- Date published:
9:03 am, September 20th, 2015 - 103 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, crosby textor, election 2014, greens, john key, labour, Minister for Photo-ops, national, privatisation, same old national, slippery - Tags: dirty politics, mike sabin, serco, sheepgate
Twelve months ago today New Zealand experienced the 2014 election. It was a bitterly disappointing day. It provided an insight into the sophistication of National’s campaign apparatus. Despite dirty politics and National wanting to sell off much of the remaining state assets they were returned to power.
It is clear that National has huge resources that they can spend on a campaign. They use these resources to poll and focus group deeply into the Kiwi psyche to decide on what will work. Last time it was not the relative merits of the left verses the right but the perception that under National there would be calm and order while under a broad left coalition there would be chaos and mayhem that determined the result. The similarity to the tactic used in the recent UK election where the Scottish National Party was demonised to wedge English voters against Labour is unmistakable.
The campaign also highlighted National’s weakness. When Dirty Politics first hit National was in disarray, not knowing how to respond. It took a couple of days of focus grouping to work out that the best line was that Labour did it too and there was nothing to see, all at the same time.
Ever since then I have noticed a similar hiatus when National faces a rapidly changing situation. For instance during the recent refugee crisis Key’s initial response was to refuse to increase the quota. After a few days of excruciating delay he, along with Abbott in Australia and Cameron in the United Kingdom changed tack and allowed more refugees in. Clearly the focus group results had spoken.
When a crisis erupts National looks messy. It takes a few days for them to take soundings and work out what politically is the best line to take.
This also describes National’s second problem. They look like they are opinion poll driven fruit loops. Everything seems to be on the table as long as it may be popular as opposed to right. This is obviously causing angst to the principled right, people like Matthew Hooton who decry such things as corporate welfare which this Government is keen to hand out.
And their third problem is that they are suffering a major case of third termitis. In portfolio after portfolio they have problems. The most important perception is not being left or right, it is being competent. And National’s competence is now being questioned.
National’s problem areas include:
And even the often predicted surplus appears now to be an illusion.
There are some more fundamental problems facing National. It seems to be utterly incapable of making meaningful change. There is no game plan. Reform of the RMA was the last remaining change and National is unable to get this over the line. Instead of this we are subject to debates about the flag and photo ops with the All Blacks and convention centres built on the back of problem gambling.
TPPA is the only big policy they have advanced. But the deeply undemocratic nature of the negotiations and the terrifying potential changes that may occur are resonating badly with much of the community. And besides TPPA’s future is by no means certain. If it does not succeed then National faces a huge amount of egg on its face. If it succeeds and any of the concerns prove to be true then there will be a backlash.
And meanwhile you get the feeling that National’s caucus is not the happy group of people that it used to be. Judith Collins is clearly stirring up dissent and the watering down of the health and safety legislation shows that some are happy to sacrifice proper policy for support from the base.
Well things are going rather smoothly right now. The Caucus is now united and far more disciplined. Andrew Little is growing in the role of leader and Annette King is performing an important role as deputy. Activist enthusiasm is now rising after an understandable hiatus caused by the election loss and the leadership campaign.
Labour relationship with Greens is quite good and it appears they are moving to a position where there will be a public common agreement. Every time the media notes National is well ahead of Labour it ignores the reality of MMP. The Greens are performing a very important role and are here to stay and in my personal opinion are well worth the 15% they scored in the latest Roy Morgan poll.
So we have had twelve months where the Government has become worse and the opposition has improved. For the sake of the country this term has to be National’s last and this is looking more and more likely. If this is not its last the damage that will be caused does not bear contemplating …