Possible next PM of Britain Boris Johnson (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Race to be Britain’s PM takes shape

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Race to be Britain’s next PM takes shape, OIA release raises further GJ Thompson questions, and ministers respond to farming world concerns about trees.

We’ll go international this morning, for an update on the race to be Britain’s next PM. As one of the leading countries in the Western world (for now at least) the choice is shaping up as one that could have a profound impact on not just that country, but the world as a whole.

First, the race itself: After a few culls and eliminations, the field has been narrowed down to five, reports the BBC. They include front-runner Boris Johnson, who is wildly ahead of the chasing pack with 126 MP votes in the latest ballot. The other four are sitting between 33 and 46 votes, which give a sense of the closeness of the race to be second. And that race is really quite important, because under the format of the election, the top two candidates as decided by MPs then get put before the Conservative Party membership, who have the final say. Overnight Dominic Raab, considered a Brexit extremist, was eliminated from the contest.

Looming over it all is Brexit. On this point, Mr Johnson has once again been accused of inconsistencies, allegedly promising completely difference visions of Brexit to different MPs, as this report from the Guardian makes clear. Peter McKenzie has also looked into it for Newsroom. He’s happy to have a no-deal Brexit on the table, which is almost impossible to see getting through the UK parliament. Mr Johnson has also been criticised for not fronting up to media, rather he is preferring to keep as small a target as possible, which some suggest is so that people won’t have the opportunity to catch out those inconsistencies, or the fantasy views he appears to hold about his chances of negotiating a better deal with the EU – in particular because as this Buzzfeed investigation shows, EU leaders don’t really rate him as a serious person.

Rising up through the challenger ranks is a guy who appears to be the favourite of those who have no say whatsoever in the process. Rory Stewart has earned the viral moment of the campaign, reports Metro UK, by likening Brexit negotiation delusions to trying to stuff too much rubbish in a bin – it would all work out as long as one “believes in the bin.” Mr Stewart has also secured an unusual endorsement from a New Zealand MP. National’s Mark Mitchell, who fought in Iraq alongside Mr Stewart, wrote on his Facebook that the conduct and leadership shown by the Brit in difficult situations was exemplary.

Whoever wins, there would still be a mountain of work to do. Former PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal was repeatedly snubbed by the UK Parliament, and the EU have repeatedly said that’s the only deal on offer. There’s no majority for no-deal, or for a second referendum on whether the whole thing should be cancelled. It means a few possible scenarios could emerge. One could be a snap election, to try and rejig the numbers enough so that a majority for an option could be gained. Given the recent EU elections though, where both the Brexit Party, and staunchly remain Liberal Democrats made big gains, it’s not clear if a new election would result in anything other than further polarisation. Some candidates have even suggested that parliament be ‘prorogued’ (shut down) so that like it or not, the UK just crashes out on October 31. That’d be a good option if you wanted to start a civil war, but perhaps not quite so good for general governance.

A no deal Brexit wouldn’t be good for New Zealand. That much was clear, when the possibility was looming in March, and it will still be true if it ends up happening in October. Exporters would really struggle to get their goods into the country. It’s not by any stretch New Zealand’s biggest market any more, but it’s still worth about $1.5 billion as a market. But really, from this distance, we can only hope that British reasonableness will win out over British bullheadedness.


Correspondence released under the OIA suggests that lobbyist GJ Thompson failed to meet undertakings to alert managers as conflicts arose, writes Asher Emanuel for The Spinoff. Mr Thompson, who acted as chief of staff when the Ardern administration was in its early months, has subsequently returned to his lobbying firm. During his COS tenure, correspondence released show he declared his interest in that firm in general terms. But it is not clear that any clients of the firm were ever identified, which would have been the actual conflict of interest, rather than just the general involvement with a lobbying firm.


Ministers Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor have responded to farming concerns around the billion trees programme, reports Stuff’s Gerard Hutching in a comprehensive and detailed story. Mr Jones stressed that grants were available for farmers to take advantage of to plant more trees, but so far they have been slow to come forward. He also said he was working on adjustments that could allow riparian planting to be counted towards the ETS. For context on those concerns, have a read of this piece I filed over the weekend.


The students who organised the school strike are now looking ahead to what they hope will be a population-wide general strike, reports Radio NZ. It will line up with similar global efforts on September 27. School strike organiser Sophie Handford says the issues of climate change won’t just affect the young, so they want the whole population to participate.


Afghan villagers have pulled out of participating into the inquiry into Operation Burnham, reports Stuff. They say they’re totally disillusioned with the inquiry process so far, and have lost confidence in it. The Department of Internal Affairs say they’re still confident the inquiry will be able to get to “get to the truth” of what happened on the night of the raid.


This is a story worth keeping an eye on, from NZ Herald (paywalled) journalist Kirsty Johnston’s ongoing series on housing. A councillor is calling for an investigation into garages being converted into ‘utility rooms’ – which are then used for sleeping by families desperate for housing. A lot of those so-called utility rooms breach minimum standards for what can be rented out as a bedroom. But the problem is rarely reported – one reason for that could be because tenants using the rooms like that are desperate.


There’s a brouhaha currently under way over changes to school zones around Albany, in the north of Auckland, reports Stuff. It’s a really interesting story – Albany Primary is trying to exclude areas like Unsworth Heights from their zone because of a rapidly expanding roll. But some parents in that area are up in arms, because they bought into the area specifically for access to the school, and it’s highly likely their kids would otherwise end up at Target Road, which has a lower decile.


Finally, a quick shout out to Abbas Nazari. He was one of the kids on the Tampa, who were taken in by New Zealand as asylum seekers. He wrote this for The Spinoff back in 2017 about how giving people a chance at a decent life could pay off. And now he’s just won a Fulbright Scholarship to do postgrad studies in the USA. You just love to see it.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Josie Adams gets shown around Onehunga, the eccentric beating heart of Auckland’s emerging culture. Cameron Walker takes a forensic, legalistic look at ACT’s new free speech members bill, and questions whether it would even address the problem it is purportedly trying to solve. Hussein Moses goes behind the scenes of Red Bull 64 Bars, an institution in NZ rap which has now been running close to a decade. And Josie Adams again gets amongst the live action Wellington show set in the What We Do in the Shadows universe.


This is one of those classic stories about Auckland housing that just leaves you shaking your head. Writing for Metro, Eddy Dever has looked into a new co-housing space with 22 bedrooms, and the rest of the spaces are shared – all for $360 a room. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the co-housing model, which under the right circumstances could be brilliant. It’s just that the price seems a bit steep, so here’s an excerpt about what is and isn’t included:

If you prefer spending time in spaces that don’t resemble the cheapest cabins on a cruise ship, then there’s a variety of other rooms on offer: a common area, a kitchen (just one for the whole building), a movie room (good luck deciding what to watch), and a ‘rumpus room’ (which I think we can all agree is a normal adult room for adults).

One room that is not mentioned anywhere on their entire website is a bathroom. Will The Coh have bathrooms? Who’s to say. Will they provide the same level of comfort and cleanliness as your average youth hostel? Who’s to say.

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Interesting moves have been made by Sky TV around the Rugby Channel, which is being kicked to touch. Rather than having it as a standalone product with extra fees attached, all of the content will simply be shifted onto existing channels, reports the NZ Herald. The changes will take effect from August, and could also include changes to FanPass and the wider network of channels. It’s worth noting that Sky TV could easily be considered the single most important institution in professional sport in New Zealand, so whatever they choose to do could have big implications for the profile of various codes.


From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.


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