Selwyn Manning on Steve Joyce’s Northland debacle

Selwyn Manning is a keen observer of NZ politics and like me he has sources across party lines.

He rarely gets things wrong but sometimes over eggs his understanding of things.

He has written a lengthy piece about Steve Joyce’s Northland debacle. It is long, and does over egg the faction details a bit…but is largely accurate.

IRRESPECTIVE OF THE FINAL COUNT, Auckland-based National Party insiders say there will be three losers once the by-election votes are counted, and they are: John Key, Steven Joyce and the National Party itself.

That?s the scornful assessment by some well positioned National Party conservatives who insist fractional fractures are in evidence among National Party loyalists as Northland voters prepare go to the polls in the Peters versus National by-election.

They say many have become disillusioned with the Party?s leadership: most recently, with the party?s campaign strategy, and formerly, with the values and judgment calls by their leader John Key.

John Key gave his caucus a lecture after the election to guard against arrogance and third term-itis. They have ignored that, including Key. Since the election they have lurched from one crisis to the next aimlessly.

After Northland the teflon-coating of John Key will have been shown to have worn thin. His go to people for crisis management will have failed…which means he will have failed by implication. ??

Only a week ago, National contacts in Auckland were still hopeful of a victory. But that hope began to ebb after campaign manager Steven Joyce, and his team led by Jo de Joux and Chris Bishop, decided to deploy a posse of ?flash Harry? Auckland-based urban Nats to the far north for a ?shack-door-knocking? drive.

Fourteen days ago, Steven Joyce?s message to the campaign team was, they had 10 days to turn a National Party loss into a win.

Despite a huge telephone-canvassing effort in recent days, teams of shack-door-knockers deployed to the region on the weekend, and an unprecedented effort to where high-profile MPs and Ministers descended on Northland ?within the comfort of their Ministerial cars?, Joyce above all others looks set to take the blame for a loss of a once safe Tory seat.

Jo de Joux is an abrasive person, most people meeting her would rather run a belt sander across their face than have to deal with her. Add in the “dream team” idiots who have set about pissing off the locals, especially Sean Topham. But Chris Bishop, the former tobacco lobbyist and Joyce acolyte hasn’t helped either.

The phone canvassing has been a complete disaster and all led by Nikki Kaye who seemed to think sitting around gobbing off to her sycophants was preferable to hitting the phones. Even when MPs did hit the phones it was to certified and qualified “blue dots”…members in other words. Those same MPs have told me that walking the streets in Northland was a dreadful experience that doesn’t match the soft-soaping going on via the telephone.

The reasons for the shift in loyalties has National?s ?conservative rump? angry.

For years, big local issues have been either ignored or treated as trivial or low priority.

One National Party insider told me Joyce?s strategies underscore the perception of arrogance displayed by National MPs.

He said Joyce?s strategies are failing. Primary among the failures was to send urban campaigners to an estranged rural seat: ?That was foolish. That tactic looked sure to inspire a solid turnout of voters, but few of them will be voting National,? he said.

He added that Joyce?s decision to swamp Northland with suits and ministerial cars has become a metaphor for how distant the National Party leadership team has become from the real world.

Two weeks ago, a National Party contact said: ?I suspect we are in a fairly poor state in Northland, it won?t be easily held, it could be very close or maybe even a loss.

?Steven Joyce has thrown everything into it, his ?groupies? Chris Bishop and Jo de Joux are running the show. If Winston wins it will create recriminations that will linger for a long time and damage the Prime Minister?s reputation. I suspect Willow-Jean Prime?s vote will collapse.?

Two weeks later that contact said: ?The conservative rump in National is quite scornful of the party?s performance in Northland. This is the Joyce show. Grant McCallum, the board member who got stitched up in the selection is very bitter. He won?t be around for long.?

Joyce and de Joux are going to have to own this. Grant McCallum is very bitter…he hasn’t had the stones to ring me, but has ben whinging like an unpaid hooker about my comments during selection. McCallum refuses to accept it was his own actions that led to his rinsing at selection. He was a toady to Goodfellow and Key on the board and sat there when they tried to have me chucked out of the party. He has involved himself in many selections and not in a good way. He got rinsed and will continue to get rinsed every chance I get. However, he may now stage a comeback…and I hope he wins selection next time so he can get rinsed good and hard in an election.

This is where Selwyn Manning over eggs thing a bit.

The comment speaks of political vendettas that have been dealt. During the candidate selection process prior to the 2014 General Election, Grant McCallum was believed by National insiders to have blocked candidates in the greater Auckland region who were loyal to Judith Collins and her faction.

McCullum?s power-base is Northland. And Collins loyalists bided their time and blocked him from getting his way during the National Party Northland candidacy selections. The most Machiavellian of them suggest a loss in Northland will diminish Steven Joyce?s power, create instability for the leader John Key, and demonstrate that they cannot control the party outside of Wellington.

National party selections are almost impossible to stitch up like Manning believes. In fact the last stitch up was the installation of John Key in Helensville.

But he is right…a loss in Northland will significantly dent Steve Joyce’s credibility…and those of the brains trust who have overseen the debacle.

There may well be a bit of utu, but that is just the facts of life in politics. John Key listened too much to English and Joyce and has continued with his decisions post the election…those decisions are now hurting him hard, especially on the back bench. The real utu is yet to materialise.

But the estrangement between John Key and significant power-brokers within the Party?s Auckland factions is surprising.

One contact said: ?John Key?s judgment is now being questioned, specifically with Key giving Sabin a safe harbour (post election) and support for his 2014 selection? despite the swirl of rumour concerning those matters that are now subject to a police investigation and charges.?

He insisted: The Judith Collins/Maurice Williamson faction will be watching this.?

Accordingly, among the Auckland-based Nats, Collins and Williamson are both of a view that Key has become soft when handling politically delicate matters among those who remain loyal to him.

A week ago, one contact said: ?This goes to judgment, and the PM?s judgment will cost him. New Zealand First will be empowered even if it loses.?

Again Manning over eggs. Though he is somewhat right. John Key has been off his game for some time now. His judgement is costing him…it will be interesting to see what he does after such a shameful loss that is now expected.

Leaving two killers sitting on?the?sidelines is never a long term prospect for political leaders. The longer Key leaves this festering the harder it will be to recover the situation.

Backbench MPs have now made the mental transition that the leadership are actually in their way and an election loss will clear the field. When the back bench is no longer in?the?game then the rots sets in.

Manning’s piece is good, if somewhat over egged, but he has some good sources.

John Key has problems, and those problems are of his own making.


-Evening Report