- Date published:
8:13 am, September 16th, 2019 - 91 comments
Categories: economy, education, election 2020, elections, grant robertson, jacinda ardern, labour, police, sport, tax, tertiary education, uncategorized - Tags:
I’m just going to get straight to the best routes they still have.
Naturally, make the most of your leader. Jacinda Ardern is the best politician in front of a television camera we’ve had since John Key’s first term. Everyone, I mean everyone loses a little of their lustre at the end of a term. She’s got a wedding to go to, and a telegenic guy. Roll that hand-holdy magic a little more for whole percentage-point lifts.
Deliver some tax cuts in budget 2020. The kind of tax cuts that raise up the poorest who languish on the lowest tax bands, and with that consumer money push up their spending power across the entire domestic retail economy. A tectonic upthrust of class mobility that boggles the economy-pundits and erases the memory of the Capital Gains Tax debacle. Train Robertson for a Cirque Du Soleil backflip of political flexibility wrapped in a sweaty leotard embroidered with “vote-focused determination”. Tax cuts are the move that wipes out the traditional electoral National advantage. Tax cuts in election year is a whole 1% uplift.
Show us a refreshed and believable team, with just enough time to shine but not enough time to do anything hard. Some of them have been there a while, tried, but no longer deserve Cabinet (You can name the half-dozen names). Not a tinkering – a Survivor Island purge. About a month before Budget feels right. It’s the equivalent of dumping Owen Franks before the World Cup. Necessary. Ardern got up there in 2017 because she was an unknown, untainted telegenic talent, and this government has a few talented unknowns now in waiting that can bring fresh constituencies with them.
Kill some policies to refocus on a few final big wins. It’s far too late in the term to be putting out new policy papers for discussion, with inevitable drawn-out legislative changes that piss more people off. The half-baked stuff like secondary school system reform, water network ownership reform, regulatory reform such as on petrol or electricity, RMA reform, structural health reform, structural polytech reform, even transport network reform, have clearly been beyond the capacity of this government to deliver. Need to be put down. At least put in a box. Enjoy your run-up to election opening the big motorways that National started, the Queenstown area cycleways, the Sky City Convention Centre, Auckland’s downtown and waterfront, the start of Dunedin hospital construction, the City Rail Link final section start of construction, revisit a good few of those enterprises Shane Jones has funded in the regions like the Invercargill town centre rebuild and Wairoa Rail.
What this government can’t really do is infer back to the centre-left’s historic legacy of a dynamic open economy, quality education, growing middle class, a huge pool of now-comfortable retirees, universal healthcare, and decent industrial protections.
Because this term it’s delivered very little improvement on any of that. So it needs different stuff, different routes.
What this government can do with Prime Minister Ardern is speak to our hearts with accurate emotional intelligence. Move us. Her actions and her televisual optics after the Christchurch massacre were exemplary as statesmanship and as moral leadership: 5 million purring cats cats lapping up the cream of righteousness from a saucer of redemption. Telling the New Zealand story of tolerance and peace and stability in a world in which international orders are disintegrating before our eyes is one very powerful and rare story to be able to tell with credibility. Also a suitable substitute for not delivering the social mobility we were promised.
Get the Minister of Police to do something televisual like melt down some fat guns in a furnace. Our own Throne. Everyone still remembers Collins for crushing a car 15 years ago. Let television work for you and allow us all squeal with similarly impish glee.
Generate some more enemies most people can agree with: a nice slow media celebrity roast from a mid-weight Cabinet minister of John Key as a failed Chair of our local ANZ would be a popular start for strong banking reform. Dangle taking off Shipley’s damehood, just as a rumour about exemplary capitalist leadership. Do a further roast of the full Board of Fonterra through the DIRA legislation. Find us a nice comfortable outlet for some well-directed hate. Or at least form and direct political energy the way you want it.
Finally, a few subtle patriotic notes. It’s very much a question of how this government tells its story over the next 6 months. Without a powerful track record of social mobility over the term, find us a way to feel ambitious for the country that leads us towards confidence and optimism.
For example, make sure there’s a decent welcome for the All Blacks when they come home victorious. Spend a bit of civic money on some confetti and have a good time. Build some hype around the Olympic rowing teams and pop down to the TAB with Winston and put some money on the Women’s 8 bringing back a gold: stop being shy about sporting patriotism when it’s so easy, so well funded, and perfectly legitimate. That little note at the launch of the Emirates Team New Zealand about being here at dawn “Not as Prime Minister, but as a fan”, was a good start. You could revert to the Helen Clark-goes-tramping thing and go out on the boat with that lovely young man and catch a fish and get a celebrity chef to cook it on the beach. Or take a few of Cabinet on the Alps-To-Ocean cycleway.
Something that connects the leadership to the landscape.
You can add the 2020 electoral promises on top of that once you’ve rebalanced again. You already know we’ll be very wary of them.
But there are multiple percentage-point lifts to be had without too many backflips, with a lot more Parliamentary programme and Cabinet discipline, and with some reasonably easy media narrations. We love leadership when it gets out from behind the pulpit and deploys its mana on the ground.
Effective government can help us believe in ourselves. Real patriotism is not about chanting you’re the best over and over again. It is not about pretending that New Zealanders have some unique claim on mateship, or toughness, or fairness, or barbecuing. Real patriotism is about aspiring for New Zealand to actually be the best, and looking like you really enjoy it.
Plenty of good, solid routes to win a further term yet.