On The Vote Metiria Turei of the Greens and National's Sam Lotu-Iiga both slipped up, and in doing so showed where their parties are potentially weak in Election 2014.

The Labour leadership contest has shown the important role narrative plays in politics - Shane Jones the roguish bloke who knows what it's like for real Kiwis... David Cunliffe the economic visionary and new-left champion of the worker who can still reassure the centre... Grant Roberton the uniter, the good bloke and the new generation of leader who will move us beyond the baby-boomers. Which one most resonates with you is likely to have a large impact on how you vote.

But just as powerful is the anti-narrative - the story your opponents try to stick on you - and on last night's The Vote we saw two examples that give us an insight on how next year's election battle could unfold.

Television can brutally expose you in just a moment; or it can launch you just as quickly. Both Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei and National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga were exposed on last night's programme -- not in a moment, but several times.

Turei got caught out by a simple questions; "Do you want house prices to drop?" It's one thing to fret about housing affordability, to say how prices are out of control even and fear a bubble. But to tell the more than one million mortgage holders in New Zealand -- including many of the deeply indebted Auckland liberals who vote Green -- that they should be willing to take a hit on their biggest asset, well, the hashtag #politicalsuicide was used on Twitter and wasn't out of order.

Thing is, Turei was asked twice by Duncan Garner and stuck to her guns. Twenty minutes later into the programme, Linda Clark pressed her on the comment and rather than recant, Turei went further, saying:

"...that means that those holding onto the wealth now will have to be prepared to let some of it go."

While Turei went on Fristline to admit that she had mispoken, the fact is it revealed something. Not that the Greens have a secret agenda or really do want to collpase the housing market, but that Turei in her concern for affordability, hadn't understood the implications of the issue. She didn't see the whole picture -- at least not on that night, and probably more than that. It's a worringly shallow take on the housing portfolio show holds.

Sam Lotu-Iiga came to the debate prepared, but struggled in the heat of a theatre audience and all those TV cameras. It's a brutal environment and frankly, a backbencher with limited TV experience should not be asked to go on primetime television to represent the government on one of the year's hottest topics. But it's the natural outcome of National's policy that ministers do not debate on TV.

Guyon Espiner pointed out that first-home buyers would need a deposit of $130,000 to buy an average-priced house in Auckland and asked whether it put the Kiwi dream out of reach for most. Lotu-Iiga replied "no, it’s not out of reach". Boom. I mean, who can save that sort of money in our low wage economy?

To make matters worse, Espiner later asked him just what National had done to help the housing shortage we now face, especially in Auckland. Lotu-Iiga froze and struggled to find any kind of answer at all. This is how it went:

Espiner: Sam Lotu-Iiga, National and the coalition have been in Government since 2008, how on earth have you let the supply of houses get so out of control? Why are we so far behind? You’ve done nothing haven’t you?

Lotu-Iiga: Well we’ve done something. We passed the law last week that these guys opposed because we need 39-thousand homes in this city.

Espiner: Why did you wait five years? What have you done in the last five years?

Lotu-Iiga: Let’s talk about the facts. In terms of house prices, between 1999 and 2008, they went up by 100 percent.

Espiner: We’re talking about your government

Lotu-Iiga: And our government has put in place legislation around…last week, last week,

Espiner: In the last five years, what have you done? What have you done?...Yeah there’s been a global recession!

Lotu-Iiga: We’ve put in place some legislation

Espiner: Last week. What have you done in the last five years?

Lotu-Iiga: We’ve got an inquiry into building materials.

Twyford: Five long years.

Espiner: Doesn’t sound very good does it?

Cue the hashtag #fivelongyears.

Both slip ups play into the narrative their opponents are trying to craft around them ahead of next year's election. John Key is being as subtle as a brick to the head in his efforts to paint the Greens as economic nutters who will drag Labour to the left and ruin the economy. The go-to place to criticse the left is always 'voodoo economics'. That will clearly be at the heart of National's re-election strategy and these sorts of comments are exactly the sort of ammunition he's after.

Lotu-Iiga's gaffes suggest a government that is out of touch and has run out of ideas. National's achilles heel typically revolves around claims of elitism and a 'rich pricks' mentality. And government seeking a third term will be accused of being tired and at the end of its creative road. The Opposition parties will ask often exactly what's been achieved in #fivelong years.

And housing is a weak point for the government. It's missed the boat on supply especially, given that the market has simply not built enough houses. It established the Productivity Commission, which slowed things down, then to exacerbate the problem didn't respond to its recommendations for months. Its Housing Accord with Auckland came five years in -- too little, too late. And it's hurting first home buyers and their parents who are being asked to act as bankers. This is middle class angst, but more than that the Kiwi dream of home ownership has been wounded. That touches everybody.

So housing will be a major battlefield next year. But the weapons will be those narratives. The question is which one will you and other voters buy into this time.

 

Comments (10)

by Andre Terzaghi on September 13, 2013
Andre Terzaghi

Oh how I wish the Greens would be happy just being green. Just focus on environmental issues, and be genuinely willing to work with whomever happens to become the government. Keep their views about economics, foreign policy etc low-key except as they relate to the environment. As they came close to doing in 2008-2011. Then they would get my whole-hearted support. But when they venture off into trying to be a full service political party it seems to get badly unstuck with poorly thought through ideas getting pushed way too hard. So on the basis of Green performance this term, if I can bring myself to vote Green next year it will be with my nose held very firmly.

by mikesh on September 13, 2013
mikesh

It is highly unlikely Ms Turei would have misunderstood the implications of the issue. Questions about a situation where something that would be good for the community as a whole but would injure a large portion of that community are always difficult for a politician to give a straight answer to. Like Mr Lotu-liga she should, from a political point of view, have obfuscated and avoided giving an honest answer.

John Key once said that he would like to see wages fall, but it didn't seem to do him any harm. 

by Tim Watkin on September 13, 2013
Tim Watkin

Mike, fair point about Key. He talked his way out of that one, but it was pounced on in the same way (ie as a revelation). But if Turei didn't misunderstand, you're saying she genuinely wants house prices to fall? I don't think the Greens really want people going into negative equity, spending to freeze up and everyone losing money on their biggest asset. So what do you think she meant?

by stuart munro on September 13, 2013
stuart munro

Metiria may have just been caught on the spot. The Green position may be that some prices may or must fall, without necessarily cascading negative equity all over the place.

Entry level 1 bedroom accomodation unit/flat prices could fall, for example, without dramatically affecting the prices of 3 bedroom with back section family homes...

There would be some effect, but nothing alarming - except perhaps to folk who've gone long on entry level housing.

The current state of the market though - blowing out at 10-12% per year - is such that even a vigorous intervention might only cause prices to rise less steeply.

by Andre Terzaghi on September 14, 2013
Andre Terzaghi

The thing is, if her first instinct was actually green, Metiria's answer would have talked about the green advantages of things like urban and suburban densification, compact housing (less energy use, less water use, better linkage with public transport etc). And also talked about helping people improve the value of their homes with green upgrades. And then finished with the observation that pushing future development in those directions will not cause the value of existing housing to drop.

by Wilbur Townsend on September 14, 2013
Wilbur Townsend

So, I don't get your point here Tim.  Literally every party in Parliament wants housing prices to drop. The right (broadly) want to do it through deregulation,  the left (broadly) want to do it through Government building,  banning foreigners,  etc. If you think housing is unaffordable,  you have to make it cheaper.

by stuart munro on September 14, 2013
stuart munro

The Gnats don't want cheaper housing. Developers and real estate estate agents are some of their core membership. But they need to pretend to care, because not caring is also political suicide. No mystery then that their policies have proven ineffectual. Lotu-liga is a General McClellan.

by Andrew Geddis on September 15, 2013
Andrew Geddis

So, I don't get your point here Tim.

Tim's point would appear to be that Meteria Turei needs to learn to lie better. Or, at least, develop the ability to say two contradictory things at once, without the clash between the two becoming so overwhelmingly apparent that even the NZ media notices it.

(Insert smiley-face emoticon to indicate an absence of malice.)

by Richard Aston on September 16, 2013
Richard Aston

As a green voter I found Metiria Turei a downright embarrassment!

Her mishandling of the house price drop question was excruciating. It’s a complex issue and demanded either a finely nuanced answer or a distraction. I notice Twyford and Peters neatly sidestepped this thorny issue.

My main concern was her constant barracking and interruptions while the other side was talking.  At one point Espiner was nailing the Nat team really well but I couldn’t hear them over the noise coming from Metiria Turei.

She let the Greens down really badly.

Still not nearly as badly as Sam Lotu-Iiga letting the Nats down, he was worse than embarrasing. That does beg the question of why did the Nats throw such a bunny into the ring. Did they not rate the show?

 

 

by Alwin Spencer on September 26, 2013
Alwin Spencer

Interesting post, lot of information here. i think the whole world is under economic problems.

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