Amongst all the puffery from the right-wing commentators in the Herald today, a very interesting piece – interviews with ordinary people from New Zealand’s most marginal electorate, New Plymouth.
she voted National because it was “time for a change”. “I’m quite impressed with John Key. He’s coped with a lot of situations. Compared to the last Government, he’s quite up-front and I like that about him,”
Those are the reasons he is Prime Minister. Labour can’t assume Key’s strengths will fade, they must strategise how to turn them into weaknesses (eg: Clark = strong leader became Helengrad, Nanny State). And think about what values Phil Goff needs to encapsulate in response.
The “up-front” point is important. Labour and Goff are too often not up front – the disastrous handling of that Barker polling thing is case in point. Contrast that with the way Trevor Mallard has handled this ‘road rage’ thing. By front-footing it, he has shaped the story to the best way it could and,just as importantly, the journalists are impressed by his attitude towards them. That’s a far better strategy than hunkering down and hoping things will work out, which looks either shifty or aloof. It’s a lesson Key has been teaching Labour – Trev gets it, the others need to.
Having said that, the article also shows how brittle support for National is. This government hasn’t been what people expected. It has done nothing for anyone except its mates and it has been plagued by scandal. Nearly all the interviewees complain about what National has actually done:
This is Labour’s opening. Already, after a year, there are rumblings about the actual governing of Key’s government. You’ve probably heard them from your National-voting acquaintances too.
Yeah, the polls suck but voters do not love this government because it does not love (or even care about) them. They see it has feet of clay. It’s just they think Key is alright and what reason is Labour providing for them to switch their support?
That is Labour’s project for the coming year: paint, in broad brush strokes, a different vision of New Zealand. MPs have to stop spending all their time ‘ghettoising’ their arguments, criticising the minutiae of National’s policies. They need a strategy, a vision, a reason to vote Labour. Once they have that, they can start fighting the battle on the grounds of their choosing, not the ones dedicated by National.