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An election strategy, not a governing strategy

Written By: - Date published: 2:50 pm, August 15th, 2008 - 20 comments
Categories: election 2008, national - Tags:

When you look at the policy National has released, it’s clear that the focus is on winning the election, not on developing policy that would work.

There is a most appalling lack of detail – most of the policy one-page wonders from National have left me with more questions than answers because of lack of detail and ambiguous, purposefully ambiguous, wording. Does the work rights policy maintain the status quo on union access (as suggested by the press release) or dramatically curtail it (as suggested by the one-pager)? How many people will the work requirements for the DPB apply to, what exemptions are there, what will the cost of enforcement be? Does blocking “vexatious objections” to RMA applications mean a cosmetic, ineffective change or imposing serious limits on communities’ right to object to projects? These questions are purposely left open, the wording is purposefully left ambigious because that way the Nats don’t “scare the horses” by revealing unpopular policies but don’t rule out implementing those policies either. Then there are the endless claims ‘we’ll close the wage gap’, ‘lift education standards’ etc, but to the question ‘how?’ all we get is a deafening silience.

The numbers (what numbers there are) don’t add up – there just isn’t enough in the kitty to give the tax cuts they’ve led people to expect without cutting services or increasing borrowing. Public servant numbers are supposedly to be capped, yet National’s policies would need upwards of 1000 extra staff. National would borrow but we’re not told how much this borrowing would cost in the long-run and what the economic benefits of the projects paid for would be. Indeed, we’re not even told what the projectw would be. 

The rhetoric doesn’t match reality – ‘unclogging the arteries of growth’ is the fine phrase Crosby/Textor came up with but the reality is a few more roads when vehicle use is falling, more fossil fuel power plants, and expensive broadband that even National’s Communications spokesperson can’t imaginea good use for. Borrowing will be ‘hermetically sealed’ from tax cuts, which doesn’t make one iota of sense in the real world but sounds reassuring on the evening news.

The positive, ambition is absent – there is nothing new, nothing exciting in National policy, it the just the same old, same old but toned down a little. Sure, they claim they would keep the flagship Labour programmes like Kiwisaver that are having a real transforming effect but can we trust them? And would they be good shepherds of these programmes when they clearly don’t really believe in them?

If you were a rightwing party that had principles which were fundamentally unpopular but you “desperately wanted to win the election” (in Key’s words) more than you even want to be able to govern well this is the kind of platform you would put together. Viewed from a distance, as an idea, Natioanl’s policy platform looks mediocre but non-threatening, with the lure of tax cuts. Like my first form science project, however, it’s all held together with blue tack and spit. Actually try to make it work and everything will start to come apart.

20 comments on “An election strategy, not a governing strategy ”

  1. the sprout 1

    So true SP, and the sort of issues and questions you’d expect our glorious 4th Estate to address.

    But then who are we kidding, it’s precisely their complicity in allowing these glaring information and credibility gaps to go unchallenged that’s allowed Key to poll as high as he has.

    God knows, if even half these points were explored National would be riding considerably lower. Let’s hope our MSM have grown tired of being played for chumps by National.

  2. Pascal's bookie 2

    “The numbers (what numbers there are) don’t add up – there just isn’t enough in the kitty to give the tax cuts they’ve led people to expect without cutting services or increasing borrowing”

    And bear in mind that there will be no asset sales in the first term, because we have a growth problem, not a debt problem.

  3. Julie 3

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here Steve – I remember seeing it a lot in student elections too. But there it wasn’t a matter of running a country so it didn’t matter so much.

    I keep thinking that for all the bluster National’s senior MPs just do not look like a Cabinet in waiting. Maybe that’s partly a natural disadvantage of challenging long-term incumbency, maybe it’s my left-wing blinkers, but I find it difficult to imagine any of the National MPs who weren’t Ministers in the 1990s stepping up.

    Hopefully we won’t get a chance to find out anytime soon!

  4. BeShakey 4

    Julie – In National’s defence Simon Power, Judith Collins and Chris Finlayson would all be on or close to the front bench and none of them were Ministers in the 1990s. Not to say that they’d be good, but they wouldn’t seem out of place on a front bench with Key, English, Brownlee, Ryall etc.
    I think its more a question of what kinds of policies this front bench would put in place. Key is an empty vessel, English, Brownlee and Ryall were enthusiastic proponents of the 90s reforms, and Collins is from that mould. I think Power is a more moderate voice than some in the shadow Cabinet, but there would a limit to what he could get through there, and would be under pressure from their backers (Sensible Sentencing et al).

  5. burt 5

    Still nothing here guys Labour policies

    Come on, National have provided the talking points surely the tired and proud of it socialists can dream up some new welfare to buy the election?

  6. Ari 7

    Latest poll run through the calculator gives us a 125-seat Parliament requiring a majority of 63.

    We get 60 seats to National/Act/United Future
    57 to Labour/Progressive/Greens/Maori
    and 8 to NZF- effectively once again allowing Winston to decide who wins.

    I’m kinda hoping NZF is overpolling =/

  7. Anita 8


    I’m not quite sure that UF and Māori should be grouped in quite that way; UF currently supports Labour, the Māori Party could go either way.

    How about NA, LPG, others?

  8. Anita 9

    To threadjack for a moment, in case there are any other sad geeks here on a Friday night…

    I’ve just started reading Between Jesus and the Market: The emotions that matter in right-wing America which says in the introduction:

    … it is only with women’s help that public-policy concerns of conservative economic theory and its attacks of government have been so powerfully collapsed into people’s feelings about the family, or at least their own families. That collapse … brings the traditional morality of fundamentalist religion together with the fundamentalism of the market, the belief that the workings of the market provide the template of reality.

    It makes me wonder if National’s welfare policy had to be softer because Key fronted it (rather than Collins). Similarly will the focussed-on-Key style of the National campaign mean they have to soften their Education policy (because they can’t front it with one of their teachers), and their Health policy (because they can’t front it with one of their doctors).

    Does fronting with Key force them to take a softer weaker line of most things, not just because Brand Key is middle-of-the-road, but also because he’s got no cred in any of the social policy areas?

  9. Anita 10

    [editing not working again – poot!]

    So… is the National election strategy (front-everything-with-Key) necessarily completely disconnected from their governing strategy? Once they have a teacher in charge of education, or a woman running welfare, etc does that give them more room to move? Will it be easier then to get public acceptance for more radical changes?

    [lprent: poot? New one to me..
    Unfortunately the re-edit isn’t a 100% ok all of the time. It is mainly a client side, and hopefully will improve with new versions. I’ll try the next version this weekend if I get time. ]

  10. randal 11

    SP you are exactly right…the nats have only one desire and that is to win. Keys the front man and English the wonk. Deep in their black hearts they must be gripped with fear because they know that they are not going to win even if the auckland gnome on his radio show and all the rest of the gutless wonders who think that their voice means something say they are.

  11. Rob 12

    From Crosby Textor to all disaffected Labour voters a heart felt thanks for the latest poll results.

    After scurrilous Tactics employed by someone at our Conference Labour expected this to be the turning point well if that’s it we will certainly take it. The votin public wil lnot be decieved they saw right thru it.

    John is now rolling out Policy the Public love it. Labour voters are coming across by the day they, see with National new hope fresh inspiration no envy politics in National we love for you to get ahead.

    I’m really happy with the campaign we are running once again from Crosby Textor to all at the Standard

    Thank you for your continuing support may the good times roll soon.

    [lprent: You’re an idiot who obviously doesn’t believe in actually looking at facts – something that has been brought to your attention many times by other commentators. This is also why you are in moderation so I can attach the facts and educate that shallow mind of yours.

    The only poll I’ve seen so far this week is Morgan
    Now I don’t have much interest in polls apart from overall trends. I consider their methodology sucks, their accuracy is suspect, and to use them for predicting an election is an act of stupidity.
    But as a long term trend (and ignoring Roy Morgans vacuous commentary) that poll shows:-
    1. a continued trend for Labour to improve.
    2. the Nats to have maintained a drop from their peak.
    3. there looks like there may be a trend for NZ First to have improved (predicable given the publicity for NZF)

    As per normal Morgan doesn’t release undecided, unresponsive or anything that would give a better indication about the reliability of the poll. However it was held over the July 28 – August 10, so is unlikely to have much effect in from the national conference tapes.

    Now from that, where exactly does the vacuum you call a brain deduce that this is a good poll for the right? To me it would indicate a terrible coalition forming environment for National because the polls always overstate the anti (in this case right) vote at this state of the election. Go back and have a look at their history in the past. ]

  12. sean 13

    lprent – calling people names makes you look like a little kid – way to go, really professional. Maybe you should lay off the abuse if you want this site to be taken seriously.

    Go and check out stuff: http://stuff.co.nz/4657649a11.html

    Then go and get a sense of humour and book yourself some anger management classes.

  13. lprent 14

    sean: I’m actually trying to be ‘nice’.

    This guy has been running around like a troll on the site dropping in comments based on incorrect information for weeks now. Problem is that he seldom backs assertions up and never listens when people show why he is wrong. When they press him, he starts abusing them – which is why I’m doing the same. For instance http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=2726#comment-80295

    I’ve come to conclusion he isn’t here to engage on the site. He is just here to trash it. Have a look around search. Right now he is about a fingers breadth from getting a permanent ban. I’d prefer not to do it because I think he could do better based on correspondence outside of the site. But his behavior needs a little modification. This is a site to engage with other people – it isn’t a graffiti site.

    BTW: You kind of proved my point. Rob should have put in a link to what poll. There are about 4 coming out over the weekend. Why don’t you have a look at the one I linked to Morgan, and contemplate the differences.

    The Fairfax one says that it is all over. The Morgan one says that with a few percentage more away from National, they will have severe problems forming a coalition. In fact Labour has a good chance because they probably could.

  14. mmm, I’m waiting for Labour’s 2000 Election policies,you haven’t released any.

    Labour’s main election strategy, from their advisers, the fear tactics against National, are not working.

    Weekend polls continue a trend going back for a year that National are well ahead and voters can finally see through the wafer thin veneer of your main election plank- that taxpayer assets will be sold.

    The bugging of the National Party by Labour backfired as well.

    No one cares.

    Kettle, pot, black.

  15. Phil 16

    Darren makes a good point about the secret tapes not working. As I see it there are now two generations of NZer’s who believe absolutely that ALL politicians are liars, cheats, and scumbags. The relatively few of us who tool about the blogs might think differently, but make no mistake that we are a very small minority.

  16. Rob 17

    Well only one more set of Polls before the Election the Crosby Textor guys have done a great job again. With the TV 1 poll looking good for that Nats. Also showing its time for Winston to give it away and maybe the Greens wont get there Fantastic!!


    [lprent: Link. Don’t paste whole press releases or whatever it was.
    Rather than just writing mindless waffle, perhaps you should READ. In this case, the FAQ at the top of the screen about using links. ]

  17. Anita 18


    Well only one more set of Polls before the Election


    Why do you believe there are only one more set of polls before the election?

  18. r0b 19

    Why do you believe there are only one more set of polls before the election?

    It’s no stranger than some of his other beliefs Anita!

    Rob, if you want to learn something about polling, and see the likely most accurate aggregate polling data, then you could do worse than to check out: http://08wire.org/category/pollwatch/

  19. Strings 20

    I wonder
    If you can point me to the place where the Labour Party has its policies for 2008-20011 on line? I’ve looked but don’t seem able to find them.
    Any assistance appreciated.

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