A little birdie tells me there’s an election in a little under 8 weeks’ time. Labour is releasing a couple of major policies a week (most recently: aged care, women, and Canterbury). The Greens released their massive jobs package policy last week. ACT is deciding its policy by knifefight. But what about National? They’ve released NO policy since June.
You’ll remember Ben Clark did a piece a couple of weeks ago on the lack of National policy on their website. The criticism clearly stung because the formerly empty policy page now looks full. Except, it’s just full of Budget press releases and targeted mailings they did at the time. National hasn’t announced any new policy and looks very unlikely to do so.
It would have seemed like smart politics until last week. Strategy 101 (in politics and any relational pursuit): minimise your weaknesses and play to your strengths. Until last week, National’s weakness was it’s policies that people hate (‘if you vote for National, you’re voting for asset sales’ needs to be on big billboards everywhere) and the fiscal constraint which means it can’t afford another taxcut bribe. It’s strength was Smiley McSmilesalot.
It makes for terrible government but it did make for effective politics.
But then he went and described his economic policy as ‘muddling through’. Then Labour went and listed exactly where that muddling through had gotten us (47,000 fewer jobs, GDP per capita down 3.6%, wages down 3.2%, $37 billion more government debt, international indebtedness projected to rise forever). And, then, Key made the worse mistake of his career: doing a vacuous hour-long radio chat-show on the station he bailed out at the very time the country’s credit rating was being cut.
Strengths can easily become weaknesses in this game. Suddenly, the media and the public are demanding strategy and solutions from the government as the economic crisis that everyone but National saw coming hits us. And their response so far has been to pretend it isn’t happening. Sunny optimism no longer cuts it. The government is caught in the headlights and is about to get us all knocked flat.