It was meant to be so easy. With high polling and several possible support partners, National would breeze into a second term thanks to Brand Key. The man himself would carried around the country by crowds of adoring locals. It would be more coronation than campaign. So, why are National weather-vanes, Farrar and Slater, hitting the panic-button?
Well, let’s count the reasons that the Nats suddenly find themselves on the backfoot:
Double downgrade and ‘Prime Minister’s hour’
The point when it all started to go wrong was when Key was too busy talking about his cat and promising to sort out the moving of Coronation St’s screening time to attend to the affairs of government on a day on which his government earned New Zealand its the first credit downgrades in 13 years. The resulting interest rate rises so far will cost the country over a hundred million dollars a year.
To add insult to injury, he didn’t get Coronation St to stay at its old time.
The video of Key trying to wiggle his way out of his lie that S&P had said a downgrade would be more likely under Labour is almost too painful to watch. But only because I’m laughing so much. Key cannot answer straight questions honestly. And his reaction if pushed is to become aggressive and bitchy. It was an inflection moment for many journos.
A distraught man tries to throw himself into the Debating Chamber. Key tries to blame Labour and makes a throat-slashing gesture. It was the nasty face that the public rarely sees.
The ship disaster that must never be mentioned on any rightwing blog.
Rena has become an inflection point for the public’s view of National. It is not just about the mishandled disaster itself. Or about the fact that Key was too busy trying to photobomb pictures of All Blacks to pay any attention. It’s that it has caused people to look again at how National has handled over crises: Pike River, Christchurch, the economy. And there’s a clear pattern of big promises and no real action.
Embarrassing antics at the Rugby World Cup.
Andrea Vance references his ‘me-too’ triple handshake after the RWC final and says “Less important but just as wince-inducing were the, um, exuberant RWC opening ceremony speech where he pronounced trophy ”trotie”, the flag bet with Julia Gillard”. But, for me, the defining moment was when he was on Breakfast and they asked him how he thought the All Blacks were shaping up for the big games and he, not knowing anything about rugby, couldn’t think of anything to say –
Key, biggest grin on: “well, those backs are looking really good, let me tell you (he draws this last part out salaciously). They look absolutely fantastic”.
Awkward silence as Key’s (presumably, unintentionally) homoerotic comments make everyone reflect on the nature of a game that involves 30 men grappling with each other and clambering over each other trying to get hold of an ovoid ball in front of mostly male spectators.
Key: “Yeah, they’re looking really great”
It’s notable that Key’s minders have decided he is over-exposed on the rugby. When he practically tripping over himself to get in shot with the All Blacks on Sunday there were groans from the crowd, and hasn’t appeared at the victory parades.
Kiwisaver policy fizzer
National’s Kiwisaver announcement last week was meant to stop Moody’s downgrading us and pre-empt Labour’s announcement on Thursday. Instead, it sunk without a trace, dismissed as feeble and too little, too late. The Moody’s downgrade is still coming, and everyone is now looking to what bold ideas Labour will present.
Treasury could find nothing to positive to say about National’s economic management. They are muddling through, hoping for the world to bounce out of its gloom. If we suffer another downturn, which looks likely, National has no plan. It would just try to spin us that there is no problem. The PREFU basically says ‘if you’re going to vote for National, pray for the economic growth fairies to sprinkle their magic dust, because it sure isn’t happening otherwise’.
Treasury notes: “In the absence of a marked improvement in the external position, New Zealand may be more likely to be singled out in the funding markets in the future. All things being equal, any further deterioration in the ratings outlook could serve to raise debt servicing costs for the Crown as well as borrowing rates for households and businesses.”
In lieu of a plan from National, the PREFU revealed that the promised ‘brighter future’ will again be delayed next year with growth not reaching the 4% promised only five months ago, and that more and more Kiwis are giving up and leaving for Aussie, joining the 100,000 who have already left under Key and National.
Epsom and Ohariu
National’s polling shows Banks is toast and that Dunne is hanging on by his fingernails (he only just beat Chavuel last time, who just needs to take 504 votes off the hair). And if, as seems likely, the Maori Party loses Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Tonga, National could be left with only two of the support MPs it started this term of Parliament with. Not an immediate worry if you’re polling 55% (although a long-term strategic one) but, with National plunging into the mid-40s due to their mishandling of the Rena, it’s very serious here and now problem indeed.
It’s worth noting that National’s pollster, Farrar, is clearly worried about Banks’ chances in Epsom.
No wonder, then, that Farrar and Slater are running round like chickens with their heads off. They’re burning up their credibility (OK, only Farrar had any to burn) by going all out to protect Banks. It’s a hopeless cause, of course. And their strategy of whining does Banks more harm than good by bringing wider attention to his nasty racist and homophobic beliefs, and his self-admitted dishonesty when campaigning.
Fancy trying to say it’s a corrupt practice to publish a quote and the source of that quote, or mutter about defamation suits when some suggests that an organisation has donated to ACT (since when was being associated with ACT defaming, anyway?). These aren’t the actions of political players on top of their games and in control. They’re panic reactions – as are the ban on mentioning the Rena and
the National Research Unit’s Slater’s bizarre 24/7 stalking of everyone on the Left in an effort to create a story out of every minor social media exchange while never discussing policy at all.
But you can see why they are over-reacting so. The threads are unraveling mighty fast.