends to have the opposite effect. Your opponents may have a field day of self congratulation, but it will at least be brief.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Andrew Little: A Man for the Time?

In an ideal world good men and good women would be elected to government; the best would achieve high office and a few the highest office in the land. New Zealand, still one of the least politically corrupt nations in the world, may well have come closer to that ideal in the past than many other developed countries.

In the sixties the arrival of television in New Zealand complicated this simple equation.  The largely impersonal relationship between voter and politician, limited mainly to town hall election meetings and radio broadcasts, was gradually displaced  by the intimacy of the television close-up and the advent of the increasingly personal and probing political television interview.

In one sense this was for the public good. Television had the potential to reveal the cracks not only in the politicians’ policies and claims but in the facade of personal virtue which they hoped to project. The small screen was and remains a more effective lie-detector than radio or the town-hall meeting. It exemplifies the dictum that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But television in the 21st century is also first and foremost an entertainment medium. Those who appear on it are required to engage their audience, to hold their attention, to perform. As my colleague Ian Fraser once put it, “to act themselves”. If indeed it ever was, being a good person is no longer enough. You have to look good as well.

Whether being good and looking good, whether being yourself and acting yourself are entirely compatible is not something I want to canvass here. But I do know that if you don’t “come across” on television, your chances of political success are greatly and quite possibly fatally reduced.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons in “Followship” from the Labour Party

lolly-scramble

In the past I’ve written several posts and articles about voluntary euthanasia. The ‘voluntary’ bit is crucial, since no-one who wants to go on living, however great their pain or however inconvenient their continuing existence to others, should be cajoled or browbeaten into changing their mind.

But it is hard to come to terms with the overweening arrogance of someone who believes they have the right to deny another human being, whose ongoing suffering has deprived them of all joy in living and who wishes to end that suffering, the right to do so.

The laws that govern these decisions and procedures will of necessity be complex and they must be watertight. But they are not beyond our ability to design and implement. Other countries have done so.

I don’t want to restart this debate. That is not the purpose of this post. This post is about the significance of comments on euthanasia cited in this morning’s Herald by the four contenders for the Labour Party leadership.

Iain Lees-Galloway has taken over responsibility for the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’  after its sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to get elected in September. Lees-Galloway is apparently gauging support before deciding whether to put the Bill back on the private members’ bill ballot. It was removed last year under pressure from the Labour leadership who, according to the Herald, “were concerned it could be an election-year distraction or that it could deter conservative voters”. The new Labour leader, whoever that is, could apparently have the deciding voice on the voluntary euthanasia question.

So what did the contenders for that position have to say?

Well, Nanaia Manuta was in favour of reintroducing the bill  because it would show “that Labour would stand up for those difficult conversations that need to be had”.

I thought that was a pretty principled position to take.

David Parker, who voted against legalising voluntary euthanasia in 2003, didn’t want to comment till he’d talked to Lees-Galloway.

Non-committal and therefore less satisfactory perhaps.

Grant Robertson and Andrew Little both support voluntary euthanasia, but neither considered it a priority at the moment. The fairly clear subtext of their replies was that it was a vote-loser and that a party that had polled 25% in September couldn’t afford to be seen supporting unpopular policies.

I’d call that unprincipled.     Read the rest of this entry »

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Why my money’s on David Parker. And why Labour’s should be as well!

OK, eventually you have to put your money where your mouth is. So who, of the four declared contestants – Nanaia Mahuta, Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and David Parker –  should, in my opinion, win the Labour leadership contest? And let’s be clear: the only criterion for the job is that that person should have at least a snowball’s chance of beating John Key in 2017.

Nanaia Mahuta has already conceded that she’s unlikely to win the race and she is to be admired for her honesty.

Of the remaining three I’m going to discount Andrew Little first. I simply don’t believe that the country is ready for a grim-faced former union leader to be Prime Minister or to be this country’s envoy overseas.    Read the rest of this entry »

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I say, I say, I say: What is the secret of successful comedy?

“Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing. Those who lack humour lack common sense and should be trusted with nothing.”

Clive James penned that glorious truth. Examples of the correlation between humourlessness and lack of common sense are all around us in present-day New Zealand. They proliferate like weeds. No doubt some will occur to you as you read these lines, but it may be wiser not to name them, to keep your counsel. The humourless weed is prickly and cannot see the joke.

I was reminded of Clive James’ words by the current race for the Labour Party leadership. If James is right  – and everything I have observed about my fellow man in more than seven decades persuades me that he is –  if those who lack humour should indeed “be trusted with nothing”, then we would be wise to include evidence of the presence of a sense of humour among our criteria for electing those who seek to govern us.    Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sort Of Open Letter to the ABCs in the Labour Caucus

A good mate pointed out to me that it wasn’t very smart to heap abuse on the heads of people whose opinion you hoped to change. He was referring to my most recent post On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party Stupidity, in which I called the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ brigade ‘numbskulls’.

My good mate is right. It wasn’t very smart and you aren’t all numbskulls. But I was angry with you. Very angry.

I’m still angry with you because, though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, that’s where my political sympathies lie – left of left. Like you, I want Labour to win the next election. I want to see the back of a government that rewards the rich and powerful and punishes the poor and powerless. So I’m unlikely to have time or sympathy for anyone whose words or actions make that Labour win unlikely.  That is what you are doing by supporting either Grant Robertson’s or Shane Jones’ bid for the leadership. Robertson can’t win for Labour and Jones is a harmful distraction.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Is New Zealand ready for its first gay Prime Minister?

The premise behind my question is that this National Government is stuffed and has little or no chance of retaining office after the 2014 election. A serious mishandling by the Prime Minister of the infamous ‘cup of tea’ episode, the Crafer Farms cock-up, asset sales in general, the ACC debacle, the factionalism within National which that debacle has revealed and the emergence of a less assured and grumpier John Key, all point to an administration in meltdown. Given all of that, the next Government ought to be a Labour-led coalition. But led by whom?

In his weekly Herald on Sunday column, Matt McCarten correctly states that ‘this has been a good week for the left. Labour has been useless for so long we’ve forgotten what it’s like for it to have the National Party on the back foot in Parliament. This week Labour was on fire.’

The column is accompanied by a photograph of Labour Leader David Shearer with the caption: David Shearer and his colleagues finally have the Government in their sights.

But there is no mention of Shearer anywhere in McCarten’s piece. Instead he singles out Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little as ‘pressing the attack’.

In a column headed ‘Scrappers thrive as Shearer acts statesman’, The Sunday Star Times’ John Hartevelt singles out Labour’s Deputy Leader Grant Robertson as ‘the party’s political scrapper’:

‘He’s been called up repeatedly as the point guy in the debating chamber on ACC and asset sales – two of the government’s worst bleeding sores.’

He also singles out Andrew Little:

‘If there were any doubts Little was genuine leadership material, his unflinching performance against a steely-eyed Collins should have put them to bed. That may be discomforting news to Shearer but it will be welcomed by his party.’

No more discomfiting to the Labour leader perhaps than Hartevelt’s description of him as ‘still dangerously bereft of a firm identity and without a proper grip on the leadership.’

Just four months after an election then, political commentators are suggesting replacements  for the current Labour Party leader.  Read the rest of this entry »

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