State of the race #6: Jackson distracts, Govt gets on with the job

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Another eventful week has left the Labour Party squabbling over the fastrack appointment of a controversial broadcaster and the government showing streaks of liberalism with respect to the cannabis law. Meanwhile, candidate selections continue to leave voters with that feeling – it’s election year. Let’s break it down.

The Willie Jackson saga

Labour’s early 2017 honeymoon with favourable press coverage had to come to a screeching halt eventually – but who would have known it’d come in the form a former MP turned radio host Willie Jackson? Last week Labour’s leader Andrew Little announced that Jackson had been approached by the party to stand for the list, and with Little’s assurance that Jackson would get a “winnable” list position, Jackson accepted.

It has been rumoured that Jackson had been poached by Labour after the Maori Party had attempted to line him up to stand in the seat of Tamaki Makarau, marginally held by Labour’s Peeni Henare. Little was quoted in saying he believed Jackson would be a strong voice for the urban Maori population.

But unrest from inside the party bubbled over not long after the announcement, with Christchurch East MP and spokesperson for Sexual and Domestic Violence Poto Williams stating she could not “in good conscious” support Jackson as a colleague. That changed on Thursday when Ms. Willaims wrote on Facebook that she had met with Jackson and he seemed genuine in his apology.

However major angst still exists deep within Labour’s membership. An open letter against Mr. Jackson supported by members of Young Labour has won over 400 signatures from party members.

Why the anger? Who is Willie Jackson?

The resistance to Jackson largely stems from comments made during his long broadcasting career, which members argue deeply contradict Labour’s values. Most notably in November 2013 Jackson’s show which he co-hosted with former Labour MP John Tamihere was axed following the Roastbusters scandal.

The two had interviewed a young woman named Amy, a victim of sexual assault, over the Roastbusters group which boasted online about abusing young women they had before-hand drugged or intoxicated. During the interview the hosts chose to take side of the abusers, and were thus accused of victim blaming and supporting rape culture.

Furthermore, Jackson is a supporter of the government’s charter school program, a system heavily condemned by teachers’ unions and Labour’s education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. In fact, it is the policy position of Labour to do away with charter schools if elected to government.

Jackson, a co-founder of a charter school himself, wrote in an article still available online “The opposition’s stance on partnership schools won’t get a pass mark from me.  And as far as Maori are concerned, Labour’s Education spokesman Chris Hipkins’ Private Members Bill to scrap partnership schools rates an E.”

Jackson has been associated with Radio Live and hosts Face Television’s primetime current affairs show Waatea 5th Estate. He’s also a former MP, having served as a member for the now defunct left-wing Alliance Party from 1999-2002. Before becoming an MP Jackson worked as a trade union organiser and a record company executive.
Government changes stance on cannabis law

The government has come into election year with a major flip on its approach to medicinal cannabis. Late last year National’s Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye was diagnosed with breast cancer, an experience she said changed her life and changed her stance on the issue.

The change means seriously ill individuals seeking relief from cannabis-based medical products will no longer need the signature of Associate Health minister, Peter Dunne. Instead, approval for products on a case-by-case basis now rests with the Ministry of Health.

Peter Dunne was criticised for not acting on the issue last year concerning the case of trade union leader Helen Kelly, who died in October. Mrs. Kelly had been using a cannabis oil product illegally to ease her pain, and Mr. Dunne called her appeal for better access “emotional nonsense”.

Labour’s Damien O’Connor had long been advocating for the change and said the government’s refresh was “about time”. Meanwhile the Green Party in December announced it would move to legalise and regulate cannabis.

Government pardon another liberal shift

On Thursday Justice minister Amy Adams surprised many, announcing the government would be offering pardons to men previously convicted of crimes relating to homosexual sex. Adams also offered her apologies to the men New Zealand made criminals before homosexual law reform (1986), saying government policy had caused “tremendous hurt and stigma”. The move was praised by members from all corners of the house, including National MP Paul Foster-Bell, who recently came out as gay. Foster-Bell tweeted “I’m very proud to be a Nat today”.

Gareth Morgan’s latest idea

Gareth Morgan’s party is yet to register any support in the polls, but it is gaining increasing media attention with its regular rollout of policy. On Tuesday the Stuff.co.nz website reported Morgan was advocating for the complete sell-off of state-owned national broadcaster Television New Zealand (TVNZ). Morgan said it was time for a complete reset on public broadcasting in New Zealand, citing the alleged poor journalistic integrity of TVNZ’s employees.

He named openly right-wing host of Seven Sharp Mike Hosking personally, and didn’t hold back in his claims that he believed public money was being wasted.

Labour confirms more candidates

The Labour Party is continuing its fast roll-out of candidates nationwide in a bid to take back ground it lost at the 2014 polls. In the Labour strongholds of Dunedin North and Christchurch East, MPs David Clark and Poto Williams were re-selected respectively.

Meanwhile in the safe National seat of Rangitikei, the party has selected unionist and Marton local Heather Warren. The seat which covers a large part of the Manawatu-Whanganui region, takes in Taumaranui to the north and towns of Shannon, Bulls and Fielding to the south. Labour last won the seat in 1935 but it has since been held safely by National MPs with the brief exception of a Social Credit member from 1978 to 1984. National’s Ian McKelvie won with 59.7% of the vote in 2014 to Deborah Russell’s 27.4%. In the party vote, Labour sunk to 18.4% and National won 53.4%. The seat has a conservative flare too, with New Zealand First and the Conservative Party both performing well-above their national results.

In Tauranga Labour has selected school principal Jan Tinetti. Tinetti will take on minister Simon Bridges, and in the Wairarapa Kieran McAnulty will once again have a shot, facing off against National’s Alastair Scott.

Selections for Labour’s Wellington candidates take place this weekend with Paul Eagle the only nominee in Rongotai and Greg O’Connor expected to win easily in Ohariu against a soul challenger. Campaigning in Wellington will then start that afternoon.

Conservatives ready the troops

Refreshed and ready to go, the Conservative Party has a new leader and will start a rollout of candidates and policies soon. The Canterbury businessman Leighton Barker ran in the Christchurch East by-election in 2013 where he won 3.6% of the vote. “I am involved in the Conservative Party because families matter, my family matters, your family matters and they are worth fighting for” Barker said in a press release. The Conservative Party has faced a difficult few years, being leaderless, and fending off controversy and distraction surrounding its previous leader and founder Colin Craig.

Parliamentary leaders do battle in first spectacle of 2017

Watch and rate each of the leaders’ first parliamentary performances of the year in the annual “Prime Minister’s statement debate”. (Or pick and choose which ones you think you can handle!):  

Bill English – National 

Andrew Little – Labour
https://youtu.be/Fw6_jYauv3k 

James Shaw – Greens

Winston Peters – NZ First

Te Ururoa Flavell – Maori

David Seymour – ACT

Peter Dunne – United Future
https://youtu.be/q2BAWO6bFpA

The marginals:
Auckland Central (held by Nikki Kaye of National by a 600 vote majority versus Labour).
Hutt South (held by Trevor Mallard of Labour by a 709 vote majority versus National’s Chris Bishop. Virginia Andersen will be Labour’s candidate in 2017, replacing Mallard).
Ohariu (held by Peter Dunne of United Future by a 710 vote majority versus Labour).
Te Tai Tokerau (held by Kelvin Davis of Labour by a 743 vote majority versus the MANA Movement’s Hone Harawira).
The polls:
Latest poll (as of Thursday, 10 Feb 2017) (No change)
Roy Morgan poll for November/December 
National 46.0%, Labour 27.0%, Greens 12.5%, NZ First 9.0%, Maori 2.0%, ACT 0.5%, United Future 0.5%, Conservative 0.5%, Internet Party 0.0%, MANA Movement 0.0%
(GOVERNMENT 49.0% OPPOSITION 48.5%).

Poll change: National +1.0, Labour -1.5, Greens -2.0, NZ First +1.5, Maori +1.0, ACT +0.0, United Future +0.5, Conservative +0.0, Internet Party -0.5, MANA Movement +0.0.

GOVERNMENT +3.0, OPPOSTION -3.0

Poll average: National 47%, Labour 28%, Greens 12%, NZ First 9%, Maori 1.3%, ACT 0.5%, Conservative 0.2%, MANA Movement 0.1%, United Future 0.0%.
(Greens +1)

The leaders’ social media performance:
Facebook ‘likes’ as at Thursday 2/02/2017
1) Winston Peters 72,742           (+669)
2) Bill English 71,047                   (+3,385)
3) Andrew Little 29,844              (+151)
4) Metiria Turei 13,696              (+102)
5) Te Ururoa Flavell 12,740       (+43)
6) Marama Fox 7,982                 (+21)
7) James Shaw 7,691                  (+18)
8) David Seymour 4,373            (+43)
Twitter followers
1) Metiria Turei 21.8K                   (+0.1)
3) Bill English 15.2K                       (+0.6)
2) Winston Peters 14.0K               (+0.1)
4) Andrew Little 12.3K                  (+0.1)
5) Peter Dunne 8.3K                      (+0.1)
6) James Shaw 6.5K                       (+0.0)
7) Te Uruora Flavell 5.4K              (+0.1)
8) Marama Fox 3.7K                      (+0.0)
9) David Seymour 3.6K                 (+0.0)

– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.

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