Looking ahead to voters opting for a progressive government, a reactionary one – or maybe something in between

Cabinet ministers  obviously are enjoying   the  final days  of  their summer  break while  their desks back in Wellington are piled  high with the problems of  a  country beset with raging inflation, labour shortages and a  pandemic  that refuses to go  away.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had  her  own set of  issues to ponder, not least  a  reshuffle  of  Cabinet and, along  with her deputy Grant Robertson, the challenge of  shaping the political agenda  for  a general election, possibly in October  but  more likely in November.

This, of  course,  is  going  to  be a  very different election from that in  2020,  when the  nation  was still afflicted  by the trauma of Covid and  Ardern  had  acquired  the  aura of  saviour.   NZ had not been afflicted  with  anything  like Covid  since the Great Flu of 1918.

But if  the  Ardern government captured the gratitude  of NZers  at the height of the  pandemic, it  seemed to forfeit it just  as  rapidly.  And, as a  year  of burgeoning inflation ended,  political pundits  were predicting   the  Ardern government was  heading towards an election with the word “DEFEAT”  written in capital letters.

Sniffing   the  political  breeze  during  the summer  break,  Ardern  and  Robertson may think  otherwise, even  if the  public polls  indicated support  for Labour  had  drifted  to levels   not  seen for  some years.

So,   get  rid  of  the  driftwood,  bring in some  fresh thinking  and Labour  can do  battle again. 

Ardern and Robertson are experienced  enough to  know  MMP  elections  are generally   very  close  run. They may sense, too, that the  Leader  of  the Opposition, Christopher  Luxon, is  vulnerable.  He  doesn’t have the political “smarts”  of  previous   National leaders  like  John  Key.

Another encouraging factor for Labour  is the swing  across  the  Tasman with the  triumph  of  Anthony Albanese  in the Federal elections  and  Daniel Andrews in  Victoria   (particularly  notable  because that  came  after his harsh rules  in the Covid pandemic).

So  there is all  to  play  for,  in  the election this  year.

Simon Wilson, in the  NZ Herald, offers  an  insight  into  the coming election which is worrying  but  can be questioned.  He says we face a choice between what could be the most progressive government in our lifetimes, or the most reactionary.

“To put that another way, the best government yet, or the worst. You can decide which is which.  This is new. It’s not because of the two major parties, both of which seem uncertain about how to proceed. It’s because, confounding expectations, both the Greens and Act have spent the past five years growing stronger.

“While National and Labour have both ridden an at-times wild roller coaster, these two have held firm. Their values seem relatively clear, their leadership is experienced and competent and their poll support is up.

“Unlike Te Pāti Māori, which has also held firm, the Greens and Act are both keen to go into Government. They’re ready to rumble.

“Policy platforms have not yet been announced. But the Greens are likely to renew their call for higher taxes on the wealthiest, more support for the poorest and a raft of better, faster actions on climate and the environment.

“My guess: The party will also stand clearly with nurses, teachers and others in the health and education sectors who still struggle to have their demands over pay and conditions taken seriously enough.

“In many respects, the Greens advocate the things Labour itself said it would do, in 2017 and 2020, but has not delivered as substantially as expected.

“As for Act, it will want more than lower taxes, fewer regulations and an extremely punitive approach to crime and justice.  Its targets will likely be climate action, a higher-wage economy and wrap-around social services for the traumatised and vulnerable. And smaller public-sector budgets. This will not help nurses.  Act has been consistent in most of this since it was founded by Roger Douglas and Derek Quigley in 1994, but has never had the strength in government to make it happen. That could finally be about to change.”

Point  of  Order   will  be   watching    opinion  polls   closely   for  indications  of how party  support  is  trending.

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