It took National some weeks to get together a line on their multitudinous spending scandals. When they did, it was rather predictable: ‘Labour’s focused on the small things’. Pretty rich coming from corgi-boy Key. No defence of the actual excesses either. But, naturally, the Herald editorial has swallowed and regurgitated the line.
[Key] says he is happy to accept any scrutiny he is put under but wonders why Labour is raising such trivial issues. He is not alone.
The Budget is just 10 days away and Labour probably expects the Government to preach austerity for the year ahead, and to make one or two savings in social services.
So the Opposition has scoured the accounts of the Prime Minister’s office for expenses it might label hypocritical.
Against a Prime Minister whose popularity is on the wane, this sort of pitch might work. But against one as popular as Helen Clark was for six years, and John Key is now, people must wonder why their opponents appeal to envy. It is only likely to rebound on the Opposition, showing it to be miserable, mean-spirited and out of tune with the country’s mood…
Normal expenses of state are nickels and dimes beside the decisions the country needs.
Look, Labour could try to get put stories of how the government is systematically transferring money from the many to the few through dozens of policies, most notably its tax changes. It could publish screeds on the income effects of tax changes, as Marty used to do here. But would the media cover it? Of course not. Too complicated. Too abstract. And rooted in a materialist, class analysis the media rejects because they people who make the decisions are a) doing quite well out of National’s policies and b) contemptuous of the public’s ability to handle complex information.
Indeed, as Ben Clark points out below, Labour is running extensive campaigns on the big issues like cost of living and asset sales but, with the exception of the excellent Campbell Live pieces last night, the media hardly touches them.
So, instead, Labour is doing the exact right thing. They aren’t whining that the media playing field is unfair. They are using that playing field as best as possible by exposing scandalous microcosms of National’s wider elitism. Yes, $75,000 for a VIP flight to Vanuatu or $275,000 for a gold-plated paint job is small beer in the context of the State as a whole, which spends $200 million per day, but they reveal National’s culture of excess for themselves and for their class.
The Herald says Labour should concentrate on the Budget, well they clearly are. It’s not a coincidence that these stories are coming out in the weeks leading up to the Budget. They are framing National’s Budget with these stories. When Smarmy John gets up on Budget day and says that, unfortunately, times are tough and we’re going to have to fore-go some ‘nice to haves’ like Kiwisaver and Working for Families, we’ll all know that the restraint Key is preaching hasn’t been applied by him or his ministers.
We’ll know they are hypocrites who have spent up large on their own perks and, many magnitudes greater, on favours for their wealthy class. We’ll know that Key’s sad act is a farce.
It is his choices that have put the country in the situation where its deficit must come down and he has chosen to not reverse the billions in tax cuts for the rich to achieve that.
National and its allies may attack Labour for focusing on the trees and losing sight of the forest but it is the numerous small decisions, like the scandals, like the little favours to wealthy interest groups, that have gotten us into this situation. Once the Budget is out and heading into the election, we’ll obviously see Labour critiquing National’s decisions and offering alternatives but pre-Budget, these scandals are all revealing the ugly mindset of Key and co.
The spending scandals are simply representative of the Nats’ attitude as a whole: they and their class is born to rule and to parasite off the State. When things go bad, it’s the rest of us who pick up the bill.