Tuesday, May 29, 2007

End to the phony war

I'm pretty pleased with the All Blacks side to face France in the first test. It balances the need for a good win with the need to develop cover for the RWC. Thrashing the French is important both because this team needs momentum and because the French are highlighly likely to be in the finals.

I've just finished reading Spiro Zavos's book Watching the Rugby World Cup, which I'd recommend for its detailed preview of the Cup including the chapter on who'll win and why. Zavos is firstly a good writer then an excellent analyst of rugby. I didn't know he'd won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship early in his career.

Apparently, in the history of French rugby, winning at home is far more important than winning at home; winning in defence of your home town and within earshot of the chiming of your local church. This means, if NZ face France in the finals, we need to have beaten them resoundingly and often in the lead-up to withstand their inevitable fanatacism at home.

Zavos suggests the winning team will have some or all of the following attributes; a brilliant five eighth, a dominant pack, an inspirational leader and momentum through the tournament. The All Blacks have these elements, my only fear is that they've fallen too often at the penultimate test and will again, likely, face the Wallabies in the semis. The Wallabies are one of only a very few sides to be able to play significantly better during the tournament than at any point previously. Therefore, I hope the All Blacks crack 40 points against the French and the Wallabies continue to struggle with the Welsh... either way, I'll be listening to the alternative rugby commentary of Jedi and his mates come Saturday.


crasster said...

Two things: I thought this header suggested a story about NZ Labour's drubbing in the most recent opinion polling. Turns out your pondscum graphic might be apt (as in Labour are about as popular as pondscum). Then I discovered it's about rugby.

Then I see some guy called Zavos...which is an unusual name (well, at least in countries where names like Zavos are infrequent!). And it got me thinking that your other great omission today (neglecting to even make a passing reference to Labour apparently polling behind the likes of Idi Amin and Nikolai Ceucescu - that was your first) which is to neglect a passing to the recent health scare and hospitalisation of the wonderfully named Zinzan Valentine Brooke (although you would know this is an assumed name - he was born with the more prosaic handle, "Murray"). Zinnie's had quite a serious head injury and, although now recovering in a Spanish hospital, it was clearly extremely dangerous. It seems like Zinnie will recover...I wonder whether Labour will?

backin15 said...

My great ommissions? I'm certainly not uncritical of Labour but neither am I a fairweather friend. I'm concerned about the future of the party and critical of some of its (in)actions but I'm not a sucker for polls this far out.

Labour's got a hell of a job to do. Key is performing well, a point I've made on other blogs recently. I thought his budget reply was excellent, although the irony of his commentary on Labour's policy to allow regions to add petrol excises was laughable. The lack of tax cuts is not necessarily bad policy, I appreciate that some see it that way but I don't particularly - I think setting up a robust super scheme, however designed, is a major achievement and not stimulating inflation sound economic management. That the contrast with Australia is so stark is very difficult to manage politically but it doesn't make tax cuts good policy.

There's Labour supporters who like to bag out their party in public to curry favour with others, I'm not one of them.

crasster said...

Just razzin' your ass. Interesting, though, I don't think this whole Labour in the doldrums thing is about policy. Most commentators are talking about tax, super, s59, education...etc. I don't think these really are the cause of Labour's current malaise. They're symptoms of a deeper issue: fatigue. People are just sick of the government. Not for any particular reason, either. Just slacked off with the familiar. Suddenly the new alternative seems attractive. This happens in any fashion. And, like it or not, political popularity is largely about fashion. Particularly when the competition is between two relatively similar products. Labour and National are like Coke and Pepsi. It's not really like one is really different or quantitatively worse compared with the other. Their differences are negligble. But, because of this, their (minor) differences can become distorted. Fashion. Because of this, I think the current polling is not particularly terrible news for Labour. It's a case of understanding that the opinion polls reflect a general disatisfaction with the government - not a specific one. All they need to do is work out a way of nullifying that perception and it puts the Tories back onto the defensive. Labour has many potential strengths here. It is seen as broadly competent managers of the country and its policy agenda is broadly accepted. I think the great risk points are: media hostility talking-up their demise; the suppurating wound called Taito Philip Field; and the thousands of potential gangerous little paper cuts associated with managing the bureaucracy. So, I would be focussing on either winning the media over and/or getting to focus their negative energies on Key and co. Take some sort of high moral ground action with Field (although it could be far too late now). Reinvigorate their perceived management of their portfolios. I don't know how you might do all of these things, but it's almost like Labour needs to shake itself off and reinvent itself. Acknowledge its current perception liabilities and act decisively to counter-act those perceptions. Some sort of major sea-change event is needed. The Nats achieved the same thing in opposition by changing Leaders. But that was in opposition. In many ways, National's revitalisation is easier because they're the alternative brand, they're the renegades, they're the potential.

backin15 said...

Do you really think the two major parties are so similar? I think on economic and related policies they both occupy a broadly similar space in the middle of the spectrum, but in social policies they're less close. And the differences, while not huge, are significant - it's not just about the significant difference say like National's support of market rents in state housing but more subtle differences too like the Wayne Mapp PC police crap, Key's sabre rattling on law and order or Smith's comments on Asian immigration... they're all reactionary, insular, capital "C" conservative.

Otherwise, I agree; three terms is a long time and it's hard to maintain the electorate's interest. Howard's done it here but only with the very clever use of bogey-men in the form of boat people, children overboard, terrorism etc and his time may now be up.

crasster said...

Similar, uh-huh! On the major (and I mean, major) policy settings, they're pretty much in accord. Their differences are in presentation and in the margins. They both make respective noise and smoke over trivia to try and carve out some point of difference. The stuff you're talking about is the marginal noise. It's Coke and Pepsi. One's slightly sweeter and bubblier than the other - but it's still sugar water with a bit of acid and colouring.