Caucus neophytes may be keeping the govt from knowing what Kiwis in their electorates are wanting

Labour  backbenchers, conscious   that  recent polling shows their  political futures  could be  cut  short,  will  be  looking to  this week’s  budget  to replenish their  party’s  popularity with  handouts  to  swing  votes.

They  could  be  disappointed, if the Budget’s programme does not tackle voters’ concerns.

BNZ  economists  last week  warned  that the  chances of  a  recession  are “increasing  by  the  day”.  Economist  Cameron  Bagrie  says  controlling  government  spending  to  tamp  down the  factors causing high inflation should be  a  priority for  the  government, but  a  big-spending  budget is  already  locked  in.

Meanwhile  investors  in the  local  sharemarket, taking  a gloomy  view  of  NZ’s  economic  prospects,  are  already  reeling  from the  downward  trend  in  the  local indices.  Similarly   the  NZ  dollar  has  dipped  sharply against both  the  greenback   and the  Australian  dollar, as  New Zealand’s  main   export  market in  China suffers  from a severe Covid  lockdown.

This  then  could  be  the  moment for   Finance  Minister   Grant Robertson  to  produce  the  proverbial  from  his  hat.

Certainly   his  opponents have  been  generous  with  their  advice,  urging him to offer  tax  relief  and  in particular  to  reverse the tax  bracket  creep   which  is  adding  to  the  bruising from  the  wage-price  spiral.

There  is  little  evidence that  Robertson  sees  this in  the  same  light  as the  Opposition does.

Indeed  Steven   Joyce, the former National minister  and  now  a commentator  in  the  NZ Herald, contends  Robertson is  on a  different planet.

He  wrote  on Saturday:

“There were more datapoints this week suggesting the public of New Zealand and its Government are currently inhabiting different planets.

“Going on the statements from the Beehive, ministers are clearly focused on growing the public service, doling out a big climate change slush fund, taking the long handle to the public’s preferred means of getting around, implementing co-governance of public assets, and pouring another massive dollop of borrowed cash into the hungry maw that is their giant new health bureaucracy.

“The public, on the other hand, are dealing with a runaway cost of living, shrinking household budgets, rising mortgage rates, diminishing asset values, a surge in aggressive criminal activity, long queues at the local hospital, a declining education sector and the growing realisation that economic activity is being frustrated by an obstructionist political class.”

The  view  that  Robertson  and  his  leader  may be on a  different planet  has   some  merit, but  there  may be  a  more  mundane  explanation  for   Labour’s  leadership acting  as  if  they are  out  of  touch  with  Joe  Blow  in  the  street.

It  is  that Labour’s  caucus contains so  many  political  neophytes  that  it  is  not  keeping   ministers  in touch  with   what  ordinary  New  Zealanders   are  experiencing.

In   an  earlier  era the  caucus  room was  the  amphitheatre in  which issues  of  the  day  were  fiercely   debated. That  happens  less frequently   and  the  caucus   is  served  decisions  that  have  already  been  pre- cooked    in the  Beehive  and discussed  and digested with coalition  and/or support parties.

Covid has  tended   to  strengthen  that  trend.

As the  power  of  caucus  has  weakened, the  role  of  communication  specialists   become  more  dominant.  Ministerial  offices  have  more of  them  and  the  Department  of  Prime  Minister & Cabinet  has  a small army, all marching to  the  same  drumbeat.


2 thoughts on “Caucus neophytes may be keeping the govt from knowing what Kiwis in their electorates are wanting

  1. Caucus reluctant to confront out of touch Ministers? Maybe. But the real problem is neither Ardern nor Robertson are equipped with the intellect to understand what is actually happening in New Zealand, even if Caucus members painted their message in neon lights.

    Both are creatures of privilege with extremely limited real world experience, and they are driven by ideology. The facts must be made to fit the theory.

    Liked by 1 person

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