Events, news, mistrust – and a democratic deficit

There no facts, only events. That’s the advice some years back from a Victoria University history academic who has published several event-filled books.

The point is simple. As time passes after an event the “facts” become less clear. Different “facts” and perspectives emerge as documents come to light, memories adjust or some speak out who hadn’t at the time or just because as time passes historians interpret events with new hindsights.

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The longer game that will reach through the election

Is Bill English slipping behind the play? A 1990s cabinet colleague, Simon Upton, last Tuesday in effect said he is.

Upton was in Wellington to deliver the 2017 Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) review of our environmental performance.

Twenty years back English, a very-up-and-coming MP, used to say that for his generation the argument over the drastic economic deregulation in 1984-92 was irrelevant. A less regulated economy and smaller government was the way, the light and the truth.

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Big data and an election coming soon near you

Bill English last year famously called his policy line “incremental radicalism”. Last week he did some “incremental incrementalism”. How will that run on “social media” in September?

“Radical” his superannuation qualifying age fix isn’t. No change till 2037 and then to 67 by 2040, though the 10-year residency requirement does go quickly out to 20 years.

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How to wrongfoot science in three easy lessons

Bill English has been the cabinet’s king advocate of data-mining. Last week he turned to anecdotes. That echoes his squeeze on science funding.

As Finance Minister and chief public service and social services reformer up to December, English gave many speeches on the value to be extracted from data on people, especially children, to find where to get the highest return for taxpayers’ money.

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Labour still afloat but has some hard rowing ahead

Jacinda Ardern is now standing in Helen Clark’s shoes. Can she stand as tall?

When Clark, at 31, won Labour’s Mt Albert nomination for the 1981 election, she had to finesse opposition from conservatives and anti-feminists in high places.

Ardern (like Grant Robertson) was nurtured with a stint in Clark’s office. She got offshore experience in London in Sir William Sargent’s Better Regulation Executive that hunted down for Tony Blair obstructive or historically anachronistic regulation. In 2008 she was president of the International Union of Socialist Youth.

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In parliamentary politics it’s the numbers that count

Numbers count in politics. Seven months from the election, how do they stack?

John Key’s National had supermajorities after the 2008 and 2011 elections. In 2008, to National’s 45% and 58 seats, either ACT or the Maori party alone could add five for 63 votes in a Parliament of 122.

National’s 47% and 59 seats in 2011 gave it a majority of the then 121 seats with the Maori party’s three or both ACT and Peter Dunne’s United Future (one each).

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A big issue inviting political energy renewal

The tawdry political news last week was a purity-versus-power internal Labour spat over the hashed recruitment of urban-Maori populist Willie Jackson to finesse the Maori party. There are other, useful ways Labour could expend its energy, as a report today will offer.

Labour spats don’t promote the alternative Labour+Greens government that has recently been getting legs. The latest poll average has Mr Reliable Bill English’s National at 48% to 27% for Andrew Little’s Labour and leading Labour+Greens by 9 points.

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Mr Reliable sets course for the election

It is beginning to look like a legacy: John Key’s practice of setting the election date early in election year. Bill English toed the line last week.

That this has now been done for three elections will make it less acceptable for future Prime Ministers to play guessing games with the date. It is a step towards a fixed term, which several Australian states have.

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