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I said yesterday that I worry we care more about having a Prime Minister who looks like someone you could have a beer with, than caring about leadership, economic responsibility or policies.
The electorate fell head over heels in love with a smiling friendly looking Jacinda Ardern, until her ideology started to bite, then everyone freaked out and she was gone.
In came smiley friendly looking Chris Hipkins. “Just a boy from the Hutt!” the media exclaimed with glee, Chippy! Guy next door vibes. Innocuous looking.
We seemingly instantly forgot and forgave all his time as Police Minister achieving nothing but a hike in gangs, crime and ram raids, all his time as Covid Minister running the MIQ debacle and overseeing no access to RAT tests, all his time as Education Minister overseeing the biggest truancy numbers this country’s ever seen.
All forgotten and forgiven - he looks like a mate you could have a beer with so surely he’s in. The polls show a surge in his popularity - based purely on visibility I guess, and the un-intimidating boy next door vibes.
But we do not vote in Prime Ministers, we vote in parties.
And actually we don’t even vote in parties we tend to vote out governments.
So what it essentially comes down to in seven months’ time is - are we voting this Government back in? Or out?
If you’ve fallen for the “policy bonfire” and the borrowed money being sprinkled your way, you’re probably voting them back in.
But look carefully at what’s on that policy bonfire. As one commentator pointed out, nothing’s really been set fire to apart from the TVNZ- RNZ merger. Everything else is potentially still on the table, just shunted to one side until after the election.
If you think an ideological driven party like Labour, along with the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, are not going to get all that straight back on the table ASAP then you’re dreaming. Because, bear in mind deals will need to be done.
On current polling Labour won’t get in alone so they’ll need the car-hating climate-loving Greens on board, plus the co-governance obsessed Māori party. So if you think all that divisive unpopular policy .. and more.. won’t be back, then you’ve misread MMP.
I admire the determination of Hipkins and his party though, they’re absolutely determined to hold onto the reins of power - they’re throwing everything at it - no matter what the cost - they’re laser focused. But can you trust them?
National, if it wants to get back in the game, needs to worry less about whether their leader is popular or not, and more about showing the wholesale determination and drive that the Labour Party has.
They need to look hungrier, more decisive, more determined, more agile, more ambitious.
Changing the leader isn’t it, upping the drive and focus is. They need to go hardcore full tilt at this for the next seven months because, yes there’s a long way to go before polling day, but perception counts, and so far the perception is that Labour wants it more than National does.
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