Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am: English and Ardern most popular; No 'Hit and Run' on Election 2017; Key's valedictory; 1 fun thing

The new book from Nicky Hager (left) and Jon Stephenson is unlikely to have the political impact of "Dirty Politics". Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In today's email, we consider the possible fallout from the new book by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, and look at a tricky poll result for Labour.

1. No pre-election 'hit and run'

I sweated along with everyone else through last night's packed launch event for Nicky Hager's new election-year book at Unity Books in Wellington, but it wasn't what most of us were expecting.

The new book is no 'Dirty Politics' and is unlikely to have the same political impact, but 'Hit and Run' will reverberate through the military and force the Government to respond to allegations of a cover-up of a potential war crime. The book is centred on a botched SAS raid on an Afghan village in August 2010 that killed and injured 21 civilians.

Here's my piece for Newsroom.

The book's targets are military and political, but the focus will be on the senior figures in the military, and then-Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, although then Prime Minister John Key did approve the raid.

Unlike Dirty Politics, the focus is not so much on Key. Hager and Stephenson have not alleged that Key knew about the results of the botched raid or was involved in any cover-up.

Mapp has a special role in the book. He defended the military in the wake of the raid and was actually in Afghanistan at the time of the operation with Lieutenant General Jerry Mataparae. Hager and Stephenson write that Mapp and Mataparae made a joint call to Key for approval on the eve of the raid and worked on the public relations around the raid in the wake of it.

However, they write Mapp appears to have had doubts in recent years about whether he was misled by the military.

Hager and Stephenson point to subsequent private comments attributed to Mapp that the raid on Tirgiran was New Zealand's "biggest and most disastrous operation. A fiasco," and that he had become uneasy about defending the raid.

Last night the NZ Defence Force repeated its 2011 denial of civilian casualties and Mapp has yet to comment.

Tim Watkin of Pundit (and RNZ) has also written a useful piece on an interview Mapp gave to Q&A in 2011 on the raid. It's republished on Newsroom.

2. English and Ardern popular

Newshub released a Reid Research poll last night showing Bill English and Jacinda Ardern were the most popular politicians in the country.

English's support as preferred Prime Minister registered at 25 percent in the first Reid Research poll since John Key resigned. English was below Key's 36.7 percent from August last year, but the party vote support levels haven't changed much since Key's departure, suggesting a relatively smooth handover in the public's mind.

National was up two points at 47.1 percent, while Labour was down 2 points to 30.8 percent.

Ardern had support as preferred PM of 10.5 percent in the first poll since her elevation to the Labour Deputy role. That is two points higher than her Leader Andrew Little and above Winston Peters on 8.9 percent.

3. It's all about the cows

Newsroom's Eloise Gibson covered the Vivid and OECD reports on climate change and the environment in full yesterday, including the focus on the need to reduce agricultural emissions from cows in particular.

The various reports suggested reducing the intensity of dairying and the number of cows was the main option.

English was not interested in a slashing of cow numbers.

"We’ve got in place an emissions trading system, we’ve got the forestry sink component. We know there’s work to do there," English told reporters on the way into Caucus yesterday.

"But we are not setting out to slash agriculture and destroy those communities. It would be bad for our economy," he said.

The water issue got plenty of air in Parliament yesterday too, with both Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei and Labour Water Spokesman David Parker challenging Environment Minister Nick Smith in Parliamentary question time.

4. An Opposition fiscal framework

Labour and the Green Party are set to jointly announce a fiscal framework for how they would run the Budget if in Government on Friday morning in Auckland.

I'll have more detailed coverage on that on the day, but the joint statement represents the biggest sign yet that Labour and the Greens will present themselves as a fiscally responsible block to voters on September 23.

5. Maori vs Labour

Newsroom Co-Editor Tim Murphy takes a close look at the fight to the political death going on between Maori and Labour over the Maori seats.

"Yesterday's decision by Labour to withdraw its Maori MPs from the party's list - focusing on winning seat by seat and effectively eliminating the Māori Party - is the latest bare-knuckle play in this election's most intriguing and perhaps pivotal battle," he writes.

It's quite a tussle and the fate of the Government may well depend on it. Tim's piece takes a deeper look at the politics and personalities.

6. Shots fired

Parliamentary question time was its usual rambunctious self yesterday, with the highlight being an exchange between Winston Peters and David Seymour.

Peters was challenging Maggie Barry's appointment of Jenny Shipley to a ceremonial role, in particular Shipley's per diem rate.

"How does any of that conduct compare with being sacked from Cabinet three times by three different Prime Ministers?" Seymour asked via a supplementary trolling question.

In response, Peters fired back: "Not only is that statement utterly false, but, worse still, we are not going to take it from a cuckolded puppet."

Seymour then got in the last word to general amusement: "I take offence at being referred to as a cuck by someone who smoked for 60 years."

7. Coming up...

John Key's valedictory speech in Parliament will the focus today.

He has already done a range of 'exit interviews' with various media, including with Audrey Young in the NZ Herald on Saturday. In that interview he acknowledged Bill English would find it easier to deal with Winston Peters than himself.

"In the event that there is a coalition deal that needs to be done, I suspect that for all parties it will be easier to do that coalition deal, if it requires New Zealand First, with Bill English than it would be with me," English told Young.

Key told Fairfax's Tracy Watkins that the rumours about the reasons for his surprise departure were not true.

"I didn't go because of some scandal, I didn't go because someone pushed me. I went because I felt a decade at the top was about right. For us to keep winning as a political party we needed continuity but we needed big change," he said.

8. One fun thing

The UN's World Happiness Report has found New Zealand is the 8th equal happiest country in the world, which was just ahead of Australia at 10th, but behind the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Canada.

And here's something to add to the happiness. It's the side of a bus in Denmark that has done some wonderful things with hubcaps.