One of the first rules of politics is don’t set yourself up to be snookered; don’t position yourself in a way that your opposition can and will undercut, don’t run attack lines that your opposition can and will invalidate.
National has repeatedly done this. They ran on tax cuts as their sole platform when it was blindingly obvious that Labour would not only cut taxes but would do so in a way that benefits low-income workers leaving National’s eventual policy not only looking underwhelming but also creating situation where they are taking money off vulnerable Kiwis to give tax cuts to the wealthy. They ran an attack line that Labour has no policy or no strategy to deal with the emerging world financial crisis when they have (as any fool should assume) been working their arses off creating a serious response. Now, it is National that looks flat-footed. Their ‘economic package’ is exactly the same vague, pro-rich, tinkering as it has been for at least a year, unaltered by recent events, while Labour is proposing a genuine strategy for dealing with a long-term recession.
In my varied work-life, I’ve been a speechwriter. One of the first things a speechwriter has to keep in mind is the content must not be out of date when it is delivered – it makes your speaker look overwhelmed by events, out of the loop, naive. That’s exactly how Key and English looked yesterday as they lambasted Labour for having no strategy for dealing with the crisis while offering none themselves even as, a few blocks away, Clark was detailing a program of infrastructure construction, labour up-skilling, and idle capacity utilisation akin to the policies that got the world out of the Great Depression*.
It is Labour that has shown it understands the situation we face, that the outlook for the world economy has altered dramatically over the last few weeks. It is Labour that has shown has both the will and the tools to deal with it. It is National that is out of touch and bereft of ideas.
*(it is these policies, not the deposit insurance, a confidence-building exercise than anything, that will make the real difference, more on that later)