Dom Post: Phone is off the hook

The Dom Post Editorial comments on the latest Fairfax Poll:

Today’s Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll showing 18 percentage points behind National confirms what other polls have been suggesting. The electorate has stopped listening to an arrogant government.

It is not a government that has torn itself apart like the last Labour government or been irreparably damaged by its association with unprincipled party-hoppers as Jenny Shipley’s government was in 1999.

In a testament to the political skills of Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen, Labour MPs have kept their differences to themselves and presented a united front to the public.

But Labour’s preoccupations – income redistribution, what’s on sale at school tuckshops, smacking and electoral laws – are not the concerns of tradespeople weighing the benefits of a higher income in Australia against the loss of access to New Zealand’s family-friendly environment, young couples who can see nothing but a lifetime of debt ahead of them when they contemplate the dream of home ownership, and patients who can’t have operations because of a shortage of specialists or because junior doctors and hospitals are acting out a ridiculous pantomime.

And we will see this in the budget next month. Taxpayers will be legislated to fund a few extra weeks paid parental leave. Now is having paid parental leave extend from say 12 to 16 weeks really the biggest problem we face? Wouldn’t a focus on creating more income instead of spending it be somewhat more helpful?

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the time and effort Labour has wasted on the Electoral Finance Act. It has turned an easily solvable problem, the Exclusive Brethren’s underhand attempt to secretly help National during the last campaign, into a never-ending saga by trying to use the Brethren campaign as an excuse to stymie other critics and to increase the advantage of incumbency by allowing sitting MPs to spend parliamentary funds on their campaigns. But it has done such a bad job that no one, not even the minister in charge of the legislation, now knows what MPs can legally do.

I think the EFA may go down as their biggest mistake. of this term. Cancelling the promised tax cuts and not agreeing to a compromise on the anti-smacking law until the last second would all be contenders also.

And as the Dom Post says, the EFA was nothing but naked self interest – an attempt to protect the incumbent Government and MPs.

And, in the meantime, the party is losing ground every time one of its ministers bridles at a legitimate question, every time its president fudges the truth and every time it allows its antipathy toward those who hold a different world view to show.

We see this last point in Helen Clark’s reply to a question on The Standard from a former Labour Party member who expressed concern over erosion of freedoms in recent times. Her response was:

I know of no erosions of freedoms which have occurred on our watch. Any such assertion is sheer spin from the National Party and its friends.

This sums up what the Dom Post is talking about perfectly. Anyone who disagrees with Labour is an enemy.

The editorial concludes:

Labour has been the beneficiary of an extraordinary economic summer that has stretched almost nine years. It has used the bounty to improve the lot of low-income families, but done little to convince talented young New Zealanders their future is here rather than overseas. If it wants voters to put the phone back on the hook it needs to show some humility and it needs to focus on voters’ concerns rather than its own.

The Dom Post is being generous. It suggests there is an ability to see a difference between what is good for Labour and what is good for New Zealand.

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