I went for a drive with my mate the other day and got talking about the election, and he made a really interesting comment.
“I’ve always voted National.” He said.
“Every single election of my life. Always. But I dunno, I just feel like they’re at sixes and sevens at the moment. I don’t think they’re organised enough to be in government right now.”
My mate is not someone who follows politics too keenly, he doesn’t swat up on the various electorates or tune in religiously for question time. I don’t know if he could tell you any policy differences between the major parties. He’s just a normal guy. A normal dad. Maybe a little conservative. And apparently, he’s voting Labour this year.
Interesting, eh? I think those of us who work in and around politics can get a bit caught up on occasion- we forget that most people don’t pay heaps of attention to policy minutiae. Most Kiwis either vote for the party they always voted for, the party which they think most closely represents their values... or they vote for politicians they kind of like. In short, they go for the vibe.
Here’s the top story on New Zealand Herald last night. I’ll read you the headline:
‘National candidate hires QC to fight claims she has been a stripper.”
Hmm. Now to be clear... in case you’re unfamiliar with the story, this is not a fight between a potential National candidate and someone from outside the party who’s making these claims. This is an internal party matter. The fight for the Auckland Central candidacy. In an electorate where Labour and the Greens are already putting forward spirited and organised campaigns, National is cannibalising itself. Six weeks from the election and they don’t even have a candidate.
Now this feud.. as a one off... mightn’t be that much of a big deal. Especially given the left is at serious risk of splitting the vote. But when as a party, you’re trying to move on from an insanely tumultuous few months, leadership challenges, breakdowns, resignations galore... it’s hardly the sort of thing that’s gonna breathe confidence back into voters like my mate.
This election is so important. As the campaign begins in earnest this weekend, the major parties should expect scrutiny over their competing visions, but real scrutiny as well, over their capacity to deliver on their respective promises. A lot of that comes down to basic organisation.
Labour hasn’t progressed its domestic agenda nearly as much as voters were promised. You’d think for the opposition it would be an obvious and easy criticism to run.
Except that for voters like my mate... who tune in and out of the political noise... Labour at least has its party members and MPs singing from the same song sheet. And forget policy or grand visions for the coming decades... National faces a hell of a challenge convincing voters it’s actually ready to govern.