Opinion: Can Andrew Little do a Jeremy Corbyn?

National would be very loath to admit it, but it would be most surprising if the astonishing result of last week's British general election has not sent more than a few cold shivers up and down the party's spine.

1 NEWS Europe correspondent Emma Keeling brings us the latest after a weekend of drama in British politics. Source: Breakfast

One question in particular will be nagging away at Bill English and company: if someone as previously unpopular and polarising as Jeremy Corbyn can go from zero to hero in the space of just a few short weeks, what is there to stop Andrew Little enjoying a similarly radical switch in political fortune during the upcoming election campaign in this country?

Britain's Labour leader enjoyed a groundswell of support from party members when Owen Smith made a bid for leadership.
Source: 1 NEWS

There is no question that the vastly increased public exposure which an Opposition party leader suddenly enjoys as part and parcel of what is normally a four-week burst of maximum intensity politicking can drastically alter the public's perception of that leader.

For example, a solid performance in a televised leaders' debate in the early days of such electioneering can turn someone previously considered to exhibit all the depth and panache of a two-dimensional cartoon cut-out figure into someone viewed as possessing substance, authenticity, credibility and integrity.

Source: 1 NEWS

Little retains all those qualities. But the public only really knows him as a dour and dull former trade union hack who having climbed to the top of that heap has predictably taken the career option favoured by many of his forebears and clambered aboard the parliamentary gravy train.

The task required of Little is for him to grab the no-lose status of underdog rather than just dog's body.

There is nothing the media loves more in an election campaign than the potential ascendancy of an underdog regardless of his or her political complexion.

At this stage, this year's campaign is instead shaping as Groundhog Day. National's huge lead in the polls and the near inevitability that Winston Peters will be calling the shots afterwards mean the campaign might be better experienced in snooze control. Having an underdog, however, means you have a contest - something the governing party almost certainly wishes to avoid.

There are worse scenarios that can afflict the incumbent regime, however.

Corbyn's shock resurrection serves as a reminder of the golden rule of election campaigns: expect the unexpected.

National knows that better than most. It has been blind-sided in recent campaigns by totally unforeseen events such as the so-called "teapot tapes" and the publication of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.

Thanks to Corbyn, the fear of the unknown has once again become a spectre haunting National.

You can hire all the high-powered political consultants you like to find vulnerabilities in your political armour of which you are not aware. But it is extremely difficult, nigh impossible to cater for the unknown.

The trick is to ensure whatever is thrown at you from left-field is kept in proportion and does not drown out your campaign messages.

There are times, however, when such distractions can usefully drown out what your opponents are saying.

Had English been willing to offer comment on the humiliating rout suffered by National's Conservative Party cousins - a path he is understandably reluctant to go down - he would have rejected any suggestion that any cross-border inferences could be drawn from the cataclysm which has engulfed Theresa May.

He would have likely loyally argued that the hoop-la surrounding Corbyn's performance on the hustings was seriously misplaced.

It is certainly much less impressive when measured against two factors. The first reality check is that while British Labour lifted its representation in the House of Commons by 30 seats, Corbyn's party still fell 55 seats short of the 317 won by the Conservatives.

The second factor is even someone as accident-prone as Corbyn could not compete for the dunce's hat given the frequency and scale of the gaffes which defined the appalling campaign run by the aloof and out-of-touch May.

The Economist magazine has made the point that expectations of Corbyn were so low pre-campaign that it did not require him to do very much to exceed them. Once he had done so, he was on a roll.

There is some truth in such supposition. But it ignores Corbyn's two major achievements.

He succeeded where many others have failed in mobilising the youth vote.

He has shown that a social democratic party can campaign on a list of promises with a very distinct red tinge and still substantially lift its share of the vote.

Under Corbyn's leadership, British Labour's share of the vote climbed from 30.4 per cent to smack on 40 per cent.

That is grist to Little's mill. It sheds new light on his rather odd statement he made last year dismissing Helen Clark's assertion that parties on the left must "command the centre ground" to win elections.

Clark's assessment is the correct one. But parties of the left have found it extremely difficult to command the centre when centre-right parties have opted to adopt various brands of "caring conservatism" in order to establish a monopoly on the centre-ground.

John Key was a leading exponent of that means of shutting the left out of power - as is his successor.

It could be argued that British voters did not necessarily give the thumbs-up to Corbyn's back-to-the-future, back-to-Labour basics manifesto and threw their weight behind him for other reasons.

But neither did they give the thumbs down to the manifesto's contents.

With New Zealand Labour's campaign similarly focussed on what Little describes as "bread-and-butter" issues, the country's major Opposition party will view Corbyn's triumph as vindication for its election strategy.

As for National, it needs to be stressed that it is risky and downright dubious to draw conclusions from what has happened in one country as being relevant to what is going on in another.

There are, however, marked similarities in the circumstances that May faced and which will soon confront English.

Neither politician enjoyed the mandate a prime minister gets from winning an election. Both have been buttressed by big leads in the polls upwards of 20 percentage points. The speed with which May's evaporated will be warning enough to English that when it comes to voter loyalty, there is none. But he hardly needs to be told that.

There is also one highly relevant difference between him and May. Unlike her, he has had prior experience of how not to run an election campaign.

He made more than enough mistakes in 2002 when he led National to the worst defeat in the party's history. He won't be making them again.



Netsafe won't pursue Sir Ray Avery's complaint over media website

Scientist and entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery will have to go to the district court if he wants to pursue his complaint about media website Newsroom any further.

Sir Ray complained to Netsafe under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, regarding five articles Newsroom had published about fundraising he was doing for his LifePod inventions, and about his other past products.

He said the articles caused him severe emotional distress and amounted to harassment and digital harm under the Act.

Newsroom has refused to take the articles down.

Netsafe Director Martin Cocker said there isn't anything more Netsafe can do through mediation.

"As soon as one party says, you know they're not prepared to engage in the process, then that's a pretty strong sign that it's time for Netsafe to conclude its process."

That mediation process is a mandatory first step under the Act, and most Harmful Digital Communications Act complaints are sorted at this point.

However Mr Cocker said the main thing they do to get resolution, is to advise parties on what the likely legal ramifications are of different actions that they might take.

In this case, Mr Cocker said, there is not clarity in the Act about how these particular cases should be handled.

"It is for the court to set that precedent, so our recommendation is that has to happen," he said.

Mr Cocker said if they did not feel they could progress the case, their advice was to consider taking it to the district court. But he said that was "entirely optional" for the complainant.

By Gia Garrick

rnz.co.nz

Newsroom is standing by its reporting on the former New Zealander of the Year, and questioning the method of the complaint.
Sir Ray Avery. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

What to do and what not to do if you come across a kiwi in the wild

A rare daytime encounter with a kiwi on the Heaphy Track got TVNZ1's Seven Sharp thinking - what to do and what not to do when you come across the native bird in the wild.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says it's pretty unusual for these nocturnal birds to be out during sunshine hours.

As we all know kiwi don't fly so escaping predators can be pretty tricky. An average of 27 are killed every week, so we've got to be pretty careful around them.

DOC gave Seven Sharp some important tips to remember if you encounter one of these unique birds.

Firstly stay still and just enjoy the rare experience. Stay a few metres away and don't worry if they approach you, just keep still.

Second, don't move towards the bird or try to pick it up - it's an offence to hold kiwi without permission from DOC.

Also, be weary of their sharp claws - they're wild animals and can get stroppy.

Lastly, feel free to take photos or video, but only in low light conditions and don't use a flash as it can stun the birds.
 


An encounter with one of the birds on the Heaphy Track got us thinking. Source: Seven Sharp

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Farmers fear summer El Nino drought as Spring rains wipe out lamb stocks

Farmers across the North Island counting the cost of a wild start to spring, with thousands of lambs lost due to heavy rain, may soon have another problem to contend with.

Their attention has turned to the coming summer, with those on the East Coast concerned a predicted El Nino weather pattern could bring drought, turning the green hills bone dry.

"It's a matter of making decisions early and keeping an eye on it, a drought normally happens slowly, and you've got some time to get used adapt to it," Federated Farmers Jim Galloway says.

The warning comes as some Hawke's Bay farmers have reported losing nearly 30 per cent of their flocks due to recent heavy unseasonal rain.

Farmer Ben Crosse told 1 NEWS that he lost around 750 of his new-borns.

"New-born lambs are very vulnerable, particularly in the young ewes who are having their first lamb and are a bit more hesitant.

"The lamb birth weight's lighter, so it takes the first-born lamb a wee while to get a drink, and they sometimes can't get going in the rain," Mr Crosse said.

After a wet start, it could be a long hot summer ahead for many New Zealand lambs.

Some Hawke’s Bay farmers have reported losing nearly 30 per cent of their flock. Source: 1 NEWS


Clever kea using tools to raid traps

A native bird famous for its mischievious behaviour has now figured out how to use tools, researchers have found.

Researchers have found that world's only alpine parrot - the kea - in the South Island's Murchison Mountains is using sticks to get food out of stoat trap boxes.

The findings by Gavin Hunt and Mat Goodman have been printed in the Scientific Reports Journal.

The pair found that over a 30-month period, 227 different traps had been raided using sticks across the ranges, which indicated many kea were responsible.

The trapping is part of a Department of Conservation operation to protect Takahe.

From 2002 to 2009 the traps were untouched, but then trappers began to notice the boxes tipped upside down. Some had stones in them and a growing number had sticks in them.

"It's an incredible amount of tool-using," Mr Hunt, an ecologist, said.

Trail cameras were set up and filmed a kea probing a trap-box with sticks.

It is the first evidence of non-humans using a tool in the country.

Mr Hunt said it would have taken many years for kea to develop the technique.

"It seems to be unique... a non-tool using bird having such extensive tool using behaviour and repeatedly using tools over many years."

"It shows the kea has high general intelligence to invent the tool use and keep using the tools to get the eggs out of the trap-boxes."

This suggests how cognitively demanding its been for the birds to figure out the technique, which shows its intelligence, he said.

It may be more difficult to invent tool use in the wild because the natural food is better hidden and more demanding to find, he said.

Having a situation where the food is sitting in a box and easier to see and reach could have encouraged the birds to invent the tool, the research suggests.

Kea are known to have used tools while in captivity but not in the wild, Mr Hunt said.

He said this makes kea one of the better candidates for New Zealand's "smartest bird".

Further research is now needed to discover if kea can use the tool to hunt for legitimate sources of food in its natural environment, he said.

rnz.co.nz

Forest and Bird estimate less than 7000 kea remain.
Source: 1 NEWS