Archives for October 2023 | Josie Pagani



We need to get better at building stuff

Nearly every day the news features someone somewhere who wants to stop something. Nimby lobbies on the right fight housing intensification. An anti-modernity left celebrates a win in the courts to stop a new road.

We need a more muscular and unapologetic embrace of effective government, capable of responding to problems quickly, and building stuff fast.

Josie's Post column is here.

The public sector needs transformation

One of the defining flaws of the outgoing government was its failure before it was even elected to think through great policy initiatives and how to implement them. It expected that, once elected, the public service would translate value statements into substance. It couldn’t. Our public sector is too cautious. Implementation is slow and uneven.

Groupthink is a greater risk than passionate advocacy. The public service will not easily move to disruptive thinking, so the solution is to change institutions.

Read Josie's solutions for public sector reform here.

Lessons for Labour

The rebuild starts with an honest account of why Labour lost.

There may be good reasons to switch to heat pumps and EVs, but it is hard to make the case that this is the best way to help those more worried about the end of the month and paying their bills, than the end of the world. Neither did Labour lose because voters found it insufficiently left wing. Over half the population just voted for a centre-right government; only a third for parties of the left.

It will be a terrible mistake if Labour wastes the first years in opposition trying to become a Diet Green Party. If you are inclined to vote Green or Te Pāti Māori, why not vote for the real thing?

Jacinda Ardern’s initial success proved that progressive values are popular. She campaigned on tackling inequality, governing for the many not the few, and lifting children out of poverty. While values are constant, policies should adapt and change to fit the world we live in. Labour’s policies jarred with its rhetoric. The priorities of traditional Labour supporters, working people on low incomes, were put lower on the agenda than the priorities of the urban middle class.

Great parties need great causes, and Labour didn’t have one.

Opposition is a time for an honest account of why you lost, followed by renewal. The French Socialist party is a salutary reminder of the alternative. After many decades in and out of government, the party cratered on just 1.75% of the vote in 2022. Parties that don’t change sometimes disappear.

Josie's post-election analysis of why Labour lost is here.

The Hoon pop-up, post-election special

Josie joined Peter Bale and Bernard Hickey on a post-election Hoon.

Watch here.

Foreign policy is not a 'nice to have'

Foreign policy has barely registered in this election. National has taken a stronger stand on phones in classrooms than anything beyond our borders, while Labour’s Foreign Affairs minister, Nanaia Mahuta, embarrassed us with her “dollar each way” response to the terrorist attack on Israel, expressing her deep concern “at the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Gaza”. That is like regretting the “outbreak of conflict” between a knife-wielding thug and a dairy owner.

Our security depends on a world where the rules of trade and war are followed, and those who break the rules are held to account.

The next government will be charged with negotiating New Zealand’s place in this erratic and dangerous world. What a shame no party could be bothered talking about it much during this election.

Josie's Post column is here.

LIkeability in leaders

For a proportion of us, it is not possible for someone you disagree with to be right or have decent values you don’t happen to share – they have to be seen as evil and invalidated. It’s an insecurity. People who are confident in their values do not need to burn heretics. They turn them into disciples. John Key and Jacinda Ardern were both seen as so likeable that they attracted new supporters to their parties.

Very popular leaders make a difference, but when leaders are not stand-outs, then there is little to be gained from focusing on them excessively. Substance matters.

Reams of 10-point policy plans probably don’t win support either, but it’s still pleasing that Labour has had a go at substance by posting a 77-page policy manifesto. The word “tax” is mentioned seven times in Labour’s manifesto. EVs get 13 mentions.

Focusing on leaders’ likeability deflects attention from delivery and the detail of how things will really work.

Tax cuts work for conservative parties because everyone can clearly understands how they will benefit, and they’re hard to mess up. Parties promising better social services instead have to overcome scepticism about whether the service will be delivered “for families like mine”.

Josie's Post column is here.

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