Is this Labour’s Hikoi of Hope?

A commenter on this blog suggested today’s truckie protest may come to be seen in hindsight as ’s Hikoi of Hope – one of those landmark days which cripples a Government.

Certainly it is extraordinary that despite causing massive congestion, public support seems to be massively on the side of the . Quoting nzherald.co.nz:

However, nzherald.co.nz has received reports of bystanders around New Zealand clapping, cheering and encouraging drivers to toot their horns.

In Hamilton, residents came out onto the streets in their nightwear, waving, clapping and asking truck drivers to toot their horns. Road workers have been blasting out music for the drivers and some bakery workers have given them pies. …

Two convoys with about 10 trucks in each have arrived on Tauranga‘s harbour bridge, one from the city side and the other from Mount Maunganui.

In the city itself a convoy of about 50 trucks, most of them big-rigs, has arrived on Cameron Road. Members of the public have been waving at the convoy and showing their support. …

In Dunedin, many supporters have gathered in the Octagon which is being treated as a turning area for the trucks to go back along Princess St and onto the one way system.

In looking for a parallel, though I would compare it to National’s fight with Plunket in 1999. To recap National in 1999 refused to fund Plunket Line on the very good grounds it had never agreed to. Plunket had funded it from its own reserves as a trial. However the public perception was that National was cutting funding to Plunket.

So it was one of those cases where technically the Government was doing the right thing by refusing to give in, but it overlooked the political dimension of being seen to shit on Plunket a few months before an election. So National took a big hit for a “lousy $500,000” as Kevin Roberts chided Caucus in 1999.

This is somewhat similiar. It is arguable that road user charges should be increased. But that is not the issue. Why on Earth would you do it three months before an election unless you are terminally stupid? After waiting 19 years, why not wait a few more months?

And if you have promised to introduce a law allowing you to give a month’s notice of an increase, how suicidal is it to to then not wait for that law to be passed and do a fee increase with 0 days notice?

Annette King spent eight years getting a reutation as a very solid and competent Minister – one of the safest pair of hands. But my God this last 12 months has seen her demolish her hard won reputation. She has turned into a disaster zone, and how she lost her political instincts on this I don’t know. Did she think there would be no backlash? Did she not realise that at a time where every motorist is paying massively more to use the roads, that any additional Government increase (even if just on truckies) would be seen as the Government being out of touch for how tough it it.

It does not matter that the money from the road user charges is spend on the roads. Just as it did not matter that Plunket never had been funded for Plunket Line. It is the symbolism that is so powerful, and the symbolism is that Labour is unsympathetic to road users – who happen to be the majority of voters.

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