Comment: How Silly Simon could end up like Angry Andy

Author
David Cormack, NZ Herald,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 12 November 2018, 5:12PM
Simon Bridges, right, should avoid repeating Andrew Little's mistake of 2015. (Photos / File)
Simon Bridges, right, should avoid repeating Andrew Little's mistake of 2015. (Photos / File)

It's May 2015. You're the leader of the Labour Party and in opposition. The Government, led by John Key, promised to deliver a surplus. It's a meaningless metric but the preliminary numbers are out and there is no surplus. What do you do?

If you're Andrew Little and the Government's preliminary numbers come out indicating no surplus then you thump some tubs and call the promise of a surplus "one of the biggest political deceptions of our lifetime". Big call Andrew, big call.

And as it turned out, bad call Andrew, bad call. When the numbers got finalised by treasury it showed that oops, we did in fact have a surplus.

Not only was Andrew's perception of how big a deception a complete misconception, it turned out the promise was true. With surplus in tow, Key smugly said that Little needed to stop being "Angry Andy".

It's August 2018. You're the leader of the National Party and in opposition. The quarterly employment numbers are out, and unemployment has gone up 0.1 per cent. The Labour Party has been in Government for the eight months leading up to that release. What do you do?

Simon Bridges must have been so excited to see the unemployment numbers go up that his little fingers couldn't control themselves and they leapt to Twitter.

"Its [sic] started. Unemployment is up. Is anyone seriously going to debate that this isn't because of the Ardern Peters [sic] Govt's policies? Its [sic] time they acknowledge their responsibility and make serious changes for NZers' sake" he flung out into the world wide web.

Erratic use of apostrophes aside, it was another big call. When you put the responsibility of the unemployment numbers at the feet of the Government after eight months and say that an increase of 0.1 per cent is because of the Government's policies, then you best be careful when the next set of numbers roll around.

What I'm trying to say is that it's a silly political tactic to label absolutes. Especially when the numbers you're getting worked up about are subject to change.

And change they have. In the most recent quarter the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 per cent. The lowest rate of unemployment since the last time Labour was in Government.

If you're the finance spokesperson of the National Party, and this result comes out, what do you do?

Amy Adams thought that National could claim this success. She said "the Government inherited a strongly performing economy and today's employment data, being a lag indicator, reflects that."

Now Adams might be right, the low unemployment might be because of what her Government did before September 2017. Or Bridges might be right, and the unemployment rate of New Zealand may solely be down to the policies of the current coalition Government. But they cannot both be right. They have made mutually exclusive statements.

There's a certain glee that seems to radiate from National if we get negative economic news. I understand that you want a stick to beat the opposition with, but when it comes at the expense of the country as a whole then where are your priorities?

After spending months with National telling New Zealand that we were facing an "economic downturn", the GDP figures came out and it was the biggest GDP growth in two years. Having banged on about business confidence since day dot, the unemployment and spending figures suggest that things are trucking along fine.

Labour governments are usually accused of economic mismanagement. National are considered the gatekeepers of economic wellbeing. Except this time, like the last time, the fundamentals of the economy seem fine.

The Government has been impressively restrained with these numbers. Its MPs did little crowing about them. They appear to have improved somewhat since Angry Andy's mistake of 2015. Maybe it would pay for Silly Simon to do the same.

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