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One of the best things about my job is that when a new poitical poll comes through, I get to look at the results just a little bit earlier than everyone else.
Labour 37. National 39. Boomfah.
A few things are obvious. People are sick of Covid. We’re sick of restrictions. Sick of disruption. We’re sick, sick, in more than 200,000 cases. Covid is stressful. We’re right in the throes of the surge. That’s never going to bode well for whatever government is in charge.
Inflation. The cost of living. Whack. Didn’t I say in my very first show of this year, that inflation would be the word of 2022? Not Omicron. Not Antigen. Not Wordle. Inflation.
Is it Labour’s fault? Yes and no. When it comes to our economy, New Zealand is a dinghy hitched to the back of a the global mega-liner. And the bulk of the really big spending, the billions and billions of dollars that were pumped into our economy over the last two years during Covid-19, was committed to save jobs. Don’t forget, National said it would have done the same. Any time National MPs are asked for actual detail about the wasteful spending they say has contributed meaningfully to the cost of living increases, their argument falls apart pretty quickly. The main reason the cost of petrol has increased so much is that Russia invaded Ukraine. Sorry, but that wasn’t Jacinda Ardern’s fault.
That being said, in the eyes of voters, at least National acknowledges it. For much of this week, Jacinda Ardern was trapped in a little game where she doesn’t want to use the word, crisis. She doesn’t want to explicitly say there’s a cost-of-living crisis. Ah, yes. Deja vu. What goes around comes around, eh? The Crisis game is the same game Labour MPs played when in opposition, when the National government of the day didn’t want to say there was a housing crisis, even though it was self-evident at the time (Incidentally, it has become, much, much worse under this government).
The Crisis Game is just a name game. It’s not a serious policy debate, it’s a debate over a label. But here’s an idea: Just admit it. Accept it. Use the term. Take the blow and move on.
This government, in its prioritisation of messaging and communication, contorts itself into all sort of peculiar positions to avoid ever making any sort of concession. They rarely concede anything is worse-off on their watch. They never frankly admit they might have got something wrong.
People see through it. They’re tired of it. It’s dishonest. It comes across as smug. And for something like inflation, it makes you look out of touch.
There is a lot to be said in life for a bit of humility.
And I reckon that poll underscored one thing, more than anything else; the government can no longer lean on its Covid-19 response for voter support.
In all likelihood, the next election won’t be fought over Covid. It’ll be fought over the economy. It’ll be a classic back-pocket debate. ANZ reckons house prices could fall 10% this year. The OCR could rise one hundred basis points. Russia isn’t leaving Ukraine. Inflation won’t be tamed overnight.
New Zealanders could be in for a tough period. Least of whom, Jacinda Ardern