Redrawing of the political battle lines is foreshadowed

Covid-19  still dominates the  news  bulletins and  there  is  only a  shadowy outline  of  the  political  debate that  will  emerge  in  sharper   focus as Christopher Luxon settles  into the  leadership of  the National  Party.

His supporters were  encouraged  by  the  bounce upward  for National  in the first  sampling  of  public opinion  since he took over.  National  rose  to  33%,  up  7%, in the  Curia  poll.

As  Curia’s  David  Farrar  noted,  the overall gap between the centre-left and centre-right is basically unchanged at 6%, so the centre-right needs to pick up another 4% or so to be in a position to form a Government.

“The key difference to last month, is that people now want to hear from National, and both National and Labour are in the 30s.Also very noteworthy is Luxon’s ratings. He enters the Preferred PM ratings at 20% (Ardern 39%). That 20% rating is the highest outside an election period for any opposition leader (excluding Ardern’s six weeks) since John Key”.

The  news media’s preoccupation  with Covid may persist  well  into 2022, given the  arrival   of  the Omicron   variant.

Luxon   may  find public  opinion – which  has been  so  supportive   of  PM  Jacinda  Ardern because of  her handling of  the  Covid outbreak  in its first  cycles – is beginning  to sour,  judging  by the  swing in Sir  Ian  Taylor’s views, as  expressed  in the  NZ  Herald.   In his  latest essay , Sir  Ian noted  how Ardern confirmed the  air  bubble that  has  enveloped   the  Beehive, the  Covid  response team,   and her  officials in Wellington closed  Parliament for 2021 with  a “staggering observation”.

“Now go  take  a  break—you  bloody deserve  it”.

 Says  Sir  Ian:

“No, Prime Minister — the people  who deserve a  break are  those  you are  leaving on the  front line in our hospitals, those  giving up Christmas  to  monitor our  borders, those  in  hospitality trying to  manage a  woefully inadequate  vaccine passport system, thousands isolating at  home waiting days on results from  the  testing system Dr Ashley  Bloomfield still  fails  to  acknowledge  is  seriously flawed, airline  crew carrying thousands of passengers  who  a week ago you  and your team deemed too dangerous to travel, chemists who just days out from Christmas were handed  the  job of  delivering rapid antigen tests  in  locations  where sick people come to pick up their  medicines, or get their Covid  vaccines”.

It  seems   there  will  be  plenty  of  fuel  there to  feed  public  dissatisfaction  but Point  of  Order  has  seen already  some of the  more prescient commentators foreshadowing  a  redrawing  of the political  battle lines.

The  NZ Herald, for  example,  carried  this  headline  on  an  opinion  piece  recently:

“Govt works to turn NZ into socialist  welfare  state”.

And Finance Minister Grant Robertson reinforced that  message by  announcing  in  the annual Budget Policy   Statement  an extra $6bn spending for health  and climate change.  That  pushes up government spending  in 2022  to $128bn, or $58bn   above  what was  spent  in 2017  when  the Ardern government  first took office.

Almost outside  the  public gaze,  economic problems — inflation, house prices  out of  control, an education system running  down, skills  shortages — are  piling  up. Opposition parties see  the  ground becoming  more fertile  for them.

Cue ACT leader  David  Seymour:

“Labour’s Covid-19 response  has been running on a sugar  hit of  cheap credit  and borrowed  money. That  money is  now sloshing  around  the  economy and  pushing up  the  price  of  everything”.

Already   the  benefit   increases announced by the  Ardern   government  with  great fanfare  are  being swallowed  by inflation. Then   there  has  been the  spending  on  programmes such as emergency housing which,  according  to  the  Auditor-general, revealed a  shocking  waste  of  taxpayers’ money.

New  Zealanders  will  almost  certainly  want  to  hear  positive  messages  after  the  hard  grind  of Covid, lockdowns  and  misery.  While Grant  Robertson  talks  of  “well-being”,  and  preaches  his  policies will  bring “societal  happiness”—whatever that  is—productivity  stagnates,   and   talent  flees  to  where  it  is  properly  rewarded.

During  the  pandemic  the  voices  that  contend  inequality  is  widening, and there  are  too  many  wealthy in  NZ,  appear  to  think  the  government  has  only  to  turn  the tap, and societal problems  will  vanish.  Others  appear  to  think  that  capitalists  are  monsters who  should  return  their  ill-gotten gains to  society.

But  it  is  people   like  Peter  Beck,  of  Rocket Lab,  or Rod  Drury,  who   built   Xero,  who  are  the true creators. Market  capitalism  has  always worked  better  than  socialism.

This  is  the fertile  territory  for  Luxon  to  cultivate in 2022.

2 thoughts on “Redrawing of the political battle lines is foreshadowed

  1. One of the other forgotten group is the military. Evidently there have been significant resignations from the enlisted ranks as they are sick of being security guards/ gaolers. Those left are having to extended shifts without leave to cover the gaps. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of what their numbers are, or is the government hoping no-one will notice.

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