After a long tour of duty the National government again demonstrates erratic and quirky behaviour
Trans Tasman commentator Spiro Zavos observed that toward the end of one of their long periods of time in power that successive National governments become erratic, sometimes eccentrically so. They would, proclaimed the maven, succumb to a type of long distance fatigue and start to weave across their own political road. Here are a trio of notable and quite recent examples…..
Example 1. The John Key Knighthood.
Purpose of the ennoblement: To demonstrate that the National Party appreciated upon his retirement the shrewd and personable leader who had led them to their triumphs, and indirectly, remind its aspirational followers what he had done for them.
Where it went wrong: The K looked like part of Mr Key’s severance package. It was bestowed far too soon, almost immediately after his departure. Also the immediate bestowing looked as if Mr Key wanted it now, rather than waiting for just a few more months. But at which time the Party might not be in a position to give it to him because it was out of power and thus out of the patronage business.
What should have happened: The party should have leaked the notion that their former boss deserved the K. But in the event had turned it down. The leak would then have encompassed the very groups that the Nationals wish to draw into their fold. The leak should have let it be known that the former Premier believed that there were others who deserved the K much more, especially those in let us say education, health, climate, foreign aid, and race relations.
This omission was a major boner and the National marketing apparatus is still unaware that it was pulled in the first place.
Mr Key could then, a few months later, and having correctly foreseen the National win, and indirectly plugged some of the sectors it badly needs to win it, and after suitable expressions of the very, very deepest state of being humbled,, have safely collected his K in the New Year.
If the National spin apparatus has failed to see the contradictory nature of all this, it will, of course, have been identified by New Zealand First’s Winston Peters and sometime very soon will be used as a bargaining chip.
Unintended impression: That Mr Key is uncertain that his party will win the imminent general election
Example 2. The Southland Clutha candidate affair
Purpose of the selection: To demonstrate an uncompromising faith in youth, in this case in their early 20s.
Where it went wrong: The candidate selected had little real life experience especially in the matter of handling local committees and their procedures, particularly important in an electorate so remote from Wellington headquarters
What should have happened: There were plenty of seasoned candidates to choose from in this ultra safe seat who would have contributed to National’s enduring appeal which is centred on experience.
Unintended impression: Revealed an obvious and as it turned out foolish grab at the youth look. Also that the National Party’s once vaunted control over its rural electorates is slipping
Example 3. Premier John Key’s Campaign to change the New Zealand flag.
Purpose of the campaign: To demonstrate that the National Party was sensitive and caring about nationhood and renewal and thus sought a country-wide sharing consensus in devising a new emblem to express this caring, sharing etc…
Where it went wrong: The change-the-flag campaign ran parallel with the commemoration of the centenary of Gallipoli and the Anzac era.
What should have happened: The National government having re-scheduled the flag changing referendum play until before or ideally after the Gallipoli and Anzac centenary should have stated a practical and coherent reason behind what still appears a bizarre event that did not conform to any of its stated policies.
In practical terms it remains a mystery why nobody stressed the mooted change being a solution to the problem many have in telling the difference between the New Zealand flag and the Australian version which at a glance look identical.
Unintended impression: That the National government was prepared to ride roughshod over its backbone patriot support in order to pander to the ephemeral whims of the anti-monarchist, middle class guilt transfer crowd.