With the British conservatives looking strong (and Labour embarassed by the costs of an election that never was) and the fresh new blood surging ahead across the Tasman (noting that the polls continue to be against Howard despite their proposal for a massive tax cut) I suspect National here will be feeling pretty pleased with itself. The gaffe-prone slips of the recent past have faded from the public’s mind (except for Key, who managed to put his foot in it again over the SIS non-role in the police raids).
So what is the plan? Well I think there’s a clue in a recent interview of Murry McCully in RNZ’s Focus on Politics. On the one hand, National has to show its business backers that they will be able to buy up SOEs under a National administration. Hence the public pondering from English which received lukewarm attention. This allowed for some brand differentiation:
John Key turned down a request for an interview on RNZ’s Focus on Politics. McCully did agree and was asked whether the ideas that have slipped out have allowed for ideological differences between the two main parties to be explored:
McCully: “Look I think Mr Key’s being again, pretty frank about the fact that we so see a role for the private sector… and that will be one of the points of philosophical difference between ourselves and the Labour Party… suffice to say thought that some of the management of that discussion in the last few days is something we want to improve on” (Focus on Politics, RNZ, 8 Oct 2007)
National historian Prof Barry Gustafson said that National wants to be seen to be thinking about policy “But at the same time, if these issues divide the electorate for and against… then people start to look at National, and people who are thinking of voting against Labour because they didn’t like it say, well hold on a second, are we going from the frying pan to the fire here? The other thing is, that National’s talking about that I’m not at all happy about, and that was the immediate reaction to the further privatisation, and I think that it’s compounded by this idea that somehow there much more free market policies being slipped in in health and education”. (Focus on Politics, RNZ, 8 Oct 2007)
No wonder there was that sigh of relief when Key left the country.
Anyone remember how Jim Bolger’s polling went up when he was out of New Zealand and away from the public eye?